DATE OF INTERVIEW:
19th December 2008
When UK progressive rock-metallers Rockbitch decided to call it a day in 2002, the world lost one of the most unique, sincere and innovative bands in the annals of rock music history. Famed for their live performances that incorporated accomplished musicianship, nudity and sexual activity along with paganistic rituals, performance art and sporadic between-song monolgues that pertained to their collective neo-feminist ideology, they were widely labelled by the media as controversial. However, transcending the insincerity and hypocrisy of other 'shock rock' bands, Rockbitch were the real deal with their stage shows a provocative expression of the lifestyle they led. That is, provocative in both a corporeal and cognitive sense, often challenging people's sensibilities through their performances to rouse the psyche into more profound contemplations about the self, sexuality, and (secular) morality. It was incredibly unjust that with such an honest and open approach to their art, Rockbitch frequently experienced a high degree of prejudice both within and peripheral to the music industry, often from a hypocritical standpoint - kind of ironic, as it was such hypocrisy they set out to challenge in the first place. And it was the incessant prejudice they encountered that partially led to their decision of ending the band - a very sad day for both the alternative music scene and freedom of expression. However, three years later, in 2005, it transpired they'd relocated to the States and re-emerged back on the scene under new moniker MT-TV with strong, newly composed material and live performances that eschewed the 'controversy' of yore but still incorporating an element of theatrical histrionics to express their philosophies. After a few failed attempts at an interview over the last 12 or so months, the band's lead guitarist, Alex (formerly Babe of Rockbitch), finally answered my questions on the past, present and future...
METAL DISCOVERY: How did you arrive at the name MT-TV? You state on the website that it’s a statement against ‘empty television’ and is obviously a dig against the inanity of MTV. By extension, is this also meant to be analogous for insular-minded people?
MD: I don’t believe in generically labelling music. Music should always be divided into only 2 categories – either music you like, or music you don’t like. But how would you loosely describe the music of MT-TV?
MD: I understand you’ve decided to quit playing live shows as a band - what led to this decision?
MD: I guess it’s a bit of a redundant question now, but before MT-TV quit playing live, did you have any plans to tour outside of the States, or any offers for tour supports etc, as I know you did some shows in the UK back in 2005 during the band’s early days?
MD: Now MT-TV is just a recorded project, do you or any other band members have any aspirations to play live again, either with MT-TV or in other bands? I notice Amanda and Jo are currently touring over here in the UK with Syren (they’re playing in my local pub in January so will check ‘em out!)
MD: When and why did you decide to relocate from Europe to the States, and was that a collective decision for the band?
MD: Was it hard leaving that wonderful looking old monastery where you used to live in Metz?
ALEX: You just answered it for me! After fucking around and going for names like 'Windowlickers' and some very stupid but very funny stuff, we settled...
ALEX: Fuck, I hate this question, never have been able to answer it. Take a folk song structure, metal it up, add radical bass and too damn good drums, lead breaks that don't take themselves too seriously and a hell of a voice....then you decide a name for it.
ALEX: Simply can't be arsed? No - to an extent the live scene is dead as far as professional original music, by which I mean making a living from it and no day job - UNLESS you are a tribute band. Gigs are too far a few between now and not financially viable unless you have record company wallets behind you.
ALEX: No plans. The States was always going to be our last outing - simply because we had never done it and didn't want to quit without having done so. A few offers, but nothing that made us feel like doing it.
ALEX: It's a difficult thing to get away from the addiction of playing live! Yes, Syren are going strong, and being a three-piece they find the financial practicalities of touring a lot easier then the 8 or so that MT-TV were. As for the rest of us...never say never I guess!
ALEX: About 4 years ago - and all of our decisions have always been collective, so yes.
(MT-TV's Alex on people's general misperception and lack of understanding regarding Rockbitch's intentions)
"We underestimated the stupidity of the general public to see through hype (of 'racy' outrageous bands, name no names) and recognise sincerity when faced with it. We genuinely thought people would be forced into questioning our motivation because our skill level so obviously didn't require a gimmick or to be hidden behind extremes."
ALEX: Very hard! It was a formative, natal place for us all. But we still have it, so gone but not forgotten...
MD: How does life in the States compare to living in Europe both as a band and generally?
ALEX: The people are nicer, generally friendlier, hospitable, but they lie a lot and believe what they're saying as they say it, so sometimes it's hard to navigate. Christians are utterly mental, and almost everyone you meet is a member of the god-squad, more than any European country. Scratch the surface of the most radical alternative minded person and you'll find an unthought-through knee-jerk moral stance. I like the gun culture though.
MD: Aside from being a musically accomplished band both live and recorded, Rockbitch seemed to be an aesthetic reification of your philosophical world views and ideologies - was it a difficult decision when you decided to ‘end’ Rockbitch and lose that outlet of artistic expression?
ALEX: More so for me than some of the others. I tend to see my sexual performance art as being secondary in my person to my musical skills - although that concept wasn't so for RB in it's entirety. My musical contribution was more directly sourced from my sexuality than say, Jo the drummer, so she missed it less. However, the life goes on, and the habits and predilictions which were the creative fount of RB are still there.
MD: Do you think you will always have the desire to express your beliefs/emotions in one artistic form or another?
ALEX: Inevitably. Everyone of us still continues making music, amongst other things. I've turned away from music and back to my first love of art - painting and sculpture...though I am learning to play the bohdran! (damned if I can spell it though)
MD: I had the pleasure of attending a couple of Rockbitch gigs a few years back and was blown away by the sincerity and passion of both your performance and the music. Do you think a lot of the antagonism and prejudice you regularly encountered as a band was due to some people’s insecurities and inability to deal with such ‘honesty’?
ALEX: Thank-you. Yep, undoubtably. Plus the very basic lack of being a product. We underestimated the stupidity of the general public to see through hype (of 'racy' outrageous bands, name no names) and recognise sincerity when faced with it. We genuinely thought people would be forced into questioning our motivation because our skill level so obviously didn't require a gimmick or to be hidden behind extremes. Wrong on that one, hey?! An interesting thing towards the end that we ran into was a mealy-mouthed joy in our 'fall', from some who were ostensibly on our side but were living actually vicariously through us.
MD: Before you lost the deal with Steamhammer/SPV, I understand that more Rockbitch songs were recorded subsequent to the release of your stunning debut album ‘Motor Driven Bimbo’. Do any such recordings still exist and have/will these ever be made available in any form?
ALEX: Yep and no! Oh there are some very interesting behind the scenes goings on in that period but quite simply, they are bigger than we are and for legal reasons we can't elaborate and can't release them. However, it's only the specific recordings that cannot be released, not the songs. This is the next plan - not in any hurry though, and that is what the net is for I guess! Rockbitch.com will be up again for both music and truth.
MD: Did you develop any musical ideas from unreleased Rockbitch tracks for MT-TV songs?
ALEX: Waste not want not!
MT-TV promo photo
Photograph copyright © MT-TV - used with kind permission
Interview by Mark Holmes