This interview was conducted in early November 2008 for an American-based magazine. They never put out the issue, so here it is for everyone to enjoy.
An interview with Sam Rosenthal and Nicki Jaine.
Q: Please tell us how you got started working together, as both of you were already working on separate projects -- seemingly simultaneously with the Revue Noir single. What were the circumstances of your becoming collaborators?
NJ: I had the wonderful experience of joining Black Tape for a Blue Girl on the Halo Star tour in 2004 & that?s really where the idea for Revue Noir began. As the tour was wrapping up, Sam & I started talking about working on a project together & it progressed from there.
SR: I really loved Nicki's voice, songs & presence on stage. I thought it would be fun to work together on something.
Q: What was important to each of you about forming a separate project with its own name, rather than "guesting" on one another's albums?
NJ: I suppose that forming a separate project gave us the opportunity to collaborate, rather than to contribute to the others work. Contributing to each others work would have been cool too, just a different experience & not exactly what we were envisioning at the time.
SR: Right. I saw Revue Noir as a chance to take the dark cabaret sound further. It also wouldn't work within Blacktape, as I already have vocalists and a band. It just made the most sense to do it as its own project.
Q: The album, "Anthology Archive," collects unreleased studio and live tracks with, if I'm not mistaken, _all_ of Revue Noir's previously released material? Does this collection signify a retrospective -- the closure of your collaboration as Revue Noir? Or..
NJ: Well, at least for the time being, it does signify a closure. Sam is working on the new Black Tape album, 10 Neurotics, & I?m working on new material for a solo album, so those things are keeping up both pretty busy.
SR: For me, I really didn't want to leave the Revue Noir era undocumented. The three song single sold out, and I got it in my head that I was gonna finish up an album from the band! When I started digging through the hard drive, I found lots of great bits that I felt could be finished and made into an album. For me, I felt like an archivist -- recreating "what could have been." People are giving us great feedback on the album.
Q: To each of you individually: what qualities did the other person have that inspired you?
NJ: Sam is really creative & not at all afraid to run with a new idea. Some artists can be very rigid & only interested in approaching things in one way, whereas Sam is very open-minded. He approaches the creative process in a way that I find to be very freeing & inspiring.
SR: And for me, I really like dynamic, engaging performers. I envisioned being able to write songs that would really be possible, only if performed by Nicki. Of course, I never really got around to writing them! I was going through a hard time, while we were performing with Revue Noir, getting divorced, etc. Performing in Revue Noir was fun and entertaining, because we got to spend a lot of time together, brainstorming ideas.
Q: Revue Noir is deliberately theatrical -- even the studio tracks seem to play to an audience and evoke a public display rather than an expression of private thoughts. Please tell us a little bit about what you're going for with Revue Noir's aesthetic, and why it interests you.
NJ: I really love live performances & try to bring that sort of feeling into the studio. I find that live performances have a tendency to be very captivating & have this honest, raw quality, whereas studio performances sometimes become so squeaky clean that they lose some of that impact. I try not to let that happen in the studio.
Q: Hearing the live versions of some of these songs seems almost essential to experiencing them -- is there a little bit of acting going on in your performance? For Nicki in particular, have you any experience in stage acting? For either of you, what dramatic character's role -- or time period, or setting -- could you imagine yourself thriving in?
NJ: I acted in a Woody Allen play in high school, but that?s about it?unless you count the puppet show presentation ?which was totally awesome, if I do say so myself- that I put on for my German class last year. Although I don?t have any theatre experience to speak of, I do certainly enjoy the theatre and am inspired by it. I just went to see a performance of Kafka?s ?The Trial? last night put on by the Curio Theatre Company in Philadelphia & about a month ago I saw Chekhov?s ?The Seagull? on Broadway.
Q: Does Revue Noir offer you a way to express other "sides" of your musicianship, songwriting, or singing, that your other work did not?
NJ: Being part of a collaboration certainly brought out different sides of my creativity. I was working with Sam?s ideas & feedback & not just what was going on in my head.
SR: Blacktape is totally about my ideas, and my vision for what the finished track should sound like. So working with Nicki was often being a producer of her ideas, being a sideman, helping bring about a final form that I feel matched what Nicki was imagining, It really was collaborating, rather than just having somebody work on my song. Even in finishing up the album, I tried to imagine what we would have done, as a band.
Q: What is something you've learned from performing together that has changed the way you work separately?
NJ: Working with Sam has definitely made me more aware of how important it is to just relax! I have a tendency to become very stressed out about things, but Sam isn?t like that at all. He?s inclined to remain calm even when things get crazy; he just takes things in stride.
SR: Yeah, I have never gotten stressed about playing music. It's just a series of problems that need to be resolved as best as possible, to get to the finish line. I see what Nicki's saying, because I feel that being a perfectionist has drawbacks, if it drives you crazy! The thing that I learned from working with Nicki is about being a musician. Playing with Revue Noir was about playing everything live, since we used no backing tracks. We started edging that direction with the 2nd half of Blacktape's Halo Star tour, and the live show at the Projektfest07 and Gothicfest. With Revue Noir, everything was live. Which makes things more fun because you can fuck up. I think with the new blacktape songs I am worrying less about everything being absolutely precise. It gives it more human qualities.
Q: There are a few songs included on the album that were originally recorded by Nicki Jaine or by black tape for a blue girl. Why did you decide to include these as part of Revue Noir's repertoire, rather than as live versions of solo Nicki Jaine songs or black tape songs?
NJ: We thought that it would be interesting to approach these songs in a new way together, so we decided to go for it.
SR: Yeah. I think that the versions of Blacktape's "Halo Star" or "I have no more answers" are noticeably different from any other versions, so they are worth hearing this way. There were some songs of Nicki's that I had recordings of, but left off the album, because they are so tied to her solo career. Such as "Pretty Faces." They were songs that I feltwere never meant to be on a Revue Noir album. They were great songs, that were in the live set; but the intention was always to replace them with original Revue Noir material.
Q: Whose choice was the cover of the Velvet Underground's "All Tomorrow's Parties," and was there anything special to you about this song, and/or the performance in SLC where it was recorded? Personally I thought this was a standout track -- both of you contributed entirely new elements to it while keeping its original mood.
NJ: Thanks so much. I?m glad that you enjoyed the track; I really like it to. I enjoyed performing the song so much & am really happy with how it turned out. I?m pretty sure that it was Sam?s idea.
SR: Well, that was recorded during a Black tape for a blue girl show in SLC; it was really the genesis of the idea to form Revue Noir. So it has that special meaning to me.
Note, these answers were updated on January 27, 2009:
Q: Where do you see this project going in the future? Will you continue to work together, and are there other musical styles or aesthetics you might wish to explore as part of Revue Noir?
SR: At the moment, neither of us are focussing on Revue Noir, which doesn't mean it's over, but at the same time, I don't really think it's continuing. I am working on 10 Neurotics, the new Black tape for a blue girl album. So far, Nicki is singing two of the songs, she might sing more. We will see. I feel like these songs are what would have become of Revue Noir, which is they are in the dark vein, somewhat cabaret, a bit rock.
Q: Will 10 Neurotics bring some new dark, ethereal sounds to us?
SR: It's definitely a dark sound, but for the most part it's not very ethereal actually. Brian Viglione - the drummer from The Dresden Dolls - has joined Black Tape for a Blue Girl, and he adds to the sound I was already building, which is more structured and less swirly. This is the first time in almost 20 years that I've had Rock-n-Roll drums on a Blacktape album. Brian definitely has subtle styles, which give the songs shape. He's also been assisting me on the arrangements for some of the tracks, it's really coming along fabulously. I hope to have it out in the spring.