We Are The Night Part X: Ezechiel
Our series, “We are the night” presents artists, promoters, production managers, label owners and others who are bringing the music world of the Czech Republic forward, from the past to the present and the present to the future. This week we present an interview with Ezechiel, one of the main movers and promoters of Prague’s goth scene, who runs online portal Sanctuary.cz. Photo credit: Sanctuary.cz.
For a decade now, dark and gothic styles have been coming strongly back into fashion, in music but not only, largely helped by the explosions of sub-cultures made possible due to online social networks.
Having followed that music scene for 30 years, I spoke to Ezechiel, one of the active members of the Sanctuary.cz gothic portal, a DJ, and also the organizer of Prague Gothic Treffen, to get an overview of the current scene, all the projects in progress, and give readers a sample of the Gothic culture in central Europe in 2022.
What is your first memory of music?
One of my very first music memories would be from when I was about five or six. I remember my mom and me playing old vinyl records of avant-garde theatre performances by Osvobozené divadlo (the Liberation Theatre) and Semafor over and over again. It wasn’t just sketches, but also their original songs, which I grew up with quite a lot. Around the age of nine, I first got into “real music” through a classmate whose dad used to go to Germany sometimes. It was a two-vinyl Queen “Best of”, and it was something you couldn’t easily get on the radio at that time. For me it was so new I asked them if I could record the vinyl onto a cassette. And of course, I spun the cassette over and over. That’s when I began to suspect that music would play a significant role in my life. And it did.
In about seventh grade, another breakthrough came when my young teachers gave me Pink Floyd tapes and especially “Never Mind the Bollocks” by the Sex Pistols. I felt such a rush of euphoria and energy right away with “Holidays in the Sun” that I almost climbed the wall. By this time, I was starting to play the guitar and these encounters determined that I would need to be in touch with music not just passively as a listener, but actively.
Do you have a musical education? Did you learn any instruments?
No, I don’t have any music education. I’ve been playing the guitar since I was about 12 and have been around bands as a bass player since I was 15, but I’m all self-taught. There was a time when I felt it was a bit of a handicap that I didn’t have a classical music education, but then people with just that classical music education would come to me because they liked that I was playing “my way”. Then I dove into writing music, and lately, I’ve been diving more into music production. That’s what interests me now.
How and why did you approach the Goth culture scene?
My path to goth went through punk. One of the main Czech punk bands, Hrdinové nové fronty (Heroes of the New Front), decided to call it quits in the late 80s and the first (and most important) Czech gothic rock band XIII. století was formed on the ruins of HNF. So in high school, my then-girlfriend lent me a cassette of XIII. století with the words “these are the former HNF” and I was totally enchanted. Not only musically, but also because even I was starting to get a bit sick of punk after a few years on that scene, just like they did. Sometime later I started to wonder what all this “gothic” was and if there were other bands like this and stuff like that. So I started to search…
How would you describe Goth culture to someone not familiar with it?
I think the easiest way to describe goth is as a musical subculture born out of the post-punk legacy at the end of the 70s. The alpha and omega of the goth scene is music, like with any other music subculture, right? With the most prominent genres gothic rock, death-rock, dark wave, and post-punk. Later more electronic genres came to the scene like post-industrial, EBM, and more and more other influences. Currently, the term “goth” in a broader sense serves as an umbrella for many genres with a “dark twist”, ranging from neoclassic/neo-folk or dark ambient through the “classical goth genres” to steampunk, synth/futurepop, horror-punk or psychobilly to even aggrotech, hellectro or genres very close to the current Berlin dark techno scene. There are a lot of other things associated with the scene, like a specific image, the colour black, distinctive makeup and so on, but everything comes from the music.
How did you start to get involved in Sanctuary.cz?
I think it started purely because there was nothing like it here at that time. When I was trying to find anything more about the gothic scene on the Czech internet in the early years of the new millennium, it was an utter tragedy. Basically, it was just a few horrible blogs here that copied one text full of nonsense from each other. I still remember that they justified the term “gothic” by saying that it was from the word “ghost” because “fans of the dark scene walk around in flowing robes and resemble ghosts”. But I met two guys, Samgarr and Muzzug, on some gothic chat forum and after a few evenings of conversation, we put together the very first pre-version of Sanctuary.cz, which was – let’s face it – still more of a blog than anything else.
After Muzzug’s rather quick departure, we threw out all sections like “poems” or “magic” and decided to build Sanctuary.cz purely as a site about the gothic scene with the focus on the thing that is essential, though many people didn’t want to hear that: the music. Sam was able to put the site together, I searched for and translated articles from foreign sources, and gradually we started to educate a bit about what “gothic” actually is. And sure enough, the vast majority of “goth” lovers turned away from us after we started pointing out that black metal, Nightwish and the goth scene were three different things. On Vampirefreaks, we found a very creative designer, photographer and dark-art lover Paesant (who by the way would be behind the cult post-apo festival Junktown a decade later) and this actually created the first official editorial office of Sanctuary.cz, with which we started to do gothic meetings, including “Prague Gothic Treffen”.
Over the years, the line-up expanded with colleagues Pavel Zelinka, Nephilim, demi and Tereza P. Only Paesant left us some time ago and I think we all secretly miss him! Without these guys (and girl), Sanctuary.cz activities could never be what they are now. Especially when you take into account that we do all this in our free time on top of our regular day jobs, we have families and kids, and we’re not even taking any money from it, because everything goes straight back to the gigs and parties. It needs real passion to keep it up for so long and I am really grateful that we (probably crazy fanatics) have found each other so we can do this all. So I sincerely hope our current line-up will be able to continue with our activities for many more years to come and have fun with it.
Could you describe the activities currently happening within Sanctuary?
I’d love to! As I hinted, we originally started as a sort of source for information about the goth scene that wasn’t there at the time. Gradually we started writing our own articles, going to the events that were happening here and reporting on them, then we added daily news from the scene, and over time we created a webzine where Czech and Slovak Goth enthusiasts had everything pretty much at their fingertips. In addition to that, we started to organize Prague Gothic Treffen and the biggest Czech flash mob at the time, Zombie Walk. Over time we started to organize gigs and parties (Batsave, Postapo party e.g.) outside PGT as well, inviting bigger and more interesting names to Prague, ending with some real legends like Front 242, Nitzer Ebb, Christian Death, Gary Numan, Clan of Xymox, Das Ich, Covenant, and many others. For almost ten years we were also on Radio Wave with a weekly show called simply “Dark Wave”, every Thursday from 22h till midnight. And because we are restless, some time ago we decided to support the local dark scene even more and started the compilation “Dark Tunes from Czech and Slovak Caves”.
About Prague Gothic Treffen, when did you start organising it? How do you see its evolution?
Well, we started PGT not too long after we launched Sanctuary.cz, and people started showing up on the site. From the discussions under our articles, we found out that most of us had the exact same problem – we were interested in the gothic scene, but we didn’t personally know anyone who shared that interest. So, the logical result was that we decided to organize a gathering where we could all meet and get to know each other. And since we were at that time completely enchanted by the biggest gothic festival in the world, Wave Gotik Treffen, the idea of naming this meeting “Prague Gothic Treffen” was born, as a tribute to our “older and bigger brother” in Leipzig. 30 or so of us gathered in May 2006, played some gothic songs from Winamp, danced and drank… and we all liked it so much that we decided to meet again the next year.
This year it is our 17th edition [taking place 26-27 August], and the event has grown up considerably during the years. We’ve introduced a format so that we enjoy the most during the time – two days, two different stages, a gothic picnic and a mix of known and tested bands with those we think are the most interesting at the moment, but not yet so “famous”. But one thing has remained the same throughout and we will continue to keep it – despite all the artists, DJs and parties, Prague Gothic Treffen is not primarily a “festival”, but primarily a “treffen” – that is, an opportunity to meet and connect with people from different scenes and different countries. And we are excited that more and more guests from abroad are coming to Prague to do exactly that. And that they very often come back because they like the atmosphere of PGT. We appreciate that very much and we’re very grateful for that, because the event is about people.
In general, how do you see the revival taking place in the Gothic scene?
I think it comes in waves. Maybe ten years ago it was the great popularity of hard electronic and cybergoths that attracted more people to the scene. Five or so years ago it was the wave of a revival of the traditional deathrock sound. Then the steampunk hype. Recently it was the return of coldwave and EBM, speckled with influences of Berlin dark techno. I think it’s a healthy development that maybe attracts even younger people to the subculture and prevents it from dying out. Thanks to this, people over 50 and people in their 20s can easily meet next to each other at gothic festivals. And that’s great. And I hope this trend will go on.
For this year’s festival you chose to collaborate with Fuchs2 and Bike Jesus. Can you tell us more about how it is going to be organized and what your expectations are?
We’ve been sticking to the two-stage/club concept for a long time with PGT because it’s worked well for us, and we enjoy it the most. However, as much as we love Futurum, it got a bit crowded last year and we felt it was time to try and move up a bit again. So, this year we moved the PGT to the Fuchs2 and Bike Jesus clubs. We love the fact that they are two spaces with different vibes, and they are interconnected. Plus, there’s a cool space in front of the club to have a picnic and chat about life (or death). The location is central but actually far enough to the side to be away from everyone else… there are just a lot of reasons why we thought we’d give it a go. So Fuchs2 will have an Electro stage, Bike Jesus will host a Guitar stage, both with bands and DJs playing, and people can mingle as much as they like. So, there should be plenty of room for the important “treffen” part, too.
You mentioned the compilation you released with Sanctuary.cz. Can you say more about that? How many have been released, and what is the target of the project?
Oh, I’d love that! I think that’s the latest addition to our activities. The thing is, that there are a lot of interesting artists and projects on the Czech and Slovak dark scene. But let’s face it – despite all the enthusiasm and talent of these people, we are still a “subculture” with everything that goes with it. So, it can be really hard for musicians and projects because you’re pretty limited in what events you can play and the size of the audience and stuff like that. And this realization (met with my own pain of what it was like to dedicate a lot of time to your project, but in the end, no one really cared) led to the idea of creating a compilation that would regularly map the current state of the scene, help introduce CZ/SK dark projects not only outside of our subculture, but also outside of our country, and kind of nudge bands to have the motivation to do anything at all.
We published our first call for Czech and Slovak projects to submit their current tracks in 2017. And we were honestly surprised and excited by how many new and interesting projects we found. And most importantly, projects which even we didn’t know at all. Including one witch-house act – we didn’t expect anyone to even know this genre here! So, five years ago, we curated and released the first compilation “Dark Tunes from Czech and Slovak Caves” and made it available for free download via Bandcamp. We sent it to our friendly media here and abroad and I’m sure it helped some of our bands at least a little bit.
That’s why we decided to repeat it after two years with “Dark Tunes from Czech and Slovak Caves 2”. At the moment, we are collecting tracks for the third instalment. So, if you have a project that could be suitable for a “goth-friendly” compilation, send us your tracks by mid-September, and we’ll be happy to include them in the voting! The best 25 tracks will end up on “Dark Tunes 3” and spread to the world again.
Can you name three artists or songs that you would like to share with the audience?
It is very, very difficult to choose just three! I personally would recommend Gary Numan, Minuit Machine and… Pink Turns Blue or The Soft Moon as my current top 3, but I guess I should rather mention the projects you will have a chance to see at the Prague Gothic Treffen.
So of course, I would aim for the forefathers of deathrock, the legendary Christian Death, then the cold darkwave icons The Frozen Autumn… and I guess the wildest show will probably give us the mysterious (yet funny) Swedish EBM energy generator Wulfband. And dark/coldwave star Selofan from Greece. And Kaelan Mikla of course! And the Slovak deathrockers The Last Days of Jesus. And Naturata Brutalismus from Ecuador. And Czech Isiolia… and… okay, I think it is a very nice lineup, really… Come and see yourself!
Christian Death – “Beautiful”
The Frozen Autumn – “I Love You But I’ve Chosen Synthesizers”
Wulfband – “Aggressivität”