As weird, hormonal teenagers we all had a few creative coping mechanisms. That could have meant learning to summon the devil from an old book you found, writing horrible poetry in your diary and then setting it on fire and flinging it out the window or letting your friend pierce your nose with a dubious safety pin at 3AM on a Tuesday. It’s fine. Finding ways to express your angst in whatever way you choose, as long as you don’t hurt anybody, is necessary. It’s healthy—or so I’ve told myself a few times.
Of course, these modes of expression don’t always end at the age of 19. Goths, for instance, are perhaps the most widely misunderstood and creative group of people when it comes to regularly doing unusual shit in the name of catharsis and fun. Foregoing pogoing and externalized anger, and instead embracing the more theatrical, dark side of life, most us black-clad creatures prefer to just be chill, while also exercising some unashamed self-expression in a non-judgmental setting. But what exactly is the ultimate goth expression? Is it reading poetry while drinking red wine in a cemetery during a full moon? Is it pentagrams? Is it picking flowers while petting black kittens? Is it crying? What is it?
To answer this question, I decided to hang around outside London’s Hammersmith Apollo before an Evanescence show in order to ask fans in the queue about the “most goth” thing they’ve ever done. No angst is complete without a soundtrack, and for anyone growing up during the early 2000s, that meant a fresh wave of new metal, goth and emo bands that hit that spot of soul-crushing sadness just right, and Evanescence stood right on the crest of that wave. So if anyone would have done some seriously goth shit, it would be their fans, right?
Noisey: Hey Sky, you’re looking pretty glittery. That’s not very goth—but what’s the gothest thing you’ve ever done?
Sky: Sleeping in a cemetery.
Oh. Tell me more?
I was, like, 17—it was my friends birthday, and we were all goths, metalheads and punks—so we decided to get drunk, which we did. We were too far to go anywhere, to go home, or go clubbing, so we decided the party was in the cemetery, and we slept on the graves. It was pretty illegal, but kind of fun as well. We were just cold to the bone.
Now that your style has changed a bit, do you think you still keep some of your teen goth within?
Of course I do! You can’t really forget it—it’s always there. Even if I’m wearing a casual suit, I wear a choker, it doesn’t matter if it’s goth, it’s still part of me, as a way to express myself. I even have an Evanescence tattoo—I actually sent it to Amy when I got it done and she replied on Twitter. I also started doing makeup because of being goth—black lips, black eyes, no blending at all. I shaved my eyebrows to zero, drew them up to my forehead, trying some dark looks, then I realized I could do more, and started learning more and more, and now I’m teaching and working on it.
So goth took you on your career path! That’s amazing, thank you Sky.
EMMA, 29 AND VICKY, 33
Hey, you look pretty goth. What’s the gothest thing you’ve ever done?
Vicky: I got my clit pierced on my lunch break. I also then became a body piercer.
Emma: I think the time that I felt the most goth was when I was at Whitby, for the gothic weekend. I went there and was just amongst a sea of black.
That sounds amazing. Anything else?
Vicky: I think that the funniest moment of you [Emma] being a goth was when you were at Milton Keynes train station—and you were gothed up to the nines. We’re talking the studs that stuck out of all of her piercings. And there was a really old lady that was struggling, trying to get on the train with two crutches and a suitcase. And in the most English posh accent ever, Emma goes “would you like some help with that, my love?”
Emma: The lady looked petrified. I think she thought I was going to throw her under the train or something. She looked like she was going to die on that exact moment.
My favorite thing is when people are actually surprised that you’re nice.
Vicky: Yeah, you hold doors open for them and they look at you as if to say “are you gonna rob me”.
Emma: As a teenager, I had the full cloak and everything. Bless my mother, she made a crushed velvet cloak for me with purple lining because all of the ones in the shops only had red lining. I got the shit ripped out of me for it, but I’d just be like “I look so dramatic,” I’m walking, the wind is blowing, I’m billowing. I don’t care about anything else.
The best type of goth. Thanks guys, enjoy the show!
MARJORIE, 29 AND GIOVANNA, 27
Noisey: It's three hours before the concert and you’re already at the venue. Is this the gothest thing you’ve ever done?
Marjorie: No. When I was 16, in my hometown back in Brazil, Curitiba, there was a place where all people who are into rock music would gather. So everyone had a phase where they’d dress very goth—with the make-up, long coat. I actually got one done for me especially on the same style as Neo, from The Matrix. So we’d all gather round there, buy cheap wine, and head off, school-trip style, to the cemetery.
Giovanna: I’ve always been a coward so, being honest—graveyards, that kind of stuff, I never did. But I always loved weird outfits. I’d go to school at 7AM wearing the long skirt, combat boots… I’d cut curtains to get skirts made because there were some amazing fabrics out there.
No poetry, witchcraft or anything of the sort?
Giovanna: Nah—that kind of stuff you’re always curious about, up until when you notice it’s kinda serious, then you step back because you’re not sure what you’re messing with.
Marjorie: Yeah, I had loads of Wiccan friends, but I never went into it personally. It’s that phase of figuring out the stuff you want, really.
Right. Thanks guys!
STEPH, 27 AND “MUM,” 58
Noisey: Hey you two, what’s the gothest thing you’ve ever done?
Steph: I don’t know, I’ve never bitten a bat’s head off or anything like that.
Mum: Having her *points* was the gothest thing I’ve ever done.
Any graveyard hangouts? Seems to be a trend today.
Steph: None of that… I went to the Isle of Wight by myself once, to see The Cure. That was pretty cool, and I dressed up as Robert Smith. And I don’t like travelling by myself, so I thought that was pretty rebellious.
It is! What does being “goth” mean to you?
Steph: Goth to me means being yourself and being comfortable in your own skin, following your own path. I’ve never really met any goths who were doing it because of their friends. It’s always been quite an individual thing. And that’s really fucking cool!
When did you get into it?
Mum: You’re really not that gothy, are you, you’re just who you are.
Steph: Yeah mum always says I’m not really a goth—it’s been like this since I was a teenager, and I’ve also always liked piercings and had naturally black hair, so it’s seemed like the way to go.
Mum: And she’s nocturnal!
Would you say goth is dead?
Steph: Not at all, if anything it’s just evolved. I mean, like my mum said, she wouldn’t really class me as goth, but other people would, so I think maybe that stereotypical “Satanist goth” look might be a bit dead, but I think the attitude is still there. You don’t have to wear all black, you can have streaks of colour. It’s more of a culture than just how you dress.
That’s true. Thanks Steph and mum.
DYLAN, 19, KAREN, 54, AND CONNOR, 25
Noisey: Woah, two generations of eyeliner! What’s the gothest thing you’ve ever done?
Karen: Probably years ago, going to a local festival when I was still living in Luton and goth was quite thin and new on the ground. Me and my friends all wore see-through long lace dresses, fake blood and fangs. But this is back in the 80s, so that was quite “out there”—of course it’s developed since.
Dylan: I think the gothest thing I’ve ever done was paint my nails black. That’s it, really.
Connor: Passed out on a badly-drawn pentagram on the floor?
Oh wow. Care to give the backstory, Connor?
Connor: Too much alcohol.
Karen: That wasn’t at the hellfire caves, right?
Dylan: Not drinking to Satan, are we?
What does goth mean to you?
Karen: I wouldn’t say I’m really goth anymore, but back then, I think it was a way to express yourself, and a way to visually put out how you really felt inside. Especially for women because it meant we could look really different, we didn’t have to be standing by a load of guys, we were independent. For me, going back during the early 80s, that was a real high for us girls. It was thanks to punk that that happened.
Do you think goth is dead now?
Karen: No—I think it goes underground for a while, but you see it pop its head up again. People want to embrace that dark side, and I think it’s really healthy. I can’t see it going it anywhere.
Dylan: I think it’s too unique.
Being raised on alternative fashion, do you feel you had a similar drive to the one your mum is describing?
Dylan: Yeah, I think so. I feel comfortable wearing black clothes. I really hope it doesn’t die out—I feel like in some areas of society, in my generation anyway, it’s more about hip-hop nowadays. It’s rare you come across someone like us. In my mum’s generation it was very big, very new. But because there are newer things coming out, people are driven to them, instead of this. But I hope it doesn’t go away.
Noisey: So Rocky—you’re looking pretty goth. What was the gothest thing you’ve ever done?
Rocky: Probably going to a goth halloween party? That was kind of fun. Everyone was dressed up in a non-goofy way. Like actual scary—what you’re meant to be on Halloween.
And what did you guys do? Films? Rituals?
We just went there covered in fake blood. That’s it really.
Fair enough. What about witchcraft and stuff?
I did actually study a bit of paganism and witchcraft. It was quite interesting when I was younger, I haven’t done it in a while now. But it was interesting, because when people think about paganism, witchcraft, it’s not what they think it is. It’s more about positivity, healing, and promoting peace. It’s not a bad thing. I’m quite a happy goth.
Would you say that goth is dead?
It is a bit less out there now, because most people think of goth as being Satanic, killing people, suicide, sacrificing animals to whoever, and it’s not.
Only a little. On weekends.
HANNAH, 23 AND ASHLEY, 22
Noisey: So, you were just saying that you live across from a graveyard?
Ashley: Yeah! We used to go to the fish and chip shop and eat our dinner in the graveyard.
Hannah: And do Easter egg hunts there! And have water balloon fights!
Ashley: And we once snuck in there at night just to hang out for a bit.
That is pretty goth indeed. How did you feel when you were doing that?
Ashley: I don’t know, this is when we were like…14? But I still kind of do that sort of stuff.
Hannah: I still live across the road, so. There’s a house inside and I keep saying I’m going to buy it.
What happens when you buy a house in a graveyard?
Hannah: You basically just live… in the graveyard.
Do you plan to outgoth that anytime soon, or are those days behind you?
Ashley: I mean, we’re normally in bed by 10PM. Today is the exception. I’d rather just sit in my room with a glass of red wine.
Hannah: Or a cup of tea. And just watch American Horror Story.
What does goth mean to you?
Ashley: My mum got me into Evanescence when I was like eight years old, so this is my all-time favourite band. I dyed my hair black when I was in primary school, and since then I’ve been like “this is the way for me.” Everyone kept saying it was a phase, and that I’d grow out of it eventually, but I never did that.
Hannah: Goth to me means her. My best friend.
That’s really sweet. I’m going to write a poem about it.
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This article originally appeared on Noisey UK.