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Emilie Autumn Interview

Theatre of the Living Arts; Philadelphia, PA 2:30 pm

February 23, 2013
Interview in person / Justin Boyer

Emilie Autumn is one of the more unorthodox musicians out there; more importantly, she is one of the few that versatilely handles so many diverse role for the creation of her music. On each of her albums, she assumes the role of producer, writer, etc. Of course, she has help from many other equally talented individuals, such as Veronica Varlow and Captain Maggot; they both eccentrically add a lot of charm and pomp to Emilie Autumn’s rich live performances. While she may not cozily fit within the female fronted metal genre, the aggression and passion of her music, along with the powerful female individuality present within her music really suits what Sonic Cathedral is all about!

Emilie Autumn

Being one of my favorite recently discovered artists, it was a great pleasure to interview Emilie Autumn at her recent Philly show. She was endearing, down-to-Earth, and infectiously clever. Our rather nonlinear conversation covered a slew of fascinating topics, including her book, The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls; her recent album, Fight Like a Girl; her future London stage-production, and even topics like relativity and the possibility of multiple dimensions. Once you read it, you’ll see what I mean by this conversation being both nonlinear and even unconventional!

Since some of my photos were a bit blurry, I wanted to thank Lauren Hughes, my friend, for providing these terrific concert photos for this interview!

Justin:  So, Emilie Autumn, I have to offer you this great introduction because I’ve seen other interviewers do it.

Emilie:  Oh god! I’ll get really embarrassed.

Justin:  Welcome Emilie Autumn, gothic extraordinaire, and ardent lover of all things refined and morbid!

Emilie:  WHOA! You win.

Justin:  And I even added this in “You’re the inimitable, I hope I not mispronouncing this, Emilie Autumn, No one has imitated you yet.

Emilie:  Thank you so much! That was really quite lovely. I’m touched.

Justin:  I was thinking about this last night, when coming up with my questions.

Emilie:  No, you classed that up! That was beautiful.

Justin:  There’s a tear in your eye.

Emilie:  Actually, I have a little clown tear. Just one! Just a little one (whispers). Its glitter.

Justin:  A glitter tear.

Emilie:  Oh, I wish! Someday, I’ll be genetically altered.

Justin:  Cher can do that.

Emilie:  Really?

Justin:  Cher is genetically altered.

Emilie:  Its just in or out, in or out. That’s great! I have so much to learn from her. We all do.

Justin:  So, How are you liking Philly so far?

Emilie:  So far, I just wish it wasn’t an early show for a multitude of reasons. Mainly because, just stepping outside, there’s so many cute things. There’s a magic store, a New Orleans cafe, I’m obsessed with New Orleans.

Justin:  Oh! I’m obsessed with it because I’m a huge Anne Rice fan! So, I love that whole aesthetic. I want to go down there and look for that Mayfair mansion.

Emilie:  Have you been there yet?

Justin:  No, I want to.

Emilie:  You’ve got to go, You’ve got to go. We didn’t get to do a show there on this tour.

Emilie Autumn

Justin:  I love chicory coffee so much! I have a whole canister of it in my room.

Emilie:  Woah, We have a lot to talk about. You need to be on stage, behind our keyboard during quick changes, and I’ll go down there and I’ll be like “So, New Orleans? Have some chicory!”

Justin:  And we could both have this profound conversation about Southern Gothic novels.

Emilie:  That is a big deal, that’s like a damned big industry. Alright, so Philly anyways, all I’ve gotten to do is run around and get a mocha goodness here, and just be teased by the fact that there are so many cute things on the streets around here.”

Justin:  Did you ever see the one store, it even has gates like the ones you describe in your book (Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls)?

Emilie:  Which are onstage now.

Justin:  Well, its not an asylum, its called Condom Kingdom.

Emilie:  Same difference, Same damn thing. Are you serious? This is all a metaphor for Condom Kingdom...Well, you’re the one person who didn’t get that analogy.

Justin:  That set piece then is from.

Justin& Emilie (in unison):  Condom Kingdom!

Justin:  Just for the Philly show.

Emilie:  (whispers) ”How brilliant would that be!” Oh god, this is so good. So, the main thing is just walking around enough to know that there’s adorable stuff around here, since the show is so early and bus call is kinda late. Perhaps, you can recommend.. Should I go to Condom Kingdom at 7:30 after the show.

Justin:  Maybe that’s where they’re throwing the surprise party for you.

Emilie:  Maybe so..

Justin:  They’ll have balloons.

Emilie:  Be safe! We’ve got a helium tank. Wow, this is getting out of control. Okay, I’m not going to distract from what you’ve probably amazingly thought up.

Justin:  Well, I already planned for this to be nonlinear.

Emilie:  You know I’m not even capable of linear thoughts.

Justin:  I completely understand.

Emilie:  Thank you!

Justin:  So, why is Fight Like a Girl the album that made you say “Hey, let’s get all Stephen Sondheim and make a fucking musical!” Well, that musical hasn’t happened just yet.

Emilie:  No, but, as you know, the album is meant to be one-third of the soundtrack to the entire musical. So, everything on this album is to be used. Just instead of the cast of, well on the album anyway, one person; it will be a cast of forty people, but this is still only one-third of it. So, what we’re doing onstage is telling the story from this album, which is this particular section with a bit of flashbacks from the beginning of the book. The song “What Will I Remember?” represents the first page of the book. We’re kinda popping around in there and ending up at the almost-ending, minus the twist ending, at the end (of the book). And that (the twist ending) gets saved for the musical.

The show is with three people, representing about a third of this musical situation. So all of this, with of course a different stage and different characters, will be used. But the idea of it all is directly from this show that will happen within the next two years. So, that was why its always been, since I was four.... But, especially since this book happened, it was obvious immediately that once I was okay again, there would have to be a script of some sort. And then, I thought that we need to make a movie of this. Then, I thought “Should it be a musical or not?” I thought “well it does kinda need to be a musical; otherwise, what a waste! Well fuck, All I want to do is be on Broadway anyway, so let’s just start with that.” Every good musical gets turned appropriately so into a film anyway, that’s been the plan for awhile. I’m just been like “I know this, and I’m waiting for everybody”

Its been a three year process of grooming, and I mean this in the humblest of ways, but grooming our audience as we grow them; really, grooming them to be an audience that will be into something like this, where five years ago, they might not have. I mean, some of them might. You’ve got your goth fans, who are gorgeous and we love them, and they’re super into theatricality, so they would have probably been cool to be like “Let’s go to Broadway!”Because they talk like that, apparently. What? What the hell was that? I just made a really interesting new goth-like, ghetto girl accent. She’s like snapping in G-formation.

Justin:  A new character for the asylum?

Emilie:  I think so.

Justin:  For when the musical comes on Broadway. She’ll have a Gothic version of an Oklahoma song.

Emilie:  Oh shit, we’ve got to talk about this! This is getting super intense. That’s what all this is about, it had to be a musical, and this is the time to start. Its time; why not?

Justin:  Its already there, the excitement level for this type of musical.

Emilie:  Oh, Its a perfect time!

Justin:  You’ve got Repo and you’ve got Devil’s Carnival, which you’re already in.

Emilie:  That’s exactly right! Everybody’s into, or enough people that we care about are into this particular genre. It’s always been a deal, but now, you have young people that have been involved in this for a long time. Its just the perfect for me because I needed this time to get good enough. I mean, my voice is almost Broadway ready.

Justin:  Oh, I could hear it from outside.

Emilie:  Oh, really?

Justin:  The acoustics pick it up really well. It reverberates.

Emilie:  This is a great venue. I had no idea where we’d be.

Justin:  I saw a crazy Japanese band here once.

Emilie:  Who was it?

Justin:  Dir en Grey.

Emilie:  I love them!

Justin:  Oh, really?

Emilie:  I’m super into J-rock. I’m not even going to lie to you because they use harpsichord a lot, and I learned about that some years ago. Its just like “Fuck, I’m not the only one who likes harpsichord.” Awesome, let’s do this.

Emilie Autumn

Justin:  There, I got in a little bit of a metal question because I write for a female-fronted metal magazine.

Emilie:  Ohhh! I like it.

Justin:  Speaking of the planned musical, why would you prefer having it in London, rather than in America?

Emilie:  The book, as you know, is mostly based in Victorian London. It just simply makes sense to set it there, its almost like a homecoming for this thing. Because no one’s really heard of me before five or six years ago. From the beginning, we’ve had always been very popular in the UK and in Europe, especially in Germany and the UK. Right now, what is just in general doing very well underground is almost mainstream over there. Its a huge difference of basically trying to get on Broadway, which is very unrealistic for an immediate, out-of-the-box thing. You don’t want to test it there and fail because you don’t really get a second chance. I don’t want to fuck this shit up because I can’t live with that, so go somewhere where we’re already much more known, much more popular, and much more successful; prove that it’s amazing; bring it back here, and tour it in residencies and cities that will welcome that.

Then, say you do three months in London, then we go to New York and do three months there, and then we go to San Francisco, here, there, or wherever is going to be excitement for this. They just get a three month start. that’s it.

Justin:  A three month trimester.

Emilie:  Exactly! I like it, I’m terrified. Give me a coat-hanger because I’m really scared right now. But yes, that was classy! Oh, please keep that in!

Justin:  I’m not altering it that much, this is kinda like the unabridged version,, just like your own book.

Emilie:  That’s how it should be. People should just know that’s how we are. Let’s just tell them the truth. If they can’t handle it, they’re not ready.

Justin:  So, I saw on Twitter that you’ve mentioned and posted some pictures from the Fight Like a Girl music video. Is that also experimental in a way in that it has some of the aesthetics that might be put into this London stage musical?

Emilie:  Oh, it has all of it. We created it in two days, Darren and I, and this incredible crew, who’s pretty much everyone that worked on Devil’s Carnival. Because, they were like “We love you and we will do this, we’ve got the best camera that you can get for film on the face of the planet. We’ve got the best of everything.” And, we had a crew of thirty people, a cast of thirty-five people. It is so beautiful, it is honestly, and I don’t even care if it’s arrogant, because its not about me, its about Darren mostly and all of these people that were in on it, and my girls. Its the best thing I’ve ever seen on the face of the planet.

Justin:  It’s not arrogant, you’re being exultant.

Emilie:  Thank you so much, Thank you English major!

Justin:  I’m the walking dictionary!

Emilie:  That makes me so happy

Justin:  I’m like the protege of Samuel Johnson!

Emilie:  YES!! Its just so beautiful, and I say that mainly with just pride for all the people involved that helped me to create an absolute world. We just took over this Victorian Theater, Victorian Era, in downtown Los Angeles. It was kinda abandoned, and we made this three layer world, where you start out, you get a full on theater where the freak show goes on. Its the midsection of this world, where we’ll being all made to get gussied up for this fucked up show. Then, there's the actual asylum with the cells and my W14, where they rip me out of, and that’s where all the bruises and things came from. We all do our own stunts. Its very violent and I just got slammed to the floor by Scorpion like fifty times in a row because they needed a million times from every angle. And, by the end, I was like “ Nope, I don’t need padding, I don’t need padding.” I had massive hemorrhage on the side of my ass. So worth it. Oh, I got whiplash like a fish leap from being thrown up against doors so many times.

Justin:  It sounds so much fun!

Emilie:  It was the best day of my life!

Justin:  You got the inside look at how stunt-people are.

Emilie:  Exactly, I did. We had a real stunt choreographer.

Justin:  You got to be Jackie Chan for a few days in the asylum.

Emilie:  I got the crapped kicked out of me. But, it was so intense, and so physical, as you’ll see in the first thirty seconds. You’ll just be like “Holy Fuck!” because it’s real. We’re getting punched in the stomach, getting choked, pinned against a cell door. We did it so many times because I just don’t even care. I was all out because like “what the fuck!” I’m gonna be eighty, and I need this to be awesome, I don’t even care what state I’m in at that point. I just want to look back and be like “I was such a badass bitch.”
So, I officially got whiplashed from all that. Captain Maggots (one of the Bloody Crumpets) had to get tossed around so many times that she woke up in the middle of the night after the first day and threw up because she had a mild concussion.

Justin:  Wow...

Emilie:  Yes, so that’s how awesome it is.

Justin:  So, this is very hardcore?

Emilie:  It is so hardcore, but so beautiful, and so much fun. It isn’t like gory, bloody whatever. It's just.. you need to see the absolute victimization of these oppressed people, which could represent any people. You know, it just happens to be these girls, who go to ultimate victory. Really, the ultimate twist in the end.

Justin:  Which really fits with song because it shows you a group that is about 51 percent of the population that has throughout the centuries been debased. They’re like “Hello!, we’re taking ownership of the world again.”

Emilie:  Yes, that’s the thing!

Justin:  And then you’re showing that feminism has helped men in many ways.

Emilie:  We all win. It isn’t boys against girls, unless boys wanna fight about it. We don’t want to fight about it, we just want to fucking vote. Voting extends to all these other things. That’s like the metaphor for if you wanna vote, you also want equality and all of these other things. If you wanna vote, you also want to not have one in four women raped, half of all rapes reported. So, I’m not gonna say....but let’s just think about that for a second.

Justin:  Oh, its so relevant with all the shit happening in the news like with some of those Republican politicians. Some of them have such a misunderstanding and a lack of any serious grasp of just how serious those issues are.

Emilie:  Its a taken for granted, almost like “It sucks girls, sorry its kinda nature’s way” That’s the way it feels. Say like “1 in..” and I’m going to go there, change “women” to another word. Say “1 in 4 black people is brutally beaten every day; half of those beatings are reported, beaten to death some of the time.” Murder and rape, they usually go together. Would we be cool with that? No, we’d be terrified, because you can’t say that word. Because, make this about any supposed minority...and we’re not the minority, we’re the majority. Change it to Mexican, say like “one in four Mexican people are beaten every day to within an inch of their life or killed,” we’d freak the fuck out. This would be a global thing, this would be on the news. It’d be an apocalypse, and it should be. But it’s not, it’s really like “You know, boys doing their thing, girls, ‘Come on, What do you expect?’”

Emilie Autumn

Justin:  It’s just so interesting because your music is just so multifarious in many ways then.

Emilie:  Same with the book, which is all a metaphor for what is happening now. But its so much easier, because, honestly, most of the time I don’t go out and say “if you change female to black person....” If you do that, you should be able to do that, but if you don’t, people are just going to be like “ Oh my God! This crazy feminist, guy-hating bitch up on her soap-box, I’m going to tune out.” That sucks, but it is the reality. If I write a book about it and set it in a different time, if I sing about it, and set it in fantasy land, then I can talk about the same things.

Justin:  You’re doing the same thing as Voltaire! (the historical figure, not the musician)

Emilie:  Well yeah, I get people thinking about these things , and then they take it home with them. And, I don’t have to say, “Yes, I said that.” I can just say, “Its entertainment.” The thing is that it is entertainment for the people who just come in because they’re like “This poster looks interesting” and just have a good time. Equally as valid to me, because I want to give that as well. I want to feel that as well. When I’m up there on stage, I’m not usually being like “I’m angry about issues.” I’m playing Broadway star, and having the time of my fucking life, because I’ve said it and now, I can let it go, and we can now just celebrate we’re on the same team.

Justin:  Really what is, it’s very skillful art!

Emilie:  It’s kinda like subliminal programming in a really good sense that still gives everyone their own freedom to decide. It’s not forcing anything. Its saying that you can just enjoy sexy girls in corsets. I’m cool with that!

Justin:  Maybe subconsciously though, they’re thinking about those issues that you’ve just raised.

Emilie:  Exactly, and if nothing else, you’re seeing the girls in corsets and going “Hmmm...” and then you sit through a show, and see all this stuff go down. Clearly, these girls are not representing weak things to be objectified. These are representing these goddess creatures that are badass that are screaming, yelling, singing, and being strong and gorgeous, and are brave enough to be ridiculously vulnerable, and then basically just fight to the ultimate victory that is at the end of this album and this show. This show is the one towards victory; This is where we begin. What you see tonight.

Justin:  This is going back to the role of the magazine I write for, Sonic Cathedral, we’re all about female empowerment because we’re dealing with female-fronted metal bands, and the metal genre is very sexist (things though are progressively getting better ...) Are there any female-fronted metal bands that you listen to?

Emilie:  Arch Enemy, a really serious fan. I know only good things about.. What’s her name again?

Justin:  I forget the vocalist’s name. I’m an English major, so my mind is somewhere else, and I have to touch back on Earth sometimes to remember names.

Emilie:  You need to just do the trick about you meet someone new, you emblazon in fire upon their forehead their name when they say it to you. Arch Enemy is the primary one that is female-fronted, that’s not like “I’m a girl that’s not really metal, that’s fronting this thing that’s a marketing whatever.” or “I’m super gothy, and I sing..”*musically sings in soprano voice*

Justin:  Actually, over in Europe, they have all these bands that basically emulate Nightwish and Within Temptation

Emilie:  Exactly, that is what I’m talking about.

Justin:  And I love those two bands, huge fans of them

Emilie:  Well, its because there are two ways to get successful, one lasts a long, long time, and the other is the flash and pan situation. But, if you just want instant success or your record label or manager does, which is what usually happens, you can either emulate something that is really successful at that moment or emulate nothing, and be like nothing else that hasn’t been emulated yet. That is my preferred method because it is going to last a lot longer. It isn’t even “I want to be different and special,” if you are a unique human being, you are going to be. You have to try to copy someone else. We’re not naturally born copies of each other, that’s kind of the beauty of it.

Justin:  We have our own little DNA combination, which gives us an artistic spark.

Emilie:  There’s a reason we all have separate fingerprints. Now, I’m thinking about that. Hey, I want to tell you something!

Justin:  What?

Emilie:  Veronica (one of the Bloody Crumpets) said, because she has her own blog and she’s talking about all these magical things everyday; life lessons & magic lessons, things from the road, things we learned things we talk about. One of her last posts, this is just on the name subject quickly, she realized and its so fucking true, the reason that we have trouble remembering names is because most of the time the people saying their names don’t say it in an interesting way at all.

Its almost like, when someone says “What’s the name of your band?” Say my girls are with me;I get embarrassed by the fact that it is my name, since my girls are so huge part of it, especially now there’s just three of us onstage. This is an equal show, and someone wrote the songs. And yes, it’s my name because all of this music, every last bit of it; the concept, the story; is mine. But when we’re all together, I feel like the biggest ass on the planet to just be like “Oh! Our band’s name is Emilie Autumn.” It’s just that I don’t have that type of ego. It might useful if I did, but I don’t.

So, I always just say “Emilie Autumn..” even though its really all three of us. You know, this is Maggots, this is Veronica... “And I said, “Fuck, you’re right! I do that to where people wouldn’t even remember our band name.” Let alone, my actual name because they’re the same and I just mumble it because I’m embarrassed.

Veronica’s like “ Fuck that! As your band mate, you should just be like: Its called Emilie Autumn! This is Maggots, This is Veronica, We perform together.” But, that changes my life!

Emilie Autumn

Justin:  Emilie Autumn, an all-encompassing name!

Emilie:  Exactly! It’s like the royal “we,” It’s the royal “Emilie Autumn.”

Justin:  If you say it in a slightly pretentious way, not like overly pretentious way.

Emilie:  Just say it in a dramatic way.

Justin:  Yes, dramatic! Its good pretentious.

Emilie:  Right, but don’t even think of it like pretentious. Her trick was to get like five adjectives that you use within the privacy of your own mind to describe yourself, that you want to use like your ultimate . When I think of myself, my ideal self, I want to think: “iconic, stunning, breathtaking..””

Justin:  Inimitable!

Emilie:  ”Inimitable, courageous” And then when you say your name to someone, in the back of your mind, you think of all those things.

Justin:  That’s what you project onto your name, I like that.

Emilie:  Exactly, That’s just manifesting that reaction.

Justin:  We both as artists think in a very non-traditional way. I’m a writer myself.

Emilie:  Clearly!

Justin:  I write a ton of poetry on my blog.

Emilie:  Oh! Send a link!

Justin:  I wrote a poem based off “Scavenger.”

Emilie:  That’s one of my favorite songs.

Justin:  I can’t even understand my own poetry, its very muddled. Just like you, you need to give someone the liberty to perceive that muddled quality.

Emilie:  That’s what so fun about this book, there are so many things that could happen. . Just to say, I don’t know if people are.. I don’t read reviews, I don’t even read my own interviews. It’s not a good idea to be in my own head, it’s even healthy. I don’t read anything, so I don’t really know the extent that people to which people understand that book. But what I wonder is if there’s one very obvious thing, which is there are so many times throughout that story where I could have died: both versions of me. And, one of them is at the very beginning. I hope that there are at least some people asking the question:" Was she dead this whole time?” Or was she dead when this happened? Or, maybe, she died when this happened?” Maybe, the Emilie with the “Y” version of me (the victorian asylum alter-ego of Emilie Autumn in Asylum For Wayward Victorian Girls) was dead when the furnace came in.

Do I die on the last page? I don’t know if I’m alive right now. How am I supposed to know? I have no fucking clue, so I wonder that fifty times a day... Am I dead right now?

Justin:  When I was six, I used to question the substance of reality. Is this all even real? That is why when I listen to your music, I understand you so much!

Emilie:  That’s what it does.

Justin:  There’s this feeling of cognitive dissonance. That’s the word I’ve heard thrown out by a psychologist.

Emilie:  It makes sense, and it’s also knowing.. and it goes into this book in just the way both you and me think. It’s that, we know that it’s scientifically proven time is not linear. We know that there are pretty much infinite realities, pretty much all major physicists agree on this right now. Infinite realities exist on all different planes at the same time. Like, we already know this. So therefore, how can anything we even remotely think we know really be anything we think that we know? Like, everything is different than we think it is. We just don’t which it is, but just being open to the fact it is nothing that we think it is. So, we are meeting now also on unlimited different planes, that’s every possible thing that could be going on.

Justin:  It’s unfathomable.

Emilie:  Exactly, it’s all there, and that is what that book (Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls) is about. This could actually being going down in a multitude of different ways.

Justin:  That is what most of your music has, that depersonalization, which is in both the Opheliac song and most of that album.

Emilie:  On this one, Fight Like a Girl, I’m singing in the voice of several different characters, which are not me. Some people don’t even realize, but if you get the line notes, you’ll see. It says “This character.” “This character,” and “This character.”

Thanks again Emilie Autumn for both a thoughtful and lengthy conversation! We were conversant to the point where our conversation was cut off abruptly a bit by end because Emilie Autumn had VIP in ten minutes. A concert report is also viewable here in the SC Zine because this extremely enjoyable concert was far too rich of an experience to not write a concert concert for.