DIANA is Chris Mowbray and Sam Campbell, a London based experimental project formed in 2016. From dark ambient soundscapes and modern classical requiems to nihilistic karaoke ballads – DIANA is a satellite for pain.
‘NATIONAL TRAGEDY’ the debut album from DIANA is the diagnosis of a sick land – from political unrest to personal despair. Widely influenced by the raw emotion sparked by the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, the album slides through a decaying soundscape of distorted horns, detuned guitars and screaming synthesizers, defined by DIANA as “the sound of hell if it happened to be at the end of Blackpool Pier.”
Ghostly vocals and industrial drones weave through twisted horror ballads and post-apocalyptic requiems, lamenting conditions of surveillance, segregation, mental illness and failed relationships. From misanthropic love songs to doom- laden walls of noise, ‘NATIONAL TRAGEDY’ delivers a bristling, malevolent and unrestrained portrayal of suffering, whilst never ceasing to fully relinquish its desperate grip of hope.
COR: How did you start making art/music? What about your roots?
DIANA: We’re both from creative backgrounds, fine art for me and design/moving image for Sam. He’s a very talented filmmaker. We both consider ourselves artists over musicians.
COR: Tell us about the story / concept that brought you together!
DIANA: I mean it’s not glamorous. I basically dated a boy that led me down the rabbit hole to Sam’s girlfriend and we became very close. I think I’d recently become disenchanted with the spurious, commercial world of Contemporary art and was looking for something less plastic. This was all shortly following the UK’s decision to leave the EU so things were fucking dark & depressing…
We basically got drunk one night and came up with this awful idea of slowing down a carefully curated list of our favourite love songs to an unrecognisable bpm and then using that as the bones to then flesh out our own compositions – predominantly synth/guitar at the time. The end goal was to then remove the slowed track in hope that our new composition would somehow be some sort of distorted ghost of the original. It didn’t really work and to be honest, we soon found that our own improvisations were much more interesting.
COR: Who or what has the main influence on you? Movies, bands, albums… anything:)
DIANA: Big question. Domestic politics. Loneliness. Throbbing Gristle, Coil, Tiny Tim? The English seaside…
I can’t speak for Sam but I’m nothing but a badly sewn patchwork of my relentless obsessions. I’d like to think we coined the phrase ‘post-apocalyptic karaoke ballads’.
COR: Your new album “National Tragedy” has a strong political message. What do you think about the whole Brexit story, how does this affect you personally?
DIANA: I think it’s heart-breaking. It’s a bomb disguised as a fucking Christmas cake and it’s going to blow up in the British public’s face. In some respects, they’ll deserve it.. but as usual the Tory tabloid press didn’t leave anything to chance. It’s one thing to learn and loathe the imperial past, but it’s another to feel embarrassment, shame and be completely at odds with the direction your country is heading. The worst thing is, we can’t even seem to leave with any sense or humility. I think a lot of us are still secretly praying that BJ’s ‘dead in a ditch’ option is still on the table.
COR: We love the world of your videos ‘Wake of my heart’ and ‘Wasteland’. Could you share some thoughts about them?
DIANA: Thanks. I think we both have a very specific visual language. We’re well matched on sound but where it’s perhaps the differences that make it more interesting, there’s a symbiosis to our aesthetics which makes the collaboration extremely compatible.
The track ‘Wasteland’ is essentially an elegy for the United Kingdom. A heavyhearted goodbye – peppered with fond memories but consumed by sadness and loss. The idea of the sovereign state pulling up it’s drawbridge in a futile attempt to return to its romanticised past. There’s a fly in the ointment moment and from there, darkness starts to overpower light. We shot a lot of the video in Margate which is where the poet T.S. Eliot wrote his seminal poem The Waste Land.
‘Wake of…’ is also quite personal. It’s a pathetic lament about a lost lover. A drunken carousel of pity and pain. The distorted horn repeats with the rise and fall of the sun as if it were some sort of a twisted Adhan. It’s a sad waltzing prayer of insufferable self-pity. With this, we entrusted our friend and filmmaker James Batley. I love James’ style and motifs; we speak the same language. I knew we were in the most dangerous of safe hands. I would highly recommend checking out his other work:
COR: There are a lot of natural elements in these videos, do they mean something spiritual for you?
DIANA: Yes but spiritual with a small s.
COR: Your vocals made us goosebumps…whose voice can be heard on the album? Both of you?
DIANA: I’m afraid that’s me. Sam’s operatic howls do feature on one track though.
COR: What’s coming next? Any plans for the future?
DIANA: Working on an EP with an entirely different sound. Lockdown was productive so will probably release it before the end of the year. Maybe a UK tour of empty pubs 2021?
COR: How does an average day of yours look like?:)
DIANA: I can’t remember what an average day looks like anymore. Can you?