Velocity Chyaldd is the lead singer of Vulgaras (the other band members are The Anti-Dave, Oz and Bones). Vulgaras are a New York-based metal band who also use blues/goth influences as well as inspiration from horror, performance art and burlesque to create an emotionally intense experience, both on record and onstage. So far they have released 2 albums, Aphrodite P.O.W. and Year of the Whore and are due to release their third, Heavy Handed Heart in July 08.
You remind me of artists like Lydia Lunch or Diamanda Galas who were able to take deeply painful personal life experiences and turn them into brutally honest art that wasn't afraid to express emotions like rage but without denying the hurt they felt. The songs you write deal with things that are hard to live through and the struggle to survive. Year of the Whore is an intense and powerful album to listen to. Was it a difficult album to record especially using your own personal experiences for some of the songs?
It's difficult for me to record/write in stone any emotion that I don't personally feel. It was harder for me to live through those experiences than to sing about them - the writing and singing part were cathartic.
I love your vocal range of YOTW - did you have any formal training and what other singers inspired you?
The singers from the Jazz/Blues pin-up era of the 30s and 40s have always resonated with me. I'm also inspired by Patti Smith, Janis Joplin, PJ Harvey, Ann Wilson, Patsy Cline, Tori Amos, Siouxsie Sioux, Tina Turner, Johnette Napolitano, Stevie Nicks, Diamanda Galas, Otep Shamaya, etc.
One of my favourite songs on the album is Hooker Barbie (I guess I wasn't the only girl playing naughty sex games with my dolls!). What is that you like/dislike about Barbie?
I like the fact that she started out as a "Working Girl" comic strip figurine in Germany back in 1955 as Lilli. I love the hyper-glam and perversity of her. I dislike how misrepresented she has become due to conservatism and hypocrisy.
On the sleevenotes for YOTW you say, "We thank the following whores" and provide a list of inspirational women (and men), both expected and unexpected. Could I ask why you included, for example Queen Elizabeth I, Marie Curie, Boy George (or any of the others you'd like to talk about)?
I focused on the "bastards", the "socially unacceptable" who had to confront great opposition for their "radical" methods or beliefs. Those who were called "Whores" openly throughout history - anyone who was made to wear that badge and in spite of it all proved themselves just as grand or as human as the rest of us.
I've read interviews for YOTW where you talk about how the respect whores get is a measure of respect that all women get in a society. We seem to live in an increasingly sexualised (some would say pornified) society yet it still seems like there is a double standard and that only one type of sexuality gets mass acceptance. I've also noticed a resurgence in anti-porn activism among feminists but equally people involved in the fetish/sex work or even just more comfortable with certain sexual activities/ideas being completely dismissive of feminism and I just think there is too much black & white thinking on both sides and I think life is more complicated than just to say all sex work is automatically good or bad. Why do you think that open female sexuality (especially in terms of sex work) is still so stigmatised?
We are taught very early on to look upon any female who possesses a strong sexual energy as dangerous (a la film noir, the danger dames of the 50s, vampires, succubus, Lillith, Eve and her almighty apple, etc.). We are supposed to shun it in fear. Women create life. I dunno --- I guess that scares the shit out of someone that doesn't. It's a pretty fucked up bummer. There'd be less violence in the world if we didn't fear or try to possess women and the power of sex so much.
You said the name Vulgaras was inspired by a quote from Alice in Wonderland which you've also named as one of your favourite books. What is that appeals to you about the Alice books?
The same thing that turns me on when it comes to Dorothy and The Wizard of OZ, Wicked, Willy Wonka, Donnie Darko, The Big Lebowski, The Wall, Spirited Away, Waking Life or Magnolia. Transformation. The personal spirit pushing past the supposed boundaries of the human condition and the journey that takes them there.
I've read that you're also involved in burlesque. How did you feel about the resurgence of interest in burlesque in recent years and how it became co-opted into the mainstream?
I support it. It's still an outlet none the less. There is a place for fringe performance artists regardless. My work is controversial so I created a platform once a month for performers like myself who don't always want to buckle to conservative/commercial burlesque promoters. I call it !BadAss! --- http://www.badassburlesque.com/ It's a crazy party celebrating the underside of the female psyche and if I didn't try to promote it there wouldn't be that platform ;) Burlesque is like steam releasing from a volcano of war-time absurdity.
Who are some of your favourite burlesque performers (past or present)?
In no order at all ---
The World Famous *BOB*
Julie Atlas Muz
Bambi the Mermaid
Scotty the Blue Bunny
I could really go on forever here ...
I read that your performances used to quite an extreme blend of sex/horror. What kind of stage shows are you planning for the new album and do you have any plans to tour Europe/the UK?
I ceased stage antics 2 years ago. I only work with horror in my performance art. When I am onstage in front of my band I have the room full of people in front of me and my relationship with them has become my muse in live play. I focus on what I am sharing with them, what they want to share with me and find myself engaging with everyone both physically and spiritually. The energy exchange is as potent and naked as any knife or drug.
You've got a cover version of Bang Bang up on your MySpace that I absolutely adore. What made you decide to cover this song and will it be on the new album?
The Anti-Dave and I have a strong creative relationship, partners in crime so to speak. That's our song for each other - our ode to creative destruction.
How is the new album coming along?
Our release date is June 21st 2008. It represents a war-torn passion that is living loud in spite of it all. The cross roads aly across it as the do or die moment we are living in as artists in a grey world.
Will it be very different to YOTW or a continuation of the same themes?
I haven't been working in the sex industry since 2003. My life has become a constant work in progress ever since. The struggle to manifest destiny and rediscover personal boundaries have a lot to do with it. Soulful empowerment on a personal level.
I hope that helped. I enjoyed your questions.
THIS E-MAIL INTERVIEW WAS CONDUCTED IN MARCH 2008.
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN MAY 2008.
PHOTO OF VELOCITY AND BAND PHOTOS OF VULGARAS BY JOHNNY SWIGZ
YEAR OF THE WHORE ALBUM PHOTO BY JOHN SANTERINEROSS