Helping her craft that sound on Love Made Me Do It are collaborations with Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Dave Grohl (Nirvana and Foo Fighters) and Danny Lohner (formerly of Nine Inch Nails), Bauhaus' Peter Murphy, Linda Perry, and more. Von D shares that though she had originally hoped to release the album and to tour to support it sooner, the coronavirus pandemic led to a change of plans.
"We treated the lockdowns as an opportunity to stay focused on the album, our set list and stage design, and worked together every weekday from noon to 5," she explains of hunkering down with her band -- Gregg Foreman (synth 1), Sammi Doll (synth 2), Dave Parley (drums) and Brynn Route (contortionist) -- in a cottage on her property during the global shutdowns.
Below, Kat Von D opens up about the "unrequited love" that inspired the creation of Love Made Me Do It, and her new chapter as a professional musician:
What made you decide to release your debut album now? How long have you wanted to turn your focus on music?
I’ve been playing music longer than I’ve been tattooing. I was classically trained at the piano from the age of 5, and still play the piano every day. Somehow, I got lucky to have more than one creative outlet, and drawing/tattooing always stole the spotlight. But it’s been a long time coming to have my focus turn onto my music, and after having sold my makeup line a year ago, the plan had been to finally release my music, and go on tour -- and then obviously everything came to a halt.
Did the pandemic impact the making of this album in any way?
When the lockdowns were first announced, my bandmates had moved into my guesthouse so that we could work on music together. We treated the lockdowns as an opportunity to stay focused on the album, our set list and stage design, and worked together every weekday from noon to 5. I think the structure was something we thrived in and helped us make the best of such unknown times. Obviously, like everyone else, our tour ended up being postponed, but the experience bonded us more than we could have ever imagined.
Which artists and musical genres most inspired the sound and feel of this album?
I have always been such a huge fan of synthwave, and the nostalgic sounds of analog synthesizers found in bands like Depeche Mode and The Cure, but I wouldn’t necessarily say we sound like them. I think we have managed to create our own sound, in our own way.
Love Made Me Do It explores themes of love and heartbreak. You’ve had some high-profile relationships – did any of those experiences inspire the lyrics on this album?
Initially, the reason I started writing music 10 years ago was in response to an album that this guy in a band across the sea had written to me. It was a bit of an unrequited love taking place. He had the album delivered to my door with a note on it saying, “These are all the things that are easier sung than said.” After listening through to it several times, I figured what better way to respond than with an album of my own.
Fast forward to now, I have had plenty of time to process and mourn that relationship, and work on myself. I am obviously happily married now to my husband [Rafael Reyes] with a beautiful son, so my husband and I joke around that all these songs were written about my cat instead.
How did you settle on “Exorcism” being your first single? What inspired this song?
To me, “Exorcism” was a perfect song to release as our first single for several reasons. Overall, it encompasses the sentiment of the album, and is one of our more upbeat tracks on the album.
I wrote that song after having binged on every exorcist movie that ever existed, and I loved the idea of tying the act of being possessed by something outside your control to what love can sometimes feel like: losing yourself in someone else, and sometimes it leaving you black and blue. I think you’d be hard pressed to find someone out there who hasn’t found themselves in a self-destructive relationship, and that’s something we can all hopefully learn from and change.
You recorded the original mix of LMMDI in 2014. How different is the final product?
The original mix was more guitar heavy and included lots of live drums, most of which were played by Dave Grohl. I was so excited to work with Adam Noble on that mix, especially since he had worked on my favorite Placebo album [2013's Loud Like Love]. But having had so many years pass without having released it, it just felt right to re-mix it with my bandmates, and give it a different spin that was more in line with the synth-heavy sounds that I love so d--n much. But I’m proud of both versions, and how each sparks different responses, so I'm excited to eventually release both mixes.
Speaking of Grohl, you have an impressive roster of collaborators on this album, including Peter Murphy and Danny Lohner. How did these collaborations come about?
Dave and I have been friends for a long time, and like many of my friends, I met him through tattooing when he came in to get feathers tattooed on his forearms years ago -- and we've been kindred spirits since. One thing I admire about Grohl is how versatile his drumming is, and when I asked him to play on the album, he was more than excited.
As for Peter Murphy, I have been a huge Bauhaus fan for so long, and when Danny Lohner introduced me to a demo version of a song that [they] had written together, I thought, 'How beautiful could this be if we turned it into a call-and-response duet!' And 'til this day, ["Protected"] still remains one of my favorite songs on the album.
Who was your favorite person to work with on LMMDI?
I loved working with everyone, to be honest -- especially my band. They all come from such different backgrounds of music, but we somehow we make up the perfect little goth family. Sammi Doll was the first to join the band, and I had met her on tour with IAMX, and loved her stage presence and passion for synths and sampling. Gregg Foreman had been on the road with Cat Power and The Gossip for ages before we met, but we like to call him a “Moth” -- half Mod, half goth.
And Dave Parley has been playing beats on his MPC for my husband's “Cholo Goth” band, Prayers, for the past 10 years, amongst a few of his black metal side projects, and was already like a brother to me. We also have Brynn Route, a professional contortionist and “movement” dancer who is in our band, and plan on having her play a whip on stage during the live shows.
But aside from my band, it was a dream to be able to work with Dan Haigh from Gunship -- my all-time favorite synthwave band from the U.K. Dan worked on the final mixes and added additional synths on some songs, and I honestly don’t think we could have done it without him.
With all of the notable names already on your debut album, who’s your next dream collaborator?
Oh man! We are already starting to write the second album now, and planning on doing a duet with the legendary Charo on guitar and in Spanish. Writing songs in Spanish is something that I would really like to hone in on for a few songs on the second album. There are a few other surprises we have in the pipeline, but as far as a dream collaboration, I would love to work with Perturbator on something -- anything!
What message do you most want listeners to come away with?
I was never very good at writing “happy” songs. In fact, my go-to will probably always be the melancholy. So if my music strikes a chord, or moves the listener in a way where they feel less alone in an already isolating world, I would die happy.
What’s next for Kat Von D?
I’ll be busy focusing on releasing music all this year, an upcoming livestream event we are in the middle of planning and designing, and hopefully touring in the fall if life allows. But in the meantime, I’m not planning on slowing down at all: writing music, tattooing at my shop in West Hollywood, design for my vegan shoe line [Von D Shoes], and writing two books on the renovation process of the two Victorian houses I’ve been bringing back to life.
Love Made Me Do It arrives Aug. 27. See the full tracklist here:
- "Vanish Intro"
- "Fear You"
- "I Am Nothing"
- "Lost At Sea"
- "Easier Sung Than Said"
- "The Calling"