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9th March 2010
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(Emilie Autumn on future plans for a movie adaptation of 'The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls')
"...unlike most musicians I don’t have any real ambition to be an actor except for this one role. If we can make it while I’m still young enough to be able to play me at a young age and then me whenever, then I have to do it..."
Emilie Autumn onstage at the Leadmill, Sheffield, UK, 9th March 2010
Photograph copyright © 2010 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Interview and Photography by Mark Holmes
METAL DISCOVERY: It states on the inside cover of the book that it’s “prime movie material” - is that a hint towards future plans?
MD: If filmed, would you cast yourself in the main role, given the opportunity?
EA: I would and it’s funny because I don’t…unlike most musicians I don’t have any real ambition to be an actor except for this one role. If we can make it while I’m still young enough to be able to play me at a young age and then me whenever, then I have to do it just because it wouldn’t mean the same thing, and it wouldn’t represent…it’s just something, I can’t explain it, but I have to do that and I have to be both Emilies, because I am, and that’s the whole point when you get to the book. The twist…I am the Asylum, I am the Plague Rats, I am the doctors, I am the building, I am everything. It’s me. And I just got chills as I said that because I’ve never actually said that to anyone before. You know, if they read the book, maybe they’ll get to the end and figure that out on the last page, but I’ve never said what it really is. It’s all deathly real because it’s me. Hahaaa! And that’s the thing, and it took me a long time to figure that out too because I did not know what was coming from where because these notes are real, because everything is real.
MD: Yeah, everyone’s the author and architect of their own subjective reality, so…
EA: Yeah, right, and when you’re insane you don’t know what’s real…I mean, insane meaning you’re hopped up on fucking drugs which they give you in order to…as it says in the book, in order to erase your memories of what happened because they don’t want you to talk about it. How conspiracy theory psycho does this sound? I can imagine anyone hearing me talk like this and just being like “really?…really?”, or “are you just really bored and need to make up this shit?” Let’s do an investigation in there and find out if I’m wrong, and that’s exactly why I wrote this…because we need to.
MD: Makes perfect sense to me.
EA: Thank you.
MD: I think I read a while ago that you said ‘Enchant’ is now a closed chapter of your career or life, and you’ve no plans to play those songs live again. Is that a straight “never again”, or…?
EA: No, I don’t believe in “never agains”…
MD: There are some fucking great songs on that album…
EA: Thank you so much.
MD: You should do some still…but who am I to say?!
EA: No, but do you know what’s funny is that Captain Maggot’s…we’d been given as a gift a DVD last week from a fan containing all these video clips of like way earlier stuff from two or three years ago that we’d done and it’s always terrifying to watch that stuff, so I was like “I can’t just look at it, tell me what’s on it”. So she watched it last night. She was like “oh my god, we looked ridiculous, we didn’t know what we were doing yet, and we were just understanding the characters” and all of that. Then, she said, “the one good part, though, was that you said you wouldn’t play these songs from ‘Enchant’ and such” and yet we were in Paris a couple of years ago, and the fans afterwards…like we finished the show and they start chanting…we’re hearing this from backstage and it gets louder and louder, and they start going…[adopts French dialect]…“What If…What If…What If…What If”…and I just thought, oh my god, if I have any sort of soul at all, I can’t just deny that even though I said I would never, and I haven’t played it for years, and I don’t even remember all the words completely because I’d just be too frazzled when I start to do it! And I just went out there and I was like, “okay, listen, I’m gonna do this for you and I never, never do this, but I will do this because you are that kind to want me to that badly, but you need to know that I’m gonna forget the words halfway through, and you need to be prepared to take over and just don’t judge me too harshly for that because I haven’t played this in a long time”. So I did and that was on the DVD, and so she saw that and she said that was the best part. So now I’m feeling like…it was never a “never again” thing; it was a thing of I don’t want to almost sully that material, or my fairy wings, or any of that beautiful stuff until I could mean it as much as I mean what I’m doing now. It’s simply…I mean, it’s so clear what happened, it was a thing of one day you’re this, you get completely fucked with and locked up, you will never be the same. You walk different, you look different, you talk different, everything you do, my voice is different, and I can’t pretend that didn’t happen, and it just completely switched. And I was thrown into this whole world that I did not design…of this, you know, of these songs, of that much harsher way of approaching the world…of, essentially, a much more honest and fearless place because I have nothing to lose. It can’t get worse. Right? Like I don’t care what happens to me, to be honest, I don’t fucking care, and I don’t care what anybody thinks anymore, and I was always a very shy, nice girl who did. So that’s a huge departure and you only get to that place when…it sounds melodramatic, but when you honestly have nothing left to lose and, all of a sudden, it’s so easy to tell the truth because you really sense what it’s like to not care because it’s meaningless. I don’t care what anybody thinks because I’ve got nothing left. So that’s what happened and it was always kind of my fondest hope that I could almost get my wings back, and like get into that more magical place because that would represent a healing of some sort. I have every hope that I will get back there and it will, of course, be different but that it could incorporate some of those things. And yeah, I hope I get my wings back but today is just not that day. I’m just not there yet.
MD: There’s a very sincere, artistic integrity in that as well in that you won’t just go back to playing those songs until you’re ready…apart from that one time in Paris.
EA: Yeah, but that’s the thing, they made me…like brought me to such a human level where I couldn’t say no and, therefore, I meant it more than ever. But I want to be able to do that on a daily basis and not just have it as a setlist thing, or where I’m doing it for them, which I was. I would have to be doing it for me, which is like the show, the record, the songs that we’re doing now, it’s almost irrelevant if anyone’s in the audience because all of this is for me. That’s how self-centred this all is and I’m really proud of that because I think that’s the healthiest thing that I could do, because only when you really, really, really make it about you do other people start giving a fuck because we’re not that special. All of us are, in some degree, related and similar or not where if there’s something really personal to me, chances are that’s going to apply to a lot of other people. But you don’t recognise that unless somebody just puts it out there so strongly and, that’s the thing, is that’s the other dark comedy, that’s the humour of recording ‘Opheliac’ and all of this is like that only happened because I stopped caring what anybody else thought. Ironically, the day that I stopped caring what anybody else thought is the day that people start caring what I think. That’s the hilariousness of show business is that everybody likes to watch a crazy girl freak out. And that works because it does look pretty fun. I mean, we look good in corsets and we’re glittery…what’s wrong with that?!
MD: Exactly!
EA: Yeeaah!
MD: So what if we start chanting “What If” tonight and old song titles?!
EA: I have no rules anymore! If I felt the magic in the room and I felt like it was a thing that I would either break somebody else’s heart or my own if I didn’t do it, I probably would do it.
MD: I’ve read before that Nigel Kennedy’s been a huge inspiration to you.
EA: He was. He was the only violinist I, in every way, honestly, admired and respected growing up.
MD: Also an iconoclast of the classical genre too, of course, in what he does.
EA: That was crucial for me to see at least one example of. I’m sure it made a huge difference.
MD: Is he someone you’ve ever met?
EA: Oh yeah. Well, I met him because I had that really awesome, bizarre experience where, years ago, when I first recorded some classical material and that had somehow gotten into his hands…we’re talking like a decade ago…one day, I checked my messages…yeah, I’m like seventeen or something, and I checked my phone and there’s a voicemail from Nigel Kennedy, saying…[Emilie attempts a Nigel Kennedy impersonation…quite convincing actually!]…“Hey, this is Nigel Kennedy…I’ve checked this out and…bloody, fucking brilliant!”. It’s like, okay, this is a joke because this was…I mean, the world is a little too small and this doesn’t happen, right? So, I was just a little bit freaked out and then, of course, I call him back and then we chat for ages, and then I go and we hang out together and become friends. But, that was just one of those once in a lifetime, bizarre, just how do you even know…so, you never know who’s listening to the little things you record in your spare time.
MD: Or who you’d want to be listening to them, like Nigel.
EA: Yeah, quite so! I mean, really fucking weird because, honestly, there’s no way to downplay the importance of that and it doesn’t influence the kind of music I make now; it doesn’t really influence how I play or my approach towards music now because that’s become completely my own, but all I needed to see was one small, shining example of somebody who was doing something that they were told not to do but who is succeeding at it so beautifully that, in the end, nobody could say shit about it. And that’s the thing is that all my teachers were like “oh, we hate him”, or “don’t listen to that, that’s horrible” and yet, okay, this guy has sold the most classical records ever with his ‘Four Seasons’, Vivaldi, and that’s the thing, his technique as a virtuoso, nobody can deny that so, really, at what point, “tell me what your problem is?”, and nobody really has it.
MD: Yeah, beyond the technical virtuoso thing, he plays with true passion.
EA: That’s the thing, he surpasses anyone. Anyone. And as far as that individuality of just saying, “I’m going to do it”, and that’s the thing that I’ve learned is that, yeah, there are all these rules in place about what you can and can’t do but, if you’re good enough, they really don’t exist because it’s about, okay, you can do anything if you do it really fucking well. Then nothing applies to you. And that’s why I’ll never fail at anything, even if it takes me a bit to get it right, I will not put it down until it’s mastered because I refuse. That’s why we keep doing the show - we will master the show, we will master our parts, we will master all of this and it will just get better and better and better because, the truth is, there is no end to mastery. There’s no such thing as mastered. There’s good enough to the point where most people think that’s as good as it gets but I know that it will always have room to get better; it always does. There’s no “the end” to any of this.