photographed by TERRY RICHARDSON
interview and band pictures by RACHEL CHANDLER
styled by MEL OTTENBERG
Andy Salmen, stylist’s assistant
SALEM, the gothic-styled electro-rock trio from Michigan made up of John Holland, Heather Marlatt, and Jack Donoghue created a sensation even before they released their first album, King Night. SALEM’s self-made, self-styled visual and sound aesthetic amalgamates ethereal industrial sounds and moody processional music with images from old horror movies and the eerie lost in the woods ambiance of Blair Witch Project. Thesounds of church organs and heavy machinery are enjoined with foreboding projections of an otherworld that writers like H.G. Wells or Cormac McCarthy might have imagined. They project a phantasmic apocalypse looking for new gods.
RACHEL CHANDLER — You all grew up in the Midwest. How old are you?
JOHN HOLLAND — Jack is 22. Heather and I are 25. Heather and I grew up in Michigan and studied music at an art high school — the boarding school where my parents teach music. In our town, that school is everything. There isn’t much else, besides a gas station, a grocery store, and a lot of nature. It was nice to grow up surrounded by art and music. But it was also a strange place to grow up.
HEATHER MARLATT — John won a scholarship to go to The Art Institute of Chicago.
JOHN HOLLAND — I drew, painted, and did photography.
JACK DONOGHUE — I grew up in Chicago with my mom, my dad — who was a union worker — my brother, and a German shepherd.
HEATHER MARLATT — I grew up riding horses. I used to compete, but now I don’t have a horse because I can’t afford one.
RACHEL CHANDLER — Tell me about your decision to live in rural Michigan, where you come from. A lot of people move to New York City to do what you do.
HEATHER MARLATT — John and I lived in New York for a period of time, but I do better in nature. Jack draws energy from a city environment. It’s the opposite for me.
JACK DONOGHUE — I’ve never lived in New York, but I’ve visited and it’s always been a lot of fun. But I don’t know if I’d want to do my grocery shopping there.
JOHN HOLLAND — I mean, our house in Michigan is so pretty, and we have land and a recording studio in our basement.
RACHEL CHANDLER — We’re all basically the same age. It’s funny — when you’re growing up, the people you admire are always older than you are. Then suddenly it’s your peers who are making the things you listen to, read, and look at.
JACK DONOGHUE — A lot of the producers we know — you find out their age and it’s, like, whoa.
HEATHER MARLATT — A lot of the people I like in music are even younger than we are.
JOHN HOLLAND — I almost feel like I got a late start.
RACHEL CHANDLER — How did you start?
JOHN HOLLAND — We made music on our own for a long time. Heather was in another band before SALEM. She and I did things in high school.
JACK DONOGHUE — I’ve always made music, but it was more percussion-driven. One night the others were working on a song and I asked if I could play the drums.
RACHEL CHANDLER — And now you have your LP, King Night.
HEATHER MARLATT — Finishing our new album was a relief, because we had so much material — we were finally able to get it out for other people to digest. Now we can move on.
JACK DONOGHUE — When I first saw the album, with the booklet and all the art, it was a really special moment.
RACHEL CHANDLER — Who’s responsible for the imagery? Is it sourced? Or do you take pictures and make art, too?
JOHN HOLLAND — We do everything.
JACK DONOGHUE — We make just as much art as we do music. I guess we didn’t take all the steps most bands need to take to succeed in the industry. I don’t think we work the way bands traditionally do.
RACHEL CHANDLER — That’s true. You don’t seem to be writing hits to get radio play, for example.
HEATHER MARLATT — We don’t know anything about the music industry. SALEM isn’t just one thing. We’re also interested in performance-based installations. But we have to get our momentum going first.
JACK DONOGHUE — We don’t want to spread ourselves too thin. Right now we’re promoting the album. But galleries have approached us.
HEATHER MARLATT — Because we’re a multimedia group, I think that we appeal to a wider range of people. Which is cool, because I hope to have a more diverse listening group than just a bunch of hipsters.
RACHEL CHANDLER — You did an interview with Karley Sciortino from Slutever.org. She lives in New York and she finds submissive people on Craigslist who are willing to pay her rent and buy her things.
HEATHER MARLATT — I just watched a documentary about a dominatrix house in New York in the ’80s, and it looked so nice.
JACK DONOGHUE — I want to find a Japanese businessman with a money-spending fetish who’ll buy me a matte-black Lamborghini.
RACHEL CHANDLER — How much do you think about the way you look? Are you into fashion? Are there any designers who you like?
JOHN HOLLAND — Heather might know something about designers. I knew a bit about fashion when I was younger. We’re not anti-fashion, but we don’t really go out of our way.
JACK DONOGHUE — We share clothes and I think we influence each other.
HEATHER MARLATT — But we don’t have a look we’re trying to create. Fashion is just another medium. People have a vision and they use fashion to achieve it.
JOHN HOLLAND — But you could say that we are rather particular about the way things look.
JACK DONOGHUE — We have a specific aesthetic, even about the way our bedrooms look. But we don’t sit around reading design magazines.
RACHEL CHANDLER — What about your stage clothes?
JACK DONOGHUE — Often times we won’t even change for a show. I’ll just wear what I have on.
JOHN HOLLAND — But sometimes it’s nice to change for a show because it states that you’re getting ready to do something.
HEATHER MARLATT — When stylists dress us they often recreate the look we already have, which is silly.
JACK DONOGHUE — Obviously, we love free clothes and nice clothes, but I wouldn’t shop for them on my own. I can’t keep up with fashion — it’s too confusing.
HEATHER MARLATT — We’re working-class kids.
RACHEL CHANDLER — Have you collaborated with other people?
JOHN HOLLAND — Yes, mostly on remixes.
JACK DONOGHUE — We just did a song with Lil B.
RACHEL CHANDLER — How’s the tour going?
HEATHER MARLATT — People are really into the show, so that’s good. There was a mosh pit the other night and people were crowd surfing.
RACHEL CHANDLER — Do you go out and see other bands?
JOHN HOLLAND — I’d like to, but I don’t have the time.
HEATHER MARLATT — I like going to really small local shows.
JACK DONOGHUE — I prefer going to classical music concerts.
JOHN HOLLAND — My dad conducts a string orchestra, and we’ll go and see that. He plays viola and he’s been thinking about things he could record that we could use.
RACHEL CHANDLER — Do your parents like your music?
JACK DONOGHUE — A lot of older people have told us that they like what we do, that they think it’s really beautiful. Some people find that surprising, but I don’t. I really like our music.
HEATHER MARLATT — It’s nice to get a different point of view from that of your peers.
RACHEL CHANDLER — Do you get letters from people?
HEATHER MARLATT — I wish people would send us more stuff. We do get emails.
JOHN HOLLAND — We have a P.O. box but we don’t get a lot of mail.
HEATHER MARLATT — Sometimes I wonder if we should even keep paying for it.
JACK DONOGHUE — But we’ve got to keep it — for the day I get my Lamborghini.
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