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

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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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Be My Pagan Valentine

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The snip just above this sentence came from the SnarkAlec ZombieCon podcast.

So this happened. You can click it to get to the convo on facebook.

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Follow officialpaganmusic on YouTube, Facebook, and G+ to keep up with new releases. And now let’s talk about why I liked Pagan’s Chapter 1: The Aftermath.

I am a soundtrack collector since the 1970s and have difficulty organizing everything I have on digital, CDs, tapes, and LPs, much of which is now out of print or obsolete. Those of you who know I have the Lexx soundtracks and reviewed Nightwish’s Imaginaerem still have only the barest idea of how deep this soundtrack hoarding affliction runs. I won’t bore you with details.

Well-laid music is the soul of what our eyes see on a screen. While others make games of catching editing mistakes, my brain fries over scene cuts that ram jagged character and mood themes into each other without smoothing the transition. I am not a musician and I don’t write music, but I was formally trained for years to a choir, plus I was an involved parent with my kid’s marching band, attending contests galore, so I think that counts toward having a little experience in an otherwise non-music producing background. There are musicians in my family, however, some being prolific on a number of instruments and recording software. But regardless of an audience member’s background, the most important thing with any soundtrack experience is that every ear in the audience becomes ‘tuned’ to what one is also viewing, if you will, whether that ear is trained or not. The final test of any soundtrack is how the audience felt about it. I feel very strongly about soundtracks being edited well.

They say music soothes the savage beast, and I’ve used music therapy as a catharsis during many years of severe insomnia. Experimentation has led me rigorously through both headset and pillow testing as I learned to release my body and float into the sound in my mind, randomly visualizing my way into lucid dreaming states, a huge relief for my brain. I became so acquainted with some soundtracks that I could use them as relaxation devices in my mind, even if I wasn’t actively listening to them. My inability to produce music myself belies my incredible audio memory. I know some of you won’t believe this, but I can run several memory music tracks at the same time in my brain, like Data on STNG, and I can speed up and slow down memory playback, or change to different pitches and cadences and still run through the music memory like a recording. I am able to compress Pagan’s Chapter 1: The Aftermath in my head and make it sound the same way as a 33 LP on 45 speed.

What I love about this soundtrack is the feeling I get of distressed girders almost immediately, thanks to the initial cover art prompt hinting at some kind of devastation. The first thing the eye sees is torn structure against a hazy orange background, a picture of doom. As I shut my eyes and float into the music, I float into the aftermath- the visuals remain darkish, orangeish, garish urban noises replaced with the pressing weight of time passing on a broken world. Or maybe I feel the lurking stillness of time no longer passing, since the world has stopped. But the music carries me, lurking. I am there. I am in a world that long ago became oblivious to being seen.

At 9:35 I suddenly feel at home. This is reminiscent of the Lexx flying over a dead world. Not the same, not at all, but the same feelings. Haunting. Maybe sad, but who is left to be sad for? I wonder, once again, if part of what draws archaeologists to their field is that feeling of immensity of loss. Someone was here.

By this time I am so part of this track that I’ve completely forgotten my body, I haven’t felt the headphones in awhile, I’m simply somewhere else. With this track I’m able to stay somewhere else much longer than some other tracks. I can stay deep without dreading an abrupt change. I am able to continue floating without having to be aware that I’m not really there. This is what I crave. This track is its own experience.

I’m not able to take much in the way of pain meds, and I no longer use narcotics, mood enhancers, and muscle relaxers. I’m on my own. It’s crucial that I find really good soundtracks to get me through my hardest days. THIS is one of them. I can put the headphones on and float away into a world that doesn’t require me to pump out brain chemicals counterintuitive to healing. I’ve combed through new age, spa, electronic, and other music for years, looking for content that I can adopt into my own healing process without feeling pressured. At 23 minutes in there is a light swish of mood that feels just like a massage technique, except it’s only in my brain. The art of massage is partly about nerve gateways. Well, the brain is nerve central. I am really liking the way this track hovers over my nerve central, like the orange haze hovers over the broken city. Am I the city now? I thought I was the haze. I watch the haze lurk around the timeless buildings.

At 36:40 my lucid state is so free that I am able to glide on the sound changes into all new visuals. By 39 I have been transitioned off planet, watching endless time ever moving, not feeling part of it.

You get the idea. Whatever you use music for, this one is a keeper. I don’t know if Pagan is so tuned into brainwave patterns that they struck gold with their ambient creation or what. Kind of makes me want to find out more, but ‘Pagan’ has such common usage that it’s difficult to sift out this actual Pagan from all the Pagan material search engines bring up, but it’s there. I’ll give you a couple of links to check out.

PROJECTS FROM PAGAN AND STARSKREAM MEMBERS TO BE RELEASED
November 30, 2014

PSYCHOTICA, PAGAN, HUMAN FACTORS LAB MEMBERS FORM INTERACTIVE BAND THE SIGNAL CHAIN
July 20, 2014

I also have more links at STALKING MIKE BILINSKI, 101 and a little more info at STALKING MIKE BILINSKI, 201 #STARSKREAM

And if you’re looking for more, of course there’s MOAR. Here is a little taste. You’re welcome.

By the way, there’s this thing on the 21st. These snips click to the info sources. I don’t know yet if there is a link to a live event feed, but if one shows up, I’ll come back and put it here.

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Stalking Mike Bilinski, 201 #StarSkream

So this happened. This snip clicks back to the post where this comment was made.

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MY BAD!

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StarSkream.com goes to their facebook page, which I duly liked and am now sharing with you guys so you can go like it too.  photo pink-heart-teensy.png Mike Bilinski is listed as General Manager on their About page. Their facebook is also app linked to their youtube page so you can listen to them right there. You can also buy Star Skream downloads on Amazon.

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No exchange or compensation was made for all this linking. I really am a Mike Bilinski fan.  photo music.gif

Dark Nightwish of the Soul

Brain fail recovery isn’t easy. My crash happened in later 2004, and I was able to hide it from everyone for a long time. Eventually it became impossible to hide it and my life fell apart, but how to reveal what I’d hidden? For me it all started two years ago with this YouTube video.

My brother has idolized a Finnish symphonic metal band called Nightwish for some time and periodically sends me links to their videos and information, and over the summer loaned me their tour documentary and the movie they made. This is the latest promotional trailer uploaded on YouTube just today.

I’m personally not that familiar with Nightwish, so I was expecting a basic rock opera. I had no idea what the story would be about because I didn’t watch any promos first. What I didn’t expect was to be stripped of my walls and barriers and carried through a soul cleansing to the other side of madness and back. It’s hard to explain to someone casually walking through the room (and I’ve got the headphones on, so they can’t hear it) why I’m hugging my laptop to my face and weeping all over my keyboard and can’t put it down. More shocking is that I’m the last person you’d expect to catch like that.

This comes from the interview directly below.

“The dramatic arc ranges from utterly delicate to most majestic and brutal. To combine those elements so that they’d support each other was a challenge- but it was also our aim.”

My first blog publication featuring a Nightwish Song was August of 2012 at spaz: walking in the air. I generally don’t get that honest, but I’m learning that brutal honesty is crucial to emotional survival. This movie got waaaaay more honest than that blog post, and the story execution was perfect. I felt like I was racing time along with the characters I was watching, and I knew from my own experiences what it felt like to be each of the characters- lost, alone, abandoned, angry, aching, afraid.

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Secrets are the blades that whisper through our hearts. They help us keep our worlds intact, but they can make us lose focus of the people we keep the secrets from. Secrets may keep our loved ones safe, or protect us from pain, but they can create a coldness and sometimes a sadness that can never heal if the secret isn’t learned. Secrets withheld between a parent and child can damage in ways the secret revealed never could. Why we keep the secrets is its own mystery. I know the pain of a parent taking secrets to the grave, but I also know the depths of which I’d dare to keep a few secrets from my own child for her protection. We keep secrets out of love, maybe, and yet feel less loved when a secret is in the way.

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Imaginaerum was heartwrenching and utterly brilliant, but don’t click that link if you don’t want spoilers. I went into it cold and was wonderfully devastated. On a very dark level I found it as magical as Narnia or Willy Wonka. I especially loved the symbolism translating through a broken mind, and the feeling of bewildering urgency. At the same time, the story was very real and down to earth, a common story to many, told in a way that kept my attention glued to my monitor.

Learn more about Nighwish at Nightwish – Wikipedia.
Visit the official website at Nightwish where you can check on concert tour dates, order merchandise, and link to news articles and updates.
See their official YouTube channel at Nightwish – YouTube.
Put Nightwish in your Google+ circles at Nightwish – Google+.
Like the Nightwish Facebook page at Nightwish – Facebook. Posted today- “Only three weeks left, until the release of the NIGHTWISH live / tour documentary DVD »Showtime, Storytime« – out on November 29th.”

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Notes:

The title of this post is a play on the original 16th century book Dark Night of the Soul: St. John of the CrossAmusingly, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams is one of my all-time top favorite books.

After unimaginable sadness, joy does come, but only when we’re ready to let go.