NEW YORK - BEYOND GOTH
Pieter Schoolwerth is an artist, DJ and founder of the long-running "Wierd" (yeah, spelled like that) parties in New York (now happening at Home Sweet Home, 131 Chrystie @ Delancey, on Wednesday nights). These parties are about two things: Playing really obscure coldwave and minimal-synth music, and being really creepy. We've personally never been to these parties, but after hearing about some of the scary shit that's gone down at them, maybe we'll check it out. Just kidding, we'll be at home playing Wii with our cats draped around our necks like magical purring shawls. But go and tell us how it was.
Vice: So who decided to spell "Wierd" wrong?
Pieter Schoolwerth: Well, first we just kinda fucked up, but then when I thought about it, it's similar to how you spell my name, Pieter, so it became a completely unnecessary wink to my Dutch heritage. But mostly it's just because it fucks people up. It makes it hard to look up the name.
Why is that good?
We make no attempt and have no desire to permeate the masses. That's why our slogan is "Very Rare." But both "Wierd" and "Very Rare" also refer to the people who came to our parties at first. It was the most abject freak-show you ever saw. It was all derelicts and transsexuals, and even some gay Hasids.
Gay Hasids, you say?
Yeah, gay Hasids were getting blowjobs from club kids on coke. Shit went down. One guy in particular was gay, deaf, and mute. He was, like, the rarest of the rare. We treated him like royalty because he was the king of the weird. The weird—it's like an ominous vortex of uncomfortable people that just want to hear these cold, dark songs.
Coldwave is what it's called, right?
Yeah, a big function of the party was to give exposure to coldwave, to the history of this music that never really existed in the US. It was a much more European phenomenon. Mostly from France, Germany, Holland, and Italy, a few from Belgium. It began around 1979 with bands that were sort of taking over where Joy Division left off. It has that cold, icy guitar sound mixed with a raw drum sound.
Who are some of the most famous coldwave bands?
Marquis de Sade. They were basically the Joy Division of the north of France. They're legends. The Asylum Party from Paris is equally renowned. And Twilight Ritual is the most famous Belgian coldwave band.
Sheesh, I've never heard of any of those.
That's because most of these bands didn't sing in English so they never got distributed over here. The closest commercial example of the coldwave sound that I can think of would be the Cure's Faith or Seventeen Seconds.
So this is the music you play at the "Wierd" Parties?
Yes, and then every few months we'd have a big live event at a warehouse space or on a boat, and new bands would play. There's a great coldwave scene happening here. Out of the 15 bands on the compilation we just put out, ten of them are from New York City. And in May, we'll be putting out another comp called Coldwave New York: Nowhere To Go But Down, in addition to albums by Blacklist and Martial Canterel. There are also really active scenes in Miami, Chicago, and Germany. We're all drawn together by being frustrated with the current state of "dark" music.
Tell me how a coldwave fan dresses.
I often dress up as a character called Astrid Bonaparte III. She's an abject lesbian in her 50s. I have a secret identification with her, you know? I really relate to that.
I have a collection of about 50 paisley shirt and 30 pairs of pointed Winkle Picker boots. The way I dress is kinda like where dark music meets psychedelia, like when the acid trip become frightening. When it crosses over into Satanism and the occult. It's very specific brand of cryptic, creepy music and fashion sense. I used to call is gypsy-wave. It all revolves around suggesting an individual that is inherently uncomfortable in his own skin.
How do you feel about the term "goth?" I would like to take a wild guess and say that you aren't so fond of it.
Yup. The term "gothic" was invented far after the original gothic rock bands. I was going out every night in 84, 85, and that word never existed. There was no label for the pancake makeup and teased hair. We just called each other freaks. So now, we don't use the term goth. It has a derogatory connotation. It's degenerated into some kind of ironic B-horror film thing. It's lost its elegance, sophistication, and most importantly, its pretentiousness.
Yeah. That's what I really miss. I miss the conviction behind the bands to not be afraid to espouse their ridiculous theories. I mourn the loss of eccentric people in music.
Did a lot of eccentric people go to the "Wierd" parties?
People that came to the parties were really on the edge. Some of them disappeared. We had homeless people, cab drivers, and truck drivers that were so fucked up.
But what was so fucked up about them?
They just seemed like they were about to fall off the face of the earth. They were at the end of their string. I loved them. It just seems like there's no room for uncomfortable and socially dysfunctional people anymore. That's what we try to foster at the "Wierd" parties—a place where these types of people can come together and enjoy themselves.
Do they really enjoy themselves? I thought they'd be all mopey and depressed. I thought it was about alienation.
Well, the music may have a certain melancholy or sadness to it, but the fact that it brings these people together, that they can all identify and become friends, makes it really fun. It also helps that the parties tend to be very drug-friendly. I've seen everything go on there. A few bartenders got fired for having a gay coke orgy in the basement at 9 AM. It was extremely fun.
Tell me about some of the most fun events you've had.
We had a wet Joy-Division-t-shirt contest. That was really fun. It was four gay bears, this one drunk girl, a couple of nervous little club kids, and some 60-year-old guy no one knew.
This big hairy bear one. His shirt got so wet all you could see was hair underneath it.
Another event was called "Have Sex In My Car." My car is a piece of shit. Three couples had sex in it that night.
It smelled gross.
More info at: www.wierdrecords.com