The word ‘goth’ inspires different reactions from different people and, in Malta at least, these reactions tend to veer towards the negative. But there is a thriving subculture that defies prejudices and it’s all coming together this Wednesday with the biggest event of its genre taking place at V-Gen in Paceville.
“They’re basically outcasts, Gothic people… They’re into anarchy.” Godhatesgoths.com.
With the possible exception of emo, few lifestyles seem to attract as much hatred and misunderstanding as goth. Admit it, you’ve all shared a few chuckles over the stereotypical photo of some random dude wearing a black leather trenchcoat, black fitted trousers and an expression of never-ending sorrow.
Ah, gotchya. Because, as anyone who is really into the scene will tell you, being goth is not about the ‘never-ending sorrow’ at all. Much less about other ridiculous notions like anarchy, spikes and chains or even that old chestnut satanism.
Take Jackie Aquilina – happily married mum who also happens to embrace the gothic lifestyle. One of the brains behind the upcoming Generation Goth event, she is an attractive, articulate lady with nothing of the anti-social about her. She laughs when I mention all the above prejudices that are typically associated with the word goth and puts it down to the fact that people tend to be afraid of that which is unknown and unfamiliar to them.
“I do get all kinds of negative reactions from people around me and I have actually been asked whether I form part of any satanic groups, whether I practice witchcraft, whether I am an unhappy and suicidal person and other hilariously prejudiced questions of the sort.
“No, my dear I am a very happy person like most of the people who form part of the goth lifestyle. I have my ups and downs like any other human being. But all the goths I know love life, nature and have a great passion for music and style. And when we’re together the love for our passion really shines through, it’s simple enough!”
Jackie got into the scene as a teenager in the late 70s and early 80s, when her musical tastes took her through the whole gamut of electronic experimental music mixed together with post punk. When some of the post-punk bands she admired started including the gothic rock sound of guitars and synthesizers, Jackie was hooked. As usually happens with people who have a passion for a particular genre, Jackie’s taste in music is also reflected in her own personal style – a style that she confesses not everyone ‘gets’.
“I never shop around in high street fashion stores. Most of the time I either order clothes online or shop when I go abroad or when I’m not satisfied I even sew the clothes myself. Unfortunately, in Malta there is only one shop that caters for this sort of style.”
Jackie admits that the goth lifestyle is not and has never been popular – even abroad, it remains very much a sub-culture, albeit a more easily accepted one.
“Generation Goth will be the fourth gothic event that I am organising as Nuwavemalta. The previous three events, which were part of the Wavelengths series, attracted a great response and this encouraged me to go for this joint event. But it’s really a shame that so many of these events clash with each other. The scene in Malta is small, we’d all benefit from some forward planning so as not to step on each other’s toes.”
Brandon Lubecki is another name that is associated with the scene in Malta – the brains behind BioStream Promotions and well-known for his successful Industrial, EBM and Aggrotech parties, he is known as DJ NME and, besides the recent series of raves in Malta has also hosted parties and events in London and the U.S. Brandon, however, remains reluctant to use the term ‘goth’.
“Labels bring too many stereotypes with them. What we are talking about is a lifestyle and a state of mind, not a label… and I’ve lived this lifestyle for about ten years now. I first discovered old-school 80s in my early teens, with bands like Sisters of Mercy, Rosetta Stone and the like. I then got into darkwave and everything else followed.”
While reluctant to call it ‘goth’, if push comes to shove Brandon will tell you that an event like Generation Goth is defined by the music, the people and the vibe and effects at the venue.
“Usually it really depends on the organisers; if they don’t really know the scene and understand the industry – then the party usually sucks.”
Embracing the lifestyle as completely as Brandon can’t be a simple matter, not in a country where anything that is different is viewed with a high degree of suspicion. When I ask Brandon about people’s reactions to his choice of style and music, his reply is a pragmatic “you can’t please the entire world”.
“You get people who love you, others who chase you, other still suck up to you or maybe respect you. You get those who copy you, which can be very annoying. Then there are those who throw insults, laugh at you or even get scared or try beating you up simply because you’re not like them,” Brandon tells me.
I have to admit that the latter comes as a bit of a shocker to me. Brandon puts these reactions down to the fact that people here are just not used to seeing anyone with such a unique look.
“Their instinctive reaction is to grab the first thing they can associate you with from either television or the movies and label you as that. Whether it’s an over-rated Marilyn Manson (who incidentally has nothing to do with our industry since he plays shock-rock) or satanism, homosexuality, occultism or whatever. I guess the funniest incident was when this uncouth individual asked me – in all seriousness – whether I eat babies for breakfast!”
It would be funny if only it weren’t so sad. Brandon agrees that the core scene in Malta is very small, with only a handful who live the lifestyle on a “full-time” basis so to speak, because it’s who they really are. The rest he describes as either weekenders – ie people who dress up for weekends but then look and behave completely different once you get them out of their clothes – or simply “going through a phase”, maybe because they like the clothes, or think its cool or like a few songs and thus decide to label themselves goth.
Rene` Farrugia, from Hades Events, is the third component for this event: he explains that this event has been in the works for a while, with all three promoters wanting to unite forces and creativity in order to offer a unique event.
“Goth, like most of the alternative music genres, denotes a lifestyle that is different from the mainstream. For some people it can reflect negativity, but in reality there is nothing negative about it. While all three of us have, in the past, organised parties that concentrate around this style, this event can be termed unique because it’s the first time three promoters are coming together like this.”
The goth scene, Rene` says, is even smaller than other alternative scenes. He blames this on the fact that locals tend to brainwash each other against something that is perceived as potentially negative. I ask him whether, like Brandon, he too gets negative reactions from the general public.
“Well, I’m really not the kind of person that gives a fig about what other people say about them. I don’t really bother when I get bad looks from others. And I do get those believe me. I’ve very into tattoos and because of this I’ve been called all kinds of names. But that’s Malta for you!”
However, he quickly forgets all about this and his eyes light up when describing the upcoming event.
“There will be 3 DJs; DJ NME, DJ Mozzer and myself. The sound system there is fantastic and I’m sure we’ll see a packed dancefloor. We’re throwing some surprises in as well but…let’s wait for the night! As for those who are curious about my playlist, I can tell you that I will be including a tribute to my favourite band, Rammstein, besides other goth classics like Lacuna Coil, Blutengel and others. A lot of work has gone into this event and now it’s down to us three to finalise the playlists.”
This feature appeared on The TV Guide (Times of Malta. Tickets are available online (www.nuwavemalta.com) for €5 or €6 at the door.