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Here Kittie, Kittie, Kittie! Exclusive Interview With Metalís Favorite Felines

By Jeff Kerby, Contributor
Thursday, April 10, 2003 @ 8:13 PM

Kittie Drummer Mercedes Lander

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Being labeled as a ďfemale metal bandĒ is either a blessing or a curse depending on the perspective of the people making that determination. On one hand, there arenít many women out there playing loud, aggressive music, but on the other hand, that also means the primary focus of attention is bound to be tied more to the gender of the musicians creating the music rather than the quality of the compositions themselves. Whether people like Kittieís particular brand of guttural metal or not, it should be obvious to any honest listener that this really isnít a gimmick band. Did being female help them get signed? Probably, but it doesnít change the fact that theyíve continued to exhibit a high level of musicianship throughout four years of extensive touring, two full length albums as well as two EPís. Their career alone should stand as proof that Kittie is truly committed to rocking outside the parameters of the mainstream and will most likely remain a viable, productive band in metal for years to come.

The problems Kittie has had with their last headlining tour have been well documented -- Biohazard never made it on the bus due to Evan Seinfeldís health, and Brand New Sin dropped off to work on a film leaving more than a few ticket buyers disappointed. In addition, the seeds of discontent present here belie the animosity the band has harbored for quite some time toward Artemis Records, which most certainly foreshadowed their willingness to file a lawsuit against the label as they did last week. Through it all though, it becomes apparent while talking to drummer Mercedes Lander, and bassist Jennifer Arroyo, that all of the scrutiny and obstacles that have been placed in front of them have served primarily to make them even more focused and committed to the task of making the type of music that although it may not appeal to everyone, is extremely important to lives of their fans -- the people who are obviously the most important to them.

KNAC.COM: What motivated you guys to just dig in and get started on the Safe E.P. right after just coming off a long tour as you did?
LANDER: Well, I think we had something to prove. Keep in mind that the songs on Spit are seven years old. Of course, that means we have been playing these songs for seven years, and we just really wanted to write something new and get it out there. I guess our major motivation was just that we were getting bored with the older songs.

KNAC.COM: How did it happen that Kittie ended up doing a remix of Pink Floydís ďRun Like HellĒ on Oracle? Was there any record label pressure to record something that might have more of a hook or that might be a little more commercially viable?
LANDER: Weíre pretty much on our own, and we donít really think we have a record label, so really thereís no pressure. When and if thereís a day when we have a new home, it should still be up to us -- the artists -- to set the deadlines. We just arenít a band that deals with that type of thing. Weíre just regular fucking straight up people.

KNAC.COM: What led you to pick a Pink Floyd song to cover?
LANDER: We were supposed to do a Pink Floyd tribute album back in early í99, and we recorded a version of the song years and years ago for that. We picked it then because we thought it had the most potential to be made into a metal song. The band just kept playing it live, and for some reason it became a fan favorite partially because it wasnít on a record and the fans just knew it from the live shows and bootlegs. Basically, it was just added to the new one because we didnít have enough songs.

KNAC.COM: Since you donít feel as though the record company support is there and radio play really isnít an issue either, would you consider Kittie to be a grassroots type of band in your approach to album sales and touring?
LANDER: What sets us apart from other bands is that when we play radio shows and different types of stuff, we actually hang out with the other bands and talk with the fans and communicate with them. There is a group of amazing people out there who come to all our shows. We have some of the most dedicated fans, too. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that they realize that we are just normal people like anybody else. The only difference is that we are doing something just a little bit different. That doesnít change the fact that weíre still everyday people, and people respond to us because of that.

KNAC.COM: How difficult was this tour with Biohazard having to drop out at the last minute due to Evanís medical problems and with Brand New Sinís eventual departure as well?
LANDER: We just keep going. Brand New Sin got a great opportunity, and we are very happy for those guys.
ARROYO: Yeah, itís not like itís hurting us or anything. You know what I mean?

KNAC.COM: It isnít like Biohazard has a reputation for being erratic on the road or anything either. There really was a problem.
ARROYO: Yeah, they have never cancelled a show in like 15 years. It just sucks for them because they have an album coming out, and it would have great for them to get out there with us and promote it. The different types of people who would have been coming to the shows would have been outstanding. I mean, the gigs weíve been doing have been selling really well as it is. When Brand New Sin had to leave the tour, we just replaced them with Sworn Enemy and kept on moving.
LANDER: Exactly, it all works out.

KNAC.COM: Do you think that part of your ability to sell tickets has to do with the fact that most bands hate touring in the winter, and there arenít too many others out during this time of year?
LANDER: Yeah, itís understandable, though. Itís cold and you get sick, and thatís why most bands wonít do it, but itís been cool for us, though.

KNAC.COM: Are there any plans for you to go on the road as part of a package tour this summer?
ARROYO: We wanted to do the Warped Tour, but it doesnít look like itís going to happen.
LANDER: Thereís opportunities that hopefully will happen this summer, but yeah, right now I think thatís out of the question.

KNAC.COM: You never really do know until youíre on the bus and going to the first gig either, do you?
LANDER: Yeah, you never know, so I never say anything to anyone because you never really do know until the last minute.
ARROYO: Pretty much thatís the feeling until you are actually standing on the stage with your drumsticks in your hand or your bass or whatever.
LANDER: Itís a weird business for sure.

" I believe that what we have now are dedicated, loyal fans. There may not be as many, but these guys are very supportive."
KNAC.COM: Have you guys seen a shift in the focus from the when you broke out at Ozzfest a couple of years ago? Do you think that people are paying more attention to the music and less to the fact that it is being made by females?
LANDER: I think that most of that has died down now. Those were mostly just the one-second fans who heard us on the radio or saw the video who were obsessed with that aspect. Those fans just seemed to pick us up for a second and when they were done, they just went back to playing their Backstreet Boys or whatever. I believe that what we have now are dedicated, loyal fans. There may not be as many, but these guys are very supportive. Those are the people who absolutely matter to us.

KNAC.COM: Was the media pretty focused on the whole ďfemale metal bandĒ aspect of your image too?
LANDER: Yeah, because the media played it up a lot. Actually, at first we didnít want anything to be released about our ages and stuff. Somehow, of course, it got out, and I will ring the neck of the person who did it.

KNAC.COM: You know though that your ages made you an even more attractive novelty to the record company -- especially in the short term.
LANDER: You know, Iím sure someone was sitting back in their fluffy chair in their fluffy office thinking, ďIf the media only knew.Ē They were right, once they found out, it really was emphasized, and that was all anybody wanted to talk about. Thatís not the right wayó
ARROYO: To present a band if youíre doing it the way it should be done. They were trying to present this novelty, and no offense, but who gives a shit about a novelty?

KNAC.COM: Was age ever an issue initially with some of the older bands you toured with?
BOTH: No. No.
LANDER: It wasnít because itís obvious that we are a real band, and they can see that once we start playing, so I meanÖ
ARROYO: So what if weíre chicks and a little bit younger or whatever? Who gives a shit about that? It doesnít matter.
LANDER: And weíve never had any problems really -- actually weíve had problems with one band in particular that I will not mention.
ARROYO: Yeah, but that doesnít matter.

KNAC.COM: One out of quite a few isnít too bad.
ARROYO: Bands that tour with us say, ďDude, this is like the best tour Iíve been on.Ē Just the other day BNS commented that they had hung out with us more in three days on this tour than they had with other bands that they had toured with for months.

KNAC.COM: So you donít have a problem hanging out and partying with just whoever?
LANDER: Yeah, unless theyíre just real assholes or something -- thatís hard to come by.

KNAC.COM: It seems like there would be more than a few people who could get to be pretty aggravating after a few days on the road, though.
ARROYO: Well, sometimes you do run across people who are just real assface, but like I said, it doesnít happen very often. Like sometimes, thereís someone whoís just constantly riding that line -- cool sometimes, assholes the next. What I notice about those guys, though, is that most of those guys just hang out and chill on their own. Basically, theyíre just way too cool fucking hang out with us anyway soÖ
LANDER: They do their own thing and hide or whatever -- thatís cool with me.
ARROYO: Thatís one less asshole we have to deal with, but I would say a lot of people are cool because theyíre doing the same thing, so they understand. Itís great to be able to talk with someone and be able to relate to them and learn from them too because some of these guys have been doing this a long time, and I wanna hear those stories and see how they got from point A to point B.
LANDER: Thereís no such thing as a complex in this band. Thereís like not any type of rock star complex in this band.
ARROYO: I mean like if we donít like someone, weíre gonna tell them, but 99% of the time weíre just hanging with all the bands.
LANDER: You can always find one of us somewhere, or hanging out with someone, or getting ready for a show. You know what I mean, itís not like that we sit around hiding from anyone. Thankfully. Thereís a lot of fucked parts about this business, but the best part is going out and touring with these bands and meeting new people and becoming friends with them.

KNAC.COM: How long did it take before this became a lifestyle for you?
"I think in my entire touring life -- four years -- Iíve wanted to go home once."
LANDER: I think itís always been a lifestyle. I mean, Iíve considered myself a nomad all my life. I donít like to be in one place for that long. When I was a kid, I was always running around everywhere. Touring is just something we enjoy. You have to have a certain mindset to do it, and if youíre not well minded, youíre fucked.
ARROYO: Yeah, if thereís something a little twisty in your head, it will become painfully obvious while doing this.
LANDER: You have to be very, very strong-minded and a mentally healthy person to be able to do this, but at the same time, you have to be kinda crazy.
ARROYO: Itís like being a kid -- weíre all just big kids out there.
LANDER: I think in my entire touring life -- four years -- Iíve wanted to go home once. That was after touring for three months straight.

KNAC.COM: How much does money play into this equation?
ARROYO: We donít make any money anyway.
LANDER: I still live with my parents.
ARROYO: People think weíre millionaires, and Iím like, youíve got to be kidding me.

KNAC.COM: Could you say something about the lifestyle you live away from the tour?
ARROYO: I rent a room in a townhouse. Itís nice.

KNAC.COM: A regular car?
ARROYO: Actually, I donít have a car right now. I have a Honda CRX that desperately needs to be fixed, but I keep it because itís a CRX, and itís pretty cool.
LANDER: Iím a car freak, so I donít have a regular car, but then, I still live with my parents, too. Itís a simple life.
ARROYO: People think you need all this complicated stuff to live happily, but I would say Iím more happier than simple. I wouldnít know what to do in a big house. I would have to have my friends come over all the time cause itís a big empty house -- it would just be creepy.
LANDER: I think we are simple, easy-going people.

KNAC.COM: Is that what makes you want to go out on the road? Is it difficult to relate to people once you come back and hang around with people your age? I mean, they canít have the same experiences, can they?
LANDER: It is different. I mean, for me personally, like of all the people I went to high school with, I only hang out with one person. I donít really go out much anymore, and a lot of my friends are going to college and moving on.

KNAC.COM: And youíve got shows to play.
ARROYO: Yeah, but I think thatís one thing I have encountered is that peoplesí perspectives of you is that youíve changed, but I still feel the same.
LANDER: From the time I left home four years ago, I mean, Iím the same person. Iíve been doing the same thing, but those people are doing completely different things, and itís just that they are the ones changing as people.

KNAC.COM: Why is it that some bands are able to escape the whole ďrock starĒ syndrome while others canít? After watching you guys interact with your fans outside the bus, itís pretty evident that theyíre important to you and that signing something for them isnít this huge imposition for you.
LANDER: The thing is that the faster you go up, the quicker you will come down, and you will see the same people on the way down. Itís just so much easier to be cool than to be a jerk. Everybody has their jerk moments. I mean, Iím sick tonight and all snotty, but itís our job, and we gotta do it. I mean, itís 24-7-365, and sometimes fans do overstep their boundaries.

KNAC.COM: Is it more difficult for you since you're females and you are accommodating to fans when the situation is appropriate?
LANDER: When people get on the bus -- thatís my biggest pet peeve.

KNAC.COM: Like youíre just trying to get off the bus, and random people will trying to be get up the steps?
LANDER: Yeah, weíll just be sitting there watching TV, and then they will walk up and be drunk or smoking and say, ďHey, I love you guys!Ē It just adds stress when you are living with ten people on this little tube and these weirdoes just walk onto your bus.
ARROYO: Yeah, you get pissed. I told this one kid off the other day, you know, I told him that I wouldnít just go and walk into his house. Youíve got to have respect. I appreciate the love, but you canít just come walking into our home.
LANDER: One time, in California, I had this kid come up and squeeze me so hard that I thought I was going to pass out.

KNAC.COM: Like he bear-hugged you?
LANDER: Yeah, like I thought I was gonna die. Just stuff like that makes you want to be more cautious.
ARROYO: One person can ruin it for everybody. Like when we go into a bar, itís cool if a guy wants to buy me a drink, but they have to bring it over to me unopened. Iím just being cautious. Itís unfortunate. Itís just that Iíve had things slipped into my drink before at shows, and from now on, my eyes wonít leave my drink.
LANDER: Things like that or when you go to shake a personís hand, and they try to rip your rings off. There are amazing people out there though, and they far outweigh the grabbers. One time, I was walking through a crowd, and a girl ran up and grabbed my boobs, and I told her, ďDonít touch me again!Ē I mean, if I went up to Madonna and grabbed her tits, I would be arrested and clobbered by her huge bodyguards with nightsticks.

KNAC.COM: Psycho fans aside, do you see yourselves being in Kittie ten years from now? Most people didnít even expect it to last this long.
ARROYO: I see it as far as my mind and my body can take it. If itís not in this band, then I know that we will all be doing something in the musical genre. Weíll all probably be close forever, too -- thereís no question about that.
LANDER: I donít think itís ever going to go away. If does, I think it will be in like twenty years or something.
ARROYO: Yeah, weíll probably still be going out and doing reunion tours and trying to make things happen.

(Photos by Sefany Jones/KNAC.COM)

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