It’s not often that you get a goth band from Turkey. In fact, She Past Away is the only one I know of. They formed in 2009, and when they released the track ‘Kasvetli Kutlama’ (Sombre Celebration) in 2010 they instantly took the goth and post-punk world by storm.
That song itself now has legendary status in clubs across the world, filling the floor on a weekly basis rivalling tracks like ‘First and Last and Always’ by The Sisters of Mercy. Not many bands can come along 25 years later and rival the classics like that, so that’s saying something.
Corrosion spoke to Doruk, the band’s keyboardist, producer and manager. The interview was actually conducted in Turkish, which was a quite challenging experience for us, but we got there in the end.
She Past Away was not the beginning of Doruk’s music career. “Before, in 2000, I had a project called Psychoma,” he says. As anyone who has listened to She Past Away will know, the band has a rich, multi-layered post-punk sound with the jangling guitars that defined the eighties and bands like The Smiths, The Sisters of Mercy and The Mission. This wasn’t always his style, though: “I produced music in a more electro-based darkwave style. I wanted to spend my life in a music group.” It took a while for that dream to come to fruition, but one day it did: “After a long search, in 2009 I found the right members and started She Past Away,” he says.
Doruk’s first taste of the darker side of music actually came in the form of heavy metal: “When I was about thirteen or fourteen, a friend from school gave me a cassette of Iron Maiden – ‘The Number of the Beast’, and that was the turning point for me,” Doruk explains. There really was no looking back: “Today that music is the most important aspect of my life.”
The whole darkwave thing is niche enough in the UK and Germany, the places it has been the biggest, so coming from Turkey the chances of discovering it are a lot less likely. “Darkwave culture has never existed in Turkey,” says Doruk before adding: “There are a very few people, you might be able to call it an underground culture.” Normally an underground scene is just about enough to sustain the bands that make it, but where they were it was even too small for that: “It wasn’t strong enough for us to sustain ourselves or for our album to be as successful there as we’d have liked.” Because of the lack of scene there, most of their support actually came from the overseas publications. “In this period, it was the fanzines that were guiding us,” he says. Even after She Past Away, there is still a lack of a scene as such, although there is more interest in the music itself: “It’s hard to talk about a specific scene for darkwave, but a few have a mass following, even if it is just the music.”
Not only are She Past Away Turkish, but even more unusually, their lyrics are also in their native language. As someone who doesn’t understand Turkish, I find that it enhances their music, adding a sense of obscurity, making it more atmospheric. I ask if this is the effect the band intends to create. Doruk answers: “We talk in Turkish and we feel that we should make music in the language that makes us the most free.” Considering my comments on the language, Doruk adds: “It is also likely to make people look into things, and it gives a nice sense of obscurity,” he pauses before continuing: “It comes as natural as love, and the group has followers in many other languages.”
It is well known that Turkey can be a very conservative and religious country, so anything gothic which could be considered dark or unwholesome is often frowned upon. This could cause problems for a band like She Past Away, and is probably one of the reasons the scene hasn’t grown very big over there. But, has it affected the band’s career? “It does not have a direct effect on the music,” he says, but indirectly it does have an influence: “It does affect us in a general sense, and people’s perspective on music. Music culture over here is more about trends now, and it’s not a question of people identifying with one style of music.”
Whatever the case, it is clear that Doruk has a strong disdain for religion. When I ask him what his views are, he responds forcefully saying, “The most cruel and harmful nonsense ever invented by mankind.”
As a band who are more popular outside their home country, She Past Away have toured considerably and anywhere they visit is going to be very different from their home country. Pondering the best places they’ve toured, Doruk just can’t decide: “Too many!” he says. “In particular, we played concerts in South America, they were the least forgettable. We got an amazing response from the audience over there,” he adds after a little more thinking.
Judging by their sound, I had an inkling who the band’s biggest influence might be, but I asked anyway just to confirm my suspicions. I was right: “With time this changes,” says Doruk. “If I’m talking about my first influence, it would have to be The Sisters of Mercy – ‘First and Last and Always’. That is what guided me after I first listened to music,” he says, confirming my suspicions. “Sisters was cold, dark post-punk alongside Doctor Avalanche which presented a uniform beat, their music changed my view decisively.”
I know it’s the case, sometimes unfortunately, that for many goth bands their only influence is The Sisters of Mercy, but surely something else inspires She Past Away? “Anything can,” affirms Doruk. “We feed off negative events when we’re writing music. The bad news we read in the newspapers, the disappointment that we live in can be a source of inspiration musically.” Well, at least some of us get something out of all that’s wrong in the world.
I [strongly] dislike positive music, and that’s probably why I like She Past Away so much. Doruk is on the same wavelength: “I don’t like any music that has positive feelings,” he says. You won’t find anything positive in this magazine. The band listens to anything, as long as it has some level of cynisism or pessimism about it: “Late seventies synth music, post-punk, coldwave, italo disco, minimal wave are what we listen to most,” says Doruk.
Their own sound is a combination of all that they love, but if he could put one label on it it would be “Eighties.”
“We are impressed with the post-punk links people give us, and darkwave too. I think we fit into the category of pure gothic music. The labels coldwave and darkwave are also convenient for us.”
She Past Away are probably the biggest new goth band of this decade, and although they have a cult following in the scenes that are interested, they are nowhere near as big as similar bands that were around in the eighties. Will dark music ever escape the grips of the underground as it did back then? “I don’t think so,” answers Doruk. “Of course we can’t know for sure, it did happen in the eighties. It’s nice to imagine… being able to dance to a darkwave disco hit anywhere…”
Speaking of the future, and the duo’s upcoming plans I asked if any work has started on their next album? “We have started to study our new songs,” says Doruk, and there isn’t much more that can be said about it at this point: “You’ll have to wait a moment for a date, but I hope that our new album will be ready within a year.”
In a few weeks they’ll be playing Black Easter festival, a gothic rock festival that takes place over the aforementioned weekend. There are some bands there they’re really looking forward to playing with: “In the Nursery. I especially love the first album. In addition to this, a group we really love is Lebanon Hanover. It’s great that we will work together again.”
Later in the year, they’ve got a few more festivals lined up including Heavens In Motion Festival, Return To The Batcave Festival and Autumn Moon Festival. Are there any plans for them to visit the UK? “So far no such plan. We hope there’ll be a next time and I can’t wait to visit your country again.”
And to finish, he thanks us for the interview and says to everyone: “With love.”