An Interview with Dark Punk Band Ciril
by Oliver Sheppard
Simultaneously occupying the spaces of hardcore punk and deathrock while dishing out a consistent barrage of their own schizoid take on punk, Long Beach, California’s Ciril have been around since 1995. They have four LPs, at least one split record, and many 7 inch EPs out. The singer, songwriter, and sole constant member has been Darrin Jeffery Hall. Often compared to Rudimentary Peni, the band recently released the excellent Sick Surreal LP. Below, Darrin opens up about what Ciril’s music means, how Gitane Demone (ex-Christian Death) has been involved with the project, and what other deathrock and punk bands have inspired the band’s manic, moody, frenetic, and splenetic sounds.
Interviewed by Oliver, originally at No Doves Fly Here.
OLIVER: Hey Darrin, the first question I usually ask a band is, “What does your name mean”? However, your band’s name has an interesting story behind it. The premise behind Ciril is that all the releases go together as, in effect, concept albums, because the songs are about how an imaginary youth, whose name is Ciril, comes to see the world as he grows up. (Correct me if I’m wrong here.) How did you come up with the Ciril narrative concept?
DARRIN JEFFERY HALL: You are totally correct about the concept of an imaginary youth, but it’s ironic how the character is not so imaginary. No matter how I try to write about imaginary characters, it always turns out to be about me and my struggles through life as a result of a fucked up, abusive childhood and how it affects me through my adult life. It’s sort of like crying out a caterwaul with the hope someone will hear my trauma and relate and give me a cry back, telling me I’m not the only one, and share with me how to get through life with such a weight on our souls. Reaching out to others for help in life, and getting a response, has helped me a great deal. Being in a band and recording music has been the best cleansing tool. I am truly grateful I have been able to accomplish such a powerful medicine for the soul. It’s such a relief when i communicate with others with similar issues.
Now the way I came up with the name “CIRIL” is quite simple, although for me it’s subliminally and profoundly ironic. I was walking by a preschool one night and I noticed on the playground all the children had done their self portraits on the sidewalk and signed their names in chalk. All the drawings looked neat and tidy, like well-adjusted children: Lisa, John, Mary, Cindy, and Anthony, etc. But this one drawing looked sooo far out there from the others, like he was crying out for help. He signed his sloppy, but unique, self-portrait “CIRIL.” It just stuck out in my head, like somehow this kid was reaching out for somebody to understand him. CIRIL, the kid from the preschool, must be about 17 years old now. I hope he knocks on my computer’s door some day and says hello. To this day i still feel his soul and know his hardships.
Q: What is the band, or your, relation to Gitane Demone? She did the cover for an EP, didn’t she? Does she sing on any Ciril tracks, and/or has she done anything else with the band? What was your personal relationship with her?
DJH: Me and Gitane had a 10 year romantic relationship. She was my lover and best friend. We shared everything together, including CIRIL. She did the cover for the 7 inch “Pink Cave,” as well as doing vocals on our records; specifically, Ciril s/t, Hysteria Driven, Twelve Tales, and Sick Surreal. I watched and listened to her write all of her new material over the course of 10 years, and this turned out to be the CRYSTELLES. They have an album out also called Attach and Detach. Me and Gitane have since “Attached and Detached,” which has turned out the best for both of us. Note: See “Death Is Gone” and “Hysteria Driven.”
Q: Who’s in the band now, and what do they play? Also, how long has Ciril been around?
DJH: Wow, what a crazy question. NO ONE IS IN THE BAND NOW! All members quit except me, and I’ll never quit. I kind of understand their departure. Things got a lot crazy. From playing back yard parties in East LA, Compton, and South Central Los Angeles — it got kind of wild sitting in backyards, in the ghetto, for hours waiting to go on, and just when it’s our set time you’ve got hundreds of angry kids ready to go off, and then the cops show up. We would have to hide behind garages, in dirty bedrooms, and in alleys waiting for cops to leave so we could play. 9 out of 10 times we would play to an eruption of angry youth.
DJH (cont.):The thing that was good about playing for poor ghetto kids is that they understand different types of emotion through the various styles of music that CIRIL played. If it wasn’t for backyard gigs CIRIL would have never gone anywhere. If we would have just played trendy clubs nobody would have gotten it. In other words, CIRIL had to go to the curb where we could be understood. CIRIL owes its whole exsistence to the L.A. backyard scene. This went on for years, but during all those times I could see that kid, CIRIL, from preschool, through these hundreds of desperate kids in the backyards of L.A. We eventually started playing and getting good shows with great bands from Europe. We played with DS-13 on their first U.S Tour. CIRIL was fortunate to play with some great bands: Fleas and Lice, The Regulations, Chaos UK, and Raw Power, among others. It ended in 2008 when we did two shows with the Subhumans. All of this, plus painful recording sessions, happened between the shows. I started to have some major midlife drama going on. The band had wanted out for years, and I was having personal trouble in life; this was the perfect time for their long-awaited exit.
See, when CIRIL started in 1995 I was 29 years old. The guys in my band were kids from the neighborhood, all around the age of 16. As the years went on they sort of grew out of punk and the whole music scene altogether. They went on to college, got married, had kids, and certainly could not afford to go on some 6 week tour to Europe with a crazed middle-aged, angry punker like me. So, yeah, they are all gone. We recorded CIRIL’s Sick Surreal in 2007, played ’til 2008, and that was that. Sick Surreal has been released as of May of 2011. I still write CIRIL Music and am looking forward to playing live again with a new line up. CIRIL, the kid on the playground, will never die.
Q: Often, when people describe Ciril’s sound, comparisons to Rudimentary Peni come up. Is Rudimentary Peni a conscious influence? What are some of your favorite bands, and what bands do you feel show through on their influence with Ciril?
DJH: OK, short answer: In 1982 I went to the local record store, ZED RECORDS, in Long Beach, California. Mike, the owner, was at the counter opening boxes. He pulled out the Rudimentary Peni “Teenage Time Killer” 7 inch, called me over, and told me I should buy this because I would like it. I took it home and dropped L.S.D. with a few of my friends. Ever since, I have been mentally attached to Nick Blinko and Rudimentary Peni. I don’t know the chords he plays, or all the titles to the songs or the lyrics he writes, but I have all the albums and I have some weird mental connection with the music. So, of course Rudimentary Peni is a huge influence. It’s definitely the beat that i walk to. Favorite bands besides Rudimentary Peni include GG Allin, Crass, Subhumans, Circle Jerks, Christian Death, T.S.O.L., Saccharine Trust, Red Scare, Siouxsie And The Banshees, Red Lory Yellow Lorry, Nick Cave, Christ Vs Warhol, Kommunity Fk, Penis Flytrap, plus hundreds of local bands. And, yes I hope CIRIL’s Influences come through.
Q: What personal experiences in your own life do you think helped fuel Ciril’s lyrics?
DJH: LOVE, DEATH, CORRUPTION, POVERTY, DISCRIMINATION, CHILD ABUSE, HATE, FEAR — And having a child, Bridgette, who is 21 years old now.
Q: What are some of the topics in Ciril’s songs? I know “Can’t Understand” is about slaughterhouses and the meat industry. I think “Broken Window,” which is one my favorites, is about homelessness. What are some other common themes or topics?
DJH: Well, “Hell Fell Down Again” is about ending up in the hospital from alcohol poisoning. “Wardrobe Of White” is about scientists who do experiments on animals to find cures for man-made diseases. “Herniates Had It” is about my mother who suffered from obesity and diabetes, leading to her death. All of these topics are from Sick Surreal. If you want to know more you must buy the albums and read for yourself.
Q: Ciril covered Christian Death’s “Romeo’s Distress,” which seems about right — as well as a Siouxsie and the Banshees song. But why did you want to cover Bikini Kill’s “Rebel Girl”?
DJH: I LOVE Kathleen Hanna. She started a movement. I grew up in an all-woman household. I watched my sister get molested at the age of six. I feel and understand women’s pain. To me, Kathleen Hanna is like Nick Blinko. Somehow we are connected through cries of pain. I like Bikinni Kill and their honesty. True emotions come out through their music, which in this world is rare. I like any and all types of music that show emotion. CIRIL, in our last days, was covering “Rock Bottom” by U.F.O., a 70’s classic rock band. I wish we would have gotten it down on tape.
Q: You and I were together in this community on Facebook that was called “Positive Punk,” ostensibly about the punk/post-punk subgenre of the same name in the early 80s UK that ended up influencing or inspiring goth (bands like Blood and Roses, Brigandage, Sex Gang Children, Theatre of Hate, etc.) — but in the group there were a lot of “eldergoth” moderators who really liked to lord it over the younger people and remind them why their musical tastes are shit, compared to theirs. You left the group after they lectured you about your musical tastes!!! Do you interact with many people in the “goth scene” (whatever that is nowadays) and have you met many elitist attitudes like this? What do you think of it, as well as audiophile elitists in the “punk scene” (again, whatever that actually is, these days)?
DJH: Wow. All i can say is i wish more Goths/Deathrockers would start more bands. I used to go to this club in L.A. called Helter Skelter and there would be hundreds of kids but only a few bands. I Just wish that more Goth/Deathrockers would start bands. Death Rock is a deep love of mine.. Some new great new bands are Christ Vs Warhol, Fangs On Fur, Blood Penny, and of course Element. I Just wished the Goth scene would produce more music. That’s funny you remembered the “Positive Punk” Facebook group. At that time i was new to Facebook and I didn’t understand how it worked. I was confused, man. It’s funny you called me on that. It’s hard to explain through text.
Q: You just came out with the LP Sick Surreal. Are you going to tour, play live shows, or work on another EP or LP any time soon? Do you play outside California much?
DJH: Well, yeah, I want to tour. Anyone reading this who has listened to our music should contact me if they want to play in CIRIL. I am always keeping an eye out for musicians. I definitely want to tour Europe. And yes I am already writing the new CIRIL record. I’m looking forward to collaborating with new people. CIRIL did an East Coast tour in 2005: New York, Boston, Washington DC, Maryland, and Vermont.
–THANKS Oliver for Supporting CIRIL Over the years I Apreciate it Much Love Darrin/CIRIL.
Note: Much of Ciril’s artwork has been done Zenon Gradkowski (like the first pic at the beginning of this interview). You can check out his website here.