Interview: Ex-I Am Ghost Frontman Steven Juliano on Requiem For The Dead and ‘Lovers and Kings’ Graphic Novel
By Natalie Perez
Musician and graphic artist Steven Juliano has had an impressive and varied career. From his early work with The Silence, Fallout and Monsta Zero to fronting his most successful project, I Am Ghost, he has kept it interesting, fun and hard rocking.
After an EP, two studio albums and a live album, I Am Ghost called it quits in 2010. Since then, Juliano has fronted his new band, Requiem for the Dead, who released their debut album, Always and Forever, almost exactly a year ago.
We recently caught up with Juliano, who discussed Requiem for the Dead and his recent graphic novelization of Lovers and Kings.
REVOLVER: For those who do not know who you are, tell me in five words.
How about, “Hi, I am Steven Juliano.” They can Google me if they need more info.
Briefly, what is your graphic novel, Lovers and Kings, about?
The best way to describe it is somewhat in the vein of Pan’s Labyrinth meets the movie Seven. You know, the fucked-up film with Brad Pitt. The novel takes place in France at the height of World War I. It follows the lives of children living in the town who begin to see things coming out of their forest and moors.
It’s amazing how a writer and artist such as myself can do something this big and then get it out to the masses with little trouble. My book is in stores everywhere now, including all the online/apps stores such as iPad, Kindle Fire, Nook, Barnes & Noble, Graphically and more. I wrote/drew the entire book, so it’s a labor of love. So far, the reviews have been stellar. I haven’t seen anything bad.
Where in the recording process are Requiem for the Dead, and when can we expect to see a new album?
Requiem for the Dead is in pre-production mode. We never did it for our first release. We just wrote music we liked and then recorded it. There was no picking apart the songs whatsoever. It was a fast-paced, fun time. But this time around, we thought about doing it a little better by taking our sweet time on the recording and the songs. We are not signed, nor do we care to be signed. We just meet up when we feel like it, write songs, and then talk about it. We change things, make the songs shorter, sometimes longer. Sometimes we change entire choruses and re-write them. Pre-production is the key. We are just having a good ol’ time with the songs.
Have you picked the debut single and/or music video?
I am already having a favorite, but from my experience, it can change when we start doing the real recording. Sometimes, another song just comes out of left field and hits me hard. It sounds OK in demo format, but suddenly we start arranging it in real recording time, adding violins, cellos, synth, and it just turns into this huge, awesome monster. So right now, I’m not exactly sure. We are definitely shooting another music video, I just don’t know for which song.
When did you start writing this album?
We started to write it around January, I believe. I could be wrong. It started off very slow, but was partly my fault in a way. I was in Los Angeles at least once every two weeks, flying back and forth working on films and doing things with my graphic novel. I was super-swamped and couldn’t really do much band-wise. Ty Oliver kinda kept everything afloat by writing song after song and sending them to me via email. Bobby Burns, our other guitarist, wrote a song on the album as well. It’s been a good mix. The only difference, really, from this album from the last is that we are not rushing the recording. Again, we are kinda sitting back and listening to the songs, re working them, re recording them in demo format, then listening again.
What are your songs about? What specific themes do they cover?
There is no theme, per se. I think this album is more of me talking about my life and all the things I did right, did wrong or didn’t do at all. We all have regrets. Yet we all have good memories of our past, I think. The album is going to be called Memories, so it kinda explains it all.
Are you using any new instrumentation you’ve never used in the recording process?
We are using a lot more orchestra, it seems, in this new album. We didn’t have Bobby Burns on our first album, so the orchestra was kinda low key. We had friends in Southern California do the orchestras for us, which were minimal. Bobby is a very good piano player and has a great setup at his home with synth and keyboards and sounds. So we are using that to our advantage.
How would you describe the overall sound of the new album? How does it compare to Always and Forever?
This is a harder album by far. Its more aggressive for sure, yet we do have our moments of slow pop rock. To be honest, I am just not into this “Wrar Wrar Chug Chug” music that every mother fucker is doing. I can care less if people think we are hardcore, or punk. It really never affected me even with my last band, I Am Ghost. We had plenty of opportunity to go dark and hardcore screaming, but we stuck to our guns and did the music we liked. That’s what we are doing now.
Did you feel any pressure to follow it up?
No, not really. Of course, I want this new CD to be good. I want people to like it. If a band says they don’t care what people think, they are fucking liars. But pressure-wise, I think we are fine and don’t have much. We live in carefree Santa Cruz. Everyone is so relaxed here its kinda insane.
Can you discuss one or two tracks on the new album?
Well, one song that is pretty much finished doesn’t have a name yet. But it’s pretty fun to listen to. Again, we got a little more aggressive with our guitar playing this time around, yet kept the choruses insanely catchy. The song is my love letter to a girl I once knew, talking to her directly, saying, “Look, we were madly in love, we are to this day intertwined forever, but God damn it, the two of us together was so pathetic.” It’s not trying to be mean, it’s just saying that after thinking long and hard about the relationship, it really was not healthy and it’s best we just stay close friends. But nothing more.
Which of your own songs is your favorite out of all of the projects past and present that you’ve been a part of?
There is a special place in my heart for the song “This is Home” by I Am Ghost. Sometimes that song comes on when I’m working out or drawing, and I always find myself singing along to it. Plus, the guitar solo at the end of the song is so god damn bad ass. It is just an all around amazing fucking song.
Speaking of past projects, The Silence, Fallout, Monsta Zero and I Am Ghost, do you ever see any of these acts returning to the stage? Would you consider doing a showcase with these acts and Requiem for the Dead, even if it were for one night?
To be honest, probably not. Those were amazing times of my life. All I have our great memories of those bands, especially the earlier ones like Fallout and The Silence. We are just so god damn young, and there was just something about being young and in a band and just playing ’cause you like music. There was no labels, no management, just five dudes in a garage playing their hearts out. I don’t see us ever reuniting, even for one night, ’cause it won’t be the same. It can’t be. Time has passed, and those are just memories now.
Are you on good terms with the former members of these acts, or has everyone gone their own way?
I am friends with all my past bands except for the last band I was in with I Am Ghost. What a fucking storm of great memories mixed in with utter misery. It’s insane. I think about the times I had with that band, and it’s like a 50/50 “Oh, that was a fun time” to “Oh man, I hated that time…” It had NOTHING against the former members as people, to be honest. They are all swell dudes. I just really, REALLY, hated touring. Never liked it. I was also insane, to a degree, and handled things badly on my end. But, mix it with a major label, money, the firing of three managers, and endless array of booking agents that fucked up most of our tours… I just one day had it. I quit the band out of the blue and pissed off everyone that was a part of the band, and friends of the band. Everyone took sides, and being the fact that I was the odd man out, the guy who left everyone, they went one way, and I went the other. But I had to do it. I just had to let go.
Southern Californian Natalie Perez has a fiery passion for music, writing and photography. Dying to know more? Connect with her via her own reality she calls Natalie’s World.