NEW Review and Interview: Zeena Schreck and her solo debut Bring Me the Head of F. W. Murnau, by Nicholas Diak
Many thanks to Nicholas Diak for this fantastic review and exclusive interview with Zeena about her new music! [Re-posted below from the original at Heilige Tod - Interdisciplinary Analysis of Neofolk Music.]
Bring Me the Head of F.W. Murnau can be purchased digitally at Bandcamp or in physical format at this site.
Review and Interview: Zeena Schreck and her debut Bring Me the Head of F. W. Murnau
Tuesday, August 4, 2020 by Nicholas Diak
During the summer of 2015, the skull of German silent film director F. W. Murnau was stolen from his tomb. Remnants of wax from lit candles present at the scene spurred the hypothesis that occult work was afoot while the macabre nature of Murnau’s stolen skull drew parallels to his legendary horror output, in particular his influential expressionist film, Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922).(1)
Shortly thereafter, inspired by the event, multimedia artist Zeena Schreck announced a “sequel to Radio Werewolf’s mystical, musical piece Bring Me the Head of Geraldo Rivera” that would be appropriately titled Bring Me the Head of F. W. Murnau.(2) Five years later, Bring Me the Head of F. W. Murnau (BMTHOFWM) was released in March of 2020.
BMTHOFWM marks the first studio release proper of Zeena performing music solo. Prior to this EP, Zeena had been a part of many musical collaborations and projects, such as Radio Werewolf, and had released some of her live ritual performances, such as her appearance at Wave-Gotik-Treffen, on compilations and YouTube. Per Zeena in regard to releasing a concept album instead of an album of her ritual performances:
“I definitely have future recording plans which will be in the areas of dark ambient and ritual music. [T]his first solo release was experimental in the sense I'd never done such a precise theme as concept album like this before. I like working within specific parameters though. Even in past recordings, when it might not seem obvious, I've almost always had in mind a particular framework within which to create the music. But this album was much more of a specific theme than I would normally do.”(3)
BMTHOFWM certainly has a thematic laser focus, concentrating on Murnau and some of his films, while capturing a certain silent film aesthetic, though paradoxically, with sound. Zeena pulls this feat off – a silent film with no images but instead with sounds – by incorporating elements of field recordings, minimalist-industrial, exotica, spoken words, and incantations, in conjunction with the brilliant German expressionist/Caligari style artwork that emblazons the release’s cover art that evokes some of the classic horror posters of the era.
Though Murnau is the subject of the EP, the filmmaker did not have a strong influence on Zeena at the beginning of the project:
“[Murnau was] not a huge influence. It was only his films Nosferatu and Faust that I had known and really liked since childhood, when they'd play on late night TV. I knew he'd worked with the occultist artist/architect Albin Grau on the sets for Nosferatu but working with an occultist doesn't automatically make you one. There is also the tie-in of my last name being the same as the actor who played Count Orlok, Max Schreck, in Murnau's most famous film Nosferatu. I'd also remembered the scandalous rumors about his untimely death that my godfather Kenneth Anger wrote of in Hollywood Babylon, rumors which, by the way, I've since learned weren't true. But aside from these things, I hadn't much knowledge of his life prior to embarking on this project. I know far more about him now.
Originally, I'd planned that this [release] was only going to be a single; not more than a two-track novelty piece inspired by a quirky event. But then, as I began researching more about Murnau and put flesh on the bones of this project, certain metaphysical portals started opening up. More material for more tracks developed than could be narrowed down to just a single. Yet I didn't want this to be a full album either. So, the logical middle ground was to make it an EP.”(4)
Through the process of researching Murnau, Zeena also visited the director’s home and his grave, gathering field recordings that would be incorporated into the compositions of BMTHOFWM:
“[I] intermingled various sounds from both locations in just about every track except the opening one, ‘Letter to Mother.’ Some of those field recordings were used in a straightforward manner, such as a fox barking, birds singing, the sound of some machinery or a metal gate clanging. Those can be detected fairly clearly enough. But other sounds used, I distorted in the editing to achieve certain auditory effects.
When I visited Murnau's grave, for the photo shoot to the CD, I was focused on getting the photos but hadn't intended on capturing field recordings at the same time. I'd already compiled field recordings taken at the former Murnau house in Berlin, which coincidentally happens to be right in my neighborhood. In addition to that, I'd painstakingly searched for specific samples corresponding to the exact years of Murnau's creative life and his death, such as the sound of the precise year and make of the car he was in when it crashed, leading to his death. Or a snippet of a song that would've been popular at parties in Hollywood that he may have attended. Things like that.
So, getting back to the cemetery field recordings: It was only by fluke, while taking photos at Murnau's grave, that my camera accidentally engaged the video record. It wasn't until later that day, when downloading my data from the day's shoot, I realized I'd inadvertently gotten some unexpected and pretty interesting sounds while at the grave. Luckily, there was still time to mix those in before the final edit and mastering. For some unknown reason, I've always had strange energy clashes with electronic devices; something's always malfunctioning with them in my case. I've come to expect these ‘accidental’ recordings of environment sounds, with both my audio recorder and my cameras video setting. Whenever it happens, I always discover something interesting, humorous or just uncanny and bizarre that gets added to my sound library. This reveals how much is occurring all the time that we humans normally filter out but which, when cut out of the normal flow of everyday life, can be wonderful auditory meditations. I'm sure that those unexpected sounds at the cemetery made a difference in enhancing an underlying eerie quality to the whole thing.”(5)
Zeena’s field recordings directly tie into her concept of “sonic necromancy.” These field recordings she gathered communicate an additional essence of Murnau that would not have been present otherwise:
“Sound art differs from conventionally composed music in that soundscapes are generally thought to be like paintings done with sound rather than matter. They may or may not necessarily tell a story. In this case, however, there is story. Between many years of magical ritual practices, as well as early-life theater and film training, which includes techniques in character development, sense memory and improvisation, a fusion of disciplined training in all these areas creates conducive conditions for summoning of the dead. While my magical training and ritual experience is probably more generally acknowledged than my theater training, I mention the latter only in relation to this music project because I'm playing various characters or roles throughout. Whether we are hearing Murnau's own thoughts in the opening and closing tracks, or the female Angel of Death who's come to usher Murnau away from this worldly experience, or the ‘bardo beings’ who inhabit the intermediate state between the end of one life and the beginning of the next. All of those voices are different characters revealing different levels of metaphysical existence and understanding.”(6)
If BMTHOFWM sounds like a multifaceted release, it is because it certainly is. Though the EP only contains six tracks and clocks in at roughly 18 minutes, it is compact in its sound design, atmosphere, and ambitious scope.
The first track of the EP, “Letter to Mother,” has Zeena reciting a letter Murnau wrote to his mother against a background of crashing waves. In this track, Zeena channels her aforementioned acting chops, mimicking a deeper voice that would be Muranu. It is a somber recital that sets a melancholy mood that permeates the release.
Track two, “Ill Omens,” runs with this melancholy with a peppering of something menacing or foreboding. It is a track that is minimal on sound, but high on atmosphere. Closing one’s eyes, one can picture an old film with a scene of tiptoeing through a cave or a dimly lit forest, illuminated day-for-night style, while a Harryhausen-esque monster waiting to emerge from the shadows.
The third track, “A Drive up the Coast,” chronicles the last moments of Murnau as he died in an auto accident while traversing the Pacific Coast Highway near Santa Barbara in 1931. The track begins jovial, with organ music composed by Zeena that evokes a funfair or a period appropriate party in the background. Sounds of an open car window woosh by before (spoiler alert!) the sounds of accelerations, followed by a scream, tires screeching, and a crash.
Track four, “Tabu,” is a reference to Murnau’s final film, Tabu: A Story of the South Seas (1931) that was released shortly after his death. An early tiki film, the story depicts two lovers, Reri and Matahi, as they try to escape Reri’s fate of being made into a sacred maiden for their island’s deities. The first half of the song is the most industrial-sounding music on the EP, with some minimalist piston-percussions. The last half of the song switches gears to the exotica genre, with primitive drumming and shakers, that channels the likes of Martin Denny and Les Baxter. Over the music, Zeena, reaching into her experience of performing incantations, recites the same decree that was uttered in Tabu that denoted Reri as forbidden, and not to be touched by any man.
“The Phantom Bridge” is the EP’s fifth track and this one digs right into the vampiric roots Murnau is best known for. A spoken word track, Zeena recites some of the inter titles from Murnau’s Nosferatu which in turn were taken from Stoker’s Dracula. The music in this track is, as the title suggests, ghostly, with spirituals wisps, shackling noises, tiny bells and chimes.
The EP’s final track, “Endlich Daheim,” is perhaps the most ambitious track on the album, that not only underscores Murnau’s career, but demonstrates Zeena at her most artistic. Prior songs on the EP has Zeena reciting texts from other sources while “Endlich Daheim” contains both original organ music and lyrics by Zeena, sung in a haunting and beautiful style. A sound of a 1920s projector starting up beings the track with the music proper evoking the feelings of being at a funeral - Murnau’s funeral - with Zeena’s poetry acting as a eulogy.
The end result is that BMTHOFWM is a superb solo debut for Zeena and an excellent experimental release all around. Atmospheric, haunting, and magical, but also cinematic and fully versed in filmic pop culture that it celebrates. Born from a macabre act of stealing the skull of Murnau, the EP easily could’ve embraced grotesquery or morbidness, but instead the CD comes off as sincere. Aside from these observations, Zeena herself had her own goals for the release:
“Well, after a few years of unexpected obstacles, as well as unexpected serendipitous occurrences which led to creating much more material for this than I'd originally planned, I guess the main thing I wanted to accomplish was getting it completed at all! Jokes aside, the fact is, there's still someone out there who has taken and kept the skull from Murnau's grave. This is at the heart of the project. I wanted to pull all of the unusual elements surrounding this case together into one cohesive creative expression. The music in this project is created to facilitate opening the mind to all possible questions surrounding that event, and even to, on a transcendental and metaphysical level, provide even bigger answers.”(7)
Five years after the act, the mystery of who absconded with Murnau’s skull remains unsolved. Of course, thoughts have drifted to Schreck as a possible culprit, which she both playfully and adamantly dismisses: “[S]ince many have already jokingly asked me – let's nip this in the bud right here – NO, it wasn't me!”(8)
Sincere thanks for Zeena Schreck for allowing me to interview her for this writeup and providing the images. All images used in this article are copyrighted by Zeena Schreck and used with permission. More information about Zeena and her projects can be found at the following websites and social medias:
1. Nigel M Smith, “Nosferatu director’s head stolen from grave in Germany,” The Guardian, last modified July 14, 2015, https://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/jul/14/nosferatu-director-head-stolen-germany-grave-fw-murnau.
2. “Coming Soon From Zeena Schreck: Bring Me The Head of F.W. Murnau,” Heathen Harvest, last modified July 21, 2015, https://heathenharvest.wordpress.com/2015/07/21/coming-soon-from-zeena-schreck-bring-me-the-head-of-f-w-murnau/.
3. Zeena Schreck, email message to author, June 16, 2020.
“Coming Soon From Zeena Schreck: Bring Me The Head of F.W. Murnau.” Heathen Harvest. Last modified July 21, 2015. https://heathenharvest.wordpress.com/2015/07/21/coming-soon-from-zeena-schreck-bring-me-the-head-of-f-w-murnau/.
Schreck, Zeena. Bring me the Head of F. W. Murnau. KCH KCHCD01. 2020. CD.
Smith, Nigel M. “Nosferatu director’s head stolen from grave in Germany.” The Guardian. Last modified July 14, 2015. https://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/jul/14/nosferatu-director-head-stolen-germany-grave-fw-murnau.
Posted by Nicholas Diak at 6:58 PM
Many thanks to Dominik Tyroller of Raben Report for his great review of Zeena's new EP! [Click here for original German version.] English translation below:
“Why I came to this CD is immediately apparent when you take a look at the artist behind this music project: Zeena Schreck. I have been following the numerous works of the polarizing Femme Fatale Infernale for years (including in the review of her book "The Zaum of Zeena") and respect the extensive creative expression that the artist was able to express in many areas (something that I absolutely recommend to everyone). Whether in the form of graphic design, writing texts, making music or also leading / accompanying / elaborating complex rituals / magical ceremonies, Zeena Schreck's creative work in and on a wide variety of media is truly varied and expressed itself in this complexity, among other things also in the works in the band "Radio Werewolf", alongside her then partner Nikolas Schreck, one of the cornerstones of the dark ambient and (ritual) industrial genres.
Within this concept album, with the interesting title ”Bring Me The Head of F.W. Murnau ”, Zeena Schreck releases her first work in the dark ambient sector after many years. In addition, this album is her first ever solo release. Zeena dedicated this album to the life and work of the legendary German film director Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau and the creepy fact that Murnau's head was actually stolen by unknown people from his grave in Stahnsdorf (near Berlin) in 2015 and has since disappeared to this day ...
Murnau's cinematic works, which were primarily in the horror area, are still considered pioneering and still inspire this popular genre to this day, and not just in the medium of film, but far beyond.
Zeena Schrecks ”Bring Me The Head of F.W. Murnau ” [EP] consists of six musical pieces, individual acts to a ghost story, as expressed on the album in musical form creating frightful realms and atmospheric horrors for the listener. The six pieces together have a playing time of 18 minutes 21 seconds.
The eerie start to “Bring Me The Head of F.W. Murnau” comes in the form of “ A Letter To Mother,” in which an extract from one of Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau's letters to his revered mother is recited in a really uncanny voice. In this document, which was made in Tahiti while filming Murnau's last film "Tabu" (1931), Murnau's thoughts are both about the fascination of the exotic island, but much more about the homesickness that plagues him so much.
The following "Ill Omens" bleeds a true horror atmosphere and brings to mind the moody quality of Murnau's films. For me, this song is also the quintessence of this concept album and hits the nail on the head.
The following "taboo" immediately gets to the point, which kidnaps me into damp cemetery dungeons haunted by female horror phantoms. Zeena's voice, in combination with the drums, transforms the piece more and more towards the ritual atmosphere.
Significant to the atmosphere in V "The Phantom Bridge," is Zeena's chant, which in some places whispers an ASMR mood. The fifth title is therefore rather calm and almost relaxing. In terms of content, “The Phantom Bridge“ is dedicated to F.W. Murnau's pioneering film "Nosferatu - A Symphony Of Horror" (1922), in which actor Max Schreck in the role of Count Orlok who affects and inspires the look and manner of vampires in pop culture to this day.
Zeena Schreck's ”Bring Me The Head of F.W. Murnau ” offers a seamless horror atmosphere, especially with suitable framework conditions (darkened room, no disturbances), and is therefore recommended to dark ambient fans but also to friends of soundtracks (regardless of whether from films, video games etc.) and anyone who wants an atmospheric musical background for suitable scenes (e.g., for Pen-&-Paper und LARP role-playing games).
And of course, the topics presented on the album would also appeal to friends of classic horror films from the 1920s and beyond, because in my opinion (at least as far as the majority of the pieces on the album are concerned) they also convey the spirit and atmosphere of these films really well.”
-- Dominik Tyroller
To read this review in original German version, click HERE.
To order the signed & numbered limited edition of this CD, go HERE.
[Scroll down to see a personal message from Zeena.]
Those who pre-ordered the digital EP from Bandcamp, check your email as you'll receive the new release via download link that's been sent directly to you. Those who pre-ordered the limited edition, signed and numbered physical CD, your orders were sent as soon as they came in; you should have them any day (if you haven't already).
There are still some limited, signed & numbered CDs available HERE!
You can sample tracks on the Zeena Scheck Bandcamp site at:
FOR REVIEW COPIES of the physical CD and/or Interview requests to Zeena, please write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
FOR SHOPS AND RETAILERS and any questions regarding your order, please write to:
A Message from Zeena:
"My heartfelt thanks to all you sweet, kind patrons of the arts who already pre-ordered my debut solo EP! I recognize so many of your names and have wonderful memories of your kind support over the years! Honored to have such a wonderful, eclectic following of alternative music aficionados. It's thanks to people like you who keep independent art and artists going! Some of the initial impressions shared with me have given me such joy and even greater, creative inspiration! By all means, feel free to post your impressions of my new CD publicly too - in comments below or anywhere on my online sites!
Thank you again and may the light of the Morning Star shine brightly upon all of your paths toward Liberation and Enlightenment!"
NEW Release! Phantoms: The Rise of Deathrock from the LA Punk Scene by Mikey Bean Featuring Extensive Radio Werewolf Interview
At long last, IT'S ALIVE! Congratulations to Mikey Bean for his long awaited mammoth, encyclopedic documentation of the roots of the Los Angeles deathrock scene, which was an integral part of the later goth movement. Within the 630 page history, is full chapter on Radio Werewolf which includes an exclusive interview with Zeena (sample pages below).
Can be purchased NOW directly at: http://www.lulu.com/shop/mikey-bean/phantoms-the-rise-of-deathrock-from-the-la-punk-scene/paperback/product-24320734.html
Book description and product details in screenshot below.
Reposted from Please Kill Me music blog:
Amy Haben reviews seven bands and musicians who were also part of notorious religious cults, communes, and porn legends between the 1960s-80s, culminating with the best for last, Zeena & Radio Werewolf.
Read the entry for Radio Werewolf below, or go to the full article HERE:
Flashback 8-8-88: Interview Excerpts from forthcoming book 'Phantoms: The Rise of Deathrock from the L.A. Punk Scene.'
Flashback to 8-8-88:
Today marks thirty years since Zeena's first public collaboration with music group Radio Werewolf, which led soon after to her becoming co-director as composer, musician, lyricist, singer, artist and art director.
Music historian Mikey Bean interviewed Radio Werewolf for his forthcoming encyclopedic volume, 'Phantoms: The Rise of Deathrock from the L.A. Punk Scene.' The Radio Werewolf chapter covers a vast amount of yet unknown information about several key points in the bands development, from all members involved.
Thanks goes out to Mikey Bean for granting permission to share a peek of this book, prior to release.
The following passages are specifically in reference to the 8-8-88 rally at the Strand Theater in San Francisco.
To follow updates on the 'Phantoms' release, go to this Facebook page:
Phantoms: The Rise Of Deathrock From The La Punk Scene https://www.facebook.com/mikeys.book/
Original, Vintage Radio Werewolf Merchandise available on this site under:
VINTAGE, ORIGINALS & COLLECTIBLES
Radio Werewolf begin working on The Norse Eddas shortly before 8-8-88
Zeena: In Summer of '88, a couple of months after we'd met, Nikolas mentioned that he and Kirby were planning on doing an album of the Norse Eddas.
Nikolas Schreck: …on rehearsing the adaptation of the Elder Edda, which formed the centerpiece of Radio Werewolf's second album Songs For The End Of The World.
Zeena: He said, “I'm looking for a strong woman to play the role of a Valkyrie and you just might be the one I've been looking for.”
Nikolas Schreck: Her artwork and creative writing, which she read to me, and her skills as an improvisatory keyboard player with a gift for haunting medieval melodies, her experience in theater as ritual, these were the many things we had in common as far as the mutual artistic approach that blossomed into our collaboration in the next phase of Radio Werewolf.
Zeena: He knew I'd done theater pieces and had acting experience, and asked if I'd be interested. Now, the funny thing is, between '87-88, I'd been having a pleasant dalliance with King Diamond. Right around the time Nikolas asked me to participate in the Eddas recording, Kind Diamond said he'd like to find a way to bring me on tour with him but in order to do that, he would have had to work me into his act to justify my travel expenses. At that time, King Diamond had a stage act that involved a haunted house story with a scary old grandmother character and he asked if I'd consider wearing a latex mask to play the grandmother. Well, given the choice between playing a Valkyrie or playing an old grandmother in a latex mask, which would you choose?! (laughs) So obviously Nikolas, Kirby and I began working on what would become Songs For The End Of The World fairly early on. We were artists who would’ve collaborated as equals on something anyway, regardless of whether or not we got romantically involved, and regardless of Nikolas's then involvement with the first cast of Radio Werewolf.
8-8-88 rally at Strand Theater SF
Nikolas Schreck: Then in August, the 8-8-88 concert happened, the anniversary of the Manson murders. Zeena came to San Francisco from LA at my invitation, to do a reading at this concert to which Boyd Rice and I had agreed to several months before.
Zeena: I was supposed to arrive at the venue with Boyd and Adam Parfrey. I wanted to get there a little early, as I usually do, but they wanted to wait until the last minute and opted instead to kill time eating dinner in Japan Town. Meanwhile, Nikolas and his girlfriend were still running around getting everything together for the performance, obviously with no help from the three of us.
Zeena: The 8-8-88 rally was the only time the old line up of Radio Werewolf and the yet-to-be new line up of Radio Werewolf worked together. It would be the only performance that Nikolas, the original percussionist Wilhelm, and I ever performed live together. That marked the transition point spanning three phases of Radio Werewolf: 1) the Nikolas Schreck/Evil Wilhelm collaboration, 2) the solo Nikolas Schreck/The Fiery Summons, and 3) the Nikolas Schreck/Zeena collaboration.
Zeena: During the performance my cue was a particular organ chord that Nikolas would play; Boyd's part came before mine and when Nikolas played the cue Boyd was to step away from the podium to make room for the next in the line-up, me. When the time came for my part Boyd just stood there, I kept looking around wondering when he'd get it, his part was finished, but he stood there an interminably long time, just sort of zoning out. Judging by Boyd's and Adam's jitteriness that they expressed at dinner over the Geraldo crew filming it, I think that must have been what panicked him, they weren't yet used to that level of national attention.
Nikolas Schreck: When the Geraldo Rivera [U.S. TV show] film crew had arrived at the theater they asked me in all seriousness if they could film my Satanic wedding ceremony with Zeena LaVey; they were very disappointed when I told them there was no such wedding planned!
Zeena: Because of Boyd's stage fright, it left me about half the time I needed for what we'd planned for me to read…so I just hurriedly did my part and moved on. It was also tense during the performance because shortly before we went on, we learned of a call-in threat from someone with the intention of stabbing the participants on stage with syringes filled with AIDS infected blood.
Zeena: I was not at all comfortable with the atmosphere immediately after the show and wanted to immediately leave, as was the original agreement. There was supposed to be a car waiting for me, which never materialised so I was stuck in the backstage area with a bunch of dips wanting to ape for the camera. There were some group photos taken and if you notice I'm at the far outer end…why? Because I didn't even want to be in the photos at all. I was the only one standing off to the side watching the others take photos but the ‘Anton LaVey fan-club’ all whined that I should be in the photos with them and that's why I'm actually half in, and half out, of those shots.
Nikolas Schreck: Me and Wilhelm gave an interview to Geraldo, and if you watch the interview you can already see the tension that comes across from us sitting together.
Evil Wilhelm: During the show I looked around in disgust and said “this is just not fun anymore…”.
Zeena: You could cut the tension with a knife, because on the one end of the spectrum you had these goofy newcomers to the CoS, getting off on their 15 minutes of media high, and then on the other end of the spectrum you had this silently smouldering Radio Werewolf drama between Wilhelm and Nikolas unfolding behind everyone else's drunken giddiness…as for me, I just wanted to go home.
Fastforward 30 Years
Zeena: Although we haven't collaborated on musical projects since Radio Werewolf ended in 1993, there are still a lot of similarities in theme and content to what we both do.
Nikolas Schreck: These days, Zeena and I focus on solo performances and individual writing/art projects; we purposely don't attend each others' gigs for a variety of practical reasons, mostly having to do with maintaining respect for each artists' autonomy, and to dispel the moronic ‘Mommy and Daddy of Satanism’ idea which originated primarily from both the US Fundamentalist Christian AND Satanic factions.
Zeena: We live and work entirely independently of each other these days. On a practical level, we learned long ago that it's very difficult for two very focused artists, who are always working on a continuous stream of projects, with unpredictable schedules, to attempt to live any sort of conventional co-habitation or ‘coupledom’ lifestyle. In addition to that, I've taken Buddhist Bodhisattva vows and am a yogini, which also necessitates specific ways of living.
Nikolas Schreck: I’m flattered that [more than] thirty years after I started [Radio Werewolf] people are still enthusiastic and excited about it. I saw from the beginning that it’s something beyond…I can’t get away from it, but it isn’t ‘me’; I feel like I have a younger twin brother who did all this stuff and I have to deal with the consequences, that it’s like a child I brought into the world and I have to accept the responsibility of it.
Zeena: For me, the most powerful, valuable and enduring lesson of all that came out of my Radio Werewolf years is the message of our final album: Love Conquers All.
[End of excerpt]
The Occult Influences of Sympathy for the Devil
Den of Geek online journal explores the mystique and back stories of the 1968 cult anthem Sympathy for the Devil, by The Rolling Stones in this in-depth article. Exclusive interview with Zeena throughout the article, recalling her first-hand experiences with and magical interpretations of the song and its influences (excerpted in parts below: Full article, HERE and again at end of this post):
Zeena Schreck, a Berlin-based interdisciplinary visual and musical artist told Den of Geek [...] “I'm sure they didn't mind the controversy that came with the dark associations from 'Sympathy,' or the previously released 'Their Satanic Majesties Request.' I'd think the more sinister reputation would have been, for the Stones, a welcome delineation from the 'I-wanna-hold-your-hand’ Beatles [...] generally, it seemed they were tapping into the overall Zeitgeist of the times, of the overwhelming pop-culture focus on occultism, witchcraft, and Satanism,” Zeena explains. “Specifically, the theme of that song seemed more a literary reference, influenced by the Russian novel The Master and Margarita by Bulgakov. I doubt there were any intentional sinister motivations.”
Rock has been called the devil’s music since it began to roll. This is both overt bigotry and inferred spiritual racism. There must be real power in those jungle beats that pump out real magic. “Possibly one of the reasons that particular song developed such an aura surrounding it is due to the consistent, shamanistic-like percussion and chanting,” says Zeena. “The quality of the rhythm in ‘Sympathy’ is similar to magical drumming played to induce trance states. That type of hypnotic rhythm is a traditional method of inducing altered states of consciousness. Combine that with the copious amounts of drugs and psychedelics that everyone was taking those days, while invoking a (conventionally understood) malevolent force, then obviously the effects would be quite epic.”
Invoking a Demon Brother: “Sympathy for the Devil” was captured in two takes, the first one Richards declared a disaster, before hitting on the perfect alchemy. The recording was filmed by French new wave film icon Jean-Luc Godard, who renamed his film One Plus One in honor of it for its 1968 producer’s cut. During the five days of recording, as the stories go, a film lamp started a fire that laid waste to the band’s equipment. The tapes were protected, another clue to the possessed nature of the noise.
The band’s mythic satanic alliance was further cemented by their association with American underground filmmaker Kenneth Anger, a former child actor who wrote the tell-all book Hollywood Babylon. Anger was a Crowleyan who called his movies Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, Scorpio Rising, and Fireworks “visual incantations” and “moving spells.” Jagger played the synthesizer soundtrack for his Invocation of My Demon Brother. Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin scored one on Crowley. Anger met the Stones through art gallery owner Robert Fraser and asked if they would work on a film called Lucifer Rising. Anger wanted to cast Mick as Lucifer and Keith as Beelzebub.
Zeena says that, during the 1960s and 1970s, the filmmaker “transmitted the influences of Curtis Harrington, Jean Cocteau, and Maya Deren [to her],” adding that her own art “was influenced early in life by the mentorship of her godfather Kenneth Anger.” During her childhood and adolescence, Zeena “was privy to Anger's conversations about his involvement with such contemporaries as the Rolling Stones, Jimmy Page and Anita Pallenberg.”
“Occasionally Kenneth Anger would mention his involvement with the members of the band,” Zeena says. “When the subject came up, he'd say they'd brought destructive energies upon themselves. Ironically he, himself, helped facilitate that, being their magical mentor. Despite the Stones' backing off from the 60s’ dark occult influences around them, there can be no denying that Anger was a strong influence for a time, as witness Jagger's soundtrack for Invocation of my Demon Brother.”
But Zeena, who was teaching magic and sorcery at the age of 16, “never agreed with Kenneth's admiration and proselytizing of Aleister Crowley and Thelema. It's a very destructive and misogynistic philosophy which has brought a lot of harm to people who take it seriously.” Zeena severed ties with her father and his Church, and is now a teacher of Tibetan Tantric Buddhism, where the music of the Rolling Stones is more welcome.
“Although Kenneth Anger was befriended with both the Rolling Stones and my father during the same years, you definitely would not hear ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ playing at Church of Satan headquarters,” Zeena says. “The simple reason is that the High Priest had very rigid, idiosyncratic interpretations of what he considered ‘satanic music.’ Rock music, heavy metal, or any other kind of popular music, were definitely not part of his satanic jukebox.”
The British band might also have stopped dropping quarters into the American director’s nickelodeon. “Kenneth Anger they thought laughable,” Faithfull wrote in her memoirs. “Mick and Keith were utterly contemptuous of his satanic hocus-pocus.”
“However, a more direct magical influence, aside from Kenneth Anger, influencing the group during the making of 'Sympathy for the Devil', would have more likely been Anita Pallenberg,” Zeena says. “She openly practiced black magical rituals and never hid her fascination for the darker side of life. She not only performed backing vocals but also had a creative influence on the music and style of the group, being their sort of 'resident witch.' I know one of Pallenberg's cousins who confirmed she was always into the black arts and a little 'witchy.’”
Because Swinging London in the '60s only really ranged a few blocks, both the Rolling Stones and the Beatles were loosely connected to the sixties counter-spiritual group, the Process Church of Final Judgement, but mainly because they all went to Pink Floyd shows. “The Stones' playing with popular satanic themes and imagery may have begun superficially at first but ultimately a malignant seed was planted and the conditions for destructive consequences ripened,” Zeena says, referencing another tragedy that played into the song’s morbid mythology.
The legend of the “Sympathy for the Devil” took more sinister turn during the Altamont Free Concert in 1969. Though Meredith Hunter was killed by Hell’s Angel’s bikers who were working security while the band was playing "Under My Thumb," the fight that killed him interrupted the band as they kicked into their rhythmic satanic anthem. "We're always having—something very funny happens when we start that number," Jagger said before the band restarted the number. Because of the public outrage, the Stones didn’t play the song live for the next seven years.
Brian Jones was played out during the recording of Beggars Banquet, but he was not silent. Richards worked double and triple duty, but Jones did the wonderful slide work in “No Expectations,” and played the sitar and tanpura on "Street Fighting Man." The album would be the last with Jones, who was discovered drowned in his Sussex swimming pool on July 26, 1969. His own musical exploration propelled the band to take the lead in many major musical movements. “Speaking only for my years composing with Radio Werewolf, I wouldn't say ‘Sympathy’ or Satanic Majesties Request had direct influence on my music within Radio Werewolf,” Zeena says. “But I did have a strong affinity with their music produced in the Brian Jones years - their music when it had a more medieval flavor. That sound is what I'm naturally drawn to and often create.”
Zeena's Magical, Musical, Mystery Reunion with Legendary Swiss Event Promoter Arnoldo Steiner of 'Magic Circle'
A Message from ZEENA:
"After twenty six years, I'm thrilled to have just reconnected with the very dear Arnoldo Steiner, who was the event organizer of Radio Werewolf's final concert "The Zürich Experiment." He recently posted a collection of his images from that night and, with his permission, I'm featuring them in my Photo Gallery on my website as well.
My memories of the event are entirely positive and wonderful. Without a doubt, Arnoldo was the most gracious host I'd had in all of my music experiences.
Arnoldo has always had, and still does have, an Old World charm which one expects of the Goth sub-culture, but in recent years is often lacking. A true emanation of Shelley-Byron style Romanticism at its best. As a result, his events' decor, his personal presence and classic style had a positive influence on the Zürich Goth scene which, to my recollection, were an ideal audience that particular night! It's safe to say that Arnoldo has had a longstanding reputation as 'The Source' for such alternative entertainment as what Radio Werewolf represented. Best described in the advertizement of the Radio Werewolf performance he organized (also in English below):
' GOTHIC OPERA
The commitment to youth culture of Zurich's Arnoldo Steiner dates back to the 'Halbstarken' era of the 1960s [Halbstarken def: Americanization of post-WWII Europe via pop culture].
In recent years, he has organized unusual gothic and rock parties, with fans from all over Switzerland. This will also be the case on 30 December, the day before New Year's Eve. For the first time, the cult group Radio Werewolf from L.A., based in Vienna, will perform in Switzerland. These prophesies of doom offer more than just an ordinary concert. Their performance is an opera, a ritual, a magical work of art. Before and after the midnight spectacle, the original -Big Apple- DJs Walky, Andy and Arnoldo will spin wave and gothic rock classics.'
It was wonderful to have had an organizer who not only totally got what we were doing musically, but also made everything so pleasant! (In 1991, being a vegetarian was not an easy thing to add to the rider! )
Many thanks to Arnoldo for providing these images and fun memories from Radio Werewolf's past !"
Go to PHOTO GALLERY for the images from RADIO WEREWOLF's final concert courtesy of Arnoldo Steiner - thanks again Arnoldo !
Twenty-five years ago today, Radio Werewolf ceremonially concluded its seven year sonic-magic cycle with The Zürich Experiment, held at the historic Kaufleuten concert hall, Zurich, Switzerland at Midnight, December 30, 1991. The live track in this post is from that event, digitally remastered in 2012, for The Vinyl Solution - Analog Artifacts: Ritual Instrumentals and Undercover Versions. Video collage by Tony Sokol.
Text to "Prologue: Turn Off, Tune In, Drop Out" :
[Voice: Master of Ceremonies Wolfgang]
Willkommen beim Zürich Experiment.
Sie sind hier zusammengerufen worden, um an einem historischen Experiment in akustischer Magie teilzunehmen. Während der nächsten Minuten wird Ihr Verstand von vielen Jahren Programmierung, Fehlinformationen und gesellschaftlicher Kontrollmechanismen gesäubert und befreit werden.
Heute nacht haben Sie aus freiem Willen eine andere Dimension des Denkens betreten. Am Ende des Experiments werden Sie nicht mehr dieselbe Person sein wie bei Ihrer Ankunft an diesem Ort.
Welcome to the Zurich experiment.
You have been summoned here to participate in a historic experiment in acoustic magic. During the next few minutes, your minds will be cleansed and freed from many years of programming, misinformation and social control mechanisms.
Tonight you have voluntarily entered another dimension of thought. At the end of the experiment, you will not be the same person as you were when you arrived at this location.
[Voice: Alpha She-Wolf Zeena]
Good Evening. You've tuned into Radio Werewolf, the Voice of Terror, broadcasting at a frequency of 666 megahertz. The following is a Transmission of the Nightmare Network.
Prologue: Turn Off, Tune In, Drop Out
The Vinyl Solution
Live at The Zurich Experiment, Dec. 30, 1991
Vocals: Zeena & Wolfgang
Sound recordings: Zeena
Copyright 1991 All Rights Reserved
Visual Choreographer: Tony Sokol
Vintage Radio Werewolf & Other Items Newly Added in Featured Products on this site!
Get 30% off everything in Featured Products beginning now until Sunday night (Nov. 27) when using this code: blackweekend16.
We've added many original, rare and hard to find items, including ORIGINAL Radio Werewolf Vinyls: The Lightning and the Sun, Bring Me the Head of Geraldo Rivera, Boots/Witchcraft, The Fiery Summons. ORIGINAL CDs: Christopher Lee Sings Devils, Rogues and Other Villains, Love Conquers All, George Montalba Fantasy in Pipe Organ. Radio Werewolf Vintage memorabilia: Original Radio Werewolf Fenris Wolf Patch, Original 1991 Radio Werewolf Poster. Plus there are only a dozen 2017 ZEENA Calendars remaining.
DON'T FORGET TO USE THE DISCOUNT CODE * blackweekend16 * WHEN ORDERING in FEATURED PRODUCTS on this site!
Tune in Tuesday night Oct 25th @10PM CET for a NIGHTWATCH Halloween Special, when Zeena will discuss her current music and writing projects and much more. As always there's sure to be surprises! The show will be a double-feature pairing Zeena alongside actor Richard Sammel, currently known for his role as Thomas Eichhorst in the FX vampire horror drama series 'The Strain.' Tune in live on the Nightwatch homepage at: http://www.zombiebloodbath.com/nightwatch/front.html
THANKS TO CLAUS LAUFENBURG for these rare and legendary concert stills from Radio Werewolf's early '90s European "End of the World" concert tour . These stills are from concert footage Herr Laufenburg filmed for Video Werewolf music documentary videos.
STAY TUNED FOR MORE NEWS ON THIS THEME: A massive video-to-digital transfer project is currently underway to save many of Zeena's archived VHS video cassette tapes for posterity. Plans are to re-release the videos that the stills in this gallery are from, as well as many other vintage Radio Werewolf videos and formerly lost TV and film appearances of Zeena from the 80s and 90s! This will be a laborious, time intensive project. So please have patience. We will keep you posted as new additions to the archives are available.
By Brett Buchanan for Alternative Nation, Jul 25, 2016 - Frances Bean Cobain recently made a post on Instagram showing the legendary image of Zeena from the Geraldo Rivera 1988 Satanism special. The post explained why Bean-Cobain is ‘fascinated’ with Satanists. She wrote in her answer: “Zeena Schreck LaVey[...] (I’m not a satanist but I find them fucking fascinating).”
Frances Bean Cobain obviously didn't know that Zeena renounced satanism AND the name LaVey before Frances was even born! If Zeena Schreck is why she's "fascinated with Satanists", hopefully she knows too that Zeena's been a practicing Buddhist for ages - after she ditched her charlatan dad and his plastic devil horns.
In any case, we wish Frances the best and hope she can find peace from a tumultuous family history in the same way that Zeena has.
Article at: /www.alternativenation.net/frances-bean-cobain-on-why-she-is-fascinated-with-satanism/
CLASSIC ROCK online magazine has listed RADIO WEREWOLF as #4 weirdest band of all time, topping other such notorious groups as Roky Erickson, Father Yod & Yahowha 13, The Monks, and the '60s topless all girl band The Ladybirds!
Classic Rock describes Radio Werewolf as:
Formed during the height of “Satanic Panic” hysteria in mid-80's America, Radio Werewolf was once considered “the most dangerous band in the world”, largely due to the notoriety of their vocalist, Zeena Schreck.
Read the full article and list here http://teamrock.com/feature/2016-06-28/the-25-weirdest-bands-of-all-time
Noise Receptor Issue #4 features an amazing in-depth archival interview with John Murphy from 2002 featuring lead photo by Zeena. You can pre-order this issue at the link below.
While you're at the Noise Receptor site, be sure to check out their excellent review of The Epicurean music label's John Murphy memorial compilation "All My Sins Remembered: the Sonic Worlds of John Murphy," a 3CD set featuring, among many contributions from diversified and noteworthy artists, a live track from Zeena's 2015 WGT concert with John.
Cover portrait of John to the CD booklet is by Zeena as well.
Ordering info for Noise Receptor #4 @ https://noisereceptor.wordpress.com/physicality/noise-receptor-journal-issue-no-4/
Ordering info for The Epicurean's "All My Sins Remembered: the Sonic Worlds of John Murphy" @ http://www.transformed.de/theepicurean.html
Images below by: Noise Receptor & Andrew King