March 22, 2018 Interview – Morgan Lander of Kittie
They say time brings growth and wisdom. After all, if we are the same person today as we were 20, 10, or even 5 years ago, wouldn’t it be a disservice to our life’s journey? Reflecting on their past, Canadian Metal band Kittie celebrate 20 years as an established entity in the form of their forthcoming 3-Disc Set (DVD, Blu Ray and CD), Origins/Evolutions, due out March 30, 2018. A time for band founding siblings Morgan and Mercedes Lander to recollect their younger years – when only in their teens, they were signed to a record deal, touring the world, and topping charts – it has been an adventurous ride full of highs and lows. From their 2000 debut, Spit, to last album in 2011, I’ve Failed You, Kittie has established themselves as a well-respected Metal band worldwide. Recently we caught up with Lead Vocalist/Guitarist Morgan Lander to talk the years gone by, the work behind this new documentary and live album, her future plans, love for Horror flicks, plus more.
CrypticRock.com – Kittie was established 20 years ago. Over the course of your career, you have broken down walls in the Metal world, sold millions of records, and toured the world. Looking back, what has the journey been like?
Morgan Lander – (Laughs) It’s been crazy! Honestly, it is hard to sum it up in one neat little package because it recently hasn’t been neat by any means. There has been a lot of highs, some incredible lows, there has been a lot of learning, a lot of catharsis, a lot of emotion, and a lot of passion in the music and what we believe in. I guess that would be the best way to sum it up. We are one big family – families always go through good times and bad times, but we are glad to still be here, to be able to say we can celebrate this 20 year anniversary.
CrypticRock.com – It is something special. When Kittie hit the mainstream back in 2000 with your debut, full-length album, Spit, it really took the Metal world by storm. Do you have fond memories of that time?
Morgan Lander – Absolutely! That time of my life was probably some of the craziest times, it was certainly tumultuous, there was a lot going on. There was a lot to deal with as a young person. I always have to remind myself, and other people, how young we really were. We signed at 15 and 17, so we were essentially just children. It was a wild time, there was a lot going on. It was unbelievable.
CrypticRock.com – It sounds like. Obviously those experiences translate into your adulthood?
Morgan Lander – I would say yes. Speaking for myself personally, I had a great family foundation, which I think helped to keep my head screwed on straight. There were a lot of experiences that shaped who I am. I wouldn’t have it any other way, I think. I don’t think it necessarily affected me in a negative way. I learned a lot about human nature, people, talking to people, as well as performing. There is invaluable lessons in the business aspect of things a well. It certainly shaped who I am for better or worse. I’m not mentally scarred or anything, I probably should be. (Laughs) I’m not though.
If you are 15-16 years old, out on tour, touring is exactly what you would picture it to be, especially with big bands. There is a lot of alcohol, debauchery, people are doing drugs, I am glad that didn’t affect me in a negative way. We saw a lot of shit, but it didn’t necessarily affect my life, who I was.
CrypticRock.com – Well that is good. It goes back to having a strong family structure like you mentioned. Yourself and your sister, Mercedes, have always been the foundation that has held Kittie together. How would you describe your relationship?
Morgan Lander – Well, Mercedes and I, growing up, we did hang out a lot. When we started to get a little bit older, we didn’t necessarily hang out as much. I didn’t even think it was cool to jam with my little sister when we first started out playing our instruments. Siblings always have a certain thing because you grew up in the same family and you come from the same place, where you have this understanding. I think on top of that, Mercedes and I have worked closely and created together as well for the last 20 years. We definitely have our share of differences, we are wildly different people inherently, but we somehow manage to make it work. We’re very close, we can hang out together and have fun together. Yea, there are arguments now and then, but that just happens with everyone. I would say we have a really good relationship. We have managed to make it work for this long without strangling each other, so there is some merit to that. (Laughs)
CrypticRock.com – That is a positive thing. As you said, in sibling’s relationships there is going to be some conflict, but you ladies have held it together for so long.
Morgan Lander – Yea, sibling relationships are complicated. I think in having done this as long as we have together, it’s only strengthened the good parts of our relationship.
CrypticRock.com – Understood. In celebration of the 20th anniversary, you are set to release a really cool package called Origins/Evolutions, due out March 30th. This is an essential for any Kittie fan and it includes a live album as well as a documentary. What was it like putting this all together?
Morgan Lander – Oh man, the whole thing has been 4 years in the making. It has been unbelievably exciting, but also trying, experience. It started off with the Indiegogo campaign and an idea of, “Hey, it would be pretty cool to celebrate the 20th anniversary by telling our story.” It sort of spiralled from there, we raised the money and we said, “Ok, now we actually have the money, we actually need to go through this for real, we have to do this.” (Laughs) We spent the course of 2 years with Rob McCallum, who directed. He went around and interviewed everybody, including myself and Mercedes. He also interviewed the past members as well as people that were involved in our rise and whatnot, such as Producer Garth Richardson, as well as some of our crew and tech people. My mom is in the documentary talking as well.
We did that, but also, as well as the updated interviews, I think it was important to go through our achievements. The biggest part about it is we filmed everything, we always had a camera, we always took photos, we were always documenting. We filmed tons of our shows, both audio as well as on some on VHS, it goes back that far. We wanted to source everything from our archives and pull stuff that people have never seen before – a lot of behind the scene stuff, concert footage, just us kind of hanging out, a lot of recording stuff people have never seen from Oracle (2001). Also, the recording of Spit, which is something we filmed ourselves and the world has never seen. At the time we just said, “We are making an album and we are going to go to school next year and everything will be normal.” We just held on to it for that long. There is tons and tons of stuff.
The live album is very much archival source as well. We recorded a heck of a lot of concerts over the years and went through and picked the past. Some of the stuff you hear from the first album, some of those songs are actually recorded during that era. A few of them were recorded on Ozzfest, a few of them recorded at a headlining show in Calgary. We have all of the eras represented and songs from every album is represented too, which is really cool.
CrypticRock.com – Excellent. You said this has been a 4 year process, but technically, it has been a 20 year process. You have been documenting a lot of this stuff from the start.
Morgan Lander – Oh absolutely! Even stuff well before we were signed. Some of our earliest performances, all that stuff, we have. It is nice to be able to get it solidified and put it down permanently in a documentary. It is also nice to be able to go through hundreds of hours of footage and have everything be digitized anyway, a lot of stuff is on formats that is going to start disintegrating. When we were doing this 15-20 years ago, the thought was never ‘we should put all this stuff out.’ It is nice to say we at least had the forethought, because we didn’t want to forget any of this stuff, it was a memorable time. We had a wild ride and a lot of stuff is stuff you just don’t want to forget.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, these are special times in your life you do not want to forget. In one of your interviews, paraphrasing, you are looking back differently now because it has been so long. In hindsight, you can look at things different. That in mind, looking back, did it bring back a lot of memories?
Morgan Lander – Absolutely. Being able to look back as an adult and certainly having the experience I have experienced now. Even looking back at some of the things I said or did, even seeing people, it really does sort of stir emotions, sometimes they are good and bad. You just have to let them run their course. That is the whole idea behind doing this documentary. It’s a celebration, but also, I think for a lot of people involved, speaking for myself, it was a healing experience as well. It was not always the best of times, we had a lot of lineup changes, some falling outs with people, it was nice to be able to make peace in a way. To be ok with the way things happened, to celebrate, and even maybe to just say “I’m sorry.” Just to be able to experience those things over again, it’s very neat, and very healing.
CrypticRock.com – It is almost therapeutic in a way. You mentioned the lineup changed. Kittie has been on a bit of a hiatus and following the tragic passing of Trish Doan last year, one can imagine that is weighing on your mind. Do you foresee some new Kittie material in the future?
Morgan Lander – I don’t know, that is a good question, I’m not really sure. I feel like the documentary certainly opened a lot of doors about dialogue about the band and getting everybody in that headspace. I don’t think it would necessarily be difficult, at the same time, it almost feels like, for me anyways, having been really good friends with Trish, knowing how much she loved the band and wanted to be part of everything, it feels like we lost something, like we are not complete. I am not sure how difficult it would be.
CrypticRock.com – That is completely understandable. Her loss is still relatively new. If it does happen, it would be exciting because fans would love to see something happen.
Morgan Lander – For sure. The same thing goes for shows too, the show that we did in October, that was a really awesome experience. Maybe we might be able to get something like that together again. That night was so much fun, having all the different lineups play, everyone was really excited. We will see, it certainly has opened up the dialogue to a lot of things.
CrypticRock.com – Great, communication is where everything starts. You have always projected a strong image as a musician and person. You have squashed any stereotypes that women cannot do certain things and really paved a way for others. That in mind, there is a lot of talk about gender equality in the last year or so. From your first hand experience, do you think the inequality is as unbalanced as projected, or have we made strides?
Morgan Lander – That is a hard question. It is interesting because I feel like the media projects the inequality as much as they the topics. I feel like I am still talking about it, it’s been 20 years and some of the first questions I was ever asked was what is it like to be a woman in a male dominated Heavy Metal genre. I am still answering that question, like there should be any difference, right? Other than the difference that’s being pointed out. It’s difficult because I think the media is at fault as much as it is fair to sort of say, “Hey, we should shine a light on this.” I feel like the more it doesn’t need to be highlighted, the more equal things become.
When you have to say things like “Female-fronted Metal band,” when there is no male equality, to me, that is where the inequality lies. Where it’s a special consideration, where it is something that is looked upon as different than or standout from the rest. Which the rest being men. When that doesn’t have to be brought to the forefront, or focused on, that is when I think when true equality will lie. Having this dialogue now is a way to get to that point where one day it won’t matter. I’m not sure if it ever will be. As long as people are commodifying women’s bodies… I still see stuff posted about a women in a band, and the comments are like, “Well, she’s ugly.” The fact that still matters, I find that to be unfortunate. When people think of a woman in a band, and they try to put them down, that is what they use. It’s weird, I don’t know.
CrypticRock.com – You are absolutely right. The Female-fronted Metal band label is just putting something in a box to sell it, it is a very weird label. Someone who seems pretty diverse, what are some of your musical influences?
Morgan Lander – Oh wow, I listen to a lot of different stuff. Obviously Metal is going to be the number one thing. Growing up we listened to a lot of Grunge music – Soundgarden, Hole, Nirvana, Alice in Chains. We like Marilyn Manson a whole bunch. Some of the Nu Metal bands as well, the first Korn album was pretty big. Those were the initial bands that started our path on music. As I got older I got into some more extreme forms of music. I can still say I am a fan of Metal, a little bit of everything – a little bit of Death Metal, a little bit of Doom.
I have a lot of other types of music I am into as well. Lately I have been listening to a lot of retro Synthwave type of stuff. Even more calm Rock bands and such. I have various tastes, but definitely for Kittie, it’s always been about the Metal. That is that aspect of my personality, everybody has many different sides, that one just expresses the angry one I guess.
CrypticRock.com – Right, diversity is important. Since you have such diverse tastes, have you thought of putting together some other musical projects?
Morgan Lander – Actually, it’s funny you mention it, I do have another project I am working on. It is with a few members of Blackguard from Montreal. We toured with them back in 2012. With Justine “Juice” Ethier (drummer) and Jonathan Lefrancois-Leduc, who used to play keyboards in the band, we are working on a project together. We are going to try and get an album out this year. I was just in Montreal recording some final vocals. It is definitely on the spectrum that is the complete opposite of Kittie, but it is still dark, very emotional. It is just very different, I hope people are not too surprised. It’s very dark and different.
CrypticRock.com – Different is good. It seems like you are well-versed in various forms of music so it will be exciting to hear.
Morgan Lander – Thank you, hopefully when it all comes together we will be able to put some music, make some announcements, and hopefully people will enjoy it. Hopefully they won’t be too shocked.
CrypticRock.com – Sometimes surprise is good! Last question. We also cover Horror and Sci-Fi films on CrypticRock. Rumor has it you are a huge Horror movie fan.
Morgan Lander – Yea! I actually have a Horror podcast which I do with a couple of friends, Witchfinger Horror Podcast, Witchfinger.com. We review the best and worst of ’80s Horror, and we drink while we are doing it, so it’s a lot of fun. We have done some of the Horror conventions in London, Ontario. I love bad movies and Horror movies are something Mercedes and I grew up watching. I just love the cheese factor, it’s just amazing. I think doing the podcast, it is fun to actually learn about the back history of a movie and how it was made. We go into a lot of research aspects of things. It’s nice to be able to talk about it every couple of weeks.
CrypticRock.com – That sounds awesome! What are some of your favorites?
Morgan Lander – Some of the best of Horror movies, I am going to say Near Dark (1987) and Fright Night (1987), I love that movie, it’s ridiculous. Jerry Dandridge clutters are probably the best thing in that movie. (Laughs) Re-animator (1985) and From Beyond (1986) as well. Those are some of the better ones.
CrypticRock.com – Those are some nice selections. Fright Night is a good pick. It is a fun movie with a great soundtrack.
Morgan Lander – Oh yea, the soundtrack is so good. I love that soundtrack, I have it. “Good Man In A Bad time.”
CrypticRock.com – (Laughs) Yes! That soundtrack is pretty hard to find, it has been out of print for a long time.
Morgan Lander – I think there were re-releases that happened not that long ago. One was limited to 2,000 and one to 500. The re-issue that happened a few years ago, there is literally 2,500 copies and that’s it. It is pretty hard to find. I don’t know if they will ever release it on CD, the vinyl is the only thing I have ever seen.