Alien Knife Fight Interview for Wicked Spins Radio

Alien Knife Fight Interview for Wicked Spins Radio
WSR – Monique your vocal style is unique and this really shows on Some Girls, but your vocal style is what gives Alien Knife Fight part of the band’s greatness and beauty.  Where did your journey begin as a vocalist and how did you develop your uniqueness?

Alien Knife Fight (Monique) – I did my “proper”, formal singing in the choir (I was a soprano believe it or not) , starting in 5th grade, while outside of school I’d sing along to anything I liked, whether it be my dad’s Janice Joplin records, Aretha franklin, or mom’s Patsy Cline, or Loretta Lynn. As a teenager into my college years it became very important to me to develop as wide a range as possible; able to sing very low, very high, and everything in between. My biggest vocal influences were David Sylvian, Nina Simone, Robert Plant, Mark Hollis, and Cy Curnin.
WSR – On Some Girls, you cover some interesting topics, can you tell our readers more about these topics but also why you chose them?
Alien Knife Fight (Monique)  – I don’t choose topics. I’ve never been the kind of songwriter that says “ok. I’m going to sit down and write a song about________ .” Songs write themselves for the most part. The inspiration is there or it isn’t. I prefer to stay away from politics and current events because I get more than enough of that from reality, and it’s become harder than ever to escape it. “Some Girls” (the song) is pretty simple and obvious. It’s a song about being that girl that gets picked on regularly and being tired of feeling insecure. Nothing profound. Some people relate to it. The other songs are more abstract, and I doubt anyone will fully understand them. It doesn’t matter if they do. I don’t like when the media asks me to explain what a song is about because that’s what listening is for. It’s far more interesting to let the listener come up with their own interpretation, rather than have me tell them what they SHOULD be thinking about it. There isn’t much in the world that leaves a lot to one’s imagination anymore.
Mike: I like songs that aren’t specific and let your imagination create the story. Everybody has their own translation and it lets the listener, in a sense, participate in the song.
WSR – How much of a song do you feel needs to be visual, as in how do you choose songs that will get made into a video too?
Alien Knife Fight (Monique) – Considering we only have two videos out at the moment (because we’re unknown for the most part and have very little support, and no budget to speak of), I can’t really answer this. I wish we could make videos for every song, but it’s just Mike and I doing everything, on top of trying to survive and keep a roof over our heads. Sure, we can keep making videos with an iphone but it has its limits and my ideas for videos have outgrown our available technology long ago. If we could find the right director and crew who get our sound and aesthetic THEN I’d worry about which song to do a video for and which can go without. We are dying to bring a more visual aspect to our live show. Ideal, y we’d like to have a projection, animation, and more elaborate lighting, but that all takes a lot of money. Money we just don’t have.
Mike: I’m excited and to make more phone videos! I usually have a very solid idea of what I’d like to see in a video, but it’s all in my imagination. The phone is an easy, fast way to express the idea. Or at least use it as a proof of concept.             We had a Slasher movie filmed at the house and we saw first hand the preparation and teamwork that goes into making films. So I’m into letting someone else take charge of making a video. See what direction they can take a song.
WSR – Are there any underlying messages in the visuals of Flightplan?
Alien Knife Fight (Monique)- Too many to go into. As I said earlier, I prefer to let the listener give meaning to the song. I prefer they interpret it any way they wish, that resonates for them. Once it’s out there it’s no longer up to me.
WSR – Monique at what point in your life did you decide to stick a middle finger up at the world and become the amazing musician you are today?
Alien Knife Fight (Monique)- I don’t feel I’ve ever given the world the middle finger, and I definitely don’t think of myself as an “amazing” musician. I could list many female artists who are way more rebellious and provocative. I’m quite guarded compared to them, and I’m ok with that. One doesn’t have to be outrageous, provocative, or have some big agenda to sound off about to make art worth checking out. I’m actually quite introverted and have never been comfortable making music with an agenda. I don’t feel any need to prove myself to anyone. It’s not my element really. I’m no Jaco or Geddy Lee on bass. I have a “thing” that I do, that I enjoy. I have a sound that I’ve been honing all my life. Some people get it. Most do not. I like to explore the range of “colours” I can get out of an instrument, rather than focus on playing it traditionally, or by the book. I may be highly influenced by people such as Mick Karn or Mark Sandman, but once I got the basic idea and technique of their sound, I went well out of my way to either deconstruct it or push it in completely different directions. I am well aware of my limits, and I’m constantly trying to push them.
Mike: Mo often says that I am a better bass player than she is and that may or may not be true, but she is a unique bass player. You could pick her out of a hundred players in a couple of notes. When I play through her setup it doesn’t sound like her.
WSR – Monique you play the bass with such grace and elegance, the sounds are wondrous and mesmerising. Did you teach yourself how to play the bass like you do or did someone help you learn?
Alien Knife Fight (Monique)- I took a variety of lessons when I was a kid. I took guitar lessons when I was in 1st grade (about 6 years old) and quickly figured out that it wasn’t my instrument. I didn’t stick with it and became obsessed with drums. My father bought me my first kit when I was in 7th grade. I didn’t take drum lessons. Mainly I just played along to Kiss and Beatles records, and eventually figured out that drums weren’t for me either. By the time I was 12 I was really getting into a lot of new wave, punk, and pop music coming out of the UK. It was the record “Rio” by Duran Duran that made me want to be a bassist. My folks got me my first bass when I was 14ish (around 1986). I took lessons for a couple years but was moving faster than my instructor and got bored. I stopped taking lessons and started closely listening to and studying the bass playing in bands such as Roxy Music, Japan, Talk Talk, King Crimson, Grace Jones, and Chic to name a few. I became obsessed with Mick Karn and had switched to fretless bass by the time I was about 15 and taught myself, playing along to those artists daily. Meanwhile, from middle school to high school, I was playing clarinet and dabbling in a variety of reeds, and upright bass. By the time I graduated college I had my first Chapman stick (focused on the work of Trey Gunn and Tony Levin). At that time I felt I was in over my head with that instrument and started going the opposite direction, looking for instruments less complicated, which was around the time I discovered the music of Morphine, Mark Sandman and his 2-string slide bass. I was deep into a variety of traditional music from North Africa, the Middle East, and India. I’d copy all these National Geographic field recordings from the library and play along, improvising on the fretless bass.
WSR – Mike you have played in many different types and styles of bands, was there ever a moment in life when realisation just kicked in and you just knew that you were set to be a musician for the rest of your life?
Alien Knife Fight – Mike: I knew from about the age of 7 or 8 that I wanted to perform. I was a puppeteer. My Mom took me around to nursing homes to play bluegrass and put on puppet shows. She was a vaudevillian at hart and it must have rubbed off. I started playing in bands with older people in Jr. high and knew that was what I wanted to do by then. But when I joined my first really good metal band, at my first rehearsal during our first song, The Trooper by Iron Maiden, My chest started to burn! It was like my heart caught fire! It was THE moment. My body physically reacted to making music.
WSR – I absolutely hate when people try to fit bands into genres, why pigeon hole music which is unique in its own.  Sometimes it just gets silly.  So let’s have a bit of fun on this, create your own genre, give it a name and tell us what a band needs to sound like to be in that genre.
Alien Knife Fight (Monique)- Can’t do it. Sorry. Next question.
Mike: I’ll bite! Cookie Pop. To be in this genre you must first look like that band that nobody had heard of two months ago but suddenly signed a major label deal. You should sound very much like most of the crap you hear being spoon fed to the world at the moment and then disappear into the past to make room for the next pack of lemmings racing to towards the horizon.
WSR – There are bands that I just cannot stop listening to and songs that are in a way ageless and never grow old.  I can mention bands like Alien Knife Fight, Counting Crows, Disturbed, Sam Cooke, Roxy Music and Empire State Human to mention a few.  Bands that I can listen to over and over again and never get bored of the music.  What bands for you carry the same timelessness?
Alien Knife Fight (Monique)- Not all are bands. Queens Of The Stone Age, Wire, King Crimson, Wovenhand, Tenebrous Liar, Kronos Quartet, Arvo Pärt, David Sylvian, Alain Johannes.
(Mike)- Sometimes I’ll hear a record and not care for it right off the bat. I’ve learned that those are the ones I come back to and will end up listening to relentlessly. They are few and far between though. Mr. Bungle, anything by them but mostly the first one. Any QOTSA and Them Crooked Vultures Joe’s Garage, Frank Zappa. Act I and II. Act III kind of runs out of steam. Ride The Lightning and Master Of Puppets, Metallica.
WSR – Of all of the Alien Knife Fight songs, which do you enjoy performing live the most and why?
Alien Knife Fight (Monique)- Impossible to answer. It depends on the energy of the crowd, the venue we’re playing, and my current mood.
(Mike)- Currently, that would be a new song we’re working on called “Bleeding From The Trees”. We’ve played it out a few times and it’s just a lot of fun. I get a really good feeling about it, and I see a good reaction from people when we play it. It’s my new favourite.
WSR – You cook together, can you share with us a recipe that’s a typical Mike and Monique speciality?
Alien Knife Fight (Monique)- My Puerto Rican grandmother’s recipe for Pollo Guisado. Not going to share the recipe. If you know us personally you might get to try it sometime.
WSR – Mike what would be your ultimate barn find car to restore and why?
Alien Knife Fight (Mike)- 1937, 38, 39 Lincoln Zepher. One of the most beautiful bodies ever made. No need to modify it. The best of the Art Deco era. A 48 Dodge business coupe is cool too.
WSR – Monique you mentioned that if you weren’t a musician you would maybe be an archaeologist, now I have an S.P.Q.R. tattoo which symbolises my fascination of that period of history ie: the Roman Empire.  What period of history interests you the most and why?
Alien Knife Fight (Monique)- I don’t have a particular period of time that I favour but for many years I was deeply interested in ancient Babylon, and a variety of Persian art. In high school and college, I did papers and presentations on the Ishtar Gate, which lead to me collecting dozens of books on ancient Mediterranean and Neo-Babylonian art. All the places I wish I could visit are far too dangerous to go to now. Many of the antiquities I was hoping to see first hand have been damaged or destroyed by militant groups.
WSR – Some people will only stick to one style of music, their like or their comfort zone.  I feel music is to be enjoyed. Yes, there are bands I personally don’t get on with their music as I’m just human.  Do you like to explore the music of all types or do you just stick to one thing?
Alien Knife Fight (Monique)- Who listens to just one style of music? I don’t know anyone who does. I don’t really listen to much mainstream music. That doesn’t mean I think all pop music is bad (after all, I grew up on Duran Duran). I try to stay current and aware of what the masses are into, forcing myself to check out what’s getting a lot of spins on the radio, or what the popular playlists consist of, and more often then not, I’m disappointed and dismayed. That could just be because I’m getting old. I listen to many styles and genres. It’s easier to tell you what I definitely DON’T like: jam bands, and pretty much anything involving 5, or 6-string basses, and bass solos. I try not to judge, but we all do, and few things turn me off as much as the whole jam band/hippy scene. Ironically, I can’t stand most duos that I’ve heard either (I can’t wait for the day that we find that perfect third player and are no longer a duo).
WSR – Thank you so much for giving Wicked Spins Radio this interview, is there anything you would like to add?
Alien Knife Fight (Monique) – I guess we should let people know we are currently working on a new, full-length record. Since we are totally DIY there is no “official” release date. We aim to have it done in a month or so and be back on the road this fall.


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