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A Dirty Dozen with JAMES RILEY from HER DESPAIR – November 2019

| 17 November 2019 | Reply


According to a recent press release: “HER DESPAIR began as a solo studio project with the release of the 2015 album “Hymns For the Hopeless.” Showcasing the melodramatic sound and aesthetic of gothic music with the accessibility of punk and the stylings of heavy metal, the project has subsequently evolved into the current full line-up. During Summer 2019, work was completed on the latest opus; “Exorcisms of Eroticism.” Recorded again with Matt Bew at Whitehouse Studios, HER DESPAIR have evolved and improved the formula demonstrated in their previous output.” We get singer James to discuss new music, influences, and much more…

1. Tell us a little about your latest release.  What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through?  Are there any hidden nuggets the band put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

Our forthcoming release Exorcisms of Eroticism (coming 22 November) is the dark and dramatic collection of six new gothic rock anthems from HER DESPAIR. Designed to unravel the mysteries of the theologic and the erotic, each song is set to a storm of symphonic instrumentation; providing the perfect soundtrack for your sorrows. The songwriting is much more in-depth and intricate on this release than our previous output. There’s considerably more orchestration this time around, and different melodies dancing within the mix. I think, or at least I hope, that our listeners will discover something new with each listen, or at least during the first few. We’ve really developed as individual musicians as well as a band, and that hopefully comes across.

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

I grew up listening to rock music such as Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Roy Orbison, so rock music has always surrounded me. I broadened my tastes from the age of about 12 and begun discovering metal, subsequently delving deeper into gothic music. Ultimately I think the desire to sing and play music has always been there, since I could grasp the concept.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

The singular album I will always cite above all else is Floodland by the Sisters of Mercy. Personally I think that album is as close to musical perfection as can be achieved. I also found Marilyn Manson’s visuals and imagery to be very impactful in regards to initiating me to that side of things. Whilst I was already aware of Alice Cooper and Twisted Sister and suchlike, Marilyn Manson seemed to take it up a level. I was also growing up at the exact time that corporate America perceived him to be the Antichrist, so there was very much a sense of fear surrounding him, even here in the UK. Whilst he may not always have such an impact nowadays, he and his band were instrumental in guiding me towards this darker path.

4. Who would be your main five musical influences?

Sisters of Mercy, HIM, Rammstein, 69 Eyes, and Misfits.

5. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

It would have to be Andrew Eldritch from the Sisters. Not only my favourite musician, but I would be fascinated to talk to him in-depth about the Sisters as a band, and his own songwriting process.

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

We label ourselves as gothic rock, but there are hints of punk, metal and doom. To be honest I have no concern over how anyone wants to label us. Nowadays the notion of “genre” seems to be such a convoluted subject, and people get so wound up about what other people “should or should not” listen to. Who cares; if you like it, listen to it. Having said that, we do sometimes get some peculiar comparisons. Apparently there are aspects of speed metal in our music, which is certainly something that I for one have never thought to be the case. We get a few comparisons to Ghost as well, and as much as we love that band, again, they’re not an act we’ve ever considered ourselves to resemble particularly closely, musically or visually.

7. What’s the best thing about being a musician?

Taking a new idea to the rehearsal room, writing the song from it, then getting to the recording studio when the time is right and hearing it all come together. The songwriting process is my favourite part.

8. When the band are all hanging out together, who cooks; who gets the drinks in; and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

Jord (guitar) is a very good cook and has prepared meals for us on several occasions,  and Lee (drums) will usually be the one getting the drinks in (and then drinking most of them). For an acoustic guitar singalong, it would probably be myself or Jord.

9. When was the last time you were star struck and who was it?

I get star struck all the time, even when I’m attending a show and I’m 20 feet from the stage. Just seeing the musicians themselves makes me over-excited. In late 2017 I saw HIM on their farewell tour, and it was flawless. I had seen them many times before, but perhaps because it was the last time (at least for now) there was something particularly magical about the event, even before they came on stage. Then Ville Valo walked on and I was absolutely mesmerized for the next two hours.

10. If you weren’t a musician, what would be your dream job?

I had a small amount of acting experience a few years ago in theatre productions, and that is something I’d like to explore more if the opportunity arose. Maybe later in life, who knows. I have also started outlining a couple of story ideas, so perhaps putting more work into writing some sort of book would be an interesting way to pass the time.

11.Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over”, even if it didn’t change your current situation?

I’m sure there are one or two situations of that nature, but nothing major immediately springs to mind. There are a limited handful of people who we would not work with again professionally. The reason being, they were not.

12.If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

Despite mentioning the Sisters several times throughout this interview, I’ll go with something slightly different here and say the self-titled debut Doors album. The Doors have always been a favourite of mine, and that first album is just wonderful. There are plenty of amazing stories about that first album, and being involved with it would have been fascinating. Thank you for taking to the time to interview us, we appreciate the coverage!! Our forthcoming EP Exorcisms of Eroticism (coming 22 November 2019) is available to pre-order from and comes with two instant song downloads of “Pandameonium” and “The Exorcism.”




Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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