NOVEMBER 15, 2020

ROCKWiRED NOTES: BLACK MANSiONS one was prepared for the horrors of 2020. No one could've predicted civilization being rocked to a stand still by the prevalence of a virus that forces one to wear a mask and keep six feet away from both strangers and loved ones alike. And lets not even bring up one of the most bitter and contentious election cycles ever in this country. We may not have expected wine and roses but no one saw an ATWOOD-styled dystopia either. However, the synth duo BLACK MANSIONS may have been on the money with the release of their haunting debut EP, PART I – PRAECURSIO. Comprised of singer TOM KUNZMAN of the band 18th & ADDISON and keyboardist SPAGS of the band END OF AN ERA, BLACK MANSIONS is a project that has allowed these two gentlemen to break free from the guitar driven rock that their respective bands are noted for and traverse the kind of synthesized musical landscape that made groups such as DEPECHE MODE and YAZOO the transistorized pioneers that they have become in the annals of pop music.

PART I – PRAECURSIO, the six song EP from BLACK MANSIONS, is one hell of a romp through the darker side of synth pop land. Both KUNZMAN and SPAGS are all too eager to showcase their deftly crafted catalog of songs that take romantic disillusionment and even plain old romance to frightening levels of destruction in a way that would make DEPECHE MODE's DAVID GAHAN beam like a proud grandpa. In fact, a good number of the tracks pay tribute to the dark wave and chilly synths that marked much of MODE's best work but the material gets a more signature touch with the EP's last three songs. DON'T SCREAM is a goth hymn complete with clapping synth drums. ENOUGH TO DIE tells the tale of a suicide pact and the NETFLIX junkie in me thinks the song would be right at home as the theme song for a limited series on that very subject and KILLER is a blistering industrial rocker broken up by gentle verses and a chorus marked by distorted keyboard riffs and lethal machine gun beats. 2020 has indeed been a disaster area and now there are reports that another lock down is on the way due to recent COVID spikes. If looking on the sunny side of life ain't your thing, BLACK MANSIONS' debut EP has both musicality and angst that can get you through.

ROCKWIRED had the chance to speak with TOM KUNZMAN of BLACK MANSIONS regarding the duo's debut EP. Here is how the interview went.

I've got to say, you released this debut EP at a most interesting time and thematically it seems to fit everything that is going on in the world.
(Laughs) SPAGS and I were joking about that the other day. If any band was going to be born during a pandemic, it was gonna be this band. BLACK MANSIONS came together during the pandemic but JEFF [“SPAGS” SPAGNOLA] actually go back a long way. He and I became friends years ago in Ocean County, New Jersey when we were both involved in the local punk and metal core scene that was happening at the time. He was the drummer for the band END OF AN ERA. His band and the band that I was in at the time would play at all of these venues and we would get to know each other through that and the more we hung out together we realized that we had the same type of sense of humor and the same taste in music. Back in 2017 JEFF played drums for 18th & ADDISON and that was when he and I really became tight and realized that we had this love for synth music.


Having known each other for years, how did you a SPAGS come to the conclusion that you needed to put this project together?
It all got started when he toured with 18th & ADDISON as our drummer. On that tour we did a lot of driving. Everybody else on that tour would be passed out and sleeping in the van, but JEFF and I would be up and taking turns driving and talking and listening to music. In doing so we figured out that we liked a lot of electronic music but a lot of people from our particular music scene weren't open to it. Instantly we clicked when it came to bands like DEPECHE MODE and 30 SECONDS TO MARS. It was the kind of stuff that I had always wanted to do musically. Jeff and I came up in the world of rock n roll and punk and a lot of guitar driven stuff so this electronic music that he and I loved wasn't something that a lot of people in the rock scene are open to. I had always wished I knew someone who had the where-with-all to do this kind of music, but no one had ever come across my path like this. It turned JEFF knew how to do this kind of music and had a lot of musical ideas lying around. So I figured that he and I should do something together. He could come up with the music and I could come up with the lyrics. It all took some time for it to come together just because things with 18th & ADDISON were so busy and hectic but 2020 came along and all of our touring got canceled. However, BLACK MANSIONS is here and we released the EP on Halloween. I couldn't think of a better day to have released it.

So SPAGS does the music and you are the lyricist. Is that the process?
Yeah that's how it works.

So as the lyricist, what inspired this set of songs for the EP?
A lot of what I wrote was based on the vibes of the tracks that JEFF would send me. I really love horror movies and a lot of the tracks had that kind of vibe to them. His music would set the tone and I liked that sense of mystery and darkness that his tracks conveyed and it allowed me to tap into the concept of the stories I wanted to tell with these songs. With BLACK MANSIONS I am more interested in telling a cool story with each of the songs. Not everything you write has to come from your life. The music that BLACK MANSIONS makes offers a kind of escapism even if the subject matter is kind of dark. Musically, we figured that we would take the nightmare route and see what we could do with it.

That is a relief to hear. I didn't want to think that a song like ENOUGH TO DIE, which sounds like it's about a suicide pact, was a summation of your marriage to KAIT.
(Laughs) It's funny to hear you say that! I have to say that it's really good to know that people are such supporters of the relationship that me and KAIT have. People have listened to the EP and have had concerns about the state of our marriage. ENOUGH TO DIE is about suicide pact and that has made people nervous but people have listen to a song like NO CONNECTION where I cry out for a girl named AMY who is this demonic antagonist withing the song. But like I said, the songwriting within BLACK MANSIONS is all about telling a compelling story, so none of it comes from real life. No suicide pacts. No drama.

And is production pretty much an inside job as well?
It's all SPAGS and I. In working with him on the production of this EP it has been fascinating to see that he is just as devoted to the idea of BLACK MANSIONS as I am with 18th & ADDISON. Creatively, we're both able to keep going and going but when it comes to the mixing and the mastering we are able to compartmentalize and keep things concise. We don't let ourselves get carried away.

And now that the debut EP is out there for people to hear, how do you feel about the finished work?
I feel good about it. I don't release anything that I don't feel proud of, but sometimes months later you go back and think you could've don something differently, but that doesn't feel like that is the case with this EP. I can listen to it now over and over again and still enjoy it. It's very different from every thing else that I have ever done before. And I think I can speak for both JEFF and I by saying that we're both very proud of the EP and the reactions we've been getting from people are amazing and it inspires us to keep creating. I feel like our music provides a kind of escapism for people. I think that people need that escapism now. This EP gives people the opportunity to zone out.

Of the reactions that you guys have received have there been any that have surprised you or that you didn't see coming?
Everything has surprised me. The support that we've been getting from people has been mind blowing. Every now and then I will check up on the listeners that we've been getting on SPOTIFY and recently I've been sharing a lot of thank you messages to all of our followers on INSTAGRAM because that seems to be our largest social media following for some reason. I've been checking on our progress on SPOTIFY. A couple of days ago we had fifty-two thousand listeners. Yesterday we had fifty-three thousand listeners and today we had up to fifty-six thousand listeners. People have been listening to the EP and have been really enjoying it. The feedback has been amazing. It's been a very warm welcome.

In listening to the EP it sounds like the songs would lend themselves well to some kind of visual accompaniment. Are there any plans for music videos?
We are actually working on a few videos for the the songs on this EP. What we're doing is taking a stab at doing a short film which features two or three of the songs. We want a kind of narrative to take place within this short film that connects these songs. We're thinking very cinematically with this music. This EP is just part one so obviously part two is going to be coming out soon. The video project we are working on feels like we're scoring a film. It has turned into this big exciting project and we are having a lot of fun working on it. We want to put the same vibe into the videos that we have put into the music. So despite the world being in a lock down we are on a creative high and we want to keep going.

So with all of this creative energy going into BLACK MANSIONS is 18th & ADDISON feeling like a ball and chain? Sorry to word it that way!
Oh no. 18th & ADDISON is no ball and chain. At the moment we're limited in what we can do for obvious reasons. We were supposed to to tour for most of this year but the pandemic put that on hold and it's too bad because these were some really promising shows but everything is on pause. KAIT and I are in full writing and have our sights on releasing an album that will be different from anything that 18th & ADDISON have released before. We're having a lot of fun writing but we are very anxious to get into a studio but in the meantime we're having fun experimenting with new ideas since were spending a lot of time at home these days. So no, 18th & ADDISON is no ball and chain.

How soon can people expect the follow up EP?
I think we should have PART II released in a few months but there are no firm plans yet. Just like with everything else at the moment we are kind of being off the cuff. We're having fun with the whole music making process. We really want to focus on the music videos and whatever new music we have we are just going to start stockpiling and really there is no better time to do that than now. We may add a song or two to the second EP which is going to be a more chaotic and more high energy collection of songs.

FOR MORE iNFORMATiON GO TO: Lush is a music industry professional and entrepreneur. In 2005 he launched the online music site to help promote new music artists in conjunction with the weekly radio show Rockwired Live which aired on KTSTFM.COM from 2005 - 2009. In 2010 He launched the daily podcast series Rockwired Radio Profiles which features exclusive interviews and music. He has also developed and produced the online radio shows Jazzed and Blue - Profiles in Blues and Jazz, Aboriginal Sounds - A Celebration of American Indian and First Nations Music, The Rockwired Rock N Roll Mixtape Show and The Rockwired Artist of the Month Showcase. In 2012, Brian Lush and his company Rockwired Media LLC launched the monthly digital online publication Rockwired Magazine. The magazine attracts over 75,000 readers a month and shows no signs of stopping. Rockwired Magazine also bares the distinction of being the first American Indian-owned rock magazine. Brian Lush is an enrolled member of the Yankton Sioux Tribe. Brian Lush's background in music journalism, radio and podcast hosting, podcast production, web design, publicity, advertising sales, social media and online marketing, strategic editorial planning and branding have all made Rockwired a name that is trusted and respected throughout the independent music industry.

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