Friday, March 30, 2018

Surviving ‘Spit:’ Fallon Bowman on Life after Kittie

Fallon Bowman performing with Pigface, 2016 (photo by Alex Zander)

It’s 2001. Seventeen-year-old guitarist Fallon Bowman is on the road in support of Spit, the hit debut album by her band, Kittie. The group’s on rotation on MTV, hitting stages at Ozzfest and beyond and enjoying the perks that come from being a popular act on tour. But just as things are picking up substantial steam for the group, Bowman is looking to bail.

“We were just diverging in terms of what I was interested in doing musically,” she reveals nearly two decades later. “I think I wanted to introduce more elements that I don’t think they were thinking about. We talked about it while we were writing what would become [Kittie’s second album] Oracle. I was heavily invested in the Industrial sound and listening to that kind of music, and that was not where everybody else was at. I was on an island all on my own, so I said, ‘This isn’t going to work. I don’t know how we can compromise on something like this.’ There were also pressures from the record label; we had to write the second record like yesterday, and there were all these artistic differences happening. Being young and inexperienced, there was nothing to help me navigate that impasse at the time. It all came to a head. It happens in bands all the time, but rarely does it happen to band on this rise at 17 years old.”

Although years of hindsight have ultimately helped Bowman find peace with her decision to leave Kittie, she spent the initial months following her departure “horribly depressed” and rarely stepping out of her house.  

“I was quite scared. I was still a developing woman at the time, emotionally and physically. In terms of my comfort level, I knew I had to do it at the time, but it really pained me. I didn’t get over it and start being comfortable with it being the correct decision until I was around 20. I still firmly believe it was a good move for me at the time, but I was very insecure about it. I didn’t know anything else besides listening to music and doing music. It was like, ‘What else am I going to do with my life?’ It was a very, very difficult time for me.”

Eventually, Bowman found her way back. In addition to filling in on guitar for a tour with the Canadian band Tuuli (featuring future Eagles of Death Metal bassist Jennie Vee), she launched a new project called Amphibious Assault. Featuring contributions from Spit/Oracle-era Kittie bassist Talena Atfield, Amphibious Assault’s Industrial-driven sound can be heard on 2003’s District Six and 2007’s On Better Days And Sin-Eating.  
Shortly before the release of District Six, a chat with longtime friend Jason Miller (Godhead) unexpectedly started a new and exciting chapter in Bowman’s musical story.

“It’s interesting that when I left Kittie, a lot of people just refused to talk to me. It was very strange; it was like, ‘Okay, so we weren’t really friends?’ Jason kept in touch with me, and I expressed interest in working with other people. He said, ‘Listen, I have a friend; you might have heard of him.’”

That friend was veteran Post-Punk/Industrial drummer and Pigface bandleader Martin Atkins.

“Jason dropped the bomb; at first, I was like, ‘WHAT?! Really? COOL!’ Martin called me about a week later; he was like, ‘Come down to Chicago. We’ll do this!’”

Before long, she was in the studio recording lead vocals to Pigface’s cover of the Delts 5 classic “Mind Your Own Business.” The song later became the opener on Pigface’s 2003 album, Easy Listening…For Difficult Fuckheads.

“Martin’s such an easy-going guy. How could you not love that man?”

In November 2016, Bowman flew to Chicago from her then-home in Demark to join Atkins and 30-plus other Pigface members for special 25th anniversary shows at Reggies and the House of Blues.

“What an experience! Just being around people who are so immensely talented and accomplished was invigorating in and of itself. Being able to perform ‘Mind Your Own Business’ was amazing. Of course, I inserted myself into ‘Godlike’! (laughs) Being around [former KMFDM/longtime Pigface singer] En Esch and his loveliness was enough for me to die a happy woman. It was a tremendous privilege to share the stage with such incredibly talented and overall good people. There was so much love and respect between people. It made me really, really miss performing a lot.”

These days, the easiest way to catch Bowman on stage is through her work as an actress in various stage productions around Ontario. Fans can also catch her vlogs on travel and other subjects on her YouTube channel, FallonBowmanTv, and listen to her monthly Deftones Album Breakdown podcast with co-host Jon Beatty (Jon’s Untitled Podcast).

“Deftones are my favorite band of all time. I’m consistently wowed, and I respect the shit out of all of them. My comments [on the podcast] are usually about the feelings I associate with the music, and Jon is a little more technical with things in terms of discussing the production point of view.”

As for her own music, she insists that there is more to come.

“I’ve designated 2018 as the year to be as massively creative as possible. Whether it be writing or drawing or doing music, it’s about getting things done. I have tons of material, but I think I’m my own worst enemy when it comes to finishing these things. I also miss collaborating with someone else; I’m really tired of doing things on my own. I think I just need that extra push of creative mojo from another person or other people to push me forward.”

Until then, listeners are encouraged to check out Bowman’s brilliant 2011 solo album, Human, Conditional, on Bandcamp. An eclectic affair that falls somewhere between Amy Winehouse and Evanescence (and boasts an extraordinary rendition of Depeche Mode’s “In Your Room” – also covered in a much different form on District Six), Human, Conditional was initially planned as a release by Fallon and the Grace Dynasty, her then-band with The Birthday Massacre drummer Rhim. However, logistical issues prompted the album to be put out as a solo record. 

“The problem was that a lot of the people in the Grace Dynasty with me were all in their own bands. I was like, ‘Okay, I have all these songs that I’ve written. I’m going to go and record it, but I won’t put it out under our name.’ I would love to play with them again. There was a fantastic chemistry between all of us.”

More recently, Bowman found herself re-connecting with her former Kittie bandmates for the premiere of Origins/Evolutions, the just-released documentary on the band’s 20th anniversary. Although she participated in the project’s crowdfunding efforts and was interviewed for the film, she was still very surprised by the finished product. 

“I didn’t follow the band after my involvement with them. I wanted nothing to do with hearing about them or anything. Getting to see what they had to go through after Talena left the band was interesting to me. There were so many things that I had no idea had happened. It was very informative to me as a former member. We kept in contact, but we never really had in-depth conversations about the things they had to deal with and the ups and downs post-Oracle. It was very interesting to me on that level, and it was quite shocking at times. I was like, ‘Wow! That’s crazy!’ But I enjoyed it; I laughed my ass off at some parts, and there was the appropriate amount of emotion injected in there. It was very well done.”

In addition to being on hand to celebrate the film’s first official viewing, she joined the other original members of Kittie – singer/guitarist Morgan Lander, drummer Mercedes Lander and bassist Tanya Candler – on stage for a live set at an after-party at the London Music Hall in Ontario. 

“It was super surreal. We hadn’t practiced together at all. (laugh) For the most part, it was okay. There were times when I had to wake myself again; I was like, ‘What the fuck am I doing right now? Yesterday, I was at work, and now I’m playing in front of thousands of people!’ It was a very emotional experience at times as well, and it was different for me because Talena wasn’t there. I played the majority of my time in the band with her. That made me a little sad, but overall it was just an incredible experience. I couldn’t believe that people remembered certain things, like, ‘Do you still burn a candle when you play?’ I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’ Then, I realized, ‘Oh, yeah. I used to do that, didn’t I?’ People have a longer memory than I do, I suppose!”

The event also gave the guitarist a chance the experience Kittie’s post-Oracle material live when a later incarnation of the band took to the stage.  

“I was so fucking blown away listening to them play the songs that they play now as opposed to the ones we wrote as 13 year olds. While those songs were good, the stuff that they’re doing now is fucking spectacular. It got so much more complicated, but really in an admirable and mind-blowing way – and that’s coming from a former member and somebody who used to be in the band. The band we were in 2000 and 2001 is not the band they are now. They’re a well-oiled machine.”

With her former band celebrating their 20th year, Bowman looks back at her Kittie experience with respect for what they accomplished in the early days and admiration for her past bandmates’ ability to persevere to the point where they are now one of the last bands standing from the late-’90s Nu Metal boom. 

“I think Kittie’s longevity has quite a bit to do with people already deciding that we were – and they would continue to be – a band that would fall off the [industry] conveyer belt at the end. I won’t speak for them, but as I know them, I think it would have been quite motivating for them to not want to be what everyone was thinking they would be – a one-hit wonder and a product of the times. That was a very strong feeling from the very beginning; we wanted to be in it for the long haul and continue to make music and grow.”

More on KittieStill Clawing: Kitties Morgan Lander on the Band's New Documentary & Undying Resilience 

Fallon Bowman at Bandcamp

Fallon Bowman on Facebook 

Fallon Bowman on YouTube


Still Clawing: Kittie's Morgan Lander on the Band's New Documentary & Undying Resilience

Since 1996, Canadian singer/guitarist Morgan Lander and her drummer sister, Mercedes, have led Metal veterans Kittie through more than two decades of immeasurable highs and soul-crushing lows. Now, a years-in-the-making documentary film aims to tell the truth behind one of the most complex and emotionally charged narratives in music history.

The result of a successful Indiegogo campaign launched in 2014, the just-released Origins/Evolutions traces the band’s history from their beginnings as eager high schoolers writing primitive tunes to their most recent years as a still-relevant, world-traveling sonic force. For Lander, holding a final copy of the three-disc (DVD/Blu-ray/career-spanning live CD) package in her hands has been a heavy experience.

“There’s a lot of emotions. One of them is relief, mainly because I feel like there’s a lot riding on it - obviously because of the milestone and also because it’s been so long that the Indiegogo campaign happened. We did raise a lot of money, and I wanted to be able to pull through for those people. It is unfortunate that these things do take time. I didn’t realize how much went into making a movie and the post-production side of things. It’s all been a learning experience for me, but now I get that when you go and see a movie in the theater, they started working on it like six years before. I’m honored that we were even able to get to this point, and there are a lot of people who are really excited about the release. People still care. It’s a good feeling.”

In addition to chats with family members, friends and supporters, Origins/Evolutions boasts extensive interviews with seven of the nine musicians who’ve spent time playing with the Landers under the Kittie banner over the years.   

“Obviously, in order to tell the story correctly, we needed to make sure that everybody was included. In going forward with this, we put our story in [director] Rob [McCallum]’s hands. Rob objectively looked at everyone - what they had to say and what their side of the story was - and made it into a movie that is digestible for everyone, entertaining and goes through the gamut of emotions. This was the idea that Mercedes and I had, but I’m not a filmmaker and not really a storyteller. We put our fates in Robs hands, and he did a fantastic job.”

Although former bassist Talena Atfield appeared in the original promotional video for the Indiegogo campaign and on the initial poster for the project, her image is noticeably absent from the cover of Origins/Evolutions.

“I honestly can’t really speak for Talena, but she ultimately declined to do the updated interview. She just didn’t think it was the right move for her, and we completely respect her wishes. We had been in touch, and we talked a lot about it. It’s not like we weren’t talking and it was done on purpose or anything like that. She felt it was the right choice for her. She supports us and has said that she’s happy that were getting this out.”

(Another former member, guitarist Lisa Marx, declined to participate in the film in any capacity whatsoever. Lander did not elaborate on the specific details behind the matter.)

The end result of Origins/Evolutions is an intense tale of a band unwilling to surrender despite facing a seemingly endless array of obstacles. Battling drug issues and overwhelmed by the band’s sudden fame, original bassist Tanya Candler jumped ship right before the release of Spit in 2000. Her replacement, Atfield, joined the band in time to appear in the video for their breakthrough hit “Brackish” and tour in support of the record. Just as work began on 2001’s Oracle, guitarist Fallon Bowman left after a fiery inter-band blowup. (Check out this bonus feature for Bowman’s perspectives on the split and her life and career after Kittie.) Atfield soon followed the guitarist out of the band, leaving the sisters to lead a revolving door of guitarists and bassists that has never really stopped spinning. Along the way, the sisters also faced everything from label woes to a lawsuit by Gene Simmons to the sudden death of their father/manager, Dave. Any one of these calamities would have stopped a lesser band in their tracks, but Kittie never gave up.

By the release of 2007’s Funeral For Yesterday, Kittie’s lineup included guitarist Tara McLeod and bassist Trish Doan. Although the album’s smooth production succeeded in earning Kittie considerable radio play, the band’s momentum was dealt another blow when Doan bowed out to address an eating disorder. Two albums later, she returned to the Kittie camp in time to deliver Origins/Evolutions closing words:

I don’t have a final statement, because it’s not over - and we always come back for more.

Tragically, what was meant as an encouraging coda to the film took on a new – and deeply sad – meaning between the end of the production for Origins/Evolutions and the project’s release: Trish Doan, a gifted musician/performer and part of one of Kittie’s most popular incarnations, died in February 2017 at the age of 31.  

Trish Doan 

In an act of tremendous strength, Kittie responded to Doan’s passing by soldiering on as always. Late last year, various past and present members gathered for a special live show in London, Ontario to coincide with the premiere screening of Origins/Evolutions.  

“It was a lot of work to make the premiere happen and to organize all the trips and the sets,” Lander shares. “I was pretty much doing just about all of it by myself. The payoff was 100-fold. I was up there going, ‘Wow, this is one of the best days of my life.’ It feels really good to be able to say after all this time that whatever people have said on the internet and what people think went on behind the scenes with band members and our friendships and that sort of thing, we can all be on stage together, To me, that’s a testament to the strength and the power of the family idea that we’ve just kind of gone with. Fallon, Tanya, Mercedes and I hadn’t been on stage together since 1999. It’s interesting, because with every incarnation that played that night, the chemistry was all still there. To me, that’s the magical element that makes a band a band. People can just get up there and just play a song, but when you can actually see and feel that, it’s something really special. It felt really good to be able to do it all over again with everyone.”

Not surprisingly, all of the hindsight associated with the Origins/Evolutions endeavor has resulted in Lander doing some serious soul-searching.

“When we first started, we were literally children. We started this band when we were 12 and 14 years old. We were 15, 16, 17 when we were just kind of put out there in front of everyone As an adult looking back and having gone through all of my life experiences, of course I’m going to see how people were treated or our interactions or maybe what I could’ve done differently and how things could have been handled differently. Doing the documentary sort of solidified that... I think we all have done a lot of learning and growing and changing as people. We’ve all made mistakes; we’ve all made our reconciliations... I personally can say that I wasn’t always the nicest person to get along with, but I think my experiences in moving forward and becoming the person I am today has allowed me to see that, recognize that and change that. I feel like I am a different person than I was back then.”

Of course, the various recent activities surrounding Kittie lead to an important question: Where does Lander see the band going from here?

“That’s a good question, because I don’t really know that we’ve planned that far ahead. This documentary is sort of the summation of everything we’ve done for the last 20 years, and I don’t know what’s really to come. I am certain that putting this documentary out will lead to a lot more opportunities to think about those thing, like at some point maybe doing another 20th anniversary-type show and having everybody come out and rip a set. I think that would be really cool, but again it would take a lot of planning. It’s not outside the realm of possibility. After that show that we did in October, everybody was so jazzed up about it; we all were like, ‘Yeah, we should do that again!’ It’s quite possible. In the meantime, we’ve all been doing our own things musically and in life. I’ve been working on music aside from Kittie. Mercedes has [her band] The White Swan; she does a lot of shows and recording. We are still really active.”

While the world waits for Kittie’s next move, fans can listen to the Witch Finger Horror Podcast, which features Lander and friends Yasmina Ketita and Megan Stinson watching and reviewing some of the best of the worst in ’80s cinema.

While decades’ worth of bumps in the road led some to count Kittie out more than once, they are still here. What does Lander credit for the quartet’s undying resilience?

“I think we’re stubborn as fuck; that’s a big part of it.,” she replies. “In looking back, there’s an element that we’ve always felt we’ve had to prove ourselves again and again. [It’s] partly the stubbornness and partly because we feel like we still have a lot to offer.”

Mercedes (left) and Morgan Lander (photo courtesy of Right Angle PR)