Goth model Lady Atropin is based out of Germany and focuses on Goth, Fantasy, Steampunk and even some nude photos.
You can see more of her work or book her for photoshoots: www.facebook.com/ModelLadyAtropin
Goth model Lady Atropin is based out of Germany and focuses on Goth, Fantasy, Steampunk and even some nude photos.
You can see more of her work or book her for photoshoots: www.facebook.com/ModelLadyAtropin
Dateline: Seattle, August 23
We had a chance to interview Elena Vladi and got to ask her fun questions like what pisses her off and what’s her greatest fears. As always our interviews do not disappoint.
So let’s start with those of you who might not have heard of Elena Vladi. She is lead singer of Red Queen, an iconic model for our community and an entrepreneur, who just started her own jewelry line. www.VladiShop.com
“My band’s name is Red Queen,” she tells us. “It currently consists of me (Elena Vladi), Patrick Crisci and our Phantoms. Phantoms are our live musicians who prefer staying masked.”
“How do your songs formulate?” I asked.
“Usually, I start the song idea at my home recording studio, write lyrics and do some basic drum and keys programming,” Elena said. “Then I take it to Pat’s studio in Vegas where we complete the song with his guitars and proper mix and production.”
Elena has musical influences. She looks up to Deftones, KoRn, Crosses, Slipknot and Rammstein. She also likes to listen to a lot of downbit chillout stuff when she is at home.
“Movies, books and my own dreams inspire me the most.”
“What’s at the top of your playlist right now?” I asked.
“Royksopp, Gunship, and New Retro Synth Wave is really cool while driving. I’ve also been listening to Crosses & Hurts lately.”
Of course I snuck in a a couple fun questions.
“Any secret music loves you are embarrassed to admit?” I asked.
“Damn…I can’t say that I’m embarrassed of many of my music preferences because I’m extremely open-minded with music and like anything from soothing New-Age to brutal Death Metal,” she told us. “I’m not a fan of rap…except some Brooke Candy’s stuff, some Eminem too. But new rap, that is so-called mumble-rap, just sounds like humanity is evolving backwards.”
“What really pisses you off?” I asked. This of course is one of my favorite questions to ask.
“I think probably the meat industry,” she said. “How we force intelligent creatures into birth, cage them, then slaughter for temporary mouth pleasure. And completely ignoring the value of life, refusing to evolve and pass that cave man unhealthy and gruesome habit. Lots of people are still unaware of the vast meat substitution choices that every store carries these days.”
“What’s your greatest fear?”
“Hmmm…I don’t know. I don’t like heights,” she said. “I think it’s better than I not expose my greatest phobia to the world.” 😛
“Tell us one weird thing about yourself”
“I have a rare blood type. I’m the small 2% of the human population with extremely rare blood. I inherited it from my father who I lost when I was twelve.”
Of course we asked a few questions about her new album.
“Which song means the most to you and why?”
“I wrote Star Ruby, Asyphyx long time ago, they reflect feelings and emotions from my past and the song Alchemy in between of past and present. Insidious and Naked were collaboration with our guitar player Patrick Crisi; Those two songs are my latest and current reflection of me,” Elena told us.
“Any songs you have a love/hate relationship with?” I asked.
“I don’t have those for you,” she said laughing. “But I guess, like every artist, I could always wish for a better funded project.”
“Okay, so what’s your next aspiration? We hear you have a jewelry line coming out!”
“Yes!!!” An online jewelry shop is in the works,” Elena said. “You can sign up to get notified when it opens at www.VladiShop.com. We are almost done. The store ranges from high end diamond and gold to affordable fashion and jewelry items.”
Elena has a special note to all her fans before we leave.
“I’d like to thank all my fans for loving my music and for staying always with me!”
You can follow Elena Vladi and her band, Red Queen at:
Dateline: Seattle, April 2016
How Many F*cks Does OTEP Give?
Some people are born to be rock stars. Otep Shamaya is one of those. A woman with a message, a purpose, and a drive to infect your soul with truth.
Rocker. There is no other job, no other vocation that suits her. If she could not walk out on stage every night to a listening audience, she would be on a street corner in some city in the world, standing on a box, preaching the gospel of Otep to anyone who will listen. Or even if they will not listen.
The venue is a grungy place with three serpentine stair cases leading to an upper room where the concert will take place tonight. I am ushered into small room crowded with amplifiers, a mini-fridge and a stack of paper plates where I prop up my recorder.
Her massive body guard looms gently on one side of the room. Otep, a petite Mighty Mouse who apparently can dead lift 300 pounds, was seated, wearing sun glasses indoors.
I couldn’t help but smile. She is the shit and she knows it. Otep and I fist bump. She’s cool. I relax.
She is sitting with her leg elevated, nursing an injury. “I’ve been dead lifting,” she explains, pushing herself a bit too hard with the weights. It felt like a metaphor for something but I did not bring it up. The audience will never know she is hurt when she goes on stage in a couple hours. She will do just about anything for her fans.
I ask her about a recent press release announcing their new album. She called it a “spiritually lawless celebration of art and freedom.” I ask her to define “spiritually lawless.”
“I think it’s self-explanatory,” she says with a friendly smirk, and, I imagine, a wink behind the shades.
“This album is spiritually lawless in that there are no anchors allowed,” she says. “It goes beyond scripture or religious dogma. Music is spiritual, it’s a new religion. A good piece of music elevates you, it pollinates you, it carbonates you.”
I ask her if she thinks Dark Souls are born that way or they are created through their life experiences.
“I think both,” she says. “I think we are all born with that capacity to decide which path we want to go. Rarely are people extremely dark all the god-damn time or extremely happy all the fucking time. It’s a choice in some regards and those that embrace both sides of themselves lead a more happy and fulfilled life.”
I tell her that Perfectly Flawed is my favorite Otep lyric. It speaks to how we sabotage ourselves with self-doubt and self-criticism. I ask if there is a flaw in herself that she has learned to accept. I fear for a moment that my question is too personal. It is not.
Her answer surprises, and turns out to be the defining moment of the interview for me.
“There’s a Greek myth about Cassandra,” she says. “She was given the gift of foresight from Apollo. She can see everything, but is cursed with the idea that no one would believe her. I think I have that gift. And one of my flaws is that I assume everyone is the same as me. And I’ve struggled with accepting that we are all different. That my floor is someone else’s ceiling, and my ceiling is someone else’s floor.”
Herein lies the paradox that is Otep. Her days are spent railing against the tyrants in our lives who force us to think and act contrary to our wills. She also is passionate about being a vegan, with harsh words to say about those who breed and slaughter animals for food. On the one hand, she rages against the tyranny of those who tell you what to think. In the next breath, she…well, she tells you what to think. Or does she?
“I prophesy things and no one believes me,” she explains. “But then a year later, half the audience is on my side, half the audience is against me. Then a year after that most of the audience is with me. A year after that everyone believes me. I don’t want to say, ‘I fucking told you so,’ but, ‘I fucking told you so.’”
This is when I begin to understand the Otep paradox that had confused me before meeting her. Otep Shamaya is a poet. She is an artist. She is a rock star. But more than any of these, Otep is a prophet. And a prophet is rarely understood during her time.
“Fighting stupidity is important to me,” she says. (Can I get an amen?) “Fighting ignorance is important to me…I’m allergic to stupidity.”
She is an artist driven at a level that most of us cannot understand. She wants people to open their hearts and minds to what she has to say, because she has a lot to say.
“No one’s asked these questions before,” she says. “Most people ask, ‘what’s it like being a girl in a metal band.’”
I ask her what her greatest fear is. “Letting someone down that I care about,” she replied, after a moment of thought. I am moved emotionally by her response. But I do not have sunglasses to hide the moisture in my eyes so I press on.
I ask her to describe herself in three words. “Imperfect. Loyal. Adventurous,” the last she says with a meaningful grin.
They say that a prophet is not without honor except in her own country. Truth, especially the kind that rips off Band-Aids, rarely finds fertile soil in willing hearts immediately. Otep knows she is sometimes misunderstood, and it is her cross to bear.
“One year I received an award from a meninist group, a men’s right group, ‘Man-hater of the century,’” she says. “They take a song I wrote called, ‘Menocide’ about liberating woman to break out of the self-imposed prisons that we put on ourselves. To do what they want to do with their lives. If they want to stay at home and cook in the kitchen and raise kids more power to you. But if you want to go out and do something else, then you have the right and power to do so. I don’t hate men.”
When I walk out of my interview with her, I feel like something in me has changed. I think I understand her a little bit more than I did before.
If she can’t be loved, then she’ll be hated. But she will not be ignored.
She is not a paradox, but a prophet.
Otep is legit. She is not just a rocker under the warm glow of a par can light. She does not live a double life where her stage persona is different from reality.
Otep is an artist. She is a poet. All the damn time.
My advice is to go see her show. You do not have to have the same ideas about animal rights or politics or gender roles as she does. As much as she wants you to hear her message, she is fine with you coming for the music.
She may not change your mind. She may not change your life. But tonight, for this night, she will rock you.
Dateline: Seattle, May 2016
I drove over to Spokane, Washington, to interview September Mourning before her concert that night. For those of you who don’t know who September Mourning is, let me introduce you.
September Mourning is not a band. It is more than that. It is a project created by Emily Lazar that includes comics, music, cosplay, music videos, and concerts. It all revolves around the character September Mourning who is a human-reaper hybrid as she navigates the world of the living and the world of the dead. September Mourning is about giving human souls a second chance at life, toying with fate.
This project is one of the coolest ideas I’ve seen in a long time. It merges all the things we love so much, comics, music, videos and dark, macabre ideas.
Check out my interview with September Mourning:
Me: Do you think people born a dark soul or are they created that way through life experiences?
September: That’s a very man vs. nature question. I think we are all born on an equal playing field of sorts being human and all but we are born with different brains and different ways our neurons fire. Environment has a lot to do with it. I was obsessed with death from a very young age because I was around it a lot. It was circumstance that I grew into a project that is all about death and second chances at life. The project this very personal. The character itself is born from me.
Me: How much of the character is you?
September: A lot. The character was born from within me. I’m not a supernatural being but September comes from within me and what I think about life and death and what I want to say about it. The story is dark and macabre but has light thrown into it. If you are a Dark Soul but have a sliver of light, That light becomes bright and magnified since there is so little of it. My project is dark, but with a little bit of light and that light is an extreme of the darkness and can be very powerful.
Me: Do you have a hard time separating yourself from the character?
September: Because she was born within me, not really. She’s part of me that is magnified. I do three hours of makeup and costume and people think I’m crazy, but that is a part of my process. My transformation if you will, into the character.
Me: Do you find it therapeutic?
September: Very much so. The whole project is therapy for me.” She said with a laugh of realization. “I get to act on stage in a way that I don’t act in real life. I get to portray this outlandish weird character … I get to magnify those qualities about myself tenfold… Almost like a movie actor portrays a character.
Me: What’s it feel like to perform?
September: Performing is Euphoric. It’s like the best sex you’ve ever had. Or the best drug you’ve ever had. Or the best sex on drugs you’ve ever had. Don’t do drugs haha but well, it’s addicting. There is a high putting out emotional energy into the crowd. It’s very spiritual. It’s very intimate for me.
Me: Chris Motionless was quoted saying, “Motionless In White are not about preaching the message anymore…Yes. Myself and the band as an entity have decided to stop the preaching. If you’ve been to any shows of ours since I think Warped Tour of 2012, you will notice that I put an end to the speeches and on stage rants, I don’t post anything people may find inspirational…” So what do you think about this?
September: First off I respect Chris as an artist…Truly awesome. That being said, I believe there is a difference between being preachy and having a message. We don’t want to force feed ideas or spirituality. But I do believe when you create art you are creating some kind of message….Be it an emotional, intellectual or even spiritual message. To say art has no message is defeating the point of art in itself… Art is meant to stir the senses, to communicate. So I have to disagree with Chris on this. I want my project and music to stir something inside the listener, reader, and observer. You don’t create art without something in mind or you’d have no words or notes to play. If he doesn’t have anything to say, then what is he screaming about and why is he screaming? When you sing you are conveying an emotion or moreover a message. That’s just my opinion.
Me: What genre do you consider your project?
September: We want to cross many genres. We don’t want to be put into one box. People often judge our music by the way I look. They think I’m Goth or Goth Industrial. But you can’t judge a book by its cover. You have to see everything that we are about to understand that we are a little bit Goth, we are a little bit pop, we are a bit metal and alternative … we are a little of so many things. Our project is about the story. And a story doesn’t have to be just one particular genre.
Me: Is there anything that someone has said that you want to set the record straight?
September: Some people think we are too crazy. Too weird. That we are more theater than a band. When people say that we are crazy and talk shit about us, my response is, the world of art was made by crazy. The greatest art and moreover the greatest bands were based around theatrics and from people that pushed the boundaries of the field. And that is when we as a society grow. If we never pushed the boundaries, we would never grow or discover something new.
Me: Three words to describe yourself:
September: Emotional. Intense. Cerebral
Me: What’s your biggest fear?
September: The Dentist. It’s literally the only thing I fear. I hate the fucking dentist. I love my dentist as a person, but I hate to go and see him. I don’t fear death. When it’s my time, it’s my time. It’s just one phase in life. But the dentist. Oh no!
Me: What’s your opinion on death?
September: I don’t think this is it. The universe and planets are really, really old and we live 60 or 70 years. This is it? Then what the fuck? We are getting jipped. If this is it then DAMN, we got the McDonald’s Happy Meal of the universe. I think there is something bigger than ourselves out there. I think there has to be something else after this. I’m not gonna ram my ideas down anyone’s throat but damn, there has to be something else. I believe in something greater than us and we all have a piece of that. I’m not religious, but I am spiritual and I can’t wait to see what is next.
If you have not seen September Mourning in concert, you need to go! If you haven’t watched to comics are the music videos…you need to. We’ve posted some photos and videos below. Check them out. You can also go to www.septembermourning.comfor concert info and all the good stuff!
Dateline: May 2016
You might never have heard of Doll Skin. You don’t know what you’re missing. An all-girl punk band that rocks. Hard.
Interviewing Doll Skin was the most fun I’ve had in an interview. The four teenagers and I sat in a stairwell adjoining the concert venue in a little circle on the floor.
We discussed music, boyfriends/girlfriends and what they want to be when they grow up.
They opened up for Otep, which is definitely a different genre of music. It was interesting to watch Otep fans observe Doll Skin setting up their gear in between acts. They seemed to roll their eyes, become disinterested in these adorable girls and wander off to the bar to refill their drinks.
I was intrigued. Would Doll Skin win this Otep audience over?
The technician told them do a sound check. A primal roar lurched from Alex Snowden’s guitar as she took the stage for the sound check. I mean Alex Snowden was absolutely shredding on her guitar. The dispersed crowd gathered closer to watch, and gradually began to cheer. Drinks were held aloft in tribute. Heads started banging. And this was just the sound check.
Would four attractive suburban teenage girls, who won the national School of Rock competition, really win over this hard core, metal crowd?
I smirked from the back of the venue as I watched the crowd gather to the stage. Alex Snowden, who was quiet and slightly nerdy (sorry Alex, but you ARE a cute kinda nerd) in our interview had removed the glasses, let down her blue hair and transformed into a rock goddess. They hadn’t even played a song yet, and the sound check had nearly won over the disinterested crowd.
By the time they hit the crowd with a haunting, rock cover of “Uninvited” they had several hundred new fans.
It was weird because I had just met them a couple hours before, but I swelled with emotion at the transformation.
A couple hours before we were huddled in the stairwell for our girl-chat gossip session.
I started off by asking their ages. They took turns answering like in a little rehearsed routine.
“I’m Meghan and I’m 19.”
“I’m Sydney, I’m 16 and I do the singing thing.”
“I’m Alex. I’m also 16 and I play guitar.”
“I’m Nicole, I’m 17 and I play bass.”
The girls all met at school a few years ago and put together a band for a Battle of the Bands talent content. They won the whole thing and were quickly discovered.
I always get the feeling when I interview people that they’re prepared for the same boring questions every time. What’s the name of your album? How’d you meet? Blah, blah blah. If I wanted the answer to those questions I can do an interview at my desk with Google.
So now for the fun! I smirk.
“Any of you steal each other’s boyfriends or girlfriends?” I asked with a wry grin. (They don’t call me “Trouble” for nothing.)
All eyes popped open. “NO WAY!” they all exclaimed in unison. “That is the last thing we would ever do!”
The hallways started buzzing with teenage girl chitter chatter talking about their boyfriends and girlfriends. Good. We were out of the routine, prepared answers.
“Who came up with the name?”
The girls claimed there was no real story to it. They were just sitting in a room and someone blurted out Doll Skin. They couldn’t even remember who it was. But they wanted something cute and creepy at the same time. Mission accomplished.
I asked what some of the rejected names were. They all laughed. Nicole, who has the most adorable pink, pixie crop you’ve ever seen, laughed and said she wanted “Frick Frack and the Peaches.”
“Sarcasm,” she says, sarcastically. She didn’t really want the name, but it was funny. “Nicole Rich and the Groupies, also got rejected,” she said with a playful pout.
The girls write all their own music and lyrics. “Blind is my favorite song, because I wrote it for my sister,” Sydney said. “It has special meaning to me.”
Everyone else really liked “Furious Fixation,” mostly because it was fun to play and one of their newer songs.
“Who are your influences?” I asked.
“Justin Beiber!” Nicole yelled out with her typical smartassery.
“Are you serious?” I asked, unbelieving.
“Noooooo!” she said laughing.
The girls all took turns spouting massive long lists among the most popular were, My Chemical Romance, Tool, Refused, Bikini Kill, and Led Zeplin. All bands that our little punk goddesses should be listening to.
When Meghan kept listing bands for several minutes, all the rest of the girls laughed and told me that Meghan is a walking encyclopedia.
“She knows every fact about every band,” Nicole said rolling her eyes.
Sydney laughed and said, “You can ask her when what person from whatever band died and she can spout out this day, this time and from what disease.”
“It comes in handy a lot,” Nicole said seriously.
“Ya but it kinda freaks us out,” Sydney said.
Alex, the one that shredded on her guitar and won the crowd over, was wearing glasses and had her hair tied up during the interview. She was definitely a little more soft spoken than the rest. But as I mentioned before, on stage she transforms into a rock star. But that’s what is so glorious about the stage, right? We can be whoever we want to be and do what we want to do, because, fuck it, we are rock stars!
“When you found out you were on this tour, what was your reaction?”
“Holy Freaking Heck!” they exclaimed. (They have a cleaner vocabulary than me.)
They were ecstatic. Who wouldn’t want to tour with Otep, September Mourning and Lacey Sturm? But on the heels of the excitement they instantly voiced their concerns about being away from home for almost 50 days.
“It’s hard to be away from family, friends and your home life and daily routine,” Megan said. “Lacey Sturm is my idol,” Megan said. “I watch her set every night like a gawking fan.”
I got the feeling that Megan likes to be home, sitting in her bedroom, headphones on, listening to her favorite punk bands while socializing via her computer on social media.
When I asked the girls what their greatest fears were Nicole shouted out, “Heights and that’s it!”
The room got quiet when Meghan spoke up. The mood was somber, “My greatest fear is having an anxiety attack while away from home.” The other girls nodded.
“It’s been amazing to watch. Meghan has had such amazing personal growth. She has come out of her shell and become a confident person.” Sidney said with pride.
Alex’s fear was being homesick.
That definitely reminded me that these amazing little punk rock stars are still just teenagers that miss their normal lives back home. Although, not sure that “normal” is going to be the same as it was before they started out on this journey.
Sydney jumps in and tells me she isn’t afraid of anything. She wants to try everything and do everything.
“I want to go sky diving. I love the ocean. I love the dark. I love people. I love talking to people.” She went on and on. Sydney seems like the kind of person that is going to suck the marrow out of life. Do all there is to do and be everything there is to be.
Nicole, who previously said she was afraid of, “heights and that’s it!” jumped in and started spewing more things we was afraid of, “Car crash, bugs, dark water, dogs with teeth, eating junk food alone, and Twizzlers running out.” You name it, she claimed to fear it.
Suddenly all the girls SQUEELED! A door opened and the cutest little dog came running into the stairwell. Our interview devolved into an impromptu lovefest for the puppy. It was like in the movie “Up” when the dog is doing something and a squirrel comes into view, the world stops and… “SQUIRREL!” Well, Teenage girls + cute puppy = SQUIRELL!
After the dog and its owner left, the interview resumed.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” was my next question.
Ironically the rock stars didn’t laugh. Apparently being rock stars was not their grown-up plans. They all had future plans when they weren’t rock stars anymore.
Sydney was emphatic, “I will be in the music industry till I am fifty years old and then I will become a forensic scientist. Because I love the mystery of crime.”
Someone’s been watching a lot of CSI. 🙂 I smiled when I thought about how she came up with the arbitrary age of fifty. I’m still chuckling about it as I’m writing this article.
Alex plans to go to school for Jazz theory and be a “dog mother.” Megan wants to be a photographer. And Nicole says she is never going to grow up. True to her personality.
In just thirty minutes I was able to get a real sense for each girl’s personality. And let me tell you, these girls are awesome! They won me over. They were so effusive and open with their enthusiasm that I felt like a den mother with all these amazing girls sitting on the floor with me talking about their lives.
Alex seems to be an old soul, wise beyond her years. Sydney is gregarious and going to suck everything out of life that she can. Megan is an adorable punk-rock nerd. And Nicole is the cutest girl version of Peter Pan you can imagine. She is appropriately afraid of the world running out of Twizzlers.
If you like punk music and even if you don’t, you will like these girls! They are amazing musicians and artists and you owe it to yourself to give a listen.
They won me.
You can check out their website here and see where they will be in concert.
Dateline: New York, March 2016
The old, creaky wood floors are covered with accidental glitter, the walls are covered with candles, books, pendants, caldrons and brooms. Two black cats, Medea and Eros, lay across the counter.
I walked towards the back of this store that sells “spells” to a surprising line of waiting customers. The right wall as I enter is stacked with jars of herbs. In front of me is a small counter with candles and ingredients behind it. Under the sign that wryly announces, “The Witch Is In,” are two women making custom spell candles for patrons.
Devil Shoestring, Life Everlasting, Nettle, Lemon grass are a few among those special herbs.
I waited for Stacy Rapp, the owner of the delightful place on a quiet side street in “Gotham City’s” (NYC, for you pale heart readers) East Village. It’s called “Enchantments.”
I asked one of the young candle-makers, “what’s your name?”
“Nettle,” she answered.
“How do you spell that?” I asked.
“However you want to,” she replied with a grin, but still refusing to actually spell it for me.
I watched Nettle (however you spell that) greet her customer. The customer wanted a spell candle for her friend who was getting married that weekend. Apparently, there had been some drama and the candle was to ensure that the wedding went off without a hitch. A tall order for anyone who has planned a wedding, but Nettle was undeterred.
Nettle, started to make a custom candle to help deter wedding day blues. She asked the client to eat some of the honey before she put it in the candle.
“What is the honey for?” I asked.
“It’s an offering to the deities,” she told me. “Honey in you, honey in the candle…connection.”
“An offering of sweetness to the deities.”
Nettle began carving the candle. Her music blared from a speaker. Metal. She danced and rocked her half-shaved head like an 80’s head-banger, pouring her essence into the spell candle.
Every one of Nettle’s replies to my queries was witty and sarcastic. I liked her.
Stacy finished up with her client and we went to the back of the store. We sat at a cozy table where “readings” were usually done. She had purchased the store in 2003 after working there for a while. The owner was ready to sell and it seemed the right fit for her.
Readers, let me paint you a picture. Stacy, is a modern witch. Her hair is vibrant red, her skin covered in tattoos, which she got before ink was “cool.” Her knuckles are banded tastefully with rings and jewelry. She is quiet, centered and intelligent.
More than anything, goodness pours from her. You are immediately at ease around her.
“What’s the goal of your store and your craft?” I asked.
“We want to give people tools to improve their lives,” she tells me. “Magic is working with your own energy to better your life. If you want empowerment, magic is help from the universe.”
Stacy stressed that magic comes from within yourself. So nothing like you see in Disney movies or horror films.
“Magic requires your own energies,” she explained. “It’s a big part of making things happen. We work with elements (earth, fire, water, spirit) deities and universe.”
“How does Satan come into play here?” I asked.
“It doesn’t,” she smiled. “Wicca is a sect of Paganism, recognized as a religion from the United States. We believe in a polytheistic deity. A male/female deity. Which as you can imagine, appeals to a lot of women.”
Stacy continued to explain more about Wicca.
“Women these days are looking for a strong role model. Wicca offers those role models and breaks out of the societal constricts. It empowers people, instead of restraining them.”
“Tell me about the candles,” I said.
“They are our specialty. We just had an article published about our candles and we have a ton of online orders.”
I pointed out the hundreds boxes along the floor of the store, pouring into the back and stacked neck high. There were so many it was hard to navigate.
“Those are all candles to fill the requests. A candle is a complete spell in itself. It burns energy and goes out into the universe. There is incense, magnetic iron, in the candles to attract the deities. We carve symbols and names if needed into the candles and add special ingredients tailored for each spell.”
People come in looking for help and not sure what to do. Most times they are willing to try anything. They also have a steady flow of regular patrons.
The most common candles are for love, money, uncrossing and unhexing.
The craziest candle they have ever been asked to make was a man who wanted “demons in his head to go away.”
The most common spell they are asked to create, but that they refuse to make, is people seeking to break up a couple so they can be with the object of their desire.
“The first rule of Wicca, is ‘do no harm,’” Stacy tells me. “Do what you will, so long as it harms none.”
“What magic is harmful?” I asked
“Black magic is magic that harms someone that has done nothing to you,” she said seriously. “Of course, defending yourself is okay.”
Stacy was lead down the path of Wicca by her grandmother, who was also a witch. She was raised to explore religions and she followed her path.
We walked out to the main area of the store because her reader needed to use the space to read for a client. She sat under the wall of herbs and ate her lunch while we chatted like old friends.
I asked Nettle what the most bizarre experience she had in the store.
“The Time Lord came in,” she said with a wry grin. “He was making a gear to propel us into the future and he believed he was cursed.”
“Well that’s fun,” I said grinning.
“Time travel makes me dizzy, so I like to stay right here,” Nettle interjected sarcastically. I really liked Nettle.
Stacy laughed. “People have the wrong idea about witchcraft. If I could wiggle my nose and clean my apartment that would be great, but it doesn’t work like that.”
I bought myself a Medusa pendant and looked over the penis and vagina candles while one of the store attendants packed my jewelry.
“And these are for?” I asked looking back at Stacy, still eating her lunch.
“Penis stuff,” Stacy answered. Obviously.
I laughed out loud. Of course it was. Silly me.
“Red makes it bigger or brings it to you. Black contains the penis. And white heals.”
“We have vaginas too!” Nettle hollers out. Yes Nettle. Yes we do.
So next time you are in Manhattan and need and little magic in your life, check out Enchantments and the lovely witches who work there.
I can assure you, the witches are definitely in.
Timeline: April 2017
Chardonnay, her cat, poked Teniele at 5:58 am two minutes before her alarm would go off to race off to yoga. We were meeting early today to conduct my interview on the last day of four, seven hour sessions of tattooing.
“I don’t know how she does it, but my cat as the odd sense of knowing when my alarm is going to go off and comes and gets her cuddles two minutes before, every time,” Tenielle told me over my peanut butter and jelly sandwich, while she ate sushi.
When I’m power tattooing for long sessions my body needs protein to keep up the pain tolerance. The easiest way seems to be PB&J sandwiches, which I never eat at home.
I’ve always loved Teniele’s tattoo style but since I’m from the states and she lives in Australia is never seemed attainable to get a tattoo from her. But a few months ago I decided to just bite the bullet and fly to Australia just for a tattoo from Teniele. And since I’m flying all this freaking way I decided to go big. An entire right arm sleeve to be exact.
Of course I couldn’t make it easy on Teniele and myself. Noooo. I had to get an entire sleeve. When I emailed her asking if we could do this, I could almost see her eyes widen up from the other side of the world. But we made our plans. I would fly in, get tattooed for seven hours for two days straight. Then spend 8 days touring around Australia letting my arm heal. Then come back for two more days of tattooing before I head home. Not an ideal tattoo schedule, but the only way to possibly get it done. I could see Teniele had her doubts that I was going to be able to sit for four full days and take the kind of pain that was headed my way.
The first day we knocked out a lot and I was actually quite surprised. Teniele has been tattooing for a little over eight years and realized she would love to be a tattoo artist while in art college. One day when she was working in an art store an old college mate, Kellie McEvoy recommended her to a tattooist for an apprenticeship. Teniele showed him her portfolio and soon had a job in a tattoo shop.
Of course as most tattoo artists know. It’s not all fun and art. She had to put her in her dues and clean and run the shop while doing her apprentice work. But soon enough she was ready to branch out and her tattoo career took off.
Teniele’s work has a very distinct style. I was immediately drawn to it the first time I saw some photo of her work. She has an amazing ability to make tattoos look like artistic masterpieces.
When I asked her how she came up with her style and overall theme of women’s faces she said, “It just naturally evolved. I like to work with organic items like people, plants and animals. And someone sees something you did and they want something along those lines with differences and my art just evolved in a snowball effect.”
After seven hours of “sitting like a rock,” Teniele said. I went home for the day. Tonight Teniele was going to draw up the bottom half of my arm and we were going to tattoo that part tomorrow. My fingers were crossed that I liked what she drew. My ink is very personal and this arm pieces is about the ying and yang in me. My light and my dark.
I showed up the next morning in hopes of brilliance. Teniele did not disappoint. The artwork was amazing! I asked her how she works her creative process.
“Wine and chocolate,” she said with a wry grin. “I like it silent and to be alone when I start the drawing process. Wine and chocolate does the trick.”
Once she has done the initial artwork and starts to shade and flush out her idea, then she turns on music. But until then, she likes to stay focused.
Teniele grew up in the countryside of Australia. As soon as she was able to, she ran off to the big city. She attended college in Bribane and now works out of Tattoo Magic shop in Melbourne.
“What do you like about the city?” I asked her.
“I’m afraid of the dark!” she said with a silly grin. “I like the bright lights.” Of course she also likes the convenience of city living with all the stimulation, good food, good wine and, “someone will hear me if I start screaming.”
Made me chuckle.
Teniele has one client that brings all her most wackiest ideas to her which turn into amazing pieces of art. I can only imagine what Nova, Teniele’s friend and one of her favorite clients looks like. She has done a Tonka truck with a T-bone steak in the back of it and bloody tire tracks for her. She has also done the smart Gremlin from the movies with a book and gun. And to top it all off she did the dragon from the Neverending story with Darth Vader, a storm trooper and Chewbacca riding across it’s back. It must always be an adventure when Nova wants a new tattoo.
When I asked her what she refuses to tattoo these days. Without hesitation she said, “No more St. Michael’s fighting the devil!” I was amused. We don’t get that many St. Michael fighting the devil tattoos in the states. I knew there must be a story there.
She said that she use to tattoo up in one of the most religious areas of Australia and everyone always wants St. Michael fighting off the devil. I must have missed that Bible story in Sunday School.
On day two I was the first one in the tattoo shop and the last client to leave. And once again, I sat like a rock. I figured, if I’m going to fly 28 hours to get here and spend two weeks to get this sleeve done, I am going to sit and take whatever pain is dealt out. Otherwise this entire trip was a waste.
After a long…and of course, painful day, Teniele wrapped up the arm and sent me away to explore the outback for a little over a week before I would come back for my third and fourth beating.
It’s the summer season here, while it’s winter back home in the states. As many of you who have ink know, I have to keep my arm covered, out of the sun and water while I explore the outback…in the middle of the summer. But I did it. I came prepared with UV Ultra Cooling long sleeve shirts, arm covering sleeves and planned my stay around the ability to stay away from the water.
I had an amazing time up in the Northern Territory where I saw crocodiles out in the wild, pet and hugged kangaroos and fell in love with wombats and wallaroos. I’m still trying to figure out how to get one home! And of course the bats here are amazing. They actually have a Batman Lane in Melbourne. I was confused as to why it was called that until I was headed home from Phillips Island one night and saw that each of the tall buildings with lights on top have thousands of bats that swirl around like a whirlpool atop the buildings at night. The visual affect is pretty amazing and I couldn’t help but be reminded of the Christian Bale Batman movie when the bats swirled around his head.
I came back to the shop after my mini vacation and for my third day of tattooing. Today we worked on my wrists, elbows and other tender parts. Holy mother of god that freaking hurt. But, as usual, I sat there as strong as possible and put in my seven hours. It was definitely the worst day and my lower arm was swollen by the time I left. But…we got the bottom part done and only had to finish up the coloring on the top tomorrow.
Teniele has traveled to London, Colorado and around Australia to do tattoo conventions. While I am the first person to fly to Australia for a tattoo from her, she has had a clients travel from California to London for a tattoo at one of the conventions and from France to London. She also has clients who while on holiday or vacation in Australia make it a point to schedule a tattoo while they are there.
Whenever people hear that I traveled to Australia just for a tattoo they think I’m a little crazy. But I think of tattoos as artwork and if you loved a certain painting from another country and you had to go pick it up, you’d go pick it up. Same with tattoos. I want a certain piece of artwork by an amazing artist so I go “pick it up.” J
As the fourth day finished up, my arm was the size of Australia. It screamed cuss words at me all day long and all night. But my plan for Valentines Day was to send my man off to a romantic wine country tour while I stayed in the hotel room with my arm elevated and on ice. I had to get it ready to fly home the next day. So a little sacrifice was in order.
Toward our time together I could tell that Teniele loves being a tattoo artist. When I asked her about it, she said, “ My passion is my job. I get to live to be creative.”
I can totally relate.
“But, I also hate that when the creative juices aren’t flowing I still have to create,” she added.
“Break out the wine and chocolates!” I said with a grin.
Dateline: New York, January 2017
I stepped inside Beetle House Restaurant and Bar on the lower eastside of Manhattan and was transported into the world of Tim Burton.
From the outside you’d never know that such creepy cocktails and delicious food was within. But much of New York is like that. Simple storefronts that do not tell the story of what’s inside.
The room was dark and candle-lit by stunning chandeliers and purple twinkle lights, all of Burton’s classic songs crooned in the background and we were met by a deliciously scary Sweeney Todd at the door. The Demon Barber in the creepy flesh.
As I waited to talk with the adorable, yet deliciously dark, manager, Jeannie Bocchicchio, Sweeney Todd approached a male guest who wore black smudged eyeliner, a black top hat and long devilishly handsome black velvet tail jacket.
“You waiting for another guest?” Sweeney asked suspiciously.
“Yes,” Mr. Tophat answered.
“Would you like me to give her a little fright?” he enunciated every syllable with wide eyes.
“Yes please,” Mr. Tophat said, with relish.
“What time will your guest be arriving?” Sweeney purred.
“Splendid,” Sweeney’s eyes narrowed in anticipation.
Then Sweeney Todd slinked toward the front door to await his victim.
Beetle House often has costumed characters mingle with the restaurant patrons. Characters in the past have included Edward Scissorhand, Joker, Mrs. Lovitt, Beetlejuice and tonight…Sweeney Todd.
I looked over the blood-speckled menu, amusingly titled, “To Die For.” And the drink menu, “To Live For.”
I love it. Items like Cheshire Mac and Cheese, Mad Shrimp and Sweeney Beef were a few of the options.
While I waited, I asked the inked-and-adorable bartender, Ella, to make me a “Fish Bowl” and a “Beetle Juice,” their two most popular drinks. The Fish Bowl is delivered to my table. It is exactly that; a large fish bowl drink for two.
It is made with Vodka, Rum, sweet and sour, pineapple juice, and Sprite. Blue Curacao Liqueur makes the entire drink a turquoise color. As a finishing touch, Nerds candy and red Swedish fish candies swim inside around in the bowl. Delightful!
Jeannie Boccicchio, the restaurant manager, took a few minutes to chat with me. She plops down in the chair opposite of me and I asked her what’s the best thing on the menu.
“The Cheshire Mac and Cheese is amazing. It’s made with seven cheeses, garlic and sea salt bread crumb,” she said. “What makes it different from other mac and cheese is the sweet stewed tomatoes.”
“I’ll try one of those!” I tell her.
The moment the Mac & Cheese touched my tongue I was transported back to my childhood. Cold afternoons of tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. The stewed tomatoes on top, mixed in with the salty and sweet bread crumbs was a perfect bite of my childhood.
The Mac and Cheese was so good, I decided right there to bring my 13-year old daughter to NYC just for this dish. Her favorite food. (Yes, it is good to be Trouble’s daughter!)
“I will definitely be back,” I told her.
“We also have an amazing steak, but we aren’t a steakhouse,” Jeannie said.
Jeannie is a huge fan of Tim Burton. She not only was the creative force behind the menu, she was the primary mixologist for their Burton-inspired cocktails.
“I tried to use all of Tim Burton’s movies on the menus,” she says with a twinkle in her eye.
It was very evident Tim Burton movies was a passion of hers. Surrounded by Tim Burton movie posters, art and bizarre oddities like the dead bug collection on the wall, she was in her element. “Like a dark-soul little girl on Christmas morning,” I thought.
“I feel more comfortable with my darker side,” she explains, as if reading my thoughts.
Jeannie comes across very bubbly and fun. She doesn’t seem dark to the casual observer. So her statement of faith in things dark makes me ask, “What in your life has made you embrace darkness?”
“Yes I’m quirky and even a little bubbly, but the darker side of life is something that I gravitate to,” she says. Then she smiles, “It feels good to be dark.”
“BOO!” from the front door. Then a curdling scream. Sweeney scares Mr. Tophat’s friend as she arrived at the front door.
I laugh at the well-executed plan and notice that Mr. Tophat’s guest is dressed in a dark and sexy costume.
“You see people dressed in costume on the sidewalks of our neighborhood and you know they are coming here for dinner,” Jeannie tells me. “I like that about this place.”
Jeannie’s emotional investment in the restaurant is obvious. Burton is a passion of hers and she has made this dark lair her home.
“What’s your darkest moment?” I probed. I do not mind prying in interviews.
“I have OCD and anxiety,” she answers with refreshing openness. “Some of those moments are my darkest and scariest.”
“People find comfort in the dark things,” I told her. “It makes them feel more normal.”
“Exactly,” she said. “And there is an entire community of people like me.”
“I feel better with the darker things,” she continued. “It provides me with security and normalcy.”
Jeannie laughed suddenly. “Well there’s my therapy session for the day!”
I was quite taken with the yin-yang little firecracker restaurant manager who had learned to embrace her dark as well as her light. For without dark there can be no light. And bubbly and fun Jeannie had made herself quite at home in the dark and demented den of Burton, called Beetle House.
While this little hole in the wall doesn’t look like much, reservations are booked out months in advance. So hurry up and join the crowds who relish the dark and zany Burton. Come dressed in your favorite costume, or just as you are, and enjoy a deliciously dark evening.
And order the Sweeney Beef, I dare you. And if you are truly daring, imagine that you are enjoying the flesh of a priest. “For they don’t commit sins of the flesh, so their meat is quite fresh.”
Dateline: New York, December 2016
I love New York. It is one of my favorite cities in the world. But what dark soul doesn’t like Gotham City? And yet, I am not a New Yorker. Although I kind of wish I was.
I’ve been writing a series called “Goth in Gotham City” and this is one more installment. I stumbled across the absolutely most amazing store for anyone who has a weird side. You can be Goth, alternative, metal, punk, steampunk or whatever box or category you want to wrap around yourself. Trust me, this is the store for you.
Gothic Renaissance, located at 108 4th Avenue on the lower east side pretty much has whatever your dark soul could desire. I can guarantee you will not leave empty handed and you’ll probably have a Christmas list as long as Santa’s.
Gargoyles guard the entrance and once you pass over to the dark side, sensory overload takes over.
The store owner, Stitch Azintime is exactly what you would expect from the owner of a store like this. He is dark, metal, rock and roll and has a chill vibe. You’ll want to chat him up next time you’re there for the most current info on the Goth and metal scene in New York.
In case the photos aren’t enough to entice you over their threshold, let me explain. They have a rave glow in the dark room with clothes to try on and practice your dance moves, if you must. There is a wall of masks, including metal masks with spike, Venetian and Dia de los Muertos masks. Three racks (no pun intended) of hundreds of corsets and another wall of under-the-bust corsets. Racks of trench coats, bustle coats or whatever kind of wrap you need.
Of course there is makeup, tights, harnesses, toys, hats, belts, fetish, steampunk, dresses, coats, jewelry and even headdresses. And if that isn’t enough, you can also buy massive goth or even steampunk angel or demon wings which are mounted on the ceiling as if they were going to descend down upon you.
And don’t forget the shoes and boots with racks and racks to chose from. In here, the devil does not wear Prada.
Decor consists of vases of black roses and an upside down black Christmas tree. We are definitely speaking my language now. 🙂
And last, but not least, when you are ready to pay, you must slide your money across a Ouija board.
Bring your wallet, (or shove your money in your pocket, because the wallets here are awesome) and get to spending or even just come to hang with my man, Stitch. You will find whatever you are looking for at Gothic Renaissance.