Happy Black Goth Appreciation Day!
Let’s begin with a huge thank you to those who contributed their thoughts, favorites and selfies for this article. This day is a celebration of the entire black goth/alternative spectrum, including individuals who are perceived by society as going against their “cultural norm” in some way or other. Black Goth Appreciation Day was creating by Dining with Dana in 2017 under “Black Goths Are More Visible” to celebrate the increased acceptance of nuanced imagery of black identity by those outside of alternative subcultures. It is a way of honoring those who went through (or continue to go through) challenges in asserting themselves amongst a world where outsiders view goth as purely white. The aim is to appreciate our ability to share alternative black voices, looks and build communities across borders within minutes by using these very resources today. With every year, black goth visibility increases, and we must remember that each one of us plays a part in advocating for the normalization of our image. However you choose to honor your fellow bats in black, make sure to have lots of fun!
We must start with Q Lazzarus. As Light Asylum astutely pointed out to me, her 1988 “Goodbye Horses” single is one of the most influential songs in the goth music spectrum and should be celebrated on this day. Most people recognize the song’s vocals from the Buffalo Bill scene in Silence of the Lambs. Though her career extended beyond that one hit, her identity was undermined by Goodbye Horses’ pop cultural status, to the point where many thought the singer was male.
After years of going under the radar and searched for by fans, she was reportedly found in a series of Tweets which you can read here. That being said, could this be coined our anthem?
On the subject of Light Asylum, let’s give thanks to one of the most frequently played bands at goth clubs over the past few years. Their song “Dark Allies” is as contemporary a classic as it gets. Though Light Asylum has been active for nearly over a decade, their sound is still played like it’s fresh off the hot plate. We’ve all heard the echoing vocals of the powerful Shannon Funchess. If you haven’t, now’s the time:
Next on our list of classics is The Wraith. The song “Comatic Romance” is essential and a perfect example of their Killing Joke infused sound, marinated in an upbeat version of Christian Death.
Founded in 2016, it is fronted by poet Davey Bales, formerly of Lost Tribe and Shadow Age. His most recently collection of poetry, “Deadly Flowers” issue 4, is available here and on bandcamp. For more on his written work, read this insightful interview.
Madame St. Beatrice or Beatrice Demesier, the pioneering NYC bound Haitian artist, brings power to every word she sings. Former frontwoman for Dust Angel, she has pursued her own path since 2015. Charged with the essence of darkwave and early goth rock, her work brings black women in the center of the alternative community. She also stars in the 2018 film “Voice of the Monolith” a musical short film “about gentrification in rapidly changing Crown Heights, told through the voices of a Black punk rocker new to the neighborhood, and a Brooklyn raised rapper with a chip on his shoulder.”
Known for their haunting sound, Shadow Age lingers between old school post-punk and recent goth.
I would like to highlight a relevant snippet from Oliver Sheppard’s Cvlt Nation interview with the band in 2015:
I interviewed Lost Tribe a few times and it wasn’t until the second interview that I thought to ask – what’s it like being in such an ethnically diverse punk band? And I’d like to ask the same to Shadow Age: how has being into punk, postpunk, and or goth been as a pretty diverse band? Have you encountered any ugly attitudes, and is there anything you’d like to address about this you’ve not addressed yet? The perception used to be that punk, and especially gothy postpunk, for sure, was a really “white” form of music, and this has often been held against it.
Aaron (singer): This is a really cool question. It’s something I never really gave much thought to, honestly, but now that I think of it, it’s actually pretty cool. We’ve never really had any problems. If anything, we’ll get a look if we walk into a place as a group, but it may also be how loud we can be in both appearance and volume. But, it is nice rolling into a venue, or a show, or whatever and not thinking, “damn, am I going to be the only black dude here?” It’s not that I ever feel out of place at shows or anything… It’s hard to describe, but it’s definitely nice. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a situation at a show or on the road in which race has been an issue or problematic.
Lastly, within classics, I would like to leave us with Lost Tribe’s Midnight Rain.
Following are a few bands that I was asked to include in Black Goth Day. One of them that truly caught my ear was Woven In, with its DIY ethereal, ambient goth feel characterized by the artist as “dark surf”.
The Ire’s nostalgic sound is intensified by repetitive riffs and monotone vocals interrupted by bursts of dynamism. This is especially found in “Torch Song”.
Tobi O’Kandi, former lead singer of O. Children, has been pursuing solo musical projects under Okandi after the band split up as well as a frightening near-death experience. He is now a father and appears to be centering his focus on family, but I hope to see what he has next in store. While Okandi has diverged from post-punk and goth into a variety of musical genres, “Use Me” channels early O. Children and may someday become a goth essential.
Two more essential classics include Glorious Din and She Wants Revenge among others.
I only included a few bands featuring black people in goth music. So, if you’re hungry for more, or want to learn further about the bands mentioned here, keep an eye out for new posts on Dining with Dana where I go more in depth.
Remembering Andy Anderson
Let’s take one moment to remember Andy Anderson, former drummer in the Cure who passed away just this year. Read details about his passing and his legacy here. As a tribute, below is one of his performances in the band:
GothTubers and Podcasts
Though black goth/alternative youtubers produce quality content equal to other fellow bats, recognition for their videos is drastically lower. Let’s change that.
Before jumping into an on-point video by Marie Munsterful, I want to first clarify the message many black goths seem to voice. Youtube is a perfect example to explore the notion of representation vs. normalization. Black goths are often left to carve their own “spaces of normalization” within the scene. When they are represented on platforms large enough to reach the subculture as a whole, it is often through a special blog post, video segment, magazine cover, etc… What we are missing here is inclusion operating not under a lens, but a natural form of progression. This is where Youtube comes to play.
This article would not be complete without mentioning Jess in King, who defines themselves as “a black genderqueer disabled goth creator” aiming to share goth “from the black perspective”. They comment on goth and goth inspired music, articles and generally provide content that goes much deeper than the simple aesthetic of the scene. It is most certainly refreshing.
I felt it appropriate to quote a comment they made on the Dining with Dana Facebook page which heavily pertains to what we previously discussed about representation:
“The most I see when it comes to racism is more exclusion. Treating us black goths as a special photo, a themed video, a showcased article and not treating us as regular goths and making an effort to always include at least 2 of us in whatever sort of media it is. Thanks to social media and self production we are doing it for ourselves but the mainstream calendars, clothing brands, etc. in the goth community are still primarily white and white passing only.”
Now, as many astutely pointed out, there is less bigotry in the subculture in person (depending on where you’re located, of course), but as with mainstream culture, the lack of black people in media affects the way they are perceived by people outside of the scene (for example, being categorized as a “race traitor”). This holds far more weight than the occasional in-scene exclusion based on ethnicity or background.
Finally, I would like to give a HUGE thank you to Jess in King for putting together a long list of black goth and alternative Youtubers (at the end of this article).
Though metal isn’t a component of the goth scene, I was approached by the ever so lovely, Lovely, a fierce black queer, genderfuild metalhead who runs a music commentary podcast. I simply could not resist mentioning their work, particularly their two-part Black History Month episode exploring black artists in metal music.
Hair and Makeup
Now, this would not be Black Goth Appreciation Day if we didn’t talk about our edges, our ends, our porosity. It’s always nice to have something spooky dedicated to you. Unfortunately, not much can be found in the textured hair department, as searching for “black gothic hair tutorials” online will get you next to nowhere. So, I did some gravedigging and unearthed a few gloomy dos fit for your strands. Check out the Pinterest board featuring anything from wigs and weaves to natural curls right here.
One of the fun things about the goth subculture is the freedom to experiment with style, especially when it comes to makeup. However, if you are interested in more elaborate looks, it can be difficult to find how tos online. Here is an entire post I made on this subject, complete with videos and two bonus interviews.
Glam Goth has dozens of makeup videos as well as her own product line. If you’re looking for dark themed makeup on dark skin be sure to head on over to her Youtube channel. This short interview covers her work in more detail.
Where are all the black goth/alternative men?
We have a special segment! Angel Nightmare, artist, Youtuber and founder of the industrial band Midnight Nightmare, is gracing us with yet another interview on Dining with Dana. If you’ve been hanging out here long enough, you might have read his story in “Black Goth Men are Dispelling Myths of Hypermasculinity”.
The post details the lack of visibility of black men in the goth scene in comparison to women, stressing the importance they hold both within and outside of the subculture. For further information on the subject, I suggest you give it a read and discuss in the comments of that post.
Angel’s views and career path seem to have evolved in a positive way since the article, and he’s ready to share that with you…
What is the very first band you felt a connection to? What was so appealing about them, in your eyes?
The very first band I was connected to was Mindless Self Indulgence. I discovered them when I was 12 years old and at the time wasn’t really into music much. Their music was so unique and creative to me at the time and still is to this day. It helped me realize that you didn’t have to sound like every top 100 artist to create good things because most of that music was very boring to me.
When did you start getting into alternative music? Could you tell us a bit about your progression in discovering new sounds?
I started to get into alternative music when I was in elementary school. I remember seeing the music video for “In the End” by Linkin Park while flipping through channels and landing on MTV. I started frequently watching MTV for the music videos and soon discovered bands like System of a Down that kind of turned me on to rock music. On the weekends throughout middle school I would stay up late and watch a show called “The Headbangers Ball” and that’s what turned me on to heavier music. I discovered bands like Cradle of Filth, Devil Driver, Fear Factory, Coal Chamber, Korn, and so much more.
How did your family and community first react to your work?
When I was 13 I was influenced by the bands I would see on TV and connected to the alternative characters in shows and cartoons that were often picked on or bullied for their looks. I started wearing nail polish and experimenting with makeup and at first my parents didn’t like it at all. Eventually my mother started defending the way I dressed and my interests to my other family members because I was one of the only kids of my generation that wasn’t constantly getting in trouble, doing drugs, going to jail, or failing classes like so many of my peers and family members at a similar age. She started to realize that what I was doing wasn’t self destructive and encouraged me to do anything I want because she believed that I was really intelligent and would find success in anything I picked up.
In what ways does being an alternative black androgynous man affect both your everyday life and your creative projects?
Being a black androgynous man has affected me a lot in the past especially when I lived in the south. People would find and make up so many things to try to vilify me or hurt me. I used to get beat up and jumped in school a lot. I got rejected and broken up with by a lot of girls even after school because they didn’t want to be publicly shamed for dating the “weird guy.” Even though I don’t experience much of that hatred on a day to day basis anymore a lot of that pain and anxiety still lingers inside of me and has made it harder for me to be as trusting to people throughout the years. That fear of rejection and the hatred I have for people who want to destroy everything that is different has driven me to isolate myself and create and write a lot of music.
Do you have a specific moment when you felt ostracized for being black and expressing your identity through dark style and sound?
I don’t have any specific moments nowadays but there will be times where I get the typical internet hate comment that will express that I’m stupid or the devil for wearing makeup, etc. I just typically ignore stuff like that because I know those type of people get satisfaction out of a reaction to those type of comments.
We especially enjoyed your songs “I am Halloween” and “Corporate Bile”. What is the story behind those?
I wrote “I Am Halloween” as kind of a cliche
anthem for alternative spooky people that feel like they don’t belong. It’s one
of the first songs I wrote using the pop song structure. It’s kind of a way of
expressing what it feels like being outkasted like I have my whole life, like
most alternative people have dealt with. In that song I also change personality
with each verse and go back and forth from talking to a listener and to myself.
When I’m performing the song live my entire demeanor and performance reflects
each segment. In Corporate Bile I wrote a very simple and cryptic poem about a
business man who uses his business to profit off of the misfortune and
destruction of others.
Which Midnight Nightmare album/single did you have the most fun making?
I probably had the most fun writing Angry Sex. At first it
was a filler song for the first EP but I took a lot of time experimenting with
sounds and samples that I never used and blended more elements of metal with
industrial which would define the current Midnight Nightmare sound. The song
sort of evolved and got catchier each time I revisited it.
Could you describe the biggest challenges you faced in music creation and production?
The biggest challenge I face is actually releasing the music I create. I have 100s of gigabytes of unreleased music on my hard drives and the biggest thing that delays so many of them is that I will upgrade either my software, hardware, or both every few months and abandon finishing old projects for new ones or will complete redo old projects with the new equipment leaving them perpetually being upgraded over the course of years.
Was there ever conflict between band members? How did you handle it?
There were never really any major conflicts with the band members aside from normal stuff like scolding someone for being consistently late or not spending enough time practicing at home.
What do you think of the current state of industrial music?
I think that industrial is a dying genre mostly because there is so much secrecy on how people create their music. With other genres like rap, metalcore, EDM, or even dubstep people are more willing to spread and teach how to create the music, show what gear/software they use, and will share how to start up projects. The accessibility makes to where there are only a hand full of big industrial projects and most of the smaller artists give up before making it. With rap there is so much of an appeal for people wanting to join it that it causes people to spread the word around and show off artists to people who don’t normally listen to rap.
Where would you situate yourself in the goth-industrial scene? Do you believe the label applies to your identity?
I don’t really like to assign a label to myself much anymore because I’m more accepting and open minded to subcultures that I didn’t really like when I was a pure metalhead. I like to make friends with and be open to people in any respective scene and I always try to make anyone that’s a part of any alternative subculture feel like they matter and have importance in the world.
From your personal standpoint, how exactly does the goth scene now differ from what it was over twenty years ago? Do you find the change positive or negative?
Now the goth scene seems to have been growing again but I
don’t think it’s the same goth scene as before but now we are seeing more
integration from metalheads, emos, rave kids, etc. which I personally think is
cool. I’m also seeing and meeting a lot more goths that are more open minded to
other styles of music and subcultures.
Finally, what are your plans for the future of Midnight Nightmare and what is your ultimate goal for the band?
I want Midnight Nightmare to evolve in a art piece that inspires a generation of weird outkasts like myself and that they can do anything and make them feel like they belong.
Current (eternal) Debates
Eternal debates are always current, by simple definition. But, every once in a while, the flames will reignite and they’ll blow up again.
What is Goth without goth music?
The language of sound and its importance in a music-based scene is a subject that has been argued about so far into the afterlife that no resurrection is in sight. Music is a universal language that ties fragments and aspects of one subculture into a solid whole. One possible reason the debate still goes on might simply come from a lack of understanding. Most people who dislike goth music appear to be unaware of its spectrum. There is a vast library of sounds to choose from, going from proto-goth punk influenced to ethereal and electro. I will let Kai Decadence handle this one:
“While there is a definitive sound that defines general goth music, it’s also pretty versatile and has been used in all sorts of different styles and there really is something for everyone.” – Kai Decadence
That being said, it’s time to have fun! Respond to Kai Decadence’s “Goth Music Tag” and tag your friends:
- Who was the first Goth band you ever listened to?
- How were you introduced to Goth music?
- What was your first impression of Goth music?
- Favorite Originating Goth Band? (The First Wave of Goth music)
- Favorite Goth Sub-Genre?
- Favorite Era of Goth Music?
- Top 5 Favorite Goth Bands?
- Top 3 Goth Albums?
- Favorite Goth Songs? (At least 5)
- Is there a Goth band who you couldn’t get into?
- Favorite Iconic Female Goth Lead Singer?
- Thoughts on Andrew Eldritch?
- What are your thoughts on modern Goth bands who’ve come out since 2010?
- If you could start a Goth band, what instrument would you play and what bands would you take influence from?
For more musical exploration, you can also participate in The Project Goth Playlist tag.
Challenging the White Gaze: Black Women in the Alternative Arts
Watch what happens when fierce black alternative women get together. Laina Dawes, author of What Are You Doing Here? A Black Woman’s Life and Liberation in Heavy Metal (which I reviewed here) brings together a group of pioneering women in the alternative scene. Join the discussion with:
- Jennifer Cruté, Visual artist / graphic novelist
- Militia Vox singer, Judas Priestess / solo artist
- Ursula CP, Journalist / former editor, HearEvil.com
- Ashley Denise MaGee, DJ Black Betty
- Kali Holloway, Singer, Easy Lover
- Dianca London Freelance music journalist
- Cammy Simpson, Dancer Christina Long, Founder, Blkgrlswurld.wordpress.com
- Beatrice Demesier (Madame St. Beatrice), Singer
Buy Black Alternative
Last year I spotlighted Gothic Lamb, an alternative apparel brand created by Lucy, and with the participation increase in Black Goth Day, I will do so again. If you are unfamiliar with Gothic Lamb, here is a quote from the creator’s story:
“Gothic Lamb was founded in the Summer of 2016 by me, Lucy, a quirky alternative black girl with a big dream. My main inspiration for Gothic Lamb was and still is big name brands like Dollskill, Disturbia, Killstar, Witch Worldwide and more. But I often noticed a lack of representation. None of the models or designers looked like me. I saw a need that I and many others felt needed to be fulfilled. And as I researched and reached out, I found that there were great alternative black models who were passionate about helping the cause and were so happy to see a brand catering to their style. In turn, I also had to step out of my shell to become a model and representation of my own brand. It hasn’t been an easy process and I’m nowhere near done. I’m hoping to collaborate more, get featured in blogs and magazines, and eventually go to conventions and host pop-up shops. But I hope you can see the impact it’s already having. Hearing all the feedback is what makes it worth it. Gothic Lamb is the brand made for and by the alternative black girl.”
Lastly, please go to the Blkgrlswurld shop if you haven’t yet. This article would not be complete without the influential, soil breaking and ever so supportive Blkgrlswurld.
On a final note, Victoria P’s message to Black Goths:
You are what makes Black Goth Appreciation Day! Thank you to everyone who shared their stories, pictures and favorite sounds.
Photography: Pips, England 1978. She’s in parties, Propaganda Magazine nyc 1984.
List of Black alternative Youtubers by Jess in King:
angel nightmare: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCGJi4WCqts6fYp51VX9J0bA
audre revenge: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBZ7VFkHVoJzmyDeyWETnYQ
dark harmony: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMMWzOJvBxT2-69ymPMSZgQ
glam goth: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqDNtFBate5mSaUs59ouptA
mori darkmoss: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7IfFOx05CmZWAJpkKXEENA
ravens and roses: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRx9jUqfgwi8mOgLqXhqBnA
rose nocturnalia: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCIOR77hlh-ifDPTCp1wUviQ
shawn james: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKKSEp3tTsbC_f8TIytyINQ
victoria p: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbeiR1KkWIoavPtcTZPyDPA
blazing orchids: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCIpUkWSLYIsyPonuRvQNedw
the graveyard baby: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9YxsspHK_CyLOBCwSX12gg
M. wren: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCF8bYzRTur2uWLF1cHmbQdw
Keita Darkwolf: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBxXmydWGHnEcyDQrwnqTzA
Inna Black: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCG70gNSiOIN49bBdOZEncPw
jonah kalahari: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCpS771MEKVpOg0OFPckcImg
Vanessa Liddell: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC–lqdDchditZR_WKkyJOag
Oenomaus M40: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHZaanit46CEdMMJNeOIa4A
britton kingsly: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJ2QpgF3xa84k19RKGk8VPA
the asexual goddess: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgOPFHX0jIgjwXYcrrMtxTA
dark alternative: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQu7vDszbA_Iy37FELiiJvQ
Oddio Discourse: https://www.youtube.com/user/ogreenhill
Gothic and goth: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxeMXWyOLAntgYvP8A_AUUg
Berry Unusual: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0bca7lfIdUZV8rAoeMjojw
Mademoiselle Tineoidea: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnjxj121EcpSIV3mVFTCDiw
Unknown Pleasures Limited: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0LaACw3KznbEbMwPEgYZ5g
Jasmine Amazing: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCt01oCyt4pFGK8-XYwFrHqA
Selena Manson: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzSQhIVborZDIHMv2cWoDRw
PRINCESA SAMIRA: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCspEx9wA6LC0U1ypq9FjXVw
Slime Bubblz: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC83cLzCimJ9QV0snkGfZflg
black slik: https://www.youtube.com/user/smileyorb
only on 2 wheels: https://www.youtube.com/user/AnubisTechTalk
Yasmin Benoit: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCk1NDxk_coxNy1HuYHl9XRA
The Hot Cocoa:https://www.youtube.com/user/Toyatomboi14
Dolly Momoiro: https://www.youtube.com/user/emoXkadjhaXxpink
Gabriel K. Luna:https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCugBEGDZRBkFf4TpE-OWzig
Rain Alt Model: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_2qyRq0Cu7DzmMtOf3q-PQ
Truth & Positivity: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClDf239ZA3DaXjW5FcE8w2Q
Angelique Winter Poppaea: https://www.youtube.com/user/TheXEbonyXGoddess
Hilery Hypknotik: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHm22CyrPcizBWzKARfaFvA