In late 2011, Ryan Graveface (not his real name) opened Graveface Records & Curiosities on West 40th Street in the now popular Starland District.
At that time, the area around his store was not the gentrified magnet for affluent white people that it is now. It was gritty. Dirty. And that’s exactly how Ryan (real last name censored) wanted it. It was Graveface, Wormhole Bar, Starland Cafe and Back in the Bakery holding down the locally-owned business ventures for a good while.
Now, well, the Starland District is a different kind of beast. Not all bad. Not all good. Just different. But Graveface is the same. There’s something to be said for sticking to your guns and seeing things through.
His wicked little empire has grown from the Graveface Records label — the first thing to exist — to the physical store of the same name, to Terror Vision, a label focused on releasing only horror movie soundtracks, to a merchandise printing shop, Graveface Apparel, a public relations wing, Noisy Ghost, and an in-house label that focuses on only local bands, with the confusing title of just Graveface. At one point, there was an annex too, where Graveface stocked VHS tapes and lots of other oddities. Then there’s a museum currently under construction and Graveface’s personal collection of serial killer memorabilia — which occasionally goes on display in the shop or nearby. (John Wayne Gacy’s paintings of clowns will give you nightmares and fascinate you at the same time.)
And now, because why the hell not, he’s added NeverNotGoth to the empire, a label focused on goth music. Completing the label’s launch this year is a monthly goth dance party, hosted by famous and infamous DJs.
NeverNotGoth is yet another outlet, or excuse, for Ryan to do something that is equal parts cool and weird. So I asked him some questions about it. The following has been lightly edited, but mostly it is just as it was asked and answered.
Joshua Peacock: Why are you so good at naming things?
Ryan Graveface: “Because I'm a loser that sits around all day daydreaming about this sort of bullsh!t.”
Will you name my first-born child?
“Consider it done.”
Are you planning any releases for the NeverNotGoth label?
“Yup! We did two ‘soft’ releases earlier in the year as tests. Shouldies from ATL and The Essence (darkwave reissue). Those went well, so I figured now is the time to push this new label concept. Because why not add a fourth label to my full plate of museum building and record store owner?”
If you gather enough niche labels under the Graveface umbrella will you officially be a niche hoarder?
“Certainly feels that way.”
What was the first goth band you got into? Was it more of a shoegaze thing for you? Slowdive? Cocteau Twins? Cure? Was Bauhaus something you liked?
“My cousin Brad was obsessed with the Cure from ‘Kiss Me’ through ‘Disintegration.’ After ’89 he became obsessed with jam band crud and gave me all of his Cure related stuff. I still have a massive subway poster from the ‘Disintegration’ roll out that I received from him at 8-years-old. So you can say it started pretty young for me. Went from Cure to New Order to Bauhaus to Sisters, and then at 15, I discovered Slowdive/MBV etc. and it changed my life.”
Does it make you cry?
“I wish something made me cry these days. ‘Homesick’ off of ‘Disintegration’ was the first song that made me cry. I remember weeping to it as a child for some [expletive]-up reason.”
You’ve built your empire on gothic imagery and witchcraft. Why is that imagery and those dark ideas so attractive to you? Is it maybe that the very fabric of our existence is a sad paradigm handed to us without choice, and embracing the impermanence and absurdity of it all is the only way to truly appreciate the devastating realty that, regardless of what we’re taught, it is all truly, in the end, meaningless?
“^ ^ ^ THIS”
Do you practice witchcraft?
“At this point, no. But when I was younger, yes, all the time. I 'accidentally' put a kid in the hospital in high school. Some super bully douche. Did a bunch of spells over the weekend and when I came in on Monday, there was an announcement that he was in the hospital and that we all should 'say a prayer' for him. My friends and I yelped aloud with delight and got in trouble for celebrating his sickness. Didn't really work though as the bully was back by the end of the week.”
You make dream pop/shoegaze music in your bands. What is it like to harness the ephemeral spirit of a dreamscape in music? Is there a sense of deep emotional release in the construction of this music?
“Honestly how I write is such second nature at this point that it almost feels like nothing. I mean, I absolutely love it, but there is no deep emotional release at this point. Pretty sad, eh? I'm fairly broken.”
You’re planning a monthly goth dance party, right? Will it always be at the Jinx, or will it be at other dance hall locations?
“That's the plan! I wasn't planning on it always being at one location, but honestly if it goes well and they're down to host, might as well keep it there.”
Will you DJ one of them at some point?
“I'm DJ-ing this first one! Me, Jose Ray and Laura Pleasants (Kylesa, The Discussion).”
Why does this new venture excite you so much?
“I wouldn't use the word excite, but honestly the only thing that makes me tick is doing something new. That's why I have a new idea every day and I actually see it through. You know how there's those people you meet in life who seem like they have such big dreams but they do jack sh!t about them? I'm not that guy. I have close to no income, no investors, most of my label fans don't live in Savannah and yet 99.9% of the ideas I have I see through to the end. That is the part that excites me.”
Joshua Peacock is the Do Savannah editor. His column has won multiple awards. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org with complaints, comments, questions, or to say hello.