Interview: Sean Brennan talks about “Selected Scenes…”, LAM and more

 

Taking your name from an iconic horror film can be a challenge, but London After Midnight have done that in style. Singer/Songwriter Sean Brennan created the band in the 1990s in LA and has not looked back since then. London After Midnight have become one of the darlings of the goth/alternative festival circuit and have often headlined the iconic WGT in Leipzig. Sean’s no-nonsense approach makes them a force to be reckoned with. Recently they have taken to entirely re-mixing their debut album from original master tapes and will be playing the main stage at Amphi Fest in Koln. Cries for a UK tour are often heard, so who knows what tomorrow will bring.

1. Before you became involved in the music industry, what music were you listening to?

SEAN: Before forming a band I listened to a fairly wide variety of music: film soundtracks, classical, big band, punk and underground music. Really anything that was good, I listened to, regardless of genre. I think the type of music that started me to where I am today was Velvet Underground, Bowie, etc., mostly early dark punk, art rock, then post punk music. I valued New York City bands like early Blondie, too, because there was often also a sense of humor in the music, and an intelligence, that you didn’t get elsewhere. While I love some classic rock it often lacked the edge and sarcasm that punk and post punk had. But I guess I liked the post punk edge, the punk rock ideology, and the visual and cinematic quality of film scores and classical music, and tried to combine them.

2. What was the main catalyst for embarking on a career in music?

SEAN: Just a desire to be creative and having no other real outlet for it. From when I was very young music was magical to me. It spoke a language that transcended everything, literally touching your soul. And you could do it all yourself with just a piano or guitar. I had been wanting to be a film director, but music was a more immediate way to express myself artistically and I could accomplish a complete song by myself, unlike in film where I would have to have actors, technicians, etc. So, as I got older I gravitated away from film and towards music.

3. How would you describe your current occupation?

SEAN: Artist activist.

4. What was your first major stumbling block on your journey into the music business?

SEAN: The people involved. Trying to find stable or tolerable people to work with in all aspects, even trying to book gigs or release music, you always run up against brick walls when starting out and often even long after you’ve started, too. It can be a never ending struggle. Then later came downloading, filesharing, and now streaming, which rob the artists of their income. So while I can write a bunch of music, actually doing anything with it can be a challenge. Luckily I have a group of guys in the band who are dedicated and talented. But in many ways you’re always subject to the pitfalls I’ve mentioned.

5. Was there ever a time that you wanted to quit the music business?

SEAN: Yes. For the above stated reasons.

6. Selected Scenes from the End of the World: 9119 has just been released. Can you tell us more about the project?

SEAN: All my CDs were currently out of print and I’ve terminated my distribution deals with my past record labels. There’s no reason to have someone else’s label involved taking the majority of any money you make from the sale of your art, while doing nothing for you. Being that people still want CDs I decided to start my own label and print them myself, and rather than simply re-print what I already released I decided to remix the album because I was never satisfied with the original mix anyway. The result is an album that finally sounds like it should have sounded when originally released and that contains a lot more material. I was able to restore missing audio tracks in several songs, even include entire unreleased songs. I hope to do this with “Psycho Magnet” too. I just need people to buy “Selected Scenes… 9119” for that to happen.

7. With the re-release of your early album, do you think it will have the same impact as it did the first time round?

SEAN: Most people know the songs already but there are younger kids getting into the scene just discovering it too. When it was first released there wasn’t really anything like it in the scene – melodic romantic post-goth style music. But I think it will have some impact to even those who have heard it because it shows that there are quality songs and good musicianship on the album. It was just masked by bad production before.

8. Do you have any new projects in the pipe-line?

SEAN: Several. Another album is planned for release in 2020, “Oddities,Too”, which will be a collection of previously unreleased songs, reinterpretations of songs, and more. An all new album is scheduled after that. Also, as I said, I hope to remix my second album, from 1996, “Psycho Magnet”, at some point soon as well, giving it the same treatment as I did with “Selected Scenes…”, and that could have a lot of extra content. There is enough for a triple or quadruple vinyl release.

9. How does your current line-up look against the original incarnation of London After Midnight?

SEAN: Vastly superior.

10. Your popularity in Germany has you often playing festivals there. What are the benefits and detriments, if any, of playing at festivals?

SEAN: The problem with European festivals is that most occur in summer and not many clubs arrange tours for summer, so going all the way to Europe is often for only a handful of gigs if you’re doing festivals. Aside from that there isn’t much downside, though sometimes with festivals, where they are dealing with bands all day long, you can deal with hectic and rushed conditions. Sometimes things aren’t set up properly just due to so many bands performing. But they are usually very enjoyable.

11. Any amusing, shocking or (barely) unprintable stories that you would care to share about what has happened at a festival?

SEAN: Perhaps, but I would have to name names and people frown on that.

12. Would you be interested in touring the UK?

SEAN: Absolutely. LAM has performed several shows there over the years in cities from London up to Scotland to Ireland, and I’ve always loved it. Except that one time in the mid 1990s where there was such a bad heat wave that the cows were exploding. Dying from the heat and just cooking and bursting open from the heat. Not a pleasant site while driving through the countryside.

13. There’s a huge revival in 70’s & 80’s music, in particular Rewind Festivals and online radio shows like Songs of Preys and The Andy Cousin Show. Do you think the music has stood the test of time, or do you feel it’s dated? What are your thoughts on the current state of the ‘alternative’ scene?

SEAN: Some of the music has stood the test of time, especially compared to what is being offered today. Even your average pop 80s music consisted of qualities that just aren’t present in today’s pop music. And the 70s had even better music. Even the pop music was great. It’s shocking how low expectations have sunk now, how substandard most music has become, even in alternative underground scenes. I’ve warned against this for years, about the corporatization of music, how people started to value celebrity over art, status over substance. Now you have people being famous for having a large social media following and singing songs that sound like they come from a child’s electronic toy. The infantilization and dumbing down of society is well under way and we can hear it in the music. The 80s was the beginning of this to a large degree but it’s gotten significantly worse today. But there was some very good music as well, mainly in the alternative scenes.

14. Is there any musician that you would love to collaborate with, or cover one of their songs?

SEAN: Probably. But most are dead now. So it would be a rather one sided endeavor.

15. What do you think about the music business in the 21st century?

SEAN: I’m an artist, so I’m not really into “business” much at all. I prefer to deal with the artistic side of things. But the sociopathic nature that exists in corporate business is unfortunately spreading to most other parts of our society. And, again, you hear that reflected in today’s music where everything sounds the same or is extremely simplistic, etc. So corporatization of art is unfortunately all too common now.

16. What would be the ONE bit of advice you would give a new musician?

SEAN: Write good songs.

 

 

 

 

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