A Question of Fun
Voltaire Leads Goths into the Magic Kingdom
That Disneyland has become a Goth ground zero isn’t any surprise to regular parkwatchers—there’s a reason they transform the Haunted Mansion into a Nightmare Before Christmas-themed ride at Halloween. The annual Bats Day in the Fun Park gatherings (taking place this weekend; more info at www.batsday.net) have been going on long enough to warrant a massive 10th-anniversary concert down the street at the Grove of Anaheim, headlined by perhaps the most appropriate performer when it comes to celebrating and tweaking the nose of the Goth scene: Voltaire.
Reached shortly before a series of U.K. Halloween shows, the New York-based musician explains he’s now a Bats Day veteran.
“This is my second time performing at Bats Day. I had heard about it for years and was always curious,” Voltaire writes via e-mail. “When they booked me two years ago, I got to see what it was all about. You don’t really believe that a couple of thousand Goths will descend upon Disneyland until you see it with your own eyes. I especially love seeing hordes of Goths lining up for the Haunted Mansion ride and going on it again and again!”
Voltaire’s numerous albums on the Projekt label—showcasing his smooth voice, ear for inventive arrangements (acoustic guitar, mariachi horns, klezmer-informed violins and more) and often scabrously funny lyrics (tackling everything from zombie prostitutes to Star Wars character orgies to fights in Goth clubs between various poseurs to demands for fresh brains to eat)—capture a unique artist at work. And he’s indeed an “artist,” having regularly worked on cartoons, toys and comic art for even longer than he has been releasing albums,all shot through with his equally loving and witty eye.
“At the end of the day, that’s how I see myself: as someone who comes up with ideas. I’m a professional daydreamer,” he says. “Whether it ends up being a song or a comic or a film is secondary. The form it takes is dictated by what is the best way to communicate the idea. Most artists strive to become super-famous and rich. I’m neither. I may have been of that mindset when I first started out, but at some point, I think I settled into the belief that one doesn’t get super-successful making the kind of music I do.”
Voltaire takes pride in making a mark that goes beyond simply making a joke as well—his “serious” album, 2004’s Then and Again, was no less accomplished for being so straightforward—which can be seen when he recalls one particular early moment of praise.
“At some point after [his 1998 debut] The Devil’s Bris, there was a review that said something like ‘Voltaire sings about those thoughts or moments we all have, but no one dares utter out loud.’ But it sort of opened my eyes to what people see in my music. I just speak my mind, and I don’t have much of a filter. So maybe if you strip away all of the music, what you end up with is the ugly truth about things. Maybe that’s my job—to tell it like it is, warts and all. I really liked that assessment, and I think it’s pretty accurate. It’s really no different from what a good comedian does—point out the obvious things no one really thinks about.”
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With further work, including a recently completed film script he hopes to direct and star in, all Voltaire seemingly has to do is keep on keepin’ on. Even while dealing with unexpected cultural differences.
“In 2007, I performed in Osaka, Japan. I speak a bit of Japanese, so I introduced all my songs and also did my monologues in Japanese,” he recalls. “No one laughed at any of the jokes. By the end of the show, I felt I had utterly failed, [but] I eventually figured I was in Japan on an all-expenses-paid trip; I should just forget about the show and go to the bar and enjoy the drink and the beautiful women. Well, over the course of the next few hours, every single last person in there came up to me and said, ‘Your music is so powerful! Your jokes are so funny!’ After about the 10th person, I asked, ‘If my jokes are so funny, why didn’t anyone laugh?’ I was then informed that it would be considered rude to laugh in public!”
Bats Day Dark Park Festival with Voltaire, Frankenstein and Unextraordinary Gentlemen at the Grove of Anaheim, 2200 E. Katella Ave., Anaheim, (714) 712-2750; www.thegroveofanaheim.com. Fri., 9 p.m. $15.