Exuberant Manchester-based electro punks St Lucifer had released a series of sold-out singles and a successful eponymous debut album.

St Lucifer, which had formed in 2015, however, ran into difficulties when, as they were working on their second album, 'Music is Violence', both their vocalist Alex Lee and drmmer Charlie Bergmann left the band, the former to move to the Isle of wight and the latter to concentrate on his studies.

The two remaining members David Fox (guitar) and John Mitchell (bass/tech) have managed to maintain the band by Fox taking over as lead vocalist and recruiting two new members, lead guitarist Charlotte Winchcombe and drummer Alice Class.

'Music is Violence' was released in November digitally and on limited edition cassette on local label AnalogueTrash. It consists of a series oF fiery electro punk anthems including opening track 'Vermin' which launches the album with a sample from obscure horror film 'Rats: Night of Terror'; caustic first single 'Crucible'; 'Walk Slowly Towards Her' which features a guest vocal appearance from poetess and writer Emily Oldfield, and the thunderous 'The Enemy'.

Pennyblackmusic spoke to David Fox about his new role as vocalist and 'Music is

PB: You are a band that seems to thrive on contrasts. The name ‘Saint Lucifer’ could be seen to be a play on words on good and evil. You described yourself initially in a tongue-in-cheek way and now with more conviction as being ‘blackmetalgaydisco’, another contrast. Your lyrics also contain further seeming contradictions such as on ‘Crucible' which has the lines “love me so good…hate me so good.” Some would consider all of these to be exact opposites, yet with St Lucifer there seems to be a very thin line and a real blending between those contrasts. Is that an accurate interpretation?

DF: Absolutely – Creatively speaking the idea of contrasts/juxtaposition and polar opposites has always intrigued us as people and in our various creative endeavours, be that song-writing, DJing, film-making or any combination of the above. I was once in an ‘Industrial Cabaret’ band for starters!

With St Lucifer the initial idea was about doing something loud, bold, striking and different, whereas on this record it feels like the extremes are a bit more ‘integrated’ with each other – 'Crucible' being a case in point.

Having said this, you could also say we’re all quite intense, maybe even extreme personalities.

PB: You have seen the departure of two founder members, drummer Charlie Bergmann and lead singer Alex Lee, who was one of your main songwriters, in recent times. This would have killed most bands. Why do you think that you have survived?

DF: Very good question!

First thing to note here is that the changes actually happened over quite a long period.

We already knew that Chaz was going to have to bow out after the Electronic Liberation Tour as he was genuinely getting worried about passing his finals – so there was a degree of ‘time to prepare’ there

With Alex it was more a case of reality (specifically the sheer distance) overcoming a mutual desire for him to remain in St Lucifer.

Thankfully both departures were completely amicable – indeed, we would have ended the band there and then had one of the ex-members not given us their blessing and encouragement to continue.

Structurally it was more a case of learning new ways of doing things. I either wrote or co-wrote the vast majority of songs already and did both backing and lead vocals on the first record ('Junk Days' being an obvious example).

We’d also asked Charlotte to join the band before the aforementioned tour. While she’s been a massive factor in us being able to carry on and thrive as a unit since. Lottie really is an incredible musician and presence on stage and – given that we’d recorded around two thirds of the album when Alex left she really helped get it finished – and, I think it’s fair to say made it a better record than it would have been without her.

Alice was the final ‘missing piece’ in terms of us carrying on as band: She’s a very different drummer to Charlie – but, again that’s part of the reason we’re able to try new things and evolve the sound.

Although she doesn’t actually appear on the album (she came on board just as we were mastering it), she has already made significant contributions to subsequent B-sides and has helped take some of the older songs in new directions when we perform them live…

PB; Alex now is based on the Isle of Wight. It has been hinted on your website that he is going to adapt a Brian Wilson absent-but-present role in the future. Will he still be contributing songs from a distance?

DF: No immediate plans (other than meeting up for a long-overdue curry + night down the pub) but let’s just say never say never.

We are still in touch regularly (St Lucifer’s online banter is not something you can simply walk away from!)

As for the future, I’m sure we’ll end up doing something with both him and Charlie at some point, but I think – for now – the emphasis is on the current line up settling into our new studio (we moved over Christmas) and seeing where the muse takes us next…

PB: How big a step-up was it for you to take over as lead vocalist?

DF: Absolutely terrifying! (cue fits of laughter from the rest of the band)

Joking aside it’s taken a while for us to find our groove – the first couple of gigs were understandably nervewracking for all of us. However, as we said before David has always ‘sung’ in St Lucifer (usually when Alex was off crowd surfing during gigs) so the musical side has just been a case of practising and building up experience/confidence.

The bigger challenge has been not having Alex’s unique presence as a frontman.

The way Lottie has, however, stepped up (usually on top of a monitor with one of her signature pinch harmonic solos) has really helped. I have also definitely started to find my own ‘niche’ in terms of fronting the onstage chaos...

PB: You have gone from being four “fine, dapper gents” when you started out to being two gents and two women with the recruitment of Charlotte and Alice into the line-up. How has that also changed the group’s dynamics?

DF: Well, the make-up is definitely applied more efficiently these days!

In reality, it’s actually not as big a shift as you’d imagine – St Lucifer has always been a bit ‘queer’ (in the sense of being outlandish, vulgar and most importantly a constant thread of in-joke humour) – If anything that’s just become more so with the girls being in the band. We are anything but shy and retiring in this band…
PB: The opening track ‘Vermin’ starts with a sample from the 1984 film ‘Rats: Nights of Terror’, which is by all accounts a D-movie and very badly made. Why did you decide to open with a sample from such an obscure and poor film?

DF: We all kind of love obscure and ‘so bad they’re actually good’ cultural artefacts (be that books, records or films) – Charlotte genuinely loves ‘Nights of Terror’ while we were trying to reference the Manic Street Preachers classic ‘The Holy Bible’ with its spoken word intros. This just seemed like a suitably cinematic yet slightly tongue in cheek way of opening the album.

PB: ‘Music is Violence’ was recorded in your rehearsal room beneath Bexley Square in Salford where a famous confrontation took place between the police and 10,000 unemployed workers in 1931. Do you feel that it enhanced the album recording it against such a historic and a revolutionary backdrop?

DF: Absolutely – the site in general has a really interesting history – being both a Masonic lodge and (prior to the conversion to the MIDI School) a brothel. We had some great times in there (both socially and creatively) but it was also a place we’d started to associate with some of the personal difficulties we were experiencing both in and out of the band – to the extent when we completed the album launch it felt like the right time to move on.

Having said this, we’re already sketching a track which may or may not end up on the next album which specifically references ‘The Battle of Bexley Square’ – we’ll leave it up to you to decide if the battle we’re referencing is the historical one or our own!

PB: In what ways do you see ‘Music is Violence’ is a development from your self-titled debut album?

DF: When we recorded the first album we were trying to capture that classic punk debut feel where you basically got your live set/sound down on tape – with all of its primal ‘one-two’ energy. Given that we played those songs live a lot during the first year of the band’s existence this felt like the natural way to go for our first full-length release.

With ‘Music Is Violence’ we knew we wanted to make a more diverse and ‘bigger’ sounding record this time around – which was evident even during the initial writing/demo stage.

The earliest tracks written and roadtested for the album were things like ‘No New Gods’, ‘Crucible’, the title track, ‘Forward’ and ‘Gone’ – while ‘All Lines Lead Forward’ is based on a track that John and I wrote together nearly twenty years ago!

We also decided really early on in the process that we wanted to invite some special guests to appear on certain tracks – which led to me writing both ‘Vermin’ and ‘Walk Slowly Towards Her’ with our wonderful friend/poet/writer Emily Oldfield.

The ‘post-Alex/Charlie’ tracks continued this approach: ‘Dark Matter’, ‘Raise the Dead’, ‘Six Bathyspheres’ and ‘Relapse’ were the last things to be completed – which we think shows in that they are some of the most diverse and unexpected things we’ve done – yet still reflect and work next to the ‘MK1’ songs .

The best example of the ‘evolution’ though is probably ‘The Enemy’ – if you listen to the (MK1) version we released on our ‘Accelerator 69778094’ EP it is a world away from the longer/guitar pyrotechnic/stadium electro-rock version on the album – which could only have happened with Charlotte’s involvement and ‘next level’ guitar skills.

PB: You started out releasing records on Valentine Records which you co-owned. You were very successful at it, putting out several sold out 7” singles and your debut album, yet for this album switched to another Manchester label AnalogueTrash. Why did you decide to do that? What do you think that AnalogueTrash have been able to bring in which you couldn’t previously achieve by yourselves?

DF: Three words – Work/Life/Balance. John and I have both become parents since the band started, while we also felt that dedicating so much ‘label’ time to a band we were both members of was also a bit unfair on the other Valentine artists. Indeed – we took the opportunity to ‘rest’ Valentine for a year whilst sorting out the aforementioned work/life balance and also getting St Lucifer through the recent challenges – although we’re now starting to put stuff out again by a whole range of new and interesting acts.

AnalogueTrash are also doing great things with other acts we enjoy playing/touring with and have a wide, international network of partners and outlets which felt like a really good fit for what we’re trying to do with St Lucifer.

PB: You have released ‘Music is Violence’ digitally and on very limited edition cassette. You’re also trying to raise the money through crowdfunding for a vinyl edition. Why did you decide not to do a CD edition?

DF: I think the fact that at least two of the band don’t even own CD players anymore is kind of indicative of where the format is going (Landfill mostly?)

We also decided that a vinyl release was the priority – which we are pleased to say hit its crowdfunded target so is currently in production – which is great obviously!

PB: What is the story about you destroying a record shop within two months of forming?

DF: Ha ha. To be fair it was more of a ‘sonic disturbance’ than a full scale destruction – When the band formed Alex owned a rather nice boutique record store in Afflecks Palace in Manchester called Soundwaves Here We Come – where (for reasons none of us can entirely remember) we spent several weekends building custom wooden record shelves, a DJ booth and a stage for ‘in store acoustic’ sessions.

Having put on a few of these ‘in store’ sessions our initial excitement at starting the band led to a (slightly ill advised) full band gig on a Saturday afternoon.

Inevitably a huge crowd turned up, the PA was far too loud for such a small space and we managed to deafen both ourselves as well as the neighbouring Afflecks shops for the best part of thirty minutes.

It wasn’t exactly our slickest gig, but a highly memorable one and something of a ‘reputation making’ event when it came to Alex’s onstage antics and ‘crowd participation strategies’.

PB: What other plans do you have for the future? Will you be touring this year? Have you got plans for a third album?

DF: We’re currently finalising a series of dates taking us through to the end of 2019 where we’ll be taking ‘Music is Violence’ on the road – including some interesting new locations we’ve not played previously

There’s a couple of very special collaborations in the pipeline as well as enjoying our lovely new studio (which actually has windows and a picturesque little river running next to it).

The plan is to take our time with Album #3 – although we’ve already got a number of ideas/titles and fragments which might evolve into new songs.

In the meantime we’re planning on releasing another single off the album backed by some new tracks/remixes – as well as a couple of video projects in the pipeline

Oh, and we might just be recording at least part of the next record in a completely different country with a rather famous ‘name’ Producer – or should we say ‘Recording Engineer’. Watch this space…

PB: Thank you.

The top two photographs were taken by Jasper Samuels. Thank you to Emily Oldfield for her help in organising this interview.

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