Wednesday, 5 October 2016

The King's Queer Tarot Interview!

King’s Queer are a revolutionary art-punk-pop-performance duo from Besançon, France. With one of the most thought-provoking and stunning live performances on the underground and a very strong political message, I've been in awe of them since the moment I first saw them. I interviewed these fabulous French artists through another fabulous French art form, the Tarot de Marseille, and here’s what happened…..


Tarot Cat : Your live show is truly transfixing; the strange costume changes and serious messages you portray often fluctuate between a full-on party vibe, and then into some very dark and strange moments. Thinking about some of your motives behind your performance, I shuffled the Tarot de Marseille cards and drew Le Maison Diev (The Tower). A large building is destroyed by a storm; one person falls from the top, another escapes from the door. Despite the intense image, there are a lot of bright, fun colours present; the mess has created something exciting. How do themes of destruction and catastrophe influence your live performance?

King’s Queer : Well, as we used to say, King's Queer is influenced by all the sorts of art : literature, music, painting, photography, etc. And despite the fact that we're kind of positive people, we really recognise ourselves mostly in tormented art. 

I mean, if you're really an artist, you should have an overview of the world where you live in and from this matter of fact you can't always be positive, you see all the horrors that happen every day and it sort of changes you and makes you ask yourself a lot of questions... and all those thoughts and questions are translated in what you create and most of all in what and who you are on stage.


(Le Maison Diev from CDB Tarot de Marseille) 

Tarot Cat : Your motto is 'Amours et Révoltes', and theres a strong message of liberation in your music. You introduce yourselves openly onstage as a trans man and a dyke, and your lyrics confront sexism, racism, homophobia and so many other oppressive societal attitudes. Thinking about your politics, I randomly drew Reyne de Baston (Queen of Batons/Wands). A powerful, attractive queen sits on her throne, looking a little sad. She holds a large baton in her hand, which is often said to be a sign of creativity and passion; she is a blend of sadness, creativity and power. How do the queens themes relate to your political messages? 

King’s Queer : Haha, not easy to answer, but we'll try...
Firstly, how lucky we are that it's a Queen who's representing our political thoughts! Royalty power! Well, to be serious, as we said for the first question, our art is totally connected to the world where we live. And as we said in one of our songs (mon trou du cul est révolutionnaire – my asshole is revolutionary) everything is political : your gender, what you eat, your friendships, your loves, your hates, and we could continue the list for days and days, so of course politics influence our creativity every day and through our music. When we're on stage, we can feel this kind of empowerment, you get the impression that you can say all that you think, and people will listen and, with a bit of luck, they're going to think about it and talk about it with each other after the show…

Concerning the sadness, well, once again, how can you not be sad sometimes being surrounded by such cruelty and foolishness? But we always try to see what will happen next, after the chaos. Thankfully, beauty lives close to the chaos so...


Tarot Cat : It seems that art is as significant to Kings Queer as music. The vinyl edition of your debut album Amours et Révoltes came with an absolutely gorgeous art collection, with 24 different album prints designed by international artists. Your performances and album artwork have also been a part of many interactive art exhibitions in France. Thinking about what art means to you as Kings Queer, I pulled the Reyne de Coupe (Queen of Cups). Another queen! How do you relate to symbols of feminine power?  This queen looks a little kinder than the Queen of Wands, and she offers a large golden trophy. She seems generous and approachable. I feel a little baffled by this card appearing here, so over to you! How do themes of generosity and femininity tie in with your attitude to art?

King’s Queer : Hurray! Another Queen! Hail to the Qu... no sorry! We're joking!
So you're confused, that's interesting! Do you mean we're not generous and approachable and feminine?

Tarot Cat : You’re two of the loveliest people I know! 

(Reyne de Coupe from CDB Tarot de Marseille) 


King’s Queer : To be honest, we've never thought about how femininity influences our art and we're not sure that it takes more place that masculinity, really not. The idea is to balance between both, always, but without really questioning it. This is just what we are, in life and on stage.

But concerning generosity, for us it's one of the most important qualities to have on stage. People came to see you, so you have to give them all the energy that you've got inside you. And generally, they give it back to you and if it's happening at the same time, you can really feel a moment of ecstasy.

Tarot Cat : Finally, you are the most hard-working band I know. I get exhausted just looking at your tour schedule - sometimes you seem to be performing in a different country each week! I wonder what drives you both to keep working so hard, and I pulled the Valet de Baton (Page of Batons/Wands). A young man holds up a large baton/wand to show to the world - he is often said to be in a stage of learning, someone enthusiastically learning new tricks. Your ongoing performances are reflected in the way he shows his stick to the world proudly; you take pride in your work, and youre right to! I wonder if your motivations for touring are linked to you learning about new people, new cultures/places, rather than just simply showcasing your music to others? Is this one of the main reasons you perform so regularly? Do the different communities you meet inspire you to write new songs?

King’s Queer : Thank you for the compliment - even if we aren't really sure that it's a compliment, we take it as one! Yeah, you know, sometimes we're exhausted by ourselves too, so don't worry, this is normal! Do you really want to know our first motivation? We need to eat! No gig, no food! Haha!

But to talk about our never ending world tour, of course, it's not just about playing music. Both of us are quickly bored so we always need to meet new kinds of people, to discover new countries, new ways of thinking, of living. This is what gives us energy. It's so important to us to share with people with the intention of understanding them, and the world, and ourselves! Generally, when we meet someone or something which inspires us, of course it will be featured in our future songs. For example, in our second album, there's a song called Faa'ito ito : this is a Tahitian word which means something like “may the force be with you” or “take care”, these kinds of things. We wrote this song just after we returned from French Polynesia where we experienced really great moments of music and humanity. So yes, we're really inspired by a lot of things that we experience in life and a lot of people we meet…

Tarot Cat : Thank you so much for taking time out of your ridiculously busy lives my lovelies! What an absolute pleasure it’s been digging into your beautiful brains with the tarot. Amours et Revoltes!

King’s Queer’s new album Amours et Revoltes 2 is out now! They’re also very active on Facebook and there’s every chance they’ll be performing in your country sometime soon - do not miss them! If you fancy a stream in the meantime, here's their first album which is also available to buy on Bandcamp :

 

The Tarot Cat is a tarot-reading DIY musician based in Scotland. If you liked this post, please sign up to the blog by email (top right of the page) for more tarot-music interviews!

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Ton Steine Scherben - Tarot-Inspired German Rock Legends

The 70’s/80’s rock/punk/folk band Ton Steine Scherben will no doubt be familiar to those of you who are German, or perhaps living in a German-speaking country. For me however, they were totally unknown until my musician friend, the incredible queer indie-punk Maybecyborgs, introduced me to the band - and I’m in love!

Earlier I wrote a blog about the Mike Batt tarot album that I randomly found at an Edinburgh vinyl music sale, inspired by the Major Arcana. This idea for writing an album is apparently not as uncommon as I first thought, however there are/were definitely some people doing it better than others (sorry, Mike), and Ton Steine Scherben were one of them. 

                                             

Originally a political anarchist folk band, they performed at fundraisers and supported great political movements in the 70’s. The band also boasted one of the very few openly gay, mainstream singers - the incredible Rio Reiser (very fucking cool indeed). 

Their 1981 album IV (sometimes referred to as the Black Album) is a gripping and sometimes bizarre album that combines post-punk, folk and pop into trippy and obscure themes inspired by the Major Arcana tarot cards. Have a listen to Jenseits von Eden (East of Eden) - their song inspired by the Wheel of Fortune card. Yes, it's a little dated in that 80's rock sense, but Rio Reiser's raw, passionate vocals are fantastic.

              

It’s even more fascinating to me that the band all took on new roles as songwriters and musicians - for example, their drummer Götzner wrote a song for the band for the first time, after they gave themselves over to pulling cards for making decisions for the album. What a random and creative approach!

Rio Reiser passed away in 1996, leaving behind some incredible music. I’ve heard that in Germany he’s pretty much a rock staple, perhaps even a bit cheesy to some people. I’ve been touched by his path in life - coming out as gay, becoming politicised, forming a band, supporting leftist political movements with his music and then becoming a tarot obsessive. In a nutshell, that has been my own path (albeit on a much more underground scale!), and I’m a little transfixed by this guy’s life and music. I hope he's doing a tarot reading for Freddie Mercury somewhere in another realm right now!

The good news for me is that I’m off to Germany next week, and finding a copy of this gorgeous double LP is at the very top of my to-do list. For now, a youtube playlist of the full album will have to do for us, my chickens!

If you have any interesting anecdotes about Ton Steine Scherben, or if you know of any tarot-inspired artists from any era (underground current musicians very welcome), please post them in the comments below or email me. I’d love to hear from you!

The Tarot Cat is a tarot-reading DIY musician based in Scotland. If you liked this post, please sign up to the blog by email (top right of the page) for more tarot-music revelations and interviews!

Monday, 29 August 2016

The Zdrada Pałki Tarot Interview!

Zdrada Palki is one of the most fun, exciting and kick-ass queer feminist musicians in Europe. Originally from Poland (and now residing in Berlin), her unique ability to blend the highly political and the delightfully kitsch is music to just about everyone’s ears who hears her. I just had to interview my favourite political pop star through the medium of the Deviant Moon tarot, and here’s what happened…. 


Tarot Cat : Your music a lot of fun, but its also highly political. Your lyrics taken on extremely serious topics (such as the lack of abortion rights in your home country, Poland), and yet you somehow manage to do this whilst sounding like youre in the middle of an extremely kitsch early 90s disco. I wondered about what drives you to make this kind of music, I drew out a tarot card at random, and it was the King of Cups. This is one of the court cardsin the tarot deck, and I instantly like that its a king (rather than a queen), which seems appropriate for a musician with such a genderqueer performance; hes a very camp, flamboyant looking figure, and Im sure youd look wonderful in this outfit! This king holds up a full cup in an offering, hes someone who really understands human beings and wants to assist. The suit of cups is all about emotions, love, relationships, and caring for others. This paints your motivations for making music in a really dignified light - would you say that caring for others, or being sensitive to other peoples feelings is one of your motivations behind making music? 

Zdrada Palki : I’d rather see the king of cups as someone who likes to be in the centre of attention and uses this position of power to do influence the reality. Thinking of king of cups I immediately saw an image of a party person, a hedonist, someone raising a glass to make a toast. Such interpretation would certainly fit my motivation for creating Zdrada Pałki. I just feel good on stage. Plus wanted to make simple music, one that people would dance to but give it more of a political content. I was inspired by disco-polo music, which is a popular thing especially in Polish working class and people from smaller cities and villages. The content there is frequently sexist and promotes “traditional values” but I noticed that it’s sometimes played at punk afterparties. And I thought: if people like catchy simple tunes, why not serve it with some radical angle? And how Zdrada Pałki looks was definitely influenced by an unquestionable king: Freddie Mercury. You see: “I want to break free” was my favourite videoclip when I was a child and I kept waiting for my father to put on a dress while vacuuming. Regrettably he never did. 


Tarot Cat : Im really interested in how you actually make the music itself. Youre essentially a DIY, political punk musician, yet your music is very synthy, maybe even a little europop. Thinking about how you go about writing songs, I drew the Four of Cups. Here, again we have cups - the suit of emotions/the heart. The figure here sits at the top of a tower, looking really bored and even a bit sad. The person tosses a cup over the wall into the sea, as if to say, whats the point?. As I think about this, I wonder if you make very hyper, happy-sounding music at times when youre feeling low, bored, sick of everything? Does making fun pop music to accompany political messages make you feel more positive, and perhaps challenge your own negative feelings about the world? 

Zdrada Palki : This is really amazing! Most of the songs I make are really sad and finish deep “in the drawer” cos emo-stuff is not what I want to do with Zdrada Pałki. Maybe one day they will grow into a separate project. But honestly: sad songs bore me to the core. They also make me feel even worse about everything. I don’t need them at this point. So I chose laughing at what annoys me as a kind of therapy, a method of dealing with the reality. 
The process of making these songs is really a mixture. I usually start with browsing through the sound library in FL Studio and gather the sounds I like. So the direction is often a coincidence rather than deliberate action. What I see in common with the person in the picture is trial and error. Maybe the person listens to what sound the glasses make crashing against the rocks. We can’t see how much broken glass is laying around down there. The person has still some cups at hand waiting to be broken. I sometimes do some random beats with no big vision or idea for them. I just try and wait what happens. If I come back to them, I use them. But what is performed on stage is just a fraction of piles of really really bad beats. 


Tarot Cat : Your first album, Kawałki, is one of the few records that hasnt left my iPod in years. Its such an amazing pop record, and Im so excited to hear that youve just finished recording your second album! I drew a card to tell me something interesting about your new record and I drew The World. A mermaid figure dances with two fire sticks in her hands, and around her all kinds of strange creatures seem content and relaxed. This card is generally considered to be one of the best cards in the tarot - its one of the Major Arcanacards which represent major life events, and its also the final card in that sequence, representing a very fulfilling ending or completion of something major. What does this card say to you about your album? 

Zdrada Palki : The image made me actually think of a tattoo that I want to have. So again, a funny coincidence. As for the album though, which I think is going to be called “Nowe Kawałki” (New Pieces), it was a long way. Most of the songs were ready more than one year ago but I struggled with finding time and money for recording. 
The mermaid could be a symbol of a decision I took: to make the album only with non-cis-male help. I found the wonderful Sky Deep, who recorded and mixed the tracks. Before that I released one song “Polonez”, which was co-produced by Basak Gunak, the woman behind Ah!Kosmos project. For me, these choices meant not only more comfort during the process but also an important political act of supporting other non-cis-male artists. Mermaid power! 

What means the world for me is the support I get from the queer community. Even though I sing almost exclusively in Polish I get very warm welcomes in different European countries. It’s very touching and gives me the sense of belonging and being appreciated.  

(Zdrada Palki performing at Silverfuture - my favourite venue in the world! - in Berlin)

Tarot Cat : That’s a very interesting response! It’s often said that the reason the genital area is covered in the original images in The World is actually because the central figure - who has exposed breasts - also has a penis. Obviously this only applies to a very few non-cis-male people, but metaphorically speaking, I love it that you came back with that response. There’s definitely an intuitive tarot reader lurking in you Martyna!

Zdrada Palki : Haha, great! My great-grandmother was a fortune teller. I guess it must have been some of that genetic knowledge.

Tarot Cat : Finally, what are your plans with Zdrada Palki for the near future? Oh, its The Fool! This is one of my favourite cards. A dancing court-jester kind of figure dances in shallow water, with fish biting at his ankles. His card is numbered 0; he doesnt quite fit with the rest of the tarot deck and he looks in the opposite direction to where hes headed. He seems to take joy in simply getting to wherever hes going, without thinking too much about what will happen. Its a very positive card in many ways, theres a real childlike joy in just doing what feels good at the time, without making future plans. Does this resonate with you, with regards to how you are treating the future with Zdrada Palki? 

Zdrada Palki : There’s not much more than concerts for Zdrada Pałki coming up. But maybe I’ll have a first video coming out this year! We’ll see. I’m kind of going with the flow, without major plans. 


I totally identify with the fool! I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to do in a year (after the contract for my day-job expires). My fantasy is to stop selling my time for money at all, or at least do it just part-time and commit more to things that are “waiting” - the ideas I never had time to develop. Since Zdrada Pałki has been more of an “expensive hobby” than anything else, I’m aware this kind of work can’t be a source of income. I’m playing with a scenario of living with very little money. Since in capitalist reality it’s clearly not the direction to go, this is exactly what I want to do.

Tarot Cat : Thanks you so much for giving me your time Martyna! You’re a disco pop inspiration to all of us, and I offer a final gentle purr of gratitude!

Zdrada Palki’s new album will be out in late September. You can pay what you like for her debut album and singles over at Bandcamp. Follow her on Facebook for news on the new album!

The Tarot Cat is a tarot-reading DIY musician based in Scotland. I blog about tarot and musical-tarot connections and I provide creative tarot readings via my website. Sign up to my mailing list here! More posts on the way....Love Ste x

Friday, 22 July 2016

The K Anderson Tarot Interview!

K Anderson is an immensely talented and fascinating DIY indie-pop singer-songwriter living in London. He has a number of incredible releases under his belt as well as a super fun Youtube channel where he makes beautiful and kooky covers of classic pop songs. Not afraid to open up in his lyrics about his queerness, his awkwardness, and self-criticism, I was desperate to interview him through the medium of a cutesy, fluffy tarot deck - the Tarot of the White Cats! Here’s what happened….


Tarot Cat : What I love about your lyrics is how brutally honest you are; I never get the sense that you’re trying to paint yourself in your best light, which is really inspiring and human. Your track Everybody’s Moving to Berlin, for example, is particularly frank, especially the lines ’I’m risk-averse and comfortable’, and ‘I wasn’t always this dull’. Thinking about this I pulled a card at random and it was the (delightfully tacky in this deck!) Knight of Pentacles. Pentacles can be thought of as the practical suit, the one that relates to the material stuff, earthy stuff, finances, physical security. This Knight is a well-armoured cat holding up a coin, not charging so fast like other knights in the deck, or as growly as the same card in other tarot decks - he seems to be passionate about safety and making sure things are well grounded and secure. How does this Knight’s themes of security, practicality and safety relate to your lyric writing?

K : Theres a lot to respond to here. My thoughts are going in all directions, so being the practical person that I am I shall create a list in order to capture them effectively:
-       Firstly, thank you for that compliment (if, indeed, you are using brutally honest as a compliment!). When finding my songwriting voice I realised that, as a listener, I was always drawn to the more conversational/ordinary songs, and so thats how I aspire to write. I think too often songwriters try to be clever or overly poetic, and my feeling is that this can end up making your song's message impenetrable to the average listener. 
-       With that in mind, though, I wouldnt say that my approach to lyric writing is safe’ or 'secure'. Though Im probably a bigger douchebag than I let on, I am still more interested in being human than being perfect. In the back of my mind whenever I am writing is the voice that asks 'will I be comfortable performing this lyric in two years time?', and that normally helps filter out the more wooly, cliche, meaningless lyrics. Occasionally it means that I don't tell the world the minute details of my sexual practices too, which can only be considered a good thing. 
-       This is slightly tangential, but refers to the 'secure' element of your question - Ive always struggled being a musician. I am so unlike all of my musician friends  I am practical, methodical, logical  and this has always felt diametrically opposed to the typical attributes associated with creative types. In fact, Everybodys Moving to Berlin is about this very topic  wondering how my life would have been different if I wasnt so sensible, wasnt relying on knowing the plan, and had trust that the universe would carry me. There are many great things about being practical - those who have a plan are more likely to actually achieve something, after all... But, I've always had multiple plans, just to be on the safe side, and I wonder how different things would be if I had focused all my attention on one thing instead.



Tarot Cat : Being a DIY musician can be such hard work, yet there are so many rewarding experiences that keep us sending those seemingly endless emails and trudging across public transport to get to the next gig. Focusing on the positives of your life with music - the fabulous things that drive you to put your music out into the world - I drew The Star. This is one of the major cards in the tarot, speaking of significant stages in our lives. A cute cat pours away two jugs of water, she has one step in the lake and there’s a massive star in the night sky above her while she smiles. I’ve always related this card to individuality, pouring away the shit that isn’t needed, realising your own potential and going against the grain even if it confuses the hell out of everyone around you. What’s coming up for you here?

K : The thing that confused me most when I was starting out as a performer was the number of people who thought that I was a comedy act. I would go to open mic nights, or acoustic gatherings, and when I'd play my songs I'd get these patronising comments afterwards, implying that I was less serious or authentic than everyone else. And, these comments were coming from the type of overly-earnest singer-songwriters who would rhyme moon and june, and retread familiar themes in a hackneyed way. Perhaps it's because I'm more confident now, or maybe my writing has evolved to the point where people just 'get' it easier. Or, now that I have a beard I look scarier, and people are afraid to say things that may piss me off. Whichever is the reason, it certainly feels that this has shifted. .. So, I'm glad that I just plugged away and did my thing, but there were certainly times when I wondered why others couldn't see what I did. And, I guess it's important to reflect that I went against the grain not because of my extraordinary determination, but because I didn't know how to be any other way. In amongst my many crises of confidence I probably considered writing more safe and familiar lyrical content to my songs so that I could sound like everyone else. It was my complete ineptitude at adapting that helped me stay in the right rut! 


Tarot Cat : Next I drew a simple card to reflect how you’re feeling about your work with music right now and I pulled the Five of Pentacles at random. Again we’re dealing with Pentacles and all of those practical/financial/material concerns, but here we have a chaotic number five; two cats are walking through the snow, one is on crutches and the other wears rags. It feels difficult. The cats are walking past a church with coins in the window, and trudging on past it without looking. How might this image be relating to your feelings around your music life at the moment? Are things perhaps feeling a bit tough music-wise? 

K : I think it always feels tough. My usual cycle is music is too difficult, and no one loves me, and Im wasting my time thinking that I can ever get this to work, to having a break of a few months, and then feeling like why did I take a break? Music is amazing! I need to pick up my momentum again and do more gigs and songs and performances, and after a few months of this Im back at the start. I'm at an age where my idealism isn't strong enough to think that this will ever change, but I've not quite managed to get good at riding or ignoring these feelings. So, I guess, in answer to your question - it's a hard knock life. There's nothing particularly different that I can think of at the moment, but purpose and direction are a constant concern... 

Tarot Cat : You have some really beautiful and unusual cover song videos on youtube - my favourite being Cher’s If I Could Turn Back Timemade super lo-fi with an Omnichord! I drew a card for your cover project and got The Hanged Man - a kitty hanging upside down from a tree, but seemingly finding it amusing. I instantly feel like you enjoy turning things on their head, looking at songs from another perspective, finding another message in well known songs…what are your thoughts on The Hanged Man and your cover project?



K : I think that this a good card to remind me why I am making covers, and that's primarily to have fun. I know that we've talked about this in the past, but with this constant need for approval and attention that comes with the digital age it can really confuse me about my motivation and intention. I love to record cover songs, learning about the composition and creating arrangements, and then I love to shoot and edit videos, finding creative ways to enhance the song. BUT, as soon as I share these creations with the world I have at least a day with a knot in my stomach, convincing myself that everyone hates what I've done and feeling upset that I've only managed to get 50 views in the first hour. So, basically - I see this card as a reminder that I need to get better at having fun (which, admittedly, is something that I should be applying to other areas of my life), and stop trying to second guess or analyse things too much (but, on a side note, I love to geek out at the analytics that come with a youtube account)! 

Tarot Cat : Finally, I wondered what your plans for the future are and I randomly pulled The Hierophant. A religious-looking figure holds up his hand and appears to be teaching two other kitty figures who give him full attention. There’s something fairly conventional about this guy, perhaps he’s relaying some well-known knowledge to others - teaching perhaps? - or sharing the stuff he knows. I’m inclined to ask if you’ve got something else planned alongside your music, maybe something that compliments it (or even not!) that this card is reflecting?

K : I have no idea what this card is about! Ha ha. I am not always patient enough to be imparting and teaching, and I'm not authoritative enough for people to want to listen and learn! I think, reflecting on my character, this card may actually be about letting people in and sharing myself - and, by extension, valuing myself and what I have to offer. I have no problem being honest about who I am in songs, but there's still a large part of me that is terrified by human beings, and I find it easier to be self-deprecating and evasive than to attempt making honest connections. So, maybe that's my takeaway - allow myself to be vulnerable. 

Take a gander at the video for K’s beautiful song Everybody’s Moving to Berlin



Now head over to K Anderson's Bandcamp page for all of your pop needs! His limited edition 'zine/EP releases are real bundles of multimedia creative gorgeousness and a little birdy tells me he's down to his last few...

The Tarot Cat is an underground, DIY, tarot-reading musician based in Scotland. I adore providing tarot reading for musicians and creatives - or just about anyone who wants to look at something in a creative and interesting light! You can find out more about my approach to tarot and book readings on my main website. More tarot-music interviews on the way! Miaow for now! Love Ste xx 


Thursday, 21 July 2016

Mike Batt's 'Tarot Suite' - a bizarre 70's Tarot Find!


So my dears. As you know, I’m interested in what happens when tarot and music come together, and I have a bit of amazing synchronicity to share with you. A few weeks back, me, my boy Lukasz and my best friend Julia (who was visiting Scotland from Manchester) were doing the LGBT Pride march in Edinburgh across the City, enjoying some sunshine and queer empowerment (albeit with a dreadful hangover), and we somehow strolled right into a vinyl music fare directly after the march. Being Edinburgh, the beautiful summer turned to horrendous torrential rain within minutes, and we needed shelter. As always, I was desperate to buy some big old vinyl; I finally bought that Marianne Faithful record that’s been on my wishlist since 1997, and THIS big old tarot treat which I paid a fiver for, Tarot Suite by Mike Batt (1979, EPC). I had no idea who he was then and am still confused (although a quick Wikipedia peek reveals that he created The Wombles theme music. Respect!)....


(I don’t know who the creepy cover doll person is, but it makes a great Fool image - you can’t see in this light, but it’s got “The Fool’ written at the bottom of the card) : 

Let’s get the music bit out of the way. There’s elements of 70’s disco, prog rock and some songs would make a fitting soundtrack to an early 80’s car chase movie. You can hear The Wombles link for sure at times - I even recognise his voice from the theme tune! At it’s worst, it’s Meatloaf lost in Disneyland, pondering for his lady friend. It’s at its best in strange moments of musical experimentation, when it plays with synthy-stringy movie soundtrack styles and allows dramatic changes to occur in each song (Mike blended different card meanings/images into single songs, for example The Night of The Dead is influenced by The Hanged Man, Death, Temperance, The Devil and The Tower cards. As you can imagine, there’s a lot going on in that song!). Despite my sarcasm here, I love this album’s tarot creativity. I am not a music journalist and my interest in sharing this find is in sharing its simple musical tarot goodness. I might not like the music itself, but I have a great respect for this album’s concept. A lot of work, imagination, creativity and inspiration has gone into this, and I love it for that. 

Mike set out to make an album inspired by the Major Arcana and to work the symbolism and images into songs. It’s the artwork and idea that I love the most, rather than the actual music (we did have a little post-Pride giggle at the music, but hey, I was once described as “an embarrassment to British music”, so who am I to critique?). It’s found a place in my vinyl collection, even if I will just pull it out and smile at the fabulous tarot artwork every now and then. The sleeve is like a mini tarot book, take a look : 



 Mike gives a heads up on the basic (generally understood) 'meanings' of the Major Arcana here, and it’s better than many Little White Books that accompany tarot decks....


I love this part of the sleeve, where Mike explains how he went about making the songs, and he introduced me to this beautiful looking Italian deck made by Gumppenberg (Milan) in 1820 (my deck wishlist is growing again). 



So, will I listen to this record a lot? Nope. But so what? It’s fascinating for me to discover who has been using tarot cards to make music over the years and how they are doing it, and this baby is a little gem.

The Tarot Cat is an underground, DIY, tarot-reading musician based in Scotland. I adore providing tarot readings for musicians, creatives, LGBT+ people and just about everyone who wants to look at something in a creative and interesting light! You can find out more about my approach to tarot or book a reading on my main website. More tarot-music findings are on the way (sign up for email updates in the top right of the page my chickens). Love Ste xx 

Sunday, 29 May 2016

The Gaptooth Tarot Interview!

Gaptooth is a kick-ass electro-pop one-woman-band based in London, UK. Her gorgeous, catchy-as-hell music never fails to get the crowd moving, and her lyrics contain some of the smartest political commentary that I’ve come across in years. Here’s what happened when I interviewed her with the Tarot of the Cat People deck (Karen Kuykenall/US Games).



Tarot Cat : Firstly, I absolutely love your new record, the Pillow Fort EP! Its classic Gaptooth - cheeky pop synths, a touch of punk, and lyrics that are as playful as they are political. Underneath the humour there is a lot of cynicism, perhaps even a touch of apathy at times? Thinking about this, I drew a card - the Page of Wands. This is an interesting card to reflect on cynicism; a young-looking figure holds up a lantern and has a fat, adoring cat as a companion. It seems to be a hopeful, positive card; we might see this Page as someone who is enthusiastically learning new things, with an open minded approach to their creativity. Do you feel its important to have a positive, playful approach when dealing with cynicism? What other things might this Page be saying about your music? 

Gaptooth : Thanks for your nice words about my music! Ive always liked songwriting that was a bit cynical but with an underlying sense of hope. Songwriters like Stephin Merritt (The Magnetic Fields) and John Darnielle (The Mountain Goats) who bring a heavy dose of cynicism and dark humour, but give you a sense that deep down they do believe in life and love and romance, in the broadest sense of the word. Ultimately, if you dont believe in something theres no point, is there? Theres a line I wrote in Plans and Friends and Records that says misanthropy is boring. Sometimes I just write life lessons into my lyrics to remind myself when I forget them.

Apathy is something I try to avoid, but sometimes its important to make a distinction between apathy and self-care. One song on the EP, I Built a Fort, is about frustration with the current state of the world war, climate change, austerity, oppression and so on and a desire to hide away from it all. The song is tongue-in-cheek, and I think its important not to walk away from injustices and pretend theyre not happening, but its also important to look after yourself sometimes. In my day job I work on issues around gender and violence, and in my spare time Im very involved in feminist activism which can take up a lot of evenings and weekends, so sometimes its really important to take a step back from that and think about self-care.


This card made me think of that because the character has a cat by their side, which looks like their faithful companion. My music and my cats are a really important part of my self-care strategies. Ive always had felines around the place and they look after me as much as I look after them.

Tarot Cat : Youre a strong advocate of feminism, both in your music and in your wider working life too. Thinking about your approach to human rights, I drew the Knight of Swords. This is a really powerful, no-bullshit card. A warrior-type figure sits on a huge panther. No cuddly kitty this time around! The figure holds up a purple sword (interesting colour for a mighty weapon!) and seems to be extremely alert and confident. Theres an element of defence in the way the sword is being held - it seems more like a strong reaction to attack, rather than an instigation of attack. What does this reflect in your approach to feminism, both in your music and other areas in your life?

Gaptooth : I love this card! My favourite colour is purple, and Ive always thought that if I was a super hero I would ride a big cat.

I guess like a lot of women, I came to feminism in part through personal experiences of sexism, through feeling like I was under attack in different ways. I think most women I know have had some fairly horrible experiences in Good Guys I sing the line all my female friends have stories of assault, which I dont think is even an exaggeration. Songs like Stay Away From Me and Tigerstrikes are about trying to reclaim your personal power in the face of situations of abuse. This card sums that up pretty well You mistook me for a pussycat / so watch out for when the tiger strikes.

Im really involved in activism against government cuts to services for survivors of domestic violence. It very much feels like many of the things feminists have worked hard to achieve in recent decades are under attack from this government. Its frustrating and exhausting, but organising politically with other women and has been a really empowering experience. Sometimes getting out on the street and shouting can make you feel a whole lot better about the world.



Tarot Cat : In the past you have expressed a real distain for the UK music scene (which Im totally with you on for around one thousand reasons). I drew a card to reflect on your gripes with the way things are, and it was the Nine of Wands. A feminine figure stands before a prison-looking structure. Theres an army of hungry-looking cats behind the bars, scratching at her feet for attention. Again its the suit of Wands, hinting at creative projects. She looks wary, and seems to be protecting this strange kitty prison, perhaps expecting an intruder. How is this image relating to your attitude to the UK music scene?

Gaptooth : Theres a lot about the way the music industry is going that I find frustrating. I first became involved in it around 2002 when I started working for (the now defunct) Truck Records, recording bands, putting on gigs and working at Truck Festival. Since then it feels like it has become harder and harder for artists. Streaming services make it harder to recover the costs of recording, and many promoters are much more interested in how many followers you have on social media than on the quality of your music.

The fact that it has become easier for people to record and release music for themselves is great for so many reasons, but the sheer number of people doing it means that increasingly you need a big budget behind you in order to compete for exposure. So I suppose I sometimes feel a bit like one of those hungry kitties scratching for attention, without much luck.

Ive read a few articles online recently suggesting that bands who dont tour all the time and put out an album every year wont make it (whatever that means) because theyre being lazy. But the harder it gets to earn a living from music, the more artists face a choice between either fitting music around a full time job (as most do), which puts limits on how much you can do, or living in a state of extreme financial precariousness.

Tarot Cat : Do you have any musical plans right now? OH, its The Magician! Number one in the Major Arcana (the suit said to reflect major stages in life), the very beginning. This Magician is a tough-looking one, wearing a huge cloak and commanding three suits of cups, wands and pentacles with the final suit - a sword. In other words, The Magician seems to be bringing a very balanced approach to the situation, not focusing on one area, but rather balancing many approaches to look at the situation as a whole, with power, skill and determination. What is this Magician reflecting?


Gaptooth : Musically, I’m working on my second album and hoping to start gigging more around the country, having not really played live much in the last couple of years. I am also anticipating quite a big life change as I’m going back to uni in September to start a PhD. I’m hoping (possibly naively) that this will allow me to balance my work and my music better, as my lifestyle will be slightly more flexible. Working quite long hours in a job that has required me to travel a lot has made it quite difficult to focus on music at times. So I hope this will allow me to gig a bit more and get this album finished more quickly than the last one.

Tarot Cat : Finally, a question about the cards, but without the cards! Youre a fan of tarot yourself, arent you? What draws you to tarot, and how do you use it?

Gaptooth : My mum was a new age therapist, so I grew up with a lot of things that other people might think of as a bit kooky or weird. I have a Celtic tarot deck, which I chose because I liked the pictures (though I am super jealous of your deck, Tarot Cat!). I have a particular group of friends who I dont see that often but when I do, we usually do each others tarot. For some people its a spiritual thing, for others its more just a way of talking through things that are going on in your life and getting a different perspective on them.

Tarot Cat : Thanks so much to you Gaptooth! Youre a true pop inspiration in a world of bland, dumbed down music, and The Tarot Cat purrs lovingly at your smart, fabulous, feminist feet. Please dont stop doing what youre doing, and many purrs for giving me some your super-valuable time.

The Pillow Fort EP is out now and available on Bandcamp. It's incredible, trust me. You can also follow Gaptooth on Facebook and check out the amazing new DIY video for Stay Away from Me below, featuring some very confused Bristolians (keep an eye out for the charming, stalking dog!)


This interview is the first in a series of tarot interviews with incredible, out-there underground musicians. You can sign up to the blog by entering your email in the subscription bar (top right) - there’s some amazing interviews coming up I promise thee!

The Tarot Cat is an underground, DIY, tarot-reading musician based in Scotland. I adore providing tarot reading for musicians and creatives - or just about anyone who wants to look at something in a creative and interesting light! You can find out more about my approach to tarot and book readings on my main website. More tarot-music joy coming soon! Miaow for now! Love Ste xx 

Follow The Tarot Cat on Twitter