GITANE DEMONE: “MUSIC IS SOMETHING THAT POSSESSES ME. I AM ITS SERVANT”

(Listen -in spanish- http://www.laletracapital.com/podcast-capitulo-111-de-damas-y-gargantas/)

 

1.- Everybody in Spain (at least everyone who read laletracapital) know you, but maybe there is someone who doesn’t know your current project, Gitane Demone Quartet, introduce yourselves, please.

Within the Quartet: Rikk Agnew (Christian Death, Adolescents, D.I., 45 Grave – to name a few of the great bands he’s contributed to…) on guitar, Paul Roessler (Nina Hagen, Screamers, 45 Grave… like Rikk, many more iconic bands) on keyboards, percussion, drums, Deb Venom (Aunty Trust, Spirit Before A Fall, A Bleeding Sky) on keyboards and bass, and myself on lead vocals. Everyone sings backing vocals.

2.- Gitane Demone is an artistic name, isn’t it? Do you want to tell us about its meaning?

It is a melody.

3.- You have a long career, since Pompeii 99 till GDQuartet. Which projects has been the most meaningful?

I live in the moment, so whatever I’m involved in has the greatest meaning at that time. Therefore, all the projects have been meaningful, and for different reasons. I’ve learned so much from experiencing different forms, different artists. “All roads lead to NOW” – I love this quote from Rikk Agnew.

4.-You are involved with Rikk Agnew now in the quartet, who starts Christian Death with Rozz in early 80’s. In anyway, do you think that this close the circle?

There was (still) quite a void in my life, after Rozz and other close friends from our small circle died. With Rikk, I felt joined with a kindred spirit, someone who experienced the past, someone to experience the present.Closing the circle? Rikk says: “It’s a triangle”.

5.- Please, tell us something about this years, Christian Death years, and about the “fracture” with Rozz and your new meeting with him, in “Dream home heartache” times.

I was pregnant (with my son, Sevan) when I joined Christian Death, so my experience was very different from everyone else in the band. I couldn’t party or go out after shows. My entire time in Christian Death I was onstage, or in studio, otherwise caring for my children. I would be nursing backstage right until I went on with the band. It was probably very difficult, but to me quite normal, because although a mother, music was the other half of my life. Rozz was very “sympathetic”, very caring, right from the start.

It was one of two of the most difficult decisions I had to make in my life, to stay in the band after Rozz left- because he trusted in our friendship, and I am a very loyal person. I put our friendship on one hand, and my child’s relationship with his father on the other. As a mother, my child won over, of course, and intuitively Rozz knew this. When I finally left Christian Death in 89, Rozz wrote me a letter, thanking me for leaving the band, and wanted to work together again. Amazing letter. I was living in Amsterdam; after a few years, and when I was performing in my own right, we toured together, my band opening for his, and discussed recording, which became Dreamhome Heartache, and which we toured this material together, on several different tours. This record was largely improvised in the studio. We had gone in with just two songs in mind to record, In Every Dream Home A Heartache, and Manic Depression. The rest came about due to Pieter Rekvelt, my pianist, having musical compositions. Rozz and I found amongst our caches of written work the fitting lyrics, aside from Moon Without A Tear, which I created a somewhat lunar landscape to fit the lyrical environment. Later, in 96, I returned to Los Angeles, where I worked, played and spent each day with Rozz, a great family of friends,  musicians, intermingling our projects, arts, and time, quite, until Rozz’s death.

6.- C.Death was probably one of the most powerful inspiration to all the gothic and deathrock scenes all over the USA (and, surely the whole world). What do you think about this? What do you feel about this?

I feel it is an enormous honor to be a contributor.  We were authentic, just being ourselves, expressing music.

7.- After leaving CD in 1989, you started your solo career and you made several amazing albums like “Facets of Blue”, “Love for Sale”, “Am I Wrong?”, “Stars of Trash”… Please, tell us something about this years, you were involved with a bunch of artists (Mark Ickxx, Pieter Rekveldt, and many others)…

Yes, I’ve been blessed to work with wonderful musicians throughout the years. Pieter Rekvelt was my first real collaborator. Classically trained as a child, his interests covered jazz and avant-garde composers, so he was open to all kinds of experimentation, and improvisation live, too. We’d also go to jazz open-mic nights at the Bimhuis jazz club in Amsterdam, where we’d perform a Billie Holiday song on occasion, for fun. I loved working with Pieter, and as a friend.

Same with Marc Ickx. When we first met, we went into a studio and just improvised for a half hour. We loved it so much we knew we had to work together. Recording Demonix was a fantastic creative adventure- kind of like with Dreamhome Heartache: I went to his studio with two songs, and the rest we made up together- sometimes I’d be in the foyer writing out lyrics, while he’d be working on the music. We’d work through the night, go home at sun-up, go back to the studio when the sun was setting. After the Demonix album was released, I’d revisit Marc’s studio with Rozz for our collaboration,with Ken Thomas producing, and David Hammink, my bassist, helping out on Dreamhome Heartache. Later on I went to Marc  to record several tracks for Am I Wrong? album.

I moved back to the U.S. at the end of ’96, expecting to return to Amsterdam, and all my friends and associates there. I did not return to Europe, unfortunately, as I had planned, so I put together a new band, including Paris from EXP and Shadow Project, and initially David Glass- I even had the bassist from Pompeii 99 play my first show upon returning, and Kenton Holmes, on guitar, who played with so many great bands- Faith and the Muse, Rozz Williams, Frankenstein, 45 Grave. I joined a project of Christian Izzo, called Bis Ende, a kind of experimental trip-hop band he had- Christian worked with Rozz on the Daucus Karota album. With Rozz at the center of these musicians, this family, many of us were entertwined in music and art projects together, playing shows and integrating into each other’s performances, and recordings. Aside from this spectacular time, and after Rozz passed, I worked with Dreadful Shadows, singing backing vocals on their last album. They invited me to return for recording my next album, which would become Stars Of Trash, with Tommy Hein producing. This was a very interesting experience, conveying my ideas through demos to a band I did respect immensely, but was not expecting the “industry situation” which was expected of me. I have always made music for love first, not thinking of the industry side, and I suppose this is a fault of mine. We all have to make a living, and I have somehow managed to get by with my small releases. I was of a different mind when making this album, than was expected of me. This album was a tribute to the lives of many friends I lost, and our experiences, times together. I wasn’t expecting to make a big commercial release. Dreadful Shadows were really wonderful, and certainly did their best to compromise for me, but it also seemed we were from different planets.

Meanwhile, I had brought Paris with me to play live shows on tour with Dreadful Shadows; off-tour we lived in Berlin, and did record an ep, very bizarre experimental music. I called the project Green Eyes. These are some of the artists, in a long, unstoppable (I always hope) line of my work, a continuing passion, and a reach into the unknown. So this time leads to the year 2000…

 

8.- After Solitary War, in 2000, you took aproximately ten sabatic years (of “public” life, I mean). What about this “dark years”?

I suppose it seemed like a hiatus- but only for Europe! In the U.S. I toured (2000), accompanied by a guitarist. In 2001 I performed, and was working on a new repertoire of songs with musician Paul Morden (R.I.P.). After parting ways, I then toured and performed with an extremely talented artist, Ivan X- I mention these artists, because I have wonderful material from these performances archived, and they do deserve public release at some point.

My mother was very ill, so I took care of her for quite a length of time, until she passed.

I created a great deal of artwork during this time. Some of this can be be viewed on my website: gitanedemone.net

In 2002,  I performed with my former co-hort guitarist Kenton Holmes,recorded and performed with hardcore punk band Ciril, experimental band Dog, project with artist The Strangelet, guested with Mephisto Waltz several times. I had been teaching myself guitar and writing songs, conveying the material to musicians to form a band, several times, but the ‘feel’ wasn’t working out, so I disbanded the project, concentrating on playing the guitar to accompany myself, then Zara joined me, first with maracas, and then drums. By 2005 we became the Crystelles, playing many shows and touring the U.S.. Crystelles disbanded in 2012.

9.- In the last years, nevertheless, you’ve certainly been doing a lot of songs. “The Reflecting Shadow” album, The Crystelles LP and, now, your new album, “Past the Sun” with the Quartet. All three are amazingly wonderful. Please tell us about this works.

The Crystelles album (available on 12″ vinyl on my art label ‘Free Bondage’ includes a 28-page lyric and art book) came out in 2008. Attach and Detach was an expression of a harsher reality, lyrically, than what I’d expressed with past works until that time. I had experienced and witnessed extremely  brutal situations personally during the time of writing the material for Attach and Detach, so, it is not a very ‘pretty’ album. Crystelles recorded a second entire lp, very different from the first Attach and Detach, with themes of death, songs for the dead, loss… Zara sang two songs with her beautiful voice… it was wonderful material; unfortunately it was destroyed in a fire, and only exists on rough demos and some live footage.

The Reflecting Shadow, emotionally, was a cathartic experience for me, largely to do with past relationships, requited, unrequited, impossible relationships, loves lost to death, death itself. Jean-Paul Garnier (Loopool), who was the second and final bassist in Crystelles, and a genius musician in his own right, created the arrangements for the songs, taking suggestion from me for the atmosphere I wanted the songs to convey. As I feel we reflect ourselves to the Universe, I felt I was reflecting a shadow, but coming out towards light, therefore the title.( Jean-Paul and I recorded an entire lp for our project Hedone Tears, directly after the Reflecting Shadow. There is one 7″ available. The lp has yet to be released.)

Past The Sun, and GDQ (the Quartet) based our lp on a concept of ‘expanding’ the repetition; the songs are repetitive-based, on that foundation, or “box’. the idea is to expand musically within and past this “box”, to interact musically, freely and create sonic tensions, environments. This way we expand ourselves, musically and spiritually, as music is of the spirit. We strive to create movement in which we can lose our minds! The topics are spiritual and social-political, lyrically. And here, in this lp, and with this band I have lost the conventionality of the verse-chorus-verse type of songwriting in favor of singing poems.

10.- Sevan and Zara have worked with you (Sevan like a child in CD era, and Zara, as an adult of course, creating with you in The Crystelles). How do you feel working with your children?

I love being near both my “kids” as much as possible. The years with Zara in Crystelles was an amazing adventure- one that is still hard for me to realize; we spent so many years with this project. It was truly a great adventure, just playing- she’d never played drums before, and I’d never played guitar before, and yet we made this heavy racket with our self-taught sound! With Sevan in CD, those were infant times. Later on in his teens we jammed a lot together, for fun. He joined Zara and I for one show we performed at “Rock Against Bush” benefit in Hollywood- with Sevan on bass. That was a real family performance. I love every moment with those two. Every moment is a treasure. Every moment. Those two are my greatest achievement, ever. Nothing surpasses them, ever, at all.

11.- What has music done for you? Is it “only” a way to express yourself? What’s your main inspiration?
I would like to serve it much better than I have or do. Music is in the blood, it is a skin, it runs through my brain day and night. I have  antenna, invisible antenna tuned and aware of fragments music might wave my way. Sometimes I think music is tired of me after all these years, and I haven’t come close enough to rewarding it for my life with it. Therefore I keep working at it, letting it throw me where it will. Music is inspiration. Sound is inspiration. I follow the frequencies; they do not follow me.

12.- How is the composition process? First music, then lyrics, or… The rest of the Quartet, Rikk Agnew, Paul Roessler and Deb Venom, Do they also work in the musical creation?

Different ways. Sometimes the song is first and inspires the lyrics- sometimes the other way around. Sometimes one of us will be playing around at a rehearsal, and I will pick up my book of writing and voila! There it is. Everybody writes music. It is a very sharing group. No big egos.

13.- How important are lyrics for you? What do you want to express through them?

Lyrics are SO important. I want each lyric as good as a poem. I like poetry that is musical, words that sing, and have a life of their own together. I like to present questions, or express a topic in a fresh way. My brain is gnarled beyond recognition as I struggle with lyrics. Again it is possession, I am possessed by these demons and angels under a heaven called art.

14.- About Past the Sun. I think it is a great album, full of amazing feelings and a huge energy. Maybe PtSun is one of your more energetic albums. Do you agree?

Thank you for the compliments. It is an energetic album. The band are very energetic individuals.

15.- The way you create music, is the same now and in the past?

It has always been the possession/awareness; the antenna, the ongoing listening for music to come to me. Other times I will flat out write on the piano or guitar, or hear a message in an ambient beat, or sequence of sounds- it could be floating on the street. I’m fortunate to be working with three other composers, and superb musicians in GDQ. Paul Roessler adds incredible sound poetics producing the songs. It is a fragile system of its parts, Gitane Demone Quartet: without one of the parts, it cannot exist.

16.- Which is your favourite song of PtSun? Why?

I do not have one favourite. Each one has been a birth and an adventure- in this first lp we were creating ourselves as a band. Each song has a very different personality. I love each song, and for different reasons.

17.- The CD has a beautiful and cared design. How important is this for you?

It is important and complicated to have a designed cd. Dark Vinyl created the art, and everyone was pleased. The art generally is like the first impression of a person, in that one thinks one can tell a book by its cover. Not necessarily so. But one hopes to connect the art with the music.

18.- I want to give you some sentences, and I’d want that you tell us what do you think about or what do you feel or… The first idea that came to your mind. Ready?

– We hide from sound-paintings on distant walls, We hide from cold still-lives on empty floors

-…we hide our bent husbands behind slamming doors… don’t run to the window…

and then a vision of Rozz appears, Rozz in the early 80s, Rozz in my living room…Rozz.

– And bring to me the tongue of fire, That I once knew

– the brilliancy of these words, words of a genius.

– Wiping my body never again clean, Guilt bleeds from taste of my sin

– I have always felt this dirt, singing these words.The “sin” was questionable to me.

– A thousand years or so is said, Gentle breeze of a flowering bed, Children and fairies chattering secrets in pretty ears

– a golden elsewhere.

– Transgressing all frontiers, Far beyond bordellos

– SEX

– In the beginning there was sinning, and we made love like animals, out of wedlock

– again, sinning is not my word for it!

– Somewhere, I know there’s a place, Where love can grow

– I Lost A Friend To Heroin

-recalling loved ones addictions and ultimate death.

– This is my favorite sad story, Forget me not or I’ll forget myself

– Heavy heart, deep sigh

– My love must be a kind of blind love, I can’t see anyone but you

– true

19.-What do you think about present dark scene? There are tons of bands today and most of all sound really good!

Oh yes! So so many great new bands, with their own variations. Here in L.A, Oakland, San Francisco, Portland, Oregon, across the country, and beyond.What an outstanding tradition: originality has once again prevailed!

20.- And in future, what is next for you?

GDQ releases second lp, recording a third lp

Tour Europe- I say this affirmatively; nothing is planned yet…

A recorded lp project: Hedone Tears

Release, collaboration with experimental artist Blood Rythyms: “Phantom Apotemnophile”

More things, but to speak of them may “jinx” them!

21.- And finally, three questions more frivolous (not sure if the previous ones are in the same way):

– You have released many songs in all these years… Which three would you choose from your whole career?

Ask me in twenty years, please!

– During the last years, I am sure that there have been a number of bands and songs that seems to have had an influence in your music… Could you choose three songs from other bands that you would have liked to write yourselves?

Too difficult a question. There are too many works of perfection from classical to jazz to deathrock/gothic to experimental to rock and all its variations…Ask me later, please!

– Apart from the three songs just mentioned and the covers you have done, which three songs would you like to cover?

– I don’t yet know. I’m working on new material right now, and haven’t come up for air to think about this.

22.-Thank you very much for all! The last words are yours.

Thank you for listening, for your kind interest, for my friends in Spain, and remember: LOVE, ABOVE ALL.