Fashion Times: What inspired you to write this book?
Natasha Scharf: “The reason why I started to write ‘The Art of Goth’ is partly because there had never been a book done like this before and partly because there’s such a huge amount of creativity associated with goth that I just thought there needed to be a book like this. The book is actually primarily about music and then there’s the fashion element alongside it. Obviously fashion is a big part of goth, so that’s why it was represented.
Fashion Times: Describe the goth aesthetic.
Natasha Scharf: “The goth aesthetic is what I refer to as a dark aesthetic. The goth movement comes originally from the punk movement which was running in the 1970s. So goth as a movement started organically toward the end of the 1970s and early 1980s. In that sense, it was very much stylized by a darker side of music with literary influences and cinematic influences as well. It was playing a lot on the kind of gothic literature and darker themes in general. From that, you started to get an idea of themes emerging. What started off as a darker style of post-punk then became what’s referred to as goth and people started to see a look emerge. The people who were following goth music were dressing in a certain way and they had particular influences. They were perhaps a little more educated that the punks that were around at the time. They’re more interested in literary things, cinematic things and art as well.”
Fashion Times: How did you become an expert on all things goth?
Natasha Scharf: “I started to get interested in goth pretty much when it first started. There was something about goth that to me was really exciting. It tapped into something that I was fascinated by. It screamed me. There was something mysterious and very hypnotic. I was listening primarily to the music and dressing in a certain way and when I became a journalist in the 1990s, because I was so interested in goth, I just became a goth journalist. That became my specialist area. I did more research, interviewed loads of bands and have been doing so pretty much ever since. It’s become part of my personality.”
The gothic look – head-to-toe black attire and extreme makeup – has been a popular one since the 1980s, with each generation reinterpreting this dark aesthetic as its own. From the staccato postpunk of Siouxsie and the Banshees and the dark rock of the Sisters of Mercy through to the industrial metal of Marilyn Manson and the funereal emotional pop of My Chemical Romance, gothic culture has strong roots in music and continues to adapt and survive. But gothic art is about more than just album covers and ephemera; it’s about fashion, book jackets, cinematography, and fine art. Its influence frequently seeps into mainstream culture too. Nowadays, “goth” comes in many shapes, sizes, and even colors, as it encompasses a myriad of sub genres, including cyber, death rock gothic metal, gothic Lolita, and emo goths. Although each is different, followers are identified by their striking, often theatrical look, music with a hint of melancholy, and the ability to find beauty in morbidity, sometimes even in the macabre.
The Art of Gothic is the first heavily illustrated tome to explore the aesthetics of this fascinating style in great detail. Previous books on goth have given a bold overview of the music and culture associated with the genre, but this book goes deeper and hones in on the album art, intricate fashions, fantasy illustrations, and more.
NightFeverKing: Meltdown Magazine was a huge hit in the UK while it was still in print. How do you manage to keep the spirit of Meltdown alive after all these years?
Well, ‘meltdown’ was my baby and, in many ways, it was an extension of my personality so I guess it makes sense that all the things I’ve done subsequently – from radio and television to my more recent books – have also reflected my personality. They have an essence of that spirit, if that makes sense. Of course, ‘meltdown’ also had a wonderful pool of contributors, without whom I couldn’t have maintained a quarterly ‘zine.
Back when I started ‘meltdown’, my aim was to take goth seriously as a subculture, style and genre and that’s something that I still maintain. And I don’t mean that ‘meltdown’ never had a sense of humour because that’s one of the things that readers really liked about it! Goth is such a creative movement and contains some of the most incredible talent so I’ve always worked hard to push that and get goth-related articles commissioned in publications and on websites that you might not necessarily associate with goth. For me, it’s all about getting goth out to new audiences that I know will appreciate it once they hear or read about it.
NightFeverKing: How do you balance being an author, DJ, broadcaster and a music journalist?
They actually work in harmony with each other because they’re all ways of communicating about music. I’m always listening to new sounds and always discovering exciting new things so by embracing different mediums, I can choose the most appropriate way, or ways, of getting those discoveries out there.
When I first started mixing mediums in the early ‘00s, I had criticism from people who accused me of getting “too big for my boots” because they thought I was on some kind of power trip. I never understood those accusations because that wasn’t what I was doing. In my mind, I was simply looking for opportunities and openings to spread the good word of goth and maximising the mediums that were available. Fast forward 10 years, and it seems like everyone uses multiple mediums now so maybe I was ahead of the trend?!
Check out the rest of the NightFeverKing interview with Natasha Scharf here: http://nightfeverking.wordpress.com/2014/11/27/the-art-of-gothic-interview-with-author-natasha-scharf/