Interview by Ary R.
Some of you know this band thanks to Ryan Folden’s work, After Midnight, some other got in touch with these guys on the occasion of the Dark Adrenaline tour by Italian act Lacuna Coil. Who are we talking about? The answer is here: American band THIS IS SHE, that in this 2012 enter the music scene with a well-respected EP, “Nobody Is Ok”. As soon as the tour came to an end, I had the pleasure to exchange some chats with the sweet Alana Grace, that revealed something about this European tour and about the new goals of the band. This week Femme Metal hosts an interview with This Is She and we have the pleasure to talk with the singer Alana Grace. Hi Alana, welcome on our website. How are you doing?
I’m doing great! I’m happy to be back from tour and relax into the holiday season. It’s my favorite time of the year, and I’ll get to see my family soon so it’s a good time.This Is She is an American music reality that slowly tries to introduce itself in Europe in the proper way. Would you like to share something about the band biography or about your musical careeer?
I met Christian and Ryan back in 2009 when I toured with the Vans Warped Tour. They were out with their band After Midnight Project at the time, and we all bonded together throughout the summer. Both bands had their ups and downs and in 2011 I think we were all ready to try something new for a change. I had an idea for an electronic rock band, and I was looking for players right as After Midnight Project decided to take a hiatus. So we hopped in the studio together and wrote for a few months before starting to play live. Finally we released our first EP in July of this year and have been trying to promote it ever since.You’ve ended up the European tour recently, This is She was chosen as the support act for the Italian band Lacuna Coil. How would you describe this experience?
It was an incredible experience for us to go on tour with Lacuna Coil. They are so good live it was a little intimidating at first, but they were very nice to us and we became easy friends. I would say the crowds were awesome for us. They have a really dedicated fanbase who generally had checked us out before coming to the shows. It was so much fun to see some people were already familiar with our songs, and it really made us feel at home with their fans.
Interview by Luisa Mercier
After listening to their latest release, Femme Metal Webzine had the chance to have a quite interesting chat with John Cobbett, mastermind of Hammers of Misfortune. He has explained us a lot about what lies behind the complex lyrical content and musical content of the record!
Hi John, first of all congratulations for your new album. I enjoyed it a lot! Unfortunately, there might be folks out there who have never heard of you before. Could you introduce yourselves to our readers?
Hello, my name is John Cobbett and our band is called Hammers Of Misfortune. We are a band from San Francisco, California, USA. We began as Unholy Cadaver in 1997 and became Hammers of Misfortune in 1999. Our first album came out in 2001. I’m glad you liked our new record!May you talk us a little bit about the concept that underlines the album?
Each song has its own concept. Some of them tell stories, some of them describe situations, some of them can be taken on several different levels at once. Many of the songs deal with common people dealing with hard times, a few of them deal with the people that created the hard times. There is a thread of lost innocence and disillusionment in the songs, but each one has its own story to tell. I was doing a lot of research about chronic unemployment, foreclosure, student debt, the credit crisis, the bailouts, bankruptcy etc. Not just the facts and allegations but the stories of real people who are going through these things, including myself and several of my friends. It’s interesting that the #ows movement (Occupy Wall Street) sprung to life right around the time this album came out. I guess I wasn’t alone in my concerns. This is a real crisis with real victims. At the same time, the lyrics could be about any situation of loss, heartbreak, resignation in the face of impossible odds, I could go on. I should reiterate that it’s not accurate to put all the lyrics under one thematic umbrella. Some are more specific, some are purposely so vague that they could describe almost any situation.
This cover artwork is quite different from the previous ones. Is it somehow related to the concept?
The photo on the cover is a long exposure shot of us standing on Bernal Heights, overlooking the Mission District of San Francisco, where 5 out of 6 of us live. It’s us in our natural environment. I guess if so many metal bands are taking pictures of themselves in the woods behind their house, we could do it too!
Since we are a female fronted music-themed webzine, would you introduce us the two female members of Hammers of Misfortune? How did you get in touch with them?
I was introduced to Sigrid Sheie at a punk show in 2002. She was originally playing bass with us (she can play almost anything). When we realized that she was a classically trained pianist, we saw the opportunity to add piano and Hammond B3 organ to our sound. I’ve always loved those instruments. It’s been quite a learning experience, writing and arranging with keyboards in a metal band. Sigrid showed up to her first rehearsal with a binder full of sheet music – she had transcribed our songs! We were quite impressed. She is now an adjunct professor of piano at University San Francisco.
Leila Abdul Rauf, along with Sigrid, also plays in a band called Amber Asylum. It was Sigrid who suggested we invite Leila to join the band. We were big fans of Leila‘s band Saros. We saw them many times and played some gigs with them, so I was already a fan of her guitar playing, and she was already part of the family, so to speak. She’s also pretty good on keyboards and a fine singer, but mainly it’s her detail-oriented, technical approach to guitar that I’m a fan of. She can also bust out a soulful guitar solo. It’s a privilege to work with both of Leila and Sigrid.
You’ve been in at least three other bands before Hammers of Misfortune, did the experience with them influence the work with HoM in any way?
Hammers has always been my number one. The other bands were much less complex, more of a release for me. Mainly because I didn’t have to write any lyrics. It was fun to just sling riffs and play the guitar. You learn something every time you go on tour or make a record, regardless of what band you’re with. Hopefully, you learn from your mistakes, especially in the studio. Making an album is a massive undertaking and the lessons learned in the studio are the ones that you bring to the next session. Those experiences and lessons definitely come into play every time you make a new album.
We haven’t had too much trouble with record labels. There’s very little money left in this business, so there’s not that much to argue about, haha! So far our dealings with Metal Blade have been very professional and fair. They stayed out of the way when we were making the album and now they have stepped up to help promote it. They’ve done a great job so far.Do you have any idea yet on what the future might bring for Hammers of Misfortune? Any thoughts on a tour or a new album?
There will be 4 shows in the Pacific Northwest US in December, then we’re playing Roadburn 2012! After that, who knows? The next album is always on my mind but it’s just forming right now. Once this new line-up gets our “stage legs”, we’ll have more chemistry as a group. I’m looking forward to that. Thanks!
John Cobbett : Twitter
Interview by Robin Stryker
I became hopelessly addicted to the American melodic rock band, Hydrovibe, the first time I heard its new full-length debut, “Nothing Left to Lose”. The album has everything I look for in top-notch rock — muscular vocals that are packed with emotion (think Joplin), bristling guitar-driven music, and lyrics that connect with something deep inside. Thank goodness vocalist Heather St. Marie continued singing, despite being told early on that her voice was “just too low” and perhaps she should take up the piano instead. Apparently to hear Hydrovibe is to become hooked, even in the jaded world of Hollywood. The first week after Heather and Mat Dauzat (guitars and vocals) moved to Los Angeles, Sharon and Kelly Osbourne hand-picked Mat to play lead guitar for the world tour of Kelly’s album “Shut Up”. Likewise, actress Shawnee Smith (who plays Amanda Young in the “Saw” movies) fell in love with Hydrovibe and urged the director to check out a live show. Needless to say, he also fell under the band’s spell, and the movie studio invited Hydrovibe to write “Killer Inside” for the “Saw III” soundtrack and to record a music video with Shawnee on guest vocals for the Director’s Cut DVD. Read on to find out what makes this band so irresistible.
Heather and Mat, welcome to Femme Metal! We’re so glad you could talk with us today.
Heather: Thank you very much for this interview and your support.
First things first, please tell us about Hydrovibe’s new album. Why did you choose the title, “Nothing Left to Lose”?
Heather: This album tells the story of sacrificing everything to realize childhood dreams. Our quest to follow this crazy goal of ours has seen its fair share of amazing highs and some very trying lows. It’s amazing how liberating it can be when you literally have nothing left to lose. Your actions and intentions are no longer influenced by the prospect of consequence. It is humanity broken down to its purest and most basic level. In that broken-down state, it becomes apparent what is truly important in life, and one tends to re-prioritize accordingly. It allows for discovery of an inner strength and passion to TRULY LIVE. Not only does “Nothing Left to Lose” sum up and aptly title our first full-length album effort, it is our battle cry in approaching the music business in general. We truly have nothing left to lose, which allows us to leap without looking into this dog-eat-dog music business. We remain fearless and persevere in the music business as the major label giants continue to fall and the economy has taken a turn for the worst — not because we are smarter or better than anyone else, but because our priorities are different. We keep the MUSIC and the PASSION at the forefront as we continue this journey; the business part is…well…JUST BUSINESS!
The album’s songs run the gamut of emotions — love, hate, frustration, hope, rage and grace. To what extent are the songs based on your own experiences?
Heather: TO THE FULLEST EXTENT! All of our songs have very personal and special meaning to me in some way or another. Most of them deal with struggles in our musical quest or some sort of personal past experience. I have also drawn lyrical inspiration from close friends’ experiences as well….I don’t want every one of our songs to sound like a page pulled from Heather’s diary!
What are your musical backgrounds, and have you been involved in any other projects (musical or otherwise)?
Mat: I’ve wanted to be a guitarist for as long as I can remember. I’d sneak into my older brothers’ room when I was just a baby and listen to their albums… imagining what it would be like to play the songs on guitar. At 3 years old, I began teaching myself to play piano. I’ve always had a very good ear and could repeat what I heard, so I began learning whole songs on piano by ear while still in diapers. One day while playing around in our attic, I found an old acoustic guitar and immediately began actually playing those Led Zeppelin songs from my brothers’ albums, which totally freaked my brothers out. From that moment on, I was glued to the guitar. I toyed around with a couple of bands in high school, but nothing really serious. Hydrovibe was really my first band. Since moving to Los Angeles, I have branched out a little — touring the world with Kelly Osbourne for a couple of years and working with actress/singer/songwriter Schuyler Fisk. I work with a few other artists as well but Hydrovibe is and always has been the main focus… and fortunately takes up the majority of my time!
Heather: I grew up in South Louisiana where Classic Rock rules, so it wasn’t until high school that I realized that the music I was hearing on the radio (Rush, Led Zep, Sabbath, Boston, 38 Special, etc) was not current music! I think these bands gave me a solid foundation on song structure, catchy vocal melodies, harmonies, etc that are key elements to Hydrovibe’s writing style. I also played French Horn throughout my schooling, which not only perfected my pitch but opened up the world of classical music. I believe this taught me the importance of layering parts (another crucial element to Hydrovibe songs — both musically and vocally) … when NOT to sing so that the music can breathe … and how to have drama in your music. Drama is epic and passion is key. We like to take the listener with us on an emotional musical journey, in both songwriting and through live performances. Like I mentioned, I did play French Horn for years but Hydrovibe is the only band I’ve ever been in. Until this, I only sang for fun. I have a few creative side projects in the works — both musically and non-musically. I’m an eternal artist at my core, so I created heatherskingdom.com as a catch-all for my random artistic endeavours. Be looking for some very cool new music, art, and clothing randomness coming soon!
You have both been passionate about music since you were barely out of diapers. What is your favourite musical memory from childhood?
Mat: Finding that old acoustic guitar in the attic!
Heather: I can remember singing along to The Beatles records my Mom had in a big trunk; I loved the way the records sounded. I would get so excited when she’d put the needle down… My mom told me that I was only about 2 years old at that point. I started reading at an early age, so when I was in 1st grade I was chosen as a representative for a Literacy Community Service Project. I got to go to the local radio station and read the news on-air. The radio station fascinated me …. being near all that music and such a powerful hub of broadcast was a very cool experience at such a young age. That surely was an important event on my way toward discovering my passion for a career in music.
Hydrovibe just released “Nothing Left to Lose” in Japan. How did that come about, and what has your reception been like?
Mat: We’ve always known that Japan would probably be a very good market for us. When I got word that I was going to Tokyo to do a promo tour with my friend Schuyler Fisk to support her album release in Japan, I immediately began scheduling label meetings for Hydrovibe. Schuyler and I did 8 shows in 3 days, and somehow I was able to schedule meetings with the top 3 record labels over there between shows. Crazy! Even crazier — I was able to score us a deal with our first-choice label as well! The response has been overwhelming! We have big spreads in almost every major music magazine over there, we have end-caps and listening stations in every major music retailer there, and we are actually getting radio play — which is almost impossible for a new non-Japanese band! We are very excited to hear how the sales are going over there!
I’ve always wondered, why do Japanese releases have at least one bonus track that is not on the European and American releases?
Mat: The reason is that in Japan, the CD is still a viable PRODUCT. Here, a band’s CD is almost becoming like a business card… given away for cheap or free in hopes to bolster the band’s popularity and assist in bringing more fans to shows — where the band hopes to make some money on merchandise sales. In Japan, THEY STILL BUY CDs!!! As the mom-and-pop CD shops and the giant retailers such as Virgin and Tower are almost all gone here in the States, the retailers in Japan are all still thriving. You can’t walk two city blocks in Tokyo without seeing some sort of music retailer! Additionally, they sell CDs there for an average price equivalent to $25 USD. Since so much value is placed on the CD as a commercial product, they pay special attention to make sure that there is adequate perceived value. So, they include additional artwork, printed lyric inserts – both in English and Japanese, additional credits and thanks, and some sort of additional content beyond what is on the non-Japanese versions (bonus tracks, music video, etc.). Our Japanese release of “Nothing Left to Lose” has all of the above and includes “Killer Inside” as the bonus track. HMV went a step further to include a free Hydrovibe download card with every album purchase, that allowed them to download the radio mix of our single “Fame” as well as some other content. Diskunion (a big retailer there) went even farther, packaging a free DVD with our music video for “Killer Inside” with each Hydrovibe album purchase. Pretty cool!
Let’s go back in time to 2002 when you both moved from a small town in Louisiana to Los Angeles (equivalent distance-wise to moving from Moscow to London). Why did you relocate the band, and what was the biggest shock once you arrived in Los Angeles?
Heather: Biggest shock? COST OF LIVING! In Louisiana, I was living in a very nice 1,000 square foot [93 square meter] two-bedroom apartment with a huge balcony overlooking nature for $400 per month….my first 600 square foot [56 square meter] one-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles cost me $900!!! We knew we had to make a big move to really give our dreams a fighting chance. We were located in a small town in Louisiana, and we were trying to find the right musicians to complete Hydrovibe’s lineup, but were having no luck. We had plenty of interest nationally, but asking people to relocate to our small town was a very hard sell. We knew we needed to move to a more major metropolitan area, so places like Nashville, Dallas, and Austin became attractive possibilities until the band could ultimately make the move out to where the heart of the music industry is located – Los Angeles. When it came time to make a move, however, we said “screw it – if we are going to make a move, LET’S GO ALL THE WAY!!!”. Why make a step toward moving to Los Angeles, when we can just MOVE TO LOS ANGELES! We officially relocated to L.A. at the beginning of September of 2002.
Which Hydrovibe songs best describe where you were in your lives a few years ago, compared to now?
Heather: “Shallow Grave” describes my frustration and desperation to be discovered a few years ago. Funny thing is, we were discovered by a major label and we were introduced to some less-than-savory aspects of the music business that made us rethink everything and follow the independent, grass-roots approach. Now, I’d say that “Liberation” best describes how I’m feeling these days — “through pain we grow!” Our story is nothing special — everyone has to jump through their own set of hoops in life. You just take what you can from the experiences and LIVE! This album sums up a huge chapter in my life, and as I segue into the next chapter, I summed up these experiences (as well as the album “Nothing Left to Lose”) with “Liberation’s” hopeful sentiment “NOW LIFE CAN BEGIN!”. We’ve re-prioritized our lives and are eagerly leaping head-first into this next chapter of Hydrovibe’s story.
If you could give one piece of advice to a fledgling band, what would it be?
Mat: Prepare yourself for the long-haul. Successes are not built overnight. The rare few bands that do blow up quickly, always fizzle just as fast. Statistically speaking, successes are usually seen after a strong 10-year effort. Scary? Only if you are in it for the success and not the pursuit of happiness through the expression of your art!
It seems that one of the biggest challenges when you moved to LA was finding musicians who were the right “fit” for Hydrovibe. What were you looking for, and what made Eliot Lorango (bass) and Philippe Mathys (drums) right for the band?
Mat: Whew…that was A LONG SEARCH!!! When Heather and I agreed that Los Angeles was going to be the place to find the right drummer and bass player to complete Hydrovibe, we had no idea what a tough proposition that was going to be! hahaha In all fairness, though, we had almost-unreasonable standards. Not only did we need two highly-skilled musicians with looks that fit the band’s image; we insisted that we find people with a solid character, and strong moral fiber, and good chemistry all-around. We knew that we were going to basically be living together in a van on tour for quite a long time, so keeping the high standard would eliminate problems down the road. For that reason, it took us the better part of a year and a half to find the right people, but it is by far one of the best business decisions we’ve ever made. Plus, not only were we able to complete our band with the perfect members, we added two dear family members into our personal lives.
The members of Hydrovibe often talk about how supportive and tightly-knit everyone is. What is the secret to keeping friendship alive, when you are literally living on top of each other for months at a time while touring?
Heather: Love and laughter. Even in the low times, we are somehow able to keep each other in good spirits through laughter and genuine support. We are certainly a tight unit and all rally behind one another in times of need … it is really heart-warming to experience, and necessary to keep it together in the sometimes mind-numbing world of tour!
Speaking of touring, I suspect that many people think that being on tour is all about riding from city to city on a luxury bus, giving interviews, and sipping mineral water backstage until you perform. Can you give us an idea of what a typical day on tour is really like?
Heather: You wake up in an unfamiliar hotel room sometime just before noon, pack your stuff, check email, look up the venue’s address for the night to put into the GPS, and run downstairs to check out. The band convenes in the lobby to discuss how far the drive is to the venue, whether or not we are being fed at the venue, or any other pertinent show info, and we jump in the van to begin the trek. While en route, one of us gets online to do all the show promotions — MySpace bulletins, Twitter, Facebook, Hydrovibe.com posts, etc. We then do any radio or local news interviews… or any other press-related promotion our publicist scheduled for us that day. We then take the time to respond to any MySpace or Hydrovibe email questions waiting in our inbox with whatever remaining time we have on the drive. When we get to the venue, the guys begin unloading gear while I set up the merch display. As they are setting up on stage, I’m doing merch inventory and accounting. Then we sound check and break for dinner. While waiting for the show to start, we discuss whether we are staying in town or making a drive that night. One of us then gets online to find a hotel for the night, while we make set lists for the show. Anyone who has been to one of our shows knows that we support every band we play with, so you’ll see Hydrovibe members up front listening to a good portion of each opening bands’ sets. Then comes the show part … we always laugh because we work long hours, but the ACTUAL PERFORMANCE aspect of our day lasts an average of 45 minutes to an hour! After our set is over, I run to the merch booth to meet fans while the guys break down the gear. When the gear is secured, the band all converges at the merch booth to meet fans and sign autographs. When the last fan leaves the building, the guys begin loading the gear out of the venue while I do some quick accounting and pack up the merch. Then we leave the venue to go crash in another unfamiliar hotel room. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
Hydrovibe has a devoted fanbase, with people driving hundreds of kilometres to catch a show and getting themselves tattooed with the band’s logo. Why do you think fans feel such a strong connection to Hydrovibe?
Heather: I’ve found that fans gain strong connections to our songs and find personal meanings in the lyrics. We are told often by fans that our songs have moved them to do great things in their lives or that certain songs have helped them through harsh life experiences or that they have linked great events in their lives to one of our songs. I also think that fans feel a strong connection to Hydrovibe because we have made it a point to make strong connections with the fans. We personally answer each and every MySpace message, emails or any correspondence with fans. It takes a long time, but it is important to us to listen to the fans, take inspiration from their stories, and give them a platform for their voices to be heard. As a completely independent band, without fan support, we could not possibly move forward. Our fans are truly near and dear to us and we are excited to bring them along with us on our journey!
What is the most extreme thing a fan has done to show his or her appreciation for your music?
Mat: I’d have to say that the most extreme thing I’ve seen is the Hydrovibe logo tattooed completely across a fan’s forearm! It’s HUGE! And quality work, I might add. There are plenty of other extreme shows of support (including several other cool tattoos), but that’s the most extreme I’ve seen yet.
The band was an early adopter of social media, like MySpace. In what ways (good or bad) has the Internet changed the landscape for musicians?
Mat: As an independent band, we have to keep our band current with any and every social media site that pops up to ensure that every possible outlet to reach fans is being utilized. It can be exhausting at times as you can imagine, but necessary for business. For us independent bands, social media sites have been a blessing … we can make our music available to the larger general public free of charge. For major labels, however, the social media sites were a bit of a nail in their coffin. No longer did they hold all the keys when it came to bands being able to get their music to the general public. With these social media sites, it has become much more of a level playing field. Fans can discover new music 24/7 with the click of a mouse. We no longer need the major label giant dinosaurs to help us reach the public, so now it’s about making good music and touring your ass off to support the music.
Most new bands half-kill themselves chasing the big record labels. Why did Hydrovibe choose to go the indie route, after landing a deal with a major label?
Heather: Our hunt, chase, and capture of the major label was a huge learning experience for us. Through that experience, we learned that our focus was all wrong. We were spending way too much time courting and catering to the music industry instead of focusing on what matters the most …. THE FANS! We decided to shift our attention from the music industry back to the music itself and the fans who so deserve our attention. Once we made that our focus, we began seeing progress in leaps and bounds. Some sort of healthy partnership with a major label in the near future is not out of the question, but we are unwilling to do anything that impedes forward progress or would divert focus from our music and our fans. We are devoted.
Comparing the three tracks that are on both the 2006 “Killer Inside” EP and the new “Nothing Left to Lose” album, the new versions sound fiercer and musically thicker. Are my ears playing tricks on me, or were the songs re-recorded/remixed? If so, why?
Mat: Good ear, Robin! Yes, those songs were completely re-worked and re-recorded. When we recorded the EP, we had only been a band for about 3 months. Once we got Eliot in the band, we went straight into pre-production and hit the studio 3 months later. We actually went into the studio planning to record our album, but during mixing we got word that our song “Killer Inside” was going to be featured in the movie “SAW III” and the “SAW III” Soundtrack in a month’s time, so we packaged the 5 songs we had finished and put out the “Killer Inside” EP to capitalize on the exposure. We then hit the road for almost 2 years in support of the EP, playing all the songs that were to be on our album nightly. Needless to say, the band got much stronger on the road, and our songs took on lives of their own on stage nightly. When we got back to Los Angeles to finish our album, we knew that in fairness to the songs, we must scrap the previous recordings and re-record these stronger and more powerful versions for the album. Sure, it costs us much more time and money, but we are extremely pleased with the result!
What are Hydrovibe’s plans for 2010 and beyond?
Heather: Well, definitely touring here in the U.S. and hopefully some in Japan as well. We have also begun setting our sights on a UK release of “Nothing Left to Lose”. With all the excitement and press associated with the Japanese release, we have seen some interest by labels in the UK, and we have begun discussing details and laying out the strategy. So, if all goes to plan, we’ll be able to release in the UK soon and (fingers crossed) tour there by the end of 2010! After that will be Germany, then Australia, and we’ll continue to lock down territories to release “Nothing Left to Lose” and spread the reach of Hydrovibe!
Thank you very much, Heather and Mat. Do you have any parting words for your fans at Femme Metal?
Heather: Thank you, Robin… and everyone at Femme Metal! We appreciate the exposure and support! To all the fans, please continue to support independent music — buy your favorite indie bands’ CDs or merch … it goes farther toward their success than you’d think. And please continue to support Femme Metal … supporting Femme Metal = supporting independent music. Femme Metal is doing incredible work to assist independent female-fronted bands in getting their music distributed and heard, and using proceeds to support charity! Amazing! Femme Metal, WE SALUTE YOU! Thank you.
Interview by Miriam C.
This time I’ve sit down with miss Autumn for drink a (virtual) tea, jokes aside, I have had the honour to speak with the last eclectic genious of our century. Ok, sound tacky and not true but it’s really what I think and you know that I always try to be sincere with you all, dear readers. Eclectic because she’s the true tightrope walker of the arts, she can switch from music to writing a glimpse of an eye. Genious, sorry but I really need to explain why? Now I prefere sitting in the corner and leave to her the word. For such person you have only to learn to fight and never surrender. Emilie is a true life’s inspiration.
Hi Emilie first of all thanks so much for accepting this interview, I’m really honoured. I hope everything is going will with your American tour!
Hello, it’s my absolute pleasure to sit down for tea with you today.
I’m gonna starting, before all, asking your about your book (that’s already at 3rd edition, congratulations!) “The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls” that finally is out (again) to buy on your official shop, what details can you share about its genesis and the plot?
Thank you very much, that’s very kind! Yes, the book continues to do very well and I am so grateful that so many people find this a story worth reading and making a part of their lives. It’s truly incredible to me, since it is released independently and is only available in one place – my shop website (www.asylumemporium.com). For those who don’t already know the story, this book is my autobiography of my time spent imprisoned in a mental hospital, but nothing is exactly what it seems, and the story quickly becomes a sort of fantasy, time travel, adventure, mystery novel that is actually quite a lot of fun to read. It is this story that’s behind everything I do, from the music to the stage show, and this book has become the “Harry Potter” to the Plague Rats (the name for my audience) — the bible of this whole Asylum world that my art and life takes place within.
Emilie, your musical training lies in the classical music. How are you able to merge your classical side with the “industrial” one?
Once one stops thinking of music as being divided up into individual categories, each appealing to only one individual audience and begins thinking of it as just being a collection of sounds that blend well to accomplish an emotional purpose and tell a story, then it all becomes so much easier. Throughout the history of art, the way any new art form has evolved is that somebody put together things that traditionally didn’t fit and simply made them fit until they seemed natural.
Despite being an artist, performer, writer – you’re also a fashion designer. Congratulations for your dresses, I really love them. From where you take your inspiration and you never thought to create a dressing line for debut in such fashion events like Milan, Paris & New York?
Thank you so much for the compliment! The inspiration behind all of our costumes on stage is really quite simple, in that, just like the music, it’s a blend of the old and the new, and then some fun fantasy bits that don’t belong in any particular period but the imagination. Now that we have entered into a new era of performance with the “Fight Like A Girl” album and tour, I’m enjoying the new tribal elements, the warrior elements, the mohawk hairstyles and the bits of armor I am working today to incorporate. I’ve been sewing the new costumes before talking to you, and will get right back to work at it afterwards.
Now let’s pass again into the musical side, on 2010 thru Twitter you have unleashed the title of your forthcoming album “Fight Like a Girl”. It’s really a strong title, what you can unveil about its creation?
The title of the album is meant to inspire a very strong reaction, and it does so because, even in this modern day in 2012, the phrase “you fight like a girl” is still used as an insult to boys, and to ridicule girls, and for absolutely no logical reason other than the misogyny that still infects our globally patriarchal culture. So, to those who are evolved and honor the feminine and are aware of her innate power, the title will immediately seems like a very positive thing, while to others who were taught that to do anything “like a girl” was a bad thing, the title will be more challenging, but this too is good. Art is about changing the way people think – not making people comfortable with what they already think.
I got really impressed by the statement that you have released for the PRs about F.L.A.G that says : “This record is my soundtrack. Of course, there’s an overriding story arc. It’s a social critique of the mental healthcare system spanning from the 19th century all the way up to the present, as well as the inequality women still face worldwide, whether they’re crazy or not. I’m drawing upon my own personal experience as a notoriously bi-polar person who has been committed and lived to tell the tale. Hopefully, my story will give strength to those who need it, and raise a little awareness.” – Did you have done some historic research for write down your lyrics? Also I would like to now if do you have a personal heroine that inspired you. Or you consider yourself the only and ultimate inspiration?
My great passion is history, and so, because it is what I love, I’ve done a whole lifetime of historical research, and will continue to do so, because it is what I study constantly. I certainly wouldn’t feel I had any right to speak about things like gender issues or the treatment of mental illness if I hadn’t the historical knowledge to back it up, and, also, it is by looking at the past that we discover how we became who we are and see where we can go in the future. There are so many strong women throughout history that I thank and am inspired by, from ancient rulers to early feminists, but I am even more inspired simply by the women I know, those around me, especially my Bloody Crumpets, Veronica, Contessa and Captain Maggots. These three ladies are the strongest, bravest, most talented and inwardly beautiful women I have ever known, and they inspire me every day.
Reading here and there I’ve knowledged that a Broadway musical taken from your “The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls” book is taking life. Have you any details that you can share?
I am very happy to be able to finally announce that Darren Lynn Bousman has officially accepted the role of director of the musical, so, between him and myself, this will definitely be a musical like no one has ever seen.
Also you have managed to put up your own imprint, how’s it to be the enterpreneur of yourself? And why going solo? I mean your were onto Trisol, one of the best industrial label that I know. No more faith in the record companies?
Ha, yes! Definitely no more faith in record companies. None. I’ve been burned too many times, and have been stolen from, and have lost too much money that could have gone into my show or my work. All of my music and books from this point on will be under the label of The Asylum Emporium.
What you can tell me about Darren Lynn Bousman and Terrance Zdunich‘s upcoming project “Devil’s Carnival”. How you got in touch with the creators of the show and how happened to get involved into this project too?
They got in touch with me, actually. About a year and a half ago, I was on tour, and Melissa, my excellent manager, was contacted by Darren about this project. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t know about Darren and Terrance, I hadn’t seen the “Saw” films (even though I do have some songs on their soundtracks), and I hadn’t yet seen “REPO! The Genetic Opera”, so I didn’t know what to think, but something about the very passionate way Darren talked about this project made me curious to know more. I very quickly became close friends with both Terrance and Darren, and, before I knew it, I was a part of this carnival family, and acting and singing in this magical, amazing film project with so many other wonderful actors and performers. I’m very proud to be a part of this film, and the best part is that we are soon going to begin filming for Episode 2!
The majority of people that listen music recognize that classical music as an elitist music. From your own side, do you think that with your music are you helping to “unhinge” such prejudice?
I really do feel that way, and I’m so glad and grateful to be in the position to encourage people, especially young people, to feel differently about something I hold so dearly. But the magical thing is that I don’t really have to do anything other than make the music I make and let people come up with their own descriptions of it, or put it in their own categories. Those that enjoy my music, either the songs with vocals as well as classical elements, or simply my classical violin recordings, like it because they like it. And they often find that they love classical music, and even end up learning classical instruments, like the violin, because they want to celebrate and be a part of that kind of music and the joy it gives. But it’s a very honest, non-judgmental approach. I’m not telling people they should like any particular thing, and so, when they do, it is very sincere, and they don’t even know that they “aren’t supposed to” like it.
What will be the difference between the “The Door Tour” and the upcoming “The Fight Like a Girl Fall Tour”, what will change in matter of dresses, scenography and set list? Also all your female companions like Veronica Varlow & Co. are confirmed for the shows?
Yes, Naughty Veronica, The Blessed Contessa and Captain Maggots will all be joining me onstage. They are such a beloved part of this show to our audiences that I think there would be a riot of some sort if they weren’t there! As I said before regarding the new costumes, we are definitely incorporating more of a tribal warrior element into both our look and performance, even the choreography. This next chapter is all about the war for freedom that takes place within the Asylum and the journey that we go from victim to victor. We want to take our audience on that journey with us.
What your next projects? – Including that fact that you have a lot on your plate, talking about the Broadway show, the film, a new book (a bird says me, right?) and new album to promote – what willbe your priorities here?
At this moment, the tour is the priority, but after that, my next two years will be spent mainly on the composition and creation of the Broadway musical based on the “Asylum…” book. It is an epic project that will take so much, but I think it will also be my greatest offering, and so I am willing to give it everything I have.
Emilie, thanks really so much to spend your time for checkout this humble questions that I’ve proposed to you, I hoped you have had fun replying in it. Feel free to greet our readers and your Plague Rats as you want. Thanks again!
Miriam, thank you so very much for your time and your great questions! And to all my dear Plague Rats, raise your paws and bare your claws, because we’re coming for you and it’s time to fight!
Interview by Matteo Bussotti
Maybe you don’t know them, but these boys (and their very talented female singer, Adriana), have toured all over Europe, and they’re surely proving abroad that Italy has something to say, also musically. With their strange, experimental rhythms they’ve made their way into many clubs and musical scenarios, and they’ve also composed some scores for some short or independent movie. We asked Adriana, their singer, to tell us more about this constantly growing band, with such a mysterious and interesting name.
Welcome, Adriana; first of all, tell our fans something about yourself!
Hello, well “I really have nothing to say, but I want to tell it all the same”.
We know that all of you, before becoming a band, were all friends. So…when did it come to your mind to say “Let’s put up a band!”? And how was it at the beginning?
During the high school I was playing with Salvio (the drummer) in a band and Davide and Maurizio (bass and guitar) were in another band. When these experiences came to an end and we understood that we had common ideas and intentions about music, so we decided to start with the Mantra. Everything happened in a very natural way for us. We had some line up changes, at the very beginning I just played guitar, then we became an instrumental band and after few months -during a recording session- we realized that I could have been the singer.
The Mantra started in 2008 their “professional” career, but you, Adriana, when did you start to sing? You started as a child?
I’ve been singing for about 3 years in a children choir and then in a polyphonic choir when I was a child, that’s where I had my first (and last) lessons of music theory and vocal technique. The repertory was classical music such as the Verdi’ s Requiem, Mozart’s Requiem and Beethoven symphonies. I stopped for a long period since I started my first band in high school, at 14. After that I’ve been “mute” for a long time, 5 years. I started to sing again with the Mantra, with a different consciousness and perception of my voice, now I want to study again.
What’s the story behind your strange and very long name?
Our name is a collage of different words and ideas that we consider important and inspiring. We are not used to reveal everything, we can tell you that “spotless” comes from the title of a famous movie (and the verses of a poem), “mantra” comes from the fascinating oriental culture.
You published with Aaaargh Records a 2-track vinyl. Why this choice, to make a vinyl instead of a CD? And, I must say…I love this choice, seriously. I really, really like vinyl. Good job!
First of all, we liked the idea to produce a beautiful object, something that you would like to have in an historical moment where buying a record is not the only way to listen to music. A vinyl has a strong appeal and feels more “material” to us. We also liked the fact that you have to put the record on the turntable, sit down and listen, it’s THE physical support. It helps to recover a quiet and almost sacred way to listen to music, something that with mp3 and streaming is going to be lost.
You composed various scores for different short films. How was it? In which way it differs from composing your own music for your own albums?
It’s a completely different work. When you compose music for a movie you have to be delicate, not too invasive and super accurate. You have to add beauty or suspense or happiness or anything else useful and blend it with images and words. It’s not just about yourself. It’s been funny and instructive, we learned how to afford technical issues about timing and dynamics and also experimented a new fascinating way to communicate something.
How was to start touring with God Is An Astronaut, after having published only one record?
Well, unfortunately we have been never touring with God is an Astronaut. We tried hard but for several reasons, we couldn’t. We had to play in UK and USA when they have been touring in Italy and we never found an easy way to arrange some shows together. Too bad.
What can you recall about your appearance on television, here in Italy?
We found that, unless you are overexposed (that is not always a good thing), TV doesn’t change your life. Live shows are the most important thing to do for an important growth, it’s real life. We have been in the RAI.tv homepage -the Italian State channel- for a week, we had a good feedback and several passages on media, it’s an important step but not the signal of a big success. It has been anyway an amazing goal and we don’t think it’s a bad thing, maybe it means that in some areas of music business, music is still important and not everything is depending from massive advertising and promotion.
You toured a lot, in Europe and in America. Can you tell us how fans from one “zone” to another are different from each other? I can’t remember who, but someone once said that, from nation to nation, fans “smell” differently. What can you say about that? Strange, isn’t it?
Of course we found that. UK, USA, Italy, Greece, every country (and city!) a different reaction. Most of the time very good, luckily; it also depends from the venue and the situation. I don’t want to be superficial, but I can say that generally in USA people are very interested in live music, they buy records and if they come to your show is because they want to listen to you. In UK people got stuck that we came from Italy, and had a very good reaction to our music defined “different” – even if they are an expert audience. Greece has been a surprisingly good experience, there are many interesting bands and everyone is very professional. Italy, well, the situation for music from the inside doesn’t look wonderful, but sometimes we cannot judge if we are directly involved. I can say that there’s less people going to the concerts, maybe because of crisis or lack of good venues but the few that are withstanding are the best, Italian people is fantastic and we love it from the bottom of our hearts. Anyway it’s matter of feelings and they change every time, not just because of the country. Meeting people is one the best part of being a musician.
How is working with such an important label as RareNoiseRecords?
Rare Noise Records is one of the best things that happened to us. They help us to build little by little our future and our dreams. We feel grateful and honoured to work with such professional and passionate people. Giacomo, the owner, is an amazing person and during these years he became more than a “boss” for us.
Your style (as a band, but also as as singer) is very close, in certain ways, to Radiohead’ s one. What influenced your style most?
I’ve been listening to tons of classical, jazz and 70s prog and rock music during my childhood without being conscious of it, now I found that influenced me a lot. As a teenager I started with hip-hop till I met the Nirvana, they opened my ears to the world of rock and alternative music. Now I can say that during the years I’ve become (as the rest of the band) a 360° music lover, I listen to all kinds of music and artists. I don’t have a definitive guide or model, I try to learn from the others and then forget, sing with my mind empty. In the last weeks I’ve been listening a lot to Hindi Zahra and Sufjan Stevens. Among female singers I love Billie Holiday, Beth Gibbons and Joni Mitchell and Lauryn Hill and.. they’re definitely too many.
How much is voice important for you, what’s its role in music, for you? Do you view it only as a way of delivering a message, or you think it’s an instrument itself? I’m referring to Jonsi’s (Sigur Ròs’ singer) point of view in this case. He considers voice a musical instrument itself, and he invented a new language, called “hopelandic” in order to deliver a message using not words, but sounds which melt perfectly with the music in Sigur Ros’ songs.
It depends from the genre and from the song, and -as a consequence- of your necessity. The voice is like an instrument but with an immediate communicative power, because of the possibility to use words and words are important to me. This is the reason why people listen in first place to the vocals, usually it’s the primary melodic “instrument” and it speaks, literally. I adore the album “( )” and I like the Jonsi’ s vocal approach as I consider it an instrumental album. In my personal opinion I think that every part must work perfectly with the others, everything in service of the song itself.
Moreover, do you think we should expand our vocal capabilities (like Jonsi, for example, or, if you know him, Demetrio Stratos), or is voice already well used, and we should leave it just like this? Is it right to explore voice, or maybe, sometimes too much experimentation leads only to confusion?
Of course, never stop improving yourself. Demetrio Stratos was a phenomenon, a unique case and an amazing talent. One on a million. For mortals like us, experimentation is positive as it leads to discover your limits and your possibilities. Singing is like a research on yourself, you can always find something new about your voice and you as a person. I also believe that it has much to do with your mind, it’s psychological. Personally I love melodies and I don’t consider myself an experimenter, but I believe that studying and working on sounds and different ways to use the voice increase possibilities to make your ideas, your intuitions become something real, concrete and beautiful at their best.
Thank you so much for your time, and…good luck!
Thanks to you for your interest and the beautiful interview. For everyone who’d like to contact the band email email@example.com we are always happy to be in touch with people.
Style switcher only on this demo version. Theme styles can be changed from Options page.
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