Goth Angel Sinner Rides Again

Andrew Matson unearths an interview with Fish Narc about Lil Peep's creativity.
By    November 18, 2019

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Lil Peep celebrated his birthday for the last time on Halloween 2017, with a skull painted on his face. The underground star who was becoming a mainstream concern turned 21 at midnight at the Highline Ballroom in lower Manhattan (Nov 1 being his actual birthday)—then accidentally overdosed a few days later on tour in Tucson. Dozens of candlelit vigils were held around the world. Popular artists who had been jacking his style gave heartfelt props on Twitter. And with regard to his archive, the fuckery began. 

Peep’s performance that Halloween was highlighted by three unreleased ballads–including a track that, unbeknownst to everyone, would appear later on the Game of Thrones soundtrack featuring Ty Dolla $ign (“When I Lie”). 

Several posthumous tweaks have been made to other demos/works in progress: featured artists Peep never recorded with (XXXTentacion), instrumentation he never heard, song structures he wasn’t aware of, the list goes on. The blame lies at the hands of First Access Entertainment, the label that signed him after he was already an underground icon. Those edits split his audience, who can’t help but wonder how much of it Peep would’ve liked. 

So there was relief amongst purists a few weeks ago, when those three songs finally came out in their original forms. This past Halloween, the Goth Angel Sinner EP became an Internet bootleg no more, and is now yours to bang on major streaming services. 

GAS ranks with the best of Peep’s catalog, consisting of informal first-take songs: “When I Lie,” “Moving On,” and “Belgium.” All three tracks feature on last week’s Everybody’s Everything documentary soundtrack, which preserves Peep’s archive as polished demos instead of the drastically unauthorized versions. But that’s a separate conversation. 

GAS deserves to be taken on its own. It’s the last project Peep was publicly proud about and wanted the world to hear. He died mid-promotion and his Twitter name remains GOTH ANGEL SINNER.

“I think it’s where he was going next,” says engineer Better Off Dead of GAS, who recorded it in Los Angeles. “It’s more open, more rock than trap. Not as much rolling hi-hats and crazy 808s. Goth Angel Sinner was just like, real shit, stripped to the core, Lil Peep.”

During Peep’s life nobody could nail him down as a rapper or a rocker. “Call it what you want, boy,” he sang. “I’m a real life goth boy.” Most critics didn’t get him and neither did his label. He just did his thing and it resonated. The establishment slept on his name-making music with Gothboiclique, his legendary albums Crybaby and Hellboy, and his insane run with Lil Tracy (including “Witchblades,” a SoundCloud classic). 

Once music business players glommed onto the wave, things predictably went screwy. Under FAE’s direction, Peep’s final music was written, produced and mixed like slick ‘00s alt rock. Their albums together Come Over When You’re Sober and Come Over When You’re Sober II are a distinct phase: more conventional, less referential to pop culture, less spark overall. The second album was especially hit-and-miss.

GAS feels like Peep reclaiming his experimentalism. GBC gets a rousing roll call on “Moving On,” and the music is produced by GBC’s Fish Narc in the style of “Sonic Youth with 808s.” It captures Peep’s casual brilliance and unruly cool, and to me works as a dignified musical coda. (Disclosure: Fish Narc is my friend.) 

I tried to write about GAS over the past few years. Where was it? Why didn’t anyone in the FAE camp seem to care how good it was? Would it get the Frankenstein treatment a la Come Over When You’re Sober II? I was met with pressure from publicists working for FAE. It’s a sensitive topic, what happens to artists’ work after they die. Especially if it might make you rich. 

Now that the music is formally out with minimal liberties taken, maybe none of that matters. But for those who miss Peep and want to know more about that period of his creativity: here’s my interview with Fish Narc from last year about making the tracks, back when it wasn’t clear what form GAS was going to take. — Andrew Matson

It sounds like there’s a chance Goth Angel Sinner might finally come out. Does that mean you’re talking to Peep’s mom again?

Fish Narc: I don’t want it to seem like we stopped talking for any reason. It’s just that [FAE’s] Sarah Stennett had advised me not to reach out to Liza before she reached out to me. And that took a little while. So Mezzy, the guy who’s making the documentary, set it up. And that’s when she reached out to me.

What’s the history of Goth Angel Sinner? It was performed on the last tour, people know those songs, and Peep changed his Twitter name to the title of the project. It’s something people expected to come out.

Fish Narc: I was sitting at home in L.A. last summer, 2017, and Gab3 – Gabe with a three – called me and said he and Peep were going to be with this guy Chris at his studio, and come through and make beats, yadda yadda. “We’re on mushrooms.” So I recorded three sets of guitars I could make three beats out of, really in a rush. And I did it with just an interface and an electric guitar, no amps, no mic, no nothing. And I brought those to the studio, and started making beats. And they were really shroomed out, it was really funny. And they were getting distracted, so I had to switch between the beats every 20 minutes. So I made these three different beats, switching between them over two hours or so, and they were like tripping out, crying listening to the songs, which was really cool. And then two days later Peep and I went to another studio, and recorded “When I Lie” and “Belgium,” with engineer Adam Sani, also known as Better Off Dead. Mackned and Cold Hart were there. Skylar from Snuff Redux was there. And we recorded those songs and Peep just one-took them. One layer of vocals and one backing track. Which was very rare for him, because he normally did ten layers of vocals. We were like, Wow, we’re really onto something.

We came back two days later, and he didn’t like the third beat I had made that night, so I made another one, and that became “Moving On.” He recorded on that one, and that night he also made “Black Jeep.” These songs kind of popped out of nowhere, but then Peep and I were like, Whoa, you only did one track vocals, this is crazy, this is a new sound, this is a new project. We started slapping them everywhere. That was when he was recording with Makonnen, so we were playing those songs when we were taking breaks working on the Makonnen project. And that was when we realized it was really special. The plan was to release them. I went to London and ended up doing more pop edits with [FAE’s] George Astasio. So I think what is being decided right now is if the originals or the pop edits or both are going to come out. I think there was some contention about what the desire of Peep was. Was that thorough?

Very. What’s the difference between what you made originally and the pop edits?

Fish Narc: The pop edits are more Come Over When You’re Sober style. The originals are like rock songs, they kind of sound like Sonic Youth with Peep on them, with 808s. Honestly, they’re more radical. But I did work with George on the pop edits, too, so I’m not just discrediting someone’s work. You know, I just prefer the originals better. They’re more raw. They’re what Peep wanted to come out immediately. He played them constantly.

And he performed them at every stop on the Come Over When You’re Sober tour.

Fish Narc: Every stop on that tour, every song, all the way through. Every night.

You sent me a pack of demos once, and there was a song called “Fangirl” and one called “Liar.” What’s up with those?

Fish Narc: “Liar” was a random song we did with Bighead that summer. And “Fangirl” was part of a three-song EP we did with Gab3, neither of which I don’t think are scheduled for release. [Ed. note: They are all on Everybody’s Everything.]

And the songs that are Goth Angel Sinner: What are they about?

Fish Narc: They’re about self-reflection rather than bravado. “Belgium” is about his internal process and thinking through his sense of love. It’s also a metaphor for other things. Peep’s lyrics had layers of meanings but that song seemed to be about how he related to other people and how he related to himself. And like, the different versions of oneself that are constantly battling. Like when you have self-doubt, like, “Why did I say that?” Well, who is “I”? The song addresses that boundary, inside and outside. “When I Lie” relates to toxic relationships and drug use. And so does “Moving On.” But these are not exactly nuanced descriptions. You need to listen and pick your interpretation and see how the words play off each other.

Do you remember how it felt to see him record that part of “Moving On” when he does the Gothboiclique roll-call?

Fish Narc: Yeah, it was tight. We were with Mackned and Cold Hard, and we were just like, Whooooo! We were turning up. I think we were on molly water.

That song was recorded during a time when the relationship between Peep and Gothboiclique was unclear, and fans didn’t know what was up. But it seems to reveal there was no love lost.

Fish Narc: There was no love lost. It was tense at points. But Gothboiclique has come to stand in for this big L.A. scene, and I think it was the L.A. scene that was making him tired. I don’t think it was GBC. There were a lot of people who spent way more time on his couch than GBC. I think that’s what he was getting exhausted with. I don’t think there was any love lost between Peep and and GBC, which most people don’t understand, of which were nine people, 10 including Peep. The media and other people have not done the work to understand those two things.

Yawns told me when Peep moved to Europe, Yawns and Horse Head moved into his apartment in L.A.

Fish Narc: Yeah he invited them.

And on the Come Over When You’re Sober tour, GBC was on those dates.

Fish Narc: Every single date. We opened for him the entire tour.

It’s interesting when Come Over When You’re Sober came out, I was like, Oh he’s trying a new sound…

Fish Narc: Well it had just been spruced up.

Right. But then the Goth Angel Sinner songs show he was working on another sound too.

Fish Narc: Come Over When You’re Sober was music he worked on for months before Goth Angel Sinner. It just was worked on in the studio and it took a long time for a proper release. Goth Angel Sinner was the rawest of the raw. It just happened. And that was what it was.

So the time between you guys recording it and performing it was immediate.

Fish Narc: Immediate. And when he performed it, the backing track was literally the demo.

Oh wow.

Fish Narc: I’m not kidding. We just played the backing track. There was no higher mix until Yawns and I did it long after he passed.

So what’s leaked: The old files?

Fish Narc: The leaked version is the demo. The demo got leaked.

That’s bad right? You’re not getting paid off it?

Fish Narc: I don’t know.

Was that the only way those songs were going to come out, in that form?

Fish Narc: No, I don’t think so. After talking to Liza, Peep’s mom, she wants all his music to come out in original form. She and I have actually talked about it. I think the proper Yawns mixes, which are better versions of the demo, with the same song structures, are going to come out along with the pop mixes. Which I’m really not opposed to. You need to show both sides. And I believe Liza’s dedicated to that.

That’s really reassuring to hear.

Fish Narc: For me too.

I’m sorry it’s been such an arduous process.

Fish Narc: It’s been really difficult.

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