Though haunted institutions may scare the meek and timid away, its comfortable, coveted home turf for the ghouls of Raven Black. They’re a band that personifies spooky and weird, drawn to whatever dwells and haunts the building, roaming the halls and tiers of the Ohio State Reformatory. In fact, whether through automatic writing, supernatural conversation, even possession, they would probably welcome the chance to tell some spirited stories through song.
Raven Black makes their music and muses from nightmares, turning subconscious screams and unconscious boogeymen into growled, on stage games with a pint-sized un-stringed doll leading the way. Raven is the dark feminine side of Pinocchio perhaps, though Geppeto might’ve ran jumping back inside the storybook after seeing he’d inspired something like her.
Starting humble, things got interesting after Raven and drummer Muppet had visions of the carnival and what could be done musically with the evil imagery inside them and behind the big top, and so the wickedness was born. Turning stage props into musical murder and torture, giving Raven and company their own on stage public playhouse drawing audiences that enjoyed playing games.
Saturday, July 13 was the bands first time in prison, so they say, “Yes it is,” Raven laughs with a wink. They arrived in Mansfield early that morning for day two of 2019’s Inkcarceration festival, playing the second stage with a unique mix of talent including Eyes Set to Kill, Stabbing Westward, Andrew W.K. and The Monster Dolls. It would seem preferred company to the more mainstream acts inhabiting the main stage. She planned to venture inside later, after dark, “I’m gonna try and freak myself out,” she says. “It’s really cool in there,” Muppet confirms. “I’m excited. I wanna have my own experience,” Raven concludes.
The prison is the perfect background, “It’s like home,” she says. “We feel very at home here, Inkcarceration’s been awesome.”
The Shawshank Redemption’s one of her top 10 movies, so she loved the surroundings. They were only in town for the day so they had to make it count. Muppet setup his drums and was off exploring with Raven electing to wait after darkness fell and the perfect cool timing. Regardless of the building’s climate, it was hot on stage but they didn’t care.
To the uninitiated, Raven Black is half human, half doll and not inherently evil, though on a really bad day she could probably make Annabelle jump and run if properly motivated.
Each song has a prop to visually represent the lyrical meaning and concept, whether weapon-like in appearance and nature or something as innocent as a tricycle or umbrella. Then again an umbrella can be sinister, look at what Mary Poppins got away with. “They’re to give you a visual effect of the song, a feel for the music.” Raven thinks modern day music lacks the visual punch of yesteryear. “The ball and chain is with Sticks and Stones, the best way to show sticks and stones is kind of like a mallet and being hit by people and society. The tricycle’s for The Nobodies, a [Marilyn Manson] cover.”
Black says there’s a lack of theater in music. She misses the unique lost art of music videos when artist expression was raw, unchained and unlimited, sometimes even graphic, telling stories. “I really wanted to bring that back to our live show.”
From the spooky, grindhouse, haunted house vibe of Seven Sins, the comically wicked animation of 13, to the basement of Dollhouse horrors, Raven Black have used their visual art as a continuing story to the music and live shows, showing newcomers and dedicated fans the demons, monsters and nightmares lurking within.
She often walks on stage with a mechanical, crank twist-like motion, as if someone behind the scenes or above is working the gears and strings. Though at Inkcarceration, some spirits may still have had yard time, having some fun with her.
Her onstage makeup is her inner-self raging out, “Being half human half doll, showing the duality of being sweet and nurturing and wicked and scornful. I wanted to represent women’s strength of being both things. Everyone has duality. The duality of good and evil is a big theme to our music. Strengths, human nature, you can’t have one without the other.”
The Black didn’t start out something wicked. After Raven and Muppet developed the basic blueprint, other members weren’t into the makeup and costume aspect so they searched for like minded souls. Raven, Stitch, Muppet and The Doctor still hold up the brood together. Raven and Muppet’s onstage characters are soul mates as well as their real life personas.
Their next offering will be a self-titled record due in the fall or worst case scenario next year. Their comic book is another extension of their over the top, big top theme with the next chapter due in 2020 serving as a companion piece for the next record, referring to it as their ‘black’ album with a darker, heavier and creepier vision.
Their namesake comes from Raven’s real name and Black from members of the band that will unveil itself as they continue exposing their art, creation and story.
Unfortunately the fan beloved merch table delight, The Wheel of Death, broke on their Real Monsters Tour. The wheel had categories where fans could spin and win free stuff. “We gifted it to one of our little super fans that was 12, her name was also Raven. We all signed it. We’re thinking about bringing it back. We’re definitely going to have carnival games and stuff like that in the future, but only on our headlining shows.“ There are some big dreams in expanding the carnival theme and plans to fulfill them when bigger venues and headlining tours come.
They’ve all hailed and worshipped at the altar of Alice, Ozzy, KISS and Sabbath, with Manson and Rob Zombie modern day musical kin. They’re about to go back on the road for the second part of the North American Tour with Static X, DevilDriver, Dope and Wednesday 13. They have another supporting tour early next year that will be announced in October or November.
When asked what crime Raven would have to commit to do time she thinks, “Involuntary manslaughter, because I would kill someone out of protecting someone else. I might go to jail for murder, but I didn’t intend to kill them, I was just protecting someone.”
What could possibly scare a half human, half doll, “That’s a deep one. I’m fearless, except for one thing. Don’t hurt the people I love, that would probably take me to a different level of psychotic. I do have arachnophobia. I don’t like a bunch of bugs together, it’s creepy, I feel like they’re gonna crawl into my ears and lay eggs and stuff. Then I’ll have bubbled bugs crawling under my skin, you know that kind of thing. I don’t like that idea.” Nothing creepy there at all.
Raven dishes the dirt on who would play a movie version of her, “I don’t know. I used to think it would be Winona Ryder, but her recent roles have changed so I don’t think so. I used to love Brittany Murphy, someone along that line, maybe Ellen Page. She played in Juno, she could play my character.”
Muppet would want to see Johnny Depp play him on screen. “God that’s a good one, very good choice,” Raven says.
They draw inspiration from many elements and facets including their unconscious thought patterns. By their own admission, they dream about weird shit all the time, often turning unconscious ideas into reality. “I have very crazy vivid dreams that I wake up too,” Raven confesses. “Then I write a song.”
Every band’s had a Spinal Tap moment or two onstage and they’re no different, “I foul up my words sometimes, but it’s very rare. The hardest thing for me onstage is when the mics go out. I use a wireless mic because I move around a lot. The worst thing that’s happened is when the mic cuts out because of venue wifi. I’m singing and I continue to sing until they fix it. That’s my worst thing.” Muppet’s has less on stage drama to deal with, with the occasion pedal moving out of place or cymbals falling over, nothing too rough.
Every tour Raven has a main dress with five or six different ones for the road. “We’re a touring machine, we love it. We love life on the road. The only thing that we would say is missing is our fur babies. We miss them so much. Hopefully one day we’ll be big enough to bring them along.”
Website – www.ravenblackband.com
Twitter – https://twitter.com/RavenBlackBand