We fell in love with the blog Now This Is Gothic and discovered that a book had been produced by Andi Harriman and Marloes Bontje – very exciting indeed so we managed to catch up with Marloes and ask a few questions.
1. So, tell me a bit about you. How did you discover goth and when?
I’m Marloes, born in the Netherlands and I’m in my mid 20s. I have a university background in History and Culture studies and my main interests, academically have been medical history and cultures of the 19th and 20th century. Funnily enough, the photographic, musical and oral history in the subcultural spectre are themes that I researched in my spare time. I think that that started in 2004, when I read that the music I liked that was perceived as goth at that time (nu-metal, symphonic metal) was in fact ‘not goth’. The information on the internet back then was still scarce, but soon I was able to find out more. To hear or buy the music was still difficult then as CD shops did not offer that kind of music or it never even got repressed on CD! – very frustrating. It was a blessing when people started ripping LPs and uploaded hem to blogspots, as well as the arrival of youtube. I couldn’t think of a genre, or anything basically, that suited me better than new wave – a genre that I could not have thought of that existed – at the same time it all made sense it ever did…. I did think that the fact that this genre was in the past was a depressing fact: how could I meet people that were ‘like me’ when they were my age in the 1980s? A nostalgic attitude I thankfully grew out of, haha.
What is goth to you?
Goth is the darker section of the genre new wave or more precisely, postpunk. To me goth is ‘shaping depression into a form of art’. Using the last definition, ‘goth’ can be a lot of things, but I do prefer to refer to the music when I use goth.
You focus mainly on the 1980’s goths which for me was THE goth era, how do you think it has changed from then to now?
I think economy and the arrival and expansion of internet are the biggest changers, as they both ensure how you spend your time. In the ’80s young people rarely had side jobs and there was no internet which made people definitely more stuck in boring towns; the boredom is what lead to a lot of these music that was made. Generally I think, that also back then, at least part of the postpunks were in fact ‘nerds’ and fairly introverted or shy – it almost feels like what synths was for them, is computers for these ‘nerds’ now…… What followed is that our scene is more and more dragged to the online platform than the offline one. It causes a lot of people to stay home, while in the 1980s you had to go outside to get a glimpse of the scene and its people (unless you call ‘reading fanzines and playing records on your own at home’ being in a scene…). Also, lots of people forget that in the 80s (especially in England) it was kind of hip/cool or strategic to be ‘goth’ for a while (i.e. score some chicks/dudes) and I have a feeling that after the 1980s the population does not have those, but leads more to the nerdy-side. Although, I have a feeling that our scene recently has become ‘cooler’ again, but this is definitely influenced by the minimalist/indie and 80s revival influx and hardly came from the ‘batcave scene’ itself.
Anyway, people seem to be more at home, but at the same time they’re globalizing the scene. A very interesting development, actually.
Another thing is that I think the ’80s scene was more a-political, whereas I see a lot of people now being very concerned with society, ethics and politics – the amount of activists, vegans and third wave feminists in our scene these days is quite enormous. I wouldn’t say people back then didn’t have their own or similar ideals or ideology – but it kind of depends on where you look. In some regions the postpunks or goths were very marginalized, their country was still in, or just came out of a repressive regime, so there it was definitely more loaded and urgent. It would be interesting to look at whether ‘repression’ (economically, politically) still shapes our current scene. Somehow I have a tendency to say that the climate these days looks a lot more like the one of the 1980s than we would think.
What made you decide to start a blog dedicated to this subculture?
Haha, I think I actually needed more examples of goths that dressed cool. I knew there was quite a scene back in the day and wondered what evidence could be found of that other than band photos. Also, I thought goths now were dressed quite silly and I hoped they either adopted the ‘80s looks or started to dress minimalist if they were to see more examples. I remember those as my initial considerations, but soon enough it became a hobby I spend way too much time on. I don’t think I would have hold on so long if this blog was not about people or cultures – it raises questions that take a hobby further than just collecting photos, such as why scene were so similar or arose independently from each other around the same time (while they were not connected); where the music or scene sprouted first ( not solely in England) and questions on how our scene relates to nostalgia, internet or ‘mainstream’ culture.
The blog is rather successful so what made you decide to put a book together?
Oh, that idea already came in the first year (2010), especially by other people encouraging me to do that. I kind of pushed it forward because I was in the middle of studies and had no money. I figured carrying such a project with two people one day would be wiser. In 2012 Andi [Harriman] dropped me a message on her dissertation topic (‘80s goth) and expressed her ideas to continue writing about this topic after her studies. We ended up sharing our ideas.
Is this a one off project or do you plan to do more in the future?
I’m working on different things these days such as a dissertation and music. I’ve been in that ‘ ‘80s time warp’ for many years now and have been broadening my interests over time. At the same time, this decade of ‘goth’ will always be interesting – so I’ll see what the future brings.
Marloes will be selling the book in person at the Gothic Pogo festival in Leipzig this month but if you can’t make it then you can buy the book here