By: Brittany Feagans
BF: In the Black is about 2 months old, has it been received as well as you’d hoped?
We’re not finished yet that’s for sure. It’s only been out for a little while. We haven’t even gone to radio yet with a radio single. We still have a video we have to put out. So far so good though!
BF: Please describe the “new voice” you were seeking when writing and recording “In the Black” and were you able to achieve the results you were hoping for?
I think we did an awesome job at achieving what we needed to for sure. This album is the album that we always wanted to put out, basically. I think we succeeded.
BF: What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced both as a band and personally within the band?
MERCEDES: Everyday’s a challenge, man, but it’s fun so it doesn’t really matter that much. It’s not all sunshine and lollipops out here for sure. Running your own business like we do, it’s definitely very difficult. On one end we’re handling a lot of things a manager would do, but we have a family management company. Morgan and I are involved with everything. It’s difficult for sure but at the same time it’s like whatever I’m doing what I like to do so it doesn’t really matter.
BF: Was it harder with the band in the earlier days, working the 9-5 and getting the band off the ground, or do you find it equally as challenging today?
I think it’s definirwly a lot more challenging now. To keep the momentum up, to keep up with being on tour everyday, yeah it’s definirwly a lot more challenging.
BF: How do you rate your individual growth as a musician?
TARA: 100%. I went from playing a lot of shows and playing a lot of guitar, but now it’s my job. I have a huge passion for guitar, but not only that, it’s my job. I feel like because of that I’m constantly expanding and learning new things.
BF: Who are your personal biggest musical influences?
TARA: There’s a lot of them. We all listen to so many different artists that I think we’d be here for literally hours talking about it. My favorite guitar players that I like to rip on and learn from them are Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, especially when I was younger. Those were the top three when I was a kid.
MERCEDES: Alex Van Halen and Vinnie Paul, who rips off of Alex Van Halen. It’s great when you find out one of your greatest inspirations rips off another one of your favorites. I don’t think I’ve ever sat down and been like ‘I want to play drums because of this person,’ but there’s definitely things that I take from them.
BF: Who has been your favorite band to tour with?
MERCEDES: I’m going to have to say Pantera.
BF: You’ve had many lineup changes over the years. How has that affected the sound of Kittie?
MERCEDES: It hasn’t at all. I mean for the most part Morgan and I did everything up until the last record and this record, so not really a whole lot has changed.
BF: When not performing, vlogging, conducting interviews and sleeping… what do the members of Kittie spend their time doing while on tour?
Walk around, look at things, try to waste time, we don’t really do a whole lot.
BF: Where has been your favorite place to visit on tour?
TARA: I’m going to say Chile. I ate a lot of good food there.
MERCEDES: South America. Germany was wonderful. All those big fat German grandmas that cook for you and want to feed us. We ate really good in Germany. The crowd was kind of amazing. I rate things by food. We played about nine shows in Germany. The last tour we did was like “The German Tour.”
BF: Kittie was featured on the Saw VI soundtrack. Is this your first soundtrack involvement or have you had songs on other soundtracks? Is your song featured in the movie or at the credits only? Did you have any other involvement with the movie besides the soundtrack?
MERCEDES: I think it’s our first soundtrack, but I know our music has been featured in films before.
TARA: I don’t believe it’s in the movie, but if you buy the album it’s on there.
BF: Where would Kittie be these days without the Internet?
MERCEDES: I don’t know, man, this band really was around before all that stuff. I mean the internet was around but it wasn’t what it is today. I think the internet has made people dumber, but at the same time I mean, whatever.
TARA: It definitely puts things at your fingertips faster, which benefits bands.
MERCEDES: I think it also hurts bands. Everything’s more personalized. I mean, you were lucky in the 70s if you bought a magazine and saw a picture of Led Zeppelin on it you know what I mean? It’s way different now. I think people are really focused on the way bands look now, the aesthetics instead of the actual music. There are a lot of bad bands out there that look really good.
TARA There’s a lot that you can hear on the Internet and hear live and say wow, how is this the same thing? Technology has definitely made it easier to fake it. I like going to a show and seeing a band and maybe being more impressed by their live show.
BF: Do you use the Internet to promote a lot?
We have everything. We have a MySpace, a Twitter, a Facebook, a YouTube channel that we post videos on; we’re completely self contained in the internet land.
BF: How has Vlogging influenced the band and relationship with your fans?
MERCEDES: We just do tour updates. I didn’t know it actually had a name. We do internet updates with my camera. We’ll just set it up and be in a random location and be like ‘we’re in this stupid place’.
TARA: I think we were in Latvia one time.
MERCEDES: It goes back to like you know, people need their bands to be a lot more accessible. They need to be able to see…
TARA: Behind the scenes is always kind of nice because it’s not just album music and live shows, it’s like here we are, we’re talking, this is what we act like even if we look funny.
BF: Who is Kittie’s main fanbase?
MERCEDES: Men, women, gays, straights, transvestites… everybody. We have the weirdest fanbase ever.
TARA: We welcome everybody.
MERCEDES: Everybody is just so different. It’s one of those things, you know what I mean? I think that’s what makes this band so special.
TARA: I think that’s what makes it lasting too. It’s never been a fad thing, it’s never been the kids who like you one week and then the next week they’re on to the next fad. Kittie fans don’t care what people think about the kind of music they listen to. It gives us a lasting factor.
BF: You’re now with E1 Entertainment, how long has it been now and how have things been so far?
MERCEDES: Not even a year. A matter of months. It’s awesome. We’re having a great time. I’ve never heard yes so many times in my life, so that makes me happy.
BF: Tell us about the Poisoned Black clothing line, how did it come about and how is it doing?
MERCEDES: In 2005, Morgan and I had a little bit of downtime and we decided that it was something we had always wanted to do so we decided to actually go ahead and start the clothing line. We have an online store and it does pretty well. I mean, we’re looking always to expand but it always takes a backseat when we start touring. Hopefully it will be available in stores someday.
BF: Do you have any other projects in the works?
MERCEDES: I don’t really have a life other than this band. I have cats but that’s about it.
BF: No fragrances?
TARA: Haha… Kittie spit and sweat… a little drop of blood.
BF: You’ve only got a few more shows scheduled at the moment. What are you going to do after October 29?
Celebrate Halloween, go home, and get ready for the next one. I think we’re going to Europe in January. We might be going out in the US again in December for a little while again. But other than that we’re just waiting to go back out.
MORGAN LANDER (guitar, vocals)
MERCEDES LANDER (drums)
TARA McLEOD (guitar)
IVY VUJIC (bass)
“We wanted this to be a behemoth of an album, a real beast,” says Kittie front woman Morgan Lander of In The Black, the fifth studio album of her band’s decade-long career as metal’s reigning femme fatales. The band delivered true on their promise, creating a 12-track behemoth of unapologetic metal splendor, forging bone-crushing music and penetrating vocals into a snarling beast of blunt force trauma. And better yet, they did it without any drama.
Tara McLeod, Kittie’s acclaimed guitarist returns with a prodigious second studio effort. “Tara comes from a different school of music, she’s more influenced by blues and jazz, and as we evolve as a band we definitely play off of each other,” Morgan says of her fellow guitarist. “They complement each other really well,” adds Mercedes, the band’s drummer, “and it was really nice to have someone be able to come to practice with a solo for a song or a cool riff.
It was nice to have a third party offering suggestions.” Also familiar to fans is bassist Ivy Vujic, who has been in the band for two years, making this the most dynamic and engaging lineup in Kittie’s history. And their chemistry shows!
With total domestic sales in excess of 1.25 million, Kittie also approached the recording of In the Black as complete free agents, for their first time ever, writing and recording a record with absolutely no outside influences breathing down their necks. The results will make your skin crawl and the hair on the back of your neck stand at attention.
“It’s the most focused piece of music we’ve ever put out, and it was the most focused process,” says Mercedes of the new release. “We just did whatever we wanted to do and wrote whatever we wanted to write.” Adds Morgan, “We set out to make this album the complete antithesis of what our last album was, and to do things as differently as possible in terms of writing, recording and song structure. We felt very boxed-in production-wise on the last album, and we were determined to make an album where we could feel free, liberated, and left to our own devices.”
In other words, the album is Kittie in all their unadulterated splendor, a colossal effort that combines everything fans have come to expect from the fearsome foursome, along with a few surprises. “My Plague” is the album’s primal mating call, a sinister brood of Morgan’s sadistic vocal dirges and growls, a swirling grind of guitars and an artillery spray of drum cover. “Forgive And Forget” is just as brutal, but laced by a melodic underbelly as soft as the song’s guitar solos are scorching, and “Die My Darling” trades the death mask vocals for a melodic pitch and resonating gang vocal on the chorus. It’s as filthy as anything Kittie have ever recorded before, but twice as inviting.
“I wanted to try and do something different vocally, not the same screaming and singing,” says Morgan. “I challenged myself to find a new voice for this album, and there are a couple of songs where I really think I have it. I wanted to dig deeper to make the sound more raw and real, more in your face. In the case of ‘Die My Darling,’ it was sassy and it needed that nasty spin on things.” Mission accomplished.
And if you think you hear a lick or two that reminds you of some of metal’s classic forces? You’re probably not far from the mark – As long as you know your history, that is.
“I feel like a lot of bands don’t take the cues from their elders, and they’re just ripping each other off,” says Mercedes of today’s metal scene. “We grew up in a house with late-’70s classic rock and early metal, and as we get older our influences are starting to come into our songwriting more. We just don’t want to sound like anybody else that’s out right now.”
“The classic metal feel is something that we’ve grown into,” continues Morgan. “As we get older and become better musicians, it’s necessary to go back in time and appreciate an older style and the fledgling form of the music you’re playing. The ’70s and ’80s were a magical time in metal and those guys were amazing players. We totally respect it, so why not pay homage if you can pull it off?”
Pull it off they do, “Kingdom Come” kicking the album off in an instrumental fashion that would do Metallica proud and “My Plague” following in true “For Whom The Bell Tolls” fashion, “Ready Aim Riot” packing a guitar swoon similar in style to seminal to the thrash of early Anthrax, and classic rock even getting a nod on “Whisky Love Song,” which might emblaze an educated listeners with a vision of Thin Lizzy on speed and steroids.
The album is equal parts Kittie’s past and equal parts Kittie’s future. “For us to move forward,” explains Morgan, “we’ve done a lot of looking back with music, and we wear our influences on our sleeves – Metallica, Death, Carcass, and even classic bands like Thin Lizzy, who Mercedes listens to a lot.
“This album speaks for itself – our musicianship is better, we’re more self-assured and comfortable, and we just did what we do with no boundaries and no limitations. We appreciate that people know us from our first album and we respect our history, but we want people to respect and understand what we’re doing now and appreciate Kittie for the evolutionary step that we’ve taken. What we do is both intriguing and frightening at the same time – I think that’s why we’ve been able to keep at it for as long as we have, and why we’ll continue to do it for a very long time.”
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