Listen to the lush synthesizer soundscapes of darkwave OGs Lebanon Hanover's William Maybelline and read our interview
William Maybelline, the artist behind Qual, is quite familiar with darkness. As one half of darkwave royalty Lebanon Hanover, Maybelline's success with the duo has been paramount: their song "Gallowdance" from the 2013 album Tomb for Two has gained nearly two million views on Youtube. Sable, Qual's 2015 LP, is a collection of tracks that touches on the goth, industrial, and even techno scenes. Tragically dark themes, lush synthesizer soundscapes and sterile drum machine beats became the essence of Sable, a convergence of genres that strangely complement one another. With unquestionably danceable songs like "The Geometry of Wounds" and the club favorite, "Rip Doth Thy Scarlet Claws", Qual caught the attention of sullen goths worldwide and also the likes of techno artist Ancient Methods, who often seizes the opportunity to curate such unexpected tracks in his industrial-infused hard techno DJ sets.
It's apparent that since Sable, Qual has not found hope but has sunk into even greater despair on the new twelve-inch EP, Cupio Dissolvi. The term itself is a Latin idiom that literally translates to I wish to be dissolved, which, in a Christian context, derives from the desire to end life on Earth in order to be with God. However, the phrase also signifies a perverse desire for self-destruction—the decadent and ultimate sense of masochism. And for Qual, there has always been a vulgar and masochistic temperament within his music, one that is also dramatic and grotesquely opulent.
The song "Cupio Dissolvi" introduces the newest iteration of Qual. It is just as theatrical—if not more so—than Sable, but comes with a heavier emphasis on danceability and repetition. Maybelline's vocals and choir synths add a gothic richness to it, slightly dulling the severity and immediacy of the demanding bass line. The second track, "Bloody Blob", is Qual's verbose confession of self resignation: "I've got a job digging graves / I dig my own". The precision of electronics and the booming kick conjure a sterile emptiness—there is little left but a sense of dread and isolation.
Each track on the release moves further away from his darkwave synth foundation, influenced more by harsh techno beats and unrelenting bass patterns. The magnificence of the release is that nothing feels forced—it is impeccably executed with subtleties and grace within the production. Such confidence is reflected on the B-side of the record with the 8-minute long "Rape Me in the Parthenon". It is unrecognizably Qual with the exception of Maybelline's blistering vocals shrouded in indignation and lust—it is his own skewed interpretation of a love song. It's apparent that the music—each song a stoic death march in itself—maintains the gloomth and melancholy of goth ideologies while transitioning towards the grittier spectrum of electronic music. Qual is a icicle dagger right to the heart, his words an elegy to the decadence of death.
With that in mind, I attempted to excavate secrets from the mysterious and brooding William Maybelline about Qual's new direction, Cupio Dissolvi, and his undying fascination with darkness.
Noisey: Can you tell me about Cupio Dissolvi and your approach to making it?
William Maybelline: The [EP] is inclined for a taste of what's to come, moving towards a new album. [It's an experiment] with different equipment I have endeavored with over the last months of 2016.
When writing, do you come up with the music followed by the vocals, or do you write the lyrics first? What process do you go through?
It's usual that I have some lyrics lying amongst the pages of my journal thus when the music is already half made I'll then try to cast my lyrics over it, then there's a chance I'm adding riffs or extra hits as I go.
It seems that the release is more techno-influenced and repetitive than Sable—would you say this was intentional? Are you trying to focus more on danceability?
I was always attempting to form some beat that is danceable, that was always a big part of Qual from the start. The repetition comes naturally as I listen more to techno these days.
Cupio Dissolvi continues your tradition of penning morbid, macabre lyrics that match the gloominess of the music. Where does this dramatic obsession with death and sickness derive from?
Hmm… I was a sickly child and I still get sick, which since then has made me wonder if I'm going to die—mostly around the times of sickness. I slowly gave into these thoughts and decided to take life as it comes. I've witnessed very dark moments growing up, constantly battling illnesses. Perhaps this attraction keeps me balanced with her, dear death.
It also seems that your music contains a lot of self-loathing. Is the Qual personae a reflection of your true self?
It is an absolute dramatization in an unconditional loving sense—I am over the top and it comes out in my music. All [the music] is romantic—[it's] as perverse and aggressive it may want to be. Love is the light, amen to Lucifer.
It's apparent that you pull from dramatic goth sensibilities such as decadence and decay. Where do your inspirations derive from?
Anything grim consumes me, i guess it is a build up over time. I have always enjoyed black metal, old school gothic movies and sci-fi [films] that have such dark atmospheres about them, plus obvious reads like Poe and Rimbaud… and a one time crazy obsession with the band X-mal Deutschland in the past.
Who do you imagine your audience to be?
Crazy creatures of many sorts.
The track "Rape Me in the Parthenon" is quite unique in that it's 8 minutes long and a lot more aggressive than your previous work. Do you think fans of Lebanon Hanover and of Sable will appreciate this move away from dark synth?
I really would not know, it pleases me more that people just choose naturally—never would I make to please… I can only do what my heart requires and if fans continue to enjoy and support me I shall be eternally grateful, if they turn away then I will understand. It just might be they are not ready or it is just not their present taste.
Given the current state of the world with all its problems, does it help you to make such dark and dismal music in order to cope?
I would not say it helps towards such issues for me—what I do is just how I feel, a reaction, a passion to what I love. I mostly focus on being honest as opposed to what one may find in the Top Ten charts.
Andi Harriman is dancing in the dark on Twitter.