Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Interview with musician MARGOT DAY by Dave Wolff

Interview with musician MARGOT DAY

I contacted you on Facebook when our mutual contact Tony Sokol referred you to me. How long have you been acquainted with him, how did you meet and have you collaborated on any projects? How supportive is he of your band Metamorph? Does he help to promote them?
Seems like Tony and I have always known each other – not sure where or when we met – perhaps in the 80’s when we were part of the underground music scene in NYC. Tony wrote an interesting article about our Metamorph music in Den Of Geek – Tony is a wonderful writer and we appreciate his continued support of our music. Tony shares our music on social media and helps us to connect with various event planners and the scene in general.

Who in the city has Tony connected you with recently? Have those meetings resulted in any planned collaborations?
Tony connected Metamorph with Starr Ann Ravenhawk of Witchsfest. So we can thank Tony for Metamorph performing there. Metamorph just did a live interview with Starr and Rhonda. What lovely goddess witch women they are. Kurtis and I performed a few songs unplugged and shared some of our songwriting secrets, the interview felt intimate and like we were in a magick vortex.

Tell the readers about your website and all it features. Who designed the site and does anyone help keep it updated?
Our official website is a gateway to all our music. Everything from my 80’s band The Plague, the “Sacred Album”, “mOss circle” album, to Metamorph. The website features Metamorph – we are a duo, myself and Kurtis Knight. Metamorph’s new albums “the 4 elements” and “ETHER”. You can view our music videos, concert clips and photos on the website. I designed the site in the hope that the links to our albums on Spotify, ITunes, Amazon, Bandcamp, our music videos, concert clips, and concert dates would be easy to find.
Also, on the website menu is a link to my former band The Plague - considered an underground legend by some. The Plague was an integral part of the New York City’s 80’s underground music scene, performing in well-known venues such as CBGB, the Limelight and Theater for the New City.
The first project I did with the musician/producer Kurtis Knight was our “Sacred!” album. The Gothic Preservation Society said this about Sacred: “lightning shifts from Disco Diva to demented operatic soprano… to swamp-sorceress chant to werecat-caught-in-mid-transition”. Next project with Kurtis was the fantasy rock mOss circle album. We have morphed a song (Smoke & Mirrors) from ‘mOss’ circle that has now become part of the latest collaborative project Metamorph.

How much material was released by The Plague in the 1980s? What do you remember of the club scene in those days? Would you have liked the band to continue into the next decade?
The Plague released the album “Naraka” with the songs Naraka, Vampyre, Murder, Suicide Queen, Empress, Never Yours, and Paradise of Pain. I wanted The Plague to last into the next decade and forever, to be timeless. I recently found in the attic some of the shows that the Plague did in NYC in the 80’s, with songs that where never released. Maybe we will make a documentary or just put them up on the Metamorph music YouTube channel.
The club scene in New York City in the 80’s was amazing and the birth of so much music. We were surrounded by talent. I connected with such innovative artists as Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys, Jim Thirwell (of NIN and Marilyn Manson), Richard Kern and Nick Zedd. The Plague was fortunate enough to include drummers London May of the Misfits, Ira Elliot from Nada Surf, and Nick Ferro of Fahrenheit 451.
The Plague performed in the same venues as Henry Rollins, White Zombie (Rob Zombie), Sonic Youth, The Swans, Missing Foundation, False Prophets - to name a few. The categories and lines between genres was less clear. We mingle together, goths (not a category that existed yet), punks, skins, etc. I have always had a hard time with labels I am too much of a rebel, but I suppose you could say I am a Sunshine Goth now. Visit https://www.margotday.com/the-plague/ to see shows and find the Plague album Naraka.
It was before the Plague that I collaborated with Adam Yauch. Adam played in my band at Bard College. When he quit school to play full time with the Beastie Boys we remained friends, hanging out in the early 80’s scene. I remember being with Adam on the roof top of Danceteria with Russel Simmons (Def Jam), and Adam asked me if he was making a mistake playing with the Beastie Boys and should really just go back to school, haha. I said stay with the Beastie Boys. Good choice.
I dated Nick Zedd and he introduced me to Richard Kern and the “underground cinema of transgression movement”. Nick had a huge influence on my creativity. He was 100% rebel. Dark and deep and philosophical arguing the ideas of Nietzsche and dystopian concepts. Nick decided he wanted to cross-dress (which led to my leaving him as he seemed to have fallen in love with the famous drag queen “Bunny” who was working at the Pyramid). Anyhow I dressed Nick in my cloths and tried to teach him how to walk down the street as a girl. Nick wanted to play both the girl and the guy in his film which he made with Richard Kern. I costumed him, lent him my favorite ring (which got broken during filming), and I did some of the filming when needed. I acted in a couple of these underground films aka Magot Damian. Collaborating with Richard Kern led me to Jim Thirwell. While in the Plague, Jim Thirwell had Richard make a video clip of myself and Christian (The Plague guitar player) strangling each other and played the video on a giant screen behind his Fetus show at the Limelight. One of my regrets is that I did not collaborate more with Jim Thirwell. One of my wishes is to do so in the future.
Rob Zombie was a friend and fan of the plague when we played at Lismar Lounge and various venues. And, haha I went bowling with Joey Ramone and helped scrape him up off the floor where he had passed out in the Limelight VIP lounge – ah good times.

What was it like for you to collaborate with so many and to see skinheads, punks and goths getting along while attending the same events? In what ways did you see the lines between genres blurring? Do you see them blurring today?
I love to connect with people on this intuitive telepathic magical level where synchronicity and bonding is an integral part of co-creating. And of course, being surrounded by talent is inspiring. Bones of The Plague would be one of my favorite co-writers of my life-time – he brought so much talent to our music.
Back then in the 80’s I believed we were in it together, the divisions and categories were much less than now. More unified. There is strength in unity, weakness in division. The first Plague show was put on by TC in a squat on the Lower East Side of New York City. About a thousand people came to this event crossing the lines of categories, and getting along together. Headlining was H.R. Bad Brains and the Cro Mags. The Plague looked like we might lose our performance spot. I rushed the stage and grabbed the mic and we played our debut - we were appreciated and loved and The Plague was off to a great start.
I defy being labeled. What kind of music do I make? You tell me. Kurtis and I integrate the music and concepts of goth, rock, electroacoustic, beats, ethnomusicology, Pagan mythology, Hindu Kirtan, pop, soundscapes…. I improvise with my flute and voice within the song structures, I love poetry, magick, morphing it all. Metamorph has a Witchy Neopagan vibe, our music crosses over the genres– we believe in globalization and fusion, unity. One world.

Did you attend a lot of squat shows in those days? What bands do you remember seeing? Were they mostly held in the Lower East Side?
I think I saw a few shows in squats. I remember the vibe of the area at that time was diverse. I can’t tell you what, who, where or when (except The Plague show at the squat). And ironically my friends from that era can’t remember either! So, we had too much fun, or it didn’t happen – you decide.

Were you working with Kurtis Knight around the same time The Plague was active, or did that collaboration happen sometime afterward?
When The Plague fell apart, I was broken hearted and ran away to California looking for my Soulmate. I found Kurtis Knight on his birthday on Haight St. in San Francisco. We were engaged in eight days, married a few months later and now have two grown daughters. Our first music project together was SACRED in the late 90’s. Then Ladybug, followed by mOss circle and now Metamorph.

How much material did you and Knight release as Sacred? How often did Sacred perform in the late 1990s, and what changes in the local scene did you notice during that time?
We released the one Album “SACRED!” Kurtis Knight and I created the SACRED! album in our Farmhouse attic in Vermont during the long cold dark winter of 1999. We were inspired to be part of the electronic evolution of music using nature samples and capturing them. Utilizing the sounds of icicles breaking, or power tools, in a melodic and/or rhythmical way – even sounds from outer space such as music from outer space – taking the radio frequency waves - sound coming off of the planet (Neptune) recorded by the Voyager on its expedition. We sampled the sound from Neptune, and used it as a bass line and a background wash for the song Neptune on the SACRED! album.
June of 1999 Kurtis and I performed our SACRED! music as part of the month long Midsummer Night’s Scream Tour (promoter Jett Black) on the west coast and Midwest, with Nocturne, Soda Ash, Machine in the Garden, and Apocalypse Theater.
We decided to stay on the west coast for the next year or so. Halloween 1999 we opened for Das Ich in Santa Barbara (Joey of Motograter played drums with us). Our Fire Dancer-Pyro guy Mike Watson set the stage on fire, we kept playing - no one got seriously hurt… very memorable night. Some of the highlights while we were living in Santa Barbara and sharing our SACRED music was performing in an event with the well-known band Cinema Strange. And it was a great pleasure to have Dru of This Ascension (now Mercury’s Antennae) sing with us.
Fall 2000 Kurtis and I moved back to the NE Kingdom of Vermont. We performed in NYC at CBGB’s Alchemy hosted by Jason Ledyard, and at The Bank - reviewed by Mark Steiner. Having been part of the genesis of Goth music in the 80’s I was thrilled that Goth had come so far as a genre in the late 90’s and early 2000’s.

What was the Goth scene in New York like at its genesis, and how has it changed over the years?
The word “goth” or “gothic rock” was only a word whispered on the wind, not coined yet. The Plague and a few other dark clad, mystical, otherworldly creatures of the night mingled and the magick grew. A thread of the Vampyre underworld had surfaced too. I think that the primary thing that The Plague offered during the early years of Goth was the spiritual depth we took our music to. We were not just rebels. There were so many rebels and political groups, punks, skins etc. – which is great. But with The Plague we delved into depths, deep waters, with immersion into immortality, death, rebirth, dark & light, pain, love, and the otherworldly, hence Goth music was at its genesis. I really can’t speak to how things have changed. I have been very reclusive and there are so many categories now and divisions. But I am glad that Goth has survived and is still enjoyed by so many both young and old, and Goth appears to be timeless as I had hoped.

What do you think of the mass gentrification of the Lower East Side and mass closing of clubs that has been going on since the 2000s in NYC? How much of an effect do you think it has had on creative expression?
I think creative expression is still surviving in the LES. A sad irony that the artists make a neighborhood exciting and interesting, then everyone wants to live there and many artists have to move somewhere else because it’s to expensive. The arts are drastically underfunded and under supported in our society. It’s always been a struggle to survive as an artist. And sadly, it’s a struggle no matter where you live. Honestly, living a life of creating, must be the reward in itself. The joy has to be in the doing. Music is my gift that I am grateful I can give, but every day I make a little blessing/prayer where I welcome abundance and prosperity and financial support….

How do you account for the underfunding of artists in the LES? Do you think there are vested interests behind it, give the gentrification we were discussing?
There is underfunding for artists of all kinds everywhere. I don’t think it’s specific to the LES. I believe our culture drastically underappreciates and underpays the artists except for the top one percent. This creates so much hardship and despair, and is a loss for all peoples.

Do you think the negative vibes this underfunding creates can be channeled into more art?
Strife and misery are often channeled into art. However, I don’t’ think that underfunding is useful in any way. So many artists have to struggle with endless day jobs and then do not have the energy and time to create. That’s a great loss for humanity.

How can the funding issue for artists in the city and elsewhere be improved? Are funding networks on the internet such as Gofundme a help to struggling artists?
I am grateful for the donations Metamorph has received via the on-line Crowdfunding campaigns. And appreciative of what we are paid to perform. But it’s the tip of the iceberg for what the videos, music equipment, travel expenses, and studio time actually cost. There are artist grants and competitions which can bring in some monies. But they are time-consuming applications and without staff to run the Metamorph promotions it’s challenging – I already spend a horrifying amount of time on-line doing promotion and booking. Ironically what I spend the least amount of time on is making music. Fortunately, Kurtis Knight makes us rehearse regularly - haha. I believe a whole level of consciousness needs to be raised for people to really value the arts. Imagine life without the arts? Unbearable. In this time of stress, illness, pollution and deep struggle my wish is for people to give generously every chance they get to help the artists keep on keeping on, what other hope for the earth and the peoples is there? And to those artist that want to give up I say, “now more than ever we need you”.

Is there still room for musicians who want to do something untried and different in the city despite so many clubs closing? Are there still clubs where artists can have a platform to be heard?
Yes! Always. I hope that we all keep pressing on with creativity flourishing no matter what. We must. The world needs us now more than ever. This summer has been a whirlwind of concerts for Metamorph. There are definitely people keeping the music alive here. And we still have the Pyramid Club.

Have you visited punk and goth scenes in other states? Are some more active than others?
It seems to me that there are pockets of all genres everywhere. We find like-minded people everywhere we have traveled. Just check out the social media events all over the states, or the world, and you can find punk, goth, wicca, pagan, neopagan…. it’s kind of amazing… and hopeful…

Discuss the origins of Metamorph and how it came into being. In what ways is the band unique to underground music?
Metamorph grew from the complete transformation I had after an illness forced me to experience what it was like to be unwell for almost 10 years (forcing me to take a break from preforming music). Then I had a medical and metaphysical miracle and am completely well now. I felt 90 years old, now I feel 20. I was given a spiritual message that I must make and share my music. You can view my personal story of hope and healing in the mini-documentary on the website and the Metamorph YouTube channel.
Metamorph is me and Kurtis Knight, we are a duo. Our songs are romantic, and intense, full of struggle and inspiration and mixed with love and mysticism, like our relationship. Our Metamorph concerts and albums are a cutting-edge crossover of music. Music that is unique in the various scenes, defying categories. We perform in all kinds of settings from a festival, to a pub, to a theater, to an art gallery…. I channel and improvise throughout our live shows, blending my multi-range voice and flute, with Knight’s guitar, keyboards, synthesizer samples and beats, to make a vortex for people’s minds and hearts to open….

Do you still incorporate the genres you cited previously as a member of Metamorph? Describe some of these genres to the readers.
Metamorph is an Alchemy of sounds, genres. Electronic beats, guitar, flute, vocals, this is electroacoustic music – the electronic with the acoustic. There is an undertone of Goth entwined with Pagan & Hindu mysticism that weaves throughout our music. With Ethnomusicology, we integrate sounds from indigenous cultures and world music. However, as global and eclectic as Metamorph is, with much of our music we merge melodies and soundscapes into crossover accessible pop-art-rock songs. Our concerts and albums, offer spontaneous bursts of poetry, dance, magick and love, held together by our music. See for yourself, and view our concerts, music videos and the healing documentary on our YouTube channel, which has over 85,000 views collectively.
With our first album “The 4 elements” we embrace the elements which are also metamorphic, water evaporating into air, earth being transformed by fire to lava. Without change life is not possible.
Our second Album was called "ETHER" (the 5th element). Some call Ether the void, some say spirit, or Chi. Because of Ether's pure energy quality, it is thought that through immersion one may rid oneself of misery and illness. Our tuning is A=432Hz – natures natural harmony.
Metamorph is "music for morphing."

Describe Metamorph’s recent performance at Witchsfest and your other recent shows, Particularly Witchsfest, what people did the event attract and what activities were going on there?
Summer 2018 has been epic for Metamorph with these NYC, LES and East village NYC shows: Witchsfest, LES festival of the arts, and the NYCMF.
Witchsfest seventh annual pagan street fair was hot! Witchy! Fun! The street was closed off at Astor place in the East Village on Saturday, then on Sunday in Hell’s kitchen - mid- July in NYC, attracting a crowd of both the aware, and the curious. So many imaginative creative magical people. It was a pleasure for Metamorph to be included and welcomed. Witchsfest offered workshops, tarot readings, crafts and wares for sale, belly dancing and a general feeling and integration of love and mysticism. Metamorph brought our own generator and PA system setting up and performing in the street. People danced, and listened and watched. This reminded me of years ago when my band The Plague performed in the street faire at Theater for the New City.
Also, this summer, Metamorph performed at Theater for the New City as part of their LES music festival - we were glad to see that creativity was alive and well with a smorgasbord of talent. As was also true with the Electroacoustic festival (NYCMF) at the Abrons Art center in the LES, offering a week of innovative musicians at the top of their field from Japan to Julliard with experimental music. NYCMF is the largest showcase of electroacoustic music in New York City, and one of the largest festivals of its kind in the world.
Metamorph’s last concert of the summer was at Arkham in Brooklyn hosted by Eric Thorpe-Moscon. This event was packed and a great success. The Undead Goth scene is clearly alive and thriving. Feels good to be back in my hometown, New York City. The heart is still beating.

Was the success of Witchsfest encouraging? How prominent have wiccan and pagan communities become in NYC since the 1990s?
Oh my goddess! Witchsfest was very encouraging on many levels. That the event was all inclusive in the street and everyone was welcome was a joy. And that we were well received by both witchy people and the unaware was also a blessing. The wiccan and pagan, neopagan, goddess and earth magic, and alternative healing communities have all grown and connected en-masse since the 80’s and 90’s. Metamorph prefers when the boundaries are crossed and everyone is welcomed. One of my main missions with my music is to inspire wisdom, connection, and hope, helping people to awaken, remember, and reconnect with nature, nature magick, and mother earth.

Do you remember Enchantments, Other Worldly Waxes and Magickal Childe from the old days? Did you frequent those shops in the years before they closed down?
I worked at Enchantments. I made magick spell candles. People would come in to buy Love candles or Money candles etc. I would put symbols, energy, and essential oils on the candles to help manifest their dreams.

Are there new shops open in New York City, or open close to the city, you would recommend to members of the community?
My guess is there are lots of special shops. But I have not had the opportunity to really explore today’s places. Recently when Metamorph played at Arkham the owner of “Zaltar’s Gallery of Fantastical Art” shouted into the crowd during our concert “turn it up, this band is really good”. So, my guess is that’s an interesting gallery. Perhaps we will offer our Metamorph jewelry there. We make jewelry from skulls found in nature filled with low fire clay and jewels and love. We sell the pendants at our shows with our Metamorph albums and T-shirts – you can find the Merch link on the website.

Metamorph has a new video coming out shortly. Discuss how it was put together and what fans can expect from it when it’s released.
We’ve been working on the Wings music video for a while, a long while, delays are sacred. We are in the final edit now. I am collaborating again with Jeff Cooper who edited our music video Daisy Logic. Jeff also recorded our Album Ether and various other projects. A big shout out and thank you to him for all that he has done for us. Some of the footage was filmed by amazing videographers while in Costa Rica: Michael Preston, Mic Dahl, and Ryan Schmidt. Filming, I felt like I was in a fairytale. Maybe the Goddess Diana. I was listening to the creatures in the wild telling me their secrets. The Great Green Macaws came to me when I played the flute, I kissed a butterfly and flirted with a Sloth, and played with a horse on the edge of the ocean cliff. “Wings” is about freedom, dreams coming true, empowerment and transformation. The original words came during a separation from Kurtis, I was miserable. “Heartbreak is my gunpowder and I’m shooting for the Stars, love flies and wounds, I have wings and claws”.

What plans does Metamorph have for the near future? Any new studio albums being recorded or festival appearances being scheduled?
Metamorph has a series of concerts coming up in the next month in Brooklyn NY, VT at the Wilson Castle VT, and Darq Salem MA to name a few. Then we will do a couple of shows in Costa Rica. Then back to the States to head out to the West coast for the winter. The “Metamorph Life Tour” concert page on our website is updated regularly. http://metamorphmusic.org.
Me and Kurtis already have most of the new songs for the next album written, and we are performing some of these new songs at our shows already. And we are planning on recording the Cash song “I Walk the Line” with a Metamorphed twist of co-dependent issues and how we both walk the line in our relationship. We are planning on videotaping the recording session and putting it on YouTube “live in the studio” to share our process with everyone. Of course, our Metamorph mascot the teeny tiny 3-pound dog “Melody” will be in the studio too, she comes everywhere with us. Melody is my familiar, a guardian angel, and my comfort. Most likely we will record the rest of the new album in the spring of 2019. Maybe we will call the album Day & Knight.

How would you like Metamorph to be remembered for its impact on underground music in general and underground music in New York in particular?
Isn’t New York City the heartbeat of the world? And the underground rises up… so how about a global impact? I would like Metamorph to be known as the band that awoke the masses to remember their soul connections and work together to heal each other and the world.


-Dave Wolff

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