ATP! Interview: Taylor Momsen (The Pretty Reckless)
While Momsen continues to run down that Gossip Girl past, she’s moving like a badass hurricane on a world tour likely to leave a few scars from those who dare to enter the pit. The rocker spoke with Alter The Press about her relentless sound and the making of the new album, a process that endured some major turbulence. But while they tried, even a hellish tragedy, even an actual act of God couldn’t stop the Pretty Reckless from unleashing Going to Hell on the world.
Alter The Press: Thanks so much for doing this. Just for the record, can you say your name?
Taylor Momsen: Am I under oath? ::laughs:: I’m Taylor Momsen from The Pretty Reckless. What’s up?
ATP: Your new album Going To Hell is coming out in March. Tell me about what it was like to go through the writing and production for that?
Taylor: It took a long time. A lot longer than expected. We wrote the record the new last got off the road after touring to decompress. It took a few months to write, then we went into Water Music studios in Hoboken [New Jersey]. Great studio. We had our own room in there, and it was a perfect vibe, everything was flowing.
And then Hurricane Sandy came in and wiped out the studio, took all the gear and everything with it. So we moved to another studio, which took time to find and rebuild our arsenal. We wrote the song “Going To Hell” during that break before we found the new studio. We went in to record that, and went in to finish the album, and then our producer’s wife passed unexpectedly. She was family to all of us, so none of us are over that yet.
Then we recorded “Fucked Up World” and ended back at Water Music studios to finish recording. It came full circle but it took a lot of effort and a lot of tragedy to get this record finished. And I think you can hear that. It’s kind of all right there in the record. It’s definitely got heart in it. That was the process of writing and recording it and now we’re releasing it and hopefully people hear it!
ATP: I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your producer’s wife. Most of the album was written before that happened, but assuming you’re going to continue writing, how will you channel that loss into new songs? How do you cope, especially since you’re on tour right now and you don’t have time to just chill out?
Taylor: It happened a few months ago but it still feels like yesterday. But you move forward. You have to keep playing music. We dedicated the album to her and she was as rock-n-roll as it gets. She would have loved that. She would have wanted us to keep going forward and playing and writing, so that’s what we’re doing.
ATP: Speaking of rock-n-roll, a lot of your fans are pumped about your clean and classic rock and metal sound. It’s rare, especially for people our age. Do you listen to any other bands you think are doing the same thing? Who are you listening to lately?
Taylor: Current, new bands? I’ve been listening to a lot of Soundgarden. I’m still obsessed with their newest record, King Animal. On the road I’m listening to a lot of Oasis. New bands? I like Die Antwoord, they’re pretty awesome. That’s what I’m listening to right now. And Zeppelin and the Beatles, of course.
ATP: I’ve been watching your new music video for “Heaven Knows” on repeat. It’s unbelievable. Can you talk about who came up with that idea, and what it was like to film it?
Taylor: The concept is the song. There’s so much imagery and subtle metaphor that’s going on throughout the video. Every shot has some metaphor behind it. In order to explain it I’d really have to go shot-for-shot with you but it’s all kind of right there.
ATP: I was reading some interviews you’ve done before. To me, you seem a bit reluctant to place meaning where it doesn’t belong with your songs or imagery. Are you making a statement with videos like that?
Taylor: I mean, I’m seeing my vision through. I’m making a statement – it absolutely means something to me, but I’m not going to divulge what that is because it’s all right there in the video and the song. But I hope it can mean something to you or ot the listener. What ever it means to them is what the song’s about. I write songs for myself. I’m not trying to write a hit song, I’m trying to write a good song. I feel the need to express myself, so there’s a message to me but it’s not a message to send out into the world.
ATP: So you’re not trying to make a social or political statement, but I can’t help but ask, considering the protests going on in, for example, Ukraine and Venezuela. Personally, what does it mean for you to be able to say what you want to say? Not everybody has that right.
Taylor: It’s always a fight to make your vision and have it be your vision, because soon as you have someone else get involved in any capacity it’s no longer your vision. There’s always a fight to do that. I think that’s always a struggle, even to you say what you want and get to get it accomplished and be the way you want it to be. But I think if the government said no I would still write songs. They’d still be right there in my notebook. I don’t want to go get arrested but if the government was telling me I couldn’t say something I’d still be writing it down.
ATP: So it’s that important to you.
Taylor: Yeah, it’s something I have to do. It’s not really a choice.
ATP: One of the most striking visuals in your new video is when you take off your robe and you’re naked except for a black, upside down cross across your body. Your visuals and the things you say and do really strike a chord with your fans, but I’m sure some people aren’t exactly happy with some of it. Has anyone ever approached you pissed off about some of the things you’ve done?
Taylor: Not really. There have been a couple encounters with people who don’t get it or don’t like it but that’s fine. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion but I really don’t care. I don’t think about it, you know? I just play in a band and write songs and if you like it, great, and if you don’t that’s fine too.
ATP: I have a feeling with my next question you’re going to tell me that you don’t really think about it.
Taylor: Well I’m really focused on the music and art. Outside of that, it doesn’t phase me.
ATP: Well my next question was going to be about how you’re constantly compared to other female rockers, and you’re called a “rocker chick.” Does it ever bother you that your gender is being taken into account in the way you’re perceived by the rest of the world?
Taylor: That’s how other people make it. I don’t look at it like that. I don’t look at music, even, in a genre way. I don’t look at gender or age or race. It just comes down to if you can write a good song, then you write a good song and I’ll listen to it. It doesn’t matter when it was made. I don’t care about any of that stuff. It’s just if you have a good song or not. I don’t care what people say about me. They can say whatever they want. I mean, I do! I say whatever I want.
ATP: You’re still relatively young but you’ve accomplished so much. You’re putting out your second full-length and you’re touring the world and you’ve done acting and modeling. Is The Pretty Reckless something that you want to do for the foreseeable future? What else do you want to accomplish.
Taylor: More records! I want to keep writing better and better songs and have every record be better than the last, and tour and hope it keeps going up. And right now it is. The crowds keep getting bigger. It’s pretty awesome. I think that’s the goal of a musician, is to keep doing it and bettering yourself.
ATP: The album doesn’t get released for a couple weeks, but so far has the reception been good?
Taylor: Yeah, the reception’s been incredible. We’re top five on Rock Radio right now in America, which has never happened to us before. The reception has been really positive. I’m actually surprised!
Taylor: I mean it’s super not a pop record. I’m surprised by how people are really getting it. It’s the biggest compliment as an artist and songwriter when the listener understands you as the songwriter and you get your point across.
- Carolyn Vallejo
Going To Hell will be released on March 18th via Razor & Tie Records. You can read our review of the album here.