Nothing sacred

David Keating speaks with The Satans: offensive lyrics aside, it’s only rock and roll, says Gabriel Slayn.

Meet The Satans: Chapel Ruin. Jesus Crust. Christian deMise. Gabriel Slayn. Bear Bear. “How terrifying is Bear Bear?” asks guitarist Gabriel Slayn, half-mockingly. While The Satans name might conjure up images of death metal and other black arts, in reality, the band’s sensibility is a little less dark.

“If we were serious, we’d be in jail,” says Slayn.

The Satans music itself is actually more in line with rock and roll sounds of bygone eras. “A mixture of surf rock, rock and roll, rockabilly, psychobilly, anything-a-billy…Horror surf rock, that’s probably what we’ve narrowed it down to,” says Slayn.

In keeping with the on-stage antics, larger-than-life personas and general air of theatricality, an upcoming date on the calendar was an opportunity the band couldn’t pass up.

“We’re The Satans. We have to play Friday the 13th. It’s a requirement with the name, I think.”

Aside from the satanic name and gruesome get-ups, more delicate sensitivities remain intact.

Until you get to the lyrics.

“What are the songs about?” Slayn repeats. “That’s better left off the record, probably. You can’t write about it anyway… A lot of our songs are tongue in cheek.” The band’s Myspace site lists their musical themes as ‘religious dissent, incest, over-the-top violence, vulgarity, and screaming’.

To illustrate the point, Slayn offers me up a few impromptu lines from a song about the death of Princess Diana. It’s gallows humour mixed with straight-ahead rock and roll.

But for Gabriel Slayn, just bringing people together to have a good time is key. “It’s about trying to get people not to take things so damn serious. ‘Cause everyone is too uptight these days… If you’re offended by any little thing and you listen to The Satans, you’re in for getting offended as much as possible. But I’m not out to offend anyone. It’s all tongue in cheek.”

Together in one incarnation or another since 2007, The Satans have weathered several line-up changes to emerge with an EP, and a full-length album which popped up—to the surprise of many—on the top ten shortlist for last year’s juried ‘album of the year’ award, the Atlantis Music Prize. Future plans for the band include a summer 2009 tour across Canada and a new album.

No plans to drop the face paint though. “We’ll take off the make-up if we make as much money as Kiss,” says Slayn.

Around downtown St. John’s, on and off the stage, The Satans ongoing commitment to the persona makes an impression—the wardrobe, the make-up, the vehicle…

“You can never miss it,” says Slayn. “It’s this big, black Chevy van with white flames on it. And skulls in the window. All the way from Winnipeg—the Brat Attack’s former touring van because our drummer (Bear Bear) is actually from Winnipeg.”

In the meantime, a re-release of their first full-length recording, Renovabis Faciem Terrae, on vinyl is in the works. And while The Satans lyrics are meant to be taken lightly, the band is deadly serious about the way they play.

“Aside from a persona on stage, the music requires skill. It’s fast. It’s precise. You need to be accurate. You need to be on your game every night. There’s people six inches away from your face going crazy. There’s so many people sometimes you can barely play. Yeah, so it requires a skill level… With or without make-up, The Satans are a good band.”

Catch The Satans at both CBTGs and Distortion on Friday the 13th. Online, visit their myspace page at myspace.com/satanscommathe