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Emilie Autumn

date: 2007-04
interview by Case / Melez

Emilie Autumn took the world by storm with her re-interpretation of the classical violin sound. The acclaimed result is victoriandustrial and its fans are legion. Our eager interviewers were lucky enough to get her attention and ask her about things numerous and interesting.

THE DOSE: You've given up your status of independent musician and signed with Trisol to release Opheliac, your debut album. You've previously argued a lot for your independency, how come you've changed and what reasons did the label bring up to make you change yoru mind? What do they say about your albums that you still offer for download?

Emilie AutumnEMILIE: Actually, I haven't given anything up at all. What a lot of people don't seem to realize is that Trisol is not only an independent label, they are the ultimate indie label in that they truly do embody the indie ethics I've been passionate about from the start. I'm referring of course to areas like artistic freedom, musical non-interference, and glorifying the artist's role in every area, ultimately making the artist the boss of their own career, which is precisely what I've always been fighting for. There is another misconception that I received a great sum of money to work with Trisol, thereby "selling out," etc.

The truth of course is that no money was even exchanged, the deal not being a conventional record deal but rather a licensing deal, one that combines partners and doesn't mean anybody owns anybody else. There is virtually no difference in what I do or the music I make, the only difference is that people can now buy my albums at more outlets in more corners of the globe. I don't think this goes in any way against anything I have ever said or fought for as I retain all the rights to my work and still maintain my own record label, Traitor, as well as my previous releases (because "Opheliac" is not my debut in fact, I've been around for quite some time). As for downloadable albums I've offered in the past, they're still there for download, right where they were four years ago.

THE DOSE: For the sake of those readers who just got to know you from your latest EP, could you please make a quick tour of your phases and releases and a brief history with it?

EMILIE: I'll try...I began with a classical violin record when I was 17, then went on to record my first vocal EP, selections from the album that was to become Enchant. Enchant was really my debut as a singer, apart from singing backup for Courtney Love. I was in one of my manic moments of "look at me, I can do all these different styles, and I don't care if you get it or not," and I loved it. That being done I released a few singles in between touring and really lived a bit of life and faced some things I never thought I'd have the face, the result being Opheliac, my current album.

I made Opheliac for myself in an attic and I didn't have a clue who would be listening when it was ready, and to be honest, I didn't care. I needed to make it, and so I did, because that's what artists do. That the album has blown up especially in Europe is a shock to me, I appreciate it, but I didn't expect it. That success led me to release an EP from the album featuring live recordings, b-sides, and tons of brilliant remixes by ASP, "Metalocalypse's" Brendon Small, Angelspit, Velvet Acid Christ, Dope Stars Inc., and Spiritual Front. Just after the EP, which was released in January 2007, it occurred to me that I was about to go on tour and hit the stages all over the world primarily as a singer (albeit with a violin and a harpsichord) and that if I wanted to really show what I could do with the fiddle, the two months before the tour were really my only chance to make that happen. So, that is how the current release, the double disc hardcover book set "Laced/Unlaced" came about, half classical, half violindustrial, all violin madness.

THE DOSE: How come you've changed from being a fairy to a more aggressive femme fatale? How did your fans react to that?

Emilie AutumnEMILIE: I think that the longtime fans who have kept track of my artistic development have found that there was in fact no break in anything but rather a gradual evolution from a young girl who was desperately trying to find hope and beauty in this world through music to a young woman who has lived through hell and back and isn't denying it anymore. I'm making music for me, and I'm doing it for my own survival. Opheliac was a life or death project and I'm out for blood. I can't pretend to be any different than I am, and I certainly won't pretend to have lived a different life so that someone can feel warm and fuzzy. Just as the fairy wings were a metaphor for what I was, Opheliac is a metaphor for what I am now. I still have wings, but they are tiny little bloody angel wings fresh from the grave. You don't go in and out of madhouses and come out sounding quite the same. You just don't.

THE DOSE: Your Liar/Dead EP features quite a few remixer bands, like ASP, Angelspit, Velvet Acid Christ and Dope Stars Inc. How did you meet up these guys, did you select them yourself?

EMILIE: Most are close friends or label mates, others are rising bands I admired and wanted to showcase, Angelspit for example. They're fantastic and they did a brilliant job. I'm so proud of the work everyone contributed to this project, really.

THE DOSE: You've just released Laced/Unlaced, a DCD featuring your violin-only works. Please tell us about how it sprung into being!

EMILIE: As I mentioned earlier it was really a split second decision...I knew that I wanted, at some point, to make this record showing my violinistic development from where I came from in the classical world, to the crazy metal I looked at my schedule and said, ok, I can gather up my archived classical recordings, many unheard ever before, and I can compose and record a second disc of my violindustrial material before I go on the road or not for a very long time, because things are getting very busy very fast and it's now or never.

Of course, I needed to make something very special, a glimpse into this world where this material is created, and where I live. So we went to the Asylum with cameras and shot a hardcover photo book to accompany the CDs filled with shots from inside the Asylum, and sheet music from the album, drawings of leeches, and so on. I wanted people to be able to come inside and experience this material with me, both the old and the new. I think I owe it to the instrument I've spent my life practicing 8-10 hours a day. I'm a singer now, but this is where I came from.

THE DOSE: What other instruments did you master besides the violin and are there any more you'd love to?

EMILIE: I play the violin (baroque, modern, and electric), viola, viola da gamba, harpsichord and piano, but I secretly dream of mastering the pennywhistle.

THE DOSE: You seem to be fascinated by the Japanese Gothic Lolita type of fashion. How did you first enconter this style and what exactly do you fancy in it?

Emilie AutumnEMILIE: What I love about Lolita style is that its basically what I was already doing on my own in my own strange way, and I began to see how two completely different trains can end up at the same spot, and that's the thing that fascinated me. What do I mean by this? The first time I ever heard of Lolita fashion in Japan was when I was at a club some years ago in one of my classic baroque-punk outfits of corset with short frilly skirt and flowers everywhere, and this girl came up to me and asked if I was a Gothic Lolita. When I researched the style, I found it adorable and definitely fascinating, most of all for the reason that the Japanese Loli's in their way were glorifying and adopting and reinventing western historical costume and culture, and that is essentially what I do every day. So it was the fun of seeing how this very interesting culture a world away was so different and yet dressing in the same baroque and victorian styles that I'd been wearing for years. It's all about adopting and reinventing and I'm a fan of all street scenes that do that, Loli, punk, goth, all of it. It's all beautiful and necessary.

THE DOSE: Which GL style do you prefer? Frilly & baroque? Elegant aristocrat? Punkish and wild?

EMILIE: I myself make my own clothes and as such usually come up with something that is not either of these three categories, but as I've got every Gothic Lolita Bible, I can definitely say that Frilly Baroque Lolita is my personal fave, mainly because it takes the most bravery to wear it and as it is the most perverse, it requires a great sense of humour to pull it off in public. I feel that all clothes should require a sense of humor or they're not even worth putting on. My closet is presently filled with crinolines and tattered skirts covered in blood, so it definitely requires some humor on the part of both the wearer and the observer.

THE DOSE: What's your favourite gothloli brand?

EMILIE: That's difficult...of course I love Baby, The Stars Shine Bright and Angelic Pretty, but H. Naoto is more like the clothes I make, and of course Moi-meme-Moitie rules and not just because Mana is my label mate on Trisol.

THE DOSE: Is Gothic Lolita Fashion getting more widely popular in the US or is it still a thing for the anime/J-rock chicks?

EMILIE: It is still very exclusive, I think largely because of the difficulty in obtaining the clothes from overseas, so the girls (and boys) who really take the fashion to the next level usually make it themselves, which I wholeheartedly applaud. I think however that any fashion that is impossible to wear on the job is never going to become anything more than cult fashion in a society where everybody's got to work. And that is precisely why I've gotten myself a fake job as a musician where I can wear anything I want.

THE DOSE: On your MySpace page you included "Malice Mizer, Moi Dix Mois, All J-Rock" amongst your influences. Do you plan to incorprate J-rock influences to your music or will you just stick with its fashion aspect?

Emilie AutumnEMILIE: I never had a plan to incorporate either, I admire the fashion and the music just as I admire Baroque fashion and music, and I think that's where the similarities come in, but my music and dress has been a direct development of my childhood working in costume houses and studying history, and I've been developing it for years. I'm into harpsichords because I'm a music history nerd and a period performance specialist and that's what we play. Malice Mizer is one of my very favorite bands because they've also found the beauty in these dusty old relics and really owned them and brought them to life in this very dark exciting way. I admire them and Moi Dix Mois very much for this, it's original and brilliant and I'm honored to be on the same label with both. I love all J-rock with or without harpsichords though, because it's got amazing energy and freshness, which is something popular music in the Western world hasn't had since the eighties.

THE DOSE: As a performer: open air/festival, club gig or the orchestra pit?

EMILIE: Club gig, definitely. Intimate salon would be my ideal, surpassed only by dressing room concerts.

THE DOSE: Don't you lack purely orchestral work?

EMILIE: Hell no.

THE DOSE: You're mastering your instruments with strong confidence. How much time do you spend practising and is there any challenge which can propel you onwards? Have you been accused from the "professionals" that you're using your talent for the unproper genre?

EMILIE: I don't spend nearly as much time practicing as I used to, because I've paid my dues and done my 10 hours a day not excepting holidays and my fingers pretty well know what they're supposed to do by now. When I practice now, it's to invent new techniques, to develop new acrobatic styles of fingering, or to further the practice of the electric fiddle as a legit rock goddess instrument, a status it does not yet have for the simple reason that most fiddlers turn to the rock scene or playing in a band because they're not terribly good and can't deal with the pressures of being a classical violinist.

So, rock kind of gets the dregs of fiddler pool, in much the same way as violists do, as it's a well known joke/reality that nobody sets out to be a violist, it's something you do when you're not terribly brilliant at the violin. . Sad, but also true as the day is long and a hi diddly ho. I'm a massive violin snob, and I can't stand top see the instrument played badly, but I also know that on the other hand that other violin snobs (because we all are) are looking at me and going, "yeah right, look at her, do you honestly think she knows what she's doing?" And that's why I knew that "Laced/Unlaced" was so important. As for "professionals" thinking I'm misusing my supposed talent, I got over their approval years ago and now avoid it like the plague. If you look at the pathetic state of the classical music industry and it's failing profits, you'll see that their approval amounts to nothing less than a kiss of death.

THE DOSE: As a partyface: priceless VIP parties, a subtle pub or moshpit & roll?

EMILIE: Moshpit all the way. I've done all three varieties and can't say I'm stopping any of them but my particular fondness is for metal shows. That's real energy, and those are some fucking passionate fans. That's a show. That's what I want to see. People charging the stage and tearing their clothes off with no concern for their personal safety or well-being. Fuck VIP, I can have champagne anytime.

THE DOSE: What would you do if you weren't allowed to make music? "I would surely die in an instant" is not an option. :)

Emilie AutumnEMILIE: Well, since you've ruled out my first choice, I would write mystery novels and bake cupcakes in the kitchen of my Devonshire handfed guide-leech farm for the blind.

THE DOSE: Which bands or performers would you recommend to your fans? Please don't refrain from mentioning contemporary classics!

EMILIE: Ha! You know me and penchant for antiques too well! I'm mad about Dragonforce at the moment, and of course Arch Enemy and Children of Bodom I've loved for a while now and highly recommend to anybody who likes a smack in the face every once in a while. Back in my own industrial genre, you probably already know the Dope Stars Inc. are bloody amazing and definitely on the world domination plan, and of course ASP makes killer music which you can hear a hint of in the insane duet remix they did for me of "Liar." If you don't know these guys, you really should, and also check out Cannibal Corpse and honest-to-god live recordings from the Edwardian music halls, because they're better than chocolate. As for classics, three words and the rest is up to you: Violet. Gordon. Woodhouse.

THE DOSE: Gloomy Sunday is a song you're singing during a movie clip. Its original version is Hungarian, straight from 1933. People occasionally mention a suicide spree that's allegedly connected to it - what's sure, though,that its composer, Rezs? Seres, ended his life with his own hands. How did you came to know this track, which version was your introduction to it and what does it mean to you so that you're referring to it in your track Art of Suicide?

EMILIE: I first heard the Paul Whiteman version, which I believe was the earliest or second earliest English recording. I was incredibly affected by the song and it's bravery in dealing with difficult subject matter in the way that so many others have been, but also by it's story of banning and the demand that a second ending be written to replace the first one, the second one being rather trite and insultingly silly, wrapping the whole song up as though it were a nitwit's dream rather than a suicide. Whiteman recorded the original version, with suicide ending intact. Later on, other were forced to record the song only with the second ending added on because of the morbid nature of the first one.

When I reference this in "The Art of Suicide," it is in the lyric at the very end which says "life is not like Gloomy Sunday with a second ending when the people are disturbed...". This is followed by "well they should be disturbed because there's a lesson that ought to be learned." I believe that in all suicides there is a lesson that ought to be learned and brushing over it or glamorizing it as the Victorian painters did or making something simple which is in fact very complex is a mistake that continues to this day.

THE DOSE: Could you please elaborate a bit about The Asylum, what it consists of and how do you plan to expand it in the future?

Emilie AutumnEMILIE: Certainly. The Asylum is where I live. There are many branches and wings and I find that where ever I go, I am always still there. The story of the Asylum is too lengthy to be told here in its entirety, but I can summarize that the Asylum is a living, breathing entity, it grows and changes shape along with its inhabitants, and for me, it is the only place I feel safe. It began life as a Insane Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls, but along the way, the girls revolted and all of the doctors who were torturing and performing medical tests upon them were murdered by their hands. They still live there, as do I, and many of my closest girlfriends and Bloody Crumpets, but we have owned it and made it our haven. The Asylum is about taking back what's yours and turning your prison into your sanctuary. If you want to see what it looks like, you will have to get the "Laced/Unlaced" photo book because it takes you closer than anyone's ever been before.

THE DOSE: Where does your energy come from to keep the glowing red mist up gig after gig?

EMILIE: Humor. I see the ridiculous in everything I do, and half of my lyrics are sarcastic and not quite what they seem. While the rest are indeed murderous, there's nothing healthier than to have a full blown cathartic breakdown on stage every night, is there? I think not!

THE DOSE: Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us, Emilie, do you have any final messages for The Dose readers?

EMILIE: The pleasure is entirely mine. I'd simply like to advise the dear readers not to drink hydrogen peroxide if they wish not to burn a whole in their esophagus because it truly does ruin one's afternoon.

THE DOSE: And the very last one: what do you fill those green tea mochi with? They did look divine indeed!

EMILIE: Oh! With red adzuki bean paste of course! You simply boil the adzukis with water and sugar and there you have it! My cooking obsession is where my true allegiance to Japan lies! Hurrah!