Recently I had the opportunity to sit down with a good friend of mine, James Reyna, a.k.a. melodywhore, and talk about his music projects and other involvements.
Chris: You’ve been doing this for a long time, man. I think we first met back in the early 2000s. Is melodywhore your first project/band? Were there others before?
Melodywhore: Oh yeah. I started this crazy ride back in the late 80s. I remember being heavily into new wave music and having the urge to try to start making music myself. I was listening to Depeche Mode and OMD and Aztec Camera…
So not having a lot of money and working for minimum wage at fast food places wasn’t cutting it, I think I was scoping out what was out there as far as pro gear.
I started out with a Yamaha home keyboard, one of their Portasound keyboards, but not long after that I was in a pretty serious accident where I got hit by a pick-up truck while riding my bike. I was okay even though my neurologist was pretty sure that I had sustained a seizure disorder. I’m still seizure free over thirty years later.
The more important thing that the accident brought was a settlement check. As fucked up as it is, it was a head injury which helped me get into pro level gear. I purchased a Korg M1 and an Atari 1040STe computer and that really is what started me into serious writing.
Prior to melodywhore, there were some things that I tried to get into development… mainly with some of my friends. Kevin Palmer was probably part of the first “band” we tried to start. We played at a wedding for a friend of mine and it was so funny; I think we played some Depeche Mode covers and maybe a few originals. It was crazy.
In the early 90s, I moved to northern California to be with my first wife after she joined the Navy. While there, I started the solo project Corpsegrinder. I had met some guys that were also making electronic music and it was my first experiences with playing a real live show.
By 94, I was back in Houston and wanting to start a new project. I made some friends through an online chat system called Destiny. It was there that I met Chris Vasquez and Dawn Green. We tried to start a band project at some point with Dawn on vocals and Chris on guitar, but there was a transportation challenge and it was hard for us to consistently get together and practice. Chris had been in a lot of my early stuff including a cover of Depeche Mode’s ’Stripped’. First time I heard him shred during a recording session, it gave me chills.
All through the 90s I was writing and learning, but it wasn’t until late 90s, early 2000s that I started with melodywhore and at that time, I was getting ready to move and I had to sell gear to fund that move. All of my gear. That was incredibly hard.
Chris: That’s a pretty fantastic journey to get where you are now. Did any of these early bands share similarities in sound to melodywhore?
Melodywhore: I think in some part, yes, but I was still developing my own sound back then. After selling all my gear, I had to find a new outlet for my creativity, and I moved from a hardware rig to a software centric one. I started using a program called Acid to combine pre-made loops into orchestrations. That turned into me creating my own loops and collaborating with other loop creators.
During this phase I also used Fruity Loops and if I was recording vocals, I would occasionally use Cubase. You could record vocals into the later versions of Acid but that was an eventual feature.
I transitioned to using both Cubase and Acid together and eventually all that was replaced with Reason, which I’m still using to this day.
I think there are some distinct differences between what your end product sounds like based on the type of tools you’re using, but I think it was Reason that was the first program to bring all that together for me.
Chris: I would agree with that. I think it comes from the workflow of the tools or software. Like FL Studio and Acid, kinda push you into loop-based material, especially back in the day before these products evolved.
Melodywhore: Exactly. They had VSTs later on with those programs but not initially; there was a grittier sound with using loops. At that time, I found it easier.
Chris: At this point though, both of those are fully featured DAWs while retaining their original focus. You couldn’t do vocal takes in FL. They had to be done elsewhere.
Melodywhore: Yeah, I didn’t spend a lot of time using FL, I might have used it for just a few months. My main was Acid.
Chris: As long as I’ve known you, your sound has always been what I would consider “darkwave”. At times with more aggression, and others fairly laid back. Was this sound something you’ve tried to cultivate from the beginning or is it your sound?
Melodywhore: I’ve always enjoyed darker things; there are certainly darker tinges to the world around us – not like I was led to believe when I was growing up and I think a lot of my inspiration comes from my personal experiences. I wouldn’t say that what I write is an effort to be a certain way. I just write what I feel.
Chris: Right, and it probably comes a bit from the bands you listed earlier as influences.
Last month you released ‘The After-Dark’ EP/remixes, which was part of the ‘Darklight’ sessions, will this be the last we see from that album before new material?
Melodywhore: Yeah. I think I did what I originally set out to do with that EP. I’m sure the next album will have remixes, but I might include them with the release.
Chris: ‘Darklight’ is coming up on a year old. I assume that means that new material is in the works? How’s the new album progressing?
Melodywhore: I have stuff written and I’m still writing. It might be a little less electronic but still dark as hell. I want to incorporate more vocal work and have been experimenting. I like experimenting. A lot.
Chris: Is this something we might be seeing later this year? Any planned guest appearances for the album or too early to tell?
Melodywhore: I’d like to release it this year. Maybe looking at an October or November release, but it could be sooner; possibly August or September. As for collaborators, you probably will be seeing some usual names and maybe some not so usual.
Melodywhore has always been a collaborative effort, even though the initial offering for ‘Darklight’ was not. The remixes were an extension of that and hence the collaboration. I’ve never been that confident with my own voice, so I would get more qualified vocalists to work with, but I’ve been doing a lot more vocally.
Chris: And when I spoke to Vee, she also hinted that there could be some new Venus & Erich in the works as well. Is that possibly this year as well or just some time down the road, there will be more?
Melodywhore: Venus & Erich will continue this year. I’m actually about to work on that.
Chris: Every time I talk to you, you’ve got a new remix or collaboration going and the list of artists you’ve worked with continues to grow. What drives the steady stream of remixes and collabs? Opportunity to try new stuff that maybe doesn’t fit for melodywhore music?
Melodywhore: It’s pretty simple; keeping those communication lines open. Sometimes these things come at you because you’ve been talking to people and sometimes you are pursuing an artist to remix their track because it’s just so damned cool that you want to see what you can do with it.
If I stopped being active on social media, I’d dry up and float away.
Chris: I know you’ve recently been working on remixes for Dogtablet, Jack Alberson, P’like, and Collapse of Dawn. How did these come to be? Were you approached to work on these or were you the instigator?
Melodywhore: The Dogtablet stuff all stemmed from (Sapphira) Vee working with Martin King and the ‘Collapsing Lives’ track. She shared that with me, and I was into that track so much, I had to remix it… so through her, she made the offer and he was immediately interested. He even offered to remix one of mine in return.
Jack Alberson is someone I met through Twitter and at the time, I saw a tweet of his about his track ‘Dark Passenger’ and I also had a song with the same title (which was from a lyrics collab that fell through). Initially we were supposed to do a double single release with our two ‘Dark Passenger’ songs, but since I didn’t come through with my part, we decided to do something else. He wanted me to contribute to a rework of ‘Monitors’ he was doing and that ended up turning into the remix I did for him.
P’like is a similar story, although I can’t say when or what song it was that my first experience with P’like consisted of, I felt drawn to her music and talent, and she’s such a sweet human being. I think we both felt a strong connection between us and we both knew a collab was going to happen. We initially discussed maybe doing a completely new side project but as of now, we have done the one collab that’s been released but I’m sure there will be more in the future.
And last, but not least, Collapse of Dawn… that Chris Wilburn dude, I’ve known you for like 18-20 years. Lost track of you for a while but I think it was in 2018 or 2019 that I reached out through my nemesis Soundcloud. Fortunately, you got that, and we started talking about stuff I’d started doing and all the stuff that I’ve released since 2017… you were always working on stuff and would occasionally share that with me. You contributed the guitar on the melodywhore track ‘Dirty Cheap Whore’ from the ‘Snake’ album.
Somehow you and Vee got together on a project and that is what Collapse of Dawn is – two of my best friends making some kickass music together; it was a no-brainer that I would likely be involved in some capacity.
The key is to be active and not being afraid to reach out. Have I ever reached out to do a collab and been rejected? Of course. Not everyone is open to the idea and for various reasons.
Chris: It looks like a lot of it comes back to connections you’ve made with social media and the ease at which people can share material. There was never a doubt that Vee and I would pull you in for a remix. We knew that back when we started writing the material.
And you also have Corpsegrindr v2. You had the single ‘Ringfinger’ that featured the title track and then a re-imagined melodywhore track ‘Silk & Bone’. What can you tell us about that project?
Melodywhore: This project started with Ken Langelier (Cyber Shaman). We had just finished working on one of his massive collab projects – Dark Techno or something like that and he approached me to do a whole different project – electro industrial. I thought about how we could stand out as an industrial group – not a lot of female industrial vocalists out there and I had worked with VoxLucis on the ‘Xenophilia’ album. She was working on her screams and growls, and she was interested so that was how we started it. Early on, I knew that I wanted to call the project corpsegrinder but just to designate a difference, I removed the last e from the name, and it became Corpsegrindr.
Initially the plan was to release an EP and we threw down some ideas that we both contributed to – and then the project stagnated for a series of months.
During that time, we ended up replacing our initial vocalist as she had to bow out due to some personal challenges. I also had worked with Skye Schrei on the melodywhore track ‘Devil’s Doorbell’. We discussed her working on Corpsegrindr and she was interested so we started working on one of the new tracks; we got stuck on that track and then Ken got busy and I think it was the end of last year that we kicked it up again. That was when I asked you to join us – I hadn’t heard from Ken and didn’t know if he was still into the project, but we started working on the original material and somewhere in there I think we decided we wanted to release a single just to get something out. That’s where ‘Ringfinger’ and ‘Silk & Bone’ came about.
Chris: Will this incarnation of Corpsegrindr be a regular thing? Can we expect to hear more in the near future?
Melodywhore: Absolutely, once we get rolling again, we will be getting this EP out and I’m sure there will have more in the future.
Chris: You also have the Radio Dark Tunnel show that you and Vee are doing. How did that come to be? Were they looking for additional hosts? Was the radio show something you wanted to do from the beginning?
Melodywhore: Radio Dark Tunnel started out with Martin (Dark Father), spinning my music. He was one of my first followers after ‘Xenophilia’ was released.
The radio show was an idea that came to me after I had thought about doing a podcast like my good friend Chris Leon was running; the idea was that it could be a promotional vehicle for other artists. I had that idea floating around in my head and then Martin approached me to be a DJ for the station. He was trying to get more DJs spinning shows and right after he approached me, it was like *CLICK*.
I came out of the gate doing one show and then I picked up a second slot. I did that for a few months – two two-hour slots a week. There were some schedule adjustments, but it wasn’t until either late last year or early this year that I reduced the shows back to a single show and shortly after that, I began doing the interviews. I think the co-host thing with Vee happened because we were testing the audio and I was listening to us bullshit back and forth through the DJ app and it sounded great! She’s been monumental with all the interviews we’ve been doing. She’s a natural.
Chris: How do you find artists for new material and interviews? Do you take submissions, or do you reach out to the artists you’re interested in?
Melodywhore: I really do have an open submission policy, but don’t advertise it much. If someone shares something with me and I dig it, I’ll play it, but I have played music that I’ve discovered other ways, like Carolina Eyeck for example.
Chris: She was a great find and her music is immediately recognizable. How did you find her?
Melodywhore: Probably from a random article. She plays the theremin, so that caught my attention and being a female electronic artist is kick ass, too.
Right now, we’re interviewing folks we’re interested in and if we ever get finished with that list, we might consider taking submissions.
Chris: I heard a rumor that you have been doing some audio for the Satanic Temple. Any truth to this and if so, how did you get involved?
Melodywhore: This is a gig I got through another artist. They (TST) were asking for some music for their live D&D show and the other artist had a previous engagement and asked me if I had some time. I said bring it on.
The show is currently on hiatus, but they have 4-5 episodes up to watch. I’ll continue working with them once they reconvene.
Chris: Is that part of the melodywhore brand or is it something different?
Melodywhore: They do credit me as melodywhore there. I originally was concerned about how that might affect the melodywhore brand, but I think my fan base is open minded enough to not put too much into it. Is melodywhore a Satanist? No, not really. To me, spiritually is a personal thing between you and your god, whatever or whoever that might be.
Chris: Will that material ever be available for purchase? I had heard some pieces here and there and while it’s different from your usual sound, I thought it would be fantastic to listen to as collection.
Melodywhore: Yes, that will very likely be something I do in the future.
Chris: Any idea what the future holds for melodywhore? Any projects or collaborations in the works or anything you’d like to promote?
Melodywhore: I’ll keep going until I shuffle off this mortal coil. Music is deeply part of me, but yeah, I am working on a melodywhore album and there’s always music to work on. I have two ‘Envious Moon’ remixes dropping on April 29th. The Collapse of Dawn remix I did is also coming soon. Remix work for Sapphira Vee. Still working on more stuff with Dogtablet. I’ll be working with Kay Burden in the summer. And there’s the secret stuff we’re doing with Timo of The Fair Attempts.
Chris: And finally, what are you currently reading, watching, playing, or listening to?
Melodywhore: I’ve been sucked into the world of Tik Tok and Dadosaur. Carole Baskin fed her husband to tigers, and dare I admit to watching ‘Married at First Sight’. Dr. Pimple Popper. Forensic Files. Thank god the internet hasn’t crashed, and yeah, I’m playing the Final Fantasy 7 remake. Listening to… The Joy Thieves.
Chris: Hah, that’s quite the list. That Joy Thieves material is really good. They had flown under my radar until your interview with them the other night.
Thank you for your time and it was great catching up you.
Melodywhore: My pleasure man, thanks for having me.
Melodywhore can be reached via Twitter @melodywhore
Be sure to check out his latest release, ‘The After-Dark’ remix EP.
Tune into the Radio Dark Tunnel feed via Periscope.tv
melodywhore merch can also be found via MerchTablePro.