Goth imagery and clothing styles have certainly become more mainstream over the last decade, through fashion and horror film imagery and with NCIS character Abby Sciuto and moody Emo bands adopting or co-opting the look. (At least Abby actually is Goth and listens to groups like Collide.) And let’s not forget Hot Topic’s original focus on “mall Goth” or the references to its denizens on South Park and in recent TV commercials for KIA, Heineken and Hallmark. Yet despite the visual presence of Goth in mainstream pop culture, the music never seems to rise to that same level — certainly not to the Sisters Of Mercy or Siouxsie and the Banshees level of the mid-Eighties to early Nineties — nor do stereotypes of the subculture seem to abate or become dispelled. Granted many in the Goth world would prefer that their lifestyle not be mass marketed and diluted — I’m a metalhead and closet Goth, so I can relate to that — but some normals could learn a bit about what it means to be Goth. It’s not that spooky, people. At least not to me.
This is where DJ Cruel Brittania and World Goth Day come in. This Saturday, May 22nd, for the second year in a row, he’s encouraging followers of the dark side to get their Goth on and display their dark pride. In a way, it seems like it could be a good opportunity for non-Goths to learn more about this intriguing underground. At the very least, it’s about showing off who you really are and being happy about it. What’s so wrong with loving dark things?
As far as how and why World Goth Day came together, I’ll let DJ Cruel Britannia speak for himself.
What was the inspiration for World Goth Day? Who started it?
I hold my hands up to that one; it was me. Guilty as charged. Last year, BBC 6 Music aired a “Subculture Weekend” between the 22nd and 24th of May 2009, which played music from the Goth, punk and, I think, Britpop scenes a day at a time. Importantly, ‘Goth Day’ was on the 22nd May. A week or so prior to this, someone from the BBC posted a thread on the Whitby Gothic Weekend forum asking for anyone to get in touch with them if they took the Gothic lifestyle into their work life, for example wearing black in the office, stuff like that. At the time I was probably the only one insane enough to think “Goth Day” should be a public holiday for Goths, not a radio special!
One restless night I posted a Myspace blog about it. I asked everyone who read it to do something special on May 22nd for Goth Day, like calling local radio stations to play a track by any Goth band, get out the Goth threads & wear them to work if they don’t normally, print out a “Gothic Smiley” poster I created in Photoshop and post it up anywhere they can, generally anything which would inject a little “spooky” into their day and generally celebrate a longstanding but very underground subculture. Some people thought I was nuts, but lots of other people in the UK backed me and really took it to heart. It was great. This year fellow DJ Martin Oldgoth and I are taking it worldwide. Thankfully Martin is equally as insane as myself, so he is the perfect person to help me push the cause!
What events are planned? How much of a viral campaign is there for it?
I don’t have much of an understanding of viral campaigning. All I knew at the time was to plug World Goth Day through MySpace, Twitter and the official website. Thankfully a few people gave their time to running a dedicated World Goth Day page in social networking sites like Facebook and VampireFreaks. Word of mouth is playing a big part in this as well; you only have to Google “World Goth Day” to see how much it comes up on various forums and blogs. The reaction has been nothing short of huge. So far there have been World Goth Day events announced in the UK, various parts of Europe, Australia and the U.S. The promoters are publicizing their events through the WGD forum so people can see what’s on in or near where they live. The forum is divided up into various chunks of the planet so it’s easy enough to find out what’s going on or to plug your own event. It made perfect sense to provide a central information hub for everyone seeing as we’d asked everyone to join in.
What do you think are the biggest stereotypes of Goth, and what do you hope that World Goth Day will do to change people’s perceptions of the culture and the music?
The funny thing is that we have a tendency to live up to our own stereotypes, don’t we? Personally, I don’t think there’s much spiritual difference between a full-on heavy booted, even heavier pierced, black-clad 24/7 worshipper of the dark alternative, and the regular looking mum or dad who still steal a moment in the evening to dig out the battered old Siouxsie vinyl when the kids are in bed. The clothes don’t necessarily maketh the man — but they can maketh him look damn cool. World Goth Day won’t do much to alter people’s perceptions of Goth, it’s not really directed in that area. However we do support campaigns like the Sophie Lancaster Foundation which exist to educate people against prejudice and intolerance toward people of alternative lifestyles. The worldwide media has historically done little to educate people about the Goth scene. There’s still a concerning difference between people who joke about Goths worshipping Satan and sleeping in coffins and the ones who actually believe it because their local news channel said so. The point of World Goth Day is quite simple; it’s a day to celebrate the Goth within, show everyone who you are and support your local Goth event or arrange a meetup with other Goths in your community. But most of all, be proud of being a Goth.
The Goth image always seems to get bigger, but the music never really does. Why do you think that is? And do you think many people confuse Emo with Goth?
The spirit of the music itself will always stay an underground entity despite various attempts at interbreeding with metal and techno. Personally, I think the metal genre has benefited more from that fusion than the other way round. Goth went through what I’d call a “wobbly” phase in the Nineties when bands either wanted to embrace techno or become Sisters Of Mercy tribute acts. It wasn’t a pleasant sight or sound, and you’d have to look hard to find someone you liked. Certainly the Internet wasn’t as prevalent then as it is now, so unless you were on postal mailing lists or at least on good customer terms with several underground record shops, you’d easily miss the next big thing for about ten years. There’s definitely enough distance, at least musically, between the Emo scene and the Goth scene to not get the two confused. I guess that, at best, it’s just nice to see a young scene paying as much attention to their makeup and clothes as some of us used to back in the Eighties!
With the Nineties revival around the corner, we seem primed for a possible Goth return. Do you think that might happen, and do you hope that someday the music might hit the mainstream level like it did with the Sisters back in the day?
As I mentioned before, I personally didn’t think there wasn’t an awful lot in the Nineties to rave about — pardon the pun — on the whole. Very few bands actually had the integrity to be what in my humble opinion could be termed as “proper Goth acts”. Recently, the emergence of a new wave of Trad-Goth bands such as Grooving In Green, Adoration, Rhombus and Pretentious, Moi? has provided something to get excited about in the scene again. Somehow, bands like these have managed to encapsulate the best elements of the Eighties and Nineties Goth sound and give it an updated feel. Furthermore, as a DJ I’m relieved to have something new that’s worthwhile to play to people. As for the future of Goth in the mainstream, we’re not there yet but we’re getting very close. And if for any reason Goth music suddenly becomes the focus of the music press, it will be because of the success of bands like these. At the end of the day, Goth may never be accepted as a mainstream genre, but then that’s exactly how we’d prefer it to be!