JOHN ZEWIZZ • SLEEPCHAMBER
- by DJ Mätthew Griffin
The year 2010 has brought some major 30th anniversaries in Boston: we have celebrated the punk/hardcore venue Gallery East and its 30-year reunion; the Noise has turned 30; and now the internationally re-nowned, yet local, American industrial band SLEEPCHAMBER receives acknowledgement of their 30 years of existence. Formed in 1981 by John Zewizz and some high school friends, SLEEPCHAMBER has gone through various line-ups over the past three decades and has put out a considerable volume of music—releasing over 70 recordings, and participating in over 35 various artist releases. Through the near Roman pageantry of a live SLEEPCHAMBER performance, the band became quite a spectacle to witness live. The band has not performed out live in 10 years, but SLEEPCHAMBER is still at the fore-front of the industrial avant garde.
Here is my email interview with John Zewizz.
Noise: What is SLEEPCHAMBER’s current arsenal?
John: The new musickal style we have evolved to, iz a dark thick upbeat gloom type. I don’t think the mood iz any less serious. If anything we are better now that our sound haz morphed to a more sophisticated concept ov what our aim iz. Our destinies have been sealed.
Noise: Tell us about the genesis of SLEEPCHAMBER.
John: I started creating music when Genesis P. Orridge and Cabaret Voltaire first came out. SLEEPCHAMBER formed in 1981 and released a 7-inch and a vinyl LP in 1982. Punk waz in its heyday and we were combining abstract musick with an obscure arrangement. We intentionally strayed from all the current musickal styles ov punk, goth, and grunge. We were consumed with more unusual subjects like fetishism, individuality, magick, and other rare areas ov reality and life. Around ’86-’87 we had developed an international cult following that enabled me to live off the royalties and profits. The ’90s saw the kum and go ov our erotik dancers, the Barbitchuettes. In 2000 I retired them while still very popular. It just couldn’t get any wilder or better.
Noise: Tell me more about the Barbitchuettes.
John: The Barbitchuettes started with three girlfriends in fetish outfits dancing during our last live song. It went over so well I started to include them in every song ov the live performance. They grew to six to ten girlz per show. They interacted with me on stage in leather, rubber, latex, and fetish gear. The end ov a set would usually include all ov them full on az wild az they wanted to be. More than a few performances got out of hand, with full nudity and whipping. Over 10 years the girlz kame and went. I know there haz been close to 40 altogether, many are featured az models in our videos and DVDs, and in all honesty, running a five-piece band and a cluster ov girl performers bekame impossible.
Noise: Your last Boston-area performance was at ManRay in 2000 on New Year’s Eve. What have you been up to in the past decade?
John: From 2000 to the present I have been less prolific. I had a seven-year hiatus when I had turned to drug and sex addiction. I awoke one day with a clear view ov where I waz and used magik to evolve past the decadent life style and return to make the musick a focus point, using those seven years az an inspiration to write new material.
Noise: I heard there is a limited box set in the works.
John: There iz a box set being released by the German label Vinyl On Demand. It iz titled Six Six Six (the first six years ov SLEEPCHAMBER). It will include four vinyl LPs, a seven-inch EP, a 45- page booklet, and a T-shirt. Only about 1000 are being made. All the material has been unreleased. The release date iz set for October 6, 2010.
Noise: How has Europe responded to SLEEPCHAMBER?
John: Europe haz always been our breeding ground. I’ve received communications and deals from all over Europe. In America, the only record deal I had was with Cleopatra Records, who still manufacture my CDs. The contract ran out in 2003 and I’m still waiting to get paid.
Noise: Do you have any potential European shows in the future?
John: We have a few agents in Germany, Italy, and Japan attempting to organize a western European tour. Right now they only have about six shows to offer. We need at least 10 to make it worthwhile.
Noise: I understand there is a website dedicated to you by a fan.
John: The web site is called the John Zewizz Appreciation Society. It can be found at www.sleepchamber.info. Brad Miller started it around 1999 and I waz unaware ov it until 2003. He haz built it up to almost 500 pages with an Internet radio show that just plays Inner-X musick. Inner X iz my own label. It has been around since 1983 with almost 90 releases. About one third ov the release are by SLEEPCHAMBER.
Noise: Please explain a bit about the 2009 release Stolen Sleep—it’s a favorite of mine and I have been giving it a lot of club play in New England.
John: Stolen Sleep waz the first conceptual project. Its songs are about the Egyptians way ov spirituality and grave robbing ov their sarcophagus [sleep chambers]. On the recording I used Gimme Sparks on guitars, Bob Avakian on synths, percussion, and bass. I played a bit ov percussion and flutes and sang, too.
Noise: Are you really releasing a Christmas album?
John: We have a Christmas CD half done. Racing to finish it by the end ov September. It’s called Silver Star.
Noise: And isn’t there another new release coming?
John: Shemhamerorash! It’s our big project currently. We invested in a home 32-track studio and will record it all on that. You can hear some ov the demos on the Inner-X radio at theebradmiller.com. The musick iz the most powerfully elite material to date.
Noise: Closing words?
John: SLEEPCHAMBER iz alive and well, stronger than ever. Bring on the next 10 years! Cheers!