Interview with Lydia Fortner of The Shroud...

Interview conducted by Rotwang

This interview with Lydia Fortner was conducted on October 23, 1997 over the phone. On October 17, 1997, The Shroud performed with Lycia and Amber Asylum (see also the Lycia interview) at the Cat's Grill (hosting club Matrix) in San Francisco during the now imfamous Smashing Pumpkins/Marilyn Manson celebrity appearance. The Shroud is a Fresno-based darkwave band whose current line-up includes Lydia Fortner: vocals, Rodney Walker: guitar, Iyan Reed: bass, Eric Dansby: drums, and Hendryk Groger: keyboards.

Rotwang: To start out, just like I start out with all of my interviews, why don't you tell us about the history of The Shroud?

Lydia Fortner: Originally, it was a band called The Shroudettes, way back in the early '90's. We became "The Shroud" in '91 when we wanted a new direction that was a bit more serious. So, our first performance (as The Shroud) was Halloween of '91.

R: What goals do you have for The Shroud?

L: World domination! Multi-platinum albums! (laughs) You know, the usual. Seriously though...we want to be able to hopefully make a living doing this, not have to worry about other stuff, and just be creative; not distracted by day-jobs, and things like that.

R: To be creative full time...

L: Yeah, because there's a lot of ideas we want to work on. It's hard to find time to do everything.

R: When you started The Shroud, just what did you have in mind?

L: Well, of course I had been with The Shroudettes, mostly because at the time there was nothing of any gothic sort of thing to do here in our little farm town of Fresno, and so we thought, "There's nothing to do!" We had to drive to San Francisco or LA for four hours to experience anything. We just created this gothic band so there was something to do. But, as time went on, I wanted to do something that was not so campy and more mystical, so I tried to find new members that helped me fulfill that. It's just a certain mood I wanted to create.

R: What were you doing before The Shroud?

L: Well, we all played in various bands and most of us were all in school, at the college here, and I was actually dancing at the time in a dance troop called The Portable Dance Troop. It was modern dance stuff. Before that, I did ballet, but my knee doesn't like ballet, so I did modern dance instead.

R: The omnipresent question: what is your inspiration for music and lyrics?

L: Basically any artistic things that I encounter. Any movies or books or other bands. Anything that creates a very strong mood, a certain space. A lot of times, I'll try to create that with lyrics. One of the songs on the new album is called "Prophecy" and it has to do with a scene from the movie "The Prophecy." As far as the music, everyone in the band has a million diverse influences ranging from classic rock to modern rock; classical to all kinds of things.

R: What music do you listen to? Any bands or composers you enjoy in particular?

L: Well, of course it always changes and we each have different favorites at any given moment. But lately, we've been listening to Garbage a lot, we've been to Portishead a lot, and Marilyn Manson (to study what they're doing), Tool, and various classical stuff.

R: What do you consider The Shroud's main purpose to be? Why does it exist?

L: So we can create stuff; so that I can create this world that's inside my head and make it exist out here so I can live in it. (laughs)

R: You used to go by the name "Eva Van Hellsing"...

L: In the early days we all had stage names...

R: Why did you change it? I like it. It's cute.

L: That's just it. It's cute, isn't it...I just wanted to use my own name because it's just me.

R: The Shroud has gotten quite a following despite the fact that you are not on any big label and you haven't been on any real tours. Why do you think people are drawn to The Shroud?

L: I'm not exactly sure, because I can't be on that side of it to know exactly what they're getting from it. I think it's probably because we try to be real honest about what we are doing and express true things. I think people respond to that. We try to be direct.

R: What has stopped you from going to Tess Records, Energy, or Cleopatra?

L: No one's offered us a contract. We've certainly been sending demos around and perhaps with the new songs, they'll have more response. Or maybe it means we're supposed to start our own label. I don't know...

R: A lot of bands have been quite successful in doing that. Just look at Throbbing Gristle or black tape for a blue girl...

L: That's very true. They've been quite successful, so that is inspiring, definately.

R: Also with the fact that you are on just about every Cleopatra tribute album out there...

L: Yeah, it's kind of funny, you know, at the the Cat's Grill, you know how Marilyn Manson was there (I gave him a CD) and I was talking to him, and he thought we were on Cleopatra. (laughs)

R: Recently, I got my hands on the music videos for "Ophelia" and "Spectre." Tell us about how those were created and why you chose those songs.

L: Those were the songs that I thought were the most "video-friendly" on that album. We hadn't recorded the new album yet. Frank called us and wanted us to send videos for the [Propaganda] video compilation, and we didn't actually have any at the time. He called at the end of August and basically I asked when the deadline was to have them in. He said, "The beginning of October..." and we said, "Okay. We'll send you some." We went and and filmed them over three days, and I spent about four weeks editing them at school. And then, we sent them in.

R: Any more videos on the way?

L: We've shot footage for "She" and we just haven't had the time or money to have it edited. I don't have access to the equipment at school anymore, so we'll have to get it done professionally, and it's just really been low priority at the moment, because we're finishing up a new album. But I hope to finish it and I want to do a video for something off this album, too.

R: Were you aware that The Shroud was mentioned in "The Vampire Book," the vampire encyclopedia a couple years back?

L: Yeah, I remember...

R: Any comments?

L: Well, I think it's kind of funny because we're not specifically vamipiric, although I guess we've had some of those overtones in the past, but it was just kind of a shock to see that. I wasn't expecting it at all.

R: I think it was mostly because of the name "Eva Van Hellsing"...

L: I think so. There were a lot of things that I wasn't necessarily agreeing with. But it's okay. My friend showed me and it was like, "omigod!" (laughs)

R: It's publicity...

L: Sure...and any of it is good.

R: Do you see The Shroud as mainly a live or studio band?

L: Well, I enjoy both. I think that live performance is one my favorite things to do just because of the connection with the audience. But, as far as creating the perfect song, in the studio you can have things be the closest to what you can do, what you think the song should be, as opposed to live, where there's always little problems and mistakes. I'll forget the words or something, you know, but in a studio, we can make it as good as we possibly can.

R: Do you usually write a song, and then perform it live, or record it in the studio first?

L: We've gone both ways. I think a lot of it has to do with whether or not there's a show before we get into the studio the next time, because a lot of times we'll have just (especially on this album) written a song, and then get it into the studio the next week. But with other songs, we've performed them for a few months before we've gotten into the studio. We do both. I think in some ways it's better to play it live a few times, because you find out what works and what doesn't. But then, some songs can't be played live, so it goes both ways.

R: Any "spoilers" for the next album, so to speak?

L: Well, the working title at the moment is "A Dark Moon Night," which is a line from one of the songs called "Day and Night." It was actually the last song that we played in San Francisco, last week. I'm not sure what to say about it yet, because I haven't been able to just sit back and listen to it in it's entirety yet. We're still deciding the order of the songs and we have a couple more songs to finish. But I think in some ways it's probably more personal, or autobiographical, I guess you could say. Maybe not quite so sad in some respects.

R: Where do you see The Shroud going to in the future?

L: Obviously, it would be great if we could get signed to something, so we could have greater distribution to a wider audience. It's really hard to get stuff to people. But musically, we want to try to experiment a bit and expand the parameters of what it is that we are doing, to find different ways of expressing moods and we're going to try to work with different technologies. Our drummer's very into loops and samples, so we're going to let him run free on that and see what happens.

R: Directed to you personally, where would yo like to be in ten years?

L: Not in Fresno! Just somewhere doing creative stuff. I'm hoping that The Shroud can be a vehicle for everyone involved to further their own personal interests and careers. Rodney's interested in producing, and I hope as a result of The Shroud, he'll have the opportunity to work with other people. Just to be able to do what we want to do more, including The Shroud.

R: How does a band like The Shroud get started in Fresno, of all places?

L: Strange, but true. My friends and I had been talking about having a band and we were actually extras in a locally produced science-fiction film that was phenomenally bad. One of the girls that was going to be in the band, if we ever had one, told them that we had a band and they needed a band for the club scene. They were like, "Okay. You guys can play the song." So, we quickly borrowed instruments, I wrote "Kiss of Death" during Geology class, and we threw it together. We just begged, borrowed, and stealed basically, and we just did it, bad as we were. You know, we just got up and did it because we wanted so badly to do it and there was nothing else to do. As time went on, like I had said, I wanted to be more serious. I kind of coerced and recruited people to play who were good musicians and it just evolved from there.

R: To the fans out there who might be interested, is this sci-fi available anywhere?

L: I doubt if it still is, but it was called "The Bionaut" and it's really horrible, and it's about three hours long. I'm still not sure what it's about. They can still hunt for it if they're intersted. It's probably been pulled from all the video shelves.

R: What did you think of the whole Smashing Pumpkins/Marilyn Manson celebrity guest thing at your last concert?

L: I personally thought it was cool. Because both of those bands, I have great respect for their work, and it was fun talking to them, because they're just regular folks, which usually they are. I mean Manson was like really normal. Well, he acted normal, at any rate. So, I thought it was kind of cool that they chose to go there. You know, they could have gone anywhere, it was Friday night in San Francisco.

R: Any last things to say to your fans?

L: That's always the hardest question. It should be the easiest one, but one always feels obligated to hand down "the jewels of wisdom," you know. I really don't know what to say when I get asked that except for everyone to be supportive of their scene. Don't fight with each other. Everyone needs to realize what a cool scene it is and just get involved.

Relevant Links...

The Shroud's Webpage

Cleopatra Records

From left to right: Hendryk Groger, Lydia Fortner, Eric Dansby, Rodney Walker, and Iyan Reed.

Images from The Shroud Homepage.