Sincerity is an interesting thing. We yearn for it, don’t we? We look for it, and when we find it, we put it away. It is also a commodity and human beings are often willing to pay for it. On Monday night, September 27, it will be interesting to see how many Phoenicians are willing to pay to see Kat Von D (aka Katherine Von Drachenberg), who is primarily known for being a reality star, tattoo artist, and makeup artist. , sings with his namesake band on The Van Buren.
Von D is also known for some of the, sorry for our French, completely screwed up things that she has said, signed, and posted to the universe (or, in some cases, has been publicly accused of saying, writing, doing, etc.) , like naming one of her lipstick colors “Selektion,” which was a term used by the Nazis to select Holocaust prisoners for death in the early 1940s.
The list is long, but Von D has publicly addressed each incident, such as when she was labeled anti-vaccination after she declared that she would not vaccinate her now 2-year-old son, Leafar, who she shares with her musician husband. Rafael Reyes (from the Prayers band, who will open the show in Phoenix) says he was wrong to post that message.
We caught up with Von D to talk about the show he will be playing in support of his new album. Love made me do it, being a part of the cancellation culture and what he’s doing now on the phone last week during a break in rehearsals with his band. Judge for yourself if you think she is sincere or not.
Phoenix New Times: How are rehearsals going?
Kat Von D: Well well. I’m really looking forward to working on making something that is visually on par with the music, so there are a lot of things that go into it, but that’s really exciting for me. I love production and I love telling stories through the visual arts, so it’s exciting to see it come to life. I’ve been working with Linda Strawberry, who does much of the creative direction for the Smashing Pumpkins and a bunch of other great bands, and she and I have a very similar creative idea. I’m very excited for people to see it.
Our drummer (Dave Parley, also from Prayers) is actually from Phoenix and he’s getting ready to open a coffee shop there, so we’re really excited to be playing Phoenix.
Oh great, I didn’t know there was a local angle. Is he from here or did he just move here?
He recently got married and his wife is from Arizona so he moved there before we started recording. [Love Made Me Do It]. I think they are actually opening their coffee shop (Velorio on Grand Avenue), like the day before our show in San Francisco, so they will be flying there for the grand opening. I wish we could be there for that, but it will be October 1st.
Good to know. How do you feel doing live music right now with the pandemic still in play?
I mean, I’m excited to play and I think most people take precautions and I think everything will be fine. There are many people who are already playing and attending shows and beginning to return to normal life. So yeah, don’t stumble upon it. But I think music is a very important part of our sanity, you know. We as a band were truly blessed and lucky enough to have each other.
I have always felt that being creative and productive is a crucial part of my mental health and state of mind. During the first part of the confinement, we just snuggled and worked every day from noon to 5 on music, although we were not paid. It was something to do and something to keep one foot in front of the other.
So I think music will be the driving force to bring people together again. I think people need to experience music as much as we do to create it, and seeing live music has something special about it. I love records, I collect records and listen to music, but he’s a completely different monster when he’s live. It’s a different experience, so I think it will be a good one.
How much live music have you done?
I would like to say that I have been around music most of my life. I think a lot of people know me from the world of tattoos, makeup and all these other things, but not everyone knows that music has always been my number one driving force. I have been playing the piano since I was 5 years old. I have a classical background, so music has always been at the forefront of what I do. I started writing this album about 10 years ago.
A few years ago, for example, the last IAMX album, I sang some songs and they were kind enough to invite me to go on tour with them during a part of their European tour. I used that as an opportunity to gain some experience before going on my own tour, and of course I think it’s always different when you play someone else’s songs versus your own. This (band) is my baby so I’m putting 110 percent on it and you will have full creative control. People ask me all the time, “Are you nervous about being on stage?” I have absolutely no anxiety about it. It’s more excitement, you know.
Speaking of your lyrics, I’ve been listening to them and it feels like you’re speaking directly, on some songs, to people who may have been critical of you. Am I hearing that correctly?
Oh no, I mean, I wrote the songs 10 years ago specifically about a relationship I was in and it was a relationship I had with an unrequited love living abroad. He was also a musician, and he ended up writing me an album and sending it to my house, and he mailed it with a letter that said, “These are also things that are easier to sing than to say.” I listened to the album and was very touched and thought, what better way to respond and with another album?
I took singing lessons for two years, six days a week, two hours a day, and I wrote songs during that time, so I think most of my songs are actually, like, sad, melancholic love songs. Unfortunately, I think a lot of people can relate to, you know, but that’s the beauty of love. They are not always flowers and rainbows. Heartbreak doesn’t care who you are or who you think you are, you know? He will deliver your letter to you, no matter what, and that is why I always like to say that my music is like hymns for desperate and hopeful romantics. I keep believing in love and I keep believing in true love and I think that’s something that is important to hold on to.
Changing the subject a bit, but he has received a fair amount of criticism in the media for the things he has said and allegedly done. With our current culture of canceled people and such, what is it like to be on the receiving end of really harsh criticism? What should people who have not been through that know?
Look, I’m no stranger to criticism. Even as a child, I never felt like I belonged anywhere, not even within my own family unit. I’ve always felt different in my own way, and I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. Although it can feel quite isolated at times, I don’t expect everyone to just sing my praises because I think I’m not to everyone’s liking, and that’s okay.
But they called you a Nazi. That’s the hardest it seems.
I mean, it’s quite offensive, especially considering that my husband is Jewish and I’m the furthest thing from that. But I think the media loves to thrive on juicy gossip that people can sink their teeth into, whether it’s accurate or not, and I’ve always chosen not to play with it. I don’t subscribe to any kind of media that spreads terrible rumors like that and I think my true fans know me, they know my heart and they know that all of this is absolutely wrong. So what can you do? You can put a lot of your energy into it or you can just keep living a great life and I think as long as you know your truth that’s the important part.
I was born in Mexico and we moved to America, which by the way is the most beautiful and amazing country on the planet. When you come from extreme poverty, and from a very humble education, for which I am very grateful, my parents instilled in me certain values that have nothing to do with what people say or think about you, you know? I think for a lot of people today, their driving force is finding validation through what others think of them. Personally, I don’t choose to live that way, right or wrong. There are some people who may believe their own hype and then end up being super full of themselves. And then there are the people who are consumed by criticism and also destroyed. That is not a way that I think is a healthy way to live.
So if someone said you’re an “anti-vaccine, Nazi piece of shit,” would that just come out for you?
I don’t really pay attention to those things. I prefer to spend my time creating things. I’ll tell you that right now I have no interest in doing an interview that focuses solely on negativity because now I just want to focus on the music and make it positive. I think that’s the most important thing to me. If you want to find out, as if it hurts when people talk bad about me, I don’t know. I think it would hurt if it was someone I care about, but I don’t know everyone.
I also believe that we are walking among so many wounded soldiers [these days]. Everybody has their own shit that they’re dealing with. I think when people are hurtful, they are probably hurtful on the inside too. So if anything, I feel sorry for people who want to be bad.