Senex IV Q&A
With an excellent new album, 'Gods And Taboos', Haverhill band Senex IV have followed on from last year's 'Dolls House' album with a release of more great goth, post-punk and dark rock tuneage. Frontman Dave Middle kindly answered some questions for BBMATB on the band, album, how Covid has impacted the band, and how life differs in a band now from life in a band in the 80s.
Senex IV are Dave Middle (Vocals), Rob Shaul (Guitarist), Mark Tingey (Bass) and Anthony Hitchcock (Drums)
'Gods And Taboos' is available on all the major digital sites and as a physical CD from the bands Bandcamp site - www.senexiv.bandcamp.com. Vinyl editions of the album should be available in May. Previous album 'Dolls House' is also available in those formats and from those sites and there are also a number of singles you can pick up digitally.
Hi Guys, thank you for taking some time to answer a few questions. First off, for those readers who might not be familiar with Senex IV, could you give a short history of the band?
Late 2019, Rob Shaul and I were playing guitar and drums in 13th Chime. The band had been on a number of long breaks and we thought we would keep busy with a new side project. Between us, we could play all instruments and the aim was to write songs and just see how it goes. I was really keen to return to vocals. I used to sing in bands in the 80’s and it was always my first love. If the project was working, we would aim to record and release the songs. I was also playing drums with Mark Tingey (bass) for the Moody Swing Things. Mark was also keen to join the project and so the three of us spent time together writing the album called 'Dolls House'. Initially we called ourselves the SENEX III, but as the songs developed it was clear that musically and creatively it just worked. It was fun too. We knew the project could now become a live band, so we changed the name to SENEX IV in anticipation of finding a fourth member to play drums. On 'Dolls House', I was both the vocalist and the drummer. Just as 'Dolls House' was released, a friend recommended trying out Antony Hitchcock. He lived in Haverhill, but neither Rob, Mark or I knew him. After one rehearsal, we knew Tony was right for us. He was talented, a nice guy and really wanted to spend time making and playing music. That was it. We now had full line up for the band that wrote and recorded the new album called 'Gods & Taboos'.
And would people remember you all from previous bands in the 80s and 90s? I gather you all have a long lineage in bands.
We have all been around for a while. Lots of bands over many years. In our youth, Rob, Mark and I were into the punk scene. We were further inspired by the post punk scene and darker musical vibes that followed. Tony had played in a number of bands where he also had been influenced on all forms of rock n roll. In the late 70’s. Rob was the vocalist and guitarist in Haverhill’s band the Wynd-ups. One of the first punk bands in the Cambridge/Suffolk area. He spent time doing live PA work for a number of bands including Tony McPhee and the Groundhogs and post-punk band 13th Chime. Around 1984, Rob spent some time playing keyboards with 13th Chime. When Mick Hand, the singer of 13th Chime, went travelling, both I (vocals) and Rob (keyboards) spent a few months writing new songs with what was then the dying embers of 13th Chime. Mark also spent many years working in the famous London Denmark Street in the music shops. In the mid 80’s, Mark spent time playing bass with Vice Squad’s Becky Bondage and the Bombshells. Mark also spent time doing live PA sounds for bands. His ability on bass often had him playing bass in a number of punk related bands and the Cambridge Ska band called Big 10. In 2018, Mark teamed with up with Gary O’Connor (13th Chime/Long Bone Trio/Black Buttercups) on vocals/guitar and myself (drums) to form Moody Swing Things. Moody Swing Things released one album called “ The TV Doesn’t Work Anymore” Tony has played drums for many years. Tony is a little younger then the rest of us. So his influences were not just formed by the punk scene. Tony’s variety of musical influences is a good backdrop for SENEX IV. Tony played in garage and indie bands and like many took time out due to life’s other commitments. In the early to mid 80’s, I was the vocalist in Final Scream and Vanishing Point. Both post punk bands and part of the wider Goth scene as it is known today. Retrospective vinyl/CD’s have been released by labels based in Russia and Poland. I stopped singing shortly after this period and focused on playing drums. Teaming up with old friends and 13th Chime/Final Scream/Vanishing Point members to form bands such as Long Bone Trio and Black Buttercups. Band bands released just one album. “Chainey Pieces” and “You’re So Bony, But You’re My One and Only”. In 2015 to 2020, Rob and I joined Mick Hand and Jon Rickard from Final Scream for the reformed 13th Chime. The band played gigs all over the world and released the 'Noir' album, Part Time Punk session recorded in LA and a couple of digital singles in that period.
Who would you say were the main influences on Senex IV?
Good question. We all love rock’ roll and grow up around the punk scene. So the sound is based on drums, bass rhythms and robust guitar sounds. The influences are many. We love music with a dark sound and edginess, but without being caught up on parodies or clichés.
You have a new album - 'Gods And Taboos' - which was released earlier this month. Do you feel the album is a progression from last year's 'Dolls House' album, and how do you think the new album differs from its predecessor?
We really love both albums. We are proud of them both. 'Dolls House' started as a project and the songs were written without the traditional band format. It is dark and quirky, mixed in with simple drums, groovy bass lines and hard guitar sounds. However, 'Gods & Taboos' is definitely part of our progression. Tony made a difference on drums. It allowed us to rehearse as a band and create these songs. These new tracks are more mature. The band were comfortable writing a diverse set of songs, but they all sound like SENEX IV. We added some piano to help expand the sound of a couple of the songs. For 'Gods & Taboos' we partnered with our friends at Poland’s Batcave Productions label. We are delighted with their support, as Tomasz and the team are so pro-active in the dark music scene. They release new music, put on shows, run an amazing annual festival called the Return to the Batcave Festival that we hope to play in October later this year. Marcin Jach, a local artist based in Haverhill offered to create a unique painting for us to support of the album cover. It really worked and this painting is the centre piece on the front of the album. So in many ways, this album has been supported by a real community.
Where did you record the album? Was it somewhere you'd recorded before as a band or individually?
Both the 'Dolls House' and 'Gods & Taboos' albums were recorded with John Metcalfe at Crooks Studio, Boyton End, Suffolk. We love the place. We work really well with John and he understands the sounds we are looking for. The Moody Swing Things album was also recorded at Crooks. As was a set of 13th Chime songs which included the 'Substance' and 'Baby Jane' singles that were released.
Who came up with the album title of 'Gods And Taboos? And is there any significance to the title of the album?
The words “Gods and Taboos” are part of the lyrics on the track 'Soul Eater' that opens the album. The Soul Eater is based on a book I read about an African tribe that lives in fear of a “god” that takes the soul from the dying. Sometimes, the tribe would make sacrifices of others, with a hope that this would then satisfy the “soul eater” needs and save the sick person. As always, the band swapped ideas on the album title, but we were all quickly taken in by the “Gods and Taboos”.
And do you have any favourite tracks on the album and why?
I think we like them all! Some may not make the live gig set each time. I know we all like 'Soul Eater', 'Brother Grim', 'The Great Idea' and 'Dancing Witches'. I always enjoy singing 'Drop Dead'. I like its simple structure and it becomes an ear worm of a song.
The lyrical content in your songs are very often quite dark and 'gothic' in nature - where does the inspiration for the lyrics come from?
I am really enjoying writing lyrics. First and foremost, the songs must have vocal hooks that suits the band music and style. I guess I have always written dark lyrics as they just seem to naturally suit me and my thought process. The band has a dark sound, so the lyrics need to sit on top of that to help finish them off. In recent years, I have enjoyed reading real books again. They can become a catalyst for a vocal idea.
And in terms of songwriting for the band, who is responsible for the music? And as vocalist, is Dave responsible for all the lyrics?
All songs are written by the band. All the parts have to work to complete a song. Each member owns their part, but we are comfortable to challenge each other to change/improves things whenever necessary. Not with friction, but with a smile and respect. The band works really well together. We have written and released two albums in 18 months. Creativity is natural. Sometimes, I may have a lyric/vocal idea that acts as a catalyst for a song. Sometimes Mark or Rob have a bass/guitar idea that Tony picks up on a rhythm that will work well with Mark. We do not have a formula way of writing songs. I write the lyrics. I guess that is part of my role in the band. I prefer it this way as lyrics are very personal and I always feel more comfortable if I have a though process behind they are about. Same with the guys and their instruments.
Obviously you haven't been able to play live since Covid struck, but has it caused any other specific challenges for the band? Is the album different in any way to how it might have been if the pandemic hadn't struck?
Covid has really slowed the band down. All gigs cancelled and for months we have not been able to rehearse or get together. We cannot make videos. artwork, pictures etc. It is what it is and we all are learning to adapt. We did film a 5 song live at our rehearsal studio (Blue Shed, Soham) to no crowd. Which was strange, but actually fun. I do not think Covid challenges played a part in making 'Gods & Taboos'. If anything, between the first and second lockdown, it ensured we were focused on our song writing as we knew each practice may be the last one for a period of time.
You have a number of live gigs lined up for later this year, but I gather you're looking for some more to play. How can promoters / bands get in touch with you if they'd like you to play?
We are so keen to play live. Anywhere, home or abroad. We have some gigs scheduled from September 2021. We would love some more. So if interested, please do contact the band via the facebook or bandcamp pages :-
Do you feel the local East Anglian music scene is a good scene at the moment? Are there any bands from the region that you'd recommend to readers?
In the 80’s the local Cambridge and Suffolk scene was vibrant. I am not sure I am close enough to it these days to really comment. I like the garage rock of Haverhill’s Umbrella Assassins. I enjoy the manicness of Norwich’s Beast with a Gun (I hope they are still going), the Peterborough band The Hearse have reformed and their album was a real throwback 80’s piece.
And how does the music scene compare to when you started out in the 80s / 90s? Are there any pros to being in a band these days compared to 'days of yore' or do you feel it has been all 'downhill' in the last twenty years!?
Very different. In the 80’s, their was no Internet or Social Media. It was all word of mouth and music vibes were spread by John Peel, music press and of course the DIY fanzines. Everyone bought records, tapes or later CD’s. Today, live music has changed. Much of it driven by structured shows and performances of a small number of big bands. Even more popular music is created and performed by technology. I am not saying it is better or worse. We want people (young or old) still driven to attend a diminishing set of small venues and watch bands playing underground music. I suspect the after effects of Covid will not help that cause. Also, although streaming music sites allow music to spread around the world, it means music is becoming free to all. Only THE keen underground music supporters continue to buy products to support the bands they like. I love the fact that social media brings people together from all other the world. Today, it makes so many things possible. Used in a positive way it supports new ways of creativity such as online shows.
And finally, what plans for Senex IV going forward in 2021 and beyond?
Hopefully gigs and more gigs. We have two albums worth of material we have not played. Also, we write more songs towards another release before year end. Maybe not an album, but an EP of some style. Hopefully we can make some more videos. Both a live set before September and a video or two to support album tracks from 'Gods & Taboos'. Mark has a real artistic talent in designing and creating videos.