An Interview with Emilie Autumn

Emilie Autumn, known for her virtuoso skills in the “Violindustrial” department and guest appearances on a plethora of recordings from Courtney Love to Metalocalypse and beyond, has just released a deluxe version of her already cult hit, Opheliac, in a deluxe edition and is publishing the Asylum book imminently. Emilie Autumn was kind enough to cozy up (under a spectacular fan-made quilt!) with us on her North American tour.

So you can’t have just decided in a think tank to put together all this stuff ‘cause it would look great on a merch table –
Oh I SO wish I would have, that would have saved me SO much time (laughs)

Nothing this neat and fantastical could be that formulaic – at what point in your life did you really start devoting so much of your energy toward the creation of this? Because it’s not just music or just aesthetics, this is an entire package –
It’s a world, is what I try to make. That’s why it seems to me very easy now, is because it seems like usually you try to get all these skills together, people together, performers or music or whatever, and then you try to make them into a world – but – the way that this is gone, it’s like you have the world, and then you just populate it, and then you just show people what’s going on with those people in that world. It’s just so much easier to do – the unfortunate thing is, in order to have that world, you have to have had some pretty goddamned traumatic life experiences because that’s what makes it so that your brain needs to – it’s not choice – needs to develop an alternate reality… Usually it’s because you’re in a situation where you can’t survive, so in order to do that you need to create something else. For me, this was out of an attempted suicide and getting locked up in a psych ward. There, you’re stuck; you’re getting fucked with, and then you have to create a world that you can live in or someone to talk to, and so that association with the asylum of now versus the asylum of that era came together and I started to learn how there wasn’t very much difference between the two… And that is… really not a good thing, and that there should be, and we really haven’t progressed from lobotomies, we’re still being experimented on – that’s the connection between the girls and the lab rats/plague rats, it’s like “who’s the lab rat now?” You know, when I go to my shrink, a while ago, and things aren’t working and so he says, “well I have to put you on Lithium” and I say “ok, that scares me, tell me how it works”, and he says “honestly we have no idea.” So, who’s the lab rat? And, knowing all drugs that I’ve been on have been tested on rats first creates this little bit of a synchronicity of like, “thank you for your sacrifice, I’m sorry”, there has to be a better way to do this, and I don’t even know what it is, but right now we’re all being tested on, we’re all in this shitty asylum together, and so what happens here is just that we’re telling the world that I’m talking about, it’s what became so huge, it’s what the Asylum book is, it’s everything. And so, everything that you see, or even a piece of merch, or a painting, or a song, or anything that happens on stage is like a tiny shred of a scene or picture that happens in that place. Which isn’t here. And, so much so that it has become a real, physical thing. But that’s the thing where I like to get all crazy, that’s where I can’t tell where I am a lot of the time, because it was such a dire situation that it became so real… and I think I’m there a lot more than I’m here, I dream in that world, and I talk to those people, and I think what I’m doing now also has the element of reconciling; it gives me a chance to live in this world that goes like that, where I would be the crazy psychotic schizophrenic on the street babbling to myself in other voices if I weren’t. But here, I get to do that because it’s very theatre, it’s acting, right? Although, maybe it’s not… But as long as everybody thinks it is, then you don’t get locked up. And try not to take all your sleeping pills at once!

One of the biggest curiosities I think for our readers has to do with this spectacular imagery you have… Your aesthetic tastes, or ‘proclivities’…
(Giggles) Yes…

Well, a lot of images seem to be kind of manufactured now, so I think it captures the imagination of people to see something so personal come from an artist, as opposed to…
Right, and then people doubt that it is, because nobody actually believes you can (she gestures wildly to illustrate expressive performance)…

Well, once in a while they do, because they’re used to it being kind of more of a merchandising angle, as opposed to a personal expression…
Yeah! Yeah, no I get asked all the time how much of what goes on (on the stage) or how you look generally or anything is the “character” as opposed “to the real Emilie Autumn”…

It’s like seeing Gene Simmons with his make-up off for some people.
Right! But the thing is I never… Well the whole reason why the show, and the music, and the whole career generally exists, is to give me the luxury of being able to be myself all the time. The ultimate compromise for me would be to be a secretary and to have a 9 to 5 whatever, where I had to wear things that I didn’t identify with – this is the ultimate luxury, and I’ve built all of this, by hand, myself, from ages ago so that I could represent myself all the time, not so that I would have to put on a mask and hide it. The image in general, the show, the music, all of it is absolutely the most me it could possibly get. And that just grows every day – like my whole goal of life in general; and it’s all about just how close to “you” can you actually get. It’s like, I don’t know who I am, and I’m trying to figure it out – I don’t think anyone does. My life goal is just to be as much myself as possible, not even knowing what that is, but trying to get closer and closer and weeding out the things that you know are not yourself, and that don’t make you comfortable. I’m comfortable when I’m on stage. And I’m relatively protected, up there, which is why you get to do things like slit your wrists or take off all your clothes or roll around on the ground or whatever it is… That’s when you get to do that stuff, because if you’re even – you know, and I’m not terribly big, but – even at this point you generally have a security guard at both sides of the stage, to where, somebody could still shoot you from the back of the room, but… chances are…

Chances are…
Chances are it’s not gonna happen, at least not every day, and you’re going to be more protected than you would at any other point in everyday life, so I can do more on stage and in this whole little environment that is mine, than that I wouldn’t have if I weren’t doing this. This had to happen so that I didn’t have to be somebody else. It’s all me, and it’s never not, and there’s no point where – and that goes for all of us– where everyone just goes back, takes off their makeup, and turns into a different thing. All of our characters are based on versions of who we are; I am me. The girls, what they represent (the Bloody Crumpets), is basically a slightly more sparkly – because of the crystals – version of who they exactly are, they didn’t get planted with a role, they are themselves. So everybody gets that thing that they would never – so it’s really about freedom and being able to show who you are rather than putting on an act. Because I would have to do that if I were a secretary.

I think this is especially frustrating for those who have to negotiate a self that’s very different from what their lives or jobs require of them, would you agree?
Right well to try to be artistic or creative in any way… Most people – if they knew what was involved – they wouldn’t even want this job. Those people should be doing that thing where – and it’s not even derogatory – where it’s much easier to be told what to do. To have to actually be the boss, and create this whole world and all of the business side of it and everything yourself, and having no security other than your own psyche saying “you’re doing a good job”… Most of the time nobody either tells you because they think you already know, or even if they did, you wouldn’t pay attention to them because you’re so self-critical – if you’re the type of person that gets to be the boss – because you have to be. Basically I don’t think it’s a job – as fun as it might look from the outside – that most people would even want. If they had any inkling of what it actually takes. It’s probably easier, and happier, and just a nicer life in general to just – be normal. But I think it’s just like, genetically in me “you’re either that or you’re that”. You’re either onstage or you’re in the audience. And that’s pretty much what everybody is divided into. So we might as well just enjoy it because that’s what we have to do! (goofing off) “I just have to be a star, it’s so terrible!”  www.emilieautumn.com

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