Exclusive interview for Russian Gothic Page and RockCity Magazine.
Every band seems to dream of popularity, and its members imagine themselves famous musicians, touring around the world. And every young musician probably hopes, that his works will inspire other people, because of possessing vivid individuality among many of creations in the frames of one of the most conservative music genres - gothic rock. Two American guys were not the exception: vocalist Jeff Diehm and guitarist Rick Joyce, who organized a band under the name The Last Dance ten years ago. Gathered just for fun, in time it became the life-work for them, and with the recording of their new album 'Perfect', Jeff, Rick and their bandmates: bassist Peter Gorritz, keyboardist Robert Schott and drummer "Lucky" Ivan D., came close enough to realization of their dream.
"'The Last Dance' reflects the transient and impermanent nature of life," says Jeff Diehm. "'The Last Dance' is a subtle reminder that everything as you now know it will change, and when that happens you are only left with yourself and memory. It is about inner-knowing and faith. It is about belief in the future, rather than the fear of it. Certainly life would take on a whole new significance if we knew when it would end. Likewise, each day would somehow be more important if we knew it would be our last. The Last Dance is about living life, not merely being alive. It is about facing the things that frighten us and daring to pursue our dreams."
In the very beginning, Jeff and Rick rehearsed in the garage with the help of a drum machine instead of a real drummer. So this way they recorded their first cassette and their first song (never released) was entitled "Gothic Kittens". All this happened in 1990. A year after their long time friend Tony Tullai joined the band as a bass player while drum machine was replaced by a drummer Ian Haas. In the same 1991 the band's symbol "The Last Dancer" appeared, making her mark in their history. Just like other young bands, The Last Dance began their way by releasing the first demo-tape 'Everyone', taking part in concerts at their native place in Southern California. In 1992 they were invited to play at "Death for Life" festival in Phoenix. This occasion was held to support the fight against AIDS. Before traveling to Phoenix, Jeff decided to take a ride on the rental trailer and unfortunately fell off. With the help of many painkillers he was able to sing at the show but as a result of damaging his hand, their friend John Koviak filled in on rhythm guitar for Jeff. Approximately in the same time, from 1992 to 1995, Rick, the guitarist of The Last Dance, played the bass guitar in the band The Prophetess. In 1992 the second demo 'Angel' was out. In this year they recorded their first cover. It was "Body & Soul" (Sisters of Mercy), which appeared on the tribute-compilation 'First and Last and Forever', released by a well-known label Cleopatra. 1993 became the year of changes and revival. Half way through the year death struck too close to the band. They were all moved by reality. A few months later further suffering hit when two lives of the band were split by loss, inspiring the songs "You" and "Forget". Life experience still remained the main source of their inspiration, but this time it was tragedy.
"Everyday experience is all there in my lyrics, since they are always about myself. I reveal things in song that I would never otherwise disclose. When I write, it is me by myself talking, searching, feeling and expressing. I don't tend to think about it in terms of what I want people to hear, but what I should be saying to myself. In that sense, lyrics are therapy for me. Later, when I read what I have written, I often able to even learn from them. Sometimes I lose myself in writing a song. But I find myself through the experience," says Jeff and continues. "There is a dark influence in our music and lyrics. It was always been there. One of the things I like so much about our music is how each listener is able to form their own category for it. We are not easily put into a predetermined genre. To gothic people, we are gothic. But our fastest growing audience in the United States is not gothic. They are an eclectic mix of many styles, people who simply love music for its own sake regardless of style. We wouldn't want it any other way."
In 1994 Tony Tullai left the band. Peter Gorritz became the new bass player of the band, who once played rhythm guitar in The Shroud. It was the year of live performances when they shared the stage with such famous bands as Christian Death, Human Drama, Eva O. and Faith & the Muse. In August 1995 The Last Dance recorded their debut CD, which got the name 'Tragedy'. Released by Apollyon Records in Germany it played an important role in further band's development. The opening song "Do You Believe In Angels" soon became the main and most recognizable hit of The Last Dance. In October the drummer Ian Haas left the band, but by the beginning of the next year he was replaced by Dan Kaiahua. In August 1996 The Last Dance recorded their second disc 'Fairytales', which has become their first full-length album. It absorbed 6 years of their musical and spiritual perfection. 'Fairytales' was recorded in a small Californian church Bethany. The people who took part in the recording of this album were Hilary McMahon (keyboards and piano), Michele Phillipson, Melissa Mitchell, Kelly Garrett, Crystal Bassica (backing vocals) and Jud Owens (pipe organ). In 1997 the songs for many compilations were recorded: "Deliverance", for The Mission Tribute CD, "Spirit", for Dead Can Dance Tribute CD, and exclusive track "Impossible Things" for Apollyon Records 5 year anniversary compilation 'The New Face of Apollyon'. Jeff and Rick also took part in the recording of Engelsstaub's 'Unholy' album. That's what Jeff told about this collaboration:
"We worked with Mark from Engelsstaub and Apollyon Records for a long time. He was the first person to show real interest in The Last Dance from Europe, and really helped give us our start outside of the United States. We released our first three CD's through Apollyon, and continue to be great friends. Mark contacted me when he was working on that album and said he had a song he thought my vocal style would work well on, so he sent us an ADAT tape from Germany to the US. Peter engineered the song and we recorded it here in our home studio (where we record all of our vocal tracks). After we had done the vocal tracks, Peter had the idea to add a guitar track to the song. We sent the tape back to Mark without knowing if he would even like the vocals or new guitar track. But he liked it and the CD came out. We've talked about collaborating again, and I would love to in the future. Engelsstaub has a very unique sound, and I like them a great deal. I think they have a similar, emotional and driving sound that reminds me a lot of what we do, and I would love to sing for them again."
"Our relationship with Engelsstaub is mainly tied to the fact that we are good friends with Mark Hofmann and as you know, have released several of our CDs through his company Apollyon," Peter enters the conversation."We mentioned that we liked Engelsstaub and he asked Jeff to do a vocal for "Lost Purity" which I also added a guitar track to. He returned the favor by later remixing "War" for us for the 'Staring At The Sky' sessions."
In 1997 The Last Dance added another member as Robert Schott joined the band as keyboardist and rhythm guitarist. In September the same year, Rick Joyce mysteriously disappeared somewhere in Ireland. He was hiding there the whole month and came back not alone but with his young wife Michele. In 1998 The Last Dance released the CD-single 'Staring at the Sky', consisting of remixes of old songs, but it contained also two new ones. Right after that The Last Dance's line-up gained its present image - the place of departed Dan Kaiahua was taken by a new drummer "Lucky" Ivan D.
The Last Dance started 1999 in studio, recording their new album 'Perfect'. Unfortunately it's not released yet, but a limited 'Perfect Tour 1999' CD was released as a prologue, dedicated to the last year's European Tour of the band.
"Our European tour didn't quite turn out to be as big as it was supposed to," recalls Jeff. "Things fell apart with several promoters and co-headliners at the very last minute. Actually, we were in England when things did fall apart, and we were simply forced to come home for two weeks before returning to Germany. We ended up playing several dates in the UK, and then the festival in Leipzig, Germany. Our plan is to repeat that tour some time this year, hopefully with more success."
By the way, do you have any plans to visit Russia one day?
"Russia is a place I have wanted to visit for a long time," answers Jeff. "Since I am 30 years old, I grew up at a time when our countries were not on the best of terms, and we were taught to distrust each other. The idea that an entire country could be my automatic enemy for only political reasons was something I was always uncomfortable about. I remember my elation when Russia and the United States became more friendly, and have enjoyed my visits with Russian tourists in Europe and America, as well as our growing relationship with RockCity. From what I read and hear, I would love to play in Russia."
Peter catches up:
"We are very interested in visiting Russia one day. It is just a matter of actually getting there to do shows. As far as the European tour, several dates were canceled, unfortunately. But the ones we did, in the U.K. and in Germany were fantastic. The blend of different cultures, along with the strong musical heritage of Europe combines nicely with a certain spirit of adventure and desire to explore that we noticed in a lot of people that we came across. And I think that they were able to relate to those very same elements in our music, which may not be obvious to the listener on a conscious level, but are definitely part of what makes this band what it is."
And finally Rick joins the conversation:
"Russia would be wonderful to go to. We love meeting people from different cultures and expanding our awareness a little bit. We love sharing our music with as many people who wish to experience it. Touring is one of our favorite parts of doing what we do with The Last Dance, despite the problems we encountered on the last European tour. Hopefully it will work out for us to share our music and live show with your country soon….thanks for asking."
Your new album 'Perfect' was recorded almost a year ago, but it is still unreleased. What were the reasons for that? When this long awaited release will see the light of day?
ÄJeff: "We have held off the release of 'Perfect' to wait for the right time to put it out. As we are gaining ground all over Europe, I think that there are more possibilities waiting to work with bigger companies. But these companies are not yet used to taking the kind of chances The Last Dance represents. We haven't proven our ability to sell a lot of records, which is something that record companies certainly look for. But our audience tends to be very attached to our music. I think that we connect with people on an emotional level, and that this audience will grow once we are more available to them. It's just a matter of waiting and gaining support, waiting for the right time to emerge. Things are in place now for a large-scale release of 'Perfect' early in 2000. In the meantime, we are making the compilation '99 Tour CD available, as well as another compilation CD on MP3.com to give listeners a taste of some new material and some older songs that they might now already have."
Rick: "'Perfect' is long awaited that is for sure. But having delayed its release has given us the opportunity to add remixes and make revisions to the album that we believe make it the absolute best we have ever done as well as a true representation of every aspect of our creative efforts so far. We did release the tour CD as Jeff said to give our fans a chance to preview some of the new material and the responses we have received thus far have been wonderful. 'Perfect' will be out soon, thank you for waiting…I believe you will not be disappointed when you hear it."
In conclusion Jeff and Rick tell about what the year 2000 holds for The Last Dance.
Jeff: "We are looking forward to the world wide release of our album in the first few months of the year, and have just a few more countries to make arrangements for (including our own United States). We're planning to continue the "Perfect Tour", which begun in 1999 with the UK, Germany, and the United States. "Perfect Tour 2000" will feature many new songs and live versions of songs from the new album, as well as older material that we are particularly fond of. We have been working on new material as well, and will most likely be ready to record another album soon after the touring season. We have some true excitement this year, as Rick and his wife Michele are expecting a baby this year, which will make things very exciting around The Last House."
Rick: "Looking back through the history of The Last Dance, I see how with each year we have progressed doing a little more, a little bigger, a little better each year. I expect no less from 2000. Year 2000 will be our most aggressive touring year yet, that is for sure, as we plan to promote and support the release of Perfect on a much wider scale than we were ever able to do for the previous albums. As Jeff said, this year I am going to be a father which is whole new and scary world for me. At the same time it is a whole new excitement and inspiration for me to do what I love, play music with The Last Dance…so watch for an exciting year from TLD, as most people who know me will say, my inspirations and excitement spill into The Last Dance's."
Your last words and wishes for our readers...
Jeff: "Welcome to The Last Dance."
Rick: "Thank you for the interview, I hope to visit and meet Russia soon, until then Believe in Angels."
(c) 1999 Russian Gothic Project
Design by Chthon (c) 1999