The Danse Society is a post punk band from Barsnley, UK. Its original lineup included Steve Rawlings (voice), Paul Nash (guitar), Lyndon Scarfe (keyboards), Tim Wright (bass) and Paul Gilmartin (drums). Lyndon Scarfe was replaced by David Whitaker after recording the band’s best known LP, Heaven Is Waiting, in December 1983. Seducction was The Danse Society first independent album released by Society Records in 1982. The last album of the band, Looking Through was released in 1986.
In late 2009, Paul Nash, Paul Gilmartin (Gigi) and David Whitaker met again after 24 years and decided to reunite as a band. Steve Rawlings agreed initially to join them. Instrumental tracks were recorded and the band and Rawlings met in the UK in October 2010. However, he returned to the US after recording a single vocal track. Plans changed after that first meeting and the band lost contact with Steve. In January 2011, Maethelyiah joined the band as the lead vocalist and recorded Change Of Skin. Bassist Martin Roberts also joined The Danse Society shortly after to edit the second album that year called Scarey Tales. This is the conversation I had with Paul Nash and Paul Gilmartin in November 2013.
First of all, I am a big fan of The Danse Society, and it is a pleasure to have the opportunity to interview members of this band for a Peruvian webzine. How did the band come together? What concept did you have in mind to create it?
Paul Gilmartin (Gigi): Well, basically The Danse Society was an amalgamation of two bands, Steve and I from Y?, and Paul from Lips-X. My band Y? was running out of ideas and Lips-X had that melancholia we were missing. The combination worked for us: morbid to the core and tinged with elements of dance music. Regarding what concept we had, I’m not sure we intentionally thought about it at all. However, Robert Smith is quoted saying that we really thought we were the undead and pure theatre after we supported The Cure’s British tour in 1981, so maybe we did. Musically, we wanted longevity without compromise and to create something that would stick with people forever, like everybody’s personal dark side of the moon, if that makes any sense. In our own small way I think we did that.
Paul Nash: What Gigi says! But I’ll just add that after Lips-X and Y? joined forces we were a six piece with two keyboardists and a very dark electronic sound, at this point we were called Danse Crazy. However after 6 months or so the bass player and one of the keyboard player left and we recruited Tim Wright on bass, and stayed as a five-piece and changed the name to The Danse Society. The band has always had an evolving sound, a mix of the the players influences and our collective passion for interesting music, and this has been the case since the beginning. When Lyndon left we recruited Dave Whittaker on keys, and then Steve left and we had Mark Copson on Vocals for a while (although under the name Johnny in the Clouds) and now we have Maethelyiah and Martin Roberts. The sound evolves but the weirdly still remains within The Danse Society.
Any early memories of the beginnings of The Danse Society that you would like to share?
Paul Gilmartin: Fuck loads. Good and bad. For me, I suppose, the main memory is we did it, we took the risk. Five lads from Barnsley went from living in a transit van, playing anywhere to anybody, to get a record deal, to travel to America and Europe. Yeah! And we embraced the rock and roll lifestyle!
Paul Nash: I remember having lots of fun on the road and in the studio, feeling frustrated that, in my opinion, we did not get the recognition we deserved, but also proud with the legacy we left and the influence we had on other artists.
Why did the band split after releasing three successful albums and several EPs?
Paul Gilmartin: We burnt so bright for a while and the dream bites you on the arse. When you give away all your control it doesn’t help. Record companies and managers are fucking great to you when everything is going their way. Sadly, like most things in life, it eventually comes down to money and rats flee the sinking ship. Hindsight is a great thing and maybe we should have stuck together longer and got through it as a band. Seven years together constantly took its toll, so to speak. We still had music in us but other people, who don’t make it, thought otherwise.
Paul Nash: It came down to frustration. I think we were being steered in a direction we did not want to go by the music money-making-machine (who I have to say is quite short sighted), but after our final single in 1986, Hold On, it seemed pointless the record company spent so much money in recording and making a video and then decided not to promote the single. I mean what is the point in making these great records when no one is going to hear them? It lead to silly arguments and eventually the collapse of a strong relationship we had had for so many years.
The Danse Society – Hold On (1986)
How come did the band decide to get together after 25 years? Did The Danse Society-Reformation Plot Facebook campaign in 2009 have an effect?
Paul Gilmartin: Yeah!. the Facebook thing helped a lot but that was not the reason that got us back together. The time and conditions were right. Dave and I were messing about in his studio and realized we could still make good music. Like the Blues Brothers we decided to put the band back together. It was a divine mission, so to speak. We convinced Paul, Tim was not interested, and we waited for Steve.
Paul Nash: I was really suprised at the Facebook Reformation Plot and when Gigi contacted me and asked if he and Dave could come to the seaside for a chat about getting back together. I was of two minds, but then I thought why not, let’s give it a try and see what happens, so we started recording and the magic started happening.
Vocalist Stephen Rawlings will not be joining the band this time. Do you maintain contact with him? Will he return one day to The Danse Society?
Paul Gilmartin: Steve will not be joining the band this time. He came over from America did vocals on one track and disappeared again. At this point we do not have contact with Steve, he severed them. However, I do not think we would ever exclude him from working together again, if he ever wanted to come back and do something, but it would have to be with Maethelyah (the new vocalist) as well. I am a bit off a dreamer especially as I have just revisited the past answering these questions, so it would be nice to re-create the past, all be on stage together at some point, for old times sake. But I do not think it will ever happen again. Besides, we are happy as we are now with 2 albums in and working on a third.
Paul Nash: I do not believe Steve will ever join the band again, he had numerous chances to sort himself out and contribute to what became Change of Skin but for whatever reason, he could not do so, and now he has disappeared again, or, as I prefer to think of it “retired.” So no, as far as I am concerned, he will never return to The Danse Society.
Could you tell us about the process of selecting a new vocalist? How did you meet Maethelyah? What convinced you to incorporate her in the band?
Paul Gilmartin: We did not select a new vocalist as such, it sort of just happened and felt right. Maeth contacted the Facebook Reformation Plot offering to help out, we had 12 recorded tracks with no vocals so we kept going as they sounded great. The issue was under which name will we to put them out. In the end we thought it would be good to keep the name Danse Society. We deserve it, and in our humble opinion well deserved.
Paul Nash: As the songs were getting finished for Change Of Skin, it was becoming increasingly apparent that Steve was not going to contribute and sometimes the universe answers your questions. Maeth appeared out of the blue and put some amazing vocals on the tracks and everything fell into place like it was meant to be.
The Danse Society – Revelation (2011)
What do you think of your fans reception to your lead vocalist Maethelyiah?
Paul Gilmartin: I have got to say, I have the utmost admiration for Maeth because she has took some flack from some die hard fans who just wanted Steve back and in my opinion never gave her a chance because some people want the past and what it meant to them back then. The main thing is we love what we are doing now, and we are back. If we had got a vocalist with a voice similar to Steve’s, I don’t think his job would have been any easier.
Paul Nash: I think once they have heard (with open ears) the new stuff with Maeth they love it. As Gigi says some people just wanted Steve back and have made it difficult for Maeth, but those same people would have probably hated the “new” Danse Society for some other reason, they are of no relevance for me. The Danse Society have always had an evolving sound and a changing line up, even with Steve. Look at the difference between No Shame In Death and Hold On or even Seduction to Heaven Is Waiting. A band is not defined by a singer, but by its entirity. The Danse Society is still The Danse Society – If you liked our music back in the 80s you will like it now, I guarantee it! We are, however not about trying to woo back old fans, we want new ones too, we want the world to listen!
The band returned to the stage in 2011 with Change Of Skin. Why did you choose this title?
Paul Gilmartin: Change Of Skin was the track Steve did vocals for, and it was called something else. Magic Mother, I think, however the new lyrics from Maeth seemed apt. You know, a new start, a change of skin.
Paul Nash: When we were chosing the album title, I wanted Revelation or Resurrection, both great tracks from the album, but the consensus was for Change Of Skin, and I am glad that I was out-voted as it seem so apt looking back, and epitomizes all that we went through at that time.
Tell us about your latest production, Scarey Tales. Are you satisfied with the final product and the reception it has had? Are you considering going on tour to promote it?
Paul Gilmartin: We are more than happy with Scarey Tales. I am never happy with how any of our stuff has ever been received, I do not fully comprehend how people do not understand our greatness. Seriously, I think there is a lot of shit that gets more recognition, and we get unfairly over looked. Personally, I love playing the new stuff live as much as the old. We are presently touring in the UK with Spear Of Destiny and will start our own tour in the new year (2014).
Paul Nash: We have done some select dates to promote Scarey Tales, and I am very pleased with the great reception it has had. In my opinion it is our best album yet. It is a themed or concept mini-album, and if you buy it, rather than download it, it comes with a cool 64-page book with art work, photos and a scarey tale. It is a fabulous packaging, something to be proud of, and the music, well I am absolutely pleased to buts with it. It is all I hoped for dark, ambient and powerful. I cannot wait to start work on the next one to be honest, I am loving being back with the band and making awesome music again both live and on record.
Could you share some final words for Subte Rock and your South American fans?
Paul Gilmartin: Firstly, it is an honor to have South American fans, and to get over there one day to play would be fantastic. Love and light to all your readers and thanks for the interesting questions. It was a pleasure to answer them for you. Oh yeah!, buy the new albums, you will not regret it!
Paul Nash: Thanks for interview, it has been a blast, and look forward to getting over there to play at some point in the future, it will be great to meet you all!