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Review by Bepi Crespan

illustration by Priscilla Yu
illustration by Priscilla Yu

Liisa Ladouceur knew she always wanted to write a book about Goth. Referring to herself as an “unpopular culture journalist,” Ladouceur admits her heart is in finding stories in the shadows and bringing them to the mainstream. “I’ve written for everyone from The Toronto Sun to The National Post and more recently [horror magazine] Rue Morgue. When I got the idea for Encyclopedia Gothica about three years ago, I knew this was the project that I wanted to do.”

  “Goth is about the beauty and the romance of death and decay and the darkness,” explains Ladouceur who introduces the book with a section called What Is – “What Is Goth?” “It’s such a common and annoying question that I had to write an entire book to answer it! It’s just looking at the dark side with a bit more of a swoon.”

  Coldwave. Columbine. Wednesday Addams. Count Chocula. Floria Sigusmondi. Skinny Puppy. These are just a sample of 600-plus terms and phrases deemed relevant enough to Goth cinema, music, fashion, history, and lifestyle to be included in the book. Ladouceur hopes to one day write a book about Skinny Puppy. “I don’t think they get [recognition] for being one of, frankly, only a handful of Canadian artists ever, in any genre to have created something that had a global influence,” explains Ladouceur. “Taking industrial noise and horror and making it danceable, I thought it was pretty radical.”

  “I include the Columbine massacre because I think that it did change the public perception of young Goths in North America a great deal,” says Ladouceur. “I think it has greater ramifications that extend to the fact that a lot of new Goth bands would never call themselves Goth, because what Goth was really changed a lot because of that event.”

  Dark and menacing, Rue Morgue Art Director Gary Pullin’s original illustrations breathe further gloom and decay into Ladouceur’s manuscript.

  “I’ve been surprised that a lot of people have overlooked them,” admits Ladouceur. “Instead of using one of his amazing illustrations, magazines and newspapers who review the book end up using still images from a Tim Burton movie or something [laughs]. I don’t get that!”

  In addition to cover duties, each of Pullin’s 24 illustrations is used to introduce a chapter, like Bauhaus for Chapter B, Joy Division for Chapter J, and so on.

illustration by Gary Pullin, art director, <i>Rue Morgue</i>
illustration by Gary Pullin, art director, Rue Morgue

  Ladouceur recounts presenting Bauhaus’ Peter Murphy with a copy of Encyclopedia Gothica on a recent tour stop in Toronto “I showed him Gary’s Bauhaus illustration and he’s like, ‘I remember that jacket!’ since it’s based on a real photo of them. Then he said, ‘Why are you giving this to me? I’m not Goth!’” continues Ladouceur. “All Goths say they’re not Goth. And then my girlfriend says to him ‘Then you have a lot to learn from this book!’”

  I’ll admit, the Cold Waves + Minimal Electronics and Minimal Wave Tape collections get a lot of attention on Bepi Crespan Presents…Show (Sundays 7am to 9am on CiTR), and I’ve been known to blast Alien Sex Field from my SUV on the way to my kids’ sumo practices, but my lifestyle is about as Goth as Lou Sekora’s. Regardless, I found Encyclopedia Gothica to be a very compelling and entertaining excursion into the subcultural phenomenon known as Goth: still misunderstood and misrepresented three decades into its history, yet very visible on mainstream radar.