The Power of One: Artistic Suicide and a Single Fan
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 in 2014:
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”.
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!