Monday, June 2, 2014

Interview with Justin Stephens | Passion Play (2014)

Photo: Helen Sobiralski Photography

Passion Play has created some of the finest and classy Gothic Rock of the End of Last - and New Millennium. The UK band has released one EP and two albums between 1998 and 2001, before their 2012’s brilliant “Final Act” and following split. Here is a chance to know a little bit more about the band, thanks to leader Justin Stephens, also a very prolific and talented artist.

Guillaume Renard

The band has gained cult status thanks to its rarity, but mainly thanks to the extreme quality of the music. What is your main inspiration when composing? 

Justin:  Just my life - what I see, what I feel, what I've experienced and what my mind makes of it all. I've never planned the writing of anything - the idea just appears in my head, when I’m not thinking about music at all. The ideas that won’t let me rest, that are still there the next day and the day after - they’re the ones that I follow to their natural conclusion. It could be a lyric, a riff, a random thought or feeling, a mood, a dream, anything. They all come from somewhere in my head - perhaps a psychiatrist could tell you exactly where from, but I couldn't! 

“The Final Act” has been widely acclaimed, but it is Passion Play’s swansong. Why did the band come to an end? 

Justin:  Passion Play was my past and one that I’m very proud of, but it’s not my future. My life has changed radically several times since Passion Play began, as had the band, so for some time I've wanted to do something new and different, to experiment and to push myself further to see what I’m capable of. Keeping Passion Play going would mean having to bring the past with me, but if it no longer feels relevant to my life now, it’s better left in the past. I’m far more interested in the present and the future and creating new beginnings. 

What did you want to transmit to the fans with “The Final Act”? 

Justin:  It’s really meant as a companion piece to go with Dreaming Spikes - if you have both of those, you have a good snapshot of what Passion Play was about. The Final Act wasn't meant as a “Best Of” and couldn't possibly be without Lin, so as I’d met a lot of people who knew Dreaming Spikes but nothing before that, it seemed like the best way to leave everyone with something to remember us by. There were some really good songs from the first EP and first album that we’d never done justice to before, as well as other songs I’d written after Dreaming Spikes which had never been recorded, so The Final Act was a way to complete the picture and give Passion Play a good send-off.

Is it wrong to say that Passion Play has been Justin Stephen’s own-project? Were other band members involved in lyrics/music/production…? 

Justin:  It became that in later years, but Passion Play started as three people - Linda Lloyd, Mark Bosley and myself - each writing alone as well as collectively and each of us taking turns singing. When Mark dropped out in 1997, Mike Watkins became bass player, leaving the writing to myself and Lin. Lin wrote the songs she sang and I wrote everything else. Only when Lin & Mike left to start a family in 2002 did it become my own project in effect, so it was never planned that way. But after that it was essentially my project with a live band. 

You are very productive in mixing (Monica Richards, La Fête Triste) and also involved in other bands (bass in Frank the Baptist), which artist or band do you dream to work with? 

Justin:  The only thing that matters to me when I’m producing and mixing other artists or bands is that the music inspires me and that I know I can help them create something really special and achieve the result they want. That doesn't change, whether the artist or band is well known or if it’s a brand new band recording their first session. That creative process gives me as big a kick as when I’m working on my own material. It’s different, but I love it just as much. All I care about is what we create - status doesn't matter.
 I’m no longer playing bass in Frank The Baptist, as I just don’t have the time anymore. I recorded, mixed and produced their new album, which is due out later this year, but my focus now is purely on Wires & Lights, as well as recording, mixing, producing and remixing other bands in my studio work. 

Can we know who is involved in your new project, Wires & Lights? 

Justin:  Sure! On guitar is Ralf Hünefeld (who played live for Passion Play for The Final Act dates) Gabriel Brero on bass (from La Fete Triste and the record label [aufnahme + wiedergabe] ) and Sebastian Hilgetag on drums. All great musicians and we work really well together, which is just as important. Whilst the writing will all come from me initially, Wires & Lights is the four of us as a band - not just my project with a live band - we’ll start rehearsals soon for our debut show at the Pagan Love Songs 15th Anniversary celebration in Bochum on August 22nd, so I’m really looking forward  to seeing how the sound develops once we’re all together. After that we’ll start preparing to record the album and making plans for what will follow… You can stay in touch with everything at and on Facebook at 

Waiting forward to discover your new project! 
Justin:  Thank you, Guillaume - we’re looking forward to it too!

Kind Regards,