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Guest Post: Interview with Alex of Cirsova Magazine –

Guest Post: Interview with Alex of Cirsova Magazine

Wednesday , 17, August 2022 3 Comments

Matthew Pungitore Interviews Alex of Cirsova Magazine

Hello! I am Matthew Pungitore! In this article, I’ll be talking with Alex of Cirsova magazine! Without further ado, let’s go!

MATTHEW: Hello! Thank you very much for talking with me today, Alex! Can you tell us a little about yourself? who you are? what you do? what your hobbies and current projects are?

ALEX: Hey, no problem! Most folks these days know me as P. Alexander, the editor of Cirsova Magazine. I’ve been keeping Cirsova Publishing, an independent SFF/Adventure imprint, afloat since 2016.

This year, we’ve been exceptionally busy. In spring, we put out the collected All-Story works of Julian Hawthorne, the son of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Right after that, we’ve put out Michael Tierney’s latest Wild Stars novel, The Artomique Paradigm, and the second collection of Jim Breyfogle’s Mongoose and Meerkat adventure. And depending on when this interview runs, we’ll be in the process of getting out Misha Burnett’s An Atlas of Bad Roads.

Not including all of our side releases, we’re about to put out our 25th issue of Cirsova Magazine this fall, so that’s a pretty big deal. As you can imagine, that takes up most of my time, but I try to squeeze in some other stuff on the side, including gaming, drawing, and reading for pleasure.

MATTHEW: What makes great music, and what are your favorite genres of music?

ALEX: Music is one of those strange things where maybe the most important aspect of it is how it resonates with someone at the particular moment in their life when they’re listening to. It’s not something you can put your finger on, and it’s really subjective. I know I’m going to dog on some stuff because I think it’s terrible, but I accept that there are people who are genuinely moved by it.

There was a time in my life where Sticks and Stones, a Serbian experimental folk industrial band [they’d bang rocks, pots and pans, add some flute over harsh, growling vocals], really hit the spot. And most people when they hear “Industrial” are going to think of Nine Inch Nails or maybe MSI or Skinny Puppy or something, but for me, the two industrial bands that shaped my own tastes in that genre were Throbbing Gristle [the OG Industrial] and OLoF NiNe, an experimental French electronic project from the 00s. I also kinda came into metal backwards through extreme industrial and noise, with Boris and Sunn O))) and then into doom and stoner doom and ambient suicidal depressive black metal like Xasthur or Striborg.

These days, I’ve also been listening to a lot of Rome. It’s funny, because I got the L’Assassin EP years ago for free with an order of a Sopor Aeternus album back when they both had the same distributor. I still love Sopor Aeternus, but I don’t really listen to them much anymore, even though I had all of their albums up through I think 2012. I still only “own” that one Rome EP, but I’ve been listening to them a lot lately.

MATTHEW: What is your opinion on the current state of underground and indie music?

ALEX: It’s hard to say, because I don’t really have my finger on the pulse of underground and indie like I used to. One thing, though, is that it’s easier than ever to get your music out there. While the corporatization of Myspace was a huge blow to indie music [one that led to Myspace’s collapse], I think things have recovered. I’m sure there are as many, if not more, fantastic bands doing killer things out there as there were when I was really involved with things from 07-12

MATTHEW: Could you please tell us your thoughts on the current state of mainstream music?

ALEX: Mainstream music has been stagnant for decades. When the suits figured out that women will dance to anything with a beat, there was no need for innovations. There’s almost no selling point that can be attributed to the actual music itself in pop. It’s “Look, a pop singer that’s ______!” With Adele, it was “Finally, a pop singer who’s fat!”; Lorde was “Finally, a pop singer who’s ugly!”; Billie Eilish is “Finally, a pop singer who’s ugly and can’t sing!” Every female R&B/Rap artist promoted is an indistinguishable waste who insists that everyone cares about their nasty holes. In the meantime, mainstream Rock has been pretty much dead to the point where everything after grunge and early post-grunge seems like it’s been forgotten with the exception of some blips here and there. It’s weird to think that by the time that they were playing songs like Black Hole Sun on classic rock radio it was older than most of the Led Zeppelin and Rolling Stones stuff they played had been when I was growing up.

The mainstream stuff that was big and that I enjoyed back when I was in college doesn’t really feel like it had a lot of staying power. I haven’t thought about Arcade Fire in years [not since their second album, really], and The Darkness burned out pretty quick, if I recall. I really wish that the Killers had stayed a hard-edged synth pop band instead of going off and thinking they were some kind of Bruce Springsteen meets Tom Petty thing. I recently rediscovered MGMT, and realized that I would’ve really been into them if they had just came out a couple years earlier when I was still in college. The lack of good stuff going on in the mainstream was what sent me into looking into the early punk, goth, and especially the industrial stuff after I graduated.

One advantage, though, of how the landscape has changed is that less well-known bands who wouldn’t be considered “mainstream” but not really underground are still fairly discoverable through things like Youtube or even the library. In the last few years, I’ve gotten into bands like Cellar Darling, Pinkish Black, and several others from the local library getting in CDs.

So, even if the “Mainstream” is nothing but trash, there’s still a buffet of good stuff available, more than you could reasonably consume.

MATTHEW: Has music become perverted? Has it been saved?

ALEX: I don’t think it’s become any more perverted than it’s been for a few generations. What makes money gets pushed, and the lowest common denominator makes money. It’s manufactured, fast-food music, and when people dance to racial slurs and being called bitches and sluts, they’ll dance to anything, and that’s really where the mainstream has been stuck for over 20 years. They’ll sell you a meal of degradation with one hand and false empowerment for dessert out of the other.

MATTHEW: What kinds of things corrupt music? corrupt art?

ALEX: I know it’s a cliché, but money and clout chasing. They often lead to dull conformity.

MATTHEW: Have you ever had a band, and are you currently playing in any bands? If yes, what can you tell us about those bands? record labels? genres? future music projects?

ALEX: I’ve been in a few over the years. Some folks may note when they get communications from me, it’s from a address. This is from my old punk/goth/industrial label.

I got started in the music scene with a 2-man electronic/industrial project called The Death Sound with a friend from college back in 07. I made a lot of connections and did a lot of one-on-one collabs with industrial artists from around the world back in 08-09. Also around that time, we did a show with a local punk band that I became friends with. When that band broke up, the lead singer brought me in as bass player on one of his new projects, The Kill Crazies. We were a band everyone loved to hate, playing dirty, nasty horror punk. The bass player from the band that broke up also wanted to do an industrial project with me, which is where Medicide came from. We put out several albums through my label as well as at least one through a friend’s net-label. But life and circumstances got in the way. We took a break for awhile, and even though we eventually got back together, we never really got gig-ready again and drifted apart after we released Supernova Black.

Really, I’ve been too busy with the whole publishing thing to get back to doing music again, and I don’t really know if where I’m at right now has the scene for what I’d really like to do. I’d love to play keyboard for something like a Towards Darkness-style doom metal band, and even though I’ve had some ideas, I haven’t brought my rig out of the closet to really do anything in years. The last time I really did anything was a couple drone-doom noise streams to promote the Wild Stars anniversary books a few years back.

MATTHEW: Do you think great songs should tell stories?

ALEX: I think they can. Something like The Red River by Micah Blue Smaldone springs to mind [or Very Friendly by Throbbing Gristle, LOL], but Boris is one of my favorite bands, and even though I don’t understand near enough Japanese to follow more than a snatch of their lyrics here and there, I find their music transcendent. And even through sound alone they’re able to convey truly monstrous scenes, like Leviathan off one of their Thing Which Solomon Overlooked LPs.

MATTHEW: What makes music beautiful?

ALEX: Again, that’s a very subjective thing and it’s hard to put a finger on and quantify. You can try to run it through all kinds of music theory to analyze what makes it good or why it sounds a certain way that’s pleasing to the ear, but didn’t Frank Zappa say that The Shaggs were his favorite band? Sometimes intent behind music and an earnestness can be just as important as “quality.” A few of my friends from high school had a band called So Many Dynamos. I think their Catskill album I have is beautiful, even though they’re not especially musically talented and even though Stuart couldn’t sing for crap—he was a good songwriter, though, and his lyrics hit me hard, even to this day. Plus, I love their cover of The Monkey’s Circle Sky, which actually captures the manic gonzo nature of Head better than the original version.

MATTHEW: Is music the best form art can take?

ALEX: Music is great, but I also have a strong appreciation for visual arts. If anything, I think animation may be one of the best, because it’s one of the places where you can best combine the two. That was the entire idea Walt Disney had behind Fantasia, to show just how masterfully it could be done, even though really animation had almost always been tied to songs or pieces of music.

MATTHEW: What makes art hideous or painful or offensive? And what are your thoughts on those concepts?

ALEX: It could be a lot of things, because those things might take on different meanings. A lot of Goya’s Black Paintings could be considered hideous, but they’re my favorites—they capture a sense of menace and dread that chills the soul, and this from an artist who never shied away from dark subject matters.

Even though I enjoy a lot of noise music, I can’t stand Merzbow, even though he’s a legend in the field—a lot of his stuff I find physically painful to listen to, and even his collaborations with Boris I usually feel would be improved by his absence. And I like Hanatarash and The Gerigerogegege! But a lot of Merzbow makes me physically ill. I’m not sure if that’s what you mean by painful, but I’m going with it!

As for offensive, to me most “offensive” art is not offensive for the offense it is seeking to give but rather for being tryhard. Things like Piss Christ or the Virgin Mary smeared with poop or whatever is offensive because it’s low-hanging fruit—fedora-tipping garbage that gets seals to clap for it—not because of the statement itself. On the other hand, look at a band like Type O Negative: they were controversial when they attacked the welfare state, were uncontroversial when doing moderately blasphemous gothic metal, and became highly controversial again when Peter Steele became openly Christian and criticized abortion and the apostasy of the Jews in his music.

MATTHEW: What kinds of stories should great music tell?

ALEX: I think that great music can tell any kind of story. Even though I don’t listen to much hip-hop or R&B, I loved Michael Franti before he went all Dave Matthews because he was such a good storyteller. Hell, I love Nate Dogg & Warren G’s Regulators because it’s good [and funny] storytelling. Then you have something like Steve Miller’s Take the Money and Run which should be a good story but it’s awful because it’s Steve Miller. That said, I don’t know that music necessarily needs to tell a story. It just needs to be an expression that resonates with the listener.

MATTHEW: Are you more interested in the soundscapes or the lyrics of a song?

ALEX: I really enjoy both. One interesting thing about Medicide was that when we did “studio” albums, they were mostly soundscapes. We did sometimes piece the soundscapes to tell a story, but really, a lot of it was just noodling. When we played live, we tended to do actual songs, even if they were kind of impromptu the way that Throbbing Gristle’s often were. I think when music is a bit more minimal, and you place emphasis on lyrics, that’s where they can really shine. Again, I’ll mention Micah Blue Smaldone, but there are also a lot of minimalist folk and neo-folk artists who are able to really make the lyrical elements magic. I’ve had Rome’s One Lion’s Roar stuck in my head for weeks.

MATTHEW: What is your opinion about art which has no meaning or whose meaning is purely symbolic?

ALEX: I don’t think that there’s art which has no meaning; the meaning could be dumb or half-baked [there’s an installation piece that’s a pile of disgusting hard candies, where you’re welcome to take one or as many as you want—it’s supposed to represent how AIDS slowly takes away and consumes a person until there’s nothing left, except they replenish the candy pile on the regular, so it’s really always about the same size], or it could be psyop or grift like most modernist art, but the meaning is there. And there are also some works that are mysterious or the meaning is lost to us but still have a profundity to them, such as Goya’s The Dog.

MATTHEW: On the topic of music and art, who or what are your influences? what bands influenced you? what writers influenced you? what artistic movements?

ALEX: I’ve already mentioned several of them, but one of the strongest influences on the music I actually play is Nico’s Desertshore. Nico is kind of the grandmother of goth, and even though Desertshore is such a short album, it’s haunting and sublime. If you listen to any of the Medicide stuff where I’m playing keyboards rather than my bass, you’ll hear strains of The Falconer and Janitor of Lunacy in our soundscapes if you listen closely. As for writers, I love the pulps, but Leigh Brackett, Ross Rocklynne, Lovecraft, and Dunsany are all strong influences. Dunsany probably influenced my music the most, particularly his Gods of Pegana, because it’s so damn weird.

MATTHEW: Ever played live? If so, what is the funniest experience you have ever had while playing live?

ALEX: Yeah, I’ve played live a pretty good deal, though not as much as I would like. One of the most memorable experiences was the third show I played in The Kill Crazies. We were in this little hall on the side of this record store with no windows or anything. It was set up with a projector on one end and a stage on the other, so I spliced together a bunch of WWII film reel footage and burned it to a DVD. The lights go, the footage of the bombs falling hits us on the stage and the back wall, and all hell breaks loose as we start to play. I was glad to be up on the stage, because even though I couldn’t really see into the audience, I could tell it was crazy. I had to kick a guy in the face who kept trying to grab my guitar. After the set, a friend of ours is like “Hey, can you guys help my friend find his tooth? It got knocked out in the pit.” The place where we played that show is daycare center now.

MATTHEW: Can you tell us who are some new bands that you would recommend personally? Who in the indie scene is really good? And in your opinion, what genres of music should people who might be looking for independent or small or non-mainstream groups be listening to? any new genres forming? any local bands you can recommend?

ALEX: I’ve mentioned a few of them earlier. Like I said, I really enjoy Pinkish Black and Cellar Darling. I think that there’s actually a lot of neat experimentation going on in Gothic Metal, because there’s such a wide breadth of what you can do with it. You can take it in some pretty extreme directions, but you can also do fun and poppy stuff with it like Birthday Massacre.

Honestly, a lot of the indie bands I can recommend are from 10+ years ago and may be defunct now [some are, I’m certain of], but a few are still kicking. Some of my faves I might not have already mentioned are (or were) Towards Darkness, Cough, Yob, Gallhammer, Midget Cum Mustache, Lloy, Dakuu, Ahab, The Outlaw Scumfucs, Stupid Babies Go Mad, Ginsu Wives, Changes, Antarctichrist, Wraith, Frown Powr, Playing With Karma, and that’s just off the top of my head. A newer band that’s pretty good is Moonmane; I think they just put out their first album; a guy from a band we used to play with back in the day is their drummer.

Oh, they’re super mainstream, but I really like Chvrches, too.

MATTHEW: Are there any music venues that you respect currently? What venues are really keeping good music alive, do you think?

ALEX: A lot of the really good venues I frequented back in my heyday have closed. Downtown Music went out of business years ago, Juanita’s didn’t survive its move from South Main to the River Market, and the old one-screen theatre that got turned into the best mid-sized venue in my town was bulldozed awhile back, too. Vino’s is still around, and there are some shows at Kanis Skate Park sometimes. I’m too out of touch with the scene these days to know where the house shows are these days, but those were always the best places to see shows and discover new bands.

MATTHEW: What’s your take on music fandom? Do you believe there might be fans in the music scenes who may not get involved or show respect for the literature that helped influence their favorite bands? Do you believe things like that are happening?

ALEX: Whoa, that’s a heavy question with a lot of facets to it. I think it really depends on the band and the fan. I’m sure there are a lot of people who check out Moorcock and Lovecraft because they dig Hawkwind and BOC or whatever. Honestly, I’ve met more goths who were more into the aesthetic and/or the literature than they are the music. My SO is a goth, but she’s mostly into female-fronted gothic metal and pop stuff, and a lot of the older batcave stuff I’ve played for her makes her cringe.

I think that metal fans and bands are probably the most in touch with the literary roots of their musical genres, especially the classic Howardian (Gates of Slumber) and Tolkienian (Summoning) stuff, and it really shows in their music. Sky Hernstrom, who’s a metal head himself, has written for us, and there have been other metal musicians such as Jason Tarpley of Eternal Champion who have given us shout-outs when talking about what they’re reading. Plus Dave Ritzlin started DMR books with anthologies of Sword & Sorcery by metal musicians. Both the fiction and the music is pretty good. Plus, you’ve got guys like Raz0rfist who are all about pulp and heavy metal.

I have a hard time speculating on the crowds and nightlife, because these days I’m not especially involved with it [no time!], but it was always frustrating that when some big punk band would come through, all of these kids would come out of the woodwork to see them but would never show up for anything local.

MATTHEW: Do you think it is important for music fans to also be supportive of the other forms of art and creativity?

ALEX: To be honest, I don’t know if I do. I think that the fact that they’re supporting something they enjoy and want more of is enough.

MATTHEW: Would it be safe to say, in your opinion, that there is a lot of activism, fetishism, and/or alternative lifestyles comingling with music scenes but not enough active appreciation for contemporary creators outside the mosh pits and the clubs? Should music-lovers be more involved with supporting artistic creators, more in tune with artistic cultivation and creative refinement?

ALEX: I think there is and there can be. A lot of music scenes can be particularly libertine, and there’s a lot of pressure to descend to whatever depth of banal degeneracy are at the bottom of a scene, and that’s not a part of the music world I particularly miss. That said, I think people should engage in the art and aesthetics of the scenes they enjoy, whether it reaches beyond the music alone or not. While I think there’s always wonderful opportunity for fusion within art scenes and a limitless potential for creativity, it’s not always necessary. Truth be told, Michael Moorcock’s spoken word stuff for Hawkwind isn’t exactly earth-shattering, and there’s probably good a reason why COUM Transmissions fell away almost immediately as a “performance arts group” once they started doing Throbbing Gristle. [IIRC, Throbbing Gristle’s first live show was part of an art installation billed as something like “A COUM Transmissions presentation” or something.]

MATTHEW: Any final words or anything else you want to promote, add, or mention?

ALEX: First of all, thank you for the opportunity to talk music with you! Most of our interviews tend to be fiction-focused, so this was a fun change of pace. Depending on when this goes live, we’ll probably already have Mongoose and Meerkat: The Heat of the Chase going out to people, maybe even Misha Burnett’s An Atlas of Bad Roads. The Fall Cirsova will be out 9/15. All of our stuff is on Amazon. Peeps can find us at

MATTHEW: That’s all for now! I would like to thank Alex of Cirsova magazine for talking with me! It has been a great honor! Very exciting! Good luck with all your future projects, Alex!

Matthew Pungitore’s short story “Wychyrst Tower” appeared in Cirsova (Winter 2021). He has written various essays and articles for the DMR Books blog. He does volunteer work for the Hingham Historical Society. Matthew is also the author of The Report of Mr. Charles Aalmers and other stories, Fiendilkfjeld Castle, and Midnight’s Eternal Prisoner: Waiting For The Summer. Matthew graduated with a Bachelor of Science in English from Fitchburg State University.

You can also visit Matthew’s BookBaby author-page:

You can contact Matthew Pungitore at:

  • Briana says:

    This was a very entertaining interview, I loved the questions asked, they kept me wanting more. The questions were broad,bold, different and unique.

  • […] Awhile back, Matthew Pungitore interviewed us, and the interview is live now on Castalia House. This one is a bit different from our normal fare, since we mostly got to talk about music! Check it out! […]

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