Insight from Luxembourg Goth/Metal Fan on the Scene & Store:
The Black Angel Gothic Shop
Avid music fan and gothic clothing extraordinaire Daniel works hard at the Black Angel Gothic Shop to ensure all the technical is taken care of and that customers receive excellent service. It was truly a pleasure to interview Daniel, who is based out of Luxembourg, was raised on metal, and accidentally found his way into the goth scene.
Metal Babe Mayhem: First of all, I am so glad to have found The Black Angel Gothic Shop. You have an amazing collection of gothic and rock n’ roll clothing, for both guys and girls. Tell me about how you got started in this business.
Daniel: My partner Tessy started this business all by herself a little over 15 years ago. At the time there was no gothic shop in a 200-mile radius and online shopping was not an option yet. There was one famous mail-order catalog, but you often would have to wait months to get your order. She wanted to change that.
MBM: That’s great. How long have you been working for The Black Angel and what is your role with the company?
Daniel: I have been at The Black Angel almost since day one. I met Tessy in 2001, shortly after she had opened the first Black Angel street store. She was sponsoring Pronoian Made, the band I was playing in at the time. I helped her launch the online shop, and have been part of the team ever since. My duties include all the technical stuff related to the website, and I also create most of the content, photos, artwork, and texts. And, my favorite responsibility… I am in charge of customer service, so I get to meet people from all over the world, which is interesting and rewarding.
MBM: Definitely. I love everything that you have for sale on your website. That’s what drew me to your company in the first place! Do you have a personal favorite style?
Daniel: Thanks, happy to hear you like our selection! We put a lot of heart-blood into choosing the items we sell, so it’s always nice to hear we’re doing a good job. Regarding my personal favorite style, I have to differentiate between items I like, and items I like to wear. For example, there’s a lot of interesting stuff going on in the steampunk scene, or the Victorian goth look, both are beautiful styles. But that’s not something I would wear personally, because it wouldn’t feel natural to me. Before getting pulled into the dark
scene, I was rooted in punk and metal, I’ve always had a fondness for riff-laden music. So my personal clothing style reflects that. If a rockstar died and came back as an undead through some occult ritual, that’s how I would describe my personal style. Heavy skull jewelry, occult symbols, black destroyed denim and leather, that’s me.
MBM: Wow. That’s hardcore. Love the description! How do you determine what products/companies to sell?
Daniel: We base our selection on a couple different criteria. Like I already said, we only stock items we personally like and think will give our customer good value for money. So criteria one is, does a design make our heart beat? Next we look at the quality, the price versus value aspect, and also if a design is original and authentic. Because there are many copycats out there selling imitations and cheap knockoffs, and we’re not going to support that.
MBM: Good! I know exactly what you mean. How do you find new brands/items to sell?
Daniel: We like to stock brands that are as passionate as we are. If you are dedicated to what you do, your reputation will precede you. We often get word about this or that young brand that has really cool stuff, and we will check them out. If their designs make our heart beat faster, and if the quality is up there, we will give them a chance. We like to mix established brands with upstarts, like for example The Rogue + The Wolf, which make occult
jewelry using 3D-printing technology. They are a small company, but they are currently enjoying tremendous popularity, because they offer really great and affordable jewelry. There also are trade shows like the London Edge, where both established brands and new designers present their latest collection.
MBM: The Black Angel has been selling online since 2001, which was really early for Internet based stores. What were some of the initial challenges when starting an online business?
Daniel: It’s probably hard to imagine nowadays, but when we started, there was no Google. You couldn’t just look up “how to do this” or “how to do that” online. There were search engines, of course, but you had to really do intensive research for information, and most of it was learning-by-doing. Payment systems, e-commerce software… It was quite challenging. But we’re proud of the work we did, as we pioneered many of the things that are now considered standard among online shops. I think we brought a level of professionalism to the scene that was lacking in retail before. Commerce smelled of selling-out at the time, but our approach was always that customers of any scene deserve to get value and service for their money. Just because goth is rooted in punk and anti-establishment doesn’t mean that customers don’t value getting fast service, advice, and a smile. We are proud of setting a high standard. Large product photos with the ability to zoom in, that’s also something we were the first to introduce, at least in Europe. And clean looking websites, without having animated skull-gifs on every page. There were some truly dreadful websites around back then.
MBM: Definitely… Fifteen years later, buying products online is a daily occurrence for most consumers. Do you think this is a positive or negative for The Black Angel, and in comparison to when you were first starting out?
Daniel: We definitely see it as a positive. We have a very International
customer base. Our most northern customer is in North Pole, Alaska, and our most southern customer is located in Tasmania. These are people we would never have been able to reach without the Internet. We also receive a tremendous amount of feedback from U.S. customers, for example, who are so happy to be able to buy European goth and metal apparel, because its styles and quality are hard, if not impossible, to find in most of the States. So yes, we have embraced the Internet. So much, actually, that in 2007 we decided to give up our street stores in Luxembourg to focus completely on our online shop. A decision we never regretted, because the undivided attention allowed us to completely focus on the needs and expectations of our International customers.
MBM: That’s great. The Black Angel has excellent customer service and takes a very personal approach to doing business. Can you tell me more about this and why it is important?
Daniel: It’s because we’re not in it for the money, we’re doing this because we’re passionate about what we do. We get a lot of emails from happy customers, and it’s a very rewarding experience. Right from the start, we always had this goal in mind to make The Black Angel the type of store we would like to shop at ourselves, if we weren’t running the place. So we always try to remember that, and see things from a customer perspective. We ask ourselves the question “what would we wish for if this wasn’t our shop?” We also listen carefully to customer feedback and try to continuously improve things if something isn’t optimal.
MBM: That’s a great approach. I do the same thing with Metal Babe Mayhem. Another thing that makes The Black Angel stand out from other online stores is that you have a blog site. What gave you the idea, who primary writes for the blog, and what subjects do you include?
Daniel: Our street retail stores were always a sort of hub for the community, where like-minded people would gather to meet fellow goths and metal-heads, talk, exchange ideas, and stay in touch with the latest news. We’re trying to provide customers with a similar feeling on our website, because goth is more than clothing. Which is why we’re providing customers with
helpful guides, articles about goth fashion, brands, and artists. Anything related to our lifestyle. Usually I am the one who writes the articles, but the ideas and input comes from everyone on the staff. And we do have guest bloggers too, to add fresh perspectives to the topics we cover. One of our most popular features is probably the look book, as it features real people, friends, and customers who model our clothing, with outfit ideas and inspiration.
MBM: Now let’s talk about the music side of things. Where do you think they have the best goth scene in Europe?
Daniel: Tough question! The UK has a fantastic goth scene, and they birthed so many of the legendary bands… Sisters of Mercy, Fields of the Nephilim, The Cure. They have a lot going for them. There’s the Whitby Weekend, and many bands come from the UK. But Germany has the Zillo, M’era Luna, Blackfield, Amphi festival, and of course the Wave Gotik Treffen. In my modest opinion, the WGT is by far the best goth gathering in the world, and I believe that anyone who has ever been there will agree. France is enjoying somewhat of an outsider role in the European goth scene, metal is going stronger there, but they have the legendary Bal des Vampires, for example. And simply the best concerts and venues. Bands love to play in France, and audiences reward them with wild crowds. I saw The Cure at a secret gig in 96 or 97, at the Bataclan, in front of a 500 people crowd, unforgettable! There were moshpits… At a Cure show!
MBM: That’s crazy! Who are your favorite goth/metal bands?
Daniel: I grew up with Metallica, Sex Pistols, UK Subs, and Slayer when I was a teen, before I was into goth, which happened a bit by accident. I went out to buy the Nefilim album, but instead went home with Danrazor, by (Fields of the) Nephilim. That changed my life, and I’ve been a big fan of Fields of the Nephilim even since, as well as the Sisters of Mercy But mostly Fields… Always Fields. The dark mystic aura surrounding them, the ethereal guitar work, to me they’re magic. I’ve had the chance to shoot photos of their 2008 show in Waregem, Belgium, and despite only McCoy being left of the original line-up, it truly was awe-inspiring. That man is shrouded in shadows and charisma, literally. I like Sisters’ unique sound of hard guitars and cold drum machine beats. Everyone hails Billy Idol, but he doesn’t have anything on Andrew Eldritch. Other than that, I’m pretty open to all music styles, if it’s good music, it’s good music, no matter the genre.
In the gothic genre, Fields of the Nephilim are by far my favorite, followed by Sisters of Mercy. Dawnrazor is the album responsible for bringing me into the goth scene. The classic The Cure albums like ‘Seventeen Seconds’ or ‘Pornography’ are also among my all-time favorites, but most of their more contemporary work… Meh. I also love the Scary Bitches. ‘Creepy Crawlies’ is such a brilliant album!
In the metal genre, I grew up with the Big 4, Anthrax, Megadeth, Slayer and of course Metallica, who are my absolute favorite metal band. They get a lot of flak and it has become popular to hate them after that whole Napster-thing, but ‘Master’ and ‘Ride’ are legendary albums, and ‘Kill’em All’ is still one of my all-time favorite albums. I also like Ghoultown, they’re like a bridge between both genres, dark and goth vibes paired with heavy guitars.
MBM: I agree! That’s interesting how you got into goth ‘by accident.’ What band would you like to recommend to our readers?
Daniel: I’d like to recommend a German electro-industrial band called Straftanz, they’re absolutely brilliant live… Pure energy. You think metal crowds are wild? Go to one of their shows. They’ll blow you away with how they energize the audience. Plus, their lyrics are smart and witty, and the music is catchy. My favorite tune of theirs is “Tanzt kaputt was euch kaputt macht.” I’d also like to recommend Temple of Nemesys, which is the new project from CNX (ex-Tamtrum). They are a French band we endorse that play a sweet mix of guitar-heavy aggro music, it’s like a punch to the guts, but in a good way. The Dresden Dolls are also high on my list. Amanda Palmer is such a fantastic and inspiring woman, and her shows are pure entertainment. Oh, and Ghoultown, from Texas I believe, is also in my top five; ‘Life After Sundown’ is one of my all-time favorite albums.
MBM: Great. I am familiar with Amanda Palmer and will definitely check out those other bands. Are there any local bands, or maybe bands lesser known to our readers, that you would like to recommend?
Daniel: I already mentioned Straftanz and Temple of Nemesys, but I would like to add November-7 to the list. They’re a Swiss band who play female-fronted metal, their lead singer Annamaria Cozza has one of the best voices in the genre. Each and every one of their albums is filled with musical gems… No fillers, all killers. And they’re formidable on stage!
U.S. bands, I would like to give a shout-out to Ravenscroft and Absolon, both bands have fantastic debut albums out and deserve to get a shot at bigger audiences. The sound is powerful and clean, with great compositions. It’s quite unbelievable that these albums are debut albums, because they sound so mature.
MBM: Very cool on Ravenscroft. I’m friends with them and so happy for their success. What final words do you have for our readers?
Daniel: We hope to welcome you at The Black Angel in the near future and give you an opportunity to check our service and the quality of our clothing for yourself! The past 16 years have been a wild and fantastic experience, thanks to you all, and we’ll make sure the next 16 get even better!
MBM: Thank you Daniel for the interview This has been both education and interesting for me, being a goth/metal fan, and a clothing company owner who has spent some time in Europe. I look forward to checking out the bands you mentioned and wish you and The Black angel continued future success.
***The Black Angel is offering a special 15% off discount to fans and friends of Metal Babe Mayhem. Simply use the Promo Code: METALBABE when you checkout to save!!
(Offer excludes Alchemy Gothic and Queen of Darkness)