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Music Preview: Vampire Nation's new projects draw on history

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

By John Hayes, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Call him Fredrik Von Hamilton or Fred Banks -- it matters about as much as whether he's really a 4,000-year-old zombie with a fetish for life or some dude from Pittsburgh with a keyboard.

Vampire Nation

dot.gif Where: Rex Theatre, South Side.

dot.gif When: 9 tonight.

dot.gif Tickets: $10; 412-381-6811.


He's the sole member of Vampire Nation, an act named for bloodsucking goths of the Nile, or what Von Hamilton describes as an American culture that sucks the lifeblood from emerging nations.

Call his music spacey world-electronica with dark-wave and ambient undertones. Or as he prefers, "coven funk."

The truth is, however underground it may be, the musical underground is still show business, and Von Hamilton is unusually persistent at editing his bio to support his evolving show. Since 1994, he's released eight discs by Vampire Nation and some 30 by other artists, mostly on his Hexagon Records imprint. With two distribution deals, Von Hamilton says the micro-indie has moved maybe 30,000 CDs to all parts of the planet.

This year, he's pushing two Vampire Nation projects: "Eternal," a 14-song tribute to ancient Egypt; and "The Birth of a Nation," a non-lyrical, five-movement history of the American Civil War.

"The concept behind Vampire Nation is more significant than the music itself," says Von Hamilton. "It's self-expression without boundaries. I'm showing that you don't have to be stuck on one genre of music."

His two recent albums are cases in point. "Eternal" is rife with musical symbolism and Middle Eastern percussion. Von Hamilton's Civil War anthem contains no period music -- it's "The Battle of Bull Run" in electronica and a deconstructed musical "Reconstruction." Much like the war itself, there's a lot of repetition, thrilling emotional highs, uninspired lows and less glory than might have been expected.

Tonight's show at the Rex includes Vampire Nation, the space rock of Zombi, the experimental noise of Acid Matrix and Arthur Loves Plastic, a one-woman Hexagon Records trance act from Washington, D.C.

John Hayes can be reached at jhayes@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1991.

Correction/Clarification: (Published Nov. 22, 2002) The Pittsburgh musical act Vampire Nation was named for founder Fred Banks' belief that the United States has had a negative impact on the cultures of emerging nations, not for any connection to vampires. Both explanations were given in a story published Tuesday.

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