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December 14, 2016
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January 19, 2017
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Lucifer Ascending

In August, I wrote a blog called “Confessions from the Devil” about the crippled course of The Devil’s Carnival series. It was difficult to write. Difficult, because it felt like an official separation letter from a project to which I’d wed myself for half of a decade.

corn-husk-dolls

My romance with TDC had all the typical trappings of marriage and divorce: passionate courtships and meddling in-laws, dewy-eyed collaborations and unrealistic vows, pretty dresses and bitter disputes… and a displaced child. Fittingly, this devilish matrimony also had a touch of all of the deadly sins.

wedding-rings

I obviously have a lot of conflicted feelings about the way things are left with The Devil’s Carnival. Aside from the blood and years committed to the pilgrimage, I really believe in the message of the movies. Sure, there’s a lot of onscreen glitter and camp, but there’s also a celebration of the weird and the willful, and a condemnation of theocracy.

There is also the matter of TDC‘s fans, thousands of wonderfully wicked souls who believe in and have supported the project for years. Knowing there’s a dedicated fanbase wanting more makes the unceremonious way in which the series is left hanging feel especially lame and shortsighted.

lucifer-tattoo

At the end of each year, I routinely find myself in a reflective mood, thinking back on the successes and failures of the dying year, and contemplating the promise of the one to come. These recent musings made me think about The Devil’s Carnival, which is why I’m writing this blog.

lucifer-cosplay

There were many triumphs and losses experienced with TDC over the years, but last week my brain fixated on a singular regret: a frustration and depression over the notion that I may never get to portray Lucifer’s origin story, never get to share my take on this epic character, who was thwarted and humiliated, but who overcame loss and fear by using will and imagination to shape a new world.

carnival

And then it dawned on me, this is precisely my story for 2016.

The story starts in the fall of 2015. Reeling from the abusive, dishonest treatment that the TDC2 touring crew and I had just suffered, I returned home to the reality that my tour colleagues had been stiffed, that I allowed myself to succumb to litigious bullying, and that a project I loved and bled for would be entering a state of limbo (from which it would most-likely never recover) due to the mistakes, incompetence and bad business of a select few. It was a devastating homecoming.

Lucifer poster

I wallowed in this state for a while. Months. Hoping that things would change, that grievances would be addressed, and that a plan to deliver on all of the promise that the musical series had to offer would be enacted. Instead, those involved chose to act as though none of the grossness ever happened and I—the author, co-composer and star of the series—was all but dismissed from any meaningful conversation on the project’s future. It was a cold and ego-sobering reality.

By winter, the ashes of The Devil’s Carnival seemed to cover all of 2015 in gloom. What emerged from this rubble, however, was not defeat, but a new resolve.

blood-travelers

In early 2016, Saar Hendelman, TDC‘s co-composer, and I launched a brand-new project called American Murder Song. In doing so, we set some reeeeally ambitious goals for the year. Our mission: create a musical brand that was every bit as artistically bold and rich as The Carnival series, but with way less cooks in the kitchen, far more modest budgets, and a commitment to honest and respectful business practices.

workboard

On a personal level, I also set out to ascend above The Carnival debris and deliver a satisfactory and cathartic experience for myself and the fans who were left in the lurch, as well as mend some of the relationships that were bruised by TDC‘s fallout.

Saar and I launched American Murder Song in March 2016. By this coming March, we will have recorded twenty original songs, produced over fifty videos, completed a thirty-five city tour, and laid the way for an exciting future with the project (some big announcements on this last point are a-coming down the pike soon!). In other words, we met and exceeded our goals.

1816-flag

The American Murder Song road was not without its bumps, but overall the ride was smooth and satisfying. In November, at the end of six-week The American Wake Tour, everyone on the tour crew was sad that the journey was ending, and eager to do it all over again if given the opportunity. This was the polar opposite of the ways things ended on the final TDC tour.

jada-gold

This positivity and warmth was not just present aboard American Murder Song‘s tour van (“The Murder Wagon”), but exuding from the audiences who attended our shows. There were many touching moments with fans, but two bear repeating here:

At our NYC show, which took place in a very cramped venue, audience members near the front of our stage sat down, as a group, whenever an onstage video component played. They did this, without any prompting or conversation, to make sure that those behind them could better view the screen.

nyc

In Minneapolis, when our band played some post-show instrumental tunes, the entire crowd—again without prompting or discussion—sang along to “The Star-Spangled Banner”… even though the familiar tune was presented in a most unfamiliar minor key.

In other words, our fans are awesome!

minneapolis

On tour, the whole project was aglow with a sense of kindness and community, and it was a honor to witness and be a part of American Murder Song‘s rise in 2016.

dallas

I know what you’re thinking. Did TZ really just compare his petty and privileged artistic struggles with Lucifer’s fall? You bet your evil ass I did. Hail Satan!

I’m sharing all of this not to gloat, but because I’m excited. Excited, both by the achievements of 2016 and the promise of 2017. I also hope that some of you struggling artistic souls out there will find the journey and perseverance inspiring.

ams-tattoo

I also want to take this opportunity to thank all of you who are part of the adventure with me. Thank you for believing in and supporting my artwork, and for not giving up on this ol’ devil.

mister-tender

There are a lot of souls who contributed to making American Murder Song‘s inaugural year a success. Too many to thank here, but there is a handful of talented souls who deserve special thanks at this year end juncture:

Jake Akuna (director, editor and visual effects artist for the bulk of our videos—that’s s photo of his AMS workboard above), Oceano Ransford (designer of the majority of our graphics and logos, including The Mark, which has been tattooed on many a fine soul, including yours truly), Scotty Morris and Cedrick Courtois (music producers and mixers of all of our murder tunes), Scully Rybarczyk (tour booker, manager, and road goddess), and Brian Smith (our videographer, who’s presently directing and editing a documentary on AMS‘s impressive 2016 expedition). Thank you, all.

box-set

Brian’s documentary, which is currently available for pre-order, comes in a fancy box set. The box set is a replica of the compass featured in American Murder Song‘s music videos. It includes two CDs of murder ballads, a DVD of the documentary, and a numbered certificate of authenticity (we’re only making 1500 box sets, so get yours now as these are most definitely a collector’s item!).

So, if you’re looking for something on which to spend the money that Santa gave you, order one of these beauties today: http://americanmurdersong.com/GetBloody.

box-set

In short, I’m not sure what the future of The Devil’s Carnival will be. All I know is that American Murder Song is an experience that I look forward to continuing to share with you in the new year and beyond.

Happy New Year, everyone!

  • Happy New Year to you, Mr. Zdunich – thanks for your wonderful art and talent (and all the memories), and sooo looking forward to 2017 and whatever new adventures you carve out for all of us. We are here with you in heart and spirit. HUGS!! 🙂 <3

  • Kellie Stewart

    We were so excited to have an opportunity to see you and Saar perform together. It was a wonderful experience that we look forward to repeating, hopefully sooner than later. You are an inspiration with your ability to step away from something that is not as it should be under your creativity and start something new. Whatever comes next is always amazing and can’t wait to see what it is. We are getting an Alamo Draft House here, so hopefully the next tour will bring you here. Wherever it is, we’ll be there, cheering you on.

  • Robin Casey

    Honestly, the Wake was the best night of my year.

  • Ashe Renate

    if i had a glass to raise to you, i would. may the new year be as murderous as the last.

  • Incog Nito

    Can’t wait to see what you guys have in store for 2017! Wishing you a murderous New Year!

  • Renee D. Burreson

    Kudos, hats off, and best of wishes to you in the upcoming year! May all your efforts come to fruition.

  • Savannah Bourne

    I hope to see you rise even higher than Lucifer fell! Much love and murder to you <3

  • Laurie Neufeld

    The motto of my grandmother’s clan – the Fergusons – echoes your journey, Terrance: Dulcis ex asperis. “The sweet distilled from the bitter.” So glad I was able to share in your murd’rous journey, you wonderful devils. I still plan on inviting you to bring your Wake back to Colorado … still hoping to make it Inauguration Night. I may have to visit the Crossroads and make a deal.

  • James Darter

    Terrence. Any time you and Saar make your long awaited return to Dallas, in whatever form or fashion, my brother and I (along with the many sinners & survivors we made acquaintances with on the 5th of November) will be there to welcome you once again. With open arms.

  • Michele McAdams

    I truly hope you have a Happy New Year, Terrance. I’ve followed you work for sometime now and love it. It goes along with my own twisted sense of humor and macabre. I wish I had been able to be at one of wakes to meet you guys. Hopefully next year, I will.

  • Tiffany Kintzel

    I’m excited to see what you bring us in the next coming years! I want to thank you for this year and also to thank you for putting the tattoo I did of you on my brother up. It means the world to me that you at least saw it let alone put it up!

  • Ian Anderson

    Going to see you in Minneapolis was the best experience I’ve EVER had.( No exaggeration) It was the best because I could finally meet a long time idol in the flesh. And my heart filled with happiness when you mentioned us singing The Star Spangled Banner. Your signed copies of the movies and merchandise sit proudly on my shelf, reminding me of all the Devilish memories. In case your wondering, I was the guy singing those operatic notes. I’m looking forward to receiving the documentary as well.

  • Tiffany Fallon

    I look forward to reading your blog. This current one reminds me of the Tale of the phoenix. Its not that devils carnival maybe completely over but you took your experience from that project. im a bit sad i missed out on
    devils carnival but i just ordered a copy of it and alleulia. im eagerly awaiting for jan 31 and after for the compass. Happy New Year to you and everyone who hand in American murder song.

  • Kortney Bowen

    <3

  • Kate

    Bless you, if that is not too theologically distasteful. Consider it a nod from Thor, Loki, Ganesh, Vishnu- there are many more to choose from!! And that little lot like a joke and a drink far more than joyless corporate faiths. This New Year Eve I plan to view the Carnival as it finally becomes available to use Rookies in the UK who could not get to the USA to see the original tour or films. Ironic? Seeing out a year with a seen-out show? Well, I always had a thing for Milton’s devil- and I suspect you do, too, so let’s raise a toast to the old man. Onward, T and S and all- west, west, west, west! Mind you, you keep going long enough, you’ll be in the east- and into Lucifer’s morning star domain again…. it all goes around, comes around. Much love comes your way- and thanks for your artistic integrity and soul. Be well, Mr Z, and be happy. xx

  • Andromeda Aristy

    Whenever I get into a really bad depression, (2016 was not a pleasant year) your candid blog always cheers me up, TZ. <3 It's really easy to see TDC and TDC2 were labors of love, despite all the hardships that came with TDC2–and they're my favourite movies because of it! I preordered a compass, and I can't wait until it comes in. 😀 I already know exactly where I want it to go! I can't wait to see what 2017 will bring!

  • Barbara

    Hey- I did this comic drawing in response to this blog post and the confession of the devil. As saddened as I am that there won’t be a third party I absolutely understand and I am grateful for Devil’s Carnival. I made this piece out of the sheer love of Devil’s Carnival. Thank you.
    http://mistress-psyche.deviantart.com/art/I-Knew-You-Would-Come-Devil-s-Carnival-656210120

  • Drew Fernandez

    I spoke with you briefly at TDC QnA session. I mentioned how I studied Satanic tropes through history. You have embodied the spirit of taking control back after the Fall. This is the most important trait of Satan in art and spirituality.

    I would love to see TDC finish as a web comic with a killer soundtrack or an animated movie. There are many possibilities that your fans, including myself will love. Your resiliance has inspired me since Repo, and I’m proud of the artist you’ve become and can’t wait to see what’s next!