It is funny how deceptive memory can be.
I remembered Alex as a difficult interlocutor, but when I finally heard the recording, it turned out that I was wrong. My companion was cheerful and relaxed, hellishly intelligent and extremely modest. A few hours before the transformation into a stage beast, we talked about life in sobriety, poetry, good and bad singers, the last record and life on the road, which vocalist Daughters loves above all else.
How is being on the road working for you since you’re sober?
It is much harder. Now that we are more popular, there are more concerts and I would like to socialize more. It can be frustrating. The road itself is also very tiring. Most of the day we spend on traveling and getting bored… from the beginning of the month we played four concerts. Fortunately, the rest of our dates are gigs day after day, so we’ll just move around and play. Finally I will feel like on the road. Now I feel like on a holiday trip… with the fact that I do not visit anything. A very boring holiday!
In the movies it looks much more interesting.
That’s right, people think it’s super fun. I mean… you know, it’s up to you when you’re having fun on the road. But this is not a charming job. We have a schedule that we have to stick to. Very tight schedule.
Is it harder to get into a “concert mood” without drugs or alcohol?
I don’t think so. When I was drinking, I thought I would not be able to do it without alcohol… I was wrong. The only thing that has changed is talking to the public. I used to love doing that. I can’t stand it now. I hate it when we have breaks between songs, the guys are fixing sound or whatever… I just want to sing. It can be frustrating. There are people who need alcohol to perform. But that only proves that they are not real artists, it is a facade.
Adaptation to life in sobriety takes some time, in the beginning it can be very hard.
Sure, you have to learn to live again. I was a professional alcoholic, I drank every day, all the time. For me, sobriety was like rehabilitation after a serious accident, when you learn to take steps again. I had to understand how to socialize with people, how to live with them, how to function. But I started singing because I wanted to. It was not a drunk idea. Drugs and alcohol came after that. I always wanted to do art, play. I just had to find a new way. Now I’m more consistent, I have a strong relationship with what I do. I feel responsible for it. I used to passed out drunk all the time, I played so many concerts that I completely do not remember. When I think about it now, it is terribly embarrassing for me. I was an asshole, I was acting like an idiot… as a band we started to have this reputation, where the vocalist always undresses and pees in someone’s shoes. People started coming to our concerts just because of it, they did not care about our music. That is why it seems to me that we have done it all for good. Now I care more about what I create and I can coexist with it.
When I talked to Greg Puciato, he admitted that he was tired of the image of the singer-monkey (see the interview). He felt that people expect him to jump on the stage with bloody forehead every evening.
I am aware of certain expectations, but I do not have the slightest need to meet them. Of course, we are here to play a concert and give the best show, but I play because I love to do it… of course I get money for it, in the end it’s a job. I do not want to feel that I have any responsibilities. I do not want to go on stage and wonder what I should do next. Pretend to have fun or that I’m crazy… It’s interesting that Greg said something like that because I’ve seen The Black Queen lately and…
He jumped on the walls?
Exactly (laughter)! Recently we talked about some dates… damn, I should not talk about it. Anyway, we also talked about working on the stage. We’ve been doing it for so many years, that even if you try to get away from it, it’s too deep in you. And as you can see, it comes out of you, even if you try not to do it. In addition to being a performer, I want to be a singer. I could not sing when I started performing. It was a secondary matter. The most important thing was always the relationship with the audience – how they react to me and how I react to them.
A lot of musicians have played in Daughters. Even now, on the European tour, your bassist will be replaced by Chris from METZ. Is it hard to getting to know the band every time there’s someone new in the room?
It can be frustrating. When you look at other bands, they are more systematic – they release the record, go on tour, release another album, go on tour again. There are longer breaks between our records, plus the last one, eight years… it was all due to personal changes. People came, people went… when we went on tour, we had to teach new people, we needed time to get to know each other, this person had to start to feel comfortable with us, so… it’s not easy. If it depended on me, I would like our band not to change for the last 20 years, but unfortunately it did not work out.
We started the band when we were twenty years old. I’ve always known that I want to make music, but other people have gone their separate ways. Our first guitarist, Jeremy, who directed the Less Sex music video, left the band to study. He wanted to be a director. Then he moved to LA and managed to make music videos. In turn, Sam, who plays bass with us for a long time, just could not leave his current job to go on tour with us, that’s why we play with Chris. Touring requires dedication, not everyone can afford it.
As we talked before – it’s up to you how difficult you’ll make it. Certainly not a life for everyone. On the other hand, it’s a fucking job, you’re supposed to be at a certain time in a specific place, do your job and that’s it. You can feel very lonely. I left my family. When I returned from the tour last winter, it turned out that my younger child learned to walk during this time. You must be aware that such situations may miss you and be ready to sacrifice. I do not know if this is the best decision I’ve made in my life, but I do not know what else I could do. I do not have any other abilities. I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager.
You published a book with poetry. Maybe something in this direction?
It would be great (laughs)! But it will not pay my bills. Yes, I published one book and I’m still writing. I publish my poems in various periodics. In a way, it’s an extension of what I do in Daughters. It took me a long time to feel comfortable with my writing, to release something of my own without the company of music. The feeling that everything depends on me and concerns only me was a bit scary. However, it was not an act of courage, but rather selfishness (laughter). I am very happy with this book and I will definitely continue.
The process of writing poems and song lyrics is very different from each other?
Yes, the process is completely different. When I write the lyrics, I have to reckon with the rest of the band, and not just speak for myself. I try not to make political manifestos or social opinions, because it would affect the whole team. And they do not have to agree with me. In poetry, everything depends on me. I do not have to worry about whether someone will accept it. It is also very scary and liberating.
I read that Nick had very high expectations for S/T and it really hit him hard that the album was not that successful. What was the case with You Won’t Get What You Want? Did you expect so much attention?
I did not have any expectations about S/T. We were kids at the time, who just wanted to keep playing, to release CDs, and of course we were hoping that some people will catch up, but we didn’t have much expectations for the fame or sale of the album. It was the same with YWGWYW. We just wanted to release a CD and play a few concerts. Suddenly, it turned out that the album is getting more attention. Of course I’m very happy about it, but I do not depend on it. Who knows? People are fickle, they come and go. Now everyone is very excited about us, but they can forget about Daughters next year. We just play as many concerts as possible and try not to think about it.
How do you record an album after such a long break? Did you felt any pressure?
Sure, we were wondering what would happen if we returned after all these years and released a terrible album. But on the other hand – we have no control over it and just wanted to make a record that will please us first and foremost. But it turned out that other people liked it too. Besides that, we had no reason to feel pressure, we had enough hard without it – everyone of us lives literally in another part of the country, so recording was a real pain in the ass. The title of the album itself refers to it. We had no expectations and we wanted others to not have them either. Our idea was – let us release the album, but do not have any expectations for it. Just listen to it and then judge. Do not put your responsibility on us – you will like it or not.
Didn’t you hesitate if particural songs had the “Daughters sound”?
No. It is beautiful in our music that we do not have a sound. I think of Daughters as a collective. There is no deeper ideology behind it, we are just a group of people who meet once in a while and we have the comfort that we can decide together in which direction we are going. Maybe the next record will sound exactly the same, maybe not. We are not a trash, punk or folk band. We do not have any specific frameworks in which we have to rotate. We have the opportunity to do what we want. This is Daughters. Group of people.
A few years ago you recorded a few songs but they were never released.
They just weren’t that good. We thought we were doing well, set up a plan of action and a deadline. When we met, it turned out that we were rusty, we felt that we could afford more. We were not satisfied with the final effect, so we decided together that these pieces will be in the drawer. There were some good ideas, but we could not develop them. It was a very expensive demo (laughs).
In one interview you said that heavy music suffers from the lack of good vocalists. Can you name those who are worth the attention?
I am more interested in stage energy than the vocal possibilities alone. Greg Puciato is a really good singer. I also love Iggy Pop – a charismatic persona and great vocalist. He has a great voice! There are so many frontmen who are very weak vocalists. I love The Cramps, and Lux was a terrible singer and at the same time a brilliant leader. On the other hand, there are so many vocalists who do not have a charisma. You hear a lot of great voices on the radio. But they are not creative, original, they do not write their own music. Beyonce may be above this, but let’s take Mariah Carrey for example. Her performance is directed from the beginning to the end, they are telling her what to do. This is a product. And I’m not interested in paying for trying me to sell a product on stage. It’s like teleshopping, when the camera shows you exactly how well the knife is cutting the tomato. It is heartless, completely for money, there is no soul. And art should have a soul. It matters to me. You do not have to be a good singer…
There are evenings when I sing terribly. I was very scared that I would lose my voice before the tour was over. You have to take care of your vocal cords, warm them up before the concert, to be able to sing well and feel ok. I do not want to end up with a broken voice, I do not want to have surgery, I want to be able to continue playing concerts. At the same time, I have the comfort that I do not care much about how I sound at a particular evening. This, in turn, is the worry of the boys – Chris or Nick, who constantly have to watch whether or not the guitars are loose. I care about this shit – I focus on the audience, on finding a connection with them. I do not have to worry about the guitar, whether I am connected to electricity. I can go crazy with people at the time, and that’s what I love! I hate the recording process, I hate the studio and playing the same song over and over again. I would like to record like MC5 – press “record”, play concert and that’s it.
Tell me more about the cover of You Can’t Get What You Want.
Jesse Draxler made it, we did not know him before. I only knew that he was responsible for the art work of Zola Jesus album. I knew his style, but I did not know him personally. By the way, Greg and Jessie are very good friends (laughs). He also made a cover for The Black Queen, but his characteristic style is not there yet.
Jessie showed us six propositions, we wanted to use everyone! In the end, we decided on this one. It’s interesting, because we had no expectations for the cover, we had no idea. I imagined a black and white photo … we always had illustrations on the covers, so I wanted to push the idea of photography. But Jessi’s proposals were so good that I forgot about my vision.
When I first saw the cover, I was sure it was something new from Massive Attack …
You are the next person to pay attention to this. Well, reminiscence in art is a frequent phenomenon. I do not know why people are so sensitive about originality. In fact… everything has already been created. Our drummer plays the same fucking set of drums as all the drummers around the world. What counts is the amount of effort put into what you create. We really interpret what has already been created over and over again.
You are in the Mike Patton’s label. Apparently, he first asked your mutual friends about you. He wanted to know if you’re cool guys to work with.
Yeah, we’ve been on a tour with Dälek for about two weeks. We talked with the guys about the fact that we are looking for a record company and we have no idea who could release us. Then Will (Brooks – note) said that Mike was asking about us – are we a bunch of jerks, or maybe working with us is cool. At the same time John, our tour manager at the time, was also on the road with Patton, so somehow it all happened…
We talked with a lot of labels, we sent a lot of emails. Everyone wrote to us that they did not have time or did not answer at all. When Patton suggested it to us, we were really surprised, we asked if he really wanted this (laughs). And he said: Of course I want to! This is a great fucking record!
I am glad that this album has been a success for two reasons. First of all, it allows us to play and visit places that we would never visit, meet new people. Damn, you’re from Poland and we’re talking in Paris, it’s quite surreal! The second reason, a bit selfish, was to cut all those who did not want to release us down to size. I hope they kick themselves now.
I’m sure they are.
Nobody has ever been interested in us. We weren’t on the covers of the magazines, we were not on the charts. Now all our concerts are sold out, it’s so weird! We’ve been here once and played for fifteen people. But I’m really happy that we can play so many concerts. It’s a completely new experience. Once nobody would book us here, and now we sell out a lot bigger venues. Where will we land next year? I do not know, but I’m happy with what we have now.
Your story is a beautiful example that you never know when your career will jump to the next level.
That’s true (laughs)! I don’t know if I’ve ever thought about it. And I don’t know where it came from. But it’s probably nice that after 20 years of playing more people started to pay attention to us. I don’t know what it really means. Have we crossed some border? Or maybe people crossed it? Have we made a good change that made the album more accessible? Or maybe people’s tastes changed? Or culture has changed? Maybe it’s the internet?
I don’t know… The Internet can make it even more difficult to break through.
It is true. There is so much shitty music on the internet. Now everyone can record something and let this shit out. And get millions of views on YouTube overnight. Now we have a bus. Bus! On the first day of the tour, we talked about it. When we started we wre playing concerts in the basement of a friend, went on a tour in a van full of equipment and two inflatable mattresses, barely fit in this fucking car. And now we are flying to other continents… It is very strange. But things come and go. It’s like a wave, maybe next year we’ll break the shore? I do not know. I just want to play and have fun. That’s all I care about.