In the 1980s goth titans roamed the pop charts. The Mission and The Cure were globe-bestriding, black-clad giants, and every subsequent generation has danced to their tunes. Now, members of those iconic bands have been united for the first time on an exclusive track for an extraordinary project that might just be the greatest goth supergroup in the world. The project is Beauty In Chaos, masterminded by Michael Ciravolo, boss of Schecter Guitar Research and founder/guitarist in US band Human Drama. A mission and a labour of love, it unites family, friends, heroes and legends on the extraordinary double-album Finding Beauty In Chaos.
The album’s goth/darkwave/industrial credentials are impressive, with Ministry’s Al Jourgensen (‘20th Century Boy’ is a stunning all-out Jourgensen assault, a cracking version of a much-covered song) and swoonsome Britgoths Gene Loves Jezebel’s Michael Aston on sublime album opener ‘Road to Rosario’, a sweeping track of gorgeousness and longing which sets the course for this project as it sets sail in a quest for light in dark times.
There’s The Awakening’s Ashton Nyte, who sings lead on three songs – the single ‘Storm’ (video above), ‘Bloodless and Fragile’ and the eponymous album closing track, plus backing vocals on several more; and the shimmering vocals of Evi Vine, who sings on stand-out track ‘I Will Follow You’. And the line-up also stars Robin Zander of rock luminaries Cheap Trick and Van Halen’s Michael Anthony on ‘Drifting Away’, Body Count rapper-turned-TV star Ice T, who joins forces with dUg Pinnick ex- of King’s X for the blast of pure, fiercely political energy of track ‘UnNatural Disaster’. So, a goth supergroup – but not just for goths.
T. Rex aside the songs were written by Ciravolo, who set a golden rule to play all guitars himself on the record and in keeping with early Queen ethos enforced a “no synthesisers” stipulation. Dramatic, energetic, deeply layered and complex, it hangs together surprisingly coherently for such a diverse crew. “Rarely would you find a record that has Ice T and Wayne Hussey, or Robin Zander and Ashton Nyte and Michael Aston, putting all these people together,” he admits. “There’s 14 tracks – I know everything is not for everyone. But I think it is oddly cohesive, hopefully!”
In several songs there’s a call for humanity and justice in a messed-up world. “The beauty certainly gets harder to find,” says Ciravolo. “The album title was a backlash against that. It seemed every time you turned on the news it was negativity, hate, politics, religion, whose God was better, the end of days was coming, a bank crash. Especially America right now. I’ve seen people break up friendships over politics. That’s the down side of social media. It’s draining and mind-numbing. I want to try to get people to step back and find the good in things.
There are currently around 1,450 Big Issue sellers working hard on the streets each week.
“I think people want to escape it with music and just find whatever the beauty is, whether it’s romance, making music, whatever a person’s beauty is.”
The track ‘Man of Faith’ touches on corruption in so-called men of God. “I was raised Catholic, and recognise those lecherous preachers we’ve seen enough of, preacher families living in mansions, taking jets, taking money from desperate people,” Ciravolo says. “I certainly think there are some interesting deep connotations and truth in that song.”
And there is a deep surprise too: The Cure’s bassist Simon Gallup, who famously never plays away from his band – he wrote a forthright, very funny bit about it that’s well worth reading in full. He says he “made a secret vow” when he joined The Cure to not “become a journeyman muso to further your own ego. I seriously hated all those tits from the Eighties and Nineties who used to pat each other on the back and ‘hang out’.” But he says he mellowed, adding: “If someone else [than Ciravolo] had asked me to play I would have probably have said no but I felt this was a special thing, and the icing on the cake was that Wayne was singing!
“I could type for hours to explain what Wayne means to me. I think he is one of the most underrated rock singers of all time. I saw him and The Mish play last year and his stage presence and rockness was still spine tingling, just 100 per cent spot on.”
Was Hussey surprised that Gallup agreed? “No, not really,” he says. “I had no idea Michael had asked him until Simon had agreed to do it. But knowing Simon it doesn’t surprise me. It just took Cupid Michael to make it happen.”
Describing Gallup as his “second favourite bass player, favourite member of The Cure, and a top, all round chap,” he explains: “We’ve known each other for many years and, as all great ideas are, the idea of us working together was born out of us sharing a bottle or three. And like most ideas born that way it was quickly forgotten the next morning. Simon did, however, record four or five tunes as demos for me in the early 90’s, the cassette of which got lost amongst boxes and boxes of other cassettes. I recently found it again whilst looking for something else. Serendipity, as by this time Simon had already played on Michael’s track ‘Man of Faith’.”
But, he reveals, “the idea [of further collaboration] has now been resurrected, sans bottle. Whether it comes to fruition will mostly depend on our respective availabilities and determination to make it happen.”
I’m certainly going to try to talk Wayne and Simon into doing more!
Ciravolo is not only a good friend but also a genuine fan of The Cure and The Mission – after the interview we enthuse for ages about his much-loved punk-goth-post-punk-new-wave bands including them and Gene Loves Jezebel, who he has played guitar with, and his formative heroes including The Clash, New York Dolls, Psychedelic Furs et al.
“You would think Wayne and Simon would have done something prior,” he says. “It was cool being part of it, then being on an email chain where they’re talking about those cassettes Simon recorded, I’m just sitting there going ‘hey, if you guys need another guitar player…!’,” he laughs. “I know The Cure’s jumping into all those festivals and there’s lots of talk of there being a record, Wayne’s working on a book. But I’m certainly going to be trying to talk them into doing more!
“Simon is a wonderful person and such a great musician, I think you really hear him on ‘Man of Faith’, it’s such a great bass part. I know I keep saying this is ‘surreal’ but being a fan first and having him write such nice stuff about taking part in Beauty In Chaos is pretty crazy.”
Ciravolo also takes time to enthuse about Simon’s son and Cure guitar tech, Eden, who assisted recording ‘Man of Faith’ bass tracks in England for transfer to Beauty In Chaos HQ in LA (check out the debut album Invaders from Eden’s new project Serpent Ride). This family spirit permeates the project, elevating it above the ‘chaos’ of the world and the title. Ciravolo’s wife Tish sings one of the album’s stand-out tracks, forthcoming single ‘Look Up’, a shimmering love-letter to My Bloody Valentine (sneak peeks of its video look thrilling), while their daughters Sophia and Nicole featuring on the decadent/decayed cover art.
And there’s much love among the collaborators, not least for Evi Vine, who lends her chilling, ethereal vocals to stunning track ‘I Will Follow You’. Described as “beautiful” by Hussey, Nyte calls it “a beautiful, haunting and atmospheric journey, the music and her voice work so wonderfully together. It is a magical piece of art.”
Music should inspire and ignite a passion in the musicians and the listener, connect you to all things
Vine tells The Big Issue: “Love flows through the writing. As soon as I heard the track I was hooked and I knew this was for me. I felt so connected to the movement of the piece that my first rough vocal had the shape of the lyrics and melody. I feel very lucky. It was such a respectful, harmonious experience to collaborate with Michael. The thing is, when you all want the same thing it makes it so easy. Writing music should inspire and ignite a passion in the musicians and the listener it should connect you to all things – to have written something that will last forever, what a gift to treasure. When the nothingness is tearing up the earth, there is beauty in chaos.”
Nyte was similarly inspired. “Michael’s music is beautifully melodic, with a lot of space for a singer to work with,” he says. “It has an understated complexity. Stylistically much of what we worked on together felt like a bridge between my last solo album and The Awakening’s new album. Our songs evolved very quickly and organically, evoking lyrical imagery and vocal melodies I am very proud of. Michael has a deep respect for lyrics and vocals, which is not only refreshing but comes through in the way he assembles his songs.”
Asked what he enjoyed most about being so involved with the album, Nyte replies: “Honestly, getting to know Michael better has been the highlight for me. I completely support and believe in his artistic vision for Beauty In Chaos and counting him as one of my dearest friends has been the biggest blessing our work together has yielded.”
Finding Beauty In Chaos is out now on double vinyl, CD and download beautyinchaosmusic.com A remix album, Beauty Re-Envisioned (with Tim Palmer, John Fryer, Mark Thwaite and special guests) comes out next spring. Follow on Instagram: @beauty.inchaos Twitter: @MichaelCiravolo
Listen to Finding Beauty in Chaos here