The last time my good buddy Matt flew in from the East Coast, we headed south to Tacoma to visit one of his favorite Tiki Bars, Tacoma Cabana (click here to read all about it). As always when enjoying the brilliant concoctions of mixologist Jason Alexander, the drinks flowed late into that beautiful evening.
Naturally after a late night, caffeine was in order the following morning. Because Matt is as much a fan of a “damn good cup of coffee” as he is a finely crafted cocktail—and because I like to keep things local—we paid a visit to Pete’s Coffee. This is Seattle after all!
Like clockwork, coffee conversations turned to the subject of music and we were discussing one of our mutual favorites: surf rock by way of St. Petersburg, Russia, the Messer Chups. They were scheduled to play this year’s Tiki Oasis in San Diego. Sadly, neither of us would be in attendance to catch their show. Matt mentioned an old friend of his living in the San Diego area, Raul, who would likely be there. Matt knew Raul from the New York City area music scene where they shared a common interest and friends in the noise/experimental/industrial scene. At first, I was surprised that someone into that kind of music would be into the Tiki culture. Matt went on to explain Raul’s involvement in the Church of Satan, which I honestly knew nothing about, let alone that there was a Tiki/Satanist connection. I wondered how Raul got into Tiki. Were there other Satanists into Tiki and is there a connection between these lifestyles?
Needless to say, my interest in these crossovers meant I had plenty more questions for Raul. Matt suggested that I simply ask him myself. That’s exactly what I did. Not only did Raul answer my questions, he passed them along to Peggy Nadramia and she gave her answers as well. Peggy is the High Priestess of the Church Of Satan, she also has her own blog about mixed drinks called Cocktail Vultures!
What brought you into the Tiki lifestyle and how long has it been part of your life?
RAUL ANTONY: I’ve been familiar with the Tiki subculture for many years. What was once in the periphery came more into the foreground in my life when I moved to San Diego almost 10 years ago to be with my wife. She has always been into exotic, retro pin-up culture, and thus we explored the Tiki world together, going to various events, collecting mugs, and decorating our dining room with Polynesian kitsch. Our wedding rehearsal dinner was at the beautiful Bali Hai.
PEGGY NADRAMIA: As you know from my blog, Cocktail Vultures, I’m a cocktailian. I’m not entirely sure which is a subset of which, but every cocktailian I know has a healthy respect for Tiki culture, or what is referred to academically as “Polynesian Pop.” Some of my best memories as a child were of the nights my parents and aunts and uncles would come home from the Hawaii Kai or Luau 400, feeling no pain, with leis, swizzle sticks, and tiny paper umbrellas for me, along with tales of indoor waterfalls and drinks on fire. Wow.
As I entered the swing of vintage cocktail and lounge culture in the 1990s, I wanted to recapture some of this joy and started collecting Tiki mugs and visiting the last of the Polynesian restaurants remaining in the Tri-State area. I even made it all the way to the Bali Hai with a certain Church of Satan official who used to hula there!
I understand that you’re also involved with the Church of Satan. How did that become part of your life? What is your role?
RAUL ANTONY: I’ve been interested in Satanism in general since I was a young teenager, and followed the activities of the Church of Satan and their members well into my early twenties. While in college and afterwards, I was hosting, promoting, and performing in the extreme counterculture scene in New York City. Many of the artists I was in contact with were members of the Church of Satan. The milestone was the Blood Axis show I promoted and was DJ for in 2005, a show which had several COS members performing and many in attendance. One of the major principles of the Church of Satan is that they’re not a proselyting religion and don’t require Satanists to join unless they can benefit from it. At that point I recognized the fact that I was benefiting from the support of the organization and wished to pay that back as well as continue my involvement with their cabal. Since then, I’ve worked with a number of members, both in public and behind the scenes, on a variety of projects. This includes being a director at our podcast network, Radio Free Satan, and working with Satanic book publishers, one of our clothing manufacturers, musicians, writers, video producers, and more. In time, I worked directly with High Priest Peter Gilmore and High Priestess Peggy Nadramia and got to spend more time with them at their Black House. On Halloween of 2013, I was granted the title of Reverend/Priest, which recognizes me as a representative of the organization and our philosophy.
PEGGY NADRAMIA: I’ve been a Satanist since the 1970s when I first read The Satanic Bible by Anton Szandor LaVey. The attitude and principles espoused therein closely matched my own view of the universe and my place in it. I also found LaVey’s lifestyle and aesthetics completely inspiring and liberating. I joined the Church of Satan in the early 1980s. In 2002, I became High Priestess.
What is your favorite Tiki drink recipe? What do you think makes the perfect cocktail?
RAUL ANTONY: I like the classics and usually get a Zombie or Navy Grog. I like drinks that get the job done. Honestly, I’m not much of a mixologist, so I’ll leave that to Peggy to address in detail, but generally I think Tiki drinks should have a backstory, character, and pack a hidden punch.
PEGGY NADRAMIA: My favorite Tiki drink is the Mai Tai. As wonderful as others may be— and I love many of them—nothing matches the Mai Tai for the perfect balance of ingredients and pure magic. As every Tikiphile knows, the Mai Tai is out of this world…the best!
The perfect cocktail is the one you make yourself with your favorite ingredients. That said, I firmly believe in fresh fruit, homemade syrup with real sugar, and carefully chosen liquor. It doesn’t have to be top-shelf, but it should be in a glass bottle and without a lot of added, fake flavorings. It’s easy to add REAL flavor to your cocktails, so why not just do that?
Can you give a little overview what your beliefs are? What would you say are some common misconceptions people tend to have about the COS?
PEGGY NADRAMIA: Here are the Nine Satanic Statements by Anton Szandor LaVey. They originally appeared in The Satanic Bible in 1969. I could paraphrase the whole thing for you, but these really do give you the best overview of what we do and don’t stand for. More information—and I do mean MORE—is available on our website.
Satan represents indulgence instead of abstinence!
Satan represents vital existence instead of spiritual pipe dreams!
Satan represents undefiled wisdom instead of hypocritical self-deceit!
Satan represents kindness to those who deserve it instead of love wasted on ingrates!
Satan represents vengeance instead of turning the other cheek!
Satan represents responsibility to the responsible instead of concern for psychic vampires!
Satan represents man as just another animal, sometimes better, more often worse than those that walk on all fours, who, because of his “divine spiritual and intellectual development,” has become the most vicious animal of all!
Satan represents all of the so-called sins, as they all lead to physical, mental, or emotional gratification!
Satan has been the best friend the Church has ever had, as He has kept it in business all these years!
Once you clear away all the silly horror movie clichés about Satanism, the biggest misconception people have about the Church of Satan is that we are in any way concerned about non-Satanists; about what they think of us, or about converting them to our religion. We firmly believe that you either are a Satanist, or you aren’t, and that “our people” will find us. We provide a plethora of information to the general public so that they will know what we’re about, and those interested in further involvement can make an informed choice.
RAUL ANTONY: I also think misconceptions come from two extremes. One side thinks we believe in and worship a literal Satan. Peggy covers this as an easily dismissed horror movie cliché. The other extreme is that we are MERELY atheists. This is also inaccurate. We see Satanism as both a philosophy and an actual, fully fleshed-out carnal religion, complete with dogmas, rituals, shared symbolism, aesthetic, art, and culture. Then there’s the idea that we’re all sullen, blood drenched metal-heads. Well, here we are talking about Tiki drinks and flower shirts!
What is your favorite Tiki bar? Outside of a good bartender, what do you think are essential elements in creating the perfect environment?
RAUL ANTONY: My favorite Tiki bar so far would have to be Don the Beachcomber in Huntington Beach. It’s criminal that we haven’t been to False Idol yet, but I hear nothing but outstanding things about it.
PEGGY NADRAMIA: My favorite place to go for an evening of Tiki drinking is the Mai Kai in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I love sitting in the Molokai Lounge with a Jet Pilot in front of me, watching the water stream down the sunken-ship windows, and I adore strolling the gardens and applauding the dancers. I know there are some newer places to try, and when I get a chance, I will! Not sure my answer will change, though. I have so much respect for this icon of American culture.
Any good cocktail environment should have low lighting, comfortable seating, appropriate music that allows for conversation, and maybe a few salty snacks. It should have friends, old and new, and it should be warm with the beneficence and good humor that only a round of drinks can bring.
Are there other Satanists that are into Tiki? If so, what is the connection?
PEGGY NADRAMIA: There are several members of the Church of Satan who enjoy Tiki culture, to a greater or lesser extent. Several members of our clergy have been instrumental in supplying my own Tiki bar with their “doubles” and I’ve received many lovely Tiki gifts over the years.
The connection between Tiki and Satanism can be traced to Anton LaVey’s Pentagonal Revisionism: A Five-Point Plan,” which he wrote in 1988. Point Number Five dictates: “The opportunity for anyone to live within a total environment of his or her choice, with mandatory adherence to the aesthetic and behavioral standards of same.” Tikiphiles should understand this immediately, because they fit right in here, to the extent that their lifestyles and economic necessities allow.
RAUL ANTONY: At this year’s Tiki Oasis, we had a something like a Church of Satan contingent at the event, including several of the performers on the main stage and at the room crawls. As the wife and I were walking around during the Jimmy Psycho Experiment performance (frontman is a Warlock in the COS), we bumped into Magistra Templi Rex Blanche Barton. Over the course of the weekend, we ran into other members and fellow travelers, many of us taking over a part of the Kindred metal cocktail bar.
There seems to be a lot of crossover into certain music-related subcultures like goth and rockabilly. Why do you think that is? Do you see an influence in other genres or scenes?
RAUL ANTONY: One can only be so dark and serious. Sometimes even the most extreme outsider artists needs to relax and enjoy themselves. I think Tiki provides that outlet and is still a form of escapism, of stepping out of the “now” and into another time. In the neofolk/post-industrial community there’s some interest, mainly because of LaVey’s influence vis-à-vis total environments (directly and indirectly) on several artists in that genre. I promised my friend Scott Broderick of the Lindbergh Baby & Blood Axis a few rounds with him when he’s in town, and last time we were in New York City we met up with Sean Ragon of Cult of Youth for a Tiki getaway. He’s currently on tour with Psychic TV. And libations are always in order with fellow noise/gun enthusiast Matt of Silent Command.
Music is a big part of your life. Do you have any musical projects of your own?
RAUL ANTONY: In 2012, I started recording industrial and ambient material as Anarch. Since then I’ve been featured on several compilations on ANNIHILVS, Kalpamantra, and Heathen Harvest. A full-length release is in the works. I’ve also started experimenting with the retro-synthwave genre, which would appear under a different name when the time comes. Click here to check out Anarch on SoundCloud.
You write for the music website, Heathen Harvest. Care to talk about that?
RAUL ANTONY: I’ve been writing about music off and on since my college years and had my work appear in several online and print zines. In 2012, Heathen Harvest was looking for new writers, so I contacted them and began contributing reviews, interviews, and helping as an editor. After some time doing that, I shifted to producing the Forest Passage podcast and doing more behind-the-scenes work on the website itself and consulting. Right now, I’m working on a total redesign on the website and going back to writing reviews and interviews while co-hosting our podcast.
Do you feel that music has an important, if not essential role in the Tiki lifestyle and in creating the experience?
RAUL ANTONY: Absolutely. Music and audio in general is essential in any total environment. Even though styles like rockabilly or punk are not exactly Polynesian, they often invoke a different era, which can serve to displace the listener in the appropriate manner. But many bars also focus exclusively on period music, which I can appreciate. One time we were at a bar which happened to be hosting a bachelorette party that night. The group looked like your average sorority types who heard about Tiki being the new hotness. They requested nothing but Michael Jackson, top 40 (of today!), etc. Not trying to be a music snob—I enjoy some Taylor Swift from time to time—but it kind of killed the mood of the place and we didn’t stay long.
Do you have a favorite Tiki-themed or Tiki-influenced band?
PEGGY NADRAMIA: One of the best things about today’s Tiki resurgence is the music. My favorite bands include Jimmy Psycho, Ninth Wave, Waitiki 7, and Black Magic Beach Party.
RAUL ANTONY: The Jimmy Psycho Experiment, Creepxotica, Jason Lee and the R.I.P.tides.
Do you see the Tiki lifestyle intertwined with your life in the COS? What are some connections you find in your own life between the two?
PEGGY NADRAMIA: Loving and living Tiki is almost like joining a religious order where everyone likes to carouse with a sacramental beverage as his or her regular ritual. Special clothing is not required, but there are plenty of muumuus, flowered shirts, and straw hats to be seen. My total environment, Trader Peg’s VooDoo Lounge, is a warm oasis on a cold winter’s night, with Martin Denny playing, a rum drink in my hand, and the softly-winking rainbow lights of a hundred Tikis all smiling benignly upon me. I’ve created a tropical oasis that I love to share with my friends. It’s hidden behind a door that outsiders assume is a closet. It’s my own Den of Iniquity, my magical lair, and I think that’s pretty Satanic.
RAUL ANTONY: While at Tiki Oasis, I asked Blanche Barton if the Doktor would have enjoyed himself at the event, to which she said, “Are you kidding? He would have eaten this up with a spoon!” All around us were well-dressed men and voluptuous, confident women living up carnal indulgences, some of them in various vintage monster costumes (Monster Island being the theme this year). That’s Satanism. In terms of the organization itself, it has introduced me to others who share this earthly pastime and even given me different perspectives on it that I would have never considered.
Here is the Church Of Satan website.
This is Peggy Nadramia’s cocktail blog: Cocktail Vultures.
Listen to Anarch on SoundCloud here.
Click here to listen to the Radio Free Satan podcast.
Here is the Heathen Harvest website.