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
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.
CHECK OUT THE SiNGLE NO CONNECTiON!!!
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
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
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.
rian Lush is a music
professional and entrepreneur. In 2005 he launched the
site Rockwired.com 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.