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Interview: Natalia Kills – Singer, Songwriter and Producer

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Natalia Kills is a British-born Latin singer who has been hovering under America’s radar for the past few years. In 2008, will.i.am discovered the singer after hearing her self-released EP, Womannequin. And the following year, she landed a featured guest spot on Flo Rida’s “Available,” alongside Akon and will.i.am, as well as “Just Play That Track,” a song produced by Lady GaGa’s personal DJ, Space Cowboy.

In preparation for her solo debut, Natalia Kills has crafted a unique musical masterpiece: Perfectionist. The album serves as the soundtrack to her forthcoming film, “The Exhibitionist,” with both components created concurrently to construct the ultimate music experience. Such ingenuity has pushed the connotative boundaries of musical works previously adorned with the title of “concept album.” If Natalia’s “Love Kills, xxx” mini-series is a testament to the handiwork music lovers can expect, then 2010 will definitely be a “killer” year for Miss Kills.

In the midst of a promotional campaign for “Zombie,” Natalia Kills managed to squeeze some time out of her busy schedule and settle down for an interview with Clayton Perry – reflecting on the dangers of technology, her love of Quentin Tarantino, and the inspiration behind Perfectionist.

Your forthcoming album is slated to be entitled “Perfectionist.” When it comes to music-making, is it safe to assume that you have a very TYPE-A personality? [laughing]

Yes! [laughing] I came up with the concept for my album long before I even made any of the songs. I really believe that everyone is a perfectionist. Me, in particular! [laughing] But consider this: every time you go for a job interview, or on a date, or you go shopping, you’re looking for the best. And for me, that’s what it’s all about. Obviously, that spills over into my music and everything else. So that’s where that real concept came from. And when I write my songs, and when I go in the studio, I am in complete control. I choose all of my sounds – from the drums to the guitars. So, I really pay attention to detail, like most perfectionists do with everything.

When you look back on the recording experience, is there a particular memory that comes to mind?

It’s quite interesting. I remember when this concept first hit me. I was looking at all the artists that I am quite fond – like Daft Punk, Depeche Mode and Kate Bush. They’re all very visual and cinematic. And I’ve always had a really great love of foreign film and cinema. So I actually made a film, with an accompanying soundtrack, and it basically goes in complete correspondence. This film is about me. It’s not a documentary or anything like that. And it’s not the show “Love, Kills,” which is more like an adventure series of myself. But it’s more avant-garde. It’s more surreal and hyper-creative. I came up with the concept first, the film second, and the album third. So it’s all one big vision. We live in the “see it to believe it” generation, I think, so if you have an album that has a consistent visual to go with it, you will feel even more involved and connected with it.

On your webpage, you have ART -vs- LIFE written in bold at the top. What does that conflict mean (or represent) to you?

On my blog, I have all of these titles of all of the different pictures that I post. That’s how I see the world. It’s all these situations where it’s like: Is it just life? Or is it a real creativity? Is it destiny of God making a mockery of us or having fun or being creative or giving us a beautiful gift? Either of those. Any of them. Is it really life or is it all art? It’s just for me, the two are entirely combined.

To date, you have released [ten] episodes from your web series, “Love, Kills, xx,” in preparation for your album’s launch. According to the credits, you wrote and directed the episodes as well. How long has film-making and screenwriting been a passion of yours? And if so, tell me about some of your previous film-making experiences?

It all started before I did music. I was doing actually acting. A lot of creative people, they go back and forth from one to the other, because when you’re very creative, if you’re an artist, sometimes you just need to express, whether it is as an actor or a director or writer or whether it’s as a producer, a musician, a singer, a performer and entertainer. So I actually started out acting, and when I was fourteen until I was seventeen, I was on all these shows back in England. And I saw how it worked. You write the script, you cast the characters, you find the producers. They find you the director, the budget. And then you edit it all, and it turns into this wonderful thing. But what I also noticed was, if you watch this wonderful thing – let’s say a horror or a thriller or anything with suspense – if you turn it on mute, there is no way for you to know when it’s dangerous, when you should be sad, when the killer is about to come, when it’s the beginning or when it’s the end. You have no way to know. And it’s almost like music is the heartbeat. It’s the pulse of film. And I feel like music is the heartbeat and the pulse of life. Not just mine, which obviously it’s because this is what I do, but I feel like it is for everyone, you know relating certain songs to breakups or happy memories, or being in college, or a record your mother might have played when you were younger. And it’s all about that, the identification of music being the pulse, being the blood in the veins of life, of film, of everything. So for me, coming from it from that point of view, I think it makes music more dramatic. It makes music more personal. It makes music more relevant. And then making the series, obviously, I had all this experience, so I’ve actually started to put bits of my music in the show, so that people are already familiar with my sound by the time it comes out.

“Love, Kills.” That’s an interesting way of looking at love. When you look at your own personal life, how would you define love?

Love is interesting. And it’s funny that you say that because the point of the show being called “Love, Kills” is that it’s my imagination. The show is me being me, but, it’s all from my dreams or my thoughts or when my imagination is just running wild. And then I’ll write it in an episode, and then that becomes, you know, what it is and how you see it. And it’s full of all these weird secrets. I’m literally telling my fans, “Hey, this is what I dream about, whether I’m tying up a guy or running away or whatever I’m doing, this is how my mind works and this is me being me in every way.” It’s me being me as the reaction; me being me as the controller or creator. And that’s how that is. So, the reason it’s called “Love, Kills” is actually not to do with love killing anyone. It’s how I would sign a letter of my personal secrets. Like “Dear Fans. My imagination is sick. Hope you still love me. Thanks for your support. Love, Kills. xx” And that’s why the show is called “Love, Kills.” But what’s interesting about what you said is that I have a song on my record called “Love is A Suicide,” and it’s actually one of my favorite songs. And if you want my opinion on love, I do believe love is a suicide, for this reason. If you really love someone; I mean, really, really love someone, and you become vulnerable to them, you know, you give them all of your emotions and all of your dedication; you are giving them the power to break your heart, to destroy you, to control you, manipulate you, change you. And every piece of yourself that you donate to them as a gift, and every gesture and kind thing and sacrifice you make, you are taking away from you and adding to them to make them even more powerful. But you’re consciously giving yourself to another person, which really means that it’s not them killing you. It’s a suicide. You’ve given yourself to someone, knowing that they could destroy who you are if they don’t treat you well. So I believe that love is a suicide, one of the most brilliant and necessary suicides that could ever exist.

You definitely have a way with words! [laughing] I find your witty phrasing to be humorous, simply because there is a great amount of depth in your statements, but there is also an interesting twist in their delivery. In fact, the whole conversation that takes place in the car [in Episode 3]was very Quentin Tarantino-esque.

Oh, yes! [laughing]

Are you a big fan of his?

I am! I am a huge fan. You know, often people say to me are there any features or collaborations on your record, and there aren’t, at least as of yet. There are no other singers or artists. But people say if you would like to collaborate with anyone, who would it be? And I would absolutely love to make a music video or a short film or anything related to music with him, because he is so wonderful and random and violent and it’s just so brilliant! I love it.

I jotted down a quote from Episode Three: “…a joke is a very serious thing!” When you wrote the script, what was your intention behind those words?

When I started on Twitter, I didn’t really know how to use it. And I didn’t really like all of these tweets that everyone was tweeting about, you know, “I am eating cereal,” or “I’m late for a meeting.” And, you know, just very mundane things. And it just was not very thoughtful. And I thought: “You know, I’m not really learning anything except how disappointing people are. So, I thought, Well, what isn’t disappointing? Well, great people. And what do great people do? They say great things that are inspirational.” So I started, when I first was using Twitter, the first few months were only quotes of brilliant people who had said wonderful, life-changing or hilarious or emotional things. And now in my show, to kind of keep that alive, even though I tweet quotes a lot less, I find the most relevant quotes and put it at the beginning of almost every episode, with even a quote from my mother, which is quite fabulous coming up on Episode 7. But yeah, I thought I’d keep that alive, because all of these brilliant things that these brilliant people have said only really exist in a flat kind of text. But if you actually apply that to life, it becomes witty. It becomes a mini-revolution. It makes everything make absolute sense from whoever said it. Picasso. Or Dali. Or Winston Churchill. Or Mae West. Marilyn Monroe. All these things that people have said have led to the changing of the world, and it’s time to make it relevant.

Earlier, you made a comment about contemporary music lovers living in an era where they have to see it to believe it, as far as generating interest (or investing themselves) the music. Since 1984, with the release of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” music videos have become a vital in allowing music lovers to expand and add onto the sonic experience. What lasting impression do you want your fans to have after viewing “Zombie”?

Well, it’s funny. When I’m making all of my creations, whether it’s musically or visually, I’m paying attention to all the details. I’m not intending to make anything cryptic. “Zombie” was a complete introduction to me and the world, and for people to see. And I just wanted to include as many of my influential references as possible in an original composition, and I didn’t want to make it cliché, so I didn’t want to be running around with a bunch of zombies or anything. The song, generally, is about feeling a kind of sickening hysteria for someone who doesn’t feel it back for you, like an ex-boyfriend. If you were to describe a common thing girls say, “He never listens to me. I spoke to him, and he never responded to me.” And to me, if someone’s totally despondent, then that’s kind of what a zombie would do. If you just had a conversation with a real zombie, it’d probably just grunt a bunch of things and try and, you know, I don’t know, eat you alive or something. And that’s my real message for that song. “Zombie” is basically making a real life version of a zombie as a comparison to a person who doesn’t treat you very well in a relationship, but you still want to be with them. And the video, of course; I don’t know if you noticed, but it has this little thing where I’m kind of a bit lost in this desert and I’m running around and I’m strapped to this bed with all these nurses and I’m kind of like a mental patient. And that’s kind of how it is. If you were really in love with a zombie, you would probably be committed or wandering around like a vagrant, somewhere. And I do love old horror movies, and I love old film; Hitchcock and everything, and I like film noir. On Wednesdays I go to my local silent movie theatre in Hollywood, and I watch silent films. And I wanted to kind of bring back that feeling. You know, I wanted to stay away from the green screen, hyper-digitalized movement that’s going on at the moment; which I think is great, but I actually believe that all of this technology sometimes can make people even less creative because they almost become lazy. Like you get a green screen and a two thousand dollar camera in HD, and suddenly, you can do a bunch of explosions and all of this stuff. But what you can’t do is make that magic all the time, you know? So I wanted to really strip it back to how things were done originally before the world got oversaturated with technology. Not that I’m afraid of technology. It’s quite wonderful. But I definitely think that it’s good to go back there sometimes.

For more information on Natalia Kills, visit her official website.

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About Clayton Perry