Hello to both of you, Ivan Russia and Karen Ringheimer. Let’s start off with a simple, but fun, question. What are three of your favorite albums of all time and why?
Karen: This is not a simple question! Picking albums is tough when you’re a personal fan of music. But I’ll give this a shot: Devin Townsend Project. "Addicted". Devin Townsend is a huge influence on me. This album in particular, many may say is pretty over produced, but it’s a beautiful album from start to finish. David Bowie."Scary Monsters and Super Creeps". This was actually one of the first three ever CDs I purchased, and the very first David Bowie CD I bought, so it always has a special place in my heart! Roxy Music. "That Country Life". The opening track 'The Thrill of it All' just puts me in a great mood. No matter what, when I hear that track, I just need to dance and move. Honorable mention. Michael Nesmith. Infinite Rider on the Big Dogma
And another simple question to add to the mix. Where and how did you guys meet? What made you want to start Bellhead together?
Karen: This was a long-coming collaboration. I think the first time we ever talked about trying to get in a rehearsal room together was in the late 00’s, but we were both in very busy musical projects, and then I moved away to Colorado for a spin. We then decided to actually do something in 2018 because Ivan lost his drummer to a cross-country move, and I was ready to make a musical change. We got drunk during a snowstorm, ate chicken gyros, and watched To Wong Foo...And the rest is history.
The description for Bellhead on Bandcamp reads, “Two basses and a drum machine. No guitar, No BS.” In the vein of the post-punk Bellhead produces, are you honestly that against other instruments coming into the mix on your releases?
Karen: We have no problem with other instruments. We rely on programming and drum machines, and actually are working on some songs where I will be playing cello. We just prefer to keep to a two-piece band, and just so happen to both play bass. I don’t see us ever adding another live member to the mix.
Ivan: She says we have no problem and yet she calls a guitar a git-fiddle and fawns over them like they are cute crib toys.
I always feel a horror-vibe coming off of your music. Perhaps that’s due to the imagery and titles of some of your releases. Is this something that is done intentionally or is it just a project of who you two are?
Ivan: I don’t think of what we do as unsettling but I’ve been told, repeatedly, we are. I have not spent much time thinking about where that comes from as I myself don’t see it. I know we are having a good time following our muse if you will. I aim to entertain myself first, then Karen, and then the audience thereafter. If I feel enthusiasm for what we are doing then I know we are onto something. There was a day when Karen and I kept going on about a lyric idea of using a coffin as a raft, something I saw in a film adaptation of Moby Dick as a child. We were having quite a good time with such a serious implication of being left for dead at sea. Perhaps there's some Addams in our Family.
You have a pretty solid team with Neil Strauch, Carl Saff, and David Schock. Tell me how you all work with one another and how they help out Bellhead.
Ivan: I should state first that the way we do things is not recommended. Before we are ready to record we book time with Neil at our usual Chicago studio Jamdek. We quickly finish writing and rehearsing everything, sometimes finishing lyrics the day before. We record very fast. Two takes, three if something goes awry. We record everything we have done and once we go back and forth with Neil on the mix it’s sent to Carl to master. Somewhere around then we may have changed a song title or for that matter actually named a song. We pick out what is going on the EP from what we recorded and what we have already previously recorded with Neil. For instance one of the songs on "Dead Lights" was recorded before the "Unicorn Bones" EP and that EP was assembled in the same way. When the record is mastered we get Dave in a car and make him sit in the back while he listens stone face to all our hard work. It’s important he is in the back because child safety locks prevent him from tucking and rolling. He will repeatedly ask what songs are on the EP and why we are playing him songs that are not slated for this release. Again, don’t do what we do. We are not role models.
Now, your new EP is titled “Dead Lights”. Why did you choose this name for the EP? Does it have anything to do with the infamous cosmic horror from Stephen King’s It?
Ivan: The first time Karen and I got together to work on what would be BELLHEAD we wrote the song 'Knife' that we recorded and released on our 2020 EP "Unicorn Bones". We wanted to name the band Dead Lights after the lyric from our first song “you look so pretty under the dead lights”. Turns out a number of bands had the same thought, well ahead of us. We hung on to the idea though. When we made the "Unicorn Bones" EP I'm sure we talked about calling it "Dead Lights" but there was really no discussion, it had to be called "Unicorn Bones". "Dead Lights" is a very fitting follow up as this EP is darker and thematic throughout.
In the press release I received, it stated that you had expanded your signature sound. How did you do so, and what are some of the improvements fans will be able to hear on the EP?
Karen: For one, Ivan made me sing significantly more on this EP, and I’m actually taking lead in 'Frankenstein'. I think you can definitely hear that I am more confident in my vocal performance with this EP. We also leaned on more programming, specifically 'Nothing as it Seems' is heavy with synth lines, and not as much bass.
You chose to make a song dedicated to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Why did you choose to make a musical interpretation of the track?
Ivan: I had an image in mind of a stained glass window of the man, the monster, and the bride as the holy trinity. As the EP has a thematic through line that I would rather leave to interpretation I thought about how I could reimagine Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in a way befitting BELLHEAD. Imagine Dr. Victor Frankenstein being tried by a jury of his peers. What would a man who brought life to dead flesh say in his defense? What would he pray in his holding cell? Though he may play god he cannot cheat death himself. When death comes what horrifying ends could a mind such as Frankenstein imagine? Being brought into the operating theater and amputated only to be rebuilt into someone else's monster? When Victor was only a small boy what did he pray? What did the voice in his mind sound like? What drives a man to try and cheat death by creating life?
And what else does Bellhead have in store for 2021? Any other singles, EPs, or live shows in the works?
Karen: We have a number of live shows planned that you can find on our Website or Facebook and are right now booking into November of 2021. We just played our first show in front of an audience in fifteen months in Kenosha, WI and I think it went really well. I think our fans are going to be pleased with our live shows. We also have a full line of new merch that is available on our Bandcamp and at our shows.
For the rest of 2021, expect to see a music video, and one of our tracks on a compilation, but I can’t really go into too many details on those yet!
Lastly, I’d like to thank you for your time! I wish you the best and leave the space below for you to say anything else you wish.
Karen: Thanks again for all of your support, and we can’t wait to see you all in 2021/2022!
Ivan: Be excellent to each other.
This interview was commissioned through our Ko-fi page.
I've been writing for Brutal Resonance since November of 2012 and now serve as the editor-in-chief. I love the dark electronic underground and usually have too much to listen to at once but I love it. I am also an editor at Aggressive Deprivation, a digital/physical magazine since March of 2016. I support the scene as much as I can from my humble laptop.
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