Versatility and devilish charm come to mind when thinking about musician, animator, writer and top hat wearer Aurelio Voltaire. His music takes you straight to a Victorian graveyard where skeletons play the violin and zombies are a roaring good time. Voltaire’s sound defies classification, ranging from dark cabaret to gothic rock to country to children’s music depending on the album. What always remains, however, is Voltaire’s lyrical wit and humor that take the dark culture and transform it into one big spooky shindig. I dare listeners not to laugh their corsets off to songs about vampires with snaggleteeth and murdering ones’ ex lover’s lover. The sarcasm is always rich for those light-hearted Goths that recognize how ridiculously silly (and awesome) the culture can be. Just add comedian to Voltaire’s growing list of talents.
While Voltaire’s music is what most fans know him for, he actually started out as a director and stop-motion animator of commercials for Kellogg’s, Parker Brothers and Budweiser. I particularly love Voltaire’s 1988 stop-motion MTV station ID inspired by Flemish painter Hieronymus Bosch’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights” triptych. Who wouldn’t want to see Bosch’s monstrous, corpse-eating “Prince of Hell” come to life with some eerie music playing in the background? Then, there are Voltaire’s myriad of toys, books, comics, merchandise and television appearances. He’s a busy man trying to take over the world, one ignorant small-towner at a time.
Now that that lengthy introduction is out of the way, let’s delve into Voltaire’s music. His first album, The Devil’s Bris, was released by Projekt Records in 1998. “The Man Upstairs” will resonate with anyone who’s ever had annoying or strange neighbors they’d like to do away with. Those who embrace their inner villain will relate to the prideful, wicked lyrics of “When You’re Evil”. The Devil’s Bris is full of antique strings and dynamic drums with modern pop song structures and entertaining lyrics. Voltaire’s serious and sarcastic personas exist in harmony along with timeless instrumentation.
Voltaire wears his black heart on his sleeve with 2002’s Boo Hoo. It’s a break up record, yet Voltaire still maintains his comic relief. Both “I’m Sorry” and “See You In Hell” explain the dissolution of love through lush violin solos and a gentler sarcasm. The song “Bachelor(ette)”, a cover of Icelandic songstress Bjork’s poetic gem, flips the lyrics to a male point of view. Voltaire’s cabaret production style makes for a nice twist on an eccentric female love song.
The undead are given free rein to party hard to Voltaire’s Ooky Spooky album. This one is super random with prominent brassy horns and would be the perfect accompanying music to a Halloween gathering. “Bomb New Jersey” is pretty easy to figure out. I’m going to take a stab in the dark and guess that Voltaire wasn’t an avid watcher of The Jersey Shore. The duet with Amanda Palmer of The Dresden Dolls entitled “Stuck With You” is a creepy cute tune about a love/hate romantic relationship. Amanda’s humor meshes seamlessly with Voltaire’s. Take a mariachi band and damn them to Hell; that’s Ooky Spooky.
Any country music fans out there? Regardless, I urge you to listen to Voltaire’s authentic country album Hate Lives in a Small Town. I think any Goth can relate to that title. The title track features a bluesy harmonica and the contradictions that exist in so-called perfect towns. Voltaire’s engaging storytelling abilities really shine in a genre known for its simplicity and straightforwardness.
Released in 2014, Raised by Bats is Voltaire’s newest album and his first in the Gothic genre. The album was actually crowdfunded by his loyal fans. Raised by Bats features collaborations with tons of other artists, like My Chemical Romance, Rasputina, Chibi of The Birthday Massacre and Ego Likeness. “The Conqueror Worm” is Voltaire’s musical version of Edgar Allan Poe’s famous poem about how life is like a play on a stage in which death is unavoidable. With harpsichords, organs, accordions, synths, guitars and more, Voltaire’s gothic rock debut sounds refined and completely natural for this Renaissance man. I give him the gothy seal of approval.
Music aside, Voltaire’s books are equally amusing. He wrote an anti-bullying children’s book called The Legend of Candy Claws. The book features a large, heroic bat named Hargoyle who brings Halloween candy to good children on Christmas Eve. The lovely, whimsical illustrations by Shamine King make this the perfect book for any Goth parent to share with their children. Paint it Black: A Guide to Gothic Homemaking and What is Goth? will help readers classify all kinds of gothy types, decorate like Tim Burton and more. Goths young and old can learn a thing or two from Voltaire’s morbid musings.
Voltaire even crafted his very own toy named Deady, an evil teddy bear imposter. He’s created many graphic novels and web comics featuring the nefarious adventures of Deady. There are many Deady toy variations to collect, including collaborations with Skelanimals and Disney. All of Voltaire’s merchandise is sure to cause a passerby’s blood to run cold.
Pirates, gypsies, deathrockers, steampunkers and creepy kids from every corner of the world revel in Voltaire’s shadowy folk tunes. So what are you waiting for? Enter the Lair of Voltaire today…