Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Interview: Ash King, Coke & Sympathy: A Rock & Roll Cabaret

Over the past few months, I've had the absolute pleasure of getting to know Ash King, a talented musician, a cosmic goddess and one of the loveliest humans I've ever met (well, we've only ever met online, but e-meetings still count in my book!) Born in Sydney and raised on rock bands like Motley Crue, INXS and The Doors, Ash always was interested in music and musical theatre, though she describes an early teenage experience at a Queen tribute show to be her "musical epiphany." She gets to do what we all wish we could do, describing her career as a full-time musician as such: "[I] get to sing Rolling Stones and Queen songs for a living, and I'm also starting up an originals bands, working on some new blues rock tracks." 
One of Ash's many projects is her incredible Coke & Sympathy: A Rock & Roll Cabaret, a musical story about a groupie goddess by the name of Wild Delilah that weaves together personal experiences, myths and legends in rock history as well as meditations on the nature of women in the music scene. I had a lovely conversation with Ash about her groovy self, the inspiration for her show and the state of all things groupie, fashion and rock 'n' roll. Please check all the glorious things she had to say and get to know this inspiring woman!

What was the genesis behind your project, Coke & Sympathy? What this something that you had always dreamed of doing? What inspired you to do the show? 

A friend of mine actually suggested I put on a cabaret. I'd never really seen a great deal of it and didn't think it was my bag, but he insisted "No, you should do a rock & roll cabaret." I thought it could be a fun idea - fusing the intimate, raconteur-ish nature of cabaret, with the intensity and energy of rock music. Then last year I was terribly silly and went and fell in love with a rock guitarist and it was all a complete disaster. What better way to heal a broken heart than to talk about it in front of a room of strangers!

Tell us a bit about your character, Wild Delilah -- what qualities from different women of the 60s and 70s can be found in her?
Wild Delilah is a combination of myself and a few of my favourite female characters from rock history. Glimpses of female music artists like Janis Joplin, Patti Smith, Stevie Nicks and Joni Mitchell can be seen in Wild Delilah, as well as famous rock & roll muses like Patti Boyd, Bebe Buell & Pamela Des Barres. Wild Delilah's main dilemma is that she doesn't want to get stuck being the girl who inspires, and instead wants to be inspired herself. She wants to create. But now she's gone and fallen in love with an egotistical guitarist - so she's kind of stuck between rock & a hard place!     

Like you, I am fascinated and troubled by the roles that women in the rock scene (particularly of the heady 60s & 70s, but it’s definitely still an issue today) are forced into: it seems that largely women were (and still often are) described in relation to male musicians, and have the ‘groupie’ tag thrust upon them. Groupie gals are undeniably fabulous, but it’s frustrating when musicians like Marianne and Joni are overlooked for their musical contributions and are called ‘groupies’ because they dated musicians as well. It seems easier for this male-dominated history to condense a woman from describing her many talents, professions and interests into just who she hung around with. (It’s heartbreaking how time and time again, I’ve read articles about Anita that make no mention of her modeling, acting or design career – just saying she was a German girl who slept with three Rolling Stones and had a drug habit.) What is your personal insight into this issue, as a lover of rock and as an artist herself? Do you see a solution?
Great question! I do agree rock history often highlights the presence of women as mere symbols of men's physical, emotional and creative stimulation but rarely as artists in their own right. Women are needed to create the perfect picture of this ultimate rock star lifestyle, but here they only exist as ornamentation. They aren't supposed to create, they're supposed to stand at the side of the stage and look pretty. And the women who really fight against these conceptions, the women to whom creating art is their sole objective, often seem to de-femnise themselves to a certain extent so that they aren't subject to comparison with the vapid beauties of the rock & roll scene (think of Janis Joplin and Patti Smith). I think because rock is, at its core, a man's game, it will be a struggle for any woman to really get the respect and consideration she deserves as an artist first and foremost, but this by no means says women should stop creating. On the contrary. If more women stand up for their own place to exist and thrive in the rock & roll world hopefully we can start dismantling some of these not-so-groovy attitudes.

On a related note, I think we have similar feelings in regards to the state of the term ‘groupie’ in general. The way that it was used back in the days of Miss Pamela and the GTOs is far different from the connotations people award it now. Do you believe there is a difference in groupie behavior from the 60s and today, or is it more to do with a difference between how society looks at this behavior? Do you buy into the taboo of the groupie label?
I think the "groupie" label has mutated quite drastically to what it meant in the 60s, and now seems to be a very accusatory term. We've moved on from the trendy free-love attitude of the swinging sixties, and being a modern-day groupie is kind of shameful. The groupie culture is still as present as ever, but now exists in a kind of strange, unsettling place where we don't know if the women part of it are just glorified sex dolls, desperate fame mongers, or sinister symbols of women's self-promoted servitude. But there has to be a differentiating term between the women who are there just to get their rocks off and the ones who are there because of the music. I've always liked Penny Lane's description from Almost Famous: "We're not groupies. Groupies sleep with rock stars because they want to be near someone famous. We're here because of the music. We inspire the music. We are Band-Aides." 

I love the title of your show (I am a complete Rolling Stones nut!) – I am curious to know who your musical influences are and who your favorite musicians are.
Obviously a massive Stones fan. Queen will always be my favourite band of all time, so I bow at the alter of Freddie Mercury. But I also love The Beatles (aside from Paul McCarntey, who I am bound to dislike, being an avid Lennon supporter), Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith. Early Fleetwood Mac with Peter Green I adore. And I'm a huge sucker for Billy Joel. I have all his records and think he's an incredibly talented musician and performer. 

Your show offers your own re-workings of legendary tracks by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and Fleetwood Mac – how did you go about that process? Did you find it daunting to give your own take on these works?
It's actually easier than you think, because just through the process of me and my band performing the tracks, they seem to take on a life of their own. Also, a few of the tunes we're doing have been covered a million times over, so we get to sift through the wreckage, see what worked and what didn't, and use it in our own interpretations. We're also unleashing an original in the show too.

Part of your show addresses long-standing rumors and reveals lesser-known stories from rock history. Did any legend or discovery surprise you while your were doing research into this?
I've always been a big fat rock trivia nerd. There's always so much to learn and so many rock myths to debunk. Have you heard the Led Zeppelin mud shark incident? Apparently the band were staying at Edgewater Inn in Seattle, which let guests fish directly from the hotel room windows. A mud shark was fished out and then "inserted" into a red-headed groupie who was naked and tied to the bed. No one can prove this actually happened, but wow. I'll never watch Jaws the same way again. 

Who are your favorite muses and why? Why do you think the legends of these wonderful women live on?
You know, I think my favourite muse would have to be Yoko Ono. She was an artist, committed to pushing boundaries, and she helped take John Lennon's mind and craft to fantastic new places. Of course I love the delicate and feminine beauties like Marianne Faithfull and Patti Boyd, but Yoko wasn't young and thin and glamourous. She didn't exist in that world. And she still inspired one of the greatest musicians of all time. She got "She's So Heavy" written about her. And she'll live on in the lyrics of Lennon as well as the history books as a credit to her own work in the contemporary art world. And she's still going, into her 70s. We can all learn a thing or two from Yoko.

I am very sensitive to how peoples’ personal styles often communicate so much about their internal interests and passions, so I have to ask some fashion-y questions. What is your style philosophy? What are your style must-haves?
I like to think I'm what happens if Stevie Nicks, Joan Jett and Deb Harry all got together and had fashion babies. I love very feminine flowy robes and skirts, I have lots of velvet, silk and lace kimonos and shawls. But I also love the grungier side of leather and latex, faded denims, big black platform heels and lots of antique jewellery. A lot of my wardrobe is vintage and hand-me-downs from my mum who used to be in a band back in the 80s. But I love my black American Apparel disco pants and am a slave to the band tee (I have over 100!)

Who / where do you look to for inspiration (in music, in fashion, in life)?
I try to be open to finding inspiration anywhere and everywhere. I definitely read a lot, and see a lot of live music and theatre. In terms of music and fashion inspiration - classic rock of the 60s & 70s is definitely my go to era, the sounds and styles that were born in that time I still don't think have been surpassed.

How can people get involved with Coke & Sympathy? Where can they come see the show? And most importantly for me, please tell me you’ll come to the States!
You can follow the show on Facebook here. If you're in Australia, you can see the premiere shows at Red Bennies in Melbourne on Thurs 21st Nov, and The Vanguard in Sydney on Wed 27th Nov. We'll also be doing a few shows at the Adelaide Fringe Festival 2014, on March 11, 12, 13. We're waiting for a few funding opportunities to come through, but would love to bring the show to the US & the UK at a later date. So fingers crossed!


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Why don't I live in Australia?????

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

"But I also love The Beatles (aside from Paul McCarntey, who I am bound to dislike, being an avid Lennon supporter)"

what a stupid comment

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Anon 1: She's pretty incredible. If/when the show comes to the States, I'm going to groupie so hard.

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Anon 2: Hey now! As the boys said: WE CAN WORK IT OUT!

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