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(added October 2015)



 by John McVicker


Tell us a bit about yourself. Where did you grow up, when did you first pick up a guitar?

I played guitar a bit as a kid, I also sang in the church choir and played the cello. Two of those three I can’t do any more. If I’d known about double bass at the time I’d have gone for that, something about big seeming better, yet though I’ve got one now my wife Ally has got me into ukulele too.  I’m mainly playing a home-made telepartscaster in Dark Circus, and a Dearmond M75T when we need a deeper sound.

What was your first band? Did you release anything?

Whatever the guitar, it has to have a wobbly bar on it. I started having “a good go” at guitar around 2005, and joined Nate Pilgrim and the Magnificatz in 2007. I played a Burns Marquee most of the time, and got us mentioned on the Burns guitar players webpage. Nate went back to the States in 2009, we continued as The Magnificatz. We found our way into the burlesque scene as well as playing in pub and club nights, we had a mix of darkness and humour that worked well. For our Running Late album in 2012 we recorded all the instruments together in one room so it sounded like a live performance. It’s a very genuine record in that our personalities come through and you can tell that me, Ben (guitar) and Bexx (double bass) were having a good time. There are some copies left in case anybody’s interested.

Tell us a bit about your band mates. What have they done before?

There are four of us in DARK CIRCUS. On double bass we’ve Nick Plant from Luna Vegas, who I knew through Bexx and the three of us played in Magnificatz for a while. On drums there’s Frank Creamer. Frank started out with Colbert Hamilton and the Hellrazors, then went to work with a few different bands and styles in rock and dance. Those influences are very clear in DARK CIRCUS. Frank came back to the Rock'n'Roll thing with The Bionic Krugarrands followed by Norm and The Nightmarez. On vocals we’ve got
Bella Raye, who started singing in early Goth bands, and her style has also evolved greatly over the last few years. Her love for artists like Dusty Springfield and Sonja Kristina led her to performing in local bars with a Jazz/Rockabilly musician.  But her Gothic/Punk roots were always evident, and when she met Frank in a bar in Birmingham last year, they uncovered a mutual excitement about starting something fresh and new.

How and when did dark circus get together?

Nick and Frank got the ball rolling in August 2014. We had our first jam in the loft at Nick’s work place which Bella couldn’t make. The three of us clicked straight away and Frank fixed up a second session with Bella. Straight away we knew we had something pretty special, because we found we could spark each other off with ideas and directions as we played. Bella already had a catalogue of lyrics that she'd written previously, within a couple of weeks we had the beginnings of songs like Parasite, How Long, 30 Seconds and Too Close. In those early songs you can hear that the Rock'n'Roll side of things was where we started, very quickly though we realised we shared other interests too and we’ve got a blend of all sorts now.

How many gigs have you done, what's the response been like?

Our first gig was for Punks Alive, at the Adam and Eve in Birmingham in November 2014. We were still sorting the songs out, but because we jammed rather than rehearsed we were confident it’d be okay. I think the uncertainty about exactly what would happen gave the set an extra edge and it went down really well. Our second gig was supporting Big Boy Bloater, he was kind enough to take a chance on us. We’ve also supported Vince Ripper, that’s a live show not to be missed, and the Psychobilly scene has been good to us. I’m writing this the day after we played at Bedlam; we were really struck by the enthusiasm of the crowed there. As a player that’s something you really feed off; you’re nervous about how you’ll go down and then when you can feel people are interested and getting into it, you’re fuelled up to give a better show.

I see you have done some recording already, how was working with Mr. Wilson and when will it be out?

Nick’s and Frank’s connections have really helped us, and recording with Alan Wilson at Western Star is one example of that. I was nervous, I hadn’t met Alan before but of course I knew who he is. What really impressed me was how he made us all feel at ease, and how well he understood what we were doing. He gave me lots of tips for the takes and he helped us do what we wanted to as a band. Being together for a few days is a lot of fun. Nick’s a little bunny rabbit at night, Frank’s a wolf, that’s all I’m saying. All being well we’ll do an album launch gig early in 2016.

I know Nick plays in Luna Vegas. Do the rest of you play in other bands?

Nick’s got Luna Vegas too, but he’s the only one whose two timing at the moment. As far as I know anyway.

What does the future hold for DARK CIRCUS?

We seeing this year as a bedding-in year, finding our feet really with the sound and the performances. Once we’ve got the album together we’ll be able to show people what we’re doing more easily and then we’d like to get around as many venues as we can. Nick and Frank have both played abroad, just more broadly, than Bella and I; for us that’s an itch to scratch.