Bleeding Raven – Interview
Interview with Dean Mason of “B L E E D I N G + R A V E N” and “Gnostic Gorilla”, conducted by “Sister Moon Gothique Cafe”
SMGC: Dean, congratulations on FINALLY releasing “Darkness Consumed” on Cleopatra Records. Why the delay and the off and on again release dates?
Mason: Thanks man. Well, first of all, I’m immensely grateful to Benny of Cleopatra Records. It’s been a rough few months… on so many levels and finally releasing this album on Cleopatra Records is phenomenal for me– personally, especially since this will be the end of the road as far as music goes for me. There’s one more “Gnostic Gorilla” release (Cleopatra Records) for Winter 2020 and that’s it. Sadly, I have to call it a day. But back to ‘why’ the off and on again release dates…I actually don’t think it’s all that uncommon for that kind of thing to happen. That said, in my situation, and speaking quite honestly, I more or less assumed that there was no interest in releasing this album on the part of Cleopatra Records and that assumption was based NOT on anything bad but mostly being aware of how fast this label is growing. It’s truly a remarkable label. You should see the different projects they have on their roster and that’s only music. They also do movies…with big names! So, I sort of just thought I was just too small to be a part of this label now, but I was wrong. They DID want to release what is left and I’m grateful for that. And so, here we are.
SMGC: Lots to unpack there. First of all, why no more music? Kind of career suicide to make that announcement now…no?
Mason: If I was a big name, maybe it would be a sort of career suicide as you say, but I’m not a big name, by any means. I believe in being transparent as much as possible. I don’t like games. We see enough deception and lies in our modern day that I am almost obsessed with just saying it like it is. As of four weeks ago or more, I no longer have hearing in the left ear. It went suddenly and it’s scary. It could be a virus that destroyed the ear or something worse. (they are testing for MS or tumor) The right ear is only at half capacity without a hearing aid. It makes doing music more or less impossible. I have this new release (Darkness Consumed) out now and another one that will be released (all by Cleopatra) in the Winter (Gnostic Gorilla) and that’s it, aside from a BM Ambient EP I sang on (wrote lyrics as well) to be released soon. I’m grateful I was able to do what I did when I did it. This last project, the BM ambient album was recorded just as the issue was starting to get noticeable. Then one day, all gone. All I have left in that ear is terrible, terrible tinnitus…and I mean like having a furnace in your head 24/7. Not pleasant at all. I have to protect the little hearing I have left because I want to be able to hear the voices of the ones I love and the more natural sounds in life. For all intents and purposes…I’m deaf. Music is no longer an option.
Music has been such an important part of my life obviously that this is really difficult to take.
SMGC: That’s truly sad news. I hope there is a miracle of some kind in store for you.
Mason: We can only hope. But it’s crucial to be realistic.
SMGC: Regarding the label, Cleopatra: so they have decided to release “Darkness Consumed” by your Bleeding Raven project and then will release another album from the Gnostic Gorilla project—talk about the label and then talk about the difference between Gnostic Gorilla and Bleeding Raven.
Mason: As I said earlier, Cleopatra Records is growing in a major way. I think it’s because they think outside the box. They’re not afraid to take risks and while they are releasing projects–music and movies with big names (William Shatner, Jack Kilmer, Todd Rundgren, Great White, Tom Keifer, David Hasselhoff, Danzig, Ministry…many more) they still have a desire to release niche artists like myself and I’m grateful for that. I had a long chat with Benny, the VP of Cleopatra the other day and I’m so grateful for that conversation. He’s a good guy and I’m grateful he has done what he has for me.
As for the difference between “Gnostic Gorilla” and “Bleeding Raven”, well when I first got involved in music I did a single. “Dark Hallway/Golgotha” and it was released just as “Dean Mason” and the so called indie label was Lonely Ghost Productions. In 2012 I decided to revisit doing music as a hobby more or less and began recording electronic music, more of an industrial bent. In many ways, it is thanks to Global Citizen (Rich Mills) who really inspired me to take that leap finally. In 2016 I released my first album (after having released many singles) called “St. Basil’s Asylum”. I originally went with the project name of “The Lonely Ghost Project” but when I found out there was an American band called “The Lonely Ghost Parade” I decided to rename the project “Gnostic Gorilla”. I released a few albums as Gnostic Gorilla and in 2018 Cleopatra released “St. Basil’s Asylum” anew and that was a very special highlight for me as Cleopatra is a classic label with a great roster of artists, many of the more alternative type. In May of this year, I started the “Bleeding Raven” project as an experiment in more aggressive and creepy industrial music that some call ‘aggrotech’. The difference between the two projects is that I hope that someone will assume the project “Bleeding Raven” and run with it, but I doubt that will happen. I was thinking of CRIX IIIX taking it over but that probably won’t happen. CRIX Rayner is a really talented bloke from Australia whom I recorded with and he has some neat stuff coming out as well.
SMGC: What’s “Darkness Consumed” about? Is it a concept album?
Mason: Not technically a concept album, no. I mean, there is a general theme perhaps but I never set out to do a concept album. You do realize that many younger people wouldn’t even understand that term right?
SMGC: Not many would, no.
Mason: So, the album touches on some religious themes. Darkness Consumed is quite dark and even at times haunting and creepy. “Salem’s Vigil” is about the Salem Witch hunt but also how modern day Christians are in a way sort of back at the persecution of those who are not of their tribe or have a life style that they feel contradicts their teaching. There have been, in recent months, sick individuals who have proposed executing people for being LGBTQ or of the wrong race. “Pontiff’s Nightmare” is about St. Francis believe it or not. It’s a brief poetic synopsis of the life of the humble man who was the real deal, and how the big institution wanted no part of his message. The Pope at the time had a vision in a dream of St. Francis and that’s sort of what that song is about. “Blood of Mystics” also touches on the conflict between the ‘ideal’ of what religion could be and how it has been betrayed by people seeking power.
SMGC: What do you think is the strongest song on the album?
Mason: I’d say that “Pontiff’s Nightmare” and “The Cry of Simeon” are both very powerful songs. The remixes of both are also quite powerful.
SMGC: Who have been your influences past and present?
Mason: In my early years, as a lad, I’d say that Gary Numan was the artist that most inspired me to just consider doing music. He remains an inspiration in many ways, but throughout the years other bands have had an impact on how I approach music. I’d say that this album, “Darkness Consumed” is inspired by the more industrial type bands, like Psyclon Nine and Die Sektor but also in a general way, many artists have inspired me. To name a few, Type O Negative, Ministry, Japan, Korn, Frost Like Ashes, Marilyn Manson, Skinny Puppy and many others. But I have to give a shout out to The Doors who will forever be for me one of the best bands ever in the history of modern music. Gary Numan and The Doors are in many ways my biggest inspirations, even though my music itself is not like theirs.
I have to add that I’m very impressed with William Westwater and his many projects, including and especially “Fear Incorporated” and “The Pandemonium Bureau”. William has been at it for many years and in my estimation is a legend in his own right. A real blessing to know him.
SMGC: What do you think of the modern day political climate and has it affected your music?
Mason: When you ask that, I could take it to mean many things. I mean, are we talking about what’s happening in the US or in the UK or Canada or all of it? I will say this, to answer the question more directly—I don’t actually zero in on one particular person or system in my music. In my “Gnostic Gorilla” releases there are some veiled references to corruption but not directly naming anyone. I try and steer clear of that. But also I prefer a more mysterious approach to lyric writing. That said, I’m very much influenced with what I perceive to be a rather bad time in world history at this time. There’s so much deception and corruption but most of all—so much hate! Some would have us go backwards with regards basic human rights and I have no fucking use for this sort of mindset. You have on one hand people of religion bashing those they feel are ‘impure’ or ‘incorrect’ or ‘heathens’ or whatever and it’s ironic to see the hatred spew forth from many religious people who think more like Julius Streicher than Jesus. Then you have the other side of the debate, people who are fierce ‘atheists’ or ‘secularists’ who mock and belittle people for believing in a higher power or whatever. But I have to say, these days, it seems that the religious right wins the trophy for being the most hateful and actually corrupt. They’re doing a better job at destroying religion that Richard Dawkins could ever do himself.
SMGC: What would you say to a young person today wanting to pursue a career in music?
Mason: The first thing I would say is, stay away from the notion of ‘career’ until and unless your artistic pursuit becomes more than a hobby. The chances of “making it” in this day and age are very remote. There are many reasons for that. First of all, we are in a very different place than we were even in the 90’s. I think in many ways, the 90’s symbolize the end of the music industry as we have once known it. Just on a basic human level, it’s very difficult to come up with something that can be deemed ‘original’ anymore. It’s all been done man. I mean, really, it’s all been done. If ‘shock’ is your thing…good luck because even that is hard to do today. After Sabbath, Manson, Mayhem, and so on…all the bases are covered. Even in terms of imagery. Like for example…I wear a mask. I started this back in 2001. But so what? Now there are tons of bands who either wear masks or wear more makeup than KISS.
SMGC: Not very encouraging.
Mason: The truth will set you free man. LOL No, but seriously, today a young lad or lady can put together a package with music and videos and CD’s all from home more or less. BIG F’N deal! I mean, look at how many indie artists are out there? And they all want to pose as ‘stars’ and many look the same. Nothing wrong with that, as long as they’re having fun…but this isn’t 1969 when Sabbath broke out… or 1973 when KISS arrived or the 80’s when Gary Numan, Depeche Mode, The Cure and Madonna came out…this isn’t the 90’s when Soundgarden and Metallica and Pearl Jam and M. Manson came out and changed the rules yet again. You get my drift. Those days are behind us. It’s a different game today. Period.
Young people today have access to music the way we had access to apples and pears on trees…it’s just simply ‘there’ for the taking. That’s a reality.
So, here’s the thing—don’t go running after that “hi-fi mega stardom” dream because you’ll fall flat on your face. Instead…seek to express your own true self and your struggles in a genuinely artistic manner. Focus on the art and the poetry and your need to express yourself. Be true to YOU. Put it out there in an honest fashion with that goal in mind only…and do not wait for RCA or Virign to offer you a golden contract. The ‘celebrity’ world is actually a fickle world anyway. Focus on doing your art and if you’re true to yourself, you will inspire SOMEONE to appreciate your art. If you get ‘big’…great. But if not, and most of us will not…then just be proud that you were able to be true to your artistic pursuit and that’s it.