As a fumbling first-time interviewer, Wax Idols leader and dominitrix dungeon-dweller Hether Fortune puts me in my place, and it was a pleasure to submit to her will – a warts and all interview with the outspoken frontwoman who refreshingly marches to the beat of her own drum.
Louder Than War: First off, it’s a pleasure to be able to interview you for Louder Than War, I’m a fan of all your projects and this is my first interview for the site so I think I struck gold!
Hether Fortune: Hey that’s great! Congrats on interview #1 – may you never ask boring, redundant questions! I am happy to be the asshole that pops your proverbial cherry so the pleasure is yours and the pleasure is mine. Win/Win. I will give you notes regardless of the fact that you did not ask me to. Isn’t this great?!
Louder Than War: The new record has a darker fury to it’s sound than your debut No Future. It reminds me of Xmal Deutschland, Siouxsie and the Banshees, early Cure, and at times Sextet-era A Certain Ratio. Are you a fan of those bands?
Hether Fortune: Yes, I am a fan of those bands! (Not the greatest start but I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt here)
Louder Than War: You once stated that you hated pop, is the less poppy/punky edge of Discipline + Desire a truer reflection of your musical interests?
Hether Fortune: Did I say that? I say a lot of ridiculous things. I don’t hate pop music, I hate what pop culture has become. Which is, more or less, shit. I feel like I am always seeking the balance between my natural inclinations as a pop writer and my interests in things that are more abstract or “avant-garde”. ‘Discipline + Desire’ is a true reflection of where I was at as a songwriter at the time of its creation, just like ‘No Future’ was. Change is constant.
Louder Than War: I love your other bands Hunx and His Punx, Bare Wires, and of course the great fuzzy dissonance of Blasted Canyons, and currently (in my opinion) all the more exciting stuff seems to come out of the west coast/California. In an East Bay Express interview you said the Bay Area scene bores you (trying to do my homework and avoid repeat questions!). Do you think that kind of ennui nurtures the ‘oddballs’ and inspires them to react against their surroundings?
Do you find that a place like Oakland has the right conditions conducive to creativity which encourages this great hotbed of talent?
Do you consider it part of your identity as an artist?
Hether Fortune: At the time of that interview I was feeling pretty blasé about everything and everyone. I am very moody. I can’t really speak for other artists in Oakland so I don’t know whether or not it is a “hotbed” but living here does seem to work for me. There have been more interesting local bands and artists on my radar lately than there were a year or two ago, which is exciting. My identity as an artist…I don’t even know where to start! I don’t think my address has much to do with it, though. (a bit of a bore but I can sense that you’re just warming up…)
Louder Than War: What sort of bands would you like to be hearing that you think could revitalise the scene and do you have any favourites at the moment?
Hether Fortune: I don’t quite understand the first half of that question but some of my favourite current bands from all over include: Some Ember, The Mallard, Tamaryn, TV Ghost, Burnt Ones, Chelsea Wolfe, Carletta Sue Kay, Starred, Synthetic ID, Weekend, Disappearing People, Chasms, Azar Swan… oh there are a lot of great bands and artists out right now! Just look around and listen. (Seriously, what were you asking in that first half? Genuinely confused.)
Louder Than War: There’s a lot of interest in your activities as a dominitrix. Do you think there’s still a stigma attached to the fetish subculture or is it becoming more understood as people’s attitudes change?
What were your impressions of it before you became involved – was there anything that surprised you or changed your perspective?
Hether Fortune: Absolutely, there is still a stigma attached to fetish. I like to say that issues surrounding the transgendered community and the fetish community are the “final frontier” in regard to civil rights but I’m sure that is a bit limited in its scope, realistically. The people I’ve met and worked with within the fetish world vary drastically from one to another. There is no type, no consistency as far as what “kind” of people are kinky. I honestly feel like I am a therapist as much as I am a sex worker. I’m studying and empathising with human beings as much as I am getting them off. This is such a complicated topic for me – it’s so personal! Perhaps someday I will write a book. Will you interview me about this subject at that time?
Louder Than War: Immediately the album title Discipline + Desire struck me as being related to your experiences as a dominitrix. How much do the theatrics or acting roles of BDSM overlap into your music projects?
Hether Fortune: Being a dominitrix is just another piece of the puzzle, like my work as a musician or as an artist or whatever. These are all aspects of who I am. It’s impossible to measure the amount of overlap because it’s just one big mixed pot, do you know what I mean? For all you know – I could be playing a role right now. Admittedly though, I am not much of an actress. I really only have two “roles” that work best for me: jester and tyrant. I do well with extremes.
Louder Than War: Do you find there are parallels with fulfilling listener’s fantasies and the escapism of some of the song themes?
Hether Fortune: I’m sure that there are but no, that isn’t something I’d thought about until now. That’s an interesting thought. I’d be curious to see what you have to say about that! If you’re ever in the mood to write about the album from that perspective – I’d be delighted to read it.
Louder Than War: What are some of your fetishes?
Hether Fortune: Pass! I’m tired of talking about this ;) I’m actually in one of the dungeon rooms at work right now and it’s a bit overkill for me, hahaha.
Louder Than War: Compared to No Future you seem to be writing more from an imagined rather than personal or autobiographical perspective, was this easier or more difficult?
Hether Fortune: Sometimes I am seized by a feeling or a memory that doesn’t quite feel like my own but there is nothing imaginary about it. I’m sort of the bleeding heart type, cliché as it may be. Things just pour out of me and I don’t always know where it’s coming from. But this new album is incredibly personal from start to finish and it was rather difficult to make for that reason. I’m always changing, you know – I embrace change. I’ve developed new ways of thinking and writing that perhaps translate more fluidly to others than past projects did but it certainly is no less personal.
Louder Than War: What was the recording process like – do you have any favourites from the new album or any memorable stories to share?
Hether Fortune: Well it was fucking INTENSE and exhausting, for starters! I spent several months demoing and crafting various ideas either alone or with the help of my bandmates and producer. Then we went in and started tracking layer by layer – it isn’t a live record. The drums took forever because Keven (who is no longer in the band – RIP) is a total perfectionist and took the whole thing VERY seriously, which I appreciated very much. Everything was very meticulous but at the same time, there was a lot of spontaneity, particularly my guitar playing. Most of it was completely improvised on the spot as I did a lot of the initial songwriting on bass and kept saying “Oh, I’ll figure out the guitar parts later. Later. LATER.” I wanted to push myself as a guitar player on this record and get out of my comfort zone, so in retrospect that level of procrastination was exactly what I needed. Lyrics and melodies were scratched and approached from a totally different angle at the last minute for many of the songs. I went into my “isolation chamber” (which is just my bathtub and a set of headphones) every night for weeks during the final stages in order to clear my head and let new ideas flow. I became very obsessive toward the end but that’s always the way it goes. Mark Burgess was working with us, and at the time he and I were also in a relationship which drove me quite mad, to be honest. He’s a brilliant guy but we did NOT get along very well, particularly in the studio. Jesus that was a mess! I was literally crying and on the verge of a complete emotional breakdown while tracking vocals for “Stay In”. Crazy shit but it was worth it! It’s always worth it. Right?
Louder Than War: I admire your honesty and feel a lot of the time it is undervalued in music. Do you find people misinterpret your focus, commitment and desire for control over projects as standoffishness and see you as unapproachable?
Hether Fortune: Ya, of course. Who was it that said “Whatever people think of me is none of my business”? Something like that. I know who I am and what I want out of life. The way that other people perceive me is up to them. I actually feel like I’m a pretty fair-minded, friendly and positive person but I suppose that I am biased. I absolutely AM standoffish and weird at shows though – that’s valid. I have pretty severe anxiety issues that are heightened in that environment. Unapproachable…I don’t know. Only if you’re the type that is easily threatened or intimidated. (I’m done giving you patronising notes now – you’re doing a good job.)
Louder Than War: Does this affect your work/collaborations, etc? Have you found people you’re comfortable with who understand your work ethic?
Hether Fortune: There are a lot of people who get me and enjoy working with me, obviously my bandmates in both Wax Idols and Blasted Canyons. A close friend and collaborator told me recently that despite my “rep” – I am actually the most positive and easy to work with person he has ever met. That meant a lot to me because I’m like…RIGHT?! I’ve got my head on pretty straight. It’s just that a lot of other people don’t and I guess I freak them out. Oh well.
Louder Than War: What’s next for you that we can look forward to? I noticed you’re on the bill with some amazing people on your upcoming US tour (White Lung, DIIV, Sisu, Nu Sensae, Audacity, Allah-Las, etc.), any plans to head to Europe and the UK?
Hether Fortune: Blasted Canyons will be playing a festival in Paris in July with some other EU dates TBA! We’re currently working on a new LP as well. Wax Idols will be coming over this summer as well, tentatively. Music videos and such. Another EP from Wax Idols is in the works already. I can’t keep everything straight lately – I don’t sleep much. Haha.
Louder Than War: Finally, you’re definitely one of today’s strongest female presences in music. What advice would you give other aspiring artists looking to do their own thing?
Hether Fortune: YES – I actually went on an intense sage-like tangent earlier today that resonated deeply within me as the words came out. I will paraphrase it for you now: Create your own reality and keep it real forever. Make your own rules and break them at your leisure. Make new rules, start again. Fuck it all. Money is meaningless. Fame is fleeting. Art is forever. Love is real. DON’T GIVE UP.
Louder Than War: Thanks so much for your time, and best of luck with the album release but I’m sure you won’t need it, it’s great!
Hether Fortune: Thanks Carrie! Was one of the least painful interviews I’ve had to do – really. I hope you caught on well enough with my sense of humour ;) XO
The new Wax Idols album Discipline + Desire will be out on March 26th via Slumberland Records, in the meantime you can keep up to date by following their Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr pages.
Hether Fortune press photo by Katie Miller.
Interview by Carrie Quartly, you can read more of her writing on the site here.