Big thanks to author and industrial music scholar Nicholas Diak for his great review of Zeena's Bring Me the Head of F.W. Murnau in the latest issue of Exotica Moderna. Fans of Exotica-Industrial mixes will especially appreciate his take on Zeena's 'Tabu' track:
“Bring Me the Head of F.W. Murnau (BMTHOFWM) is the debut studio release of multimedia artist Zeena Schreck. Created in response to the theft of the skull of German director Murnau, that made the news back in 2015, BMTHOFWM is a concept EP that dives into the world of Murnau, his films and his legacy. The release proper is mostly spoken word recitations of Murnau's letters and film intertitles (such as those from his most renowned film, Nosferatu), over field recordings and minimalist industrial pulses.
Schreck's EP is of interest for fans of exotica for her track Tabu, which is an homage to Murnau's final film, Tabu: A Story of the South Seas, from 1931.
The track begins with some old school industrial clangs and beats before it transitions to Schreck reading text from the film as the music eases into a subdued form of primitive exotica with shakers and primal drumming that evokes the likes of Martin Denny and Les Baxter. BMTHOFWM is a niche release, but it situates itself at that interesting pop culture intersection of silent film appreciation and aesthetics to the realm of Tiki and exotica. It is an excellent CD for collectors who indulge in exploring the newer forms of exotica.”
- Nicholas Diak
Bring Me the Head of F.W. Murnau CD Available on this site: HERE
Or download at Bandcamp digital download* [*This Friday Feb 5, Bandcamp will again waive it's revenue share!]
Exotica Moderna is a quarterly publication showcasing the latest in tiki art and culture published by House of Tabu.
Below: A page capture of Nicholas Diak's review of Bring Me the Head of F.W. Murnau in Exotica Moderne #10
The title of this post, "Last Day of a Bummer Year" is a reference to the below 1988 letter to me from my godfather Kenneth Anger, penned on his personal stationery bearing beautifully intricate artwork by Bobby Beausoleil.
If '88 was "A Bummer Year", then thirty-two years later, as we come to the end of 2020, how should we classify this year? Surely Kenneth, and most of us, will be happy to see the door shut on this year.
Whatever your usual New Year's Eve celebrations, most everyone throughout the world will be having a quiet, lockdown New Year's Eve this year. There are myriad self-help articles and endless updates on every platform about the pandemic and how to deal with it in practical medical and psychological ways. I don't have anything to add to all of that, on that level.
I know many who have lost loved ones this year, not only to Coronavirus but countless other ways. Many are feeling grief, pain and sorrow because they couldn't see their loved ones one last time before they passed. Others have been separated from family, friends or partners, unable to travel due to quarantine or lockdowns. In times like this, it's important to remember that we're never truly separated from the mind streams of those we love, not even after physical death. If you consider yourself a true mystic, magician or spiritual being of any kind, it's important to develop the mind, and the ability to focus, so that we may connect with those we've lost or are unable to physically be with.
This WWII song "We'll Meet Again," sung by Vera Lynn who died this year at the age of 103 years shortly after the first lockdown, is as relevant to our feelings of loss and disconnect in the current world-wide situation today as it was eighty years ago.
I extend my wishes and prayers that all of you stay physically and mentally healthy, that you have strength to get through these difficult temporary times and that you try to do whatever possible to generate loving-kindness, joyfulness and life affirming thoughts for yourselves and others. Try to not spend too much time taking in disaster oriented news but do stay connected to animals, nature and real-life offline experiences within your immediate environment. It is more important to stay grounded and compassionate than hateful, divisive and accusatory, which doesn't help to heal anything. If we remember that everyone is experiencing their own pain and suffering through all of this, and their own experiences of Impermanence, we can hopefully try to remain calm if and when heated and stressful situations arise.
My thoughts and blessings for a strong and healthy New Year 2021 are with you all. Through the power of our combined magic and prayers, may we see positive changes in the year to come!
I close now with the closing words from Kenneth Anger's above letter to me, "Keep Well" !
Om Mani Padme Hum & SLM
Medicine Buddha mantra blessings to anyone ill or experiencing mental and psychic disturbances, also for the wellbeing of all animals:
Tayatha Om Bekandze Bekandze Maha Bekandze Radza Samudgate Soha
Amitabha Buddha mantra blessings, for those who've passed this year:
Om Ami Dewa Hri
For Black Friday weekend beginning now until Nov. 30Th, get a 20% discount on all Featured Products on this site and at Zeena's Bandcamp site.
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For some musicians it's Halloween everyday. This is certainly true of musical artist King Dude (TJ Cowgill). Below, a message from Zeena about being the inspiration for this song, along with description & order info from the distributor, Tesco's, webpage.
"I was so happy and very honored when my dear friend TJ Cowgill (aka, King Dude) recently told me that a reminiscence I'd related to him on one of our walks in Berlin's Grunewald forest sparked the inspiration for his newest release, the 7" vinyl single, "I Was Evil".
While I don't seriously believe in dualistic labels like "good" and "evil", it was said in a humorous way and from that fleeting comment, a truly beautiful song written by King Dude, with vocals by the hauntingly velvet voiced Katrin (of the band AWEN), has emerged!
To all involved in its creation and production, I wish all the best for its success and send forth the ancient magical formula of Lord Sutekh:
"Life, Health, Strength and Happiness!"
Description/Beschreibung:STRICTLY LIMITED COLLECTOR’S VINYL EDITION OF THE COOPERATION BETWEEN KING DUDE AND AWEN.
TJ Cowgill (KING DUDE) and Erin Powell (AWEN):
Two American friends having a long conversation over whiskey and nicotine on a balmy Texas evening before a King Dude performance in Dallas, Texas. At one point TJ relays a story told to him by Zeena Schreck (née LaVey) wherein she could have effected some malice but on a whim decided not to, adding ‘but, that was back when I was evil’. That sentence was a springboard for a song idea.
The two projects came together to collaborate on this powerful 7” release “I Was Evil”, featuring the tracks “I Was Evil”, backed with “Sanctioned”!
“I Was Evil” features Katrin of AWEN’s vocal performance that is at the same time vulnerable yet formidable against the majestic and crepuscular music that KING DUDE fans have come to expect and love.
TESCO ORDER PAGE
Tony Sokol at The Chiseler Online Magazine interviews Zeena about her memories of actor Christopher Lee:
The interdisciplinary avant garde artist spoke exclusively with the Chiseler about the legendary actor.
Zeena “met Christopher Lee as a result of being co-producer for the CD ‘Christopher Lee Sings Devils Rogues and other Villians.’ Specifically, I first met him at the apartment in Los Angeles that [former husband] Nikolas and I rented for him and his wife Gitte to stay in while we worked on the recording of ‘Christopher Lee Sings Devils Rogues and other Villains.’ ”
Long before Lee recorded with the symphonic power metal group Rhapsody of Fire, he was involved with “Christopher Lee Sings Devils, Rogues & Other Villains (From Broadway To Bayreuth And Beyond).“
“Nikolas knew of Lee’s love of classical music, opera and Broadway musicals. But at that time, the general public only knew Lee for his vampire roles and had little awareness of his musical talent and appreciation,” Zeena explained.
Lee maintained that his one regret was his decision not to become an opera singer.
“Nikolas conceived of the idea to spotlight Christopher Lee’s considerable singing talents,” Zeena said. “But he knew that to do that effectively, such a project would need to focus on musical selections one would automatically think of Lee singing, appropriately sinister villainous characters from Opera and musicals.
“Lee was very enthusiastic at the proposal. So it was through helping Nikolas with the planning, production and coordinating of that project that I got to know Christopher. We recorded it at a studio in Crossroads of the World in Los Angeles. A considerable amount of work and expense went into finding suitable, classically trained musicians and a musical director (Dean Shepherd, who was fantastic) who had the right skills and temperament to work well with Lee.”
The friendship endured long after the work was completed.
“We stayed in contact throughout the years following that album,” she said. “We’d see him whenever he was in Berlin for the Berlin Film Festival and the ‘Cinema for Peace’ benefit.”
“It goes without saying that Christopher was a very colorful person,” Zeena said. “But for me, the most interesting conversations with him revolved around his descriptions of his WWII work as a British Intelligence officer. He talked about parachuting into German enemy Waffen SS camps and, well, he did what the British government trained him to do, which was not pretty.”
“I got the impression he was still rather haunted, even decades later, by some of his experiences during the war. Even though he believed that what he did was for virtuous and just reasons,” she added.
“He definitely had an interest in magic beyond the roles he played,” Zeena said. “But we need to make a distinction between 'interest’ and 'involvement.’ He had no first-hand involvement in any magical, occult or satanic groups and even declined direct invitations from such groups.
“He liked horror fiction of authors like H.P. Lovecraft, Bram Stoker, Algernon Blackwood, etc. But that was purely a literary appreciation. He also had an interest in John Dee, The Golden Dawn and other 19th and early 20th century magical groups,” she explained.
“However, it should be stated that Lee had an interest in a wide variety of eclectic subjects, which had nothing to do with occultism. He was simply very well-read and inquisitive by nature,” she added.
Lee was in the enviable position to be able to satisfy his many curiosities.
“As a result of his years in British intelligence, he’d known figures like Dennis Wheatley, his cousin Ian Fleming, etc., and had heard of their experiences with Aleister Crowley. In fact he was lifelong friends with Dennis Wheatley and agreed with Wheatley’s views on the occult. But their friendship grew out of their mutual intelligence work, not because of occult or magical interests.
Christopher Lee was instrumental in getting Wheatley works to film. Wheatley’s The Forbidden Territory was made into a movie starring Ronald Squire as Sir Charles rather than Duke de Richleau in 1934.
“It was Lee who convinced Hammer films to buy the rights to Wheatley’s books for the films he would star in,” Zeena said. “But it should be clarified that Lee was very dismissive and wary of occultists, black magicians or satanists.”
During Zeena’s involvement in the Lee album, she had the opportunity to ask Lee about the rumor that her father knew Christopher Lee.
“When Nikolas and I got to know Lee, we were able to discuss this rumor with him in detail,” Zeena said. “Both Lee and his wife Gitte refuted the rumor vehemently. Lee explained that, as a result of working on the U.S. TV movie Poor Devil, with Sammy Davis, Jr. (who became a Priest in the Church of Satan), Davis tried to ingratiate Lee into accepting an invitation at the behest of my father, offering Lee a copy of The Satanic Bible, personally inscribed and signed by my father.
“Lee still had the book in his collection and, on one of Nikolas’s visits to London for preparations of the CD, Lee showed Nikolas the book referring to it as a cheap paperback from the '60s witchcraft fads. Lee didn’t take it at all seriously,” Zeena said. “His wife Gitte recalled another time they visited Sammy and his wife Altovise in Los Angeles, when again Sammy tried to serve as middle-man between Dracula and the Black Pope, and again to no avail.
“Lee had no interest. He said Sammy was nuts about my father but Lee saw my father as a 'Johnny-come-lately opportunist and con-man’ within the occult. Lee expressed that he had no intention of ever meeting LaVey. Then, Lee pointedly looked me in the eye and said 'I’m very glad that you had the sense to get out of all of that destructive rubbish,' expounding on what he called 'the ruinous effects of that type of belief system.' ” she concluded.
The levelheaded enchantress also got to see the work that went into his actor’s preparation.
“Lee took personal responsibility to research his roles, to learn what he could about the characters and the historical context, in order to bring a more believable performance to each character,” Zeena said. “His interest in devilish and monstrous roles was purely a matter of aesthetics and literary appreciation - but not at all a personal lifestyle.
“I think he considered the villainous roles he played as having allegorical and moral significance. Sort of like morality tales for a new generation. I don’t think he expected to actually inspire people to want to become the characters he played. He was part Italian and had a very strong sense of religious moral ethics. So even though he befriended Wheatley and personally researched the villainous roles he would play, it was really out of a dedication to portray those roles in as real a way as possible, to understand those characters from their own points of view and to make them believable,” she said.
[End of excerpts]*
*THERE'S EVEN MORE TO THIS ARTICLE - READ THE FULL INTERVIEW HERE
Originally posted to Chiseler on June 9, 2015
In the run-up to Halloween, we're re-posting some of Zeena's past Samhain-specific articles and vintage pictures. This first installment is from Zeena's VICE Magazine column titled, "Halloween in a Satanic Household"
To the article:
"As I write this, I'm already decked out in orange and black apparel in preparation for the most wonderful holiday of the year. I'm happy Berlin's finally caught up to the joys of that kooky American custom Samhain, because for the first quarter century of my life, back when I was the devil's defender, Halloween wasn't the fun and merriment it was for many others.
Statistically, crime rates rise on Halloween night, so you can imagine the kind of mayhem the HQ of the Church of Satan—a black house centered in one of San Francisco's most conservative, pastel-lined districts—invited upon itself. Early 70s San Francisco was hit by a steep spike in the crime rate, with a special twist of Barbary Coast weirdness added by such local lunatics as the Zodiac Killer, who brought fear into the city even when it wasn't Halloween.
My parents didn't allow my friends to visit our house—my daily routine consisted of coming home from school, checking in for headcount, immediately escaping to a friend's house or going out alone to play, then reporting back for dinner at our kitchen's grim mess hall before bed check.
You might expect that this drill would be different on Halloween in the most celebrated Satanic household of the 70s, but Halloween was the same old same old. Rituals were only held for the rubes—no special ceremonies necessary for family, who were all a part of Chez LaVey's mitt-camp (criminal fortune-telling rings of the carnival). We didn't spend Halloween celebrating spooky self-indulgence. We spent the harrowing night warding off the many thrill seekers who picked our infamous dwelling as the perfect target-practice for Halloween vandalism. It was bad enough this was a problem every night of the year, but on Halloween it was guaranteed that maniacs would use our house for even more imaginative drive-bys.
Like a Dickensian feral child, I always found other neighborhood kids whose parents let me tag along on Halloween nights, to make sure I was safe.
When I was eight years old, I thought I had my Halloween strategy all worked out. One of my best friends, Frankie, a Chinese boy with a Siamese cat named Mamacita, persuaded his father to take us trick-or-treating. Frankie would dress as Batman, and I would dress as Catwoman. We spent weeks preparing for Halloween, ardently studying Batman reruns, learning our lines, staging dress rehearsals, and getting all our gear in order for the big day.
Frankie and I had a lot of adventures together, encouraging each other into mischief. One day when I showed up for our Halloween training, Frankie was particularly excited about something. In hushed tones, he said he had something to show me. We went into his parents' room, and as he pulled a cardboard box from under his father's bed, he enthusiastically told me, “I found a Q-U-I and other cool magazines! You won't believe it!”
What the hell is he talking about? “What's a Q-U-I?” I asked.
“You know,” he said, “magazines for men!”
Oh! Just as my eye landed on the title, it hit me, “You mean Oui! Sure, I know Oui. My father's got tons those kinds of magazines.” (Frankie misread the title of the October '72 premiere issue as beginning with a “Q.”)
Okay. So soft-core porn was a big news to Frankie, but it was small potatoes to me, considering I belonged to a family who first come to prominence having salacious rites covered in porn rags. Cute, I thought. But let's get back to Batman. So we didn't give it much more thought about the magazines... until the big day.
Halloween night 1972: I methodically got all decked out in my sexy hand-me-down black leotard, tights and turtleneck sweater. Applied my whiskers, tail, and cat ears. Added some Julie Newmar eyebrow pencil and super sneaky-silent ballet slippers for paws.
Every good little ghoul knew it was bad luck to begin trick-or-treating before sundown. But by 5 PM, I couldn't contain myself any longer. I bolted out of that black house like a cat out of hell. Pillowcase in hand, I charged over to the corner grocery store where Frankie lived in the upstairs flat. After a while, I banged impatiently on his door. I could hear Frankie padding down the stairs. Good! I thought. Now we're getting somewhere!
When Frankie opened the door, NOT in Batcostume, my heart sank. What happened? Frankie simply said, “I can't go with you tonight. My father found out about the Q-U-I,” and then shut the door.
To keep San Francisco safe, Catwoman prowled the darkened streets without the Caped Crusader. I spent a very scary couple of hours stalking the avenues alone, ardently fulfilling my Halloween vow: Give me trick-or-treat or give me death.
That Halloween night abruptly came to an end when I knew I'd gone to the wrong house. I ascended the stairwell to a flat absent of festive Halloween decorations, but took my chances ringing the bell in pursuit of one last Snickers bar or pack of Fizzies. The creepy, disheveled occupant looked at me like a trap-door spider looking at its prey.
He grinned with an unfriendly smile and said, “What do you want?”
Immediately, I realized I'd come to the wrong door. I made something up about confusing the house with my friend's and pivoted to leave. But he grabbed my arm and said, “That's okay, I don't have any candy, but you can come in, and I'm sure I can find something.” In a nanosecond, the survival fear-reflex propelled me down the stairs and straight home.
Just one of many close calls in my life. But as you can see by the photo of the booty I plundered, my rat Orwell was happy I returned home safely.
After renouncing Satanism in 1990, in favor of sharing life with more considerate and generous entities, I'm freed up to fully enjoy Halloween as I never could when I served in defense of an ungrateful devil." --Zeena Schreck
Posted to VICE magazine website on October 26, 2013, 3:00pm at: https://www.vice.com/en/article/4w7dg3/halloween-in-a-satanic-household
To celebrate October World Animal Month*, Zeena honors our non-human companions in a limited edition 2021 photo-art calendar. Vibrant original works for monthly contemplations on themes of animal rights and spiritual liberation.
The calendar is printed on fine art quality premium paper suitable for cropping and framing after use.
Dimensions: 300x200mm / 8”x11½”
Personalized autography option located in the drop-down menu. If you have animals (or a group of animals) for which you'd like Zeena's personalized blessings, simply send your and their (the animals) names to firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to her personalized message. To ORDER click HERE.
To U.S. Customers: If you're ordering this as a gift, please consider that due to severe restrictions on parcels entering the U.S. from overseas, delivery is only allowed via ship and can take up to 8 weeks to reach destination. You will receive an email notification the day your order is sent, with tracking number, so you can follow its status.
Message from Zeena about the calendar below.
*A brief history of World Animal Day (and month) at the end of this post.
Message from Zeena:
“How many of our lives would feel incomplete without our magical familiars, totem animals, or service and emotional support animals? How many of us also feel compassion for the unseen, forgotten, unloved, feral or endangered animals? Within my 'Blessed Beasts' calendar, each tableau reveals the deeper emotional intelligence of the lovely creatures depicted. Sometimes it's in their expression, their body language, a knowing glance or an attitude which conjures a sense of loyalty, companionship, nobility, or wisdom. For pagan and shamanic religions, all animal species have inherent magical powers associated with and symbolizing different aspects of different gods. On the basis of my Tibetan Buddhist yogic training, I patiently develop a rapport with the animals I photograph by chanting specific tantric Buddhist mantras which gradually relax and open the beasts to loving-kindness and the liberating vibrations of these ancient sacred syllables. Hence the title, 'Blessed Beasts.'
In relation to the theme of the 2021 calendar, as well as October being World Animal Month, I ask you to consider donating or volunteering to any animal welfare organizations of your choice (if you don't already). In these difficult times, during the world-wide pandemic and its collateral damage, let's not forget the brave warriors who risk their own safety, health and emotional well-being to continue caring for animals in need. I have my preferred animal aid organizations to which I regularly contribute. But it really doesn't matter whether you do so for a small animal protection group in your own town, or to the neighborhood feral cat lady or bird man who contributes their free time caring for injured and sick wildlife, or whether you choose a reputable international organization – please consider making a donation to help any of them!
For more information on spiritual practices for your animals, including prayers for sick and dying animals, I recommend Lama Zopa's Enlightenment for the Dear Animals website at https://enlightenmentforanimals.org/
In closing, I send blessings and prayers to all animals and those humans who help them, and especially those who have suffered and perished this year as the result of natural and man-made disasters.
May the creatures you aid today return to you as Enlightened Mother Beings of your future lifetimes!
-Om Mani Padme Hum-
Brief History of World Animal Day/Month:
'World Animal Day' is celebrated each year on October 4th. World Animal Day was originated by the specialist in canines, Heinrich Zimmermann. He organized the first World Animal Day on 24 March 1925 at the Sport Palace in Berlin, Germany. Over 5,000 people attended this first event. The event was originally scheduled for 4 October, to align with the feast day of Saint Francis of Assisi, a nature lover and patron saint of animals and the environment. However the venue was not available on that day. The event was moved to 4 October for the first time in 1929. Initially he found a following only in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Czechoslovakia. Every year Zimmermann worked tirelessly on the promotion of World Animal Day. Finally, in May 1931 at a congress of the International Animal Protection Congress in Florence Italy, his proposal to make 4 October World Animal Day universal was unanimously accepted and adopted as a resolution. Today, World Animal Day is a global event that unites the animal protection movement agencies and has expanded to encompass the entire month of October with different events globally.
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.
As we're upon the The Witching Hour of Walpurgisnacht, I'm sharing how I celebrated this holiday twenty-eight years ago in the Harz Mountains of Germany. Filmed in 1992, this footage is of the first public Walpurgisnacht festival after decades of being banned by the former DDR. The footage is from my film 'Germania: The Theory of Ruins'. Some described this scene as eerily reminiscent of the Danish silent classic 'Häxan', but in color.
While this world-wide pandemic has had varying effects on everyone, and public events must now be cancelled, we can take heart in the fact that for many years, many people weren't able to partake in the sort of celebration shown in this video. If they were able to maintain a continuum to their spiritual roots and folk traditions, even if practicing privately, certainly we too can find ways of making the best of this holiday.
Whatever you do tonight, worldly or other-worldly,
may you have a very wonderful Walpurgisnacht and May Day!
Many blessings and stay well!
Walpurgisnacht 1992 is an excerpt from the Originally titled GERMANIA: The Theory of Ruins, A Film by Zeena Schreck.
In 1992, during a pilgrimage to several Germanic pagan holy sites, Zeena filmed scenes at the first publicly organized Walpurgisnacht celebration in the Harz Mountains since WWII. In an attempt to remove all traces of religion, including pre-Christian Germanic pagan customs, from the East German Democratic Republic (DDR), public Walpurgisnacht celebrations were banned. Therefore, this footage is a pure document of the people in the Harz region of Germany - the original birthplace of Walpurgisnacht - reviving a long lost tradition, pieced together from scraps of relics and memories from the elders of their community.
An exhibit in the Walpurgishalle was held that year to display Walpurgisnacht folk costumes and decorations which had been gathered from cellars and attics, unused for decades.
The twilight performance footage seen here was held at the outdoor theater, Das Harzer Bergtheater, on the Hexentanzplatz.
From these modest beginnings, the Harz Region now enjoys a thriving tourist industry dedicated to the magnificent Walpurgisnacht festivals they host every year. For information visit www.harzinfo.de
Music in this video is Die erste Walpurgisnacht, Op. 60, Ouvertüre: I. Das schlechte Wetter (Bad Weather) by Felix Mendelssohn. Performed by Kurt Masur, Rundfunkchor Leipzig, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig
Video footage copyright Zeena Schreck 1992/2020
All rights reserved.
[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: email@example.com
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!"
The Mistress of Dark Ambient, Experimental Sound Art,
2020 Calendar - Meditations on Death and Impermanence by Zeena - with autograph option. Whatever your religion, sexual orientation, race, or political leanings, there is no escaping the one great unifier: Death. Each image reveals Zeena's eye for minimalism, composition, symbolism and tableaux. Several of the artist's first-hand experiences from serving as death's midwife to humans and animals are revealed.
'To Remain Silent' - Unisex T-Shirt this image is one of nine in Zeena's photo montage/mixed media suite entitled, "God Bless Charles Manson" from 2009. It features a quote by Ezra Pound that Zeena found fitting to the conditions of both animals and humans who are on death row.
The Vinyl Solution - Analog Artifacts: Ritual Instrumentals and Undercover Versions – CD, with autograph options. This CD compiles newly remastered re-releases of 12 ambient sonic magic tracks from Zeena and Nikolas Schreck's rare Radio Werewolf vinyl recordings between 1989-1992 as well as 2 bonus tracks never previously released to the public by Radio Werewolf.
SLM Polo - Black. The SLM symbole, signed by Zeena for the Sethian Liberation Movement, is embroidered directly onto this polo and is a discrete way to show your solidarity with the The Awakened One, the SLM and Hemet-neter tepi Seth.
Supposing truth to be a woman. This original illustration by Zeena was published in Exit Magazine, Issue #5, 1991. George Petros (founder of Exit), described his magazine as “… an outlaw Pop Art magazine in opposition to both the underground and the establishment."
For this issue, the theme was Friedrich Nietzsche. Various Nietzsche quotes were assigned to notorious underground artists to illustrate.
Dakshineswar - Kali & Shiva Unisex T-Shirt. This is one of Zeena's illustrations for her book 'Demons of the Flesh, now for the first time, this vibrantly colored piece is presented in its original form for this shirt.
Kiss Kiss...Bang Bang from the Retro-Zeena Collection. This 1988 photo of Zeena was later featured on the cover of 'Beatdom' magazine Crime Issue #12.
Vintage Original Radio Werewolf Poster-Summer Solstice 1991. This concert was the first of many cancelled by local city government officials. The reason given was that it would be ”Jügendgefährlich” ("too dangerous for youths").
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Her livelihood and funding for current audio-visual projects rely solely on commissioned work, teaching, lecturing, performing, and fan-based support of her creative work, as well as donations from private patrons and sponsors.
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