Voltaire (real name Aurelio Voltaire Hernández) (born January 25, 1967, in Havana, Cuba), is a musician popular in the goth scene. He takes his stage name from famous French Enlightenment writer François-Marie Arouet.
Voltaire is also an experienced animation and comic artist, and is a professor at the School of Visual Arts in New York.
Voltaire chose his pseudonym as he claims his namesake "saw through the hypocrisies of humanity and commented on them through satire. In essence, he was able to educate people about the world around them by making them laugh."
Voltaire has been asked about his real name on multiple occasions. He tends to not answer such questions, either suggesting that his real name is in fact Voltaire, or otherwise avoiding the question.
One theory Voltaire has been asked about is the name "Bernie Weinstein", based on a recurring character in his song lyrics and books. Bernie appears both as the boy who changes his name to Voltaire in What is Goth? and as the "fool in the cape" in "The Vampire Club". However, Voltaire has adamantly denied being Bernie Weinstein, and stated that "Bernie is just an archetypal character that I think really sums up a lot of the people I have met in the Goth scene over the years."
According to the School of Visual Arts where he is employed as a professor, Voltaire's real name is Aurelio Voltaire Hernández. At the same school, he has occasionally been named in course catalogs as "Roy Hernandez." Voltaire attributes "Acoustic Guitar and Vocals" on Ooky Spooky to Aurelio Voltaire Hernandez, confirming that is his real name.
At the age of ten, Voltaire was inspired by the films of Ray Harryhausen (Jason and the Argonauts, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad), and began animating on a super 8 camera. By piecing together snippets of information from fanzines, he eventually was able to teach himself how to make foam rubber animation models and animate them. He got his first job as an animator at the age of seventeen with Parker Brothers. As a child, he emigrated to New Jersey with his family. However, he states that he did not enjoy residing there. It wasn't until he was an adult that he moved to New York, his current place of residence. Voltaire says that he loves New York, and that the only other place he would be happy living in is Tokyo.
Voltaire’s music has strong roots and connections to European folk as well as other influences such as the goth scene. However, many listeners find his music hard to classify. Although it has a sound reminiscent of European folk music, many people claim it to be darkwave; perhaps as this is a label often given to many other artists from Projekt Records, and a word often used to mean many things by the label themselves. His music has also been linked to cabaret, with Lexicon Magazine using the term 'goth cabaret', possibly referring to dark cabaret, a term often used to describe some bands Voltaire cites as his influences. New Wave has also been used to describe Voltaire's music by some reviewers. Voltaire describes his own music as- 'Music for a parallel universe where electricity was never invented and Morrissey is the queen of England.' He claims that bands and artists who influenced his music are- Rasputina, Morrissey, Tom Waits, Cab Calloway, and Danny Elfman.
The first band that Voltaire played in was called First Degree which he participated in during junior high school. At this age, he was a fan of Duran Duran, but then began listening to gothic music, most notably bands such as Bauhaus and The Cure. It wasn't until later that he began participating in the goth scene; it did not at first occur to him that there was a goth scene at all.
As an adult, Voltaire formed a band which included a violin, a cello, drums, and himself as the vocalist and the acoustic guitar player. Within a year, Projekt Records signed them and by June of 1998 they released their first album called The Devil's Bris. Two years later their second album, Almost Human was released.
One of Voltaire’s popular hits is BRAINS!, a song written for the Cartoon Network show The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, aired in the episode Little Rock of Horror. He also wrote "The Land of the Dead" for "Billy and Mandy's Big Boogie Adventure", which plays in the opening sequence.
As an avid fan of Star Trek, Voltaire frequently attends science fiction conventions (such as I-CON and Dragon Con) and released a four track E.P. called Banned on Vulcan. It was a set of comedy recordings poking fun at characters from the show.
On the side, Voltaire is also the lead vocalist of an New York City based new wave quintet known as The Oddz.
Although often credited and pictured as a soloist, Voltaire has a band. His band rarely features in live acts, or on his live album, Live!. The current lineup is:
Kiku Collins-Trumpet, Clarinet
Voltaire was able to land his first directing job in 1988 with MTV, creating the classic "MTV-Bosch" station ID in the style of Hieronymus Bosch. The stop-motion tour of the hellish Garden of Earthly Delights won several awards including a Broadcast Design Award. He has also made morbid station IDs for clients such as Cartoon Network, U.S., and the Sci-Fi channel.
Besides his work with commercials, he has made short films and series such as Rakthavira and Chi-Chian. Chi-Chian is now a 14 episode stop-motion animation series on the Sci-Fi Channel's website. Before that Chi-Chian started out as a graphic novel series that included 6 issues (published by Sirius Entertainment) which eventually evolved into the stop-motion animation series.
He currently teaches stop-motion animation at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, as well as animating, directing and singing.
Voltaire's song, "Land of the Dead," was featured in Billy & Mandy's Big Boogey Adventure on Cartoon Network as the opening theme.
In addition, his song "Brains!" has also been featured on one of the show's earlier episodes.
Art and writing career
In addition to Chi-Chian, Voltaire has also produced a graphic novel series called Oh My Goth!, also known as OMG!, started out as his own little religious tracts inspired by Jack Chick. It started as 8 page booklets which included him being chased by minions of Satan as they would try to prevent him from playing his next show. These short pieces would often lead to information about his next show. After two issues of the Chi-Chian series were published, he convinced Sirius Entertainment to publish his Oh My Goth! series, which included four issues that where later molded into a graphic novel. Voltaire has also made a sequel to the OMG series called Oh My Goth! Humans Suck!
In addition to those, Voltaire has also produced a DEADY series as well as releasing books such as What is Goth? and Paint it Black.
In early 2004, for his DEADY graphic novel, Voltaire signed a deal with Toy2R. The first toy that was created was a 2-inch posable DEADY key chain for the company's "Qee Bear". It was released at San Diego Comic Con. The figure ended up selling out at the Con and because it did so well, the second figure was created in January 2005 which was an 8-inch DEADY figure. In June 2007 the Deady Minigame was released on ebilgames.com, a site hosting various minigames created by Artix Entertainment
Voltaire (2002). Oh My Goth! Version 2.0. Sirius Entertainment. ISBN 1-57989-047-4
Voltaire (2003). Oh My Goth!: Presents the Girlz of Goth!. Sirius Entertainment. ISBN 1-57989-061-X
Voltaire, Chris Adams, David Fooden (2003). Chi-Chian: The Roleplaying Game. Aetherco/Dreamcatcher. ISBN 1-929312-03-2
Voltaire (2004). Deady the Malevolent Teddy. Sirius Entertainment. ISBN 1-57989-083-0
Voltaire (2004). Deady the Terrible Teddy. Sirius Entertainment. ISBN 1-57989-077-6
Voltaire (2005). Deady the Evil Teddy. Sirius Entertainment. ISBN 1-57989-081-4
Voltaire (2004). What Is Goth? - Music, Makeup, Attitude, Apparel, Dance, and General Skullduggery. Weiser Books. ISBN 1-57863-322-2
Voltaire (2005). Paint It Black - A Guide to Gothic Homemaking. Weiser Books. ISBN 1-57863-361-3
Voltaire (2007). Deady: Big in Japan. Sirius Entertainment. ISBN 1-57989-085-7
The Devil's Bris (1998) (Projekt Records)
Almost Human (2000) (Projekt Records)
Banned on Vulcan (2001) (Projekt Records)
Boo Hoo (2002) (Projekt Records)
Then And Again (2004) (Projekt Records)
Deady Sings! (2004) (Projekt Records)
Zombie Prostitute... (2006) (Projekt Records)
Live! (2006) (Self released)
Ooky Spooky (2007) (Projekt Records)
Voltaire has not announced any future releases at this time. His most recent album is Ooky Spooky, released on July 31st, 2007.
Tracks by Voltaire also appeared on these compilation albums, sorted by year.
Unquiet Grave #3 (Cleopatra Records)
Featured a remix of the song "The Man Upstairs".
Promo 11 (Projekt Records)
Featured the song "Anastasia".
Promo 12 (Projekt Records)
Featured the song "Anastasia".
Tori Amos Tribute: Songs of a Goddess (Cleopatra Records)
Featured the song "Caught a Lite Sneeze".
A Dark Noel (Projekt Records)
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