Interview Queen Kwong: Carré Callaway

Artiest: Queen Kwong

Geïnterviewde: Carré Callaway

Interview afgenomen in: Café Charlatan

Label: Dissention Records 

Carré Kwong Callaway, alias Queen Kwong, startte als solo artieste, werd ontdekt door Trent Reznor, mocht prompt openen voor Nine Inch Nails en heeft er sindsdien een eigenzinnig parcours in de muziekindustrie opzitten. Vorig jaar vervoegde ene Wes Borland (zonder schmink) zich bij de band en werd hij ook meneer Kwong, of zij mevrouw Borland. Tijdens haar eerste Europese tour deed ze de Charlatan aan en daar schotelden wij haar enkele vragen voor. Ze houdt er alvast een uitgesproken mening over de muziekindustrie op na...


How are you doing?


Actually i’m really tired and kinda sick and jetlagged. I love to tour, but my body hates it because I’m really sensitive to travelling. It’s really hard on me. But yesterday we had time to see the city and I love Ghent, I want to move here actually.


So this is the first real European tour for Queen Kwong, first impressions?


Well we’ve played London a couple of times this year, Reading/Leeds and one show in Amsterdam. But now is like the official European tour. We played Amsterdam and Rennes till now and those two shows went really well. You never know, because we never played any of the cities on this tour. So you never know, it could be two people there or 200. The first time we played Amsterdam, there were like ten people, this time hundreds.


‘She’s A Witness’, is a raw, expressive and edgy record in comparison with the ‘Bad Lieutenant’ EP. What happened in between?


Actually it’s funny, because with the ‘Bad Lieutenant’ EP I’ve got money to make the record with some producers and I ended up really hating it. But I still needed to hand in a record. So I recorded all songs by myself, on the computer in a very small bathroom of my cousin’s apartment in New York City in five days. Because it was just me in a bathroom, it didn’t have much instruments and was very limited. So it wasn’t an electronic album, but it also lacked real instruments. I play bass, guitar and sing, but it was all through the computer, without amps or anything. So it wasn’t loud or energetic and that’s a major difference. ‘Get A Witness’ is a proper studio album, loud, with a lot of instruments and freedom, while ‘Bad Lieutenant’ was very restricted.


You started as a solo artist, got discovered by Trent and now you’re a four piece band.


before we were a three piece band, which I really loved, but it was a different kind of feeling. So it’s been evolving since the start.


Does this feel like the actual starting point of Queen Kwong?


People always want to know what’s the genre, they want a specific description,... For me it’s different. I started Queen Kwong six years ago, not as a band, but as a project. And it was just me by myself. As the time went on, the concept changed and it grew to whatever it wanted to be. So it hasn’t been the same the whole time of course, and I like that. But now this really turned out to be a project of a band, and it’s going to be a rock band of which I have a clear vision about. And that only happened in the last two years. This line-up exists for just more than a year now and it feels like this is the truest representation of my music and my record.


You’re a big Nick Cave and Swans fan, two bands who constantly push the boundaries of (their) music in different directions. How do you see the evolution of Queen Kwong?


I’m a huge fan! It’s been really hard for me actually, because pushing the boundaries is what I appreciate and what I like to do. Just do whatever I want, I always want to do something different and I don’t fit in to any specific genre. I have songs that are ballads on piano, I did acoustic songs, a lot of fingerpicking kind of folk and than I have a lot of heavier songs, songs with more punk, etcetera. I don’t like to put myself into a box, whoever that really makes it hard for the music industry, radio and listeners. Because they want to be able to identify you. “Oh, you are this one thing” and if you do something different, they get confused: “No, we just need you to be just you”. Nick Cave and Michael Gira (Swans) are able to do whatever the fuck they want and they have a niche fan base, that loves their experiments. My hope with this record is to find an audience who appreciate that. For a very long time, I was trying to please people who didn’t understand that. So I was always trying to write songs and people were saying that they should be shorter, should have better hooks, they’re not singles or radio material,... That was really hard for me, because I didn’t want to write music like that but I had to. There was a lot of pressure that time. This record is really polarising, this is my debut full length record and this is what I like, what I want to do and people who don’t like it: bye bye. Take it or leave it. It’s polarising, but it’s a good definition of who I am and what I like right now. I just try to be strong and stick to that, because it’s really hard in this industry because people want to fit you into something. And than I look to my favourite bands, whom you can’t put in a box and that’s what I like about them. But it’s very hard nowadays to be a new band, especially being a girl. Swans can start a set and continue the same thing for twelve minutes. People in the industry who come to see me, don’t want to see that. They want to make sure they can sell me and get me on the radio, and I’m not interested in that. It’s hard, you need to play the game and compromise because I still need the money to go on tour, for press and pr. So it’s a fine balance, until I get to a point where people know you have enough fans. You have to prove yourself, so I’m still fighting that a little. But if it were up to me, I would play shows like Swans, the same thing all over again, louder and louder and louder (laughs).


There seems to be a revival of female fronted and female bands. Sleater Kinney returned, Savages are doing great, you have Screaming Females,... Is the industry changing for females?


I don’t know, I think that women have always been doing this. It’s just that there’s a trend right now where it’s accepted, popular and cool. Women have always been playing music, but the last time it was really cool was like in the nineties with the grunge and rrriot girl stuff. Women kept playing music but people began to lose interest and it didn’t become that popular and trendy. Now girls are coming back and it becomes mere popular to be in a band and play rock music. And people are saying “Oh, you’re so nineties”, but that’s only because they refer to the popular era of female bands. Women have being doing this the whole time but for some reason indie rock nowadays is trendy. Which is fine and works for me, because that’s what I’m doing. It’s a good sign that this is becoming cool again, but it should’ve been cool this whole time.


You seem this gentle and tender kitten, but when on stage you become like this fearless tiger.


(laughs) It sounds like a thing my best friend would say. I think there are many different facets of my personality, or actually only a couple, which are rather extreme. I”ve suffered a lot from sickness, I grew up as a really sick child and I still have a really weak immune system and body. So most of the time I’m very relaxed and I stay home most of the time, it’s hard to take care of myself. I can’t do much without getting sick, even on an airplane I get sick. I suffered from a long depression and like to be by myself. I only have a few friends and I’m not a very exciting person. I’m very simple. But there’s another side of me, my only kind of emotional expression is basically through music. That side of me is alway there, but is not always expressed. My music is really emotional and it all is extremely personal, so of course when we play shows, that part of me is expressing a very emotional personal side of me. Of course that’s got to come out, I can’t be apathetic towards it because it is something that means a lot to me.So it is like two different kind of sides of myself, but they’re still me.


A couple of months ago, you saw Eagles of Death Metal play. Someone on your Instagram-account reacted by saying she was looking forward seeing them in Paris. Do you feel there’s a before and after the attack on Bataclan as an artist?


It will normalize I think. It was really strange for us, because we’re friends with them and we were actually talking about opening for them on their European shows. So it was weird, it came close to home, it became personal. Of course it’s totally different for them, I”m not trying to take away from that, but when something happens to somebody you know it becomes personal. We’ve all been to the Bataclan and it’s upsetting but also very strange. I think everybody got a wake up call that this could happen to anybody. We are playing rock music, this small group of people getting together in a club, how could that happen to us. We’re not participating in a war or such. You never think that terrorism could affect you personally, it doesn’t seem part of our world or only on the news. So it was a weird feeling. I remember I was in New York on 9/11 and it’s that same kind of feeling where everybody is upset, scared and emotional. But when you go to New York now, it’s all the same as before. Now it’s really fresh, but it’s going to normalize. In a year from now people won’t be thinking in the same way, life goes on you know.


I saw on one of your spotify playlists the band Millionaire, how did you get to know them?


They’re Belgian right? We had some mutual friends and I saw them play in a small club in LA eleven years ago I think, around the time their record ‘Outside The Simian Flock’ came out. Nobody was there, but these guys were so good. So I bought their record and I also got the record after that. I’ve always really liked them, but I don’t know much about them. It’s an old record when you think about it, I was seventeen or so.


Is there a question that you’ve always wanted to answer but never get asked?


There are many questions I never want to answer, but always get asked! I’m always waiting for it. Which you haven’t asked me, so good job.


Which presents do you love to receive?


Anything cat related. I have a big collection of cats at my house, real and fake ones. I collect ceramic cats. But I haven’t found any in Amsterdam or Ghent, so I’m still on the hunt.