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panopticon remixed cover

Interview with White Shadow
Conducted via Email February 2016

Interview questions by Jaymie Burzette

Jaymie: Can you tell us a little about this band’s origin? What is your background and what are your influences?

DX: The band was founded in 2006 down in Southern Maryland. I was still in high school and gathered together some friends who were all generally interested in making industrial music. I had taught myself to compose a few years prior and was learning the basics of recording and engineering. This being the mid-2000s, I was very inspired by late ’90s industrial rock and metal, particularly of the German persuasion—Rammstein, Megaherz, Oomph, and KMFDM all resonated with me and inspired my early writing style.

Kryptych: What struck me about the band from the onset was the sense of professionalism on a limited budget; I’d seen this promo packet for the band’s second album in 2008, Deus Destroyed, and I have to say that it was pretty good, and had the music to back it up. I started up a friendship with DXNero and between hanging out at The Depot in Baltimore and co-hosting a college radio station together, we got to be pretty familiar with each other’s tastes and working methods. It wasn’t until we started living together that we began to collaborate musically, and even then, it was originally intended to be a side project. After a few months when the band’s regular keyboardist at that time was unable to perform live regularly, I joined the band to fill in; before long, we started writing new material together and those songs that we’d toyed with for our side project were brought into White Shadow to eventually become the Panopticon album. I’d like to think my own background in the ’80s industrial to mid ’90s coldwave, along with my classic and progressive rock upbringing are elements that I brought into the band.

Jaymie: You’ve opened for some pretty big artists; which show was the most enjoyable? What has been your favorite live experience so far?

DX: As much as I’ve enjoyed every big show that we’ve played, I have to say that the most enjoyable one was playing with En Esch last year. Our set went well and we got some compliments from En Esch himself. Once he went on stage, every single member of White Shadow was at the very front of the venue, right next to the stage. We were all jumping around, singing along, and drinking. Given that some of us are more introverted and uncomfortable in crowds, it was a lot of fun to have everyone so engaged and involved in the performance.

Kryptych: Yeah, that was a fun show, and if I had to say any one show in particular was “the most enjoyable,” that would have been it. But that’s not to discount the fun we’ve had at other shows, both big and small. Opening for Cyanotic and The Rabid Whole was good fun for me; my roommate was one of the DJ/promoters and he’d apparently never seen me rock out as much as I did to Cyanotic that night. Going to Pittsburgh to open for Angelspit and The Gothsicles was also a marvelous time, and I have to give a huge shout out of thanks to Jim Semonik for putting us on that bill.

Also, there was the show with Retrogramme in Fairfax; those guys did a great remix of our song “Zugzwang,” which always gets a good response on the dance floor. At this show, Retrogramme performed it live with DX performing the vocals. I also joined in on guitar for the song “Share This Cancer.” That show was certainly one of the most fun I can remember.

Jaymie: Can you tell us about the music video you’re working on?

DX: It’s been a long time in the making, but it has been overall a fun experience to shoot. It’s based off of one of my favorite video games, Hotline Miami. The video game is fast-paced and very violent, and that has carried over to the video itself. It’s essentially a super-condensed action movie. We worked with a stunt crew to do some impressive fight scenes, and we have a decent amount of blood throughout. We’re hoping to have the video out by March, and I really can’t wait for people to see the final product.

Kryptych: Yes, it’s been a long time in the works, but we are really excited to see it come to fruition and share it with everyone. We went big for our first music video, and for my part, it was fun to play the villain of the piece. I’m sure it was fun for DX to bash a couple of glass bottles across my face.

Jaymie: You have a remix album coming out soon, can you tell us about it?

DX: Kryptych can probably speak to this question more than I can, as the project has been his baby through and through. I can say that he’s assembled some really amazing talent, and it’s reflected in the remixes. On my side, I got to do a remix of “Slipgate” in the style of my side project, so I got to totally retool the song as something more subdued, down-tempo, and sinister.

Kryptych: Yeah, DX’s remix is among my favorites on the album.
I just felt that a remix album featuring some more known names would help gain White Shadow some recognition with audiences that might not be aware of or even interested in us otherwise; people can be quite fickle with their tastes and what they deem worthy of their attention, so putting together a remix album seemed an effective way for people to hear our music filtered through the sound and vision of those more known artists. Knowing them as I did, it helped that they actually seemed to like the band and what we are trying to do musically—Panopticon had received quite a few accolades, not just from press but from those artists we respect and admire. To get to work with them on this remix album was a privilege and an absolute joy. I only hope that people will enjoy the results.

This digital edition coming out at the end of January is just the beginning; we have a physical two-disc deluxe edition with even more remixes planned for a release later in the year.

Jaymie: If you could tour with any band (that’s ever existed), like your ultimate dream tour, who would it be?

DX: If we’re talking ultimate dream tour, I would have to say Rammstein. They’re the reason I got into making music in the first place, and they represent one of my earliest and strongest influences. Being able to share the stage with a band that engages in so many over-the-top theatrics would be incredible; getting to know the band off stage would be even more interesting. I’d like to see some of their props and rigs up close and personal.

Kryptych: There are so many bands I could name that I would love for White Shadow to have the opportunity to tour with. I’m not even sure I can say I personally have an ultimate dream tour in mind; I’d personally probably find more gratification in festivals—performing with multiple bands presenting a wider range of styles and the audience indulging in all of those different tastes with each other. One of my dreams is for White Shadow to get to play an opening slot at Chicago’s Cold Waves.

Jaymie: What was the inspiration for using the works of Jeremy Bentham on your most recent release, Panopticon?

DX: I was introduced to the concept of panopticon prisons years ago, when playing Silent Hill 4. As a person with some serious privacy issues, I was taken by the concept of a single individual watching a larger group of prisoners—or not watching at all, for that matter. As I did additional research, I became more and more certain that I wanted to explore these concepts in a creative medium. I asked a friend who works in graphic design to turn Bentham’s blueprint for the prison into a logo that could be used by a faceless corporation, and the concept for the album was cemented.

Kryptych: DX has always stated that the themes he presents in White Shadow’s music deal with control and how human beings attempt to exercise it over themselves and their surroundings. The lyric in the song says it all, “This isn’t love, it’s called control.” Relinquishing control, perpetuating the illusion of control where there is none, all of this is part and parcel to White Shadow’s lyrical themes, so what better concept than Bentham’s panopticon to explore such themes even further?

The panopticon concept also presents such strong visual cues that I’ve enjoyed playing with in the design of the album; in a way, the remix album is a way for me to continue doing so…. I’m not quite ready to let it all go and move on to the next album yet.

Jaymie: Your website features testimonials about your music from genre greats like Jim Marcus and Sascha Konietzko; what does it feel like to receive praise from such major players?

DX: It’s thrilling and flattering to hear words like that from these major players. When I started the band, I never thought we would ever be on the radar of such influential and popular artists. Receiving praise from people you’ve looked up to and have been inspired by is a surreal experience.

Kryptych: It really is an incredibly great feeling to know that these people, whose art and music helped shaped me, approve of and even like what we do. As DX said, it’s surreal, but in the best way possible.

Jaymie: If you could have any super power, what would it be and why?

DX: I’m going to say being able to shapeshift into other humans, Shang Tsung style. I have kind of an obsession with masks and the idea of multiple identities, so being able to become a master of disguise fits right in with my interests.

Kryptych: I’d probably enjoy being able to turn invisible; I’m pretty voyeuristic when left to my own devices, so what better ability than observe and be totally unseen and unheard?

Jaymie: What are your favorite horror movies?

DX: I’m actually not much of a movie buff, even less so with horror movies. I’ve always preferred media that is interactive and engages me directly. I’m a huge fan of videogames as a result, and I love horror games, especially the Silent Hill series. Psychological horror is always more engaging than jump scares or cheap thrills. I like stuff that gets in your head and keeps you on edge throughout the entire experience. When I do watch movies, I’m a big fan of neo-noir films like Drive and Nightcrawler.

Kryptych: While I generally prefer psychological horror in principle, I’m a sucker for cheesy, campy gore. I actually just watched The Human Centipede III (Final Sequence) and as terrible as it is as a movie, that’s still a series that I have a lot of fun with. Seeing the second one in a DC theater for a midnight showing with my girlfriend at the time is still one of my fondest memories. The original Exorcist and Stanley Kubrick’s version of The Shining still frighten me, as does John Carpenter’s The Thing; I have trust issues, and all of those movies deal with it in some measure—the familial drama of The Exorcist and The Shining, or even The Babadook, Mama, movies of that sort…all deal with that idea that the person you are supposed to trust the most could be the most dangerous person in your life. I also love Guillermo del Toro’s approach to horror in movies like Pan’s Labyrinth, Cronos, or Crimson Peak, and the idea that the real monsters are not creepy, otherworldly creatures…but human beings and the terrible things that people can be capable of.

Finally, I’ll say that Rutger Hauer’s performance in The Hitcher is hands down my favorite villain in any horror movie; never mind the fact that Hauer is a superb actor, but the total lack of empathy or morality…there’s nothing sympathetic about his character, but not in a superficial way like the crazy mad scientist or the evil demon from hell. H.P. Lovecraft gave us that wonderful quote, “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” The fact that Hauer’s character is a complete unknown; his motives are unknown, his origin is unknown, his methods are unknown since you barely actually see him do much of anything in the movie…he is just this spectral figure that appears and ruins this boy’s life.

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