Thursday, August 6, 2009

Circle the Carrion

There was a reason I left the music business when 2005 came to an end. It had to do with the bullshit, the horse crap, all the pressures heaped onto musicians by labels and fans and press, all the milestones of success that musicians hope to achieve and measure themselves against....in other words, all the things that have nothing to do with music and everything to do with the business side of things. I'm someone who always has goals, I'm hardest on myself, I demand a lot from myself, and I decided I didn't need to spend the rest of my life trying to fulfill the demands of others. I want to live.

I strive for balance in life, whether or not I can always achieve it is another thing. I spend alot of time in darkness, and therefore I send alot of time in light. I spend time researching topics I know nothing about, as well as researching more material on subjects I'm interested in.I spend time trying to understand, I spend time putting myself in the shoes of others to gain perspective, I spend time practicing peace and acceptance I spend time letting my rage burn and burn. As a business woman I know that the business side of music is a part of the game, but I think there should be some balance within that beast, that machine.

I've decided I deserve to be the owner of my time, and to do with it what I want. At the end of 2005 I wanted to leave the music biz and let it burn itself into a pile of ashes. For it to take its competitive, compulsive self-absorbed self and suck its own ass. I got tired of interviews asking me how I feel about other women in the music biz "making it" bigger than Crisis made it, I got tired of how these people acted that my only purpose in music was to be "the only" woman in heavy music. I was fed up with fat lazy booking agents who issued false promises, playing with other bands who had set lists of all their stage moves printed out while at the same time calling themselves "self made," and I thought Crisis and I deserved much much more...not just because we were one of the first metal bands with a female singer, not just because Crisis introduced alot of emotional landscapes not previously heard in metal, but because we continued to be innovators, hard working warriors offering something creative, profound, and even weird..and most importantly, something authentic and dangerous.

In this modern time where extreme music can now be purchased at Wal Mart along with pre-packaged drum sets and guitars, and people can get voice lessons to learn how to scream and everyone who was into karaoke decided they too can be rockstars by following the formula, music has truly lost a lot of edge.

That's not necessarily why I left the business, that's just my opinion of the scene.
I left because I decided I deserved better than alot of false promises, I deserved better than "big names" in music calling to ask me for dates and inviting me on their buses for drinks but not helping out in terms of tours or shows or something that really mattered. So many "closet" Karyn Crisis fans sucking my dick, telling me what big supporters they were but not putting their support where there pursed lips were. Tired of bullshit, tired of being the mysterious oddity people wanted to get close to ..like some piece of art in a museum they secretly worshiped, and studied, and imitated and plagiarized..and then denied knowledge of to others.
When Crisis opened for Kittie and Otep on tour, all journalists wanted to ask me was how I felt about other women in music getting big, how it felt to be on that tour. Well, I've always been outspoken about how I feel "the more the merrier" in terms of women in music. I've stated many a time that it will take time for women to be accepted in metal, and in the meanwhile let 'em all in, because there exists, in the male bands, plenty who suck, plenty who are genius, some who aren't in top shape, some who are innovators and some who are sheep. So it's natural to be the same for the quality of female musicians.
But what a shit question to ask me over and over. I got the vibe that for those journalists my only value was to be the "first" woman in metal, and since there are other women in metal now I'm obsolete. Further, it was never my intention to be the "first", it just happened that way. I never meant to be a weird, indefinable vocalist that no one yet can imitate, it just happened that way. I never meant to scare people with the power I can summon on stage and I never meant for people to think I was weak because I didn't carry around an ego after shows, instead I was approachable and kind..just being me, just being natural, except for the occasions where some asshole grabbed my ass and I had to twist his balls off or break a nose.

And in return for my support of other women, I didn't ask for reciprocation and I sure didn't get it. For years Crisis fans told me how angry they were that Kittie told them they never heard of Crisis in person, in radio interviews, even on the east coast. When Crisis toured with Kittie however, their parents and friends told us many stories about what big Crisis fans their daughters were, from the beginning, and how they were all fans. Their manager told us, before that tour, that the girls were taking guitar lessons on tour and getting better. Industry people told us that they didn't even play their own instruments on their first album..other people were playing those recorded parts. And this is the category I'm stuffed into just because I'm a female? Opening for some kids who are too afraid to admit that I was their inspiration?
And Otep..I met so many people involved in putting that band together, they told me all the dirty little secrets, like Capitol Records wanted to develop a female fronted Korn, so they got an independent a/r rep to hire/fire band members, to write songs, and put that band together. "evil" J told Crisis that he lived on the east coast during Crisis' reign there and what a fan he was. No surprise there. On the tour we did, they had all their stage moves written out the same, night after night "otep gives crowd finger, j scans crowd, otep pulls out her hair", and oh, there are tons and tons of vocal effects pouring off that stage. They do exist. And they call themselves "self-made"? What's the difference here between the Backstreet Boys and otep? They were put together the same way.

You should've seen the otep singer screaming at the kittie singer when we all had to play on a small stage with no barrier between musicians and fans. That closeness I loved, right in the crowd's faces. I loved the challenge, the unpredictable things that can happen. But otep was screaming at the kittie singer that it was her fault she had to play on a small stage, blah blah. I remember thinking, What are you scared of girl? That people can see your stage moves typed out? That you might not be well-rehearsed in the event that someone in the crowd does something unexpected? Sure, both bands have moved onto imitating other trends, trying to fit in somewhere..politics, fashion,somewhere they can attain credibility.
And this rehearsed, studied crap is the pile I get shoved into because we share the same gender? We definitely don't share the same views on authenticity, music, creativity..I don't have to study other people and other trends to make myself in their image. To each her own, but fuck, don't assume I'm the same shade of fake.

Before I left, I heard "Don't quit, you're just about to get your due, people are finally waking up to Karyn Crisis," blah blah. I didn't get into music to be famous, and I certainly wasn't going to hang around just in case it was about time for whomever these people were who were about to give me my due. I didn't get into music because I heard some other woman growling and decided I wanted to be like her. I got into music because it called to me like a siren song since I was a child. I was a loner, on the outside of everything and everyone. I started working with guitar and bass and a 4 track when I was in middle school. It was how I found my voice, raw and clumsy, screaming alone in a room in NYC, guitar across me, plugged into an amp. It took me a few days to let out a scream, and I was so introverted and shy I had my friends wait behind the door until I could do it on my own. I had no women to imitate, I was just letting out all my horror in a primal scream of empowerment. It was real, embarrassing, powerful, frightening, and something to behold.

I know who I am, I know my worth. My worth exists outside of praise, compliments, record sales, soundscan figures, ratings. For me, music is about risk...and I take it, balls out. But the big-talkers?

So, when I decided to make an album in 2008, I called the one person who had encouraged me to not give up on singing, to keep going, because, in his words, "the music scene really needed me and was awaiting my return."
Originally, we were to make an album together for us, but it grew into something bigger as he became part of a newly formed label who wanted to sign me. It became the Karyn Crisis Solo Album, and plans started to form that entailed bringing Davide into the project to write songs and play guitars, while my other friend would take care of the recording and electronic experimentation. Things started off well enough, but things definitely needed complexity that I hoped would be worked out.
Despite my excitement, in the end I realized the songs were not complex enough, but the potential was there to step things up a notch..the potential was there and had been realized in one of the last songs written. While Davide and I wanted to take things in a new direction, our friend didn't, and in the end refused to work with me, because he said Davide and I weren't capable of writing the songs we needed, weren't capable of making the right decisions, and he was the producer, so his direction was more important than mine.

So, for my solo album, for a record deal with only my name on it, I was to be told what direction I should take creatively. Somehow, his ideas were completely different from mine, even though I had given him a list of bands that I considered inspiration for this album's direction. Needless to say, we parted ways, and I spent one month in Italy travelling with Davide before coming back to NoCal to start a band with him, continue writing songs, and live our life.

I was looking forward to seeing my friends again. Many of them were super supportive of me making an album. They were telling me "the music scene needs you, your voice is missed, so many people would love to make music with you" and all sorts of lovely compliments. So when we arrived and began to look for band members, I thought I could count on them to help me out. Instead, silence..then "everyone's in a band already, no one I know has time, I like the music but I'm busy, I know a drummer you could hire for the album, but no one's available to be in another band, I can't think of anyone." Suddenly all those people wanting to play with me are nowhere to be found. Then there were the interviews with the guys who tell me what their demands are instead of asking what the goals of the Karyn Crisis Band are.

And I'm left thinking.."Do I really want to do this again?" I hear a resounding "yes" whenever I think about making music, and I'm not interested in taking "no" for an answer. However, I'm not sure how I feel about working with musicians again. So far I'm not impressed or inspired about people other than Davide, because I'm not so interested in dealing with flakiness.

My life has been full of suffering and darkness, and now that I've found ways to transcend the suffering and still learn, now that I can be in the darkness but no longer touched by it, I feel charged, poised, and empowered to create again sonically.

I know that since I left the music biz I feel truly free, and this winged creature is not looking to be caged anytime soon.

Life is precious and fleeting, and my life will be lived on my terms. I'm not willing to live life on terms other than this, to beg for opportunities or chances, life is abundant. I am comfortable knowing that my life's path has a plan for me, that there are certain things I may have control over in my life and certain ones I won't, that it's all part of the learning my soul aches for...but I also know that I have faith in myself regardless of whether anyone else does.

We heard a quote the other day" Experience is what you get when you don't get what you want" by a guy who's writing a book about living while he dies of cancer.

I love this quote, because I think the journey is more valuable than the goal. I think experience has value, as does getting what you want. I've had plenty of both.
i've had plenty of experience lately, now it's time to get what I want.
Music will be made, and I can't wait to see what we will be able to conjure as a duo.
For now, it's Davide and I, and that's perfect for me.

11 comments:

rhobbs said...

greetings sistah!
i can see the mountains from my house grounded by their quiet majesty...
will be in touch soon...
we are comrades
remember :
"dont let the bastards get ya down"
ciao for now... rh

Laura said...

Do what you love, whether it pleases everyone else or not. Life is too short and far too sweet to waste any of it for the sake of others. Stay strong lady, and keep your heart open.

Post Scriptum said...

Helsinki, Finland supports yout and wants to see and hear more of your sound!

Regards from someone who was first astonished by Danny Mansmiths profound art, and followed the path to you.

Hoffa said...

Hey Karyn - I interviewed you about your leather for Metal Maniacs! I'd play drums for you if I wasn't in Illinois.

Seems to me, though, that your determination will see things through.

Helene said...

I can't help it, but your writing in this blog hypnotize me as well as your music.
Still I can't wait to hear more music from you.

Amanda said...

I just wanted to say that I've been listening to your music with Crisis since I was about 15 (I'm 20 now). I listened to all of these other female fronted bands you mentioned in this blog before I discovered your music, and I did like them. However, the first time I heard Crisis, I felt truly moved. It wasn't just because your sound was unique and brutal, but because I could feel the raw, intense honesty behind your voice and your lyrics. Ever since I have looked up to you as an icon in a sense. It isn't because I want to be a musician. That is definitely not my calling, but I do want to succeed in whatever it is I do with the unabashed honesty, determination, and beauty as you do.

I hope you succeed in bringing your music to the world again. Don't give up.

Rufus Xevious said...

Karyn,

It's strange to me writing this comment to you months after you wrote this blog. After falling out of listening to metal for a good part of the 90s (and totally missing the development of death/black/grind/progressive styles that occurred, I was totally floored when, as I began educating myself again and finding out what was the seriously powerful music made in that decade, I learned about your band, Crisis. It was evident within a song or two how superlative and challenging your music was/is.

I'm not a musician, but it doesn't take too much thought to get a glimmer of understanding of how difficult it can be for an artist to find like-minded and talented collaborators. Part of me thinks it might be helpful for you to again, look outside the country to find musicians who can share your vision and help you develop it.

I believe you'll get there and when you do, I want to finally get a chance to see you play music on stage and not just the grainy specs I can find on YouTube.

Please blog about it when you decide to show some paintings.

Best,
Rufus Xevious
san francisco

ivanxgrindx09 said...

great to know you have a blogger! i love your music with crisis, congratulations from barcelona, http://ivanxgrindx09.blogspot.com/ if you want you can sign in my blog

Andrew said...

Karyn,

Have heard and admired your music for years now, and just recently discovered your blog here. I completely agree with your sentiments.

I recently left a band that was bound and determined to "get signed and be famous." Now, mind you, we were only just starting, and not even close to what you achieved with Crisis, but I saw from far on out, that this was the path of the damned. So many rehearsals that ended with discussions of how to shape our look/sound/stage presence to court record label/crowd/media attention, that it left me feeling like a whore. My music is precious to me. I love doing it. But the moment I sell it to someone, it is no longer mine, no longer that piece of myself...

Fight the power, stay true to yourself, and keep on creating.

-Andrew Wonders

akillingfrost333 said...

greetings from albany KC

there are allot of nice and true comments on here i hope you take them to heart .
i had mentioned to you a couple times
last year that i would like to send you songs and riffs for you to play with and put vox to. i hope you take me up on it someday

your friend
rich

Anonymous said...

Karyn, just wanted to say thanks for putting yourself out there the way you have all these years. I saw Crisis at the Reptile House in Grand Rapids, MI in 96 I think it was. Spellbound from the second you stepped on stage and enjoy listening to the music regularly to this day. This is just a message to say thanks and to let you know we're out here still connecting with your music to this days. Hails. Jason.