May 18th, 2009 | Interviews

keenan marshall keller

Stream: Midnight “Black Rock ‘n’ Roll”


(from Farewell To Hell out now on Nuclear War Now)

Satan’s favorite party band is Midnight from Cleveland, who match the best parts of Venom and Motorhead with the sleazy visuals of the Mentors. They’re true members of the new black trash generation of bands—keeping the faith of rock ‘n’ roll metal and forsaking the trappings of over-technical playing and production. These guys serve up beer- and blood-soaked blasphemous anthems with the best of them and yes, your flesh shall burn as you enter the flaming pentagram. This interview by John Henry.

I was recently down in New Orleans with some friends of mine that do a metal DJ night called Hades Night and they played your new record. I was immediately sold on that Venom/Motorhead trash metal sound you guys do. Is there a scene of other bands in Cleveland doing this kind of music? Have you done other bands like this before?
Athenar (guitar/vocals): Maybe—I guess? NunSlaughter is from here. They’ve been around since the eighties. They’re more death metal-style. I was in a band called Boulder. Some people would call it like between Thin Lizzy, Black Sabbath and Motorhead—I don’t know, hard rockin’ metal? We did like three albums. We started in the early ‘90s and went all the way to the beginning of the 2000s. 2002 was, I think, when the last album came out. I’ve always been a fan of heavy metal but in the case of most of my favorite bands anyway their musical tastes doesn’t necessarily reflect their fan base. You wouldn’t guess the stuff that I listen to by what I play. I don’t consider myself part of any metal scene or punker scene. I just like good music. I like songs. I’m not much of a free-form jazz type guy. I like some or whatever, but a good song is a good song whether it’s done by Love or Twisted Sister, you know? Distorted rock guitars and bass and drums­­—that’s all it is. The lyrics and the singing is maybe all that differentiates it.
The first thing I thought when I heard you guys is that you obviously get the joke. You’re not some guy living with his mom and using her credit card to buy spiked gauntlets and thinking he’s evil.
That would be even funnier, I think. Again it’s just whatever you like, I guess. You look back at Venom obviously—they’re just playing songs. They were fans of Kiss, you know, and so am I. Most music you want to have a good time with. You don’t want to just put it on and then pretend you’re depressed and wear razorblades on your wrists. That’s more humorous than anything else, I would think.
You fool with fascist imagery but you’re obviously not skinheads.
We’re bald but that’s not by choice. It’s just our age—but you know, it’s just imagery. It looks sort of Star Wars. If you look at Star Wars, what was Darth Vader and all the imperial guards? What were the Stormtroopers, you know? It’s the same kind of shit but who made it? George Lucas. It’s imagery. It looks cool.
So the reason you guys wear executioner hoods is not to hide your identities from the cops or that you’re really ugly?
Yeah, I would say the latter!
How did you get the band started?
Originally it wasn’t necessarily supposed to be a band. I do all the crap on the records and stuff. That’s just all me doing everything like the drums and guitars, the bass. The guys I’m playing with just forced me to have a band. They called up and said, ‘Hey, we’re going to have a band.’ I said, ‘Nah, it was just meant to record the stuff.’ Then they came over and knew all the songs and forced me to have a band, which is cool because in the end it turned out all right.
A lot of black metal guys do that—record by themselves and get guys to play it later. It’s just one idiot with an idea and it works out from there.
That’s kind of what I was doing. I was saying, ‘Well, if Prince can do it and Quorthon can do it…’ Those were the only people at the time that I knew that did that kind of stuff, you know—recorded everything by themselves.
Do you do the band artwork as well?
That back patch was ripped off from an old Venom design—Cronos standing in the fire like that. People that know it would think it was funny and people that didn’t know would think it was generically cool. I have no idea how to do that kind of stuff. I have the idea and say, ‘Hey, do this or that’ and let people with tech skills do that part.
How did you hook up with Nuclear War Now Records?
My friend Omid. He does a label called Outlaw Records and I’ve been friends with him for years and I’m the worst at self-promotion which he’s always been good at. I just make it till it’s recorded and I’m done with it. He’s good at actually taking stuff and getting it to people who might be into it. So he gave it to Yosuke at Nuclear War Now and he liked it and he said he’d put out a reissue of everything that’s already been out. Like I said—the way the band started out is I just wanted to record like a mini LP and that was intended to be it, but then my other friend who had some bands booked at a studio and the band ditched said, ‘Hey, can you come to the studio tomorrow and record a few songs? Whatever you want to record.’ So I said, ‘Oh, maybe I’ll make up two more Midnight songs.’ I made up two more Midnight songs that night and then recorded them the next day and that was the 7-inch. Then I was like, ‘OK, that’s it—there’s no more.’ Then Yosuke at Nuclear War Now wanted to put out a compilation and he said, ‘Oh, will you do one song?’ and I said, ‘OK, I’ll just make up one more song.’ So I got all the bases covered—a 12-inch, a 7-inch and a comp track. Now there’s Farewell To Hell which is the newer one that just came out in September. We actually have two CDs worth of crap.
Which has ‘Black Rock ‘n’ Roll’? I fucking love that song.
It’s on Farewell To Hell. That was a tune that when I made it up I thought it was going to be too simple and retarded. I didn’t know if it was going to be too dumb.
What about the live shows? Is it violent or more of a party?
It just depends on the mood, you know. They’re not all the same. There have been full-scale bloodbaths and then there are parties. There’s been some snooze fests, too, you know—we were supposed to be billed before the puppet show.
At the end of your tour this May you end up at the Chaos in Tejas fest—how’d you hook up with that?
There were a couple of people from Cleveland that moved to Texas a few years ago and I guess they turned us on to some other people and that’s where that guys from. It just kind of started from there. We’ve already played Texas and it’ll be our third time playing there. I don’t know what any of these gigs are going to be like. I have zero idea. That’s the way I usually go into it. I’m like, ‘We’ll find out when we get there.’ That might be kind of bad but it’s less to worry about. Just worry about it when you get there. What’s that place like that we’re playing at in East L.A.? Gang members out here are only into rap and shit but you talk about the west coast and they’re into crazy metal—that’s pretty cool. We played Mexico once in Nuevo Laredo—I don’t know, I guess it’s a drug cartel border town? It was pretty shady. They were a lot of people saying, ‘All right, hurry up—go over and play and get back over to the states.’ When we were there some Mexican biker gang wanted us to play for a biker rally coming up in a couple months. I was like, ‘Uh, what?’ But I guess it would be cool as long as we played the right tunes.