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Velvet Acid Christ (VAC) is an electro-industrial band based in Denver, Colorado. The band was formed in 1990 by lead vocalist, musician, and producer Bryan Erickson, and later featured various ex-members of Toxic Coma. The project gained limited popularity in Europe's underground nightclub scene during the mid-1990s with the compilation Church of Acid (1996) before expanding into other markets in the goth and industrial subcultures. The band's discography includes 13 albums, the latest being Dire Land (2015).
The majority of the band's work is categorized among the genres of industrial, Gothic, electro-industrial, and EBM. The band's tone ranges between angry, upbeat, sad, and psychedelic. The band's lyrical content offers a varied focus, including such topics as IRC, love, hate, depression, misanthropy, drugs, and religion. Erickson is the group's main songwriter.
Much of Velvet Acid Christ's musical composition has been produced with synthesizers and computer software (see: Computer music). Other instruments used by the band include sequencers such as drum machines and electric guitars with effects pedals. Sampling, which is the use of sound clips as part of a new recording, is another technique commonly employed by the band.
The band cites many musical influences, including among many others Aphex Twin, Rush, Skinny Puppy, Cocteau Twins, The Cure, Siouxsie and The Banshees, and Astral Projection.
Early projects, early changes, and first albums (1990–1995)
In the early 1990s, Erickson and Grigory, both residents of Colorado, brought together their shared interest in creating music to record a series of demos. With the addition of Gary Slaughter and Chris Workman, the group attempted several bands, including Disease Disco Factory, a parody of then-popular Dance group C+C Music Factory. Following a turbulent period for Erickson and Slaughter, Workman left the group. Slaughter and Erickson experimented with two new side-projects, Cyber Christ and Vortex. Cyber Christ explored a harsh and melancholy sound that was a sharp contrast to the group's other projects. When Erickson discovered that the term "Cyber Christ" had been used in the 1992 film The Lawnmower Man, he renamed the band Velvet Acid Christ "in honor of a bad acid trip". The Vortex project was merged into Velvet Acid Christ to form one body of work.
In 1994, Workman returned to assist with the band's self-produced Gothic-styled demo tape, Fate. Given encouraging response from friends, the band followed up with other self-produced albums, 1994's Pestilence, a dance-oriented album, and 1995's Neuralblastoma, a harder-sounding album.
Erickson, along with friends and minor contributors Steve Bird and Dan Olson, started the brief-lived record label Electro Death Trip (EDT) Records to better promote these recordings. In 1995, the three began distributing hand-made CD copies of Fate, Pestilence, and Neuralblastoma for resale in local music shops.
Label interest, touring, and a troubled rise (1996–2000)
Slaughter and Workman temporarily left the band during the first half of 1996 as Erickson continued the project alone, handing out copies of Velvet Acid Christ's recordings to industry representatives, including musician Bill Leeb of industrial pioneers Front Line Assembly. Leeb passed the music to Thorsten Stroht, a media promoter with European label Off-Beat Records. Off-Beat A&R negotiated a deal with the band.
For their first Off-Beat release, the group submitted 1996's Church of Acid, a compilation of selected tracks from Velvet Acid Christ's first three albums with an additional two new tracks, "Disflux" and "Futile". Church of Acid was well received in Europe, and "Futile" became a regularly played track in many nightclubs across the continent. In 1997, United States label Pendragon Records released Church of Acid in America, though the two new tracks were removed due to a lack of trademark clearance for television samples used in the songs.
The band's next album, Calling Ov the Dead, was rejected by Off-Beat for not sounding edgy enough, prompting Slaughter's permanent departure. With the assistance of Bird and Olson, the band addressed the label's concerns and released Calling Ov the Dead in late 1997, with American distribution following through Pendragon in 1998. In the process, Erickson had accumulated a substantial financial debt.
With a line-up consisting of Erickson, Stroht and German musician Ingo Beitz, the band toured Europe in 1998 with Off-Beat label-mate Suicide Commando, which attracted the attention of Metropolis Records, the largest industrial label in United States. The parent label of Pendragon, Metropolis distributed the album Neuralblastoma, as a partnership that would endure.
Velvet Acid Christ spent the majority of 1999 in the studio, first collaborating with Germany's Funker Vogt on a remix EP entitled Velvet Acid Christ Vs Funker Vogt: The Remix Assault, then shifting to Velvet Acid Christ's next full-length recording, Fun With Knives. With Workman an occasional contributor, Erickson sought production assistance on Fun With Knives from the bands Luxt and 4th New Army. Fun with Knives, released by Metropolis and new Off-Beat sub-label Dependent, became the band's best-selling album. Sales were propelled by the singles "Decypher" and "Fun with Drugs", and by the track "Slut", which featured vocals from Luxt's Anna Christine.
In spite of the success of the band, stress had led Erickson into depression and increased drug abuse, which channeled into the creation of the band's next album, Twisted Thought Generator. Simultaneously, the band toured Europe with industrial acts Project X and Stromkern and toured the United States and Canada with bands Din_Fiv and Haujobb. The line-up of the band during this period was unstable. Workman, citing a conversion to Christianity, resigned from the band with a request that his name be retracted from all previous albums. The first leg of the European tour consisted of Erickson, Bird and Stroht; the second leg, Erickson and Olson. The North American tour was performed by Erickson, Stroht and drummer Paul Lipman. With various contributors, Erickson completed Twisted Thought Generator. Due to lingering disputes, he withdrew the band from Dependent Records and submitted the album to Metropolis.
A change of pace, new early material, and beyond (2001–)
Erickson placed Velvet Acid Christ on a short hiatus in 2001, as he abandoned his dependence on drugs in favour of exercise and a vegan raw foodist diet. Newly clean, Erickson created the 2003 album Hex Angel: Utopia/Dystopia. Though critical response was mixed, Hex Angel: Utopia/Dystopia ranked #1 on Germany's Deutsche Alternative Charts (DAC) for four weeks after its release, and the album's single "Pretty Toy" reached #18 on the Billboard Alternative Chart during the same year. The album also marked the band's short-lived return to Dependent Records.
Erickson spent 2004 releasing and reissuing some of Velvet Acid Christ's earliest material. With the four-volume compilation series Between the Eyes, the band published a collection of its singles and B-sides, then followed with subsequent re-releases of Fate (Vol. 2), Pestilence (Vol. 3), and Neuralblastoma (Vol. 4). The band also offered free MP3 downloads of Dimension 8 and Oblivion Interface on its website until early 2005. Dimension 8, which had been available as a hidden bonus on Twisted Thought Generator, and Oblivion Interface (informally known as Between the Eyes, Vol. 5) provided fans with previously unheard work from the Cyber Christ-Vortex era of 1991–1994.
In 2005, Erickson collaborated with guitarist Todd Loomis on a new album, Lust for Blood, which was released on September 26, 2006. With Lust for Blood, the crew labored intensively to create a new overall sound while maintaining the band's original characteristics. Following its release, Lust for Blood ranked at the top of Germany's DAC for four weeks; the album's single release, "Wound", ranked on the DAC's singles chart for eight weeks and held the #1 position for four weeks.
In October 2009, Velvet Acid Christ, Erickson wrote most of the LP, Loomis did a little work on it and was busy working on his project "The Twilight Garden", released The Art of Breaking Apart. This LP was a tribute to bands like Current 93 and Death in June and brought VAC many new fans while making the others angry.
In 2010–2011, Bryan Erickson teamed up with William Anderson of Louisiana. William did a ton of sampling, Bryan made a bunch of VAC B-sides and turned them into Toxic Coma tracks. The project is very old with a revolving door of members, again Bryan being the main constant. This LP fuses the techno sound of Fun With Knives and the brutal black humor of Toxic Coma. This VAC side project is known as Toxic Coma Satan Rising, on Metropolis Records. Erickson then began to write more music for future VAC LPs.
In October 2012, Velvet Acid Christ released their latest LP entitled Maldire. The release marked a return to the dark electronic sound. Erickson formed a live band and toured extensively (2012-2014) to support the album. Subconscious Landscapes was released on October 28, 2014 and remix album Dire Land was released in June 2015. A greatest hits album was released in 2016 and a webstore launched on his site.
Bryan Erickson (1990 – present) – lead vocals, composition, guitar, lyrics, mixing, production, various
Velvet Acid Christ