Interview and Live Photos : Robert Cavuoto
Andy Biersack (Black Veil Brides/Andy Black) has partnered with Z2 Comics for the release of his first graphic novel The Ghost of Ohio. It’s an original story idea created by Andy with Scott Tuft and artist Eryk Donovan.
This release comes hot on the heels of Andy’s sophomore CD release Andy Black, The Ghost of Ohio. The story embodies the myth in Southern Ohio about an apparition that seeks to live again. Taking place over 100 years, The Ghost of Ohio follows the titular spectre as he tries to unravel the mystery of his own death and fights to return to the earthly plane. The graphic novel and CD can be ordered via Andy’s website; https://www.theghostofohio.com/
I had the pleasure of interviewing Andy about his first ever graphic novel, his love of the dark subject matter, and the importance of reinventing yourself.
Robert Cavuoto: I enjoyed the story behind the graphic novel, The Ghost of Ohio, are you fascinated with ghost stories, and do you believe in them?
Andy Biersack: I’m one of those people who always try to find a logical explanation for anything that seems scary. I ended up loving bands like The Misfits and Marilyn Manson when I was a little kid because I was terrified of them. I can remember my parents had the soundtrack to musical Sweeny Todd and I thought it was the scariest fucking thing. I would go through the booklet and look at the photos just to terrify myself. I have always been terrified of the dark and heavily interested in it at the same time.
Robert Cavuoto: I recall Jinxx saying he grew up in a haunted house; did any of his experiences come into play while you were developing this story?
Andy Biersack: Jinxx has very specific first-person experiences of a haunting, while mine is more of a comic book hero. The character is dead but doing positive things that reflected on his experiences from his not-so-positive childhood.
Robert Cavuoto: Can you tell me a little about the creation of the comic as well as your involvement in its development?
Andy Biersack: It all started with a character design that I did. The next day, I did a treatment which became the bible of the story. Coincidently I was contacted by a comic book company just days after I came up with the idea. It happened serendipitously. They asked me if I had any interest in doing a comic book. I told them it’s kind of crazy because I just wrote one [laughing]. From there, we were off. There were a couple of phone calls; like picking the artist. I was working on my CD while Scott Tuft took my initial story and shaped it to be what it is. Eryk Donovan was the artist, and he would send me artwork every day to review. I would go through them to help define the characters. I only changed a few little things like the haircut and hair color, but overall, he killed it. It couldn’t have been any simpler and more of a pleasant process to create this comic. I really loved the early KISS Marvel comics from the 70’s when I was a kid; I didn’t enjoy the Psycho Circus comics; not because they weren’t great, but the artwork looked too harsh, edgy, and modern where it didn’t feel like a comic book. I wanted my comic to feel more traditional with illustrated art.
Robert Cavuoto: Do associate yourself more with the ghost or the rebel kid at the end of the story?
Andy Biersack: [Laughing] I think I’m a little bit of both. I really wanted to distance this from being autobiographical. I would like to expand the character for a sequel eventually.
I didn’t want to make it for lack of a better word a “masturbatory” experience. [Laughing] I didn’t want it to be “Now I’m a comic book hero too!” I love Alice Cooper and KISS books I grew up
on, but this would be better served to create something I was inspired by.
Robert Cavuoto: I noticed that Andy Biersack is credited on the cover of the graphic novel but the CD, The Ghost of Ohio, is Andy Black, tell me about how the two are integrated?
Andy Biersack: I look at Andy Black as the name of the band. It’s not to say there isn’t a band as it’s a solo endeavor, but when I’m making the CD, it’s just the producer and me. We have people that come in to help us out with instrumentation. The songs are written by myself, the producer, and anyone else I may collaborate on; but chiefly it’s my project. When it comes to presenting it, I felt early on that I wanted to have a distance between me, the person in American Satan, or writing a comic book, or any other projects in my career. It felt like I should label this project with its own moniker. Earlier on, it was an important thing. Over the course of the last three years, I have become more closely associated with the name Andy Black. Now I’m referred to as either [laughing]. Pick your poison kind of thing. With the book, I wanted to establish that I was the writer. I designed the character in my house; Andy Black didn’t design it on stage. The same thing with the CD, it is presented by this character who is an extension of me.
Robert Cavuoto: There are dark elements in Black Veil Brides lyrics as well as in Andy Black solo songs; regardless of the genre of music, tell me about the appeal of that dark matters?
Andy Biersack: I think it’s the way I’m wired. Some people gravitate towards things like that, and for me, it has always been that way. My introduction to music was falling in love with the ascetics of the Love Gun era, Gene Simmons. I saw it when I was three years old when my Dad handed me the KISS trading cards to play with. I looked at Gene right away and thought this is the coolest thing I have ever seen. That is why I like Batman as well. Same goes for when my favorite football team when they wear the all-black jerseys vs. the all-white jerseys. I don’t know what it is, but it permeates every aspect of my life. I like darker stuff in that vein.
Robert Cavuoto: In order to be successful in the music business, do you feel you have to keep re-inventing yourself whether with Black Veil Brides going from make-up to accents of make-up and with your solo career?
Andy Biersack: Sometimes artist are able to re-invent themselves, and people see it as a skill set. I’m always interested in what else can I do? I want to do more stuff. I feel like it would be such a waste of time to go on stage and say, “I’m going to look the same and sound the same forever, thanks very much.” For some people that may be fine, but for me, the aesthetic element of music is important as I love of KISS, Motley Crue, and The Misfits. Adam Ant has always been a big influence as well as Billy Idol. Being aesthetically conscious, I wanted to build on that. I change every six months, whether it’s my hair or stage outfit. I changed my look twice this tour! [Laughing] I just look in the mirror and say, “Let’s do something different.” It’s just the way it works. I spent all morning looking at sketches for my summer tour costume trying to figure out how to get it made.
Robert Cavuoto: One of my favorite concerts was seeing Black Veil Brides in 2011 at the Warped tour in New Jersey. The band was in full make-up and body paint, and you obviously had long hair.
Andy Biersack: I love Paul Stanley, as he talks about the band’s early years when they took elements from what they wanted to see and brought them into their live show. That’s equally as important to me. I wanted to take elements of the things I loved and apply it to the metal scene that we were in. There wasn’t anything like that at the time, now a lot of bands have taken that look and run with it. At the time we had a hair metal horror vibe in a genera that predominately was skinny jeans and tight t-shirts. We upped the ante and got a lot of shit for it. I’m very proud of what we did, and I think moving forward, we will also celebrate that era.
Robert Cavuoto: Tell me about the dichotomy of performing as Andy Black in the inmate club performances compared to the big production of a Black Veil Brides show?
Andy Biersack: It’s kind of funny because Black Veil Brides is all about what more can we do on stage; can we get more stacks of amps, more confetti, and more pyro? With Andy Black, it’s intentionally the opposite. The stage is empty; there is no drum riser, just the three of us on stage. We have front projection with photos and only a few props. That’s what differentiates the show. When I come out with Black Veil Brides, the first thing I say is, “How the fuck are you doing!” with all the yelling and screaming. When I come out as Andy Black, I say, “How is everyone tonight” and it’s very conversational. I like being able to be more conversational with people; I enjoy that. When we come through the town for Black Veil Brides next, they are going see a whole different show.
Robert Cavuoto: Do you have a preference of the intimate vibe of the Andy Black shows or all the chaos of a Black Veil Brides show?
Andy Biersack: I’m split down the middle. There are times that I come out loving the intimate vibe, and other times I wake up in the morning wanting to play a huge rock show. I go back and forth, and I’m very blessed to have both. Many people in the club setting have not had the opportunity to have a big stage experience. I’m fortunate to be able to do this and in eight months do the other thing. I make it a point not to play any Black Veil Brides songs at the Andy Black shows, we sometimes tease 30 seconds of an acoustic version of “Savior” just for fun to have a sing-along moment, but I really want to separate them.
Robert Cavuoto: This might be a tough question that you have asked yourself; when you fire up the Black Veil Brides engines do you think fans will be of the philosophy “absence makes the heart grow fonder” or “out of sight out of mind”?
Andy Biersack: There is no way to predict that. You hope that what you are creating is of the caliber of the fans that you have cultivated and they are interested in. I would drive myself crazy, wondering if people are still going to love what we do. It’s not really up to me. We will present the best possible entertainment for people who have given us the opportunity. If I go into this next Black Veil Brides CD saying it’s going to be the best one ever, we are going to have the best show, and we are going to blow you away; only then can I expect people to come to pay their money to see the show. There are instances where people’s audiences have left them despite putting their best foot forward. I have learned from my heroes that when they became complacent, they lost their audience. It’s really about giving our all. We have been very fortunate that the fans have stuck around regardless of the era or style of music. Our audience is dedicated, and I see that every night at our shows. The fans are excited about not only this but the next Black Veil Brides record as well. There a lot more Black Veil Brides projects in the works, so stay tuned.
Robert Cavuoto: Do you feel that you have achieved the level of success with the solo CD and tour that you had hoped?
Andy Biersack: It sounds like a bullshit answer, but I didn’t have any expectations. Going into the first tour; I thought it would be fun and wondered how many people would come out to see us? Then we were playing in England to 1,200 people I was like, “Holy shit, people like this!’ It’s awesome. I’m having so much fun, and we are playing to packed houses every night, it’s been a blast.