One of the coolest, most out there events on the Texas Frightmare Weekend schedule this year was a one hour event with singer/songwriter/animator/filmmaker Voltaire. He started his long, very successful career as a stop motion animator doing commercials and station ID’s for cable channels like MTV, USA Network, and the Sci-Fi channel. If you had cable in the 90’s, you have probably already seen his work. He then learned how to play the guitar and began writing music, eventually releasing his first album in 1998 called “The Devil’s Bris”. His music is spooky, fun, and features lyrics about everything from having sex with zombies to bombing his home state of New Jersey to children’s songs. And his music knows no genre: his most recent album was a country album. I was lucky enough to sit down and have a quick face to face chat with the entertainer before his event at Texas Frightmare Weekend, his first time at the convention.
Jenny (Inside Pulse): It’s really a pleasure to meet you, I’m a big fan.
IP: My kids sing “Goodnight Demonslayer” literally around the house.
Voltaire: How many kids do you have?
IP: I have two.
Voltaire: How old are they?
IP: 10 and 8.
Voltaire: I’m stunned a little bit by this show. I’ve never done this show before and I’m not certain if I should be surprised, but I feel like I’m at Dragon Con. Like I can’t walk 10 feet without being stopped four times. Which is extremely gratifying, surprising, because I didn’t think that would be the case. I thought I would be a total stranger to these people.
IP: Well, these are all genre people.
Voltaire: I know, I really honestly thought that people would think, “Voltaire who? The dead French guy?” I’m a little surprised, pleasantly surprised. My panel is at 11:00, called Voltaire: Puppetmaster of the Macabre. PUPPETMASTER OF THE MACABRE! I don’t know if you can use a different font for that, like a drippy Dracula font. And it is a panel where I show my stop-motion station ID’s that I did for MTV and the Sci-Fi channel in the 80’s and 90’s and then I show my short films from the Chimerascope series that are shorts that kinda take off where the station ID’s left off. They’re short, their weird, they’re narrated by singers. So far I’ve made four, that were narrated by Debbie Harry of Blondie, Richard Butler of the Psychadelic Furs, Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance, and Danny Elfman. So I’ll be showing those and then I’ll talk a little bit about how I got into stop-motion animation, and THEN I’ll show the reel in slow motion and sort of reveal the tricks of the trade. People are usually amused, shocked, and occasionally horrified at how things are done and more importantly what was happening just outside of the frame.
IP: What are you working on currently?
Voltaire: Well, I’m finishing my fifth film which is called Odokuro and it’s the fifth film in the Chimerascope series. It’s the longest – six minutes long. I think I’m fucking with tradition because the Chimerascope films are supposed to be really really short and this is on the longer side. It’s done with the exception that I don’t have a narrator yet. And that’s very often the toughest part of these films, finding a narrator. Because that means that I need to go to some famous singer and say will you please narrate my film. I have someone in mind for this one. Let’s just say Danny Elfman is a hard act to follow. It will be pretty epic if I can get the narrator that I want. Then I want to start hitting the festivals. I’ve already missed a whole bunch of them. I want to hit Fantasia in Montreal or Ottowa Animation Festival and those have deadlines coming up in a month, so I need to wrap it up. I’ve just started working on my next album, which is CALLED: Riding a Black Unicorn Down The Side of An Erupting Volcano While Drinking From A Challis Filled With The Laughter Of Small Children.
Voltaire: This album was named by a fan who on facebook wrote, and I quote: “Voltaire’s music is the audio equivalent of riding a black unicorn down the side of an erupting volcano while drinking from a challis filled with the laughter of small children.” I’ve written about nine songs for the album so far, including a title track called “Riding a Black Unicorn Down The Side Of An Erupting Volcano While Drinking From A Challis Filled With The Laughter Of Small Children”. I will just be doing the panel this time around at Texas Frightmare and then the show here in town, but it’s my hope that NEXT time, we can just do the show here.
IP: So what style of music is this new album? You’ve done country, and everything…
Voltaire: It’s a bit of a departure for me, it’s gay Dutch techno.
IP: I wouldn’t put it past you to be honest.
Voltaire: Really! My last album was a country album.
IP: Yes it was! A very good one actually.
Voltaire: It was honestly a straightforward country album. When it came out, a lot of people said, “Oh what made you decide to make a gothic country album?” But it’s NOT a gothic country album. That’s racist. That’s like saying if Kanye West made a country album, it would be a black country album. It’s just a country album, I just happen to be a goth. It’s very straightforward. My goal was to make a country album that could have come out 40 years ago, and I think it sounds like that.
IP: Yes it does.
Voltaire: The only connecting theme on the next album is awesome. If it isn’t awesome, it won’t be on there. I never thought I’d say something that stupid. But when you hear the songs, with a title like that, you can imagine the songs have something of an epic nature.
IP: What kind of instrumentation do you have on this album?
Voltaire: That’s a very good question, I don’t know yet. I haven’t gotten that far. I’m assuming that like the previous albums there will be acoustic guitar and accordion I know for sure. Melora Creager from Rasputina will be playing the cellos.
Voltaire: I’m telling you, it’s epic! It’s awesome. Um, Liberace is coming back from the dead to play all the piano parts.
IP: Liberace’s ghost?
Voltaire: Yes. No, I made that part up. Brian (Viglione) from the Dresden Dolls played all the drums on the country album. And he couldn’t do this one. I was really saddened by that because I really wanted him on this one. So I don’t know who’s playing drums. There will likely be strings like there normally are, and horns like on Ooky Spooky, big horn sections. And I probably shouldn’t be saying stuff like this in public because I haven’t nailed anything down but I had a very brief chat with Emperor Norton’s Stationary Marching Band about doing some of the horn parts.
IP: A marching band?
IP: And Liberace’s ghost?
Voltaire: Well that part was a lie. *laughs* I want to channel Tusk from Fleetwood Mac, that kind of awesomeness. And I feel like the title track, which I will not repeat the title again. We’ll call it “Riding A Black Unicorn dot dot dot…” It sounds like an Iron Maiden song. I feel like I’m channeling Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper” on that one. If you don’t wear Iron Maiden shirts and worship Satan you probably don’t know what that means.
IP: It was really great talking to you, I really appreciate your time.
Voltaire: Yes, thank you. And be sure to tell your readers to send an e-mail to email@example.com to sign up for my mailing list. I’m the only one who moderates the website at voltaire.net, so I’m the only one who reads those e-mails.
At his event at Texas Frightmare Weekend, Voltaire announced that with the exception of the two songs that he wrote for Cartoon Network show The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy (“Brains” and “Land of the Dead”), all of his music is free to use. If you are an independent filmmaker, doing a project for school, anything, just send him an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask for permission to use his songs. He’ll gladly say yes.