The Power of One: A Single Fan and the Band that Almost Wasn’t

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One Fan and the Band That Almost Wasn’t

by Xerxes Praetorius Horde

I am the Horde, aka Xerxes Praetorius. I am an academically schooled composer, performance artist, percussionist, passable singer and I can fool some people into thinking I can play guitar.  I am a private music instructor and part time film critic, and I am also the founding head of the many headed beast that is the New Jacobin Club.

I have been involved with this group of musicians and performance artists since 1995 – along the way we’ve been called everything from “gothic rock’s finest protagonists with a live show that will change the way you look at music” to “the worst band in the world.” So much happens in 20 years – but to get you up to speed, this is us now –

My life begins and ends with music, art, friends and family. Being a member of this notorious group  has made me who I am today. I get a rush of adrenaline when I smell the oily-sweet stench of the artificial fog that fills the stage and the kerosene fuel that is used in our show. I look forward to that  moment of relaxation at the hotel at 3 am after the show where I like to sip a strong rye beverage and listen to my bandmates – my best friends – talk and laugh at what we did wrong, what we did right, and what we’ll do tomorrow. I love the gas station 3 hours out of Calgary that we’ve been stopping at for years so I can buy a plastic cup filled with pickled eggs.  I can’t wait to get into the aging white cargo van on a cold Western Canadian fall morning to hit the road and I can’t wait to get home again to see two little faces pressed against my living room window waiting for me.

None of this would have come about if not for an email message I received almost 20 years ago.

As a young musician in the early 1990’s, I had decided wholeheartedly that I did not ever want to throw everything I had into taking chances on a career as a performer or recording artist. I was skeptical of absolutely everything involved with the music industry, from the record companies (both major and independent) to the promoters, booking agents and venue owners. This attitude was most definitely a byproduct of the post-glam era of the 80’s and the rise of the anti-celebrity. The rockstar was dead. Kurt Cobain was the new template for all aspiring musicians and anti-celebrities. Everyone wanted to get signed to an indie label, everyone talked shit about the corporate end of the industry, everyone was becoming a self absorbed, self righteous dumbass. There was NO CORNER of my musical experience that wasn’t tainted by this attitude – from my times at university studying music history and composition to my stint with a touring pop-punk band during the first heyday of the Offspring/Green Day/Nirvana guitar rock revival in the early to mid 90’s.

I was ridiculed for going to university to complete a music performance degree.

I was put in my place when I questioned why we got paid so little for doing so much.

I was challenged by the hipsters of the day to discuss my personal views on political correctness, veganism, feminism, and a whole lot of other “isms.”

I was later attacked by the same groups for not being clear enough about said views in my own music.

I was told that wearing any sort of outfit or costume during a live performance, or having any sort of stage lighting, smoke machines or props on stage, was proof I didn’t care about the music or it’s “message”.

 

horde1999I was accused of being…

 

…not cool

I would surely  never succeed as a musician, or any other type of artist for that matter. The life of a performing artist was clearly NOT my “path of least resistance.” I accepted this and retreated into a life of music industry related work, keeping my performing career at a hobby level. I played in several bands, all of them with great people, all of them deserving of more success then they ever achieved. One of those bands was especially designed to fail. It was the ultimate expression of artistic suicide, and it was everything I wanted to share with the world.

The New Jacobin Club played it’s first show in the second half of 1996, and was declared a dead entity by the fall of 1997.  The music community of our hometown let out a huge sigh of relief.  Never again would anyone have to play alongside, promote, or contend with the embarrassment that was the New Jacobin Club.

Sometime the following year, something happened…and this is where YOU come in, gentle reader…

It was a surreal experience for 1998. What I got was an email from a fan – from someone outside our hometown who had somehow HEARD of this “weird band,” how everyone hated them, how they wrote songs of bitter social commentary and the occult, how they dressed up as morticians on stage, and how they sold a 3 song cassette ep for just one dollar. He was excited about independent music, he was excited about the diversity of the bands in our home province, but most of all he was excited about the New Jacobin Club.

After reading and replying to the email, I went back into the basement and began re-recording and re-mixing some demos…music that I knew was good, music that I knew was not loved by all my immediate peers, but music that I now knew someone out there valued. Maybe there were more people out there who would, too.

I looked to see if I could find anyone else outside our backwards city that would dig  what we were doing, and I did – south of the border. I called up our bass player Une to tell him that we needed to reform the band, find a new drummer, and start playing again because we had just been offered a record deal from an indie label in the U.S.

1998 ended with a bang – our new sense of self worth was empowering beyond belief. By the end of the year our reputation got us a co-headlining spot at a festival out of town where we played to an arena filled with the most diverse and receptive crowd we could ever have hoped for. After the show we did not have enough cassettes and t-shirts to go around. The following spring, our debut ep on Transparent Records came out and we hit the road for the first time.

And all because of an email message from one total stranger.

I hope that now at the end of this (my first ever personal blog entry…yeah – for real!) you might take just one minute to add your thoughts or a comment below – we’d really appreciate hearing what you think of our music, this story, and what we should be sharing with you in the blogs to come! Perhaps you’ve have a similar experience as an individual, or as a fellow artist? The New Jacobin Club owes it’s continued existence to one single email message, I guarantee if you ever drop me an email, your message will carry just as much weight, and that you’ll get a reply. 

…and I’d like to see other members of the NJC sharing this blog space with me in the near future – I need some ammo to sweet talk some of them into it, so if you’d like to see that happen, take one quick moment to leave a comment below help me out!

RoTT ‘N RoLL!

The HOrDE

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8 Comments

  • John Barnes says:

    Hi be listened to the few tracks you sent me to download and must admit I’m impressed
    Having detected in Canada in many occasions with the British army have seen lots of rock music and the like
    In a club called Skyrim’s in Calgary 1989 my first experience
    Love you’re music where in Canada do you guys come from
    And keep going
    All the best from John Barnes
    Manchester England

    • HOrDE says:

      Hi John! Thanks for the message! We are in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan – but we have probably performed in Calgary more than any other Canadian city. It’s a 6 hour trip from where we are, but that’s a normal distance to travel between large cities in Western Canada. Calgary is certainly a legendary live music hub out here, has been for decades.I have a feeling the Skyrim is one of the clubs we’ve played at several time but it has undergone new owners and new names over the years. We first played Calgary around 1998/99. Cheers!

  • Bilbo says:

    Hi Horde, firstly my thanks for being in touch and also for the tracks I downloaded yesterday, I really did enjoy them! It sounded like you guys and gals put a bit of everything in the mix and it all came out sounding really good! I wonder if you guys have a full time keyboardist helping out with the wonderful sounds that a couple of good synths and an organ can make. I’m not asking for the job myself as I can’t even play; only wish that I could. Also my age is against me, being now a whole 68 years young, but still only 18 inside! My era was late fifties, sixties and seventies. I have also a love of synths, guitars, drums etc. Yes, I love music and everyday play it loud in my kitchen over a coffee. I love vintage hi fi and listen to my music through this and also pro audio gear too. Oh yes, I have several lifetimes (after regressions and memories) of being well and truly into the Occult. Sadly I now live alone having lost the Light of my Life some eleven years ago to cancer. Our four children have all grown and flown the family nest and have their own good lives and families. They are fairly local and sort of stay in touch, yet are always so busy. Now I can chill out a bit more and try to enjoy Life as it is a very special gift. Unfortunately I am also housebound disabled unable to walk very far and popping enough pills every day to make me rattle! Hey my message to you guys out there is simple; enjoy Life, enjoy making your beautiful music, and at all costs, be yourselves. Never lie to yourself or else you could loose it all. Be Truthful and remember the words of the Desiterata (I humbly try and live my life by this) “you have a right to be here” and “strive to be happy.” Wishing you all. Peace, Love & Happiness, Bilbo (as my friends call me). Make The Best of Life!

    • Horde says:

      So good to here from you Bilbo! Thank you for sharing with us, your experience and wisdom is going to help us through some tough times. In fact, I’m going to make a point of going back and reading your message over again anytime I feel like I’ve lost the energy to continue or the joy of creating. If there’s ever anything we can do for you, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

    • HOrDE says:

      Bilbo – forgot to mention – we DO have a full time keyboardist! Although we did not have much keyboard on our last album, Mistress Nagini will be playing a lot of keys on the upcoming album. Our “Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” album is also full of synth, organ, piano…

  • Hello this seems odd as i have already posted my reply..sadly the spell checker altered some things hope you understand what I am trying to say .

  • Elisabeth Taylor says:

    Well i have read every single word that you have written in this your very first blog ..and I am impressed by you and your determination to continue to make and share your music..I have a friend called Mathew Farnham ..who lead a band called the Furious Horde ..that was what initially caught my eye .I thought oh maybe Matthew ..but then I realized it was a totally swore at band ..but your band is not unlike his .he is black metal with his own particular style ..even sewing all his outfits himself …My Son is Charnel Letchery.or Charnel Von Lickvogn..he replaced Ole Myrholt on some of Enslavement of Beauty tracks with Tony Tunheim. It caused a big fuss ..I follow many Black metal bands..from the early 1980s to now .and every aspect of metal .so will be very happy to follow your progress good luck in all you do

    • Horde says:

      Thanks Elisabeth! I myself am not so familiar with Black Metal, except for the early bands from the 80’s that I grew up listening to – Venom, Celtic Frost, in fact the band really loves Celtic Frost!

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