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30th January 2010
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(Emilie Autumn on her bipolarity)
"I prefer to not have it, and then not be artistic, and probably be a lot happier...I’d still trade it in for anything else but, while it’s here, I’m going to use it for all it’s worth so that I’m not a victim of it."
Emilie Autumn in her dressing room, backstage at Rock City, Nottingham, UK, 30th January 2010
Photographs copyright © 2010 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Interview and Photography by Mark Holmes
METAL DISCOVERY: You had a long wait before a proper release and wider distribution of the ‘Opheliac’ album, which finally came out in the States last year? Was it October last year?
EMILIE AUTUMN: Yeah, only about three months ago.
Official Emilie Autumn Website:
Official Emilie Autumn MySpace:
Thanks to Jon at Duff Press for arranging the interview.
The Opheliac Companion (2009)
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun & Bohemian Rhapsody EP (2008)
4 o'Clock EP (2008)
Laced/Unlaced (2007)
A Bit O' This & That (2007)
Liar/Dead Is The New Alive EP (2006)
Opheliac (2006)
Enchant (2003)
Your Sugar Sits Untouched (2000)
MD: Was it a frustrating period not being able to get your music out there to a wider audience?
EA: Yeah, it was torturous.
MD: Was it recorded in 2006?
EA: Yeah, late 2006...it came out 2007. And yeah, that was very difficult, just because you make this thing, it creates a bit of a splash in some part of the world…namely it started in Germany where they were just kind of ready for that…you know, I’ve been told since I was twelve “oh, you need to go to Europe because anything a bit more eccentric is more readily accepted there than it is in America”, and I wanted to think that wasn’t true but, the fact is, it was. So, immediately, I went over to Germany and, in a week, had my first cover of Orkus. Whatever in America, we might not give a fuck about but, over there, that actually is well read by a certain genre of readers, and it was just realising like oh my god, this is actually true. There’s this group of people that listen to this sort or industrial whatever genre, and we’re not a Goth band by any means but we still have that following, and I actually love we have that following because I love these fans and these people, and I love the pageantry, and I love that they dress up for us. So, in that way, we have tons in common, but I think that we just focus more on the humour and things, but that’s what they’re getting too so, in a way, it’s changing this group. You know, we put out a shirt that says “Goths have more fun” and they totally wear that and spread that message. But, yeah, to answer your question, it was intensely frustrating and what was really necessary was a change from a German label to a US one, simply because that was a completely…and that’s the reason I’m often asked “why the hell are you re-releasing this thing?”, and I know to people who don’t quite understand it seems a bit odd but, in this case, it was very simple. One reason was that I switched a label which means that if you don’t re-release it, you don’t have any records out, because then nobody’s releasing it, so you’ve got nothing. So, naturally, that was the thing, and then it was just realising that in some massive parts of the world it was never really available at all, except as a very expensive import. I always felt very guilty about that because that’s just not right.
MD: Or on Ebay for fifty quid or something.
EA: Yeah, and people were paying hundreds of dollars for the originally pressed digipak, like hundreds and hundreds, and that’s just…if they want to do that, that’s awesome and that’s flattering, but it’s still…I feel bad; they shouldn’t have to. You know, it’s a fucking record with some songs. They shouldn’t have to do that. So they were getting upset about it, not even because of the price, but because they just wanted the show to come there, and it’s like - “you’re ignoring the place you were born in, so what the hell”. So it was finally, basically saying thank you to them, and that’s why the re-release has a bunch of new tracks, and videos, and all of this stuff…honestly, that’s just a celebration of - thank you for not giving up on us; here is some extra whatever. If other parts of the world wanna get that and not pay for the whole record, they can pay for the extra five tracks on iTunes, or not even care, that’s fine, but it’s really just about the new people who had never gotten the opportunity, and had waited for nearly three years to get this. So there’s actually some pretty simple, logical reasons why this had to be done, but this is the final international release of this which means now we can move on to chapter two.
MD: I think it’s out in the UK in February, so I don’t think it’s actually out here yet.
EA: I think you’re right, and I’m not exactly sure why that is, but I know that is the case. And with the book as well, it’s not immediately available. It might be available for European shipping or mail order, I don’t know, but it’s available at the shows.
MD: So you have them available tonight to purchase?
EA: Oh yeah, yes!
MD: Great!
EA: And they’ve been selling insanely well which is just so encouraging because you realise people still want to read a book! That’s really nice to see, and they really wanna see what’s going on with this, and it’s this big, beautiful book.
MD: ‘Opheliac’ is, I presume, a Shakespearean reference to Ophelia, of course. What’s the significance of that as an album title, and do you identify with any of that character’s traits?
EA: Exactly. Well, that’s realising that it’s not about a character, it’s about an archetype, which is what Shakespeare so brilliantly set up. Pretty much every personality type there is, he covered in some play or other, and built archetypes for these things. You know, you’ve got every type. That’s what’s made it relevant to now, and so much used and referenced by writers and screenplays, whatever. So that was just realising that her archetype was the sort of girl that is actually, unfortunately, very common, which is self-destructive. In a way, you’re your own worst enemy - you’re surrounded by people that, yes, they may hurt you, but you’ve set up no barrier to that. When the shit goes down, you are looking for an escape, and so you go and drown yourself in a lake, and it’s when I actually tried to do that, that I realised my life is mirroring this story down to…you know, it’s a whole other interview…but down to the prince; the father; the everything to, honestly, a terrifying degree because then you start asking yourself - “do I have any control over my own life, my own destiny, or am I just meant to follow this path?” The ‘Opheliac’ record was about accepting…this is this archetype. If you look at the song, it’s saying “this is me; I accept this” and then, in that way, it’s the one song that’s not about anger towards the outside; it’s about disgust with oneself and saying - I destruct the situation and, because I’ve been set up to behave this way by outside influences, usually the men in your life or whatever, is now, because I’ve been trained to do this, I will now ruin everything that is in my path. So it’s realising that about yourself and then, basically, realising that it’s taking back the power by the fact that it was the first time in my life when I was recording that, that I was ever able to be completely fearless and say “whatever” with no concern for any consequences because, at that point, it had gotten so bad, you know, the manic depression and all of that, I had nothing to lose. So, yes, that was a Shakespearean reference because realising Ophelia was the original suicide girl is the archetype for girls on Zoloft; is the poster child for suicidal ladies.
MD: So I guess even more frustrating you couldn’t get that musical statement out there considering how personal it is to you.
EA: Exactly, yeah.
MD: And that’s the essence of Shakespeare, that all the plots and characters…still all applicable today.
EA: Exactly, which is why we still reference in the movies, and we still…that’s just one of those people; it will never die, and that’s why so much of what I do…even past music before the asylum, before the incarceration which changed my life forever…it’s always had a connection with that just because I’m a history nerd and I read all that; that’s what I do. I’ve always referenced that because that will never die. That’s everything.
MD: The book combines autobiographical elements about your bipolarity with a history of Victorian asylums…
EA: Yeah, it’s about the duality of that. It’s a bit of a time travel thing with the alternate reality that I had to create when I was locked up and you’re denied…you know, because you’re there for as long as they say you’re there; you don’t get to choose when you get out. So, it was about the alternate reality that you have to create when you’re denied any contact with the outside world. So it’s all real; it’s an autobiography, but it’s also a graphic novel. It’s very beautiful in that sense as it’s filled - there’s no black text on white paper. Basically, the overriding story arc is you’ll learn there’s very little difference from asylums for ladies in 1841 and the ones for us now. That’s the big problem and that’s what we don’t talk about that we need to, because people don’t know unless they’ve been in there, and you shouldn’t have to do that to know that we’re sending people, who really need help, into a place that can kill them.
MD: So was it a very cathartic experience writing the book?
EA: It was painful, and necessary, and cathartic, and it’s scary now knowing that people will know things about me that they probably don’t want to. But, at least I’ll know that if they still like me, they like me knowing these things, and that’s good.
MD: Have you been able to channel your bipolarity as a creative force in your music?
EA: Yes, and I think the thing is that it always wants to be a creative force. So many artists have it because…well, you know, you have it if you’re genetically set up to have it but it does, in a way, encourage you to be…this is shitty to say like “this is a good thing” because it’s not. I prefer to not have it, and then not be artistic, and probably be a lot happier, but it is a very artistic…it puts you on another planet a bit to where you see things differently. You know, the sunlight looks different, everything looks different and it makes you a very dramatic person which then leads to…it’s like other people hear a leaf fall, and you hear a house crash. That’s something that makes you…you have this intensity of experiences that need to be let out. You just see things differently which have a unique point of view which then makes it slightly interesting. Still unfortunate - I’d still trade it in for anything else but, while it’s here, I’m going to use it for all it’s worth so that I’m not a victim of it.
MD: Cool answer!
EA: Thank you!
[Emilie’s tour manager is now waiting by the dressing room door, signalling that time is up]
MD: I think that’s probably the end, so thank you very much for your time, much appreciated.
EA: Thank you so much.
Thanks to Melissa for looking after me on the day.
A massive cheers to Emilie for her time and hospitality!