"What we do on stage with each other is an expression of a sexual power exchange," explains the band's lead singer, Gnarly. Their latest video, premiering exclusively on office, does however contend with a suicide fetish.
When model, fashion designer, and now filmmaker Bradley Soileau approached the band about his idea for the upcoming "Balaclava" video, they unsurprisingly agreed to the challenge. "When I heard the concept I was hyped," recalls Gnarly. "That song is really intense for me. I was in a fucked up place mentally and on a hot one when I wrote and recorded it so it was heavy to step back into that mind state and recreate that feeling. After seeing the final product I feel we really accomplished that and show you the darker of side of devastation."
Watch the video below, and read on as Brad and Gnarly talk about their collaboration.
How'd you two meet?
BRADLEY SOILEAU—I honestly don’t fully remember. I had befriended Jean and Eaddy of Ho99o9 and I went to a house show they had and I think that’s how I met Gnarly. We would see each other out at parties and afters and became friends.
Gnarly, how long have you been making music like this?
GNARLY—I started making music six years ago. From drunk screaming freestyles in friends’ kitchens at 3am to a thrash band with my brother called The Plastic Faced Mannequins. It's always been all over the place. I've never limited anything we've done to one genre or style. When we started Kate Mo$$ we had no plan for the direction of the project. We just cranked shit out. The songs of mine that are described as rap were made in the same time period as “Balaclava.” A lot of our new music is more noisey and faster but those elements of hip-hop are still there. Just because we're screaming doesn't mean there aren’t bars in these tracks. You may not be able to make it out as easily but a lot of the songs are still very lyrical. At the same time, it’s always evolving, as are we. It's gotten to a much heavier place; that’s just us holding a mirror to our lives. Welcome to the shit show.
Has there always been such a theatrical element to your performances?
G—Yes, always. First show we ever played as Kate Mo$$ we set up a laptop on the lower back of a girl on all fours wearing a tracksuit and a balaclava on top of a dirty carpet we found backstage. Thus the human table was born and we've continued to push the line each show. When I brought Skuz into the band last year, it became something else. We've been able to push the circles of music and art together. It's been fun watching them collide. The night always creates itself. Nothing's ever planned or contrived we just go out there and do what we do.
How far is too far when it comes to what you act out on stage? Is there a line?
G—The line is what you make it, and we've made it clear we're here to push it. I want to bring the element of danger back to music. We're not promoting violence or self harm in any manner but at the same time these are real emotions and real feelings and it's okay to feel that way. It's okay to be angry; we're pissed off too. When you come to one of our live performances you get to step into our world, and I feel that's a real heavy trip for people. Some come back and some don't.
Do you think it’s okay to choke Skuz? It'd be cool to have her stomping on you or a dude on stage as well—reciprocate the violence a bit.
G—I mean, is it okay to choke your spouse in the bedroom during the heat of passion, if he or she is okay with it? That's basically all we're doing; we're just doing it on stage, which I think makes some people uncomfortable. But let's just be clear, what Skuz and I do on stage is 100% consensual, handled with the utmost respect and is completely mutual as far as the give and take of violence goes. Some people are unaware but at a lot of the shows it's actually Skuz who is taking out her frustrations on me and I am the one being submissive. In a sense, Skuz and I are both sadists and masochists, if you want to call us that. What we do on stage with each other is an expression of a sexual power exchange. So yeah, in my mind, we aren't doing anything wrong. And we hope people aren't missing the point either, because at the end of the day this is all about artistic expression, sexual freedom and really not giving a fuck about what other people think. I fuckin' love it when Skuz reciprocates the violence. I'd actually love to see her stab a dude in the nuts on stage if the opportunity arose and it was consensual. But that's just me.
What are your thoughts on GG Allin's performances?
G—He was the best to do it. When VVTGB (Viciouc Venom the Gerber Baby) showed me GG as a teen it completely changed the way I looked at music and performance. I was hooked. That definitely stuck with me when we started making music. When people call us shit like the next GG Allin, it's always interesting. He was one of kind — often imitated, but never emulated. He openly talked about sex with 13 year-old-boys, girls, and even animals and raped women at his show. We'll never be that. Although the comparison is flattering. I wish he would have murked himself on stage as promised instead of going out like a junkie, but hey that's life right? I consider GG my dad ... Rest in piss pops.
Just to be clear, you seem to be really championing GG's behavior. What are your thoughts on female abuse, like rape?
G—Rape or nonconsenual sex and/or violence against women is unacceptable under any circumstances, period. End of statement. Like I mentioned earlier, despite comparisons, we are not El Duce and the Mentors. We're not GG Allin and teh Murder Junkies. We are Kate fucking Mo$$ and we don't condone that kinda shit whatsoever. If you're a rapist, please come to one of our shows. We'll be sure to show you first hand how we deal with your kind.
What's the song Balaclava about?
G—The song is about my mental state — at the darkest, deepest depths of depression, with ribs showin’ and ready to say to fuck it all. The pure anger you feel scrambling for air and the sounds of your nails crackling on the hardwood as you pull yourself out of the abyss — bruised and bloody, but better. It’s the moment you realize it's you versus them and your body starts shaking from your insides out, ready for war. It's about hunger and being willing to do what you must to eat. When life pushes you, push that mother fucker back and set it off. It's about fighting back.
Bradley, you mentioned before that The Heaven’s Gate Death Cult led you to the idea for the video. Tell me about them.
BS—[Laughs] Honestly that was just an aesthetic thing. I think their suicide was beautifully art directed. Heaven’s Gate was a cult based in California — in my work I like to touch base on things from California to pay my respects to the state I get inspiration from. The cult believed in aliens and had a mass suicide because they thought it would get them onto an alien spaceship that was following a comet. They had a lot of Star Trek references in their religion and shit. And in the end 39 members took phenobarbital with vodka, put bags over their heads and covered their faces and torsos with purple fabric. They were all in matching black outfits with black-and-white Nike shoes. The first time I saw photos I thought it was perfect and I wanted to reference it at the end. I love music videos that aren’t so literal and maybe have nothing to do with the song; they have narratives of their own.
In mainstream music, do you think depression is glorified?
BS—Joy Division never toured in America and look at how huge they are. They’re an incredibly talented band but don’t you think that some of that success comes from Ian Curtis’ suicide? It’s just my opinion, but you don’t think some of that success and fame is partly because of people’s gross obsession with death and suicide?! Also let’s look at other genres of music. Since rap is the new mainstream/pop, everyone listens to it and it speaks to a broad group of people. And they talk about taking Xanax and being sad too.
What else did you research that led you to the idea for the video?
BS—Nothing really. I just think America is obsessed with sex and death. And I’m obsessed with sex and death and masturbation and I think dicks are hilarious and I’m just a weirdo that likes weird sick shit. In art and music people like to be shocked. Kate Mo$$ has a great performance-art element to their live shows and I wanted to match that.
Gnarly, what was it like to act out suicide in the video?
G—It was pretty heavy. To step back into that mind state was a trip for me. Me and Bradley are very similar in the way we create. I've looked up to his work for a while now so when we decided to collaborate on this video I knew it was gonna push the boundaries of what you see on a day-to-day basis. I got a little too into it at one point during shooting; took a shot of booze, and snapped out of it. It was a small group — like 5 of us on the scene of the video — and I trusted them with the vision just as they trusted mine.
I heard you almost died?
G—Yeah … I mean by no means are any of us professionals or have any financial backing for this. So we made the video happen with what we had. I was very adamant about the noosing being as real as possible, so we pushed it as far as we could. At the point of going unconscious, the last thing I could remember was how much better the song sounded to me at that moment. Then I just went deeper and deeper into the song, then black. Came to with a group of concerned friends circled around me like, “Shit dude. We almost killed you.” Then we did another take. It was fun.
Bradley, how long have you been making films/videos?
BS—Honestly this is the first time I’ve worked on a film where it was my idea and I had full control of everything. I’ve done a few films when I was working with 424 on Fairfax and then I’ve worked on a few things for my brand, Blackfist. But I’ve taken a break from fashion for a few seasons to learn more about film and photography. I want to have deeper understanding of what I’m trying to say with my brand on a visual level.
Do you guys have plans to work together again in the future?
BS—Yeah I’m definitely part of the gang. I’m gonna be helping with larger-scale performance-art ideas and pushing the boundaries with what a punk show can be and how it can be packaged and presented to the world. It doesn’t just have to be small venues and alleyways. It has to be that but I also like the idea of putting these performances in museums and pissing on people’s opinions of what punk should and shouldn’t be.
What's next for Kate Mo$$?
G—We just got back from a small East Coast run in August and we're already trying to go back. We're working with our family Ho99o9 on a U.S. tour for next year. As for the rest of this year we are releasing a mixtape and wrapping up the last songs on our full-length album. We have a lot of content that we're finally ready to release and share with you all. If you thought we were loud before, just know we're only getting started ... Abandoned House Music is here and we came to catch wreck.