Kittie's Got Claws
Chronicles of Chaos interviews Mercedes of Kittie
by: Aaron McKay
As the saying goes, dynamite comes in small packages. In my estimation, this harbors the meaning, among other things possibly, that explosive things are often underestimate. Kittie is a band that falls solidly in this class. Speaking of class, they have plenty of that, too. Deference isn't something, I suppose, you'd think an interviewer would describe a metal outfit as possessing, but there has to be a first for everything.

If you feel the need, swallow you preconceived notions as you give _Oracle_ a try. It'll surely scratch more than the surface of your mental whimsy. Don't walk, "Run Like Hell" to check this Canadian outfit, but lap up a few lines of Kittie's mother's milk here first. Mercedes has some yarn to spin your direction.

CoC: I just want to start off by complimenting you guys on _Oracle_. I hadn't got much exposure to you guys other than the Milwaukee MetalFest... what was it, three years ago?

Mercedes: Yeah, a very, very long time ago.

CoC: Very long time ago, indeed. This disc, _Oracle_, this is the first exposure I've had in CD format to Kittie's music. I have to say that it's fairly incredible. I didn't realize how heavy you guys were until I actually got _Oracle_.

M: Well, thank you.

CoC: Could you elaborate a little bit how the evolution toward making _Oracle_ as heavy as it is?

M: Well, physically the songs are off of our first record; those songs were written six years ago, a very, very long time ago -- a different period in our life, and I mean there's not much really to it except the evolution of a band. Obviously, the only way we could go was heavier through the new record, and I mean that's the direction we wanted to go in and subconsciously that's the direction we went into. We weren't expecting, you know, well "this song has to do this and this song has to be like this" -- it just kind of happened and it flows nicely.

CoC: Was there a lot of influence from bands that you toured with that you felt like, you know, we could have all added our own sound and just incorporated that into Kittie?

M: Not really. I think that if anything, watching bands play is more of like an inspiration, you know? It just makes you try harder. We don't like to like pick up things from other artists; we're not that kind of band. We just like to pave our own trails, if anything.

CoC: Was "In Winter" the first one released, or was it "What I Always Wanted"?

M: "What I Always Wanted".

CoC: And did "In Winter" come as a follow up?

M: Yeah, "In Winter" is actually released from like... between that.

CoC: As I mentioned, at the Milwaukee MetalFest years back, I had a little of exposure to Kitty. Now I have _Oracle_. In your estimation, what would you think about a new fan hearing Kittie for the first time and their first exposure being "What I Always Wanted"? Is that kind of what you intended as the inaugural step?

M: I would hope that, well, I mean... yes. That is what we kind of intended, but I mean at the same time I think I'd rather have people listen to the record in its whole entirety rather than listen to the one song. The record is so diverse and it is so much different from that song, and every song has its own personality, I think. I'd rather have them listen to the whole record and see how brutal it actually is.

CoC: Well, that's a good way of putting' it! It does have its own personality. Here's a question you probably get in each interview: how did the Pink Floyd "Run Like Hell" cover come about?

M: Basically what happened was back in October '99 (some time in there, not sure about the dates) we were asked to do a Pink Floyd tribute album. We recorded a version of the song, and right after that we hit the road and, basically, while we were on tour the Pink Floyd tribute album fell through and we had already started playing the song live, so we really didn't know what to do with it -- so we just kept on playing it live. After that we kind of revamped it a little bit and decided to put it on the new record.

CoC: I looked over Kittie's website just a little bit a few times. The video clip there for "Run Like Hell" seems like the fans really get behind that song. Is that what you've found?

M: Oh, definitely! We've been playing it for such a long time. I mean everybody knows the song and before it was on the record there was stuff on Napster, live tracks on Napster, so like everybody knows the song. I think it's like that with all the live songs though. Some more brutal than others.

CoC: Was it your first choice for the tribute album as far as getting to pick "Run Like Hell", or was it something that they asked you to do?

M: It was our first choice. That was a song we felt we could make into our own song. Obviously the song doesn't sound anything like the original, and that's what we were going for.

CoC: Yeah, but the distinctiveness is definitely there and you're absolutely right, but you can tell it's Pink Floyd, which is the great part about making a cover your own. You guys did flawlessly, if you don't mind me saying so.

M: Thank you.

CoC: I also wanted to touch on the bass aspect of the band, I'm a huge fan of bass lines being up front and "in your face", so to speak. "What I Always Wanted" has a nice driving' bass aspect to it. Was this a showcase piece to highlight Jennifer's ability?

M: Actually, our old bassist was on that recording (not Jennifer), but I don't think that was our intention. I think with Jennifer, she adds a lot more stuff to the music now; she adds fills and actually has a bass solo. She's actually a good player. I think now when we play the song live it is more of a showcase.

CoC: It comes across really well all throughout _Oracle_, but that was the song that really stuck in my mind. Having ties to Canada like Kittie does, in your opinion, does that origination point for the band have an impact on their sound or how it is received in the metal community? Put another way, do you receive more or less attention because the band is from Canada?

M: Um, I don't think being from Canada really has anything to do with our sound, 'cause there's not a lot of heavy bands from Canada minus Cryptopsy and the like. There's a lot of radio and punk rock here and that's about it. There's a few really good heavy metal acts from Canada, but I mean other than that, I think a lot of people kind of [believe] just because [a band like Kittie is] from Canada they won't listen to your music because they think that just because you're from Canada you're going to suck. There's not a lot of good metal bands out there from Canada.

CoC: How is the exposure in Canada for Kittie? Pretty diverse?

M: Not as good as in the US. Canada is a little behind and always has been. It's really annoying, kind of. They either hate you or they love you.

CoC: I think it is just a matter of getting them to hear Kitty and understand it, because you touched on it best when you said all the songs have their own personality. I think there is going to be something on _Oracle_ that appeals to somebody somewhere; it's just a matter of getting it in front of their faces. Touching on the songs a bit , the song "Pain" had a nice layer over the harsh and clean vocals. It just came across really well in my opinion. Do you ever get anybody who says you have a good singing voice and why don't you utilize that more; i.e. do away with the other harsh style?

M: Yeah, we do get a lot of people who [say] that, but I mean it's our band and it's our choice. Obviously we're not going to let anybody influence us except for ourselves.

CoC: There is a lot of varying up and changes when it comes to the vocal approach -- sounding at times like in Flames or whatever. What made you guys decide to have a couple different techniques as far as where the vocals come from?

M: We are a band of all types of music and we like to add melody into our music, you know? Other than being just a straight up screaming or singing band, we like the best of both worlds. And it really mixes well with our music.

CoC: Would the term "conflicted" pretty much describe Oracle? Not one path or another but kind a conflicted as far as the vocal approach and all the facets that you have on the song musically?

M: I wouldn't say "conflicted", I'd more say along the lines of... blah... I don't know what I'd describe it as... it's different.

CoC: "Safe" and "Pink Lemonade", I would consider a couple of the most dynamic on the new album. Does it show another side you want to demonstrate to your fans?

M: Yeah, definitely! We always wanted, on our first record (_Spit_), to add an instrumental song that was more mellow, but was safe. We really wanted to have a slower and more mellow song, because we're not just into heavy music. We're into all sorts of music.

CoC: It was excellent... Great way to end an album, great way to go out. What do you think is the heaviest song, in your opinion, on _Oracle_?

M: In my opinion, I think "Severed" is really very brutal, and "No Name" is really heavy. There's so many heavy songs...

CoC: Yea, and they drop in different places, too, where the chunkiness picks up where the other left off. Maybe you thought the previous song was heavy and then you get into a riff in a certain song other track and you're like "DAMN, that's heavy". I mean, as far as the listener would go, I think they would be taken in in a big way by musicianship like that. Did you ever expect _Spit_ to go to the heights it did?

M: No! We're signed to an indie label. I mean, we're from Canada and a garage band forever, and so we really never expected anything.

CoC: How's your relationship with the label?

M: It's alright, I guess... it's not the best.

CoC: Would you consider it a real eye opener from the last album to this one when a fan hears _Oracle_? Do you think they'll be blown away?

M: [_Oralcle_] is so much more different and so diverse, and I think a lot of people who haven't taken the time to listen to it because of the first record, I think, they would definitely enjoy the second album.

CoC: Do you think, speaking of labels, dealing with them is a highly complicated aspect of the music business? Does it ever detract from the more enjoyable parts of having a band like Kittie?

M: Sometimes, but you know what, there's always going to be fights and battles that you win or lose, but I mean this is my life and I love what I do.

CoC: Would you say that touring is the best part of a band like Kittie?

M: We got into this tour to have fun and play live shows. We've always been a live band and we always will be.

CoC: So that's probably the best part and everything else aside.

M: Yeah.

CoC: To a large degree I think that a band takes a little bit away from every person they run into. Do you ever think playing with a band like Slipknot impacts you in any way? For instance, the energy you get caught up in when performing with an band the size of a Pantera, or Slipknot, or an In Flames... Would it be different or would you be able to take something positive away from those different types of shows?

M: I don’t know, I mean... I think that always something positive comes our of a show whether it be we're always going to make new fans no matter what.

CoC: It is just a matter of getting you in front of the right people for exposure. I noticed the mason jar on the front cover; tell me a little bit about the cover, where did that come about?

M: The cover [of the CD] is of a flaming mason jar and you open it up and there's pictures of x-rays of people's bones, for example, and x-ray of a guy with a knife shoved in his eye. And then it's just different x-rays and different pictures that depict emotions and other fun stuff. You have to see it!

CoC: You don’t really know what the cover is instantly; you have to look at it pretty hard to pick it up.

M: A lot of people don't know what the cover is and I've heard some pretty interesting things people think it is...

CoC: Are there big plans for time on the road... tours?

M: Actually, we've been touring non-stop on this record, and we've just set up a tour with us and Shadows Fall, and a band called Hotwire.

CoC: Will you guys headline it?

M: Yeah.

CoC: Thank you, Mercedes, and please end the interview any way you like.

M: Come see a show! Forget every thing you've ever heard about the band at the door and listen with open ears. Or go buy the record and forget anything you've heard about the band and put it in your CD player.

(article submitted 21/3/2003)

9/1/2002 A Bromley Kittie: Still Purring
4/28/2003 A McKay 6.5 Kittie - Safe
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