Videovamp: You vs. Me vs. Them

Written by Tamara Styer

With his CD Release coming up this Saturday, July 16, at the Outland Ballroom, Clancy Leakey of Videovamp is unleashing a completely unique sound into the Springfield music scene. The machine-rock sound is awash in metal guitars and an electronic beat indebted to industrial band KMFDM, Smashing Pumpkins, the Pixies and an array of rock and electronic music.  We meet at Grad School, an eclectic establishment located downtown that serves up specialty sandwiches and other tasty morsels in the setting of a boxcar. Leakey with his burger, me with my falafel, we discuss the progression of music over the last five decades, sci-fi films, gas station food and the release of You vs. Me vs. Them.

     When he was a kid, Clancy Leakey listened to everything from Ace of Base to The Cure, Depeche Mode, New Order and Joy Division.
     “I liked all that kind of stuff,” he says, “like true blue dance music.  Nineties music, noise music, the Pixies… that music meant a lot more to me then. It’s not that I don’t like a lot of modern music. I do like quite a few new bands and modern bands. I like a lot of indie music.But the thing is, it’s just so split. You have new club music, and the new electronic which is just awful, redundant and boring to me seeing that I came from a background of electronic music. I’ve been listening to electronic music for 20 years. And so a lot of the new electronic music just bores the living crap out of me.
     “Everything from 80s to early 90s to mid 90s to late 90s, there’s so much great dance music, but a lot of the new dance music I just can’t really connect to. Maybe it’s just that time. Maybe in five years there’ll be better dance music, you know.”
     Leakey comes from a background infused with music spread across a wide range of genres.
     “When I was 13 or 14 years old and I was obsessed with music – you know, when you were just lusting for music - I listened to The Smashing Pumpkins and The Cure and Faith No More, and Pixies, and then going into the early industrial stuff, KMFDM, Ministry, and even like Helmut and Silverchair. I loved how hypnotic their guitar riffs were.”
     “Smashing Pumpkins were my first favorite band,” he says. “They were the first band that just blew me out of the water. When I was a kid, there was no other thing other than that band and other bands like that. A lot of that music came from 70s garage and Sabbath and things like that, and then it had to swim through the pop of the 80s, and so when it came out the other side on the 90s, it had that aggression and that groove, but also still had a catchiness. And even if the lyrics were unapologetic and not mainstream, some of the hooks would be. Some of the biggest hits from the 90s were really disturbing songs, you know. But the melodies had that perfect combination of heavy and catch. Even the psychedelic and experimental stuff seemed to have a more refinement to it.”
     That was the age when Leakey started making music and wanted to know everything about music. He was in several bands that were trying to cover modern trends.
     “I just got so tired of it. When I found out that I was here and I had the ability to make music, and that type of music that I loved wasn’t here anymore, I got angry. So I wanted to make it. When I started the Videovamp stuff, I was just making demos on my own so I wouldn’t lose my mind. It was therapy for my own personal problems and it was therapy for my ears. I could make new sounds in the fashion that I was used to; not trying to remake songs from that time, but trying to carry on from what I think it should have turned into.”
     Leakey hopes to see the cycle in music return like it always does, since we are sitting on the new cusp of another decade.
     “I really hope to see a huge revolution in music, whether it’s what I want it to be or not. Music for the past 6 or 7 years has been so stagnant for me, and it’s bothered me as a music lover, and especially as a lover of pop music, a lover of modern music. I mean I love pop music, funk music, soul music, blues music, country music, from the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. So why did for like 6, 7, 8 years did I completely lose interest in music? I hate to say it, but it seems like a disco blackout, you know, where no one really remembers the late 70s. There’s the 70s rock from like ’75, and then there was 80s music. Like 10 songs out of four years of disco music have even made it into our culture.”
     Leakey was brought up around music his entire life. Neither one of his parents was musically inclined, but for the first half of his life, rock and roll was all he ever heard about. He learned to listen to different styles of music based on whatever emotion he felt at the moment.
     “For years I chased whatever songs were going on, whatever music was going on, whatever was popular, but when I finally got tired of it, everything that I listened to from when I was a child until like 16 was the most prudent in what I write. There’s no way I’m not going to like that. I’ve listened to that music my entire life. And I founded my entire life on this type of music.”

     Leakey is also heavily influence by film.
     “It’s one of my biggest drives. I am even more influenced by film to make music than most music lately. The things that make my music more modern or more different sounding comes a lot from my love of film and film scores, film atmospheres. I like the things that they do in film to give urgency. I like to use sound effects and things that they use in film to trigger things. It can be used in music just the exact same way. So I’ve had people say that our music sounded like an action sequence in a movie, and I’m totally fine with that, because some of that is exactly what I want it to be.
     “One thing that my father and I always shared was film. At 7 years old I was obsessed with Robocop. Those movies like Total Recall, all Schwarzenegger movies, but specifically the sci-fi movies. Blade Runner is my favorite movie of all time. Aliens, and even as I got a little older, The Fifth Element are some of my favorite films. Those things as I was growing up started being a comfort food for me. I have a massive collection of movies and I have like 50 or 60 VHS that are from my childhood collection that I had with my dad. I took some samples for the record off of videotapes that me and my dad watched when I was like 11 or 12 years old.
     “In the introduction to the album, there’s a sample from a movie called Strange Days, and that videotape has been in our family since the movie came out, so the sample is actually from the original tape.
     “When I started doing things the way I wanted to, when I decided that making music was about doing what you wanted to do, I just wanted to make music about movies, and I wanted to make music that showed a different side of theatrics. Not your standard Queen, Kiss, Marilyn Manson type of theatrics, or even Lady Gaga more lately. It’s about the energy, it’s about the mood, and it’s about letting people know where it came from and how it affected me personally. I figure if I can get that out as much as possible, then it will make a lot more sense to people. So when we do shows and we have the black paint and the corn starch and stuff it’s because we want to make a point that night. It was about that small connection of bringing the art and the theater to the stage. It was that small visual that let you know that something dirty, something deprived was going to be in front of you.

     “It was that small visual that let you know that something dirty, something deprived was going to be in front of you.”

     “You don’t watch a movie that has scaly, creepy feelings about it that doesn’t have those visuals, those sound effects, those things that let you know. So it’s not for anyone else’s entertainment except mine. We’ve done shows where I’ve had a television and a VCR pointed towards me with old tapes that I would put in between shows so I could just get a little taste of home while I was on stage, just so I could kind of feel comfortable. When I’m working on music I always have more than one classic movie that I remember as a child going on to just give me that surrounding. So anything that we can do onstage to help give me that… I’ve brought St. Jude’s candles onstage before. I have an old tapestry of camels and camel riders that my mother and I used to play a game with, and I bring that with me every show. It’s on a keyboard stand, it’s on an amp, it’s wherever, because I feel so alien.  
     “Nothing else that I do in life is like what I do onstage. It’s every bit your personality, but there’s no other arena for it. So when I do it I want to be more comfortable than anything else. So that’s why film and all those old movies and stuff have a lot to do with it, because it’s something that’s helped me to feel comfortable while playing music.”

     According to Leakey, there was no plan for a CD in the beginning. He started playing a handful of songs live, deciding that once a month he needed to take the stage and express himself for the sake of his own mental stability.
     “But it wasn’t like a hobby either. It was scheduled outbursts. Just the fact that we were doing it, and we were getting a reaction… I was so surprised that we were getting any reaction. I figured people would just be scratching their heads, writing us off as some rip-off of some other popular band. And when it started getting deeper, I started collecting the songs and calling this record You vs. Me vs. Them. But there wasn’t really a record yet. There was a collection of songs that we played. I kept telling people there was a record when there wasn’t really a record, and then it caught up to me.”
     About four months ago, Leakey was getting closer to having that record, recording some new songs, and he wanted to take the songs Videovamp had been playing live, wrap them up, and get the album out on his own accord. Then about two months later, at a Q102 Homegrown show Videovamp played with Assembly Line Gods, he blurted out on stage that they would be releasing their record in two months. After the show, Q102 approached him about sponsoring his CD Release.
     “To the fact that we were doing something, I had been blinded. We had played the last two New Years at the Ballroom, and they were a blast. Everyone at the Ballroom has always liked us. We’ve always gotten shows there, but I thought they just liked us, you know, like we were the weird best friend that no one else had over, but they were the club that liked to have them over. You know like, ‘Hey guys, you don’t know Charles, I know he’s kinda strange, but he comes over and kicks it all the time.’ I thought we were just that band for them that they just liked to hang out with. So we had gotten some pretty big shows, but it wasn’t anything that I was expecting. And although we were building some type of crowd or response, I wasn’t paying attention to it whatsoever, so when they came to us, and when we noticed at the past few shows that we’d played in the company of other good bands that was a decent turnout, it was the incentive for me to take it seriously. So I’ve force-fed this album to myself in order for me to make a real go at it.”

     A handful of the songs that will be included on the album have been written for four years, with other songs being written along the way, and a couple of new additions written about a year ago. The newest song, Leakey wrote about a month ago.
     “I revamped all of the songs, but if it worked when I first recorded it, then it’s still there. There’s something about some of those tracks that I could not recapture what had been done. That’s the one good thing about being able to do things yourself, and to record things and do things the way I do, is that usually fifty percent of the song is recorded and mapped out when I write it. From the keyboard parts to the whispers in the background to the sample of a pig getting beat, whatever it is, it’s usually in the first creation of that song. In the span that it’s taken me to get 10 songs to people to purchase, there are easily over 200-300 seeds which are a minute and a half of an almost produced song.”
     Videovamp is not the ordinary band, from their sound to the inner workings.
     “have allies and alliances. Anybody who’s ever worked in Videovamp has other creative things that they can do to get their juices out and other bands that they play in that maybe suit them more for the way that they’re writing. But they come together for a common reason because they want to help me out and I want to have good, valuable musicians around me. Patches (DeVile) and I seemingly make the same type of music, but then we don’t at all. So although he may not have a direct impact on the writing of the music, it definitely wouldn’t be the aesthetic of Videovamp if he wasn’t an element of the band. Even some of the ‘dancier’ things came around when I started hanging out with Patches because he made more modern dance music, and I hadn’t really messed with it for years.”
     The same thing happened for Leakey when he started hanging around live drummers, then his drum programming started to change. It gives him the control to be able to choose whether he wants a certain part in a song to sound like a drum machine or a real drummer.
     “If I had a real band I wouldn’t be able to do that. But people are there to support it and to back me, and I’ll do the same thing for them. Anything that Patches has planned out for the future, I’m on board with. If any musician that’s played with me wants me to play with them, it’s a free ticket. Whatever it is, bluegrass records, a funk record, I don’t care. I will come and back it, because they helped me out. It’s like a support group for abused music.”

     Another big thing about Leakey’s music, and specifically this album, is the lyrical content.
     “I completely did not hold back whatsoever. This is not an album about mythological things. This is not an album about destroying the system and cancers in the mainframe and things that are typically seen in this genre. This is an album that is like a frustrated conversation with myself; an audio version of what that would be. Some of the songs are the confusion, and then some of it is just the part where you’re screaming to yourself, ‘fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck!’ That’s what I wanted it to be.
     “That’s another reason why I was so timid on getting it out, because some of these songs, even recently as I’ve been mixing them, I really haven’t listened to the lyrics. I’ve been singing them, but I’ve kind of put away what they were originally. So finding all of the original lyrics and scrapbooks and stuff… I always have notes. I always write notes to myself to help trigger, so I can remember why I wrote a specific thing. And some of these songs, a couple songs in particular, I almost wanted to not put out anymore, because I just didn’t know if it was worth it to me, if anyone got it, to have to explain it to them after the fact. I don’t want to talk to anyone about it. I want it to be out there and I want people to know that it most definitely is the truth because I wrote most of these things as journals to myself. And it’s not the ‘Tortured artist, I’m being forced to do something I don’t want do.’

     “There is real blood on this record.”

     “I want to do it. I love music, and I love performing. It’s always been one of the few things that makes me happier than anything else on earth. But when it came down to writing songs, and when it came down to writing them for real, I just noticed it was so hard for me to hold back. I’ve saved face so much in life, just like anyone else. I always just kind of put my head down and got along with it. But this is not that. This is the argument, this is the screaming, and if anyone gets half as much as I’ve gotten out of it being able to get it out, then it’ll be worth it, whether nothing happens, whether I go to culinary school next year, and I live the glory days just like every other asshole talking about how I was in a rock and roll band when I was younger,. I still know that I didn’t write the typical album just about normal stuff.
     “It’s specific situations. There is real blood on this record. And it does truly frighten me that it’s going to be out there. Because I’ve never been that type of person except in music. I’ve never had the opportunity to do this until now.” 
     The Videovamp CD Release will be this Saturday, July 16, at the Outland Ballroom in downtown Springfield, including performances by Assembly Line Gods and Redhorse. Doors open at 6pm for the Anti-Art show with local artists Kel Louderback and John Girardi, and the music starts at 9pm. 

All contents property of Deitra Productions
Reproduction prohibited, permission only
Copyright 2011, all rights reserved
Photography by Chet Smith
Copyright 2011, all rights reserved


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