London After Midnight

One of the acts appearing this June at Salt Lake City's yearly Dark Arts Festival ( is the Los Angeles-based LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT ( Sean Brennan formed the band in 1989, and while official releases have been scarce during the life of the band (only 4 full-length offerings since 1992), they are currently touring in support of their latest offering, "Violent Acts of Beauty," which was released earlier this year on Metropolis Records. While the group has been somewhat of a revolving door for musicians, the mainstay has been Mr. Brennan, who was kind enough to grant SLUG an interview via e-mail in anticipation of their appearance here in Salt Lake.

SLUG: Let's start with the obvious stuff ... give some insight into the new London After Midnight release, "Violent Acts of Beauty"; what was the inspiration for the release?

BRENNAN: The CD, specifically the song "Feeling Fascist?" is set up as the struggle against fascism, which is really what we're facing today in the USA. Socialism can be seen as an opposite to fascism, so artistically I used Soviet-era art to present the concept visually; the people taking back the power from the corrupt. The title itself was a sort of perversion of the bumper stickers we see so much in the US that say "Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty." While the rationale behind them is OK, people here in the US think you don't have to actually act to make things better.

Violent Acts of Beauty wasn't intended to be a concept album, but listening to it as a whole, I saw how the songs work together as a concept in addition to working individually. Each song carries things further, with the problems being laid out at the start, the resulting reaction, and people blaming some other cause for their situations and so on, so there is a progression. People can change things for the better if they wanted to, but few really want to do what needs to be done to make positive changes in the world. That is the overall message to carry away from this album. SLUG: It's well known that you are quite vocal in your political and social beliefs; is London After Midnight the "perfect vehicle" for you to convey these beliefs?

BRENNAN: There is a long history of political music from Bob Dylan to The Beatles to The Sex Pistols to Rage Against the Machine and so on. I think there is a huge audience and desire among listeners for music with passion and a message, rather than music that's empty and all about ego, like so much music is now.

SLUG: I have read that London After Midnight doesn't necessarily appreciate the "goth" label, which I completely support...what are your feelings on labeling and pigeonholing of music nowadays?

BRENNAN: It's something the weak-minded do, and something kids feel they need to do in order to invoke some "identity" as they pass through their teen years, even though it's a false identity. I'd think people would be rebelling against this rather than buying in to it. It's also a shadow of the corporate world where everything needs to be labeled in order to be marketed to the "correct" audience. When you separate the music "worthy" of being publicized in major media or major retailers from the music that's "underground", then you are limiting the audience and perpetuating a destructive practice of limiting artistic voices.

SLUG: How do you feel about things such as websites that allow bands to create more of a "digital buzz" about themselves than they perhaps deserve as opposed to good, old-fashioned "pounding the pavement" and paying the proverbial dues?

BRENNAN: LAM has paid its dues digitally, but also the old fashioned way by pounding the streets, and I do think there is something to be said for busting your ass and doing things DIY, like the old punk scene. It gives you more of a feel for what's really out there in the world rather than the fantasy online world. I think too many people live in that fantasy of online "reality" and are too disconnected from what's real.

SLUG: What matters more to you: the music or the message?

BRENNAN: Both are equally important. You can't have a good artistic work without both of these elements; otherwise you're left with something hollow.

SLUG: Are there any specific musicians, bands, people, or actions that influence the music you make and the choices you make for yourself as a person?

BRENNAN: I've been hugely influenced by my parents, and by people like Ralph Nader and Noam Chomsky. Musically I've listened to film scores, classical, big band, punk, goth...too much to list really, and it's all something I've found inspiring in some way.

SLUG: Share with us your thoughts on touring; do you enjoy traveling, and do you have a favorite city or country to play in?

BRENNAN: Touring can be interesting, but often you're not anywhere long enough to really see and do what you want or get a feel for the local communities you're in. But it's not the main goal of London After Midnight to tour. Being on stage isn't something I long for, like being the center of attention isn't why I started this project. But it is rewarding to share emotions with supporters of your music in a live situation and spreading the message of LAM is something that is important to me. And playing live allows this.

SLUG: Any other thoughts you'd like to share with SLUG readers in and around Salt Lake City? The final word is yours...

BRENNAN: I just want to thank London After Midnight's supporters there. As of this writing, the Dark Arts Festival is scheduled to take place in Salt Lake City from June 6th-8th, but no set performance schedule or venue have been announced, so keep your eyes and ears open. As for London After Midnight, their new album is definitely a thing of beauty, and Mr. Brennan seems to be an individual who "walks to walk," so to speak, which is something that is becoming more and more rare these days. Check it out, and be sure to show London After Midnight your support when they visit our overly-sunny city late this spring.