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The Evolution of Beauty In Chaos: A Candid Chat with Michael Ciravolo
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Michael Ciravolo, the mastermind of music collective Beauty In Chaos, is well-known in the music industry as the president of Schecter Guitar Research, Ciravolo (Human Drama, Gene Loves Jezebel), originated his project as a solo project – but over the years since its inception, much more has bloomed than he originally envisioned. In 2021, the guitar maestro released Storm Before the Calm, a collection of gothic-rock and post-punk infused tracks. Previously, in 2018, Beauty in Chaos released their acclaimed debut album ‘Finding Beauty in Chaos’, followed by the ‘Beauty Re-Envisioned’ album (2019). Last year, he released Behind The Veil, and in September 2022 he released the first anthology of the best Beauty In Chaos songs, called There Is Always A Light... 2018-2022.
A rotating cast of characters and musicians have joined him on the journey, including Wayne Hussey (The Sisters of Mercy; The Mission), Curse Mackey (Pigface), Whitney Tai, Simon Gallup, Al Jourgensen, Michael Aston, Kevin Haskins, Mark Gemini Thwaite, and more.
Post-Punk.com caught up with Michael Ciravolo to have a chat about the evolution of the collective, his searing cover of Concrete Blonde’s classic Bloodletting (The Vampire Song), his thoughts on album streaming services, and what’s next for Beauty In Chaos.
Beauty In Chaos began some years ago – when exactly did that happen? How would you describe the evolution of Beauty In Chaos from now until then and who has been involved?
If my memory serves me correctly, it was in late 2017 while I was recording guitars with Michael Rozon for Human Drama’s ‘Broken Songs For Broken People that he turned to me and uttered those infamous words .. “Why don’t you just do your own record?!” I really hope he doesn’t regret that now!!! We released our first album, ‘Finding Beauty In Chaos’ in September 2018. Something that, for a fleeting moment, was going to be my ‘solo’ album bloomed into what I feel, is a beautiful revolving evolving entity. I feel blessed with everyone that has joined our BIC Family … simply for the love of making music. We have some ‘famous’ members of the family and some that are bound to be famous. All working together with absolutely no egos. It is still surreal me to have written songs with and/or having our music re-envisioned by artists that make up a big part of my record collection! The Cure, The Mission, The Psychedelic Furs, Ministry, and Cheap Trick to name a few. Hell, two producers that have produced many of my favorite records … Tim Palmer and John Fryer have been part of BIC.
I basically started playing guitar after seeing T. Rex on a little TV at my parents’ house … and fast forward 40+ years and we are doing a T. Rex song with Marc Bolan’s son Rolan! So many great moments in the past 4+ years… but the best is Michael and I having a blast making this music. Three studio albums and three remix albums in 4 years … albums that we are proud of is something I never imagined could happen.
Your latest single is ‘Bloodletting’, which is a Concrete Blonde song. What inspired you to cover this particular track and how did the idea behind the accompanying video emerge?
I love their ‘Bloodletting’ album, and I think Johnette is a fantastic and underrated songwriter. With New Orleans being my hometown, this song has always held a place in my heart, as does my city. I was down there in mid-2022 as my BIC co-conspirator Michael Rozon, was playing pedal steel with Jerry Cantrell. Since I was the NO native, I was the designated tour guide and took some of the band through the French Quarter as they wanted to see the St. Louis Cathedral and the infamous Dungeon bar. We walked through some of the dark side streets to get there, and I forgot just how creepy the Quarter is at night! As we got closer to Bourbon Street, I heard a saxophone wailing from one of the many clubs… and the “Bloodletting” chorus popped in my head. “I got the ways and means to New Orleans …”. I knew I wanted to release something new before the end of the year and I felt this song would be a perfect Halloween release. Having Mars Williams from The Psychedelic Furs play sax really gave the track the spooky New Orleans voodoo vibe I wanted.! I also had been wanting to sing a BIC track, but I have been blessed with so many great singers, it just never seemed to be the right time. I decided to give this song a go as my debut. As for the video, without BIC being a ‘live’ band, the videos are always the face of what is Beauty In Chaos. I always try to make each video as different from our previous as possible. We decided to do sort of a campy ‘B-horror’ movie idea … sort of ‘Lost Boys’ meets ‘Eyes Wide Shut’. We just attempted to create a seedy New Orleans underground bar… filled with Vampires! All in good fun and certainly the polar opposite of our previous video … the beautifully cinematic “Afterlife!’
Your most recent album ‘Behind The Veil’ differs somewhat from your previous records. Can you tell us about this release?
Personally, I think “Behind The Veil” is our most cohesive album to date. I certainly stands out as it features only female singers. Three BIC Alumni (Tish Ciravolo, Cinthya Hussey and Betsy Martin) along with three new additions to our BIC Family… Whitney Tai, Pinky Turzo, along with Kirlian Camera’s Elena Alice Fossi. The idea of doing this album actually started with the final track on our previous album “The Storm Before The Calm”. I felt that “Stranger”, which features Holy Wars’ Kat Leon, was a beautiful song but certainly the outlier on that record. I almost decided to not include it, but in the end opted to close out the album with it … looking at it as the lead in to what came next. What came next turned out to be ‘Behind The Veil’. I am really happy with the album, the four accompanying videos, the wonderful remix/re-envisions, and the behind-the-scenes documentary film ‘UNVEILED’.
I understand you’ve worked with Grammy nominated producer Michael Rozon for all or most of your releases to date. Can you tell us about this relationship? Regarding the Grammys, what was he nominated for?
Michael Rozon is more than just the producer; he is the other part of the BIC equation. His production skills are world-class, but he is also a very accomplished and knowledgeable musician. He has the patience of a Saint and pushes and inspires me to be better, He has a ‘gift’ of getting out of me what I hear! We met in the early ‘90s as a band I was in at the time was disintegrating due to substance abuse. My then girlfriend and now wife, Tish, invited him to a show. We had several labels there to see the band, and the singer just ruined the set. I ended the show by smashing my guitar on Club Lingerie’s brick wall. Michael came up to me outside the venue and said ‘you’re my new guitar player’. We have been very dear friends ever since. While we were recording Al Jourgensen’s vocal on our version of T. Rex’s “20th Century Boy”, Michael and Al hit it off great and he has been working with Ministry ever since. Their album ‘AmeriKKKant’, which Michael engineered and co-produced was nominated for a Grammy.
I understand that you were originally hesitant to put your music on Spotify in preference of vinyl. What do digital and physical media mean to you in relation to our own music and the music by other relatively new artists you appreciate?
It is somewhat of an ‘age’ thing to me I guess. I love the era of going into a record store and having to decide on which album you could buy as you only had $5 in your pocket. To me, it made the record and the music within more ‘valuable’ as a listener. The linear notes then were usually the only information you could find on a band. Today it is a far different world. My original ‘hesitance’ was that most, but not all, listeners would stream an album as opposed to buying it. The little indie label BIC is on, 33.3 Music Collective, paid to print a beautiful gatefold double colored vinyl of our debut release, ‘Finding Beauty In Chaos’. I felt we owed it to them to help them sell through the vinyls as opposed to allowing it to be immediately streamed. I get the ‘convenience’ of Spotify, but not even considering the laughable money side of it … I think the listener misses the experience that the artist intended for them. I know I spend a lot of time toiling over the track running order … what song comes next and why. This is totally lost as soon as the listener pushes ‘shuffle’. I think a lot of the deep tracks also get missed.
I understand that Beauty In Chaos continues to develop, but would you say there is a common thread that runs through your music? Has there been a common set of artists that continue to be involved in this project?
The common thread throughout all of our three studio albums has been Michael Rozon and I. We write all of the music, but they actually do not become ‘songs’ until each amazing singer adds their lyrics and melody to the soundscape we send them. It is really one of the great joys of curating BIC…. getting to hear how a piece of music inspires and moves a singer to create! We had singers do multiple songs, and appear on several of the albums, but there is not a ‘set’ line up. I try to hear the song as it evolves and try to match it to a singer I think will like it. It is really that simple. I certainly want to work with artists again that have already been part of our BIC Family … Ashton Nyte, Wayne Hussy and Evi Vine to name a few, but also love to continue to expand our BIC Family as we move forward!
I see you’ve got a team behind you in terms of a label and also publicity, bringing your music to the masses. What has this been like for you and how have folks been receiving your music since you’ve started putting out music as Beauty In Chaos?
33.3 Music Collective is a small independent label in Southern California. Besides being great people, they love music in physical formats. That is what attracted me to them. When a few ‘bigger’ labels saw some of the artists names that were part of our debut release they got interested…. but when the topic came up of pressing vinyl, it usually went ‘we’ll look at that option when you sell 10,000 digital and CD copies’. I knew without being a touring band, that was highly unlikely. The non-touring component of BIC also quelled several labels interest. I would love to eventually put BIC on stage, but I will not do it with one singer performing all of the songs.
Shameless Promotion PR has been with us also from the beginning. They are artists that make music themselves, so I think they understand my perspective … I think the response to what Beauty In Chaos does and has far exceeded my expectations, but at the end of the day … if I, and the artists involved are proud of what we create, we’ve succeeded.
Visuals seem to be a strong identifier in relation to your music. How does the audio-visual element factor into Beauty In Chaos as an art project? Do you tend to work with a specific time to bring these ideas to fruition?
Without being a ‘live’ band per say, our videos are really the revolving and evolving face of Beauty In Chaos. To date, excluding the two documentaries, we have released nineteen (19) videos. I really enjoy the process of creating these, seeing my concept .. even if an extremely rough one … come to light. I have had the pleasure to work with two different small film companies … Industrialism Films and GABB. Both have a style of working and editing, and I usually know right away who to approach about the concept. I would do a video for each song if it was possible!
What will the next year or so bring for Beauty In Chaos? Can we expect any new releases or videos perhaps?
2022 was a crazy busy year for BIC! We released ‘Behind The Veil’, along with its remix counterpart “Further Behind The Veil’, a limited edition ‘anthology’ CD ‘There Is Always A Light …. 2018-2022’, the ‘Bloodletting’ single, five videos and the UNVEILED documentary! Tish and I also rejoined Gene Loves Jezebel and played a few shows supporting The Mission in Mexico. While I don’t think 2023 will be nearly this busy, BIC rarely rests! Michael Rozon is worked again with Al Jourgensen on a new Ministry album, and will also be doing some touring with Jerry Cantrell, so our studio time together is a bit limited. We ended 2022 working on two new songs, one of which is in the mix stage. It is our goal to have this one mix and mastered before Michael leaves for tour at the end of February. The song is called “Kiss Me (Goodbye)” … but I won’t give away the featured artist just yet. And, of course, we are planning an accompanying video with a late March release.
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