Nostalgia can be deadly. Spend too much time valorizing the past and you’ll never move into the future.
But sometimes dipping into that well is just too damn good.
Midwesterners Chrome Waves chose to celebrate their new single, “Gazing Into Oblivion,” with an homage to a true ’90s masterpiece: “Shame,” the 1996 meta-noir music video by Chicago heroes Stabbing Westward.
Despite what you may think about Stabbing Westerward, they… no, hold on. Critics be damned, the industrial five-piece at that particular time, in that particular place, were absolutely killer. But don’t take my (unassailable) opinion on it. Here is Chicagoan and the Atlas Moth guitarist/vocalist Stavros Giannapoulos:
Growing up as a ’90s rock kid from Chicago, it was hard to not be a fan of Stabbing Westward. They were like our very own, more accessible NIN. Not to mention, the ol’ Chicago chip on our shoulder makes you take pride in homegrown talent. Later on in life, having Marcus [Eliopulos, former Stabbing Westward guitarist] not only become a close friend but fill in with The Atlas Moth (for his brother-in-law Andrew) was a total honor. He also crushed our tour stories with his own. Pretty hard to top stories that start with, “When we were on tour with KISS/Depeche Mode, etc.”
Not yet convinced? Then here’s vocalist Eddie Gobbo from from Something is Waiting:
From a Chicago standpoint, they took the Wax Trax sound that I’d argue in the traditional sense didn’t really survive the ’80s and merged it with what we came to know as second wave ’90s Alternative. And their throne was waiting for them in the mid-’90s. Downward Spiral-era NIN had blown up. “Hey Man, Nice Shot”-era Filter. They became a cornerstone of a Sub-movement: Dark Industrial Alternative Music. It didn’t have the piss of a Ministry, but catered to that crowd. Meanwhile, your run-of-the-mill Silverchair fan got it! Also, listen to the Adore-era Pumpkins. I always think of Stabbing when I hear the bangers on that record or the two songs they did for soundtracks around then, “Eye” and “End Is the Beginning is the End.” That’s the Stabbing sound.
But back to the band of the hour, with Chrome Waves using a previous video, if not the sound, to enhance their expansive black n’ roll track. How did it all come together? I spoke with Decibel veteran/writing machine Andrew Bonazelli, who conceived the idea and helped drag it kicking and screaming into reality.
Good first question, thank you for taking this seriously! “Don’t Speak” is great and all, but what would the equivalent be for Chrome Waves? Their singer James [Benson] emailing Albert his five favorite albums for dB’s “Now Slaying” while the rest of the band bitterly refuses to heart his eventual Instagram post? Not very visual. As for Beck, I’ve never intentionally listened to any of his songs, so unless he’s disemboweling suppressive persons for Lord Xenu in that video… OK, just checked. He doesn’t.
Real answer: Most modern metal videos are either a) seven minutes of, like, a violet decaying in stop-motion, b) b&w live performance because lip-synching is for poseurs or something, or c) Eli Roth-grade cringe gore. I don’t want to be dad and go too dick-deep into ’90s worship, but I dig videos of that era that intertwine a unique narrative with a performance aspect that is at least eventually relevant to said narrative. (I know there’s a better example, but Radiohead’s “Just” for sure did the trick.) In my mind, the “Shame” video is the exemplar of that approach, and even better, crazy underseen, probably because Stabbing Westward have not exactly enjoyed “critical reassessment” a quarter-century later. The main riff is catchy as fuck, the “stalker movie” narrative is both well-plotted and appropriately schlocky (see: antagonist’s expressions and dialogue), and the band’s reaction shots are just the right flavor of cheese. Jeff Wilson, Chrome Waves’ founding guitarist (he also played in Wolvhammer, Abigail Williams, Nachtmystium, yada yada, don’t go to his M-A page just yet) shares my sincere enthusiasm for first-three-albums Stabbing Westward, and that bond was somehow enough to embark on this weirdness. (I remember Spin or something disparagingly calling SW’s frontman the “Joe Elliott of radio-friendly industrial” back in the day, and I was like, “Wait, that’s a bad thing?”)
The parallels between this video and “Shame” are obvious to fans of Stabbing Westward, but it also exists as its own concept. How did you balance the two?
My big genius idea for this was to gender-flip the couple’s roles in the narrative; hence, “Gazing” launches at the original’s “ruh-roh, stalker ex is gonna get you” plot point, then expands into hopefully much more uncomfortable territory with a masochistic, violent, queasily consensual element to the, um, evolution of that couple’s relationship. It would only be appropriate that a more spartan band like Chrome Waves would observe this as something in the realm of a snuff film, and do so with utter detachment. They behave as if it’s just another day in the life: perform the song, then leave to watch this nasty, exploitative story on a crummy projector. I imagine the “Shame” video is embedded somewhere here [the link again], and I would absolutely recommend watching it because it’s fucking awesome, but I think we did our own thing with the raw materials.
What was the pitch process to get this made? Was everyone on board or were some skeptical?
I don’t know if this was intentional or merely an outgrowth of the ennui he so successfully projects in the video, but apparently Jeff didn’t tell the rest of the band shit. For context, we filmed the narrative part of the video way back in February, and were planning to shoot Chrome Waves at their Kung Fu Necktie show in Philly June 4, but Duh New Normal manifested and we were stuck with half a video for many months. Finally, we all decided to risk our lives for this idiocy and shoot the performance stuff at a grimy little rehearsal space/indie venue in Columbus called Dude Locker. Long story short, between setups a few weeks ago, either James or Dustin [Bjoltes], the drummer, was lying onstage with his iPhone and said something like, “Guess I’ll finally watch this video that we’re ripping off.” LOL. Anyway, all three members (and hopefully Gus, the fill-in bassist, who is obviously MVP of the whole thing with his walk offstage) appear to be pumped about the final product. Which they better be, because otherwise I’d refuse to write a treatment for their next single paying homage to Mudvayne’s “Dig.”
As for the director, Manny OA (who evidently thinks he’s the next McG and refuses to use his real surname), he is flat-out the most open-minded, anything-goes motherfucker in the world. He does not share my affinity for the extremely extreme unless you consider Spacehog “In the Meantime” the true “In the Meantime” (it’s great for karaoke, but it’s just fucking not. He is an autodidact cinematographer by trade who bought/rented a shitload of gear and storyboarded tirelessly to get both the narrative and performances elements right, thanks to the killer lead performances from Jason (usually our sound guy) and Teresa (a legit, mega-talent of an actress) that sold the subtitled dialogue without ever veering into melodrama. Jeff submitted a lot of helpful notes for Manny to take this to the finish line, and thanks to everyone’s hard work and imagination (autofellatio time), we crushed this fucker.
While Manny and I have a lot on our plates filmwise, we absolutely want to do more videos. It’s my second video, following Graf Orlock’s “A Bad Cop in a Bad Mood” in spring, and we’re planning to collaborate on a short film with that video’s director, Ken Whiting, as well as Underer/Cleric’s Nick Shellenberger. It would truly be a dream team with, you know, a less hacky writer.
If not “Don’t Speak” or “Where It’s At,” what other classic ’90s videos do you feel the itch to reboot like this?
“Happiness in Slavery,” [NSFW] but with you in the torture chair.
What sort of plans are there to contact Stabbing Westward frontman Christopher Hall to see if they’ll film a video that references Chrome Waves?
Ha! I’d like to at least make the “Shame” director, Paul Cunningham, aware of this, as I’m sure 24 years later he was not expecting this sort of whack-job homage to his work. Conversely, if the band just wanted to cover the Ride song that Chrome Waves are named for, I’m sure we’d all be stoked.