Ein Mittwochabend in München. Es regnet in Strömen und wer kann, bleibt wohl am besten zuhause auf der Couch. Wer sich trotzdem an diesem Abend raus traute, konnte im Orangehouse des Münchner Feierwerks die amerikanische Indie Band Queen Kwong erleben. Und das lohnte sich auf jeden Fall. Denn allen nasskalten Temperaturen zum Trotz heizte die Band rund um Frontfrau Carré Calleway dem Publikum ganz schön ein. Die Sängerin wurde bereits mit 17 Jahren von keinem geringeren als Trent Reznor von den Nine Inch Nails entdeckt, der sie anschließend mehrmals als Support Act mit auf Tour nahm. Als Queen Kwong veröffentlichte sie in den letzten Jahren mehrere EPs, im Sommer 2015 erschien ihr Debut-Album Get a Witness, das sie im Rahmen einer kleineren Dezember UK/EU Tour vorstellte – hier ein schöner Live-Mitschnitt von arte auf dem Gemeinsam mit Band-Gitarristen Wes Borland (richtig, das ist auch der Gitarrist von Limp Bizkit) trafen wir die Königin zur Audienz. Heraus kam ein interessantes und äußerst sympathisches Gespräch, in dem wir u.a. mehr über ihre Musik, verschiedene Quellen der Inspiration und die Rolle der Frau im Rock n‘ Roll erfahren durften.
Kurt or Courtney?
Glitter or Garage?
King Kong or Godzilla?
Carré Callaway: King Kong.
Wes Borland: Godzilla.
You guys are currently touring Europe? How do you like it?
CC: This is our seventh show in Europe for that tour so far. But it is a surprise every night. We are pleasantly surprised by the crowd. The audience has been really receptive in all cities we visited – from Amsterdam to Berlin. Yesterday night we had a great club show there.
When you heard about the terrible things which happened at Bataclan in Paris – what where your first thoughts? Were you afraid of coming to Europe?
WB: We weren’t afraid of coming to Europe. But our first thoughts were that we have friends there. We met those guys (Eagles of Death Metal) just a few weeks before. So we tried immediately to get them on the phone and check they are OK. And a couple of them still had their phones so they could tell us they were alright. The second thought was that we could have been a possible support on that tour. But it didn’t match with our schedule.
CC: That was a weird feeling. The whole Isis and terror thing suddenly became something that affected us personally. Usually you see that stuff only on the news and you don’t have any touch points with it in your everyday life. So it was a really strange, upsetting experience when we realized that this happened to our friends and could also happen to other bands like us.
Roger O’Donnel from The Cure said about you: “Her rawness and charisma remind me of a young Iggy Pop or Patti Smith at the peak of their careers. “ What do you think about that? Where do you get your inspirations from?
CC: I was flattered by that. My favorite band are The Stooges. So it was definitely a compliment to me. It is really refreshing to be compared with bands you are a fan of yourself. But I also admire a lot of writers who inspire me. At the moment Wes and I like the novels by Jonathan Franzen – I am reading Purity and Wes Freedom. I am also a big fan of David Foster Wallace but I don’t think he inspires me in terms of classics like Nabokov or other authors at this level. I read a lot but different. In school, I studied Russian literature so I like those authors a lot. But for now, I am more into contemporary short stories like literary one liners, poems or micro fiction which are an true inspirational source for me and trigger something in my mind. This kind of literature is very similar to music. You have only little space to express your thoughts and feelings. When you are writing songs you don’t have fifty pages to make your point.
WB: Besides writers there are several visual artists like painters who inspire me – for example John Singer Sargent, Phil Hale or Justin Mortimer. Writing songs and painting pictures are linked processes for me. When I am doing that, it feels like covering from the same place, like collaging ideas. In both cases I try to translate my intention into some kind of art.
Roger O’Donnel has called your songs and stage show “a blatant protest at the “sanitization” of Rock”. What can we expect from a typical Queen Kwong Show?
CC: The level of expectation, people have towards our shows makes me a little nervous, to be honest. To stay with Roger’s terminology, I think protest needs some sort of intent. But from my perspective, there is not real intent in my shows, it’s not like I’m trying to make a point. I also don’t think either my record or myself are totally contrary to that what is going on in rock n’roll at the moment. They both are just an expression of who I am. But I think faking a show to meet people’s expectations is what Roger calls the “santization of rock”. Not every Queen Kwong show is a good show. We are not the kind of performers who can fake a show very well. So when we feel bad it is quite possible we do a bad show. It is just that whatever happens, happens. It is not choreographed and each of our shows is different. I think that is part of rock n’roll anyway. I played a lot of punk music. And my attitude is still a punk attitude.
WB: Our shows are conversational in a moved way. It’s as simple as that: If a conversation with the audience is good, you will have a great show. If you have a one sided conversation, the show will also be one sided. There is some point in Rock n’ Roll when professionalism becomes a hazard to the feeling of what it should be.
Your Debut LP “ Get a witness” has just been released. How was it to work on your first LP?
CC: Everybody was wondering why it took so long. The point is that I worked on a couple of EPs which took like forever. I have been recording with several people for several years. But I didn’t like any of the results 100 per cent. The new record, I feel really represents who I am – as a person and as an artist, for the first time.
WB: The point is: We captured Carré in the right way and under the right circumstances. She has worked with big producers before. But they pushed her like “Sing that line again, do this, do that.” She is not a person who can do that and likes that kind of work. Carré is more like: “That is terrible. Bye!”
CC: That´s right. Maybe I just wanted to give up all the time. And I never thought I could do a record. Now that it has happened and I am very happy with the record and tunes like Red Devil or Bells on. But I also know there are a some people who will not like it – obviously the same people who tried to get me to do other music all the time. So this record is a great commitment to me and who I am. Although it is very polarizing, I think that’s a good thing about a debut. Like drawing a line: If you are not with me it is ok. But this is where I am.
You and Wes are quite active on social media. Why do you like using this stuff?
WB: I don’t really like it. I don´t want to become argumentative with people. But social media can provoke that. So there are some people out there who accuse me of all kinds of stuff like I don`t respect my fans or something similar. And I get in discussions with those people but when I don’t agree with them they turn against me. That´s weird because people following me on my social media channels think they know me. But I show them just a small part of me. It is fun joking around with social media and use it as a promotianol tool for my other projects besides Limp Bizkit. But that´s all.
CC: I honestly think Social Media are one of the many things of the modern world which are not really necessary. And if people use them in the wrong way, they can also be very damaging. Lots of people are slaves of social media. If I weren’t in a band trying to promote shows, my music and me as an artist – I probably wouldn´t use them.
Thinking back about your first steps as a musician: What was the hardest part for you?
CC: From the beginning the hardest thing has been just being persistent, having the will and drive to keep doing the job – even if you don’t make money. It is usually hard work for a little reward, a draining experience. And touring is not being on vacation: You are fucking tired all the time, you have got dirty clothes, dirty hair, and sleep in dirty motels. It is hard to stick with it. But it is really in me and I don’t want to do anything else. So my everyday mantra is: I wanna keep doing this.
Your favourite bands like The Stooges, Nirvana or Queens of the Stone Ages are male bands. Do you think it is harder for girls to be successful with rock music?
CC: Yes. But I am sure I will get shit for any answer I can give here. If I say “No”, women will probably have a go at me for saying that. The other way round people will say: Being a woman is no excuse for anything. But trough my experiences at all levels in that business I am 100 per cent sure it is harder for women than it is for men. You always get compared to other women. The problem with that is: The last successful female singers in that kind of music were famous during the nineties. Then nobody had an interest in women in rock music for a long time. As women rock singers re-emerge now, the only comparison people have, are female bands and musicans from that time – if they remember it at all. So it is very hard for female rock musicans to find a foothold in the contemporary rock music industry – which is dominated by men. They make the decisions, they decide about a woman’s worth as a musician. And unfortunately – I guess – it is mostly not aspects like talent or good songs that matter to male decision makers in the business.