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Queen Adreena

Queen Adreena in Wonderland

(Interview with Katie Jane Garside - Taken From Black Velvet 35 - Feb 2003)

By David Jackson

In Milton Keynes, roundabouts have names. While frantically searching for ‘Eagle Stone’, a giant illuminated mountain on the horizon grows ever closer, eventually turning out to be a snow dome. Only in Milton Keynes. In an idealistic reality, Milton Keynes Pitz would be a dark smoke filled rock venue, located somewhere deep underground, out of reach of daylight with filthy walls and sticky floors, perfectly recreating the image the venue’s name paints. The truth is much less romantic. Located in the Woughton Leisure Centre, the Pitz sits firmly alongside a swimming pool while sharing a corridor with the health club and sun bedroom. Doubling as a theatre it’s not unfair to say the Pitz is one of the country’s less charismatic venues.




The public perception of QUEEN ADREENA vocalist and spokeswoman, Katie Jane Garside is varied, never quite consistent yet always fascinating. Appearing somewhat removed yet mysterious, she stands unique. Following Katie into the depths of the Milton Keynes Pitz, we arrive at the band’s dressing room. Informing me that she’s in a good mood, Katie takes a seat while continuing to arrange a small bunch of flowers in a glass on the table.

Queen Adreena are on tour in promotion of ‘Drink Me’. As a successor to their highly acclaimed debut ‘Taxidermy’, in many ways the album sounds a comfortable follow up. Finally settled, Black Velvet proceeds to ask Katie how happy she is with the final product. “In a way it’s not for me to say,” she cautiously begins. “We went through a lot making it. You do with every record, but this one particularly was quite difficult. It was kind of a year of reckoning in a way, writing and recording it. A lot of things that sustained me prior to that all fell away. I have a real sense of vertigo, no ground under my feet. I can’t really say if I’m happy or not with the album. To be honest the day that I am will be the day I don’t do it anymore.
“Being on a planet in the middle of infinity with six miles of water underneath you and then infinity above you it doesn’t give you much to hold onto,” referring to her youth, part of which was spent living on a boat. “On the flip side of that, there’s infinity but if you get on the wrong side of the coin you can get into free fall terror. That’s sort of how I feel about that record, it’s just a page in the diary.”

It was author Lewis Carroll in his book, Alice in Wonderland, who first penned the words ‘Drink Me’, written on a label attached to a bottle from which Alice drinks and is subsequently shrunk. Was it from this that the album took its name?
“Yes, it’s not hard to get there. Know your own poison really, that’s all it is. I’ve always found the only useful thing to do with fear is to run headlong into it, and that’s the only way it transforms, otherwise it’s always over your shoulder in your blind spot, so you have to sort of wrestle it to the ground really. It’s about knowing your own poison… Drink me.”

As the interview continues Katie’s fingers are in a constant state of activity, be it continuing to arrange flowers or further looping straps on her bag. However, every so often, Katie looks up, wide-eyed, with one of the MOST mesmerising stares I’ve ever seen. Many of Queen Adreena’s unique traits have carried over to the band’s second album. In many ways ‘Drink Me’ can be seen as an extension of ‘Taxidermy’. Or is it a completely new entity?
Pausing for thought Katie continues. “It is just another page in the diary. A lot of the things I said were sustaining me fell away, all the things that were keeping me upright sort of fell away, during that part of my life, making the record, I think it’s reduced things to their baser elements. In a way ‘Taxidermy’ is tugging in a lot of different directions. For me ‘Taxidermy’ is quite existentialist where I’m observing and witnessing and ‘Drink Me’ I’m taking part. I do use sexuality and violence to sort of beat myself back into existence because I’ve felt perpendicular. I’ve found myself to be dangerously insular. That again is what I said about the only useful thing to do with fear is to run headlong into it, because I lived in a tree house for a long time, just lived above everything, not taking part and I want to be here. Well I have to be here, otherwise I might as well not be here. As a kid I could never come downstairs to my own birthday party. I wanna take part, I actually wanna be there now, but I’m sick of living outside of everything.”

One apparent difference between debut and follow up album is Queen Adreena’s frequent use of dark atmospheric vocals seems to made way for a general heavier rock feel to the record.
“The subtler things have fallen,” begins Katie. “Like a boiling pot it has reduced down to its really basic elements; it’s very minimalist. We’re trying to break the shell of the seed so the plant can fucking grow. Like my own life, we always watch from the wings and we wanna play the main stage. I am using violence and friction to create a chemical reaction hopefully. The only thing I find to be true is fiction that creates combustion and therefore doesn’t mean it’s easy or painful but it’s a fountain of youth in a way. It’s the only thing that turns me on and drives me forward.”

With only one single lifted from album ‘Drink Me’ (so far), the unusual decision was taken to release non-album track ‘FM Doll’. Not the usual procedure of album promotion.
“I didn’t want to look backwards. Making the record was kinda wrestling the thing to the ground,” describes Katie. “There was a great sense of relief. We’ve got a completely new rhythm section in effect now. I don’t want to sound like I’m doing my dirty washing, but we fired out old drummer after we did the album for the first time because it was not played very well. Then we went and recorded the whole thing in five days in a tiny demo studio. By the time we had the things in our hands it was, suffice to say, after finally getting the thing finished, we’d been writing like crazy and just thought there’s no point kinda eating yesterday’s dinner. FM Doll came out so quickly so natural and easily in a way. I feel like I kinda like parodying myself to such an extreme on that.”
The title of the single itself is one of hidden truths, quickly revealing a dark sub-text to the song. “It’s actually called ‘Fuck Me Doll’ and is about female objectification. In a way I shouldn’t really talk about it cause we’re desperate to get it onto daytime radio.”
Treading her ground carefully Katie continues. “I know because of the lyrical content it won’t get on there. It’s about child murder. Do you remember the JonBenet case in America? The child beauty queen who was supposing murdered by her mother and father It’s about that and the endemic infection in the female psyche.”

Despite the somewhat unusual decisions surround the single release, as ever it’s accompanied with a promotional video. Talk of which is immediately greeted with laughter. “Well it’s a performance video, but, it’s sexy, that’s it. The whole thing with this is that I’m trying to burn down the cross that I’ve nailed myself to. It’s always about that. The illness that endemic in the female psyche, it’s just the way of the world where you’re just valued as an object. I think there’s a lot of power inherent in the feminine. I’ve always known it, used it, abused it myself so I’m can’t really go down a militant route with it because there’s a lot of power and joy within it. But it’s also for someone that’s not strong enough to carry it. It turns people into victims. It’s a very peculiar state I think that we’re in at the moment in history in terms of female objectification because it’s all supposedly coming up roses, but women are more effected by it than they ever were and playing into that role. What I do is hold up a mirror up to people and break it really for them.”

The lyrical content of Queen Adreena is in places beautiful and consistently fascinating.
 “That’s very kind of you,” replies a visually pleased and smiling Katie. “It’s not difficult at all. It just insists on coming out my mouth. I’d rather somebody shouted louder than me to quiet my own noise really. I mean that’s what playing live does, it just shuts the head noise down for a while. There’s so much noise from every angle it gives me a day off really once it strikes up and gets loud. It’s maintenance for me, it helps with survival. You’ve gotta put all that shit somewhere otherwise it turns into cancer.”
Talking about how the lyrics and music intertwine to make the final product, Katie Jane says
“Crispin can get terribly upset with me. A song like ‘Silent Undoing’ I just wrote it at home. I’ve got a little wind organ I write stuff on. I’m not a musician, I can play a couple of notes very easily and there’s some chord buttons. For me I always write off an atmosphere. I’ve got six chord buttons and there must so however many combinations of those six chords so I can find that atmosphere that’s drilling in my head for that particular moment. Atmosphere’s everything. Everything that comes out I see in pictures. I’m just interpreting pictures, like snapshots but it’s always very vivid, it’s very much got a black line around it. In a way I have a hotline to the unconscious. Pity me, it’s not the best thing to have and I can’t turn it off. But that’s just intellectualising it. We always try to find clever words to make sense of what we can’t make sense of.
The live show is one forum where Queen Adreena leave the onlooker completely mesmerised. Talking of playing live, Katie Janes says “I’ll give you the most fantastic and obvious cliché. Things that are important to me are fucking, wine and playing music and that’s it really. This thing of reduction, it’s all been about getting out of the head and into the body so it beats the military drum and calls us to war, and let the war of the fucking psyche commence. Here we are, what else could I be doing that would be more fun?”
With a notorious reputation for performance how important an element of your music do you feel performing is? “I’ve always known it’s a real privilege to take the stage, it’s a very highly charged thing to do cause it’s a very un-natural thing to do.”
Do you think so?
“Yeah! Why would anyone want to stand up in front of hundreds, hopefully thousands of people and almost beg them to tear one to pieces? Or on the flip side, when you catch the right side of the wave you can run up the sides of buildings and stuff like that, you capture a certain pure essence of something and that’s when magic happens. You step into a different realm. You walk through a door that’s not open very often, but you know you have to walk the knife-edge and be willing to throw yourself off the cliff, and that’s why I mean it’s very un-natural. ”
Taking the stance that it’s un-natural to stand in front of thousands of people and perform, are there any
particular messages you hope Queen Adreena convey to their audience?
“You know I take absolutely no responsibility for how I’m received; it’s nothing to do with me. I have a profound sense of displacement, like I said before, witnessing rather that taking part. I’m desperate to take part. Maybe everybody feels that, but it’s really under the microscope in my case and I’m very very aware of it. I have absolutely no message. I write little stories and I put them like photographs around myself in order to believe that I exist, or challenge the idea that I exist at least and that’s the beginning and the end of it.”

Flicking through her copy of Black Velvet Katie spots a ‘My Vitriol’ interview and proceeds to reminisce about the band live and mentions her admiration of bassist Carolyn. Continuing to chat about music I ask if there is anything in the current climate of music that interests her. “I don’t listen. Things come my way and I’ll listen to them once, but the thing that really does it for me always is white noise and distortion. I’ll listen to a constant CD of the sea; I lived on a boat when I was a kid. But before that,” pointing into the corner of her dressing room, “even the noise of that fucking fan, I find it really… I find is so reassuring for some reason. The sound of any white noise, like a fan or running water. For me listening to that stuff is like looking in the mirror. There are so many different voices in there and frequencies and harmonics and they tell me what to sing. I don’t mean THEY the great THEY, or the spirits. Just within white noise. There’s just this whole spectrum of frequency and it is like anything, if you stare at it long enough you’ll find a reflection of yourself within it. There’s always a story waiting to be told in there. That’s what I love, the wind, the sea.”

And with that my time with Katie is over, feeling like seconds but transpiring to be minutes. With a gig in a sports theatre looming closer Queen Adreena seem as unsuited to play such a venue as much as the venue paints an unrealistic image of itself. The delicately spoken Katie Jane Garside is one of the most intelligently fascinating women in rock. Collecting up her bunch of flowers Katie proceeds to position them carefully one by one into her hair before returning to the rest of Queen Adreena. For a further insight into the band visit www.queenadreena.com We’re informed ‘Everything is not obvious… explore.’


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