Country of origin: Australia
Year of creation: 1991 – present
City/ Location: Melbourne
Official site: http://www.ikondomain.com
Members: Chris McCarter (vocals, guitars, programming),
Dino Molinaro (bass),
Clifford Ennis (guitar),
David Burns (drums).
Related Bands: Jerusalem Syndrome, Crimes of Passion, Subterfuge.
Chris McCarter and Dino Molinaro met in English class at Geoghegan College in the working-class Melbourne suburb of Broadmeadows in 1987. The two instantly bonded with their similar music tastes. Chris opened up Dino’s musical horizons by introducing him to bands such as The Sisters of Mercy, Death In June, Killing Joke and, most of all, Joy Division.
Chris had been collecting records since 1984 and encouraged Dino, who was a fan of The Cure, to follow the same path. The two spent their weekends searching Melbourne best indie record stores for treasures.
Dino knew that Chris played guitar, so not long into the friendship the idea came up to start a band. But what was Dino going to play? Initially, it was the drums, so throughout 1987 Chris continued lending records to Dino to create inspiration. Finally, in early 1988, the easiest solution seemed to be for Dino to play bass. The pair headed in to the city after school one Friday and picked up the cheapest one they could find, a Conora, and started jamming that day. Chris knew a little bass, so he showed Dino some simple Joy Division, U2 and Killing Joke songs and it wasn’t long at all before Dino was well on his way.
Chris’s brother, Andrew, had a drum machine, which helped with the sound, but the duo needed a vocalist. Chris wasn’t interested in singing and Dino tried, but the best option they came up with was to advertise for one. After a couple of terrible responses and auditions, they had no luck. Back at school, others heard about the musical pairing, and a friend of Dino’s, Michael Carrodus (now Aliani), took great interest in trying out. Michael convinced Dino and Chris that he was the man for job, as he starred in a school play and had a keen interest in music, so they loaned him some Joy Division records to give him an idea of what they were doing.
Within a week, rehearsals started with Michael, but the trio still did not have a name. “Death” was very hip in band names at the time, so Michael suggested Death in the Dark, and so it was. Throughout 1988 the band was rehearsing on a weekly basis. Chris left school half-way through 1988 and was keen to work in the music industry and the band gave him a focus while the others completed high school.
In 1989 the band decided that they needed a drummer to complete the line-up. After advertising, they found Tony T (no one remembers his surname), who looked like Larry Mullen Jnr, which in some ways countered the fact that he really couldn’t play. He lasted a couple of months and one gig before he departed. He was replaced by Rick T, who played on until the band fell apart in August 1989. The band played mainly covers with only a few original songs, such as ‘Is This My Destiny’, which frustrated Chris. A few rehearsal tapes and home demos survive from this time and there is one proper studio session, on which Chris played drums because Rick was a no-show.
Throughout 1989-1991, Chris bought his own home studio equipment and kept writing and occasionally jamming with Michael and Dino. In 1991, the trio wanted to inject life into Death in the Dark again, but still needed a drummer. A friend of Chris’s, Sandy, had just moved back to Melbourne, so they started rehearsing and building a set of original songs, mainly based on the few tracks they had written in the past.
Things were coming together and the band was progressing in leaps and bounds, but the original three felt that they were being let down in the drum department. Maurice Molella, a long time friend of Chris’s, had drummed in many local bands since the early 1980s and showed interest in playing in the band. He had seen nearly every Death in the Dark gig and wanted to play with the band, as long as they played all original material. Maurice replaced Sandy and the line-up was complete. Almost immediately, the band started writing even more material and, within a few weeks, had enough songs to play a show. The first gig was booked at the Royal Artillery Hotel in Melbourne billed as Death in the Dark. However, that night during sound check it was decided that the band needed a new name and after some quick discussion the band was introduced as IKON.
As things were coming together musically, the next step was to record a single. IKON entered Frontline Sound studios in Melbourne in January 1992 to record their debut release. This was not an easy step for the band and the results were less than satisfying. The single was supposed to be ‘As Time Goes By’ b/w ‘Never Ending’, but the engineer recorded over some of the drum parts for ‘As Time Goes By’, so the idea was scrapped. Eight songs were recorded in total, but only seven were mixed and the result was quite disappointing. The band sat on the mixes for a while, but still wanted to make a single. Chris chose ‘Why’ because it was the best of all the mixed songs.
During 1992, the band continued rehearsing and playing shows and were gradually developing a darker sound. More home demos were made, along with recordings of shows and ‘Why’ was released later that year. During 1993, the band played a few shows in Melbourne, but was soon shocked by the news that, for reasons outside of his control, Maurice could no longer play. Once again, IKON was left without a drummer. After a short break and failed attempts trying out the local “talent”, it was decided to return to using the drum machine.
A local studio and label Studio 52 was releasing numerous compilation CDs every year and Michael contacted them about featuring IKON. Studio 52 convinced IKON to do a new session and in July 1993 the band returned to the studio. ‘Dreaming’ (actually called ‘The Dream’) was chosen and appeared on the Studio 52 new music sampler. The band played one show in 1993 with a drum machine, but it was slightly awkward not having live drums and no other shows were booked.
IKON continued writing during 1993. Later that year, Chris opened Heartland Records with his business partner, a record shop and label specialising in new wave and goth music. Heartland Records was instrumental in fostering a new generation of goth fans, where bands and fanzines sprang into life, alongside clubs and events. Chris felt that this was the best market for IKON to fit into, after finding it so difficult in previous years to find a space in the so-called local “indie” scene. With new-found inspiration, the band released more tracks from the Studio 52 session on a 7” single. ’Echoes of Silence’ was the most appropriate track and was released in February 1994.
The band purchased new equipment and swung into gear rehearsing and writing new material and began playing live again. This time the band had the right combination of songs and sounds and was improving at a fast rate. In July, ‘Echoes of Silence’ was re-released as a CD EP and a promotional video clip was made to accompany the title track. After sending out a promo package to numerous labels, IKON decided to work with Apollyon Records in Germany, who showed a keen interest in the band.
By this stage, the material on ‘Echoes of Silence’ seemed dated, so with an array of new material in hand, IKON booked Toyland Studios in Melbourne—where the band still records twenty years later— to record a brand new single ‘Lord of Darkness’. The band recorded quite a number of tracks and the debut album In the Shadow of The Angel was complete. Originally the Death In June track ‘Fall Apart’ was recorded as a b-side, but the quality of the end result earned it a spot on the album. This was also the first time that Chris sang on an IKON track. The album was finished in August 1994 and released in Europe in November. Most of the material on the new album was written in 1994, and the band elected to include only a limited number of early tracks, such as ‘Suicide’ and ‘I’ve Been’.
In the Shadow of the Angel received a reception in Europe far beyond the band’s or label’s expectations. Their new-found audience wanted to hear more, so a compilation CD containing early material was released to fill in the gap. By mid-1995, IKON was well and truly on the map as one of the world’s up-and-coming gothic/wave bands. ‘Condemnation’ was then released as a 7” single in Germany.
However, despite this success, the constant Joy Division comparisons weighed quite heavily on Chris and prompted him to find new inspiration for the follow-up album. Throughout 1995, IKON was invited to appear on many international compilations, including tribute CDs to Joy Division, Bauhaus and Dead Can Dance, which helped to raise the band’s profile. Chris was working hard at evolving the band’s sound into something unique, and developing his songwriting skills. In June of this year, IKON began recording their second studio album Flowers for the Gathering. By January 1996, the album was complete, and ‘Life Without End’ was chosen as the first single. This track showed listeners a change in direction for the band, but was nevertheless well received.
Flowers was released in March 1996 and sales quickly passed those of In the Shadow of the Angel and plans were made for the band to tour Europe. The new album also received recognition in USA, and lead IKON to sign with Metropolis Records. On the outside, everything seemed positive for the band, but within there was a slight unease creeping in. The promises of a tour with Apollyon Records in Germany fell by the wayside, which most of all seemed to affect Michael. Disillusionment started to set in, and Michael commenced a new project, Chiron, with Dino while Chris formed Jerusalem Syndrome with Clifford Ennis.
Chris wanted to write and record music; Michael wanted to perform. This was the beginning of division in the band. During 1997, IKON was nevertheless able to resume working together and prepare for a new album. Chris came up with the idea to do an experimental album under the name Crimes of Passion, which was quickly put together while he was also writing new tracks. By the time the recordings were complete, however, it was clear that Chris and Michael could no longer work together, so it was mutually agreed that Michael would leave the band to concentrate on Chiron.
It never occurred to Chris to find a replacement singer, so he kept writing music and got assistance with lyric writing from Dino and friends, such as David Sterry (from the band Real Life) and Hans Starke. Many tracks were put down in Chris’s home studio between 1997 and 1998. The title of the third IKON album, This Quiet Earth, came from the name of a band Chris was involved in briefly around 1989-1990. ‘Subversion’, one of the first new tracks written, for which Chris had written lyrics, was chosen as the first single in April 1998. To many, the single was a shock, as it showed the band moving away from its Joy Division roots and into electronic ground, as well as the transition from Michael to Chris on vocals. ‘Subversion’ became the band’s biggest single to date, and reached a high position in the Deutsche Alternative Charts (DAC). This Quiet Earth was the first IKON album to have simultaneous release in Europe and North America. Continuing the electronic feel, ‘Ghost in My Head’, which also received high rotation in clubs, was chosen as the next single.
Offers again started to flow in for IKON to tour Europe. While Chris began to reform the band for live performances, Dino left IKON to work with Michael on Chiron. Val Calocerinos stepped in on bass to fill his place, and Anthony Griffiths (The Redresser) joined on guitar. Chris has seen David Burns drumming with The Redresser, and was impressed by his ability and set out to recruit him. A tour was planned for June 1999, including a date at Wave Gotik Treffen, so the band began to prepare for the tour. As the tour approached it emerged that the arrangements with the promoter were slightly shaky and IKON was forced to withdraw at the last minute.
During 1999, the band continued to jam and work on new songs until Val departed in early 2000, and almost simultaneously Dino decided to rejoin the band. This was a pivotal moment of unity, which helped to build toward the next album On the Edge of Forever, which was released in early 2001. On the first single ‘The Shallow Sea’, Chris wanted to highlight the live band format and chose a rock song, which reflected the overall direction of the album and the feel of the other singles ‘Blue Snow Red Rain’ and ‘Afterlife’. Wings of Destiny organised the first European tour in August 2001, which included a slot at Eurorock in Belgium. The tour was the first opportunity for the members of IKON to meet their European fans and see the impact that the music had made on people all the way from their isolated home on the other side of the world.
With new-found inspiration, the band returned to Australia to write new material. Soon after, IKON was invited to play the M’era Luna festival in Germany in 2002 and it was a shock to the band to be playing on the main stage to so many thousands of people.
On the recording front, Chris started losing confidence in IKON’s label, Apollyon, and felt that the music wasn’t reaching as many people as it could. So while the band continued writing and recording, they were weighing up their options with other labels. In 2003, they toured Europe again and played Wave Gotik Treffen, and for this tour the band decided to release a compilation CD called From Angels to Ashes, which was a “best-of” spanning the year from 1997 to 2002.
With frustrations setting in over the direction of the band and future with a label, Anthony and David departed, leaving Chris and Dino as a duo again. They auditioned a number of drummers, but all were expecting to ride the coat tails of IKON’s international success. Chris, however, convinced Clifford, his earlier collaborator, to enter the band as guitarist and singer for the upcoming European tour. Yet again, the band performed live with a drum machine. The Psychic Vampire EP was released to coincide with the tour and was subsequently released by IKON’s new label Équinoxe in Germany. The initial response to the name of the title track was slightly negative among fans, who wondered why the band had produced such a ‘sell-out’ which made reference to vampires. Nevertheless, the song went on to become the band’s biggest-selling hit and club single to date and has become a fixture to close the live show.
The band built on this success to write and record their next album, Destroying the World to Save It, which was the most diverse, and arguably most consistent, IKON album to this point. It included two song collaborations with ethereal musician Louisa-John Krol and one with Roberto Massaglia (Tankt, The Victims Ball). The album was also tied together by its religious thematic, which was exemplified in the album artwork that included a Baphomet, reflecting Chris’s lifelong interest in the occult and history of religion. The album charted on the DAC and Native 25, with the single ‘Rome’ reaching the top 10 in the DAC singles chart, and Mick Mercer naming it among the Top 30 goth tracks of all time.
In 2005, IKON returned from Europe and their second WGT performance ready to record another album. It was not long until January 2006 when Clifford decided that he never really wanted to be in a band and was no longer interested in playing live. This was a real blow to the band, as Clifford fit seamlessly into IKON and contributed not only his guitar playing but also vocals. Chris was unsure as to how he could be replaced and IKON could continue. Eventually Chris invited a long-time friend who had participated in recordings on tour, Anthony Cornish, to step in for live guitar duties. Anthony played on his first tour with the band in 2007, which included IKON’s first visit to France, and the singles collection The Burden of History was released.
The first step in a new musical direction for IKON was taken somewhat nervously with the release of the ‘League of Nations’ EP in late 2007. The main track, the melodic ‘A Line on a Dark Day’, which was inspired by Flight 93 on 9/11, went on to attract major interest from old and new IKON fans: Black Magazin named it the second best song of 2008 and the first video clip to be released by IKON was produced for the song in 2009. In 2008, Chris was still recording new material, but was again disillusioned with the efforts of the label and declining sales due to internet piracy. The next single ‘Amongst the Runes’ was self-released in 2008 while the band continued to look for a new label. A tour was planned for later in the year, but Dino broke his finger and was required to have surgery that meant he could no longer play bass until he recovered, causing it to be cancelled.
For contractual reasons, IKON released the album Love, Hate and Sorrow through their original label Apollyon to coincide with the 2009 tour (the band’s longest tour, with 13 dates). The album came with a bonus disc of acoustic versions of songs from the album sessions, and the remaining singles were the ballad ‘Torn Apart’ and ‘Driftwood’.
When the band returned from the tour, Chris and Dino decided that Tony was no longer suitable as a live member of the band, and, therefore, that IKON would no longer perform live. However, despite their plans, from nowhere IKON was offered the support slot for Finland’s HIM at their Melbourne gig in 2010. With only two weeks’ notice, Chris and Dino convinced both David and Clifford to return to the band for a one-off performance. Despite a limited number of rehearsals, IKON was soon in good form, especially with the return of live drums that added intensity to powerful tracks such as ‘The Garden of the Lost’, and the success of their performance left the door open for other possible gigs in the future. It was not long before they were invited to take up the support slot for Christian Death and the “one-off” plan developed into something more.
Chris, Dino and David kept jamming on new ideas for the next IKON album. In 2011, they were offered another a slot at WGT and Clifford was convinced to tour Europe again. The band played to a full and enthusiastic crowd at the Parkbühne in IKON’s twentieth anniversary year. The reception was a fitting cap to the first two decades of IKON and recognition of the band’s impact upon fans of gothic rock, post-punk and wave music in Europe, the United States and South America, despite its distance from the heart of the scene. To commemorate the first twenty years of the band, In the Shadow of the Angel and Flowers for the Gathering were remastered and reissued as two-disc sets by the band’s new label, Echozone.
The present for IKON involves an exciting mix of classic material and new experiments. The albums This Quiet Earth and On the Edge of Forever will also be remastered in 2012, with This Quiet Earth to be fully remixed to meet the original vision that Chris had for the album that he felt was unfulfilled. The first new single ‘Where Do I Go From Here’ was released in late 2011, and heralds a continuing focus on the rock facet of the band for its third decade.
The threads of the musical influences that first inspired Chris and Dino to form a band still remain as echoes in IKON’s new material, but it is not an exaggeration to say that IKON has managed to forge a unique sound and create its own classic tracks without simply rehearsing the gothic rock formula.
2009: Love, Hate and Sorrow (Apollyon/Nile)
2005: Destroying the World to Save It (Equinoxe/Shadowplay/Static Sky)
2001: On the Edge of Forever (Apollyon/Metropolis)
1998: This Quiet Earth (Apollyon/Metropolis)
1996: Flowers for the Gathering (Apollyon/Metropolis/Nile)
1994: In the Shadow of the Angel (Apollyon/Metropolis/Nile)
2011: Where Do I Go From Here (Nile)
2010: Torn Apart (Nile)
2010: Driftwood (Nile)
2008: Amongst the Runes (Nile)
2007: League of Nations (Nile)
2006: Without Shadows (Nile)
2005: Rome (Equinoxe)
2004: I Never Wanted You (Nile)
2004: Psychic Vampire (Nile)
2003: Ceremony (Nile)
2002: Afterlife (Nile)
2001: Blue Snow Red Rain (Apollyon)
2000: The Shallow Sea (Apollyon)
1999: Lifeless (Apollyon)
1999: Reality is Lost (Apollyon)
1998: Ghost in My Head (Apollyon)
1998: Subversion (Apollyon/Metropolis)
1996: Life Without End (Apollyon)
1995: In a Lonely Place (Apollyon)
1995: Condemnation (Apollyon)