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Kittie once played the Milwaukee Metalfest. In the blink of an eye they were trading Metalfest for Ozzfest and were part of the mainstream. Indeed, sisters Mercedes and Morgan Lander took their high school garage band to the top of the music world with their debut album 'Spit'. So what did Kittie do for an encore? They got heavier. These days, Kittie are keeping decidedly more underground company, touring in support of their 'Oracle' album with the likes of Shadows Fall, Killswitch Engage and Poison the Well. Drummer Mercedes Lander recently checked in with the Metal Update to take stock of it all.

METAL UPDATE: What's going on with Kittie?

MERCEDES LANDER: We just got home from Europe. We did some dates on Ozzfest there with some really cool bands like Black Label Society.

MU: Is Kittie a metal band?

ML: I think more than anything, yeah. I don't think our first record was. . . a good representation of us.

MU: Why not?

ML: 'Cause those songs were really, really old and those songs were written six years ago. I think that 'Oracle' is a lot different and a lot heavier.


MU: Let's go back to the beginning of your musical career - which couldn't have been that long ago. How old are you?

ML: Old enough. (laughs)

MU: When did you first get into heavy music?

ML: I've been into heavy music ever since I could first open my ears and listen to music. I grew up with the heavy music of the late 70's and early 80's.

MU: What kind of bands were you listening to?

ML: AC/DC, Kiss, Van Halen. All of those bands. Obviously I gravitated toward heavier music as I got older and developed my musical taste.

MU: What type of stuff are you listening to today?

ML: Today? I listen to all kinds of stuff. Just before I called you, I was listening to Shadows Fall.

MU: 'Of One Blood' or the new stuff?

ML: 'Of One Blood'. I have heard the new stuff though, and it is really good.

MU: What else are you listening to?

ML: I love Atreyu.

MU: I don't know that band.

ML: They're on Victory Records.

MU: Hardcore?

ML: They're not like a total hardcore band. They're one of those metalcore bands. I like all kinds of stuff. . . like Cannibal Corpse. The new Killswitch Engage album is amazing.

MU: How did Kittie get started?

ML: We started in 1996. Basically Morgan - who is my sister - and I, we just hung out and got really bored one day. I'd only started playing drums like six months before, or a few months before, I don't even remember. So I wasn't very good. None of us were. And we just played in the basement for a really long time, and we wrote some of the songs that ended up on 'Spit'.

MU: Where are you from?

ML: London, Ontario, Canada.

MU: So when you got out of school you would just go home and play?

ML: Basically. (laughs) Actually we did a lot of practicing on the weekends. The practices generally consisted of us playing and writing like one song and then getting really drunk on my kitchen floor. (laughs)

MU: Besides you and your sister, was the lineup always the same as it is now?

ML: No. We've had a lot of lineup changes.

MU: Do you remember playing Milwaukee Metalfest?

ML: Oh that was the worst show ever!

MU: How did you get out of the garage and take it to the next step?

ML: We signed up for a battle of the bands where they draw your name out of a fucking hat. I don't know, I guess that's how they pick the bands, anyway, who fucking cares? We got to play. From there we met other bands and traded off with them. You set up a show with their bands and their friends, and they do the same for you. From there we set up a website in early '98 and basically started getting other bands to say, "Hey, come to our city and we'll do a show together." So we did those tradeoffs. And basically how we got "discovered" was we were playing an unsigned band festival in Toronto called Canadian Music Week, where you submit your demo and they draw you name out of a fucking hat (laughs) and then we played.

MU: And then someone saw you play there and offered you a deal?

ML: Basically. We had a lot of offers. But we decided to go with an indie label.

MU: Kittie always seem to me to be stuck between being packaged as superficial "chicks with guitars" music and yet having some genuine true underground feelings that seem to want to find their way into the equation.

ML: I would love to be on a small label that knows metal. I want to be on a label that knows what they are doing with heavy metal bands.

MU: And you don't think that's where you are today?

ML: No I don't think that is.

MU: What other labels out there are interesting to you?

ML: There are a lot of really great labels out there.

MU: Would Roadrunner Records be a good place for Kittie?

ML: No.

MU: Too straightforward? Too mainstream?

ML: We need people who will help us. Look at what Trustkill did for Poison the Well. They did an amazing job. They're a really small label, but they got the shit out there. And that band has sold a lot of records because of that label. The label actually gives a shit.

MU: What about more metal-oriented labels like Century Media?

ML: Umm. . . I have a lot of friends who are on Century Media and they don't seem to like it, but. . . I don't think anybody likes their own record label.

MU: Do you think that you are unfairly pegged as a more mainstream band than you really mean to be?

ML: I think so. I think it is definitely fair to say that. If you look at the way that everything happened in the beginning, we ended up getting so much fucking press for that record. And I think it was the wrong kind of press too.

MU: What do you mean when you refer to the "wrong kind of press"?

ML: A lot of the people didn't really do research on the band, and they described us as just some pop band when actually we had been a band for a really long time because we were stuck in fucking Canada. I think a lot of the press on us really sucked in the beginning and it was focused on the wrong things. It didn't really talk about music.

MU: It was probably all about how you were a bunch of chicks.

ML: They asked stuff like "what kind of shoes do you wear?"

MU: Do you feel any kind of pressure to represent women in metal or anything like that?

ML: Fuck no. I could give a shit about anybody else. This is for my band.

MU: Do you think in ten years someone might look back on Kittie as some kind of pioneers?

ML: Yeah, someone might do that, but I never was the spokesperson for any of that shit.

MU: Do you think it is harder for women to make a living playing heavy music?

ML: I don't know anything other than about doing what I do. . .

MU: So it's just about playing heavy music. No political agenda, etc.

ML: Exactly. I wouldn't even know how to be in another band because I know it is different for everybody.

MU: Do you guys get male groupies?

ML: No.

MU: Sure you do.

ML: No.

MU: You're telling me guys don't try to pick you up at shows?

ML: Well yeah, they do, but I mean. . . that's gross. There has to be a rule about not dating fans. That's just not cool.

MU: Is there a rule in Kittie that you can't hook up with a fan?

ML: I would never do it.

MU: What about the rest of the band?

ML: They would probably never do it either.

MU: Yet guys go out on the road and hook up with fans all of the time.

ML: Yeah, but I think it is completely different for them 'cause could you imagine a guy like walking up to a girl in tight spandex and saying, "Hey baby, you want some of this"? (laughs)

MU: I see what you mean.

ML: I wouldn't go for that. Gross. (laughs)

MU: Let's talk about your drumming. How long have you been playing now?

ML: I started four or five months before I started the band, so almost seven years.

MU: You weren't doing double-kick stuff and stuff like that when you started the band then.

ML: Obviously not. Anybody, when they first start playing their instrument, obviously has to suck for a little while. Unless you are a fucking prodigy.

MU: How much of what you hear with the evolution of the music on 'Oracle' has to do with you becoming a better drummer?


ML: I think a lot. Everybody else evolved on their instruments as well.

MU: Do you think that we will hear further musical progression from Kittie on subsequent records?

ML: I think so. Look at fucking Kerry King. I'm sure he gets better on every fucking record.

MU: Do you know the guys in Slayer?

ML: Yes I do.

MU: What do they say to you about Kittie?

ML: Jeff Hanneman is a really big fan of ours.

MU: I'm sure you're a big Slayer fan too.

ML: Of course!

MU: How weird is that for Jeff Hanneman to be a really big fan of your band?

ML: Pretty fucked up.

MU: Do you think Kittie will ever go on tour with Slayer?

ML: I think it would be great. But I don't know. I'd like to, but. . . we'll see.

MU: You're doing a tour with Shadows Fall, Killswitch Engage and Poison the Well. How did you pick those bands?

ML: Well, we took Shadows Fall out before.

MU: Why them?

ML: 'Cause they are awesome! They're so cool. And c'mon, think - fucking Overcast. Killswitch plus Shadows Fall equals Overcast.

MU: Are you a big Overcast fan?

ML: Of course!

MU: Did you know about the band while they were still active or did you discover them after they broke up?

ML: No, I learned about them later.

MU: Did you discover them because you got into Shadows Fall?

ML: I got into Overcast around the same time as Shadows Fall.

MU: Did you see the Overcast reunion shows this year?

ML: I didn't see those shows but a bunch of friends of mine did.

MU: There's a big difference between Killswitch and Shadows, don't you think?

ML: I think they do have a lot of similarities, but at the same time they have differences.

MU: Why do you think Roadrunner Records signed Killswitch Engage?

ML: Have you ever heard of the band Nora? A guy named Carl is in a hardcore band called Nora and he works for Roadrunner. So I think Roadrunner is going start having good bands now, actually.

MU: But Roadrunner is not what you want for Kittie?

ML: No. Definitely not.

MU: You played some shows with Shadows Fall in Europe.

ML: Yeah. We love those guys.

MU: Tell us about the new tour.

ML: This tour is going to be like eight weeks, starting in July. We're so happy to be taking Poison the Well out.

MU: Are you more into hardcore or metal?

ML: (laughs) A little bit from column "a", a little bit from column "b".

MU: What was it like to play Ozzfest? You not only did Europe, you did second stage in the U.S. right? Or did you do the main stage?

ML: Yeah, we did the main stage. In Europe we did the main stage once or twice.

MU: You did the second stage in the U.S. what, like last year?

ML: In 2000.

MU: What was that like?

ML: Very drunk. (laughs) Total party.

MU: Sounds like good times.

ML: Yeah. You have like a 25 minute set. You get off stage at like 5:00 and you have the rest of the day to go drink with Pantera.

MU: Imagine that, getting to hang out 23 and a half hours a day.

ML: (laughs)

MU: So you got to hang out with Phil Anselmo, etc.?

ML: Yeah. Those guys in Pantera are definitely cool.

MU: Did they treat you like little girls or did they treat you like peers?

ML: You know what? By the end of that tour I could drink with them like nobody's business. Of course they didn't treat us like little girls. 'Cause, you know what? They're cool guys.

MU: What were the crowds like? Were they into it?

ML: Oh definitely. At Ozzfest 2000, second stage, we usually had the biggest crowd. (laughs)

MU: You probably have better taste in music than most of the people that were in that audience.

ML: Probably.

MU: Does that freak you out? Or perhaps you don't care.

ML: If people understand the music and like it, I'm happy.

MU: Do guys yell out "show your tits" and stuff like that?

ML: Yeah, that's usually when I get into a fight.

MU: You ever punch a fan?

ML: I've punched a lot of people in my time.

MU: You guys are hard core. You're hanging with anybody and it is no different. That's what I'm hearing from you.

ML: Basically, yes.

MU: So you played some of the European Ozzfest dates, but didn't some of that tour get cut short for some reason?

ML: We were only scheduled to play four of the dates because we're too metal. (laughs) Apparently Ozzy cancelled the rest of the dates because I'm told Zakk Wylde went nuts or something like that.

MU: Did you see any of that developing?

ML: No. Out of the four Ozzfest dates that we played, Ozzy only showed up to two.

MU: Why is that?

ML: Well, I think the one in Ireland, he went and had dinner with the fucking President. That doesn't make any sense to me. Why would he go? And then the one in Portugal he missed - I think it was the one in Portugal - because he went to go sing for the fucking Queen.

MU: How does Ozzy not show up for an Ozzfest date? Didn't people want their money back?

ML: The show went on anyway. It was Toolfest. We played the shows anyway. We're not going to stop just because. . .

MU: So you played . . .

ML: Holland, Ireland, England and Portugal.

MU: And none of your shows got cancelled?

ML: One of our shows got cancelled 'cause Morgan got sick.

MU: Who can drink more, Phil Anselmo, Zakk Wylde or Brian Fair?

ML: I can drink more than Brian. (laughs). I hope he reads this. (laughs)

MU: What about between Zakk and Phil?

ML: I don't know. That's a tough one. I drank with both of them. I'm gonna have to say Phil.

MU: What happened to Zakk?

ML: I don't know. I've only heard like little bits of information.

MU: But he's going to be alright and it's no big deal, right?

ML: Oh yeah, apparently.

MU: Have you met Ozzy?

ML: Yeah.

MU: Think back to when you were playing in the garage seven years ago. Isn't it crazy that I'm asking you about hanging out with Slayer, asking you if you've met Ozzy and you're just casually like, "Yeah."

ML: I don't even try to think about it because it just makes me smile too much.

MU: So you've met Ozzy?

ML: Yeah.

MU: What was that like?

ML: He was fucking funny.

MU: Does he know who you are? Does he know Kittie?

ML: Yeah, he does. But I don't think that every time he remembers who I am, because of the memory thing. But I know his kids and his kids are really cool.

MU: What is Sharon like?

ML: She's fucking awesome. She is so cool.

MU: Again there's that whole "woman playing in a traditionally man's world" theme.

ML: Sharon is definitely cool. But I don't think that it has anything to do with that. (laughs)

MU: You're like so not about that woman / man thing, you know?

ML: No, I know. If I was I'd probably smell like B.O. and have underarm hair or something.

MU: You're band gets a raw deal then, because you're right, so much of the press on Kittie focuses on that stuff.

ML: Yeah, I know. (laughs) I am not a feminazi!

MU: Do you think Kittie is an underground band or a mainstream band?

ML: I'd rather be an underground band than a mainstream band.


MU: What do you think Kittie is right now?

ML: I don't think we're a mainstream band at all. (laughs) Mainstream is like Nickleback. Mainstream is bands that get played on MTV.

MU: If Nickleback called you up and asked you to go on tour with them this summer, would you do it?

ML: I don't know. I don't know if I would do it.

MU: It's not up to you?

ML: No, it is up to me, and I probably wouldn't do it. But those people are really nice though.

MU: There's a lot of nice people that don't play the same kind of music that you do.

ML: There's a lot of nice people who play shitty music. I've always found that.

MU: Bottom line, what is the next Kittie record going to sound like?

ML: It is going to be heavier and more brutal.

MU: Do you worry that your first album will always be the most successful one and that you'll never get back to that level again?

ML: You know, it probably will be. (laughs) You know what though? I don't care. I'm doing what I want to be doing and I'm having fun doing it.

MU: What other killer drummers are out there today?

ML: The best drummer that I've ever seen play drums in my fucking life is Brann [Dailor] who used to be in Today is the Day and who now plays in Mastodon. Best fucking drummer ever! If you ever get to see him play you will shit your pants. His arms are fucking blurry when he plays! But anyway, I'm completely in love with that guy - he's the best drummer in the world.

MU: Do you like Mastodon's new album?

ML: Oh, it's so fucking good. I got to see them play when I was in Texas for South by Southwest. We weren't playing, we were just drinking. (laughs)

MU: You should take Mastodon on tour.

ML: You know what? We've been thinking about that for a long time.

MU: That would be awesome.

ML: We have so many bands that we want to take out, it's just a matter of getting them all rounded up.

MU: What other bands would you like to take out on tour?

ML: I'd love to take Eighteen Visions. I'd love to take Figure Four. There's so many bands that I wanted to take out! I'd love to take out Coalesce, although they probably wouldn't really fit with us. (laughs) So many bands.

MU: Do you like Slipknot?

ML: I've never been a fan of theirs. Never.

MU: Did you notice they kinda went out of their way to be perceived as "brutal". . .

ML: I think so. No beef with the guys there, they're the sweetest fucking people in the world. But I think that there's a difference between being brutal and trying too hard to be brutal and just like fitting everything into one tiny little space and having it sound like shit.

MU: Don't you think Slipknot went through something similar to Kittie in that they had massive mainstream success early and then were left fighting to show their underground side from beneath the mountain of pop publicity.

ML: Oh yeah, definitely. And I know all those guys are fucking huge death metal fans. Mick, the guitar player? Biggest fucking death metal fan in the world. They're amazing musicians. But at the same time, you've gotta, you've gotta pace yourself. (laughs)

MU: What do you mean by "pace yourself"?

ML: Trying to be too brutal is just like. . . I mean, only a few people can do that, and I don't think their band can do that.

MU: Any last words for the Metal Update readers?

ML: I would just like to say that I don't give a shit what anyone has ever heard about us before. I would rather have them go on the internet and listen to some of the stuff on the new record. I am suggesting probably "No Name" or "Oracle" or "Mouthful of Poison". Just go listen to it. If you don't like it, fine. But just go into it listening with a fresh mind.


review of Kittie 'Spit'

review of Kittie 'Oracle'

"Run Like Hell" from 'Oracle'





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MU Editor: Brant Wintersteen [ ]
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