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INTERVIEW: Timothy Dark

Hi Timothy, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

I’m doing well, thank you. I’m just happy to be alive, healthy, recording new music, and playing shows. The last couple years have been rough for me. So, I’m really appreciative of this time in my life and how incredible things are right now.

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “The Future”?

“The Future” is the first single from my new album. It was produced by Dan “The Band” Policar and was inspired by the current state of America.

Eight years ago, things looked so bright. We’d elected the first black president, and we all had this positive feeling—that black people could do anything now. We could even lead the most powerful nation in the world. But suddenly, somebody threw a “monkey wrench in the works”, as the saying goes. With the election, it felt like we were moving backwards. It was like all we’d worked for, and everything our people had bled and died for, was being erased.

I could feel my pride in America, along with the belief that our nation was finally embracing its identity as a melting pot, start to slowly disintegrate.

Growing up, I was accustomed to being the odd man out. I attended summer camp for six years, and I was the only Black kid there. The white kids introduced me to rock music, and I turned them on to hip-hop. We performed in talent shows together, played baseball and soccer together, and went to each other’s birthday parties. In a sense, those relationships made me who I am today, both musically and personally. We saw color, but we didn’t let it get in the way.

It’s sad that so many people never had those experiences because they grew up hating and dehumanizing people who were different—distracted by other people’s race, religion, or sexual orientation. The next generation shouldn’t suffer because of it. They shouldn’t be subjected to negative or prejudiced viewpoints. Especially not in America.

I witnessed this wave of hate flowing through the nation when I started writing this song. Obama fulfilled so many people’s dreams when he was elected president, but he also destroyed the dreams of so many others—the ones who wanted America to remain a one-sided nation forever. Black people realized we were no longer living in a white man’s world, and anyone could be anything they wanted to be. But the ripple effect from Obama’s two terms was so strong that it woke up the Kraken. It heightened a fear that white people would “lose their country” to people of color. Coupled with the Trump administration’s agenda, all the racism and prejudice, that stayed buried beneath the surface for years, was stirred up. Everything changed.

This wasn’t the America that I’d hoped to see in this stage of my life. This just couldn’t be “The Future”.

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

“The Future” has a secondary meaning beyond the current political climate.

I’ve spent my entire life working to become a successful musician. I’ve sacrificed everything for my dream, and other people have sacrificed significantly for me to get to this stage of my career. I’ve spent money that I couldn’t afford to spend (i.e. paying my band and releasing albums). I’ve held shitty jobs with low pay just to have the flexibility I needed to hone my craft.

After struggling for years, my hard work suddenly started paying off, and I saw everything coming together. My shows were tighter than they’d ever been, my merchandise was moving quickly, and I was where I wanted to be. But it seemed like some people weren’t happy for me.

They started asking me questions with negative implications. “Why can’t you just stop making music and go back to school?” “How long do you plan to pursue this ‘dream’?”

I couldn’t understand where all the animosity was coming from. Maybe, because so much was happening so fast, they felt like it was being rubbed in their faces. It was hard to figure out if people had lost faith in me, or if they were mad because they weren’t living their dreams. Perhaps they wanted me to fail so they could say, “I told you so.” Or they were just being overprotective. Maybe for some, it was a combination of all these reasons. But I’m a very empathetic person, and I immediately started trying to dissect their motives. I couldn’t sleep at night or focus on my music because all I kept hearing were these negative voices. I couldn’t even watch my favorite TV shows without distraction because I kept wondering if they were right. Three or four scenes would pass by, and I’d have to scroll back to the beginning. I kept trying to picture my parents, and all the people who were always supportive, telling me not to listen to them. But that didn’t help—those voices wouldn’t stop playing in my head.

This wasn’t how success was supposed to feel. It should have been total bliss. Why weren’t people happy for me? I wasn’t struggling. I wasn’t hungry or homeless. I was doing what I loved, but I was being bombarded with negative energy. This should’ve been the happiest time in my life.

Thank God, I eventually used all the negativity, and everything else that was happening around me, as the catalyst for “The Future”.

Any plans to release a video for the single?

There’s a video out now. It’s sort of a mini epic, the first in a three-part video series. All three videos combine to tell a complete story, which will continue and conclude with the next two singles, “Unpatriotic” and “Hail in the Hurricane”.

The video was directed by Sean Tracy, and we shot on location at his house in upstate New York. It depicts our country’s future as a Trump-ian dystopia with overtones of severe martial law. It’s pretty graphic. There are people locked in primitive cages, armed guards, and fight scenes.

Sean and I built the cages ourselves with some logs of wood that were stored on his property.
We carried each log out into the woods behind his house, covered the streams along the way so the actors could cross safely, marked the trees with orange paint so no one would get lost walking to and from the house, dug some holes, and constructed the cages. When it comes to making important music or a video of this scale, which sends a vital message and a warning to our communities, I’ll do whatever it takes to get the job done right. Even if that means sweating, lifting, digging, carrying, and even bleeding. People who’ve seen this video have described it as both disturbing and eye- opening. Their reactions prove it was certainly worth the effort.

How was the recording and writing process?

The writing process went pretty smoothly. I watch the news every chance I get, and I keep my eyes and ears open to what’s going on politically. So, the material was there.

It was all fresh in my head; I just had to convert it into 32 bars.

When things are going on that affect me emotionally, it makes the writing process so much easier. It becomes a type of therapy for me because it allows me to talk about my feelings and let all my emotions out. I’m a Cancer, and one of our traits is that we hold our

feelings in until we feel it’s the right time to open up. When something happens that makes me extremely happy, angry or sad, all those pent-up feelings explode onto the page.

When Obama was elected I wrote a happy song called “Elevenfivetwothousandeight” that night, and I wrote a sad song called “Remember the King” the morning after Micheal Jackson’s death. But when I penned “The Future”, most of what I was feeling was pure anger, for what was going on politically and for what I was dealing with personally. When the lyrics were completed, I went straight to Dan’s Long Island studio for the rest.

He’s a fast producer with incredible work ethic, so the track was done in just a few hours. I knew it was going to be first song on the album, and it needed something different to grab people’s attention.

It was a given that the track would feature Lisa Bianco’s guitar skills and Carl Gibson’s live bass, but we needed something out of the ordinary. Dan and I decided to add a theremin-type sound to the opening. Once you hear that sound, you know something epic is about to happen. You’re about to be launched into “The Last Days of Dark”.

What role does NYC play in your writing?

New York City is the perfect place to write—there’s always something going on. I’m currently working on a song called “Still Rotten”, which encompasses a plethora of experiences in just a few bars. It’s a follow-up to “Rotten Apple”, a song from my first album.

I named it “Still Rotten” because, no matter how much you clean up NYC, the rotten, grimy underbelly is still there. It never goes away—it just changes, mutates, or moves to another section.

When I was growing up, I’d see pieces of people’s brains on the sides of buildings, from a shootout the night before. I had cops pull guns on me and my boys for refusing to say “Merry Christmas” to them. The crime rate is much lower now, but there’s still a lot going on.

In this city, you also have a another world operating beneath the city, where something is happening every moment. Every second, people are interacting and crossing paths. There’s a homeless man lying naked in a train car across from a girl doing her makeup on the way to work. There’s a couple fighting while someone plays guitar or dances on the train pole.

One subway ride in this city can inspire a whole song. One day in a park can inspire a whole album. The main reason why I’ve been here so long might be because New York City is my primary inspiration. As rotten as she is, she is my greatest muse.

How has Public Enemy influenced your music?

Public Enemy’s music was always direct—it had no fear and pulled no punches. Chuck D tackled the issues that were affecting people in this country, the majority of which pertained to African-Americans.

Each one of their songs was a lesson, and every album was a semester. PE taught me to focus on and write about what I think is wrong and speak out, regardless of whether I thought it would sell records or not. They taught me that music must be used as a tool for teaching and healing. There are so many people who feel lost and have no music to turn to for therapy; there’s no little voice to keep them on track. Right now, there are very few leaders, prophets, or musical beacons to guide the righteous as they fight the good fight.

Groups like Public Enemy taught me how to be that beacon.

Does your new single mean we can expect a new album – how’s that coming along?

A new single is definitely a sign of a new album. It will be the sixth addition to what I call my “Darkography”.

This new record feels good, maybe better than any I have released in the past. I love all my other children, but this one has all the best traits of the past albums. Everything I’ve learned over the years about songwriting, and everything I know about the process of creating and putting out an excellent product, is being applied here. I’m also working with an incredible team of people, which definitely helps.

The album will have 12 tracks that deal with numerous subjects, including “The Future” and “Unpatriotic”, which deal with politics, “E.L.S.I.E.”, which is a tribute to my Mom and a ‘thank you’ for all she did for me, “Love is Insane”, which talks about my love affair with the industry, and “One More Day”, which deals with alcoholism, faith and facing death.

I have a lot of strong female vocals on this one: Anna Haas, Lisa Gary and Indestructible Character, and Stephanie “Black Canary” Linn.

At the end of the day, I want people to look at every track as a day in my life and experience what I was going through at the time. This isn’t just an album for the street. This is a record for everyone.

Any tentative release date or title in mind?

The album is called “The Last Days of Dark”. It’s basically a directive to live each day like it’s your last, and bask in each and every experience. These are the last days for everyone on the planet. People might think this sounds kind of harsh, but I feel like every day after a baby is born is one of his or her last days.

You can look at the glass as half full all you want, but sometimes, the half empty glass is the thing that truly motivates you. It’s the thing that drives you to enjoy and appreciate every minute of this wonderful life because, as far as we know, we only come down this road one time.

“The Last Days of Dark” is my way of sharing those days with you.

Any plans to hit the road?

I’m heading to California in the next few weeks. I’ve contacted some venues about doing performances. L.A. will be the start of the tour. I’m focusing mostly on solo gigs, but I’m definitely planning to bring the band out there. People always say we look like an L.A. band, so we should fit right in.

What else is happening next in Timothy Dark’s world?

My world is spinning really fast right now. I plan to shoot a video for every song on the new album, some live action and a few animated. I also just released new merch and have ‘These are The Last Days of Dark’ t-shirts, tank tops, and posters up on timothydark.net right now. Vinyl and CD copies of the album will be available as well.

I’ve also been commissioned to act in and write music for a movie based on the life of Joan of Arc, called “The Passion of Joan. Be on the lookout for a lot of new projects from Timothy Dark and my company, Darkseed Entertainment, this year, including a book called “Darkisms”, which is a compilation of my quotes from over the years. Lastly, I’m planning a lot more performances for charities and social justice organizations like the ACLU and Planned Parenthood.

I’ve been doing this for a long time, longer than many of today’s mainstream artists. I’ve definitely paid my dues, now it’s just a matter of making all this knowledge work for me. I want to use all I have learned to promote positive changes and eradicate racism, using thought provoking artistry.

I know when I get to the end of this journey, I don’t have to look back because I know I’ve left a legacy behind that I can be proud of.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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