Jamie Campbell Bower Braves The Darkness with BloodMagic

Jamie Campbell Bower Braves The Darkness with BloodMagic

- By Ramon Gonzales

The veteran songwriter and villainous Vecna of Stranger Things details how the end of his previous project ushered in a creative rebirth - one that allowed him to explore his darker musical sensibilities. 

It seems fitting that the last words Jamie Campbell Bower penned to announce his previous band, Counterfeit, would be no longer were...

"Come join me. Take my hand. Do not be afraid of the dark. It is time."

Some four years after the world collectively stopped and spiraled into a stretch of stagnation of which we might never know the full toll, actor/musician Jamie Bower  finds himself in a very auspicious position. Set begin the fifth season of streaming phenomenon Stranger Things as the complex villain, Vecna, Bower has also found new life for his primary passion - music. 

Though it wasn't long ago that Bowersat in his living room, arriving at the conclusion that all the progress he had made at the helm of London's high-octane punk outfit Counterfeit, was coming to an unceremonious end. Stifled by the pandemic, faced with the kind of uncertainty no one had every really known - the collective members of band would resign to move on.

Unable to tap into the emotion and energy that was fundamental to Counterfeit's identity - when the world stopped - the momentum of the project foundered and eventually, Bower found himself right back were he started - standing alone. 

Rather than concede defeat however, even during his darkest hour, Bower understood the situational relationship between death and rebirth. The finality of death, eventually segues into the beginning of something new. For Bower, the focus has always been what lies ahead, even if the path moving forward is murky, dark and uncertain. 

Linking with drummer Kyle Adams, Bower would find a creative ally willing to explore the darker terrain with him - both thematically and stylistically. Thus, BloodMagic was born. Combining Bower's proven songwriting capability with a full embrace of the heavier end of the spectrum, the result is a post-hardcore leaning tour de force that underscores Bower's prowess and the pair's promising potential. 

Debuting the potent first single from the project in the fittingly titled, "Death/ReBirth"- the duo further delve into their stylistic noir with with an alluring video helmed by Zak Pinchin and BloodMagic themselves. Sourcing BDSM imagery and a cold aesthetic to craft a haunting visual, the introduction makes a lasting impression suggest that Bower's heaviest work to date is just over the horizon. 

Speaking with KNOTFEST about the progression of his craft, Bower explains how the inception of BloodMagic was the unexpected result of a need to refocus. Intent on making noise that came purely from a place of authenticity, Bower explained the organic quality of BloodMagic and how that speaks to the authenticity that drives the project. 



For those familiar with your work in Counterfeit, BloodMagic is a bit of a stylistic about face. Did you end your previous project with the notion that this was the direction you wanted to go? 

Toward the end of Counterfeit I felt, in all honesty, a little lost. There were a lot of voices in the room and for a project that was born out of energy and sobriety, I think we all started to feel a little diluted. There was, of course, the global pandemic that didn’t massively help but ultimately, I felt that we had lost our DNA.

Playing this kind of music involves passion and an awareness of self that can be reactive, I like that about it. The end of that project was sad for all of us, we’d had amazing times, chaotic times and we all learnt a lot. About what we wanted, our intentions and ourselves. I took a step aside for a minute, I felt like I needed to reconnect with myself.

The solo work I create is very much in the world of emotional music and I need and needed that but BM literally came out of nowhere. I went into this year with a clear idea of my intentions and myself and that somehow leant itself to finding Kyle and starting this project. It’s nice to be able to make a lot of noise again, it’s nice to have a cathartic way to be able to process the world and what I see and feel and to be able to reflect more and react more. We’re older now and we know the importance of courage. I think that's it at the heart of it. Courage and not giving in.  So no, there were no real notions of musical direction, just a pure desire to create.

While these are certainly separate projects, is it safe to assume that your evolution as a villain on Stranger Things does loan itself to indulging a bit more sinister direction musically? 

I think it’s important to me to recognize that there is a dichotomy within all of us. A ying and yang if you will, a lightness and a darkness. My role in the show, for me, is not purely villainous. This is a character that has suffered greatly and is a bi-product of his environment. I think ultimately he truly believes that the world is a bad and dangerous place and there is a sadness in that, a humanity.

The show has certainly led me into interesting places, both in story and in the mind. But as you’ll see and have heard there is both a darkness and a relief from that in the music we are creating. We’re certainly not trying to be one thing and one thing alone. That being said, it is nice to play in the shadows.

What was the timeline for BloodMagic - how did the project first take shape and was there any moment in particular that really affirmed this was something you were going to pursue? 

I met Kyle through the internet, perhaps its greatest offering. He’d done a drum cover of one of my solo works and I thought to myself “this guy’s got something”. I also was aware of just how great his drum sound is. So I went away and started to write with this in mind. This would have been…. December 2023 and by January we already had a few songs under our belt. It was the first track he sent me that I thought “oh yeah this is great”. He flew out to LA to shoot the video with me. We spoke a lot on that trip about the project. At that point we weren’t sure if this would go under a solo moniker or if it was a new project. However by the end of that trip we’d high five'd and had made the decision that this was indeed a brand new project. He flew home and I spent the next week figuring out a name. Thus BM was born.

Though you are at the helm of the project, who else has contributed to BloodMagic and what has been the criteria for you in terms of recruiting creative collaborators? 

Musically it’s just been Kyle and myself. I have had one bass track by someone I know and love dearly that needed to be done due to travel restrictions for me and that is someone I’ve worked with before. Visually, I worked with Zak Pinchin on a live session I did called “From the Alter” and I knew the moment Zak and I started communicating that he would be a long term collaborator on projects with me. We have a short hand and he’s got an amazing can-do attitude which works great.

Ultimately it’s about having a barometer within self to know when something works and when something doesn’t and being able to take that on. I can walk away at the end of a day and think “this is great” and go back to it the following and realize it’s actually not that great and I’m okay with it. For all of us it’s about pushing ourselves and putting as much of ourselves into the creation as possible. I think that would be the criteria. A desire to grow, to ask questions and push.

The first single in "Death/ReBirth" seemed a very pointed statement as much as an introductory single. In this particular case, what's in a title and why was this the song you decided should introduce your next iteration? 

For me and for lots of my creative friends there has to be a death in order for something new to grow. That is what this is, it’s a shedding of self, of old ideas to gain a deeper knowledge of within. The lyrics “to let go of all image” seemed vital to me. To move forward from one point to get to the next. And of course Rebirth is that moving forward, that regrowth. We went with this song first as it was the first track we’d mixed and were super happy with. We have more now of course but there is an interesting idea of chronology which is keeping me moving. So the listener and ourselves grow with each offering. 

Who do you feel is impacting heavy music in a way that not only moves the culture forward but has had some degree of influence on BloodMagic? 

Wow. Again, I mean I think heavier music is reactionary. It’s a way to process the world around us and right now we are in really interesting and difficult times so I think for a lot of artists we are looking at that and deciding who we want to be in that world and in that space. As far as artists go… I’m not sure.

We love bands like Architects, Knocked Loose, Better Lovers, Bush to name a few and personally I’m really into folkier black metal sounds. I love Frayle and Darkher. There’s a spirituality in those 2 artists that resonates deeply with me. I think again that might be it. Resonance with what means most to me, worlds beyond worlds, exploration of self and what could be, that’s what I’m looking for.

What can fans and interested spectators expect next from the project? 

More music. More art. More exploration and hopefully connectivity. We’re writing for us and maybe that connects. We’re moving forward at a good pace. One thing I was very aware of when we were talking about releasing this was I didn’t want to feel like I was chasing my tail upon first release so we consciously went and continued to work silently so that we could offer more as time progressed. So yes, more. More descent, more questions, more exploration, more guitars and certainly more drums. 

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