If Jaime Page’s 2016 debut solo album, Dark Universe, was inspired by her transgender journey, then the follow-up – now flying under the Dark Universe band banner – Into The Black draws most of its momentum from more societal and global issues.
Into The Black is a timely record: the music has an ethereal, magical feel to it, and lyrically it addresses rising above our daily struggles, being brave in the face of crushing adversity, tapping into our inner strength. It’s a record that sends tingles through this writer upon every listen, and it’s no stretch to say that this album has the potential to change lives.
“It's interesting you say that, actually,” Page responds humbly. “We're not contrived with how we approach it, but that's how I work: it's all about emotion. Everything is about emotion, and we had that many moments in the studio that those tingles just kept coming back time and time again as we kept tweaking and playing with things, and there were tears from different people at different times.
“We saw these weird little emotional responses going on, because we were hitting some really, really powerful places. We were getting right to the heart of things… because with me there is no middle ground - if I'm feeling something, I'm gonna write about it.”
Page carries on to address the delicately perfect and profoundly moving balance between the uplifting and positive message in the lyrics, and the magical element in the music.
“Donna (Greene, the band’s powerhouse vocalist) describes it as ‘our chemical’,” Page says softly, obviously in awe of the otherworldly process that occurs when four simpatico souls create art together. “That is the way it sort of feels to us. I used to love the way Zeppelin or Jimmy Page used to describe things, that things have elements and they have a process that creates something bigger than the whole.
“I think that's managed to happen when you put Michael’s (Burn) drumming, which is full of heart and love and absolute raw power, with Donna who absolutely digs singing to whatever I tend to write, and she understands it intrinsically. She doesn't have to think about it, she just gets it right away. Likewise, with Craig (Skelton, bass/keyboards), he's just all about love and heart and spreading the message of a better world. So, you're 100 per cent right. You get us, and it's wonderful when people as experienced as yourself do get us and understand us. That makes everything worthwhile for me. That's why I do it, I just care that I connect with someone. So, that's the battle won for me.”
Page, Greene, Burn and Skelton all have impressive CVs to their name, individually playing with the likes of Graham Greene, Black Steel, Trilogy, RokChix, Matt Taylor’s Chain, KISStake, Stone Circle, The Chantoozies and a myriad of others. Each of the four have never sounded better than on Into The Black.
“Absolutely,” agrees Page. “And the great thing for me too, that I'm really excited about Into The Black and what we've done here, is knowing that there's a third album in the can as well, already done and dusted as far as basic production goes.
“It gives me great, great hope for the future too, because I guess in all honesty I've probably moved on from the production of Into the Black maybe three or four months ago. I was already hard at work into all this other stuff. And then I had to have a bit of a paradigm shift to get back to Into the Black to finish the job. But when I got back and looked at what we'd done, I got those tingles and I thought, ‘wow, I really need to do this job justice. I need to do everything in my power to get people on board’.
“Because I felt exactly what you feel. I feel there's a universal truth to the album that speaks to people very much in the moment. We're talking about current lives, current issues, the current state of the world.”
Dark Universe is a band devoid of artifice or contrivance or ego. They are simply four consummate musicians united, catching lightning in a bottle.
“Exactly, that's exactly, exactly, 100 per cent correct,” she gasps. “Brilliant analogy.”
The third album was fast tracked not so much by creative compulsion, rather by necessity when studio complications left them unable to continue working on Into The Black for short periods.
“Funnily enough, we actually had to battle quite a few strange little technical disasters in the studio over the last six months,” Page explains, “with hard drives going down and software crashing for no reason. For a while there we thought we were jinxed!
“So, I said to Stewie, the producer, ‘we can still record on the internal hard drives. We don't have to worry about backups, we can just knock around and at least do some demos’. So all the songs are 100 per cent written, the guitar parts are largely done, we’ve got guide vocals for a lot of them… there's some really different things, again, but we're not afraid to take on big challenges.”
Since Page’s gender reassignment surgery, she has blossomed, becoming happier than she’s ever been, yet the album is still called Into The Black.
“’Cos I find lots of joy in darkness,” she says gleefully. “I've always loved the idea of seeing this darkness, blackness, universal space – where all things are surreal and crazy. To me it's art. It's not about being miserable – there’s a lot of beauty that you can create with darkness. And I'll have my swings around the dark side like we all do, I'll temporarily dip into some horrid little place... but the sun will come out, and then I'll find a way to process that and transform it into something, musically, much, much nicer than how it started.”
There’s no denying that Jaime Page is making up for lost time in her new, true identity, but despite the obvious love and respect for what she’s doing, her journey has not been without loss and fallout.
“I'm still feeling it to this day - there's some people that have been on board, there's people that haven't,” she says with a touch of sadness. “And the whole series of challenges that I've had to confront have been a pretty big mountain to climb in reality. Every day is a different day… some days it's brilliant, other days, you wonder, you know?
"For all of us, all the people in my situation – and there's a lot of strong people out there - full credit for what they go through: they stay positive, they deal with it. I've found me, but I did lose a part of my life finding me. Bit by bit, me and the rest of the life that fell away is slowly coming back. It's like a bit of a Big Bang situation, where everything's scattered and you pick up the pieces. Eventually, you find a new way, which I've had to do. But it's been good, I've had so many amazing things happen to me over the last two years that I never would've comprehended, never would've believed I was able to do.”
Dark Universe launch Into The Black on Saturday, April 28, at Badlands Bar with help from Darkyra and Jackson Koke. Full details at www.facebook.com/events/508529172881040/