The Birthday Massacre interviewed about “Fascination”

Photo by Andrea Hunter

Earlier this year, the long-running dark wave band The Birthday Massacre released their ninth album, Fascination. Produced by the band and mixed with the help of frequent collaborator Dave “Rave” Ogilvie (Skinny Puppy), Fascination brings together haunting vocals and dark atmospheric sounds, with sweeping arrangements and strong melodic hooks. A long-delayed U.S. tour followed the release of the album, after which vocalist Sara ‘Chibi’ Taylor answered a few questions via email.

Could you discuss the making of FASCINATION? Did you have any specific goals going into the making of it? Was it impacted by the pandemic at all?

It was a little strange because we had just released Diamonds and were about to go on tour in 2020 when the pandemic shut everything down. And then we were all in lockdown and away from each other, which was very jarring obviously, and very isolating. So when Rainbow and Mike started putting new music together, I was a little bit stunned. I wasn’t really sure what I would have to say, lyrically, because I felt so strange. But that turned into a very exciting feeling for me. I was almost frantic to get back in the studio, I realized. It was surprising to me to feel that way – that through the inactivity I actually did have things to say, feelings to express.

You again worked with Dave Ogilvie for this album. What has your experience been like working with him, and are there any particular ways you feel he has impacted your process or the resulting album?

We’ve been working with Dave for years and we’ve developed a very close relationship with him. We trust him, and he likes our music and believes in it. It’s important to us to work with people who genuinely like our music, who “get it”, and Dave is one of those people. Plus, he’s a great dude.

As with past albums, the songs seem like they would stand on their own without the electronics and production. But those things do play an important part in creating the overall mood and giving The Birthday Massacre a unique sound. How do things tend to come together in your creative process? Do you generally have a firm idea of the sound you’re going for during the songwriting process? To what degree might studio experimentation impact the process?

Mike and Rainbow start the songs musically, putting ideas together and bouncing off one another. We’ve worked symbiotically together for years now and we all know when something is coming together, when it sounds “right”, if that makes any sense. Once a song has developed a “feeling”, and a structure, we start looking at lyric and vocal ideas. There are lots of pieces of music and ideas that we haven’t developed into full songs. We’ll all focus on the ones that have that “feeling” that we collectively know is going to work.

Are there any particular ways your creative/working process has changed/evolved over the years?

The core has remained Mike, Rainbow and I. We’ve worked with our friend OE over the years as well – he used to play bass with us and toured with us for years, and he’s a great writing partner. This time for “Fascination” we worked with our new bassist, Brett. So we do work with others and that helps keep us inspired and considering different sounds and ideas. It’s always with people we are close to. It really is like a family in many ways.

Having made expansive use of the internet throughout your career, I’m curious about your thoughts as to how it’s evolved as a musical distribution/promotional tool? 

Well, obviously downloading has affected album sales across the board for the entire industry, so that’s the downside. But the ability to promote and communicate and share things is huge. We’ve always had a great relationship with our audience and the internet has played a huge role in that sense of community.

What was it like returning to touring? Had the time away from live performance affected your approach to it at all? 

I can definitely tell you that we were very nervous going in. We hadn’t played live in a few years, the concept of touring felt alien and grueling, and we were pretty anxious about it. The tour was with Julien-K, though, a band we know well and are close friends with, so that made it feel better. Like, we’re going out with friends, it will be okay, haha. And the tour went really, really well. Having come home now we are all saying this was one of the best tours we’ve done. Everyone had a great time, the shows went incredibly well, no one got hurt, we all made it home safe and we were actually sad when it was over. Being sad when it’s over is a good thing.

What impact has the evolution of musical technology over the years had on the band, both in the studio and live settings?

That’s more of a question for Mike or Rainbow, they’re more into the studio stuff, but we tend to stick to things that are tried and true for us. There are sounds we always turn to, and for recording, we use what we know and are fluid with. I can tell you I’ve always pretty much used a Shure-58 onstage. That’s about the extent of my knowledge on this, haha.