November 23, 2012
A few years ago, I came across a few stunning photos of Miss K on the Net that piqued my interest. After finding theDragnet 5.0, I delved deeper into her musings. One day, I read a reply to a post I’d made from Miss K saying she enjoyed my interviews. That was a great honor and I was thrilled when she agreed to do this interview with me.
Caramel: Thank you for doing this interview with me, Miss K. I’ve been very excited about it challenged more than ever since I’m a big fan. It’s an honor to interview a serious musician like you and a person I’ve admired for quite some time. I love Deathline as you already know and I’m hoping to send more progressive listeners and other musicians your way. How and when did you meet your band partner Jennie Werlemar?
Miss K: Jennie and I met in my old band Electric Shocks. We were a feisty, fast riffing, soulful garage punk band. We formed without a rhythm section and worked with a couple of session musician friends on bass and drums for a while while we tried to recruit full time members. Jennie was the second person we saw, I think, on bass – she fitted right in (by contrast, we auditioned more than 20 drummers, I seem to recall). She had very little experience but bags of attitude which is what we were looking for.
Electric Shocks was musically very fun – we became very good friends, the five of us – and was probably therapeutic after the well documented trials I experienced within my previous band Six Inch Killaz. Being in the Shocks really encouraged me to continue with music as I’d given up for a while. Jennie and I quickly formed a close friendship within that band, so when the Shocks split up it seemed natural to continue working together and that’s how Deathline came about.
Caramel: What kind of music do you listen to?
Miss K: Miss K: I have very wide and eclectic musical tastes, from rock, to hip hop, to pop to jazz and classical, but I guess my home territory is probably what you might term “post-punk” and its precursors. Inspirations therefore would be artists like Bowie, The Velvet Underground, The Stooges, whose influences gave birth to the likes of Public Image Limited, Bauhaus, Joy Division, The Voidoids, Suicide, Swans, Sonic Youth and my personal favourite, The Fall. In terms of musical talent, attitude, glamour and pure sex appeal, I’d probably name Bowie and Deborah Harry of Blondie as my top two icons of all time. I have very little that I consider embarrassing in my collection! Everything has its place. I guess if something really camp by Kylie Minogue came on accidentally while I was DJing at a rock club, that might raise a little titter.
Caramel: I discovered post-punk when I found a Long Island New York radio station (WLIR FM) and heard Malcolm McLaren, The Cure, Ministry and Depeche Mode. Before then, I thought that the only white musicians who could mix alternative and funk were David Bowie, The Clash and Kraftwerk. I also liked Kylie Minogue jams, but I kept that to myself. What genre of music can you not stand to listen to?
Miss K: The modern, talent show created pop acts depress me. Not only is the music often uninspired, vapid, music industry created crap, the whole approach is killing the efforts of honest, hardworking musical artisans all over by creating the self perpetuating and vacuous celebrity culture that seems to bedevil the aspirations of the majority of young people these days. It makes me feel sick. And depressed.
Caramel: I’m going out on a limb here, but I’d guess that you’re not into watching shows like The Voice, American Idol and X Factor either. I’m not suggesting that there is no talent, there. I just see it as televised Karaoke. So, what do you think about when you’re performing?
Miss K: When the audience responds, it’s pure enjoyment. You tend not to think about much when it’s going well and that’s the joy of performing – the rapport and the nullification of the self. When it’s not going well, or there’s a less than enthusiastic response, I worry about how I look, I worry about how we sound. You think about finishing the set and coming off stage.
Caramel: What songs are you most proud of?
Miss K: I think as a creator you’re always most proud of your most recent work. Our new album, NOVA, is a collection of songs we are both very happy with, but my personal favourites right now are a trio of downtempo songs (Red, Don’t Waste Your Time and Warm Leather) which we recorded very late on when we realized that the album was going to run under length. Part of that is because they sound and feel the freshest I guess.
If I was to pick one song from each of my main three bands that I felt summed up my own skills as a songwriter, I would probably go for “Seventeen” by Six Inch Killaz, “The Mass of Men Do Lead Lives of Quiet Desperation” by Electric Shocks, which I co wrote with singer Dan Hardy and “Nova” by Deathline (https://vimeo.com/52999033), which I wrote in a dream.
Of those, “Nova” is the best. It just goes like a train.
Caramel: If you weren’t in Deathline, what would you be doing for a living?
Miss K: Deathline doesn’t make us a living! Far from it. Unless you’re an absolute huge star, it’s very hard to make a consistent living with longevity from making music. The business is stacked against the artist. Money trickles down through the bowels of the music industry, passing through many grubby pairs of hands before finally popping out if the bottom. By then, so many people have taken a cut that there’s very little left for the artist. The economics just don’t stack up.
For a while we broke even with the band – we made as much from sales, merchandise, performing royalties, synchronization and gig payments as we spent. And that’s pretty good for an independent, self managed artist. But that went out of the window when we started working on NOVA. It’s been pretty cheap for a full length, professionally produced album, but I doubt we’ll ever recoup what we spent making it. It’s an expensive hobby!
Caramel: What’s the side of you that the public never sees?
Miss K: Haha, well this is related to the answer above – I work really hard as a graphic designer, web designer and coder to pay for my “creative license”. That’s the side people don’t see!
Caramel: Did your family encourage you to get into music and do they support your transition?
Miss K: They don’t consider the music to be my main profession but give it the utmost support. It’s all I can expect from them.
I began what turned out to be an abortive transition when I was very young, in my late teens. There was a more lax attitude here in the UK medical system towards prescribing hormones and such back then. I didn’t discuss any of this with my family though, back then. In fact, they were back home in Japan dealing with a family crisis while I was dealing with my own meta crisis.
I soon decided though that transition was not for me and decided I preferred to live life as a male who is close to the line of binary division. I’ve never regretted it.
Caramel: I think that “Kaoru” is a beautiful name and when I looked up its origin, I found that it’s a Japanese given name for both males and females. Did you purposely chose that name because it’s asexual?
Miss K: It was chosen for me! It’s my given name. My dad is a good capitalist like most modern Japanese, but he does really admire philosophical rigor and intellectual belief, and so really dug the convictions and writings of Karl Marx. He thought ‘Karl’ was a good string name and wanted the Japanese name that sounded phonetically similar to it. Hence “Kaoru”, which, as you say, is a unisex name. It’s almost like destiny isn’t it?
Caramel: It certainly seems that way. What’s the origin of the name Kei Mars on SecondLife?
Miss K: When I joined Second Life, you had to choose from an available pool of surnames then give yourself an unique ‘given’ name. I’m not sure that’s how it works now, as I joined SL so very long ago!
One of the names available early on was “Mars” which sounded cool to me for it’s sci-fi connotations and the links with David Bowie (the song “Life on Mars?” and the album “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars”) so that was a natural pick. Kei (short for Keiko) is a girl’s name from Japan which I always liked and it’s pronounced like the letter “K”. K Mars = Miss K. See?
Caramel: Ah, now I get it. You once said that years ago, you’d go out to clubs and bars that sometimes resulted in horribly perilous situations such as unmentionable acts in dark places. Then the Internet brought that experimentation under control. How did that happen?
Miss K: Part of what I do with my female persona is performance. When I go out dressed I feel great and part of that feeling comes from the reaction I see that I arouse in men. But obviously that can lead to situations that, by their nature, you *want* to be slightly out of your control. I want to stress that I never ever felt in any real danger but I did do things when under the influence of drink or other substances that I would think twice about now.
That concept, the “generation of reaction” is something that I began to use the Internet to experiment with instead. It sounds cold, but “Miss K” feels more and more like an artwork than a real person as I get older.
Caramel: Did you get the same erotic charge from men when you in boy mode?
Miss K: Yes, but it’s different. It’s hard to describe really but it’s a different quality of feeling. I’m not sure how else to describe it, but I guess your self image dictates a lot how you respond to stuff and this is no different. Perhaps I can describe it like this. You’re in a foreign country and you are served a really well prepared plate of food from your homeland as a beautiful delicacy and it tastes wonderful. Then you go home and sometime later you find yourself eating the same dish, humbly prepared and served in a matter of fact and homely way. It tastes just as great.
Caramel: How about women? To be more specific, were you and are you attracted to females whom are attracted to you while en femme?
Miss K: Yes, again, the same answer. I guess I’m pretty “equal opportunity”! Or maybe I’m easy…
Caramel: I highly doubt that you’re easy. *wink* Regarding your self-photos, you recently said, “I wanted to do some ‘classy’ stuff but kept ending up straying more and more into more familiar ‘slut’ territory. Oh well…” I personally think balancing tasteful photos with eroticism is something you’ve mastered. Do you ever feel that you might be going too far sexually?
Miss K: I never feel that way, no. The only way I feel I am going too far is by publishing too many similar photos, which I think is one of the most boring aspects of trans photography. Endless, repetitive shots of the same person in almost identical poses, one after the other.
So I try and exercise more and more quality control now. I’ve left my flickr photos behind as that site is, for me now, too vast and familiar and repetitive. I now share photos on 500px (http://500px.com/draGnet) and try to be much, much more selective about what I post. A shoot may now only generate two or three images, but they are the really good ones. I hope that shows.
The “slutty” comment was a joke really. I don’t think I could ever be too slutty! I love it!
Caramel: You’ve said that you found that living as a genetically male individual seemed desolate and full of regret. Please explain where the regret stemmed from.
Miss K: You’re referring to the “Lost Girl” post on my blog (http://thedragnet.org/blog/musings/lostgirl.html). I should point out that in my day to day life I’m 100% happy with the choice I made not to complete or pursue my transition. I find that regret is a waste of time so I try not to dwell on the past too much as the future is so much more of an interesting place.
You do however have moments of weakness, or depression when the choices you made seem less clear than in the bright light of day and that piece was trying to explain how I felt during one of those times. Deciding to not transition is as big a decision as deciding to transition and obviously you’d be a fool if that didn’t become a matter for contemplation now and again.
That particular bout of introspection was triggered by hearing a group of happy young women passing by my house, going home from a night of fun, at the dead of night. It made me question the quirk of fate that meant that I had never been a happy young woman. It has very little to do with transitioning or not, actually. It’s to do with birth and fate.
Caramel: That reminds me of when at parties as a teen, when the boys and girls would split up. I’d be with the boys, hear the girls laughing and giggling and would rather have been in their group. In fact, I always felt I’d never be happy unless I experienced that. Is this the sort of happiness you’re referring to?
Miss K: Of course, I completely get that feeling you describe, but I’m not sure that’s exactly it. It’s more that I felt that a possible timeline and all the possibilities of that timeline (including all the happiness that could contain) had been killed.
I’m a keen ‘amateur’ student of theoretical physics and cosmology, and I like the many different parallel universe theories. There’s several points in my life where versions of me that are female could have sprung into life in a parallel universe. I guess the most important is when I was conceived as a male, and that’s the uncontrollable twist of fate against which I was railing when I wrote that post.
The other one was of course when I decided not to transition as I described earlier. In a sense I killed another parallel universe me then.
There is another parallel universe theory that suggests that there are an infinite number of parallel universes that exist out there within the expanding “real” universe. They’re just so astronomically far away that there is no chance of us ever reaching or contacting them. So somewhere in the infinite out there is the me that was born a girl, and the me that went through with the transition, and the me that was never transgendered. Haha.
I’ve probably completely lost everyone by now! Sorry…
Caramel: I’m still with you. I eat this kind of stuff up and although I’m not big on television, I love “Through The Wormhole” and books on the subject.
Miss K: I actually deal with a lot of these themes in a cycle of loosely connected short stories I wrote a few years ago called “Transformer”, which are all semi-autobiographical. I’d be delighted if your readers would read it. I’m thinking of maybe self publishing it as I am pretty proud of these works. They start at this page www.thedragnet.org/blog/writing/transformer/david.html.
Caramel: How old were you when you first realized you weren’t like other boys?
Miss K: I don’t recall. I think I always felt different. We moved to England from Japan when I was four, and I do remember constantly being mistaken for a little girl by English people around that time, and feeling intensely warm and happy about it. So my nature was already established by that age.
Caramel: Were you attracted to other boys and what is your preference now?
Miss K: I’ve always been bisexual.
Caramel: Yay! Are you currently dating anyone?
Miss K: Yes, I’m happily in a long term relationship.
Caramel: Boo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I’m just kidding. *wink* If you could go back in time, what would you do differently?
Miss K: I’d enter the lottery!
Caramel: I need to do that more often. You gotta be in it to win it, right? So, what’s next for Deathline and what’s next for you?
Miss K: With Deathline, immediate plans are of course to make sure NOVA does as well as possible. We have a lot of press, some radio, some live dates coming up. I think there will be something of a break after NOVA as we would like to do something quite different musically next time and that will take a while to form, I think.
For me, I am very enthused about my photography at the moment so I think I will devote more time to that. I’m also interested in expanding my musical horizons so I think I will do some work on my own. I would like to work on soundtracks I think. It may mean I’d have to direct a movie so I can write the score…
Caramel: I think you’d be great at that. Thank you so much, Miss K.