Music News

The Siren Project's Story Spans Continents and Decades

The Siren Project is about to release its first proper album, Dénouement. The album serves as a showcase for the type of songwriting the band has excelled at throughout its two decades of existence. Although most often associated with the Denver goth scene, the Siren Project reached beyond that genre for this effort, playing lush, dark and melodic songs that appeal to a wider range of fans. The group has put an emphasis on electronic music in recent years, and the new album reflects that evolution. “I never identified myself as being in a goth band, and I think people in the goth scene saw that,” says lead singer Malgorzata Wacht. “I always felt like our music could reach other audiences.”

Wacht, who grew up in Stalowa Wola, Poland, during the Communist era, has been performing all her life. While riding a public bus as a very young child, she once spontaneously walked up to the front and started singing through the PA microphone. When she was six, an illness put her in the hospital, where she sang for adult patients. She bought crayons and paper with the money they gave her.

Though she had no formal training, Wacht was surrounded by music, as her parents and grandparents all sang and played instruments. In her early middle-school years, she bought her first guitar, and her obsession with music only grew during her teen years.

“We only had two channels on television,” she says. “There wasn’t music anywhere, just bootlegs. I remember one day, I got on my skateboard, which my brother got for me in Germany, and gave it away for tapes [of bands] like Siouxsie and the Banshees or the Cure — bootleg tapes.”

Wacht also took an interest in the live bands from Poland that she could actually see in concert. “My favorite band then was Zaczarowany Olówek,” she says. “And I listened to Sztywny Pal Azji. To me, they were alternative. Sztywny Pal Azji talked about politics, and I was also very interested in what was going on in the world. A lot of these people were into vegetarianism and veganism. But they used metaphors to hide their criticism of the government.”

Wacht, however, had a sense that if she didn’t get out of Poland and learn English, she would have no chance of achieving any semblance of her dream of being a singer, because the music she loved most came from the English-speaking world. So she applied for a visa to come to the U.S. to join her mother. The first time she tried, her application was denied. But she tried again a few years later, now seventeen years old, sporting a Mohawk and a leather jacket, with her little sister in tow. The American representative at the visa office seemed to take a liking to the plucky pair, and this time her application was approved. Wacht arrived in Littleton in 1991.

She didn’t speak English initially, but she picked up the language from watching Star Trek and through friends. Following a stint working at Pizza Hut, she found a job at Sound Warehouse in Cinderella City, where she could not only explore music, but become connected with people in the music industry.

Among her new acquaintances at the time was Andy Anderson, who was very involved in the city’s goth scene and who would ultimately introduce her to her Siren Project bandmate. Wacht remembers their meeting well: “I went to St. Mark’s Cafe one day. Andy saw me and walked straight to me and my friend and said, ‘How are you, my beautiful bottle of wine?’ He went on his knees, kissed my hand, and we became friends. I thought he was psychotic or really fucking funny.”

The first concert Wacht attended in Denver continues to have a huge impact on her today. Friends took her to see the legendary alternative-rock band Twice Wilted at 7 South, a club that used to occupy the space where the hi-dive is today. The show seemed powerful and valid, even though it wasn’t happening in a big venue. The experience ultimately inspired Wacht to start her own band, though that wouldn’t happen until years later, after she’d gotten to know Alex Seminara.

Seminara grew up in Denver and attended Mullen High School, where, in 1987, he met Otto Cate and formed the band Contingence. Cate’s parents helped them get the project off the ground by outfitting them with high-quality Ensoniq gear. Shortly after its members graduated from high school, Contingence came to the attention of the Denver-based industrial band Rorschach Test, and in 1993, the two acts toured the West Coast. It was on that tour that Seminara first met Anderson.

“We played at this place called the Crazy Horse [in Idaho] and met this tall black fellow with a yarmulke,” says Seminara. “That was Andy Anderson.”

Anderson introduced Seminara and Wacht to each other later that year, but initially they weren’t much more than acquaintances. Then, in October 1995, Seminara happened to be looking for a ticket to a sold-out Nine Inch Nails show, and Wacht, who had just broken up with her boyfriend, had an extra one. It wasn’t long before the two struck up an intense creative partnership that was also, for a time, romantic.

They formed the Siren Project in 1998, with Wacht on lead vocals, Seminara playing keyboards and singing backup, and veteran Denver musician Ian Pendergast on bass. The band soon became a staple in the goth scene and has remained that way ever since. Although the group has seen several lineup changes over the years, the core creative collaboration between Seminara and Wacht has endured.

The Siren Project put together an EP in 2002, but it never saw wide distribution, and periodic recordings never amounted to a proper album’s worth of material. During a recording session last year, their engineer suggested that the two introduce themselves to Bryan Erickson of pioneering Denver EBM band Velvet Acid Christ. Erickson subsequently invited Wacht to sing vocals with his band during a summer European tour that included a date in her home town in Poland.

Erickson’s enthusiasm for Wacht and Seminara extended to the Siren Project. In June of this year, he took the rough recordings the two had assembled over the years and mixed them into a coherent album. Wacht had just been laid off from her longtime job with international style company Napoleon Perdis, so the timing was good for a proper push behind the new material.

“If it wasn’t for Bryan, this album wouldn’t [have gotten] finished, I guarantee it,” says Wacht. “Alex learned a lot from Bryan, how to create and produce music. [Alex and I] struggle and fight and have a love-hate relationship; he wants to murder me every other day.” But, she adds, that’s how “the magic happens.”

The Siren Project, With Velvet Acid Christ, DJ Ritual, DJ Pharoahmoan, DJ Sante, DJ Juju, 7:30 p.m., Saturday, October 31, Casselman’s Bar & Venue, $20, 720-242-8923.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.