Flipside, Issue 115
Gitane DeMone is no stranger to the underground music scene. She has worked Christian Death, Rozz Williams, and performing solo for years now. She is best known for her work on Ashes and other Christian Death releases (before and after Rozz Williams left the band). After several years in Europe, she has returned to the States and has a new album Am I Wrong? on Triple X Records.
Killjoy: When did you start singing and playing keyboards?
Gitane: I first planned on being a vocalist around 1980. I wrote songs on a little Casio at the time and I never really planned on playing keyboards. But then there was base for that in Christian Death, so I just applied what I knew very simplistically from writing songs into playing keyboards.
Killjoy: Did you have any sort of formal training vocally?
Gitane: Well, when I first started singing I was in a heavy metal band. I sounded very much like Bon Scott of AC/DC or Robert Plant-that “scream singing”. You’re doing it straight from your throat. We did a party with this heavy metal band and the PA wasn’t loud enough, so I used all of my volume. The next day, I couldn’t even speak. So, after quite a few months of healing, I decided to get some training and find out how to sing properly. I learned a few tricks, but the woman’ favorite singer was Barbara Streisand who I loath. There is probably some kitsch value at this time with Barbara Streisand, but I never cared for her or her music. That wasn’t very long lived. I took a few of the tools, forgot the rest, and just learned to sing comfortably.
Killjoy: Was this somebody you knew who started teaching you?
Gitane: It was some technique, Tanya somebody or other, that I saw in The Recycler or The LA Weekly or something like that. I kind of got the gist of it. Don’t sing from your throat if you have teeny-weeny vocal cords which now have nodules in them.
Killjoy: You found this out medically?
Gitane: Yeah, I went and I got checked out with this Beverly Hills doctor. He was recommended, so I saved up my money and went to him. He said, “Well, I’m sorry, but you will never be able to be a singer”. I said, “Well, fuck you….
Killjoy: When was this?
Gitane: This was around 1980, I guess. I just started singing again. Instead of singing AC/DC covers and Led Zeppelin covers, I started singing Billie Holiday, Elvis, and Chuck Berry. Something that was a little more smoother; intense but with no so much screaming. But if you know my work with Christian Death, I went straight back to the screaming again (laughter). I tried to balance it out with softer stuff too.
Killjoy: What are your main influences musically?
Gitane: My first recollection of songs was from the Beatles, because my sister, who is 10 years older than me, was a big Beatles fan. Then my brother listened to Hendrix a lot. The first record that I bought was “A Band of Gypsies” from Hendrix. I liked Pink Floyd, Bowie, and T Rex. Those were earlier influences. There is music that just comes to you, that is evoked out of somewhere, and you find some sort of atmosphere out of your earlier influences. For singing style, I practiced with the great jazz singers for probably 18 years; Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, and Ella Fitzgerald. Those singers to me, especially Billie Holiday, just seem to have this real kind of concentrated intensity and emotional intensity. Being a really aggressive, emotional, and intense woman, that’s what I want to express in my voice. I have just practiced singing along with them for years and years.
Killjoy: I’ve noticed the jazz influence. Especially when you said Billie Holiday…
Gitane: Yeah, she’s my heroine of all time.
Killjoy: How did you get turned on to that music? Was that from your parents?
Gitane: No, it wasn’t. My parents were more into Sinatra and Tony Bennett. Billie Holiday was way too dark for them. My best friend from junior high school and high school, I kind of got back with her when I was around 18, and she had Billie Holiday. I listened to it and just thought, “Oh my god”. Even at that time, I had no idea that I would be a singer. I was an illustrator and a writer and a poet. I thought I would be going totally into that. Then I just started singing her music and kind of emulating her. When you are studying somebody, you tend to sound like them. In years later, you lose it and become your own, unless you are trying to copy them. That wasn’t my intention, but I wanted to learn everything I could.
Killjoy: Studying from different singers, you will catch different qualities from each one and that will eventually develop into your own style.
Gitane: Everybody has something different to offer. It’s kind of fun. You are working all alone and yet you are singing with your favorites. You think, “I’m spending the afternoon with Aretha today or Billie”. It’s nice-good company. “Billie and I, we go way back” (laughter).
Killjoy: What was this metal band that you were in?
Gitane: I was in a couple actually. There was band that was a bunch of high school kids and we used to rehearse in a garage and play at parties. The second one was called Ledger, from Downey, and it was really frightful. They were so machismo. But I just wanted to sing and I didn’t know tiddly-watt. I remember that we did a few gigs at some bars and then we did this battle of the bands at Gazzarri’s and we actually won. I was really shit. I think I had only been singing for a few months. I guess I just made up for it with aggression.
Killjoy: It was probably really novel for them to have a female singer as well.
Gitane: I think I was the only female singer that night; and my pants split too, which helped (laughter).
Killjoy: Give it to the girl whose pants ripped.
Gitane: WOOOOO BABY (laughter)! But I quite, they were really just kind of utilizing me. Even when my voice was gone, they were like, “Oh can’t you just do this gig?” And I’m like (using a raspy, squeaky voice), “Fuck you!”
Killjoy: Did you get involved with Christian Death after that?
Gitane: No. After that, I realized that heavy metal just wasn’t the big picture. I had all these different emotions about different styles of music. It’s the same for me now, and always has been. I don’t really like to be confined in one category. That’s what heavy metal was becoming and had become. I sort of got a clearer picture of it. I didn’t really belong with cock rock, you know. The other women who were doing it, I wasn’t like them either.
So, I looked in The Recycler and put an ad in it, looking for something more open-minded and non-restrictive. Valor answered my ad, and he came over. I sang and he told me some things and played some music and it was really interesting. We started forming this band, Pompeii 99, which was real anarchist art rock. It was an avant garde art rock band. We got a band together, and about a month later, we recorded a really, really low budget album which is actually….I don’t know how to explain it. Some of it is very unlistenable, some of it is hilarious, and some of it makes sense. Combining the influences of each of us and just doing an album that soon, a month after you are together and you don’t even have your sound together really, was maybe a mistake. Actually, they played some of it on KXLU. There were a couple of songs they liked. We did gigs, and we were together I guess for two years.
Valor and David Glass of Christian Death had met Rozz, who was letting the original band go. He was tired of working with them. This was after Only Theatre of Pain. It was about ‘82. Actually, Pompeii 99 had gone a long way at that time. We were kind of being courted by A&M Records. I had just become pregnant with my son; and Valor and David came to me and said they were dropping Pompeii 99. They wanted to work with Rozz, and I thought “Oh great. I’m pregnant and I don’t even have a band anymore. I don’t have a husband, I have nobody”.
Then they came back and said that Rozz was interested to meet me, to do some backing vocals and keyboards. So I met him. I went to his birthday party and it was a pretty incredible party. There was Rozz surrounded by a hundred women dressed in drag. So, I felt extremely insecure and out of place, being pregnant and wearing garments that sort of hid my figure at the time, which I wasn’t used to at all (laughter). You know, “I’ve got a large bump in front of me, and I feel strange. These are large breasts (laughter)”. And here all these women are slick and slim in all of this drag, just looking sharp as tacks. But we met and apparently he liked me, so we started working together and it was a great experience.
Killjoy: What was the first album you were on?
Gitane: We did Catastrophe Ballet.
Killjoy: Wasn’t that recorded in Europe?
Gitane: Yes it was. It was actually recorded in Rockfield studies in Wales. After we got together with Christian Death, we started playing a lot around town, like Fenders and the Roxy. Then we were asked to do a tour in France and record. We got signed with a French label and did this tour. After that, we went into the studio and recorded Catastrophe Ballet in Rockfield. The Damned recorded there, so did Led Zeppelin and Love & Rockets. It’s a great place. We did that and we toured some more, and then we came back. I had my son while I was on tour as well.
Killjoy: You hadn’t relocated to Europe at that point?
Gitane: No, not yet. That was in 1984 when that album was recorded.
Killjoy: Now this is where my timeline gets a little gray. When exactly did Rozz completely depart with Christian Death?
Gitane: That was after we did Ashes, which was in ’85. We had done a lot more performing. We had an Italian tour lined up, a month long tour. Everybody had worked really hard getting ready for this tour. They had gotten rid of their apartments, sold their cars even, put everything in storage, said bye-bye, and then Rozz phoned me up and said, “Gitane, I can’t do it anymore. I’m leaving.”
He asked me to stay and work with him and Eric Westfall, who we had worked with since Pompeii 99 days. He was a great writer and producer. I said, “Well, I would really like to stay, but...” Actually, I wasn’t even getting along with Valor then. We had broken up. But I wanted my son to have a father, and Valor was asking me to stay with him so, I decided to go mainly out of wanting my son to know his father. I don’t know why, but I had a moral about it then. So I said, “Rozz, you know I really want to stay with you, but I want my son to know his father. It’s not about anything else. I don’t know why I am doing it without you because it won’t be the same”.
He said, “Gitane, whatever you do, don’t let them use the name Christian Death”. I said OK, because I figured that would be entirely possible, since Rozz wasn’t in it. The name belonged to him. So we actually told the Italian promoter to change the name to Sin and Sacrifice, and he wanted us to come over anyway because we were going to cover the tunes. Valor had written some new material as well. We went over there, but people still thought we were Christian Death and thought Valor was Rozz. First of all, it was just ridiculous. Rozz did put us in that situation, you know. He was firmly ensconced in his parent’s home and everybody else was with nowhere to go except a plane ticket to Italy.
So, we went and we told people that we were Sin and Sacrifice. The promoter started ripping us off, so we bailed out of his tour and did it all ourselves on trains. We got stuck in Milan without any money and had to actually record an EP to get enough money to get to England, where Valor had patriolity and could get some place for us to live until we could figure out how we were going to get back to the States.
We hadn’t actually decided to live in England at that point. So we recorded the Sin and Sacrifice record. It was called “Must We Die a Christian Death?” and got enough money to get over into England. Everything kind of worked as planned. We got some housing and we had the whole band living with us in a one bedroom place. Somehow, I can’t remember how, we did some gigs or something and Valor and I ended up staying there. So did David. We stayed and everyone else went back. They probably borrowed money or something, I don’t know how.
That’s when Rozz left, and we continued on under Sin and Sacrifice for a while. I know I am appreciated for my work in Christian Death; but for me, my interest and passion for it actually died when Rozz left. From that point on, it was kind of like trying to have a relationship with Valor and my child, hoping for the best and continuing a music life.
I practiced everyday. I would get up, just slap on the records, which I carted all over Europe (my Billie Holiday records) and practice. I was just trying to develop as an artist, just being somewhat active and trying to work things out. I had a daughter in that time too. When my relationship with Valor ended, it was time for me to step out and I went solo.
Killjoy: When was Church of No Return done?
Gitane: I don’t know. I can’t remember. In ’87, Scriptures was done, because that was when my daughter was born. I think Church of No Return came right after that.
Killjoy: Was that the last one?
Gitane: That I did? No, the album after Scriptures was Sex and Drugs and Jesus Christ and then there were a couple of singles which I was totally dispassionate about. When we did Catastrophe Ballet with him, he was really going into his surrealistic side, and I was very passionate about that. That was a really good area. Then Valor got more into his religious philosophies after Rozz left, and I really didn’t have anything to do with that. I just thought whatever. I mean, I didn’t want o sit at home and just be caught up with children, so it was a good opportunity for me to keep working as an artist and developing my voice. So I’m not complaining about that, but it was just something to work with.
Killjoy: I heard that you were a cabaret singer in Amsterdam for a while.
Gitane: Not really, no. Some people have said that my solo musical style has been very cabaret with the piano and voice. When I was still in Christian Death, I started going over to Holland. I discovered a jazz center over there where there were a lot of great artists performing and the owner let me work there behind the bar to pay for my ticket to come over. You could go and improvise on stage anytime. I had never done any kind of music like this before and I just sort of did it instinctively. I would go when I wasn’t on tour with Christian Death and take my babies over, and they would stay with our au pairs from Holland and I would go to this jazz club. When there was a show, it would open around 11:00 at night and go until 7:00 to 9:00 in the morning. We would just play music, improvise, and do blues.
Killjoy: Was it always the same group of people?
Gitane: No, it was always different people. One night there was a concert and I was called to go on stage and sing with a 13-piece jazz orchestra. That was wonderful. I sang with some low grade artists like Woody Shaw, who was an incredible jazz trumpeter from here and Frank Wright who did sax with John Coltrane and was a legend in his own time. I met a lot of great people there. I met Bille Holiday’s bass accompanist, Mal Waldron, who did a two-hour set improvised with all the pieces of songs he had done with her. He had her pearl necklace around his wrist. I met him afterwards and told him I was a singer. He said, “I would like to hear you sing. Why don’t you come to my hotel room?” OH NO, NOT AGAIN! All these guys would meet you on tour and they would want you to party with them and have sex with them. “But I’m an artist, dammit. I know I don’t look like one. I look like some fucking groupie, but I’m really a singer! This isn’t a line, dammit, I’m serious (laughter)! They don’t want to hear anything about it. They have heard enough singers. There are plenty of singers in the world. They want some sex (laughter).
Killjoy: How did you handle that?
Gitane: It was tempting in a way, because fuck, he played with Billie Holiday for years. I couldn’t go for it.
Frank Wright was really incredible, and he gave me some of the most useful advice I’ve ever had which is that any note fits anywhere as long as it’s committed. He also said that I yell too much. So I worked on that. He wanted to take me under his wing and teach me everything, but the hitch was I had to have sex with him. He was after my ass. I decided then that I wanted to be respected as an artist and I wasn’t going to prostitute myself. I decided “Ok, I’m not going to get any help. Fuck it. Nobody’s going to help me or give me a break. That’s fine. I will do it myself”.
Killjoy: So when did you release your first solo album?
Gitane: That was released in 1990. I left Christian Death in ’89, or maybe it was ’91. Actually, I don’t release an album. I released a single. It was a three-song single and after that I released a four song single, a maxi single. And those two were compiled to make an album added with some live radio tracks.
Killjoy: Was that Facets of Blue?
Gitane: Yeah, I released an album of live work, Love for Sale, which has never been available over here. It’s something I am hoping to release on Triple X, and it’s very jazzy. It had kind of, what they use to call over there “gothic jazz” because it was…
Killjoy: …darker than what they are use to, but still had the characteristics.
Gitane: Yeah, and I think after that I did the Demonix album, which was actually a collaboration with Mark Ichx over in Europe.
Killjoy: I remember that one was very “fetish-oriented”
Gitane: It’s totally dedicated to fetishes, B&D, S&M, and sex. I just kind of wanted to get that out of my system.
Killjoy: That was recorded in ’94. Wasn’t it re-mixed and re-released in ’96?
Gitane: It wasn’t really. There were a few tracks that were bonus tracks and a few re-mixes, but it’s basically the same album and we licensed it to Cleopatra. Then I did another live one. The kind of difference with my live albums is that the arrangements are entirely different than what you will find on studio recordings. A lot of times they are different every time; the arrangements and the musicians, not necessarily the musicians, but a lot of the times I will find a different way to play it or a different way to sing it. This album that I am releasing now Am I Wrong? is probably my first real solo full album that I ever did.
Killjoy: And you played everything on this album, except for guitar.
Gitane: Yeah, that’s right-and some bass. There’s some live drums on one track. So this is probably my first complete album that I’ve written entirely and done everything on.
Killjoy: Heavenly Melancholy and Lullabies for a Troubled World were the singles that appeared on Facets of Blue?
Gitane: Yeah, those were first released as singles.
Killjoy: Am I Wrong? was recorded in the Netherlands
Gitane: Yeah, I recorded two songs in Belgium at Mark Ichx’s studio and then did it in South Rotterdam in this little village where some friends of mine were, a little cockroach studio. Yep, and there was a Turkish bakery next door which really helped with all of that. The smell, too; it was like “Oh, they are baking bread now.” You were rising to the ceiling with the yeast bubbles. At least that wasn’t until early morning and we were just about finished by then. I would pick my daughter up from school late afternoon and drive out to South Rotterdam and start working. We would work all night, from five until six in the morning, and then I would take her back to school. Then, I would repeat the same thing day after day. She liked it though, because she is really a music lover. Yeah, so it was recorded in the Netherlands in ’96.
Killjoy: What caused the wait before releasing it out here?
Gitane: Because I moved here at the end of ’96 and I was still with my ex of eight years, and we moved here. We were going to look for a deal here. He was managing me as well, and we got here in November. By January we had broken up after eight years. I just had to get out and I was sort of like, “Whoa! New life with my son.” My son was living with me then. After eight years of being with one man and seven years with Valor before then, fifteen years of not living alone, I had to kind of get myself together. It took me a lot of time to figure out what to do even.
Killjoy: Did you get the deal yourself?
Gitane: Yeah, that’s right. One of my friends in Germany knew that Apollyon were good. Oh, Rozz and I did an EP together, Dream Home Heartache. That was very dark cabaret. We did this in ’94 or ’95. We got back together and we did some touring together. I opened for him in ’94 a whole month in Europe and we had gotten back together. We’ve been really good friends since then.
Killjoy: Did you stay in contact with him the whole time you were out in Europe?
Gitane: No, he was totally pissed and I felt really guilty because the name Christian Death was used after a while. Valor hung on to it with clenched fists. After I left Christian Death, I did interviews and told a lot of truths.
Rozz wrote me a letter and said “Thank you, I really want to get in touch with you again and even work with you again”. I was really moved by it, but I had such a guilt complex over having stayed in Christian Death and really fucked him over basically.
When I was in the band, Rozz apparently was doing Shadow Project, then he reclaimed Christian Death and did some stuff. That was when Valor started fighting it and I think I was out of it by then. I never felt Valor had any right to do that at all.
Rozz had gotten in touch with me and I was too guilt-ridden to even write back. Then he was doing a gig over in Germany, which I heard about. I drove over there to meet him and he had heard I was going to come and meet him. I was so nervous. I got the strongest weed that I could find in Amsterdam and I was practically puking by the time I got there. I was so fucked up.
After we did meet, I stayed and watched this fantastic concert with Daucus Karota. I was literally, “Can you pull over to the side? I have to … (laughter). I was so nervous to meet after all those years. It was a lot of years. After that, we planned a tour together and then we did Dream Home Heartache which was actually labeled like “dark cabaret”. It was very minimal. There was a lot of piano, voice, and bass. Then we toured with that, and that was the last work we actually…oh, we did a UK tour together too. And that was the last work we did together.
Killjoy: Did you make your plans to come back here after that?
Gitane: Yeah, we came back here then.
Killjoy: So how did you get in contact with Triple X?
Gitane: Well, we released Dream Home Heartache with Triple X. I met the people there and I thought “I don’t really know anybody else”. I talked with them and I thought, “I don’t really know anybody else”. I talked with them and they were so cool. They loved it (Am I Wrong?) and they were really interested in supporting me as an artist. That’s how I got them. I plan to keep working with them.
Killjoy: What about the guitarist and bassist on Am I Wrong? Were they people you already knew?
Gitane: They were people I already knew. David, who plays bass on the album, he was in my band when I lived in Holland. He was with me for five years. He lived in Rotterdam, and he was able to step in for a few of the numbers. The guitar player is actually my engineer. It was his studio. His long-time girlfriend played sax in my band over there, in my sort of gothic jazz band. I knew he was a guitarist, but he did mostly rhythm and blues. I knew he was very good, but what I was doing was entirely different from anything he had done. But it was too tempting to have a guitarist sitting there, plus I was running out of sounds. I made up most of it just on one keyboard. He did a great job. I was really pleased with what he did.
Killjoy: Now there are some tracks that are going to get released on the European version of the CD that will not be on the American version?
Gitane: There’s one track. Alien is on there and its’ way different from what we do live. Everything is obviously different. There’s Alien and there is a different version of Obituare. The American version has Obituare with bass and drums, and the European one is just piano and voice.
Killjoy: Is that version going to be available out here in any way?
Gitane: Probably on import
Killjoy: Is Triple X handling the version out there as well?
Gitane: No, it’s going through Apollyon in Germany. They both wanted it. I wanted to license it to both of them, but to give them each a little different thing. It leads a different feeling to the album in a way. The American one is kind of more rocked out and the one in Germany is a little more melancholic, quite, and dreamy.
Killjoy: This has a sense of being a very personal album
Gitane: That’s for sure
Killjoy: Were some of these songs written some time ago, and you just now get around to releasing them?
Gitane: Some of them were. Some of them were just ones that I just now wanted to do and some of them were written in ’96. I had a whole album’s worth of material of new material in ’96 and I recorded it. I took the numbers that I decided that I wanted to put this together out of those tracks, and the other tracks I will re-record with my band and will probably put them out on my next album, which will probably have an entirely different feel.
Killjoy: So do you have a permanent band?
Gitane: I hope so. They are great.
Killjoy: Are they the same people that you performed with at Billboard Live?
Gitane: Actually, the bass player isn’t with us anymore. I just got a new bass player and we are happy with him. He’s lended an even more creative and dynamic feel. It’s improved since the last time you saw it.
Killjoy: What are your plans now that you have a band together? Are you going to be recording again soon?
Gitane: What we are doing no is…first off, we have this benefit for KXLU on Wednesday night and then we are going to Europe after that for a two week tour. Then we are coming back and we will try to get some gigs together. We will get as many gigs together as we can for a while. I will be releasing a compilation of my vocal tracks that I did whilst I was with Christian Death, which is something I have always wanted to do-just the tracks with my singing. I will probably be releasing Love for Sale over here. Around December, we will probably go in and record a new album for Triple X. I am just ready to do that any time. The pieces from this album are going to be really great to play live with this band.