Super Stalking Michael Bilinski- Q&A with the founding member of goth/industrial band Pagan

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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. 😊

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(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.”

PSYCHOTICA, PAGAN, HUMAN FACTORS LAB MEMBERS FORM INTERACTIVE BAND THE SIGNAL CHAIN 7-20-14

PROJECTS FROM PAGAN AND STARSKREAM MEMBERS TO BE RELEASED 11-3-14

PSYCHOTICA BASSIST CHRISTIAN MENSES DETAILS UPCOMING SOLO ALBUM; AUDIO INTERVIEW 2-5-17

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.

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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.

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Killing Culture

click for original source
Artwork source. “Old school #nintendo #gameboy variation of the album cover #pagan #deadgirls #goth #industrial #rap #hiphop #horror #horrorcore #rock #metal #studio #studiolife #gamer #skull #sugarskull”

Killing Culture“, featuring Carl Kavorkian, is currently climbing culty single release sales worldwide, as evidenced by sites making it available in Russia and other countries,  and of course in the U.S. on Amazon. Killing Culture is a featured single on the album Dead Girls by Pagan.

Michael Bilinski touched base with me last month about Part 1 of the Dead Girls album release coming up on April 28th and linked me to a playlist on Pagan’s official youtube channel. Part 2 will be released later this summer.

You can follow Mike on Facebook for up to date announcements, like this one#vga Killing Culture art for all our old school #gamer friends. On #420 we are going to need your help making the video number 1 on #amazon We already hit top 10 on the #rock and #hiphop charts and we want to take over to celebrate the upcoming release of #deadgirls part 1! #pagan #goth #industrial #rap #horror #horrorcore #metal #studio #studiolife #skull #sugarskull”

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What is the big deal, we wonder… So many are already jumping on this, so little is actually searchable about it besides the excellent (but quite short) BraveWords interview. What else is there to know about this whole Dead Girls thing? I could so easily launch into how beautifully the sugar skull symbolism portrays the content, and what the “connecting thread” for all these women must be. I am so intrigued with the commitment Michael Bilinski has made to using this theme in world sales coinciding with his contributions to a very hotly debated and reviewed Faces of Snuff released last November, described by Amazon and other outlets as “The world’s first snuff anthology, with disturbing films collected from around the world from over 20 filmmakers, who all push the boundaries of how far cinema can be pushed.” I could grab it and run with how it relates to some of my own life experiences. But honestly, I’d rather keep digging and find out what’s going on in Mike Bilinski’s head.

If you feel the need to further stalk Mike Bilinski and what he’s doing, click this pic for my post full of links.
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The really fun part of stalking someone is when they actually give you stuff to stalk. Mike isn’t the wordiest guy in print about how prolific he’s becoming producing music and controversial film, and I’ve already mentioned in past that digging up more is hampered by so much of human history and world culture being umbrellaed and even buried under words like Pagan and Killing Culture. But that’s the point, isn’t it? The dark world that lies underneath mountains of real life and distraction and entertainment. The truth being debated as art and intention versus the weight of portrayal of truth. The beauty in human minds, souls, and spirits overlaying the shadows in our hearts. When I try to put anything Mike is doing into words, I wind up in a land of poetry and get lost wondering what Poe would make of Pagan.

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I love Pagan’s music in general. I was intro’d to a dark ambient goth-rock visual in Aftermath during a driving need for distraction, nearly to the point of transcendence in order to deal with pain, which I first mention in Be My Pagan Valentine. On a very personal level, I tend to drift away from mainstream while I deal, and I’m noticing I seem to fit in with other people who do the same thing. The ‘common thread’ Michael brings up in the BraveWords interview might be a sort of common thread for many of us.

This newest release, Dead Girls, strikes an extremely personal chord with me. Humans internalize, own, and recreate, that’s what we do. Pagan’s sugar skull art covering the somewhat explicit and very human sounds and commentary coming through with the music is a vehicle that carries us into darker recesses that we sometimes don’t allow ourselves to pontificate. We might see it around us as entertainment, we might even live it and block it out, but the music opens the mind and allows us to stand on that bridge connecting intellectual assessment and instinctual fear and horror. Well, some of us. I know there is a chasm between assessing and actually living this level of art.

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Quote from the BraveWords interview about tour dates- “Dead Girls will be supported by Pagan’s largest scale tour to date with Michael and Vex taking part in the third annual Snarkstock event June 11th and 12th in Baltimore, MD, Christian joining Psychotica for a US run beginning late July followed by Pagan dates in the Fall and Winter that will see the band play across the US with dates in Canada and Europe.”

I really do love this guy. I don’t think I’ve ever stalked anyone so hard, but it’s fun because there’s so little really out there. This pic clicks to source on Mike’s Facebook. You know, so you can stalk him, too.

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PAGAN’s Dead Girls

Graphics used with permission and link back to sources. Some source sites are age rated.

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I have fun stalking the darker corners of the webs sometimes, and one of the more fun challenges has been stalking Mike Bilinski, because regular searches for more info on his goth rock band PAGAN lead to so much clutter overload that you need a forklift to wedge through all the pagan historical literature just to find tidbits about the band sprinkled like crumbs, much like needles in haystacks. Here is a compilation of what I’ve gathered so far over the last year and a half. These posts all have lots more links to get you started.

Stalking Mike Bilinski, 101
Stalking Mike Bilinski, 201 #Starskream
Be My Pagan Valentine

PAGAN on facebook is good for update links and what’s happening, but Mike has been announcing new release material all summer on his facebook and instagram, and they are now gearing up for the big album push and tour with a launch party.

Via instagram“The new #pagan album #deadgirls is coming! A fourth track will be released to #radio this week to conside with our #halloween #party at #whiskeytango on #october 8th #goth #industrial #rap #hiphop #horror #horrorcore #rock #metal #tourlife #tour #skull #sugarskull #dayofthedead #skeleton #studio #studiolife #weloveskulls #burlesque #sideshow”

Via facebook “#deadgirls is in the final stages now! Every song is a personal story with a woman at the center. If you know us personally you may know someone who inspired a song. If you are interested in finding out more about the making of the album and the events that influenced us there will be a special #podcast discussion hosted by @kellythul in the official #youtube #playlist in the coming weeks. #pagan #goth #industrial #rap #hiphop #horror #horrorcore #rock #metal #studio #studiolife #skull #sugarskull #dayofthedead #burlesque #80s #vhs”

Via facebook– “PAGAN: Michael Bilinski Jennifer Renée Eberle and Christian Menses also featured on our new album Dead Girls is Vex X Chambers Carl Kavorkian Shy One and Sydney Leigh”

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I got to see the cover announcement last December.

“Alright kids! Time to share some exciting news. We are in the process of working on a new studio album titled Dead Girls that will be released in 2016 on the The Genepool/INgrooves/Universal. For this project Jennifer and I will be working with Christian Menses who you know from his work with bands like Psychotica and The Current. The album will also feature a number of guest artists including our good friends Vex from StarSkream and Carl Kavorkian. Check out the cover art and SHARE IT!”

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Watching this project unfold has been really fun. From August 26 on instagram

“We are about to start putting together the massive digital booklet for the new album. You guys have given us such tremendous support over the years and especially in relation to this record that we feel like you are a part of it. We want to see your #sugarskull make up and the best ones will be featured in a special collage! Submission info will be posted soon. Be creative and have fun! #pagan #deadgirls #goth #industrial #studio #studiolife #rap #hiphop #horror #horrorcore #rock #metal #tourlife #tour #dayofthedead #burlesque #80s #vhs #tattoo”

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I know, you’re saying but what about the music??? Here you go, check out the entire collection so far on Genepool. No particular reason for choosing that site, just looks really good when it pulls up. You can also go straight to itunes and youtube to hear more.

Tour dates will start with the Whiskey Tango in Philadelphia on October 8, and more dates will be added at officialpagan.com as they become announced. Starskream‘s singer Vex features as a guest on one song on Pagan’s new Dead Girls album, and will also fill in at the Halloween party.

By the way, Mike is looking pretty slick here, guy in the middle. Yeah, same guy that drinks out of a doll head on podcasts. O_o I know, right? *wow*

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