By the end of March last year, most of the world was locking down and that included the clubs. Like previous streams Auxiliary has featured, Obscura Undead understood the need and quickly launched a Twitch stream to pair with their YouTube channel. In this Stream Spotlight we interview Azy, one of the main forces behind Obscura Undead.
There can be no one-size-fits-all goth stream for the same reason that there are a million billion subgenres of subcultural music. It’s great to have different parties that air at different times of day, on different days of the week. It’s like walking down Queen Street west of Spadina, in Toronto, back in the day and being able to hop between dedicated alternative clubs within easy walking distance. Even better when Twitch streams that end at different times can raid friendly other streams, boosting their viewership.
Obscura Undead encompasses a website, a zine, a YouTube channel, and a Twitch stream. They bring a consistent theme to all facets of what they do. Auxiliary Magazine interviewed Azy, one of the main forces behind Obscura Undead, with more of a focus on streaming content and online videos.
When did you first launch your Twitch stream? Was this before or after your YouTube channel; how did these things come to exist in relation to each other?
Azy : We launched our streams pretty quick after lockdown at the end of March last year. OU is kinda this huge multi-functional ever evolving organism and part of that is our DJ collective. When events went on hold, we needed a way to distract ourselves and our friends and at the same time fundraise for Covid relief causes local to us and social justice organizations. It didn’t take too long after that to launch our music and scene issues talk series. We started our YouTube in April 2018, so it’s been around a bit longer. It was just music reviews and news related to our interests, but in the last year it has expanded well past that. Crossover between our Twitch and YT was inevitable and we’re really pleased with how they support each other, Twitch gives us a real time way to connect with people and break out of our own bubble of opinions.
What inspires your guest DJ selection? Are you working from a list of people you have in mind, or do they request it? Do you just feel things out on the fly? A bit of everything?
A : OU is organized chaos, so the answer is, “D: All of the Above”. Our only real criteria is that we ask our guests to spin in our genres and to push new or obscure music. I’m trying to get better about scheduling people in advance when it’s my turn to pick guests, but I get so damn shy about reaching out to DJs because everyone is doing something really cool. The community has become pretty close and we all work together and try to build each other up. We’re affiliated with other goth Twitch DJ collectives Twitch Bat Gang and Doom Kittens Attack, too. And I love that the online community doesn’t have this mentality of pulling the ladder up behind them, so to speak. That’s who we like to work with!
How do you determine albums for your listening/release party spotlights?
A : It’s not always easy, honestly! We go back and forth on suggestions all week, and [DJ] Maus and I have pretty divergent tastes in some ways. We try to balance between the more analog releases I gravitate towards and the more electronic releases Maus loves. The album that we pick for the listening party spotlight on Twitch is the album we’re reviewing for that week on our YT, so when we’re picking we try to really focus on debuts we think have a lot of potential, albums that do something interesting or innovative, or just music we think is cool and want to get in front of people. We also try our best to promote music outside of Western imperialism. There’s so much cool stuff going on right now, and we like to spotlight what you don’t usually find elsewhere. There are of course always exceptions, and we try to support the people kind enough to send us their music, but we only have so much time between the two of us.
How do you decide on your co-host for a given video or live stream?
A : With guests on live streams and videos that aren’t DJ streams, sometimes it’s friends of ours and we throw an invite out last minute, sometimes people ask and we set a date, sometimes it’s Maus and I on a video chat hyping each other up until one of us feels brave enough to message people. For recurring segments, mini-series, and special topic one-offs we have, a lot of times we have friends who’ve come to us with ideas and topics and we want to do everything we can to help them make that a reality. I hear a lot from people I know, comments like “my opinion doesn’t matter”, or “your music taste is better than mine”, and that makes me really sad. Because the fact that I own a camera and am willing to sit in front of it doesn’t magically make my opinion or stories more valid. All that said, we are very active in trying to not give a platform for bigotry or intolerance.
Tales from the Goth Side was discontinued. Would you like to talk about any of the circumstances behind that? Do you have anything planned to replace this style of issue-discussing series?
A : No, I can answer this but it’s a little bit of a long story. This series actually started off as a weekly stream called Subculture Shock with myself, Michelle Reich (skullgirdle), my best friend Malek and our friend Dea, and it was originally meant to be a casual panel discussion on topics related to various scene empowerment subjects. It quickly morphed into something more politically active and we had a smattering of guests on various topics. We actually discontinued the series at one point in 2020 because it was becoming too stressful for Michelle and me, and it was affecting our friendship in a way where we only talked about stream related things. I was getting really burned out from the intense conversations, too. When we relaunched the rebranded series, it moved to bi-weekly, and 100% of the work and kudos for guests and topics goes to Michelle who hosted one stream a month, and Clint Jerome from the band Blood Bells who offered his time and hosted the second. They really crystalized the series into something more focused and special, but the short of it is that between work, streaming, and life, my mental health couldn’t keep up and I had pushed myself to a breaking point. I ended up having a meltdown on stream in February. I would love to see the series resurrected, especially with more younger and diverse voices leading the conversation. But for now I’ll stick to writing about issues in our zine UnObscured or in scripted content where I can prepare myself emotionally. We’ll see!
How have your YouTube commenting/live stream chat experiences been? Have you ever had a discussion that way which helped you understand something you might have overlooked as a content creator and/or inspired improvements to what you do?
A : Just from a tech standpoint, yes. We have some really patient, savvy folks who join us and have helped us troubleshoot live. It used to stress us out a lot but it’s gotten to where we’ve seen it not as us and them, but us all together. But generally speaking, our YouTube comments and live chats have had a really positive impact. YouTube is where we get the most hateful comments and that’s great in a way. It reinforces the why of what we’re doing and in a way, it’s spite to keep being loud in the face of people who don’t accept the experiences of us and our guests as valid or even real. And the positive comments and live discussions, I’ve learned so much from our community sharing their stories, thoughts, and opinions. In this way, I think just listening to people whose experiences are different from mine has inspired me more as a person than anything. And who I am as a person informs any content I make. We all have biases and blind spots, and listening to each other makes us more compassionate people and more able to address the shortcomings we see around us. Although, I think what’s inspired us most wasn’t a single “A-Ha!” moment or discussion. It was the slow realization through multiple interactions that our stories, our fears, our insecurities, frustrations, interests, desires, aren’t ours alone. And just talking about these things, from say the lack of women making goth rock in our music discussions to the underrepresentation of BIPOC goths in the scene, takes these issues from the realm of silent anxiety and dissatisfaction to a place where we can actually address them.
Would you like to discuss one strategy you have found to be most effective for bringing viewers to your content?
A : I wouldn’t call it a strategy, but just being genuine and connecting with people in a real way. Being active members of the goth community, talking to people, listening. I’m not sure if that makes sense as a way to get eyes on our videos and streams. I know we’re content creators, we have content, but it feels weird to call ourselves that. We just want human connections, to empower people, to share what we think is important and hear what other people think.
Are there any new projects/streams/video series in the works that you might like to announce or tease for the readers?
A : Well! We’re taking our UnObscured zine in a more socially aware direction and actively making an effort to share more stories and a more diverse cast of goth writers. Our friend Ian Letendre has taken over much of the organization of it and we’re excited to see where he takes it. We’re also in the process of revamping our website. On our YouTube, I’m not ready to give away too many details, but I’m in the process of getting together two new series. Firstly, I’m scripting a few video essays to talk about our scene in a more holistic way. I have a research background and I love books and teaching and I want to tie that into more of our videos. And secondly, I’m at the beginning of a short format guest led series to share more stories across our scene. We want to unite people around our stories. Where they differ, where they align across time, space, gender, age, sexuality. All these experiences represent our history, our present, and our future. Musically and experientially. I like to think our crew of DJs, writers, artists, and contributors is from all over the world and is nearly as diverse as the scene itself! And I hope that if anyone wants to collaborate with us, submit something for publication, ask us to address an issue or review album, be it video or article, you won’t hesitate to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or Obscura Undead most everywhere online, or just send me (Azy Bats on FB) a message! I can’t promise we’ll get to everything (being human and all), but we’ll try.
Love you all, stay safe.