What’s In Your Fridge: La Carmina

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      What’s In Your Fridge is where the Straight asks interesting Vancouverites about their life-changing concerts, favourite albums, and, most importantly, what’s sitting beside the Heinz ketchup in their custom-made Big Chill Retropolitan 20.6-cubic-foot refrigerators.

      On the grill

      La Carmina

      Who are you

      I’m a Goth writer and TV personality whose mission is to showcase alternative cultures worldwide in positive and meaningful ways. Since 2007, I’ve run the leading Goth fashion and travel blog (LaCarmina.com) and social media (@LaCarmina), with a focus on Japanese subcultures. I’m the author of four books for Simon & Schuster and Penguin Random House, and a journalist about alternative culture, music, food, and travel for The New York Times, National Geographic, Travel + Leisure, Time Magazine, and more. My adventures in over 70 countries include dancing with Star Trek’s William Shatner in the streets of Hong Kong, visiting the homes of hijra (the third gender) in Jaipur, and taking Andrew Zimmern to bizarre theme restaurants in Tokyo.

      First concert

      It was rather random: I saw Yanni live in Hong Kong, in the late 1990s! My aunt Carrie took me to see the Greek composer and keyboardist in an enormous stadium, which was quite the flamboyant introduction to concerts. I remember being mesmerized and slightly puzzled by the 40-something-piece ensemble that played electronic world music alongside lasers and Yanni’s stack of synthesizers. I like to say that the ’90s were the height of human civilization, and my first concert epitomized the decadence of Asia’s bubble era.

      Life-changing concert

      I loved Halloween and horror movies as a child, and always felt an attraction to all things dark and macabre. In my early teens, I began exploring Gothic music and culture, which resonated strongly with my sense of being. I was too young to go to Goth clubs, but was able to dip my toes into the subculture through concerts. I’ll never forget seeing A Perfect Circle at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in 2001. Dark and dissonant, yet elegant and beautiful—I was hooked by their stage show, and felt as if I’d found a world where I belonged.

      Top three records

      Malice Mizer Merveilles  When I started my La Carmina Blog in 2007, it was one of the few sites about Japanese Gothic Lolita fashion and Visual Kei, a J-rock genre known for its dazzling Goth-glam outfits. No band did this better than Malice Mizer. I was obsessed with their 1998 album Merveilles that showcased the baroque virtuosity of guitarist Mana (who cross-dressed in Victorian dolly fashion) and soaring vocals of Gackt. Their sound fused heavy metal with 18th century royal grandiosity. Give these headbangers a listen—they hit just as hard today.

      Donna Summer MacArthur Park Suite  I am a disco freak. It’s the genre I listen to the most, particularly campy Italo Disco, as it never fails to lift me up. If I had to pick one iconic disco record, it’d be Donna Summer’s MacArthur Park Suite, which is essentially a super long track that transitions to “One Of A Kind” and “Heaven Knows” before a reprise. Summer’s collaborations with producer Giorgio Moroder—who mixed her sleek vocals with dizzying synth—are disco magic, and this 1978 masterpiece is proof.

      Perturbator Dangerous Days  Synthwave made waves in the mid-late 2010s, and I was immediately drawn to the retrofuturistic ’80s sound (think John Carpenter and Miami Vice). Perturbator’s Dangerous Days has an inverted pentagram and demons on the cover, and the album more than lives up to the sinister art. It’s a joyride of aggressive darkwave with dashes of video game glitches, dystopian horror screams, and sci-fi/cyberpunk beats that will have you headbanging. 

      All-time favourite video

      Army of Lovers “Crucified” In my teens, I was watching Beavis and Butt-head when this music video came up. The two cartoon characters snickered over Army of Lovers’ antics in “Crucified,” but I thought this was the best thing ever. The Swedish band climbed the charts in the early ’90s, and this video is pure camp extravagance. Rococo meets fetish fashion, dramatic arched eyebrows, struts through the royal court... “I cry, I pray, mon dieu!” The music video made such an impact on me that my nickname, La Carmina, is a homage to the queenly lead singer La Camilla.

      What’s in your fridge

      Yuzu. Whenever I’m in Japan, I seek out all things yuzu as this ingredient is hard to find in Vancouver. This tiny, tart Japanese citrus produces a light yellow juice, and I’m obsessed with the taste. Open my fridge and you’ll find yuzu extract (I use it to make things like gelatin) and yuzushu fruit liquor. Whenever I come across anything yuzu locally, like a tart with my favorite flavor, I can’t resist getting it.

      Carbonaut keto seeded bread. This keto bread is sold at Whole Foods, and it actually tastes good (other keto breads tend to be like cardboard). Carbonaut is based in Abbotsford, and the seeded bread has a great texture while being low in calories and carbs, and high in protein. I use it to make open sandwiches with ingredients like tuna and avocado, or turkey, Gruyere cheese, and lettuce.

      Bison pepperoni. I also get this at Whole Foods, from the deli section. The meat is dense but juicy, with a hint of spice. I’ll chop it up with scrambled eggs, or simply eat one of these long, thin sausages as a high-protein snack.

      Follow the adventures of La Carmina here