Tom Ashton of the March Violets on the goth and post-punk legacy behind SubVon Studio

Tom Ashton at SubVon Studio. Photo by Mike White

In December of 1981, guitarist Tom Ashton co-founded the gothic and post-punk outfit The March Violets while attending Jacob Kramer College of Art in Leeds, U.K. Throughout the ‘80s, the band landed several singles on the U.K. indie and club charts, including goth classics such as “Snake Dance,” “Walk Into the Sun,” “Crow Baby,” and “Turn to the Sky.” The latter number earned The March Violets a cameo appearance in the 1987 film “Some Kind of Wonderful,” written by John Hughes. Over the years Ashton has also done stints playing guitar with equally lauded acts Clan of Xymox and The Danse Society, and most recently filled in on bass with Athens’ rising goth luminaries Vision Video. Ashton has called Athens home since 2001. Recently, a new generation of post-punk, gothic, and otherwise darkwave bands have all released music bearing the mark of Ashton’s SubVon Studio, where he’s also found a niche composing scores for various independent films.

What brought you to Athens from the U.K.?

I met my wonderful wife of 29 years, Rachel, an Athens local, whilst touring the US, playing guitar with the Dutch gothic rock band Clan of Xymox — or Xymox as they were known at the time. We met when the band was prepping for our tour at The 40 Watt, supporting the album called Phoenix on Mercury Records. I originally came from Scotland, where I grew up in a small town called Alva in an area called the Hillfoots. From there I moved to Leeds to play music. Years later, I moved to London for nine years before making the move to Athens in 2001.

When did you start recording at SubVon Studio?

SubVon kinda started around 2012-2014. I was recording March Violets stuff and working on a bunch of film scores for people up in Michigan and in Los Angeles. I built a room in our basement purely as a production suite, but when we later finished building out the rest of the area I realized there was room to fit in a whole band with a full kit. After a month or so I started mentioning the space to anyone who might be interested in coming in and joining the experiment. It was christened on January 1, 2018. The name just kind of popped out from nowhere, although the word Von is a nickname for Andrew Eldritch from The Sisters of Mercy, so maybe it’s a play on that for some reason.

The March Violets in 1983: Simon Denbigh (from left), Cleo Murray, Tom Ashton, Loz Elliott

Andrew Eldritch’s Merciful Release label released The March Violets’ “Grooving in Green” and “Religious as Hell” 7-inches. Did you ever join The Sisters of Mercy?

At one point in ’81, Andrew did try to filch me from the Violets, and I did play one show with them playing guitar. It was a great time, and later he said, “If you want it, it’s yours.” I would have loved to do both but I felt I couldn’t do it under the circumstances. I had moved from Scotland to play music with my best mates, and I didn’t want to screw them over. At the time, we were all good mates — I was mates with Craig Adams and Gary Marx from the Sisters. We used to all hang out at Andrew’s house. He was the only person that any of us knew who had a VCR, so we’d all get high and watch “Alien” over and over again.

There is an identifiable scene emerging around your studio work. Bands like Tears for the Dying, Hip To Death, Entertainment, and Vision Video come to mind. What’s the underlying thread that connects them all?

This scene kind of reminds me of the special time back in Leeds and West Yorkshire in ‘81-’82. Bands like Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, The Sisters of Mercy, Danse Society, Southern Death Cult, Skeletal Family, and The March Violets all combined and developed our own take on punk, post-punk, and goth. Most importantly, we had our own way of doing it. I am lucky to be in the right place at the right time not only once but twice. And I would certainly add We Hunt Kings — Henry from Entertainment’s project — to that list. Pale Pose’s Doorways; The Exiter is another notable album which I mixed and mastered, definitely some dark and beautiful poetry there. And although not strictly gothic in nature, T.T. Mahony sometimes enters some very dark territory with his French People album which I mixed last year.

I think sometimes it all comes down to a quirk of timing and geographical location. The law of averages dictates that at one place and time a similarly minded group of people will cascade together and feed each other their energy and ideas. Once it’s realized it becomes acted upon and is further enhanced. Leeds circa 1982 felt like this, and to me, now Athens and Atlanta have a similar sense of purpose and amount of talent to throw it out to the rest of the world successfully.

Aesthetically speaking, I’d say there is a wide range of styles and influences in the mixing cauldron of these bands, and I see it as my job to capture and collate, collaborating in a way that enhances each individual voice.

Do you have creative input when it comes to the musical choices that these bands are making?

Yes, but it can vary quite a bit according to each individual track. Sometimes a reimagined backing vocal, or subtle orchestrations in the background. I’m very much an ears-and-mind-are-open kind of producer, and I’ll never get in the way of someone else’s vision. I’m just there to help it flow and wrap it in the sheen I always like to hear.

VISION VIDEO: Dusty Gannon (left) with Jason Fusco (drums) and Tom Ashton filling in playing guitar during Historic Athens Porchfest on October 10, 2021. Photo by Mike White

How did you start working with Vision Video?

Ashton: In pre-COVID days, Dusty Gannon ran — and will again no doubt — a fantastic night called Make America Goth Again. I was there one night when Dusty was DJing. We’d never met before. He played “Snake Dance,” and a mutual friend pulled us together and said, “This is the guy who plays guitar on this song!” We hit it off, and he sent me some music he was working on in 2018, I think. I loved it! Even back then it sounded like Vision Video. The track was called “Organized Murder.” Basically we just hit it off with too many similar interests to count and hung out a lot and got drunk!

Are you currently working on any projects with any of these groups?

Dusty from Vision Video is already sending me some wonderful sketches for the next album, and we are discussing ideas and approaches on how the progression will go. I’m still in the middle of mixing We Hunt Kings. Tears for the Dying has a new lineup and are sending me the demos for their next album which sounds fab too.

What’s next for you?

I’m currently working on various masters for a March Violets CD box set for release in the near future through the U.K. label Jungle Records. There will be never-before-heard material included, and some classic Violets tracks that never had a proper release. Vision Video will be in to record the next record in January or February, and Tears for the Dying start recording their next release with me in mid-December. Until recently I was working on a score for a film called Dwarfhammer by a Michigan-based director named Daniel E. Falicki. I also recently began mixing and remixing tracks for Tennessee-based band Palm Ghost. I’m really looking forward to getting my teeth into the future!

Read the print version of this story in the December issue of Record Plug Magazine.

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Genki Genki Panic: ‘The Munge’ b/w ‘Gas Human Being No. 1 / the Human Vapor,’ and ‘Moth Mandingo Effect’ 7-inch

Put on your 3-D glasses now.


Genki Genki Panic thrives on the fringes of the ecstatic, honing a musical aesthetic that eviscerates traditional notions of genre, while offering a dizzying array of threads to pull at every turn.

Hailing from the rolling and mystical expanse of terrain that lies between Atlanta, GA and Chattanooga,TN, GGP guitar and keyboard player Chris Moree, bass player Eric Waller, and drummer Chris Campbell’s musical bounds are as limitless as the landscape from whence the group sprouted. Each song draws inspiration from the deepest darkest recesses of pop culture.

It’s all on display in the three songs pressed onto the group’s first vinyl 7-inch — “The Munge” b/w “Gas Human Being No.1 The Human Vapor” and “Moth Mandingo Effect.”

Just a cursory scroll through GGP’s Bandcamp page reveals a deluge of musical excursions in which the group plays more notes in one measure than most technically skilled metal bands on the scene. Elsewhere, GGP mines the sonic palette of video game soundtracks and reassembles them to bear their own deranged adventures.

Layers upon layers of references come together around each new offering: A cover of the Deadly Ones’ “It’s Monster Surfing Time” blends album cover art from the Descendents’ Milo Goes To College with imagery from “Planet of the Apes.”

Ghoulie High Harmony *Director’s Cut is perhaps the greatest Boyz II Men reference that no one has ever caught. Still elsewhere, GGP’s sound and vision is a tangle of not-so-veiled nods to Bad Brains, OutKast, Big Black, Beetlejuice and classic horror film scenes, all tied together with an affinity for spooky vibes and haunted surf and sci-fi sounds.

“The Munge” (dubbed “The Munge Parasito” on the Bandcamp page) saunters in before the nearly three-minute tsunami jam takes over the song. “Gas Human Being No.1 / The Human Vapor” and “Moth Mandingo Effect” push the eerie irreverence beyond the record’s grooves, giving rise to a particularly twisted ambiance. It’s seemingly impossible to avoid being swept up in the group’s high-energy dirges, despite (or maybe because of) their defiantly wide-eyed ways.

Genki Genki Panic plays Hammerhead Fest 9.5 Sat., Nov. 27, at Boggs Social and Supply (outdoor stage) with Paladin, Order of the Owl, the Vaginas, Canopy, Black Candle, and Naw. $15. 4 p.m. (doors). 

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‘Creature’s Surfin’ Shindig’ in Flagpole

My review of Missing Fink RecordsCreature’s Surfin Shindig compilation LP is in this week’s Flagpole Magazine. It’s the culmination of the landlocked Augusta, GA label’s dedication to probing the outer limits of where rockabilly, punk and surf sounds collide with sci-fi cinema and monster movies from the 1950s.

There’s a ton of great stuff on this comp. Didi Wray, Fred Schneider and the Superions, Messer Chups, and more. Check it out at Flagpole!

Faye Webster: ‘Better Distractions’

Faye Webster is back with a new single, titled “Better Distractions.” The song was recorded at Chase Park Transduction in Athens, and produced by long-time cohort and engineer Drew Vandenberg. It’s also Webster’s first offering since her 2019 album, Atlanta Millionaires Club (Secretly Canadian), and the single, titled “In A Good Way.”

The “Better Distractions” video is courtesy of Matt Swinsky and Eat Humans.

Drifting through lyrics such as: “Got two friends that I could see, but they got two jobs and a baby. I just want to see you,” the song builds on Webster’s signature lush and melancholy indie rock delivery.

“I wrote this song kinda without knowing I was writing it,” Webster said in a press release. “It’s a kind of free association, just thoughts running straight from my head onto paper untouched. I also think it’s [the] best my band has ever sounded on record.”

On Tuesday, October 6, Webster and her band , featuring pedal steel player Matt ‘Pistol’ Stoessel, drummer Harold Brown, bass player Bryan Howard, and keyboard player Nick Rosen are playing together for the first time in 2020 at Chase Park Transduction. The show is streaming live via Noonchorus, and will be rebroadcast for the following 48 hours.. $12 (+fees). 9 p.m.  Buy tickets.

Larry Ochs-Aram Shelton Quartet’s ‘Continental Drift’ to benefit Stacey Abrams’ Fair Fight


Friday, August 7—Tenor and sopranino saxophone composer and improviser Larry Ochs and Aram Shelton have joined forces to release a new collaborative offering, titled Continental Drift (Clean Feed). For this release, Ochs, a Bay Area artist who’s been breaking new musical ground since the 1970s with Rova Saxophone Quartet, and Chicago-based composer and alto saxophonist Shelton go track for track leading drummer Kjell Nordeson and bass players Mark Dresser and Scott Walton—Nordeson plays on tracks 1-3 and 5-7, and Dresser hits on 4 and 8—through an undulating terrain of sax solos and drawn-out of rhythmic bouts, channeling tension, anxiety, and elation into a swirl of worldly skronk and nuanced free jazz.

Over the next 24 hours, Bandcamp is waiving fees, giving 100% of the day’s proceeds to the artists. Until midnight Pacific Time Ochs is donating all proceeds from Continental Drift’s Bandcamp sales to Stacey Abrams’ Fair Fight campaign to combat voter suppression.

As Ochs says in an email, “Everyone has the right to vote. And this time around everyone should be encouraged to do just that. The protests will be for naught if Moscow Mitch is still running the Senate in 2021.”

Oh-OK, Love Tractor feature story in Flagpole Magazine

Oh-OK photo by Mike White

Love Tractor and Oh-OK are two bands inextricably linked by time and space—meaning, of course, that they both played hands-on roles in shaping Athens’ hallowed alternative rock scene at the dawn of the 1980s. Both groups shared practice spaces and stages and even brandished the mark of Atlanta’s DB Recs alongside the B-52s, Pylon and the Method Actors. But despite coming of age amid the same college town music scene, stylistically speaking, their sounds could not be more disparate.

Read the full feature story in this week’s edition of Flagpole Magazine.

‘Flagpole’ feature: First Tuesday connects homegrown Athens, Atlanta hip-hop

john.AVERAGE photo by Deseri Rice.

Tuesdays have always been hip-hop nights for Athens—at least where Montu Miller is concerned.

Miller is the COO leading the charge for local promotions company AthFactor Entertainment. Alongside DJ Chief Rocka, he hosts the First Tuesday hip-hop series at The World Famous. First Tuesday was built on a foundation Miller started circa 2005, when he launched Tasty Tuesdays at Tasty World. Over the years, the event has bounced around downtown venues such as Caledonia Lounge and Live Wire, until settling into its current digs at The World Famous. In September, organizers will celebrate the monthly gathering’s third anniversary there.

The aim for First Tuesday has always been to facilitate Athens’ hip-hop scene with an event that fosters creativity by strengthening the community through networking and friendly competition.

“For years, we’ve invited out artists from the Eastside, the Westside, the Stonehenge community—bringing everybody together, so we have a more cohesive scene,” Miller says. “There really is just one community with a few little satellites and branches, but it’s all moving together as one at this point.” Read the full story at Flagpole.

‘Flagpole’ feature: With New Album, Andrew Blooms finds balance in music and life

Andrew Blooms photo by Savannah Shaw.

Faith, spirituality and finding room for intellectual growth while parsing out a non-secular push-and-pull have long served as rich fodder for many an introspective songwriter. From country music’s enduring man in black, Johnny Cash, to indie rock stalwart David Bazan, the struggle has always been real—fertile ground for harvesting lyrical poetry that hangs in a balance of tension and resolve.

For Athens songwriter and producer Andrew Blooms, born Andrew Huang, this internal struggle remains steeped in quiet imagery and personal metaphors, ever present but never spelled out completely in songs such as “Humility,” “My Time Will Come” and the title track from Blooms’ debut full-length LP, Never a Waste, whose release he will celebrate with a show at the Georgia Theatre Dec. 3. Still, sweetness and innocence guide the billowing atmosphere and non-linear narratives that lie at the core of Blooms’ songs. Read the full story at Flagpole.