Better Red Than Dead

Goth rockers Deep Red are in the black

Astro knew he had to augment the band, so he decided to call up drummer Mario Soto. The 38-year-old Soto had collaborated musically with Astro since they were in their early teens. Their last project together was Element 104, a pop band that played around in the late '80s. Soto was happy to hop aboard. He says he was shocked to discover how well-known his old friend's band was in Germany. He recalls one night, in Leipzig, when he and his bandmates stopped into a McDonald's after a performance and found themselves swarmed by fans. "There was this guy who came up to us with a brand-new, black leather jacket and one of those silver-tipped pens," Soto says. "He gave me the pen and said, 'I want you to sign your name here and put "Deep Red from Miami."' He wanted me to sign this new leather jacket. I was like, 'Are you sure?'"

The adulation also took the founding members by surprise. "I was up on stage one night," Arce recalls, "and these guys were screaming, but I didn't know what they were saying. I thought they were saying mean things to me like 'Get off the stage!' or 'Go home!' and they were throwing things at me that looked like little bottle caps. I was just kind of dodging them. As I left the stage, I thought, 'Oh well, I guess they don't like me.' So then, after Pitchfork played, Peter Spilles [lead singer of Project Pitchfork] said, 'It was really weird because I noticed all these rings on the stage, and then I thought, They must be Martha's. But you didn't wear any rings on stage, did you?' And I said, 'No, but these guys were throwing things at me.' And he says, 'Oh, my God, they were yours. They were throwing rings at you.'"

The tour saw the band booked into fancy hotels, traveling in giant tour buses with its own roadies, and playing venues that accommodated between two and four thousand fans. Quite a contrast from their lives in South Florida.

DJ Astro and Martha Arce are Deep Red Cuban-Americans
DJ Astro and Martha Arce are Deep Red Cuban-Americans

Indeed Deep Red's popularity overseas continues to amaze both Arce and Castro. Taking a break from today's recording duties, Castro ducks a hand beneath the mixing board and pulls out a stack of papers, passing them to Arce. These are the latest batch of Deep Red fan e-mails and postings to goth-music discussion boards. One young fan, calling himself Deymon, writes: "I have found myself, the depressing, poetic and dark person I am. No one in the entire area is into Goth and probably never will be. But I can go it myself because this is me. The point I'm trying to convey is thanks for indirectly playing a role in my present self. I luv the person I am and you, I feel, have a part in it and I just wanted to say thank you." Another fan, in a small Polish town, writes simply, "You are my idol."

The band's European tour was no doubt a boost in popularity. But being in such close quarters for weeks on end proved costly to the band members in another way. While on tour a rift opened between Arce and the boys in the band. "I don't want to put all the blame on one person," Astro says. "If you got five people all in one room, sooner or later someone's going to find a way to get into a fight." When the band returned to South Florida, Arce was out.

To fill Arce's slot, Astro recruited Amy Baxter, former vocalist of the Broward-based rock group Black Janet. Deep Red recorded five songs with Baxter that would have been part of Darkwaters and performed a few local live shows, which included venues such as the Kitchen Club, then located in North Miami, and Fort Lauderdale's now-defunct Squeeze. Baxter preferred playing live to recording, which Astro favored, and the two soon parted ways. Another singer, Sarah Gleason, auditioned for the band and finished an album's worth of material with Astro and Soto, though she eventually left, citing concerns about having to go out on tour.

Astro and Soto began thinking about asking Arce back into the band, a plan they half-mockingly referred to as "the doomsday option." To their surprise she was willing to give Deep Red another go, even though she had started up another project, Distorted Reality, with a German musician. Putting Distorted Reality on hold, she rerecorded the Darkwaters vocals over a period of three months, and Astro started remixing and remastering the disc for the third time.

The band has received requests by DJs and club owners from across the globe to host a CD-release party for the new disc. Arce has taken charge of organizing the events. She says confirmed cities include Chicago, Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Hamburg, Quebec City, London, and Barcelona, among others. So far Deep Red hasn't made plans for a CD-release party in South Florida. "We're probably going to do one somewhere around here," Arce says. "We haven't really talked to anybody. We don't really know where we can do it. Like Dely said, if we can actually play at the CD-release party, that's great. If not, I don't really give a shit, because there's a whole world out there. Just because we live here doesn't mean that we have to become popular here. Maybe Miami will never be a good place for Deep Red in that sense. And if it's not, well, then c'est la vie."

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