Boils and ghouls of Colorado, spooky season has arrived!
And we have been blessed to have it kicked off by the “King of Villains,”—goth legend Aurelio Voltaire—via his upcoming performances at The Mercury Café in Denver and Fritzy’s in Colorado Springs on October 14th & 15th, respectively.
Though the term “legend” has lost some of its meaning in the 21st century due to its overuse, when it comes to Voltaire, his resume more than establishes this term as an appropriate one.
Since the beginning of his career in the early 90s he’s released 13 studio albums, written music for Cartoon Network shows like “The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy,” has had a number of books published ranging in topics from children’s storytelling to gothic homemaking (more on that in a minute) and has built a successful YouTube channel.
As impressive as all those accomplishments are, his most recent achievement is the real icing on the cake—spending four years writing and recording his magnum opus released earlier this year: “The Black Labyrinth.” Add in the fact that, according to Voltaire, he “recorded that album with 15 members of David Bowie’s band,” and you’ve just added the perfect cherry on top.
Of course, the hiring of these musicians isn’t surprising when you find out that Bowie was a central theme to the record; mirroring the life of Voltaire himself. “’The Black Labyrinth’ is an homage to David Bowie through the prism of [the film] ‘Labyrinth.’ It’s a 20-song musical that sort of tells the story of what happens after the death of the goblin king.” He continued, “[It’s] an unofficial sequel to the Labyrinth that takes place after the death of the goblin king. That’s why ‘The King is Dead’ is the first track.”
But he’s quick to note that though he will be performing some of the songs from the album live, the overall theme of the show will be his career-long association with being a “Disney villain.” He explains, “Ever since my first album came out, with ‘When You’re Evil’ being the stand-out song from the album—and it being really, truly a villain song—it kind of set this tone [for my career]. And at this point in my life/career, I sort of slowly, over time, turned into a Disney villain. And people expect a certain joyfully evil presence and content from me. Evil, but safe, and joyfully so.”
The setlist he’s put together completely reflects this attitude. “Certainly [I’ll play] the villain songs. I don’t think I’d be allowed off the stage without doing ‘When You’re Evil,’ and you’ll certainly hear ‘The King of Villains,’ you’ll hear the songs from ‘Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy.’ You’ll also hear some Bowie songs as well.”
He also made it clear that, from watching the crowds who have already been to shows on this tour, the villainous nature has spread throughout every venue. “One of the messages of this tour is that, within the venue, while the show is taking place, it’s most like a convention of villains, you know, it’s sort of a put-on. You’ll probably never find nicer people than [the goths] you’ll find at my concert or, by extension, at a ‘goth night’ anywhere in the world.”
When I asked Voltaire about the people who attend his shows, especially those who live in Colorado, the compliments began to flow. “The audiences are ALWAYS incredible; maybe it’s because they’re baked, I’m not sure,” he said with a laugh. “They’re always having a really, really great time. And the scenery is just so beautiful. Denver is about as geographically different as you can get from New York City. So, it’s always really amazing to be there and see the mountains and feel the crisp air. That and the incredible people are mostly what I think about Denver.”
During the interview, there was one specific person in Denver that Voltaire wanted to thank for helping bring gothic/alternative music to the area. “I’ve gotta tell you, AJ at Ritual Noize Entertainment, I really must mention him. AJ Ritual, the fellow who brings me out to Denver year after year, he’s such a great guy and he really has been supporting the dark alternative music scene for so long. And he always treats me so well and it’s such a pleasure to be in Denver when you’re working with people like that.” In fact, because of his love for the state, his fans, and people like AJ, he makes sure to “play Denver pretty much every year.”
When talking to Voltaire, I could tell that the love he has for his friends and fans—and not just those who live in Denver—is completely genuine. So much so that he has made it a point to be completely accessible to those who attend one of his events. “I’m available from the moment the doors open until the moment the doors close. I’m not one of these musicians who hides backstage, or one of these musicians that you have to buy a VIP pass to talk to for 30 seconds. I man my own merch table because it is the best way for me to meet and thank the people who came out to support me.”
For any average person, working non-stop on an album for four years (all while continuing to tour the globe) would cause complete exhaustion. However, as a self-professed workaholic, Voltaire has the next year filled with even more projects designed to help solidify his gothic empire … yes, I said empire.
For a little over half a decade, Voltaire has been building a successful YouTube channel called “The Lair Of Voltaire” that focuses on one of his many artistic passions: the series “Gothic Homemaking.” Between his “Halloween goth dad” persona and artistic flair, his channel has gotten over 200 thousand subscribers. The booming popularity of the show has led to both a book deal and an increased workload.
“Under normal circumstances, I try to make a decent number of [Gothic Homemaking] episodes. But this year has been different because I signed a book deal to create a Gothic Homemaking book and it requires that I make about three times as much content as I normally would, during the same time I would normally be working on the show.”
Of course, tripling his workload would mean that fans of his music are going to have to wait a while for any new material, right?
“The most reasonable thing after making a magnum opus like ‘The Black Labyrinth’ is to not make another record for at least half that time. But when the creative bug bites, you either go with it, or you lose an opportunity to work on something that might be really great. So, a month or two ago, I suddenly got the idea that I should make some Halloween songs and I jumped on it. I am feverishly trying to make a Halloween album in time for Halloween [this year].”
He says the reason for the frenetic pace is simple, he’s a Halloween artist. In October his Spotify play numbers increase by 100,000 for that month before going back to normal levels around November 1st. For most artists, this kind of drop would be disheartening, but not Voltaire. “I couldn’t be more delighted that when people think of Halloween, they think of me. And it occurred to me that I didn’t even know I was a Halloween musician, but apparently, there are all these songs of mine that people really only think about around Halloween. And I started digging through my repertoire, trying to find a song mentioning Halloween, and there wasn’t a single one. I thought, ‘I’m gonna rectify that.’ I’m the Halloween guy, when it comes to music, and I don’t have a single song about Halloween, and that was one of the main reasons why I felt like I really needed to make a Halloween album.”
It’s because of this interchangeable identity Voltaire has with Halloween that makes me believe the shows in Colorado are what will truly bring out the ghoulies and ghosties to play.
Having been to Voltaire shows previously, I can guarantee that you will have the most spooktacular time of your life. But even more than that, you’ll feel nothing but acceptance, no matter what you look like or believe. “My show becomes, not just a celebration of our love for Halloween, our love for the macabre, of our love for Disney villains, but it’s also an affirmation—particularly to the younger people who really want to explore this kind of a lifestyle but are afraid to—that you could totally be that spooky persona and live that Halloween lifestyle and there’s nothing wrong with it. That you can continue to be a perfectly well-adjusted human being and productive member of society while also looking like Cruella Deville.”
So bring out your inner Cruella Deville to either The Mercury Café in Denver on October 14th or Fritzy’s in Colorado Springs on October 15th—you will not regret it.