Since Mike’s friends and fans are used to podcasts, I’m going to write this out for my readers as if we were talking like you do on a podcast. Years ago I learned the power of print in fandoms when I started transcribing podcast interviews for hearing impaired fans. Although I was asked to remove them, they’d already been translated and warehoused all over the world and are still searchable years later. Links will be red, Mike talking back to me will be blue.
I first met Michael Bilinski through the Snarkalec Radio podcasts , which were pretty awesome, Mike, with you drinking shots out of a doll head you called Judith from the Walking Dead series. That hooked me as a Mike Bilinski fan before I ever knew all the other stuff you do. I particularly love your new Opium Den series and clearly you have a prolific cult pull, but if it’s ok with you, I’d like to stick to print since it’s my own medium. Apologies for making you talk through a keyboard to me. 😊
(Q-1) My top question regarding your new album release Dead Girls is about the song title “Killing Culture” (click to listen free!), Carl Kavorkian is overlayed near the beginning with audio from a television show? Did you guys create that affect or lift an audio snip? (source?). And then Carl uses that intro to go directly into story mode. (elaborate?)
The song Killing Culture came from a confluence of events that took place in the months leading into the formal writing/recording process for the album. My friend Shane Ryan is the creator and star of the Amateur Porn Star Killer series. I was an executive producer of the third film and wrote and directed a sequence of the Faces of Snuff anthology project that is a direct byproduct of those films. Shane ran into a great deal of trouble while casting for a new project but while that was going on there were a number of books and articles heavily referring to the APSK franchise when discussing the relationship between this type of adversarial art and our culture.
All the while there seemed to me a surge in interest in these projects. I’m used to people bringing up Evil Bong, its easily the most commercially successful project I have been involved with, but around the time I started writing this song someone approached me in a bar and told me APSK 3 changed their life. I still don’t know how to take that exactly. Their demeanor implied they meant this in a positive way which poses a number of questions. Days later another person told me they prayed I never had children. Especially a daughter.
All of this had me thinking about how we as an audience consume and interpret violent imagery. I feel strongly that the job of any artist isn’t to gloss over challenging subject matter, or ignore it completely, but to make their audience feel some kind of weight behind such serious actions. So the song and my contribution to Faces were created in tandem to reflect that. When Carl got involved with the track he put his own stamp on it by pointing out that videos of violence involving police that we see on mainstream news outlets are actual “snuff” films. Someone is being injured or killed and people are profiting from the recordings of it.
The audio clips that bookend Carl’s verse are taken from the Ed Wood film The Sinister Urge which contains some overlapping themes. The 911 call at the end was acted out by our vocalist Jennifer Renée Price. The song title was inspired by the book Killing For Culture which itself references the APSK films.
(Q-2) You mentioned in an interview with BraveWords that this album Dead Girls is themed, that there is a common thread running throughout the process. Would you call this an art performance think piece? I know part of the process of experiencing the music is not over explaining, but you definitely have a motive and a goal going on, and I’m also wondering if this ties in overall with previous albums or is a stand alone work?
My previous music project was an ambient soundscape with a post apocalyptic theme. I wanted to follow that with something more personal. As Christian Menses and I began talking out possible themes we decided that we needed to be more open and introspective than we have ever been in our past work. Strip away any buffer and make the album as raw as possible. This carried over to the music ad well. The album has more of a live quality. We limited the number of takes for each piece and often used our first or second pass on the final track. I recorded my synth parts using analog equipment and playing through a guitar amp with a mic set up in the room. This led to a number of unplanned moments that made it to the final product. The most blatant of these is the ending of Scarlet Seduction.
I knew there would be songs about specific women in my life and as we started mapping it out I realized that my interactions with these women created a framework of my life from our last proper studio album, A Season In Hell, until now.
Christian, Jennifer and I seem to have these bizarre parallels in our personal lives so the stories they brought to the project fit perfectly. I don’t know if that is a good thing but it certainly drove us creatively.
(Q-3) Wildly switching gears, I noticed on your facebook share that you did some work for State Farm? Does this make you a corporate provider now? (lolz) In years past, some of my fave music for movies has been done by Van Halen and Dire Straits. Do you see yourself going down that road one day? (which I personally think would be cool!)
Yeah Pagan and State Farm sounds like a wild cosplay mash up but honestly my writing is inspired more by film and television scores than any particular band or genre. I think about the atmosphere of a song first and usually start with a synth pad as my foundation instead of a guitar riff or a beat. Because of that I think many of our tracks lend themselves to being paired with visuals. I am particularly interested in creating original material for projects which was the case for State Farm. My good friend and podcast partner Kelly Thul set that up and I am extremely grateful. Working with State Farm will help people get around any preconceived notions they may have about what type of material our music can work with.
(Q-4) Some people might not know you have an old blog laying around, a myspace account, a facebook page, an official dotcom, a twitter account, instagram, an abphy account, plus all the stuff you have on vimeo, and not least, an official youtube account. You create and produce everything from music to film to radio broadcast to- did I miss anything? lol
Most people don’t know this but I was a freelance writer for a few years. I don’t hide it or anything like that, it just rarely comes up. I worked primarily for AOL and Yahoo through their various subsidiaries. During that time I also wrote a few short stories that were published by various magazines, sites and an anthology book. I never actively perused fiction writing so each story was tailored for that specific project. Ultimately the market became over saturated and the standard rates dropped rapidly. I went from earning a living to losing money on jobs and had to move on. Pagan has proven to be the most healthy outlet for me to express myself so I’m probably better off in the long run.
(Q-5) Part of my stalking obsession leads me to little gems that I sift out of mountains of material in search engines. When I first started looking for more info on you and Pagan, I got so much junk in the way that I feel like you need to make a page pulling all your press releases, announcements, and interviews into a menu. (Don’t ask me to do that though, I’m busy, lol.) I’ll share a few samples here and please let me know if there’s more you’d like readers to check out.
PAGAN – New Album Title, Cover Art Revealed; Box Set In The Works 4-6-13 “I wouldn’t say this is a true concept album,” Bilinski explains, “but their is a loose apocalyptic theme that runs throughout. That is what led to the idea of the “Survival Kit”, which is going to bring an almost interactive element to the album by providing the listener with all the tools they need to immerse themselves in a world we have created a soundtrack for.”
Basically, readers have a hard time finding “Pagan” in a search engine since human history and culture is so saturated with pagan everything imaginable, so I put “Michael Bilinski Pagan” into the search bar and find your stuff a lot faster.
The name has been a double edge sword. Pagan started as my solo project but I didn’t want to use my name as I was largely associated with my work in black and death metal and this was something different that I wanted people to approach with a clean slate. It’s easy to remember and the associations it creates in the minds of most people fit well with many of our themes. As it became my focus and evolved into a band with Jennifer, Christian, the live band and the new addition rhythm guitarist Corey Torres, there are times I wish we were an easier Google search. That being said I also find our search results to be a solid gauge of our expanding visibility.
Disclaimer- this post is a fan write up by a fan for fans. No compensation in any form is given for linking and sharing this information. Permission is given to translate and share this post in whole or part to other sites, kindly please link back to this source.
I’d like to profusely thank Mike for taking the time to respond to my questions, and I wish him all the best with Pagan’s success. Again, you can listen to Killing Culture for free, click to go to the pre-release freebie and keep an eye out for the album release of Dead Girls on April 28.
All pix click to sources.