"If I can reach you and connect to you on some human level and help you have a better life, that is my full intent. That's all we care about." - Raven, singer, writer for Raven Black Band
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ABOUT RAVEN BLACK:
Raven always had a vision for a band of misfits to create music and tour the world with their dark carnival. That dream has become a reality, with Raven Black touring extensively and releasing albums and comic books at the behest of their loyal following Raven's Rejects. Hear more of this incredible musical journey from Raven herself and find out what fuels her passion. Plus - head over to the band's website to grab the new album, The Key.
Jeff: Raven, I am so excited that we are finally connected and I get to talk to you. I want to start right in the now. As we're recording this right now, you guys have finished up your brand new record and I'm so excited for it to come out. I know you had to push it back because of this terrible pandemic that we've all been dealing with, but I want to talk about it. The name of the record is Key or The Key?
Raven: The Key.
Jeff: Can we talk about the recording of this record, what you guys went through for it?
Raven: Absolutely. If you look back at our 2019 schedule, we went on four tours, back to back.
Raven: We were hardly home. So as far as writing, we kept riding on the road and then once we were home, we were trying to get together, bouncing ideas back and forth on an iPhone recordings. But we finally got together when we finished our last tour with Static-X and Dope at the end of, was it December? November. We finally get home. Then we have the holidays. Christmas was right around the corner. So we didn't get a chance to get together. But we finally got together right after Christmas and we literally had two weeks to buckle down, finish the songs we had and then send them to our producer in LA.
Raven: Then January 7th, we flew out for recording in the studio and the NAMM Convention that we go to every year. We had to go give some love to our sponsors. Two weeks recording in the studio, nonstop every day while we were there because we don't all live in LA anymore. It used to be much easier to record an album. Now we all have to fly in and stay there and stay at a hotel and all that good stuff. We knocked it out. I'm super excited. The surprising about happens in the studio, the magic that happens in The Wilderness. Ulrich Studio, Ulrich Wild, as you know, is our producer, calls his studio The Wilderness. So everything is recorded in The Wilderness. We expected some magic to happen, but man, let me tell you, listening to it over and over again, we dialed up the notches. I call it the trifecta, which is what our fans love. Which is, we've got the heavy in there. We've got the melodic, because I both sing and scream.
Jeff: Oh yeah.
Raven: We also have the psychotic, wicked doll, my half doll character. We dialed it up to 11 on all three of those concepts in our [inaudible 00:02:40] this time. I'm really excited about everyone getting this full dial up.
Jeff: That's awesome. That's so awesome. I know you never stop writing. I know you are constantly writing lyrics. You're constantly coming up with ideas. You're constantly doing it. You've been doing this since the beginning of the band. I want to talk about that in little bit too. But for a record like this, like you said, it took you guys a while to finally get together. You finally get into the studio, it's a whirlwind of two weeks. Are you still coming up with stuff while you're in the studio or is it all locked and loaded and ready to go?
Raven: We always have everything locked and loaded and ready to go. But in the studio, it just happens when we get together, it doesn't even have to be in the studio. When we get together and jam, it will start with a drum beat, a riff, or me humming, but something happens between the four of us. All of a sudden a new song gets born and then it just depends on the dial. If we all go, "Holy shit," then all of a sudden we start working on it right on the spot or are just inspired to do it. Now all of a sudden we have another song to add to the album. That happened on this album actually. Two songs that I wrote for my fans... Off for, I try to make money. I write songs. People do lessons, all kinds of different things. I write these original songs for my fans. They buy it. I send them a questionnaire that I created, just to give me insight on what they're looking for in a song, whether they want it to be a love song, a metal song, a ballad, whatever it is, any significant things they want included in it. Is it for them? Is it dedicated to somebody? So I send this questionnaire out to them and within 30 days I write this song for them.
Raven: Two of the songs I wrote from October, in the moment of completing it, I had a melody in my head and a beat and all that good stuff in my head. When I got to the studio with you guys, I was like, "You have to listen to the song. I have this song. I have this song," and everybody was like, "Okay, well let's work on the ones we have locked down first and then we'll get to that one." So it was a possibility, but not a for sure thing, but two of the songs that that happened actually are on the album. So we did add it. One of them happens to be my favorite song on the entire album.
Jeff: That's awesome.
Jeff: Again, that's the magic of the studio. That's the magic of coming up with this kind of stuff. Music is magic. I've said it many times on this show. It really is. I know again, I mentioned earlier, the album was supposed to be released earlier this year, but it's been pushed back because everything's being pushed back. The entire world's on pause. We're really excited for that. But you have announced that you are going to be releasing the first single off the record in May of this year, and that's called Hear Me Cry, right?
Jeff: Can we talk about the single? Why did you guys choose this single and what the song's about?
Raven: I personally wanted... I was very specific about releasing this one. I don't know if you know my reputation, but I'm very, very into it with my fans. I talk to them throughout the year, both on Facebook, Skype, by Messenger. Just seeing a lot in the last year, a lot of struggle, a lot of suicide, and a lot of attempted suicides, a lot of depression. For some reason, this song really stuck to me, the lyrics, when I wrote it. It made me go back in time when I experienced those feelings at a very young age. I was inspired by the fans, what they're dealing with in 2019 that I decided that this was the right time for me to do this song and put it out there. So I wrote that.
Raven: Then next thing you know, as I'm writing, I visualize the entire music video.
Raven: I do that. I will visualize an entire show or an entire music video. What happened is, my guitarist, The Doctor, his mom has 40 acres of property in the woods. We've been offered... She's like, "You can film a music video anytime you want." It's been how many years now and we just never had the right song for that kind of setting. This song fit the setting and it was snowing. So I said, "This is a song I want to do. This is the video I want to do." The next thing you know, we got back from LA after recording the album and exactly the weekend after we filmed the music video for this song.
Raven: Yeah. So once we heard it completed in the studio, I had visualized it all and said, "We're filming on the property. It's snowing. This is exactly the right song." So that's why we chose this song to be the first one out from the album.
Jeff: That is so exciting. I'm so excited to have that released to the world. It's great again, that magic. Everything hit at the right moment. You had the right location. There was the right weather conditions. It just sounds-
Raven: That's almost impossible to line up at any given time. It was meant to be.
Jeff: Talk to any movie producer out there. They're always complaining about that, all the time. The sun's not right or whatever. That's awesome. That's going to be really exciting and it will keep us all satiated, at least until the full record, comes out and that's going to be really great.
Jeff: I love talking with musicians and especially ones like you that are not only musicians, but you guys are theatrical to the capital T nth degree of theatrical. I want to ask you, from that perspective, I know a little bit of your backstory, but was there a moment in your childhood maybe or early on where music spoke to you to the point where you were like, this is what I want to pursue?
Raven: Definitely, over and over again. It's like it never went away. There was a period of time when I tried to form a band and get into it and it just wasn't the right timing. My life would fall apart. I put my dog to do it. We're just poor, poor, poor. I'm still poor as a musician now, but I'm mature enough and I have enough life experience to get through it. But as a young person trying to make it, you just can't keep afloat. So going back and forth, doing what I call adulting, I was adulting. It just never went away, but I've known I want to do performing arts literally from age five.
Raven: I knew I was going to be doing something in the entertainment field, whether it was singing, dancing, acting, something performance wise. It's such a huge passion I have that's a part of me. I love it. I love creating. It's just the artist in me. Outside of music even, I draw, I write, all kinds of things.
Jeff: That's awesome. I have to ask too then, because I love this question. You said you started bands before and they never really coalesced or whatever. First band, what was its name?
Raven: Oh my God. Okay. So first band?
Jeff: First one ever. The one that never saw the light of the day, the one that was only in a garage or somebody's basement, probably somewhere.
Jeff: Redemtricks, I love it. I love it. Because that is always the thing is, your first foray into doing it. You and your friends, you get together, you start a band and you're like, "This is the most bad ass name we could come up with. That's what it's going to be."
Raven: I disagreed with the name, but it had already formed before me and I was joining into it, getting back into singing. It was a rock band. It wasn't metal. There was always that, although I love music and I love all types of genres, it was not enough for me. It always felt lacking of something because I'm such a metal head. I have such a dark story to tell that even rock doesn't facilitate the emotional quality that I'm looking for, to express that suppression. Metal is the right platform and the right genre for me vocally, lyrically, everything, even theatrically.
Raven: I don't want to be in a ballerina tutu. My character, even theatrically, costuming, makeup wise, is very dark. I think metal is the right place for it.
Jeff: Definitely, definitely. What was first foray into metal? What was the metal that got you into the genre?
Raven: Everyone's going to laugh. I'd say classic metal would be Zeppelin, Sabbath, but I look back at that now and I think of it, that's more doomy metal. Classic metal was more doomy, more emotional, just slower tempos. It wasn't like the fast chugging style of new metal and stuff like that. I look at that, but that's the chain. Then of course I got influenced by death rock and the new wave era, because I grew up in the eighties. Then hair metal. Hair metal I loved to a certain degree and then it got cheesy. So I left and went into punk, underground punk. Always tried and true to Slayer, Iron Maiden, Megadeath, all that. That has always been around as a staple of everything.
Raven: You know how you never really leave, you just open yourself up to other things. But that died out. The scene just died out in the nineties when grunge rock came out. I never truly got into grunge rock, but I did the old classic playlist. Once you're a metal head, you just keep your playlist pretty much tightened up.
Raven: All of a sudden it started all coming back and I was like, you know what... My whole thing of starting back into music and starting the new band was a bucket list thing that said, okay I've adulted enough. I'm suffering. I've suppressed long enough. Now that I'm right on my feet, my head's on right, I'm going to do what I really want to do, that I've been putting off all these years and here it is.
Jeff: That's awesome.
Raven: I put 150% into it.
Jeff: Yeah. It shows. It shows in everything that you guys do and especially what you do. The whole other aspect of the band, for lack of a better term, the dark carnival of craziness that you guys bring to every show and to every music video, in all your records. You guys are your own thing. You are a singular force in metal, but you're walking that path that was paved by Rob Zombie and Alice Cooper and King Diamond and all these people and stuff. To the newer, I mean in this moment, Mushroom Head, Slip Knot, all of that. But when you start out doing something like this, you are like, "We're going to be Raven Black. We're going to be these characters. We're going to show up where it's going to be a play." You're not going to get your run of the mill bored metal heads on stage playing or whatever. What was that initial batch of shows of work with the band like? Were you received well right from the beginning, or was it hard to climb that mountain to get into people's heads?
Raven: It takes me back to... We had started the Raven Black Project prior to the makeup and everything. I had always had the vision when I started it, but some of the members of the band just weren't into the makeup and the costuming and the concept. That was a good year to two years of just playing local shows on the sunset strip, just as us. Every so often, I would still wear the doll dress and try to do something towards my vision. It just didn't work because it was just me, so you never got the full concept. So we parted ways based on that. I talked to Ulrich and said, "This is what I want." I talked to Ryan, my husband, who's the drummer. He said, "That vision is amazing. I think we should just do it. If we have to replace the guitarist, we have to replace the guitarist."
Raven: That set in motion auditions and all that kind of stuff. First tour ever, going out there fully dressed, makeup, we rewrote all the music. So took the dark metal carnival, we went in it with a vengeance basically, like this is what we're going to do. That first tour with Mushroom Head... We were very lucky that was our first one. Everyone warned us, "Oh my God, Mushroom Head fans are diehard. They've thrown bottles and booed people off stage. Be careful." We were terrified. We were terrified. But man, Mushroom Head fans welcomed us with open arms and the Mushroom Head camp, they're some of our greatest friends now. Our Twinkled music video was filmed in their studio. We've made lifelong friends with them.
Raven: The right timing, the right people, the right tour, helped us initiate our vision and share it with the world and it's been nonstop since. We purposely go up there and go, "Man, we're going on tour with Cradle of Filth. Shit, how are they going to receive us, a death metal fan? Shit, we're going out with Psycho Stick. How the hell are they going to receive us?" Every single tour we've gone out and are going, "Shit, how are these people going to react to what we do?" Every single time, knock on wood, 100% of the time, all these tours we've been on, we've been lucky enough that people just take into us and love what we're doing. They jump on board. We're lucky and we're having fun and going to keep doing it.
Jeff: You guys totally look like you're having fun. You can tell that this is something that you all enjoy. I have to ask too, like I said before, I know that you're constantly writing. You're constantly thinking about the lyrics and the message of the music and all of the music entailing. I'm sure I don't even have to ask this question, but I'm sure you're constantly thinking about it from the theatrical side, because there's subtle changes to your makeups, you're constantly adding new stuff to the stage show. Is that just a constant evolution for you?
Raven: Constant. I do have, I wouldn't say a template, but I do have a vision, and it's probably three albums out already, three headlining tours out already, as far as what I visualize and ideas of what we're going to do and what the set will look like and what kind of music. This album, for instance, we already put it out there a year ago after the release of the second album. We said our third album will be our black album. Every band has a black album. This is our dark black album. We purposely put it out there and planted the seed because this is us going through the whole story on the comic book, second issue, being released now. I just released it, as far as preorders home. It'll be out in July as well.
Raven: So our second issued comic book is, Our Journey Through Hell. People will go, "How do you come up with that story?" Well, I wrote it two years ago, or it's been a writing in process because it's a story of our journey through the first two years of us touring as a band and the shenanigans and the people we come across, the fake people, the gimmick people, the people that are trying to take advantage of us as an upcoming band. From the industry, from everywhere, it's just the hell that we're going through right now to try to get past that first month as a new band in today's world. That is a metaphor to that. There will be some story form in there talking about some of the shysters we've come along and across in the last three years, and they will be depicted as demons.
Jeff: That's so cool. I was going to bring that up actually, because Death Wish, we love freaking comics. We make our own comics too. I know you came out with that first issue in 2018. I was going to ask what that production is like. You write the whole comic yourself. Who does all the art?
Raven: I do the sketches, storyboards, for the storyline to go along. From the story, I write the description of the panel artwork of each panel that goes along with that part of the story. Then the second process is now changing the paragraph form of the story into bubbles. It's a comic book, so you've got to go in a bubble structure. To convert to an actual story without losing any of its storyline [inaudible 00:20:37] into bubble form and where the bubbles go into each panel. Then after that I had the artist, who's a graphic artist in the Philippines, he then draws up the sketch for me, and then I will say, "Okay, that's great. I'm missing a lamp. I want a sun there. I want some background here. I need a bed. I want the teddy bear laying on my feet." The little details, and then from there he finalizes it and does an initial colorization on it. Then of course, I edit if the colors aren't right or the bubble placement isn't correct. Then after that it gets finalized to draft and then it goes to print.
Raven: That's a whole process. It's about two to three months once the story's complete and my storyboard is done. Right now I just did the pre-order for my fan club last night at midnight. They get first dibs because the first hundred copies are numbered sequentially, autographed, and authenticated. That happened midnight. It's only been revealed to the cover of comic book that I designed. I designed that all by myself. That itself just went out at midnight last night. We're almost at the hundred mark already.
Raven: Yeah. So after that, it's just a numbered copy. We'll still autograph it, but the pre-order people will get a free comic book poster. After that, when it becomes normal, there won't be any more posters. Right now I'm finishing up the description story board so that the artist knows where to go with each panel. So right now I'm in the middle of that process. The two month long process has begun.
Jeff: Wow. That is incredible. I love it when bands like you guys, provide so much more than just the music. I'm such a comic nerd, but when bands have done it, like Coheed and Cambria used to come out with comics with their albums. Cory Taylor's written comics on the side and stuff like that. All of us metal heads are secret nerds, I know.
Raven: Yes, we are.
Jeff: It's awesome that you guys provide that. Not only that, that you are so ingrained in your fan base, Ravens Rejects. It is such an incredible thing, the community that has been built around your band. Did that start right from the beginning? When did the whole Ravens Rejects idea form?
Raven: We started making fans and then we were talking about, "Oh Slipknot has the Maggots," and everybody has different things. They're like, "Well, what would we call our fans?" I go, "I don't know. I want them to come up with their own name." It's going to happen organically. I'm really big about that, with things just happening naturally. Of course the fan base built, and then there were a recognizable super fans. The super fans created what we call a Facebook messenger group, where it was private between these super fans and as they were sharing ideas and commenting and creating this brotherhood amongst themselves.
Raven: At that point there was like 70 people that were super fans. I had said, "Well, I'm going to build this fan club thing. We're so new now, so it's not going to be anything, but you guys are going to be the ones that helped me, like a board of directors, to help me figure this out." I said, "We need a name." They said, "Well, what do you call the songs that don't make it to the album?" I go, "It's funny you asked me that, because the band mates, they call it Ravens Rejects," and I said, "Because I've rejected it for this album, not the song, but for the album." I'm very concept driven, as the soundtrack has to match the comic book and the vision. So it's a story that doesn't skip around. So I say, "No, that song is for later. That's the fourth album, because this album is the black album, and we're talking about that. Callan, that doesn't fit the storyline so that song has to wait."
Raven: They call them Ravens Rejects. They're like, "That's the perfect name because we don't reject anybody. So it's just ironic that we're called the Rejects." That born itself from that question and it's taken off. What's amazing is me watching it happen and grow is that they're their own masterpiece. They just do their own thing. Now we have our own charity within the group. We have people helping. We have our own anti-suicide help within our group. We also defer people to the bigger national agencies, but just in its own community, I'm constantly in touch with them on a daily basis.
Jeff: That's awesome. That's so cool. Again, that's another level of this incredible creative thing, this entity, that you guys have created, Raven Black. It's bigger than the music. It's bigger than the performance or the album or the comic or whatever. It's all encompassing. It's absolutely incredible.
Jeff: That brings me to the theme of this show. We are all fueled by one thing. We're fueled by death. We want to leave the world a little different, before we actually are going to leave it for good. Spoiler alert, we're all going to die someday, hopefully not tomorrow. It always brings me to that question. What fuels you to keep doing what you do? What fuels you to keep creating, to keep reaching out to the fans, to keep producing all of this incredible, incredible stuff?
Raven: I just want to help people. Based on my life and the things that I've experienced, the dark things, we can't control the world, but in our own little way, we can help others within our community, within our reach. I would say, within our reach. If I can reach you and connect to you on some human level and help you have a better life, that is my full intent. That's all we care about. We just chose music as our platform to channel it. That's the number one thing. We set out to say, "Are we going to be wolves or are we going to follow the sheep?" We said, "Yeah, it's really hard to not have the pressure of being mainstream or trying to become famous or get signed by a label and all these things that come into play as we grow as a band, but we decided we're going to be wolves and we're going to be metal heads, and we're going to do our own thing and we're going to get singled out." At the end of the day, our fans are the only thing that matter. So that's why we're so driven. We're driven by the fans.
Jeff: That's awesome. It completely shows. That's amazing. I'm so excited for this new record. I'm so excited for, once the world goes back to normal, hopefully when this episode actually airs, it is going to be normal, and we'll be talking about, you guys going on tour and being able to get out there to the fans again. I have to ask from your own perspective... This was something you said. You always wanted to do this band. You always wanted to do a band where you were really theatrical. You had this idea, this vision, and now after a few years of really at the top of your game doing it, you're doing it everywhere. Has there ever been a moment where on stage and you're looking at all of your fans and you're in the midst of a song, clutching your teddy bear with an ax in your other hand or whatever, does it ever hit you? Oh my God, this is really happening. Can you ever step away from that moment and really take in what we take in when we're seeing you on stage?
Raven: It hits me every day, even off tour.
Jeff: That's awesome.
Raven: There's not one single day I don't make a comment of a message I received on Messenger even, with a fan saying something so profound to me that I never thought I'd ever hear or experience in my life. I'll even tell my mom about it. It's to that degree where I'm like, "Mom, this fan just said this and that." It's amazing. I can't even believe it... It's like my dress. I have this tour worn dresses and these fans are bidding a lot of money because they want a piece of that history of mine. I can't believe that's even a possibility. The biggest one that gets me every single time is when I see people singing along at a show. That actually can bring me to tears. I've gotten better about it, but in the first few tours, I did actually cry. Because I couldn't believe the lyrics I wrote on a napkin in the dark when I was pissed off and I was sad and that somebody singing along to that. But it happens every day. There's something that happens that I can't believe we're here. This is nothing. This is the toe jam. You're seeing the toe jam of what we can be. My vision is way bigger, way, way bigger. Too big for my own head, I'm telling you,
Jeff: Well, I can't wait. I got to ask to, because you guys always look like you are having the most fun on stage. How can you not, with all of your props and all the different music that you guys are playing, how could it not be a ton of fun? Personally speaking, and this is a loaded question I know, outside of the new material, what's your favorite song to play live?
Raven: Right now?
Jeff: Yeah. I know it's a loaded question. I know.
Raven: My favorite song?
Jeff: The one that when you get to it in the set, you're like, ah yeah. I'm excited now.
Raven: It would have to be... my favorite song. It would have to be either Sticks and Stones or Dollhouse.
Jeff: Aha. All right, all right. I'll go with Dollhouse.
Raven: Dollhouse... Axl,, he's a celebrity man. Axl is the shit. He's my sidekick.
Jeff: That's awesome.
Raven: Everybody loves Axl. Everybody wants him.
Jeff: Yeah, yeah. Oh my gosh. That's so great. Like I said, I cannot wait for the new record. I can't wait for the world to go back to normal and that you guys can go back on tour. I know, again, we didn't even mention it, but you did have the big tour coming up with In This Moment. That also is on pause, like everything else, but it's not going to be... You guys are going to go, right?
Raven: Yeah, it's not canceled, it's just postponed.
Jeff: Just postponed. So we'll be looking for that too. Raven, I can't thank you enough for taking time and talking to me on the show. It was so awesome getting to hear all this awesome stuff about you.
Raven: Thank you so much for having us and, I love Death Wish. I am drinking it and it is yummy as usual, strong and keeps me up because I need it right now for this comic book.