Man, The Lion's Daughter are a trip. The St. Louis trio of Rick Giordano, Erik Ramsier and Scott Fogelbach continue to churn out the type of genre-bending metal that could be the soundtrack to a neon soaked 80s slasher or some post-apocalyptic planet of the apes. No more is that applicable than on their latest release Skin Show.
Provocative, punchy and at times pushing the limits with the shit that shouldn't go together like The Exorcist III imagery and synths that would make a New Wave band blush, Skin Show and all the world surrounding it ensure The Lion's Daughter's place in the pantheon of polarizing and undoubtedly fascinating artists in all of metal.
Giordano caught up with Metal Injection for a deep dive into Skin Show, the art of pushing the envelope, the marriage of horror and heavy metal and what influenced this latest in a series of bold moves.
On the Origins of The Lion's Daughter
Yeah, it does and it doesn't feel like it's been that long. 2007 is technically accurate, but really this band feels like it's been around since about 2011-12. The drummer and I were both in a different band for about three years that was not our band, it wasn't our project. It was basically like one of those bands that we toured 10 months a year and it was a business. You know, it was a job for us. And you can only take so much of that. We were still on tour with this other band flying, I think, back from Germany. And we saw a book called The Lion's Daughter at the airport bookstore. And we laughed and we said let's quit this band, let's start another band, let's call it The Lion's Daughter, because that name is so stupid that it will grant us license to just do whatever we want because we don't care if people like it or not. It's super not commercial and it's not cool sounding or metal sounding, like that's perfect. So that idea was born in 2007 and then we just started jamming.
The first version of the band sounded like Mogwai or something. We would just do a bunch of bong hits and turn the lights off and jam for six hours. But then it kept growing into different things and like, OK, let's see what happens if we throw some blast beats in and if we do this, this and this. So we played I think two shows in like maybe late 2007 or maybe even 2008. And then we didn't do anything for two years because we didn't have a practice space. So really what I would kind of call this version of the band – even though it's always been me, Scott and Eric involved – really I feel that started back up again in like 2011 or 12 when we started writing the music that we actually eventually released as The Lion's Daughter, then actively playing shows and stuff like that.
On New Direction/Experimenting With Synths
Future Cult was a lot of going to experiment with a bunch of stuff and see what happens and see what works. And Skin Show was just kind of like, OK, I know it works now. I don't have to figure out the logistics of how to make synthesizers work and then translate it to a live setting and all that stuff. Like literally for Future Cult I had never owned a synthesizer and never played a keyboard. I had no idea how to do anything. So it really started with researching what to buy and what recording programs to use and then what the hell are patches and all of this stuff. Just getting that done before I could even figure out how it works with guitars and the drums and then songwriting and all of that shit, you know?
So this time it was really nice that I knew going into it how to at least physically piece everything together and make it work. I kind of had an idea what our band sounded like. Future Cult was a record that I was pretty happy with. So it was like, all right, well let's take that and expand on it.
On Fan Backlash to a Changing Sound
Strangely, there really wasn't any pushback. It could be for a couple reasons. We put out a couple of EPs and splits and our first full length was very much that doomy, sludgy, black metal, death metal, whatever it was. The very next thing that we did was a full collaborative LP with a folk band called Indian Blanket. The early years of the band even we were doing shit to kind of throw people off, but also just to kind of keep ourselves interested and excited. So I think anybody that had been following the band wasn't super shocked when we put out Future Cult and it had synths and stuff. But those people that were, I think it's hilarious.
Maybe I'm a little bit of a troll in that way, but I love the comments that are like what is this artsy bullshit? The three new videos that we put out, there are a couple of comments that'll just say "gay". That's the funniest thing to me. You're not even making a point. You're not even arguing like this music doesn't work because so and so, you're just saying you're probably 12 years old. They just saw the band name or something. But Future Cult there really wasn't much backlash. And I anticipated it and I was ready for it. I was sitting there with a smile on my face like a little internet troll, waiting for people to get pissed and say they hated it. But that's not what happened.
On Provocative Images & Videos
The Future Cult cover image, if you encountered that character on that kind of weird beach setting or wherever that is, you probably would want to avoid that person. You'd want to get away from that thing. And the sound of that record is kind of the same way. The record is pretty abrasive and aggressive. It's supposed to just sound like terror and dread. And I think with the Skin Show artwork, if you encountered that character in that setting and that weird tunnel, wherever that place is supposed to be, you kind of aren't sure is that character there to help you or to hurt you? Because there's some elements that it's like a nurse in a way, but it's also ghostlike. And it's very small, and I like that the detail is subtle, but it's holding like an infant skull. Why is it holding the infant skull?! Just the questions that it raises.
And I think the title of the record ties into all of that as well, because Skin Show could be this sexy thing that's really appealing or it could be a scene from a Hellraiser movie where somebody is going to skin you alive. You know, you're going to be flayed. It could be either way, but you're not sure. I kind of like that and I like the way that the image and the title worked together. So it's not so much to me about balancing light and dark, it's just finding these I guess gray areas or finding these more obscure kinds of undefined feelings and exploring those. Not being so clear about what's going on or how you should feel about it.
I mean, I think the worst thing that you could be is boring. No matter what you're doing, creating music or videos or movies or books or just having a conversation, even a cup of coffee, you just shouldn't be boring. So I'm always looking for that wow factor in anything that I do creatively. And videos are a strange thing because I'm not the one making the videos. I'm working with other people, with directors that are able to piece these things together. But it's a cool thing because the videos never turn out exactly how I expect them to, but they then make the songs take on a new meaning to me.
The way that I see "Curtains" now, and see the song now and interpret the lyrics is different because of the video that Guilherme Henriques filmed, because that imagery is so striking. I can't get that out of my head. That's the song now, but it completely relates to the lyrics in a way that I didn't expect it to because that was his vision that I think works perfectly. Is it about abuse or is it about obsession? Is it about facing something you don't like about yourself and then trying to destroy that, but ultimately just hurting yourself? It could be seen in a lot of different ways.
And I think "Sex Trap" is the same way, looking at those characters and trying to figure out the correlation between the characters with the lyrics and also with a pretty provocative song title like "Sex Trap" that again, going back to the whole thing where I expected a backlash with Future Cult and stuff like that, I expected to catch a bunch of shit for calling a song "Sex Trap". I was completely ready to argue and defend that title. Nobody said anything. So I guess that's good. People are a little more open minded or understand that some things are art. And just because you're referencing something doesn't mean that you're advocating that thing.
On the Relationship Between Horror & Heavy Metal
I'm probably more of a horror fan than I even am like a metal fan. I wonder if I went around my house and I counted the posters and the artwork, how much of it is music and how much of it is movie related? Horror and heavy metal were kind of always one at the same to me … I remember I was introduced to Friday the 13th and Jason Voorhees at the same time I was introduced to Alice Cooper through the same movie and music video with Alice Cooper's "He's Back (The Man Behind the Mask)" for part six. They were both this guy kind of like grim, forbidden, exciting thing that explored different stuff than the music I listened to previously, like Michael Jackson or even like Mötley Crüe, which was just about like chicks and stuff. That was a lot different than hearing Venom and hearing a record called Welcome to Hell. And at the same time being introduced to a movie called Re-Animator, where a guy carries around his own severed head. They were the same to me.
And I've always gravitated, I think, towards bands that used horror elements. My first tattoo I ever got was a Misfits tattoo. And The Misfits were my favorite band ever the first time I heard them because it was just pure horror worship. All the satanic imagery and horror imagery with something like Slayer and King Diamond and how this stuff was so theatrical. It kind of bent my brain in half because the first record I heard was "Them" where he's singing about an evil grandmother poisoning the tea and all this stuff. Like I've always loved that stuff.
On Horror Influencing The Lion's Daughter
The thing that I've kind of set out to do with The Lion's Daughter is find ways for heavy metal and horror to merge that hasn't been done to death, you know? I think that's why early stuff was a little more like apocalyptic. That had been done a lot, so that's why Future Cult it was like OK, well let's see what happens if we bring some post-apocalyptic sci-fi elements in and mix that with like these kinds of synth sounds and stuff. And then Skin Show it's like let's see if we make the synth sounds a little more haunting and natural sounding and introduce weird elements of like abuse and sexuality and things like that and just kind of see what we could come up with.
Like I fucking love Cannibal Corpse and shit like that, but that band exists already and 100 bands that sound just like them and use the same imagery already exist. So we're not going to do it better than they do it. So what's something we could do to combine these two things that I love, which are fucking metal and horror and do something a little bit different with them that maybe myself as a fan of both things, would be excited to hear or interested in?