Think Taylor Momsen: think controversy, think eyeliner, think The Pretty Reckless. But maybe it's time to think again, because there is much more to Momsen than her wild child stage presence might convey. Taylor spoke to District MTV about how touring has opened her eyes to the world and all its problems and why Going To Hell, the second album from The Pretty Reckless, is a record she wrote about an extremely important time in this band's life – a time saw them experience some horrific events while trying to record and emerging from the other side of those tragedies. She also justifies her decision to appear totally naked on the cover ofGoing To Hell and clarifies once and for all just how friendly she is with the Devil himself.
District MTV: So Taylor, this is The Pretty Reckless' second album, which is a crucial factor in the longevity of any band's career. Do you feel like you have something to prove with this record?
Taylor Momsen: I don't ever feel like I have anything to prove because I write songs because I love doing it; I write songs for me and particularly with this record when I went into the writing process, I went into it with the idea of no boundaries. I wasn't writing for the radio, I wasn't writing for the fans, for the industry; I decided not to follow any formulas and to go into it with an open mind. No walls in any way. I wanted to see where that took me.
Because of that, I think we really honed in on a sound on this record. It's much more of a 'raw' record, if we are talking production-wise, in comparison to Light Me Up. This album is very stripped down; it's just two guitars, bass, drums, and vocals. Very very minimal production. After touring Light Me Up for two and a half years, we learnt that we don't play with backing tracks, and we had to work out how to take this big, produced record into a live set up; so we became a really tight unit whilst touring. We really wanted to reflect that on this record. That sound that we developed as a band on the road; I feel like Going To Hell really represents that.
DMTV: The album feels very complete, in terms of a story and a sound.
Taylor: Yeah, I hope so. There are a lot of different dimensions to it, hopefully there is still something for everyone in there, but as I was writing this record a lot of common themes started to come up and if you listen to it from front to back, the tracklisting is very important. You should listen to it like a proper record because it tells a story and captures a particular moment in time in not just my life, but the band's life. A lot of tragedies occurred while we were making this record. Everything that happened is in these songs. So it's not just a collection of singles; it really says something about our story.
DMTV: You've previously discussed the terrible things that happened during the recording of Going To Hell [The Pretty Reckless' studio was destroyed and their producer's wife suddenly passed away]. Now that you are out performing those songs live, do the memories associated with their recording make them difficult to perfom?
Taylor: If I was to sit and listen to the record, then yes, they would affect me. But when you are performing, you are so in the moment of being on stage and the crowd responding to you, hoping that nothing breaks and that no tubes blow in the amps, and that the microphone is on(!), that you are playing the best show that you can, that you are too focused on the show itself to think about that. But when I listen to the songs on my own, then definitely yes, I have my own feelings about everything.
DMTV: 'Fucked Up World' is a track down at the bottom of the album, quite a straightforward rock track, but one that got us thinking: what do you consider to be really fucked up right now?
Taylor: Well, everything…![laughs] We toured the world for two and a half years and seeing it with your own two eyes and not just on the news definitely changed my perspective and perception of everything. Seeing everything from the imbalance of power and structure and poverty and repression and violence…the list goes on and on and on. These are things that everyone has talked about before but they don't seem to be common topics in popular music at the moment. So I felt the need to write about it in someway and to sum it up simply, it's all pretty fucked up! We're not doing it right. We don't treat each other right, we don't treat the earth right, like, there's gotta be a better way. I'm not saying I have the fucking answer but I will try to bring this stuff to someone's attention.
DMTV: Which is only a good thing. Everything about this album, from the artwork to the title to the lyrics to the single title, contains so many religious and anti-religious messages. Also when you Google 'Taylor Momsen' there are so many theories about you being a Satanist or a Christian all over the Intenet. No-one can decide what you stand for…
Taylor: [laughing incredulously] I'm not actually a very religious person…
DMTV: We figured as much.
Taylor: Although I'm definitely not a Satanist. I can clear that one up.
DMTV: Would you consider yourself a spiritual person in any way?
Taylor: Yeah. I don't think that religion is necessarily a bad thing. I think finding your spirituality, some kind of centre in your life is a necessary thing for everyone. Whether that comes from religion or from meditation or from whatever…for me it's music. I find solace in that and that's what keeps me grounded and together.
DMTV: Finally – we see you on the album cover, and you're very naked. You've also done promo videos and other shoots in the past where you've been wearing nothing (or very little). Do you ever feel vunerable doing that?
Taylor: No. Because it's my vision, it's my call to do that. It's all on my terms. The record cover, for example; that took so long to make that shot, because the goal was to create a beautiful photograph that was untouched – kind of like the Pink Floyd album covers, like Wish You Were Here, where they actually set a guy on fire for the photo. I was like 'I wanna set a guy on fire! I wanna do something like that!' I wanted to create an iconic photograph that was simple and really about the cross. That idea came from that famous poster that Pink Floyd put out when they released their back catalogue; the shot of all the naked women sitting by a pool with the record covers painted on their backs. So I had the symbol, the Going To Hell cross, and decided that we would paint it on my back. Then that image caused a whole stir, but I was just trying to create an iconic photograph. When I'm not doing something creative like that, I'm in head to toe clothes – like today! Nudity has to have an artistic meaning behind it otherwise I think it's just lewd.
DMTV: We loved the Barbie doll parody picture of the album artwork that you retweeted.
Taylor: I thought that was so funny! They even got the strand of hair down my back totally right, they did that so well.
The new album Going To Hell by The Pretty Reckless is out now.
Photos: Samuel Bradley
source: District MTV UK