Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Taylor Momsen interview with DOSE.CA

Interview: Taylor Momsen Dishes on The Pretty RecklessDose.Ca

Underage smoking, knife collections, an underwear-as-outwear wardrobe that Cherie Currie might’ve rocked if Hot Topic existed in the ‘70s: Taylor Momsen knows she’s a star the gossips love to rag on. Have you seen her Twitter page? Her profile pic - photos of her and Ozzy Osbourne, both wearing the same John Lennon shades and pasted side by side -- is lifted from Perez Hilton.

“I think he was trying to insult me by that,” says Momsen over the phone, shortly before taking the stage with her band, The Pretty Reckless, at the Toronto stop of the Vans Warped Tour. “It’s like, dude, you just put me next to f*cking Ozzy Osbourne. That’s the coolest thing ever. If you think you’re insulting me, you just gave me the biggest compliment ever,” she says, giggling so excitedly she’s one breath away from laughing Steve Urkel-style.

Not that the china-doll-pretty 16-year-old looks a thing like rock ‘n’ roll’s prince of darkness. You probably know her as Jenny Humphrey on Gossip Girl - or, more clean-scrubbed still, Cindy Lou Who from 2000’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas. But that’s not Momsen - who two years ago, by her count, started her first rock band, The Pretty Reckless. Momsen’s the lead singer - and is equipped with some snarling pipes that sound as though they’ve felt the effects of what fuelled her recently released self-titled EP: “coffee and cigarettes.” Busy filming episodes of Gossip Girl by day, Momsen says that she and her band (guitarist Ben Phillips, bass player Mark Damon, drummer Jamie Perkins) wrote and recorded their upcoming album, Light Me Up (release date TBA) in the wee hours of the night. “It was a brutal year. Being on tour seems like a vacation,” she says.

“I listen to a lot of classic-rock music,” says Momsen, citing the Beatles, Led Zeppelin and grunge stand-bys Nirvana and Soundgarden as her favourites. “I enjoy rock music and blues, and I wanted to bring rock back. There really isn’t any right now.”

When you’ve been working in show business since babyhood - Momsen started modelling at two, acting at three - apparently starting a garage band with a bunch of other teenagers isn’t an option. “I’ve been writing and singing and working - I mean, I recorded a song for James Horner when I was five for the Grinch. So I’ve been in and out of recording studios since I was very, very young,” says Momsen. “I just like making music and so to make it on a different level where people can hear it is - I’m very fortunate.”

The first step towards becoming The Pretty Reckless was Momsen’s meeting with producer Kato Khandwala -- a guy who’s worked with bands including Paramore and Drowning Pool - who in turn introduced Momsen to an old colleague of his, Ben Phillips. The three of them began writing together.

“I’m a singer-songwriter - so we [Momsen and Phillips] write the songs, then Kato takes it to a whole other level with the production, and adds all these layers to it and such to make it, you know, ‘palatable to the market,’” she giggles. “And really f*cking loud.”

The rest of the group were already in a band, Famous, with Phillips. “I kind of stole them and we all became really good friends,” says Momsen - adding that she never felt like the new girl in this pack of old - and older - friends. “I wrote it with them,” she says of the record, “and they played it, so we were all involved and working together at all times. It was just like, ‘Hey guys, want to join another rock band?’”

Though they’re travelling across North America on the Vans Warped Tour this summer (their next - and last - Canadian stop is August 5 in Edmonton) - and even have a No. 1 rock single in the UK to their credit (“Make Me Wanna Die”) - the top Google News item about Momsen the day of our interview has nothing to do with her swampy guitar rock. Actually, it’s a snarky blurb about some lucite heels - “my stripper shoes,” she calls them - she wore onstage.

“I don’t own a computer, so I don’t really look at that stuff," she says.

No computer? OK, now that’s shocking.

“Oh, it’s because it’s dangerous,” she explains - that and her last computer broke and she hasn’t bothered to replace it yet (she’s not a teenage luddite or anything). “You have to avoid Googling yourself,” she says. “There’s nothing nice that comes with that.”

Nevertheless, her celebrity status has brought The Pretty Reckless some attention. Momsen’s just not sure if that’s a blessing or a much blogged-about curse. “It has good things and bad things about it. You have the audience that likes the show [Gossip Girl] and it’s a built-in audience that will listen to the record,” she says -- though she’s doubtful that hardcore GG fans will be into the alt-rock of the Pretty Reckless. “I don’t think that the Gossip Girl audience is listening to Soundgarden that much, you know what I mean?” she says, giggling.

“The only thing I can hope for is that they’ll enjoy the record because they’re the first people who are going to hear it, and an audience who wouldn’t listen to it because of my career, I hope they give it a chance, and don’t just shut it out because of pre-determined - like ‘She’s Jenny Humphrey?’ F*ck that.’

As for Jenny Humphrey, Momsen can’t say what sort of future she has on Gossip Girl. In this year’s season finale, her character was (spoiler!) shipped out of NYC, never mind the Upper East Side, and there’s no indication yet that she’ll return when the show resumes in the fall. “As far as next season I’m contractually obligated not to speak about it, but from my leaving, I don’t know if it was necessary. I mean, I think it was a combination of it seemed like the right thing and I’m doing the tour, so they’re shooting now and I’m still on the road,” she says.

And that’s where she wants to be. When asked what she’d choose if she could only do one thing - The Pretty Reckless or Gossip Girl - Momsen doesn’t agonize over her decision, Sophie’s Choice-style.

“I love music,” she says with a girlish sigh. “I love playing, I love writing songs. I love music, it keeps me going.

“Music is self-expression, it’s your self, it’s investigation of yourself and the world and everything and, you know, acting is a job -- you’re not writing a script, you’re saying someone else’s words and pretending to be someone else.

“The one thing I can say is five years from now I’ll still be making music. Whether it’s being heard or not, I have no idea, but I’ll still be writing songs and playing and as far as my other career in acting and modelling, in five years, I don’t know where I’ll be.”

The Pretty Reckless plays Edmonton August 5 with the Vans Warped Tour.
source DOCE.CA via


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