Julie Axis, Christy Cameron Smith, Amy Spina, Paul Infiniti,
Danse Amour 98
Snail Mail Address:
My Scarlet Life, 5602 N Ridge, Chicago IL USA 60660
Interviewer: Gordon Taylor
Date: Wednesday, June 09,
When did you first begin as a band
and where are you from?
JA-Preston formed the band in 1994 with myself and two
other people who moved on after a short stint in the band.
Christy and Amy joined at the same time and Paul joined
a year later in 1996. Preston is from Nebraska, I am from
Florida and the rest of the members are from Chicago.
The band started before me...I came in august of '95....
I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, but moved to the
city when I started college at 18, & never left.
You all have interesting backgrounds
when did you first become involved in music?
I could say, that my first interest in music came when
I was about, hmmm...I could say 5 years old, listening
to the radio, at the time.... So I was at that time into
60's pop & Beatles.... But I didn't start playing
an instrument 'til I was 9--picked up the violin at school
& played it 'til I was 13, picked up piano, when I
was 10, played 'til I was 12 & then picked it up again
at 18 for a year or so.... But guitar was my passion--started
playing it at 17, learning basic blues, then at 18, when
at college, switched over to classical guitar & studied
heavily & quite seriously (6-8 hours practicing a
day), for 5 years.... But burnt out. -I was a music performance
major at college, but didn't graduate w/any degree, I
fucked up, got confused, couldn't focus anymore on music
& left school...meantime, I played in a couple really
bad cover bands for exposure to band dynamics for a few
years, and during that time I was still involved in classical
music, working at a classical radio station (WFMT) from
the age of 19 'til about 27...at about that time i began
to play acoustic guitar-singer/songwriter stuff, learning
how to sing.... Played with a trio for a few years, then
hooked up w/MSL in '95-and this is all I’ve been
doing since then....
JA-I has always listened. My first favorite performer
was Paul McCartney. I had heard of the Beatles, but didn't
know that Paul McCartney was one of them. When I found
out I was really excited and asked my mother who the other
Beatles were. When I discovered that she didn't know,
I was so let down. It was then I realized that she had
very little left to teach me. Sad, but true. I learned
everything that I could about the latest music. I loved
and still love new sounds, I just didn't know yet what
my role in music would be until a friend of mine, who
happened to be a musician, heard me singing along to a
tape in his car and asked me to sing with him at a band
party. He played the
Music and I sang--very badly of course, but it started
the ball rolling. I found my niche and if I wasn't good
yet I would work at it until I was great. I don't think
I'll ever be the great that I had in mind--it is unattainable
and yet, I keep striving. I need to know that there is
always another rung on the ladder. It keeps me going.
Music has always been an important part of my life ever
since I was very young...when I was about seven, I took
organ lessons and won first place in a statewide competition...after
that I took up guitar and taught myself how to play...I
used music as an escape into myself and as a means to
Julie what sort poetry and short stories do you write
and have you performed your
I haven't had time to finish any of my story ideas, unfortunately.
I do plan to publish a book of poetry, after I finish
my solo project. But I am not interested in speaking my
poems. I prefer that they be read internally. Quietly.
That is where they are most appropriately suited.
have you produced any spoken word CDs?
where have you had your work published?
JA-I haven't yet been published. I am going to continue
with the do-it-yourself mentality and publish them myself.
have you produced any books?
what sort jewelry and clothing do you make?
JA- I used to make earrings, but now I don't even wear
them myself so I moved on to other forms of expression.
As for clothing, I have always sewn--my mother did teach
me something useful. I used to make my own clothes in
School and I would show up with some of the wackiest shit.
The other kids thought I was strange, but it was my only
way of setting myself apart from "the rest".
I didn't want to be normal. Actually that is one of my
biggest fears. True confessions.
are you influence by Mother Nature.
JA-I think that people are a lot more influenced by nature
than we tend to think. The moon pulls and pushes, the
tides ebb and flow, and our bodies swell and shrink. Women's
hormones change monthly, our creativity ebbs and flows,
our body chemistry changes with every morsel we put into
our bodies. Nature is amazing! So amazing. Maybe I will
write a whole article for you on this subject for your
you listen to voices from cultures such as Middle East,
Asia, Eastern Europe,
And North Africa, Which particular singers do you enjoy
listens mostly to female singers. I try to learn from
them. I sing along very badly at first and try to imitate
them. I work at it until I can do it myself. I don't give
up. I may put it aside temporarily, but I come back to
it after I have learned something else. Lately I have
been trying to throat sing like the Tuvans of Mongolia.
I listen to anything I can get my hands on. A friend gave
me a tape of singers from Mauritania that I love. I’m
not into the pop music from these cultures, I prefer listening
to the traditional stuff. Also, Hector Zazou has a CD
out called "The Cold Seas" and it features traditional
singers from all over. It is my favorite CD of all time.
Someday I would like to learn to yodel. My technique is
all wrong right now, but I will not rest peacefully until
I yodel. If I die before I yodel, then you'll hear me
from the grave when the angels teach me.
what area of percussion are you interested in?
Well, percussion has never been my instrument of choice,
my voice...I play it in MY Scarlet Life because I’m
able to play just what the song needs...I'm lucky because,
in this band I am able to use all my talents, artistically
and musically, and I do so. Guitar and bass is where I
really speak my voice...and I get to speak all my voices
in this band...
what is it enjoy about East Indian Music?
What I really enjoy about East Indian music is the meditative
quality of the drones and sounds.... It really creates
a scared space and opens your door for your inner journey...
I understand you are into sculpture what sort things do
sentiment of the stuff I like to create is usually about
strife or anguish...intensity of those emotions...and
usually realistic in form...I do human forms & gargoyle-type
images, mainly.... Those are the two things that best
suit where I come from emotionally.... I don't connect
at all to images that are surreal or metaphorical....
But I also dig doing stuff that's just plain intricate
Amy is there a particular material
you enjoy using?
yeah! -I love doing stuff in wood...carving.... And when
I can, I really super-dig doing stuff in wax, to be afterwards,
turned into cast bronze...but to find an affordable foundry
is a HUGE trick, though there is a co-op foundry here
that's coming around again after having lost their last
lease...now all I have to do is come up w/a few hundred
dollars to take advantage of their facilities-another
when you are producing your work what inspires you at
If it's wood, it's a combination of what I see in the
wood along with my usual intense sentiments---if it's
wax, which starts from thin air, I usually rely on my
sentiments at the time, which again often seem to come
from darker places...a devilish man digging himself outer
the ground...melting withering human forms pointing a
blaming finger up at god for their suffering....
Amy how involved are you with the Womyns Music Festival?
at all, from the standpoint of the workings of the festival....
I just go there for the fun of it. A lot of my friends
go there, but I hardly communicate w/them when I’m
their because there's so much room for discovery.... Women
from all over the world.... Australia & New Zealand
as well, big time! --It’s so cool to have the opportunity
to chat w/& get to know people from all over the place...to
hear what they do for livings, how they live their lives...I
usually bring a tape recorder & tape conversations
& sounds when I’m there....
What instruments do you all play and are there any particular
instrument you enjoy the most?
I play guitar, bass & percussion-but- percussion is
my favorite, I love the sounds, wishing I could somehow
produce more sonorities, I love the feeling of being so
physically active in playing percussion parts...I feel
more deeply involved in the music when I play percussion.
I enjoy most playing guitar and bass equally and playing
percussion third...Guitar is a very introspective instrument
for me while percussion is a very physical and outward
expression.... They’re very different from each
other but very rewarding in their own way...
What creative process do you go
through when composing your music?
What creative process do you go through when composing
your music? Hmmm....most the time it's what feels good....
To extract a part that feels good, & it seems that
it's usually based on a piece of something that I’ve
heard in the past, but then eroded by forgetting &
messed w/by pedal effects.
What inspires you when you write
Life...My life and how I feel and learn about myself.
How do you go about writing lyric,
and what subject matter do you enjoy writing about. Are
all the members involved in writing the lyrics for My
JA-No, only Christy and I write lyrics. We write our own
lyrics, never for the other person, unless it is a back
up part on a song that we wrote. I would like to try experimenting
with other people's words, but that hasn't happened yet.
I think I am a pretty optimistic person, but I tend to
write pessimistic lyrics. Rather dark. I haven't figured
out why. I guess my nightmares find their way into my
words. I am working on a love song, which is hard because
my fears keep surfacing in the words and I have to start
over. It isn't natural for me but I love a good challenge,
so there you go. I like writing about nature because it
calms me down.
Are you influence by books or movies or plays?
JA-All the time. "Black Limbo" was inspired
by a Joseph Campbell book about the myth of the hero.
How a heroes journey is much like the schizophrenic’s
experience. Fascinating. "Saxifrage" was inspired
by "The Secret Life of
Plants" by Tompkins and Bird. Once again--we are
more closely connected to nature than most people think.
We are not separate from it, we are part of the great
cosmos, and not just because of what we choose to eat--but
also how we choose to think!
Are you influence by any other bands
and do you have any favorite bands that you like listening
I don't think I’m influenced by my favorite bands,
to play what they play...but music I like to hear right
now are.... Hmmm....it's changing right now, as I’ve
come across a new thing recently...jazz---and "jazz"
improve, though it's not jazz by any stretch of the imagination....
Also, been lately into Middle Eastern folk, from Egypt
& Armenia, as I’m learning (though slowly) how
to play doumbeq.... But as far as other stuff goes, I’ve
been impressed by early sarah mclachlan, delirium, dead
can dance, pink Floyd, early & mid Fleetwood Mac,
Beatles, delta blues guitar music, French & English
impressionist stuff, like Vaughan Williams, Debussy, ravel,
britten, harp music, African folk & pop, highlife,
king sunny ade, babatunde olatunji, east Indian folk,
minimalist stuff of Steve Reich, um....fatboy slim, the
orb... on the odder side, even country rock (American)
of the late 70's, like Alabama, the outlaws, lynard skyward,
Charlie Daniel’s band...hmm....cat Stevens....
JA-I am listening to Splashdown a lot these days. They
are from Boston and got signed to Capital, I think. There
new CD should be out in August. I love the singer--her
lyrics are spectacular and her phrasing is beyond belief.
I also love Momus for his lyrics and for the fact that
on every song he sounds like he is whispering in your
ear--the words meant for you and you alone, so intimate,
he could make incest sound like an innocent treat. Scandalous
and intriguing. I also love trip hop stuff, for the musical
aspect. I find most trip hop singers to be lazy and laborious.
I'm more aware of music than going out and buying stuff
saying "ooh, this is cool” music from the 60's
(Beatles), 70's (Zeppelin), 80's (Sonic youth), and 90's
(Stereo Lab), all this music and more pulls and moves
me in some way and thus influences me...
Are any of the members of My Scarlet
Life Involved in any other side projects?
JA-I will let the others speak for themselves. I am working
on my solo project, which hopefully will be out this year.
It is called JUTE and the CD will be called "Beneath
the Wheel" which is also the name of a track on the
CD. It is more influenced by 70's music than MSL-more
organ and more backward, fucked up shit.
To the readers who may have not
heard much of your music how would you describe your sound?
JA-It is a mystical blend of modern and ancient--Dead
Can Dance meets The Orb, with Blondie and Bjork singing
in Harmony. Something like that. I dunno. We write parts
and whatever fits fits. We don't think about it that much
When we are writing.
You have several Albums such as “Danse Amours and
Buzzbomb how long did they take to produce. What was the
concept behind these Albums?
You are recording your new Cd; will
it be similar to other albums?
JA-I think the CD will be a blend of the best parts of
Trypnotica and Buzzbomb, but with perhaps less Middle
Eastern sensuality and lonelier guitars. There may be
a few surprisingly sparse songs but still a lot of ass
We really are trying to take the best elements of Trypnotica
and Buzzbomb and mix them together to create our new CD.
The moodiness and atmosphere of Trypnotica and the energy
and catchiness of Buzzbomb, as well as where we are as
individuals and what we have been experiencing...I've
heard most of the songs and I think we've come up with
some really good material.
What gigs did you enjoy the most
and what was the audience response.
What gigs did you enjoy the most and what was the audience
response. Always the metro gig here in Chicago, because
the venue is large & the audience has always been
highly positive-- also, the M shop in Ames, Iowa--because
the crowd is large & highly responsive plus, they
treat us so well, it's the best time of all places I’ve
JA- I think we all enjoy playing at the Maintenance Shop
in Ames Iowa. It is a cool space--three sides of the stage
are exposed and it feels like we are more part of the
crowd than any other place we play. They love us in Ames
Iowa. I like playing at the Metro in Chicago also because
the stage is big, the crowds are big and the lights are
awesome. I saw a video of us on the Metro stage and I
was floored. I had no idea we looked so good! No wonder
4 times as many people come to see us there
What gigs did you not enjoy?
All the dumpy one-horse-town bars where people look up
& go "what the hell...?"
JA- Ugh, we've had a few klunckers. I hate carrying our
equipment up two flights of stairs to play for 30 minutes
to an empty room. I won't mention names.
Is there anything special incorporated
within your performances?
JA-Well, we like to decorate the stage a bit. We bring
our own lights these days so that even if a club is not
well equipped we can still put on a great show. Also,
Christy and I wrap our mike stands with white Christmas
lights and fake vines and we roll out an Oriental rug.
It makes the stage more homey.
When you have a performance what goes through your mind
when you are on that stage. What is it that you feel?
What sort of emotions do you go through when the eyes
of the audience are on you?
I used to get nervous, like, shit, oh no, they're looking
at me.if i make a mistake, what a bumbling fool i'll be...not
anymore-it's more like.... Well, it depends on the crowd...I
like to be in a place where I feel gratitude that the
people there have come to hear me & want to hear us
play. When that's the deal, and it's true, I feel free
to express in the music, what I feel emotionally...and
I get excited and really into the music w/my heart &
spirit, really.... And I feel I’m free to then help
transcend the listener to where the music has the opportunity
to take them...the will/ I should say, INTENT is very
important when it comes to performing, but I can only
get there when it's a "2-way nstreet"--it takes
2 to tango...and the listener has to be receptive for
me to feel comfortable enough to give of myself freely
& completely—when that's all in place, as what
happens at the metro & M shop shows, it can be very
exhilarating & rewarding...if, on the other hand,
the audience is obviously ( and you can feel it when yer
on stage) not into it, or if i'm having a shitty day,
then i wind up just going through the motions with /not
much to offer at all, just the notes to play...that's
not my favorite way to be, but that happens way more than
JA-Hopefully I am thinking about the show and not what
I am going to be doing later. If I am thinking about what
I will be doing later then I might as well not be up there.
I sometimes feel connected with people. A connection that
I don't often feel in my day to day life. I feel very
apart from people. I guess I am used to people watching
me. They have done it all my life--beginning with the
homemade clothes I wore to high school. I wanted people
to look at me, but not for the wrong reasons. On stage
with MSL I don't know what people think of me, but I am
being myself, at least a certain side of myself, the side
that wishes to connect with people. I want to be a sensual
creature without being a purely sexual creature. I don't
like vulgarity or crudeness. I want to be like an aquatic
plant with the flow of water gently moving the tendrils
of my body. Is that sexy? Maybe you get excited by it,
but it's not an engorged penis kind of excitement, it
is in the gut, a ticklishness, a laughing Buddha, fresh
cut grass, a roller coaster ride, the first signs of spring,
a view of mountains after travelling over the plains,
it makes you walk with a bounce in your step. So many
people miss the point.
What is your future plans.
Personally, to grow as a music maker, learning more on
the instruments that I play & maybe pick up the harp
someday.... But I desire strongly to learn to compose
more elaborate stuff in the future, as well, as do some
singing...but I really want to expand my writing abilities!
Is there anything you would like
to say to the readers out there?
It depends on what they want to know---write me, &
I’ll write back, how's that?
Hello Australia! We would love to come play in your beautiful
country someday. Also, be good to yourself and be good
to others. It is not all about money--love of money leads
to violence--it's about the heart and the intentions of
the act. Continue to evolve! I'm done preaching.
"The physical form, the body of the individual, is
made new at birth, but the soul is ancient, the stuff
Ellis, "Kheperi, Ra, Atum"