Johnny Royal Talks Black Lodge With PCM's Kristyn Clarke

Black Lodge was formed by Johnny Royal in 2012. The band creates a fusion between early Dubstep, Punk, Industrial and Dark Wave. PCM’s Kristyn Clarke was able to catch up with Black Lodge’s Johnny Royal to discuss the band’s formation, direction, and upcoming plans.

“The name come from an old Native American mythology. Certain tribes believe that particular woods were enchanted and that if you were to enter into these parts of these enchanted woods at a certain time…when the planets are aligned, you have to enter with a heart full of fear or a heart full of love. If  you do, you go into this other dimension and you either can go into what is called the White Lodge, which is like Heaven, or you can go to hell, or you can come back to Earth. If you come back to Earth, you come back with a gift. It plays into the idea with, where the music is, it’s on the darker side of things. It goes pretty deep into an idea of taking a look at the way things are in the world right now and really making a statement that there are things that are wrong. A lot of it comes from within the relationship between a father and his children.”

“This record is called The Diary of Tomahawk and it’s about a girl named Tomahawk that is sexually abused and raped by her father. And no one will listen to her or help her, so she starts practicing black magic. In Native American mythology, some tribes believe the Raven was a demi-god that required sex and blood to get certain powers. It would bring prophecy and wisdom, or the ability to see things differently. She does this ritual with the Raven, and then gains the power to see demons in people. So she starts going out and basically killing everybody that she finds that has these demons. And on the outside, the world views her as a serial killer, but really she’s a dark angel. So the album takes the listener through a journey through each song, which is a chapter out of her diary from the first song which is “Bedtime” and further on to her visiting The Raven and then into another song called “Memory Of Fire” when she gains this power  .”

“The sound goes into heavy industrial punk and rock. And it has a lot of old punk elements infused into it. There’s a lot inspiration drawn from bands like The Misfits, Skinny Puppy and Frontline Assembly. We’re incorporating some old Dubstep beats which are overlaced with different kinds of analogs and instruments such as an Ekdahl Moisturizer and the Formatron which are really hard to find and are rare instruments.”

The whole idea behind the album and the story sounds completely fascinating. It could almost have a companion film. When I mentioned this to Johnny he said “Part of the plan is, we’re working with a company named Haus of Seven. He worked with Nine Inch Nails for a long time and he’s an amazing cinematographer. So what we talked about doing is storyboarding out each song. So we’re going to have a video for each song but the video isn’t going to just be a music video, it’s going to be more of a web series and going through the visual aspects of Tomahawk’s journey.”

When asked if the album would best be listened to as a whole, almost like a concept album he answered  “It is a concept album for sure. Part of the elements missing from music today is when you look back at all of the great things that came out, there were these musicians and artists who spent so much time thinking about the idea of what they really actually wanted to say. And they would let the music tell the story. Nowadays, a lot of bands, what they do is crank out song after song after song for their record label, or to fill a quota, or they just don’t spend time really formulating their ideas. So, when I started writing this, I laid out the whole idea about what I really wanted to say and how I wanted to tell a story. And what I wanted to say was that a lot of the general problems in the world, and especially in this country, are that they start with the father and the daughter relationship. There are a lot of really bad fathers out there, who do all kinds of terrible things to their daughters.  It’s about bringing to light that there is a major problem with…rape, and other things like that that I want to call out. And I want to call it out in a way that’s not just being an advocate against it, but it’s really bringing some shock value. A lot of times the only time the country will wake up to something is when you scare the sh**t out of them and make them think about it.”

With the music industry being in its’ current state, we were curious to how big of a challenge it was getting backing for this project. Johnny claims “Surprisingly, it [getting backing] wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be because the people that I’ve worked with over the years in the music business, know that when I start writing something or take on a project that I put everything into it. And I do it in a smart way. I’m not out trying to write hit songs or get radio play. I have something to say. And I’m doing it the way I want to do it this time. So there are a lot of really cool things that are going to happen from that vision. And I also think that Industrial music in general is going to start coming back with a force over the next couple years. It has been awhile since it has and the only other band that has managed to do that significantly over the past ten years has been Nine Inch Nails. Trent Reznor is definitely to be respected because he did it his way. He didn’t go out and write all these catchy songs and he’s an amazing composer and an amazing artist. He wrote what he was feeling and what he had to say and I think that says something about the general rules of the universe which is that the closer you can bring yourself to illuminating the aesthetic of what is inside of you to the rest of the world the more that you will have a strong bond with commonality from person to person. For example when someone can feel that something is honest and raw they will gravitate toward it regardless if it is being played on the radio or not, it’s just a matter of getting it in front of them. ”

I asked for his thoughts on the up rise of social media and the ease of being able to quickly share information with individuals to which he said ” That’s another thing too…I’ve done social media stuff for a long time and I think one of my strong points in doing that is understanding the psychology of people which is that a lot of brands that are out there, a lot of record companies and bands think that the general public are stupid and they’re not! People are very instinctual  beings and they know when something is real.”

We are sure that the stage show to go along with this project is going to be visually stunning and inquired about upcoming touring plans. Johnny says “We are looking at doing 60 dates next summer just to start and the goal is that once we get going..this is going to be a transitional point, not just for me, but for the rest of the guys as well. Once we get going we want to stay on the road and pretty much live on the road…the road taught me many years ago what freedom really meant. The idea that you have no limitations except for what you set for yourself  and all of us want to get back to that feeling. ”

In regards to the target release date for the album Johnny says ” We are still writing and framing up a lot of the tracks. We are looking at two incredible producers at this time and are hoping to come to a decision on that very soon and we are hoping to have the first track release in early 2013. We are taking our time with everything and once all of the tracking is done and everything is mixed and mastered then we have to produce all of the video elements. We want everything to be in a row before we put anything out there .”

He then went on to discuss with PCM one of his defining musical moments in life. “My first concert ever was The Cure and The Human League when I was about nine years old…my mother took me and it was in Pittsburgh, PA. That changed my life and then after that there were  venues in my hometown called the Jam N’ Skate and Paradise Arcade that put on punk shows every weekend. For close to five years until the place closed down I was religiously there every weekend. Real punk rock…bands like GBH and The Exploited and old New York hardcore bands like Bold and the Gorilla Biscuits and the Misfits…the first album I ever bought was a vinyl copy of “Walk Among Us” by The Misfits and that was right after The Cure show, there was a record called “Eides” in Pittsburgh and I was there all the time as well. I discovered a band called Half -Life in Pittsburgh and that band provided another defining musical moment in my life. Just seeing those guys up there making this great music…these ideas of the freedom of thought and liberty and knowing you can do whatever the f**k you want to do. I have had punk in my heart since I was a kid and then later on I discovered industrial and fell in love with that stuff too…the combination of the punk scene and then finding industrial music are probably the two biggest defining musical moments in my life.”

Johnny was also asked about some of the additional projects he has in the works and although Black Lodge is the major one for the time being he is also working on a documentary film called “The Royal Art” which is about the Freemasons. He says ” I’ve been a Freemason for going on six years now and that is something that is very important to me in my life, but that is a whole other project and it’s really cool, really ethereal and esoteric and it lets the actions and the characters kind of tell the story of what Freemasonry is and the legacy of it going back to 2500 BC.”

He is also very excited about the Black Lodge line-up and is thrilled to be working with such a talented group of individuals. The line-up is: Shawn Bann: Guitar and Bass,Ventura Banvelos: Programming, Justin Green: Drums and Programming, Christopher Rhinesmith: Vocals, Johnny Royal: Composition, Guitar and Programming and Scott Vera: Composition and Programming. “When I started putting this together I wanted to find guys that I could trust and the aesthetic and the connective tissue between all of us which I didn’t even realize starting out…all of us have had some really dark things happen to us in life that we are in a way channeling through this music and letting it out. We are not the kind of people who are depressed and angry, but we are pissed off at the way that the world is and we have something to say about it. ”

To keep up-to-date with Black Lodge be sure to visit the band’s Facebook Page and stay tuned for more details soon!  This is one project that we, here at PCM, are truly excited about and hope you will be too!

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