From The Pit To The Mic: Interview with Morgan Lander of Kittie

It’s not every day you get to interview someone from a legendary metal band that has been around for 20+ years. So when I was recording the interview and used the word “legendary” she responded with a resounding cheer and added, “When you said that my mouth actually opened.” I’m referring to Morgan Lander the vocalist of Kittie.

When you talk about a band with such longevity and fame, I feel you have to consider them as legendary. Morgan doesn’t take the wording lightly, “It’s a weird thing to hear.” “I don’t think of myself as legendary,” she went on, “And to hear that really is an honor. It’s something you don’t get used to hearing.”

For those of you who don’t know, Kittie, in Morgan’s own words, is an “all-female heavy metal band from London, Ontario, Canada. We got started well over 20 years ago. Right out of the box in 2000 with our debut album ‘Spit’ and continued to make music and tour the world for the last 20 years. Kicking ass and taking names.” One of the most intriguing things I found about Kittie was their formation followed by recognition at such a young age. Morgan was 14, Mercedes, Morgan’s sister, was 12, and Fallon Bowman, their third founding member was 13 when Kittie was formed in 1996. As to how the band formed, obviously Morgan and Mercedes both starting playing together being siblings. Morgan explained that “Mercedes and Fallon had met through gymnastics. And they sort of bonded over the types of music that they like and that sort of thing. And they started playing together as well just sort of getting together and jamming and that sort of thing. Mercedes had mentioned that I also play guitar and invited me to come and join them. And I guess the rest is history.”

“Right off the bat, we started writing songs, and then Tanya Candler came into the fold a number of months after to complete the lineup. The first song we ever wrote was “Brackish” and a few others as well. It was innocent and very simple just playing in our parent’s basement. And having fun together and learning. We were big dreamers, but at that point and time there was no indication of what was to come.”

And big dreamers they were. Kittie was intent on getting themselves a record deal, which they did with NG Records. How that occurred, I found very humorous. “We did an industry fest in Toronto called Canadian Music Week. It’s very similar to South By Southwest or CMJ festivals in the states. Where at that time a lot of it was industry people flocked to Toronto and I guess check out lots of unsigned bands and maybe sign some people.” “We actually had some showcases that week in Toronto and actually met Jason Wyner who was Vice President, at the time, of NG Records there and we actually just approached him because he was wearing a really stupid hat.” I loved how open Morgan was with this story.

And she was also very open about how she saw herself at the time when this happened. “You have to understand, we were young and so unbelievably obnoxious. Like everything all that attitude that goes into the first album, like all those songs, that was also us in person. So we saw him and started harassing him and he had heard a little bit about us before.” “So he came to watch our showcase and the ball started rolling on us getting signed with NG Records out of New York.” I’m fairly certain that doesn’t happen with artists today and when I asked Morgan if she was surprised that tactic worked her reply was, “It’s interesting because that was a different time back then. That was a time when that actually could happen. Nowadays it’s a little bit of a different thing.” “But back then that was the time of street teams and that sort of thing. And you got handed a demo and then you pass it off to somebody and they get signed and that sort of thing. In our minds it was plausible. We really wanted to go down there and have fun and meet people and make some waves and be exactly who we were.”

From then the band released ‘Spit’ their debut album in 2000, which went on to become a huge success, including getting certified as Gold. Kittie certainly wasn’t expecting this to happen right out the door. “We honestly thought we would go on tour for the summer, get signed, put out an album, and make 5,000 copies, which was what was printed and that was it. And we decided it would be a fun summer project.” That “project” ended up turning into 6 studio albums, 4 EPs, music videos, and lots of touring over the past 20 years. And at such a young age to be so successful, Morgan said there was a lot of pressure involved, “There definitely is pressure because it takes the band and the chemistry and the vibe of ‘We’re young, we’re fun, we’re having a good time together’ to ‘This is the real world. This is a lot of money at stake. This is business.'” Morgan does say her parents were very involved to ensure they weren’t too exhausted being on tour and properly supervised since at that time Morgan was 18 but Mercedes and Fallon were both under the age of 18.

Morgan did explain that over their 20+ year history it wasn’t an easy road for them. I asked if she felt if it was tougher being an all-female band than what an all-male band would endure. “I think you kind of nailed it. There are positives and negatives to every situation. We did have, especially early on, a lot of critics, a lot of people that were skeptical about our abilities, about whether we actually wrote our own songs, which of course we did. Whether we played on our albums, whether we were even playing live. It was hurtful. It was very hurtful.” And this criticism was thrown at a band who had every studio album rank on the Billboard 200, who played at major festivals, like Ozzfest, and went on successful worldwide tours. “We did work hard to be a good band and to continue the evolution throughout the years to become better and every album put out more material that was more comprehensive and more mature.” When we talked more about gender equality she said, “It’s unfortunate it still has to be a topic that has to be addressed over and over again, about the gender issue. My wish is one day it will become a non-issue.” Some critics and fans looked at Kittie as a “novelty”, something that Morgan said was “pinned on us from very early on.”

On the plus side, of the gender equality topic, Kittie’s success and tenure in the music industry is an inspiration to fans and other musicians to show that you can make it from the ground up. Their success as Morgan says, “It was nothing that we anticipated or expected, but honestly it is one of the reasons why this is so important to be able to say to people who may be inspired by the band that you know that anything is possible. We came from out of nowhere. From nothing. We had very humble means and we look where we are today.”

As part of celebrating the band’s history, they are releasing a 20th Anniversary 3 disc DVD/Blu-ray/CD documentary. In 2014 Kittie started an indiegogo (crowdfunding) campaign asking for $20,000 CAD (Canadian Dollars). They ended up raising $40,525 CAD from 936 backers. You can see details of the campaign here. “We thought that $20,000 was a lofty goal and shockingly within the first few days we had met our goal and actually surpassed by I think was over 200% of our goal.” Once they had the funding they started getting the ball rolling on this project. “We found Rob McCallum who directed the documentary. He’s from London, Ontario as well and knows a lot of the same people that we do and it worked out really, really well.”

The documentary titled ‘Origins/Evolutions’ will be released on March 30, 2018. Morgan explained that they kept everything from VHS tapes of shows to cassettes to never before seen photos and they wanted this documentary to be for the fans “the ultimate almost behind the scenes experience where they are seeing the recording of ‘Spit’ for the first time ever. We videotaped that entire experience and never had the capacity to release it. So that’s a glimpse into that part of our life.” Morgan was excited talking about the documentary listing some of the things it included, “All of the archival stuff is all there. All of the music is there. All of the music videos as well as updated interviews that we did in 2015 as well.” And even more exciting is who takes part in telling this tale, “And everyone is there to sort of tell the story, band members past and present, as well as people who were closest to us, like my best friend, and our crew people as well and integral people that were in our life that were in the industry at the time.” You could hear how proud she was of the documentary. She describes it as “very comprehensive. It’s our story in our own words. And everybody kind of has a little bit of a different story to tell and I think it’s important that’s recognized.”

When I asked about Morgan’s favorite thing they shared on the documentary she laughed, “Oh man, there’s so much!” But, narrowed it down to the recording of ‘Spit’. “I definitely think the recording of ‘Spit’ is the one thing I’m most excited about because it is something that no one has ever seen before. And just how obnoxious and excited we were. We must have been very annoying to everyone. We were just super young and really inexperienced and working with a like a huge producer. None of this stuff really registered. We were so excited to be there. And I think that is what’s really cool because it gives everyone a glimpse into what things were like right before everything took off for us. It’s really fun to watch. Even for myself.”

During our conversation, I learned some interesting tidbits about the band:

  • Their first actual tour was two weeks in 1999 with a band called Skinlab.
  • Morgan takes part in a podcast called Witch Finger Horror Podcast. As she describes it, “We are a lot of fun. We drink lots of beer. And watch bad movies from the 80s. You can get a glimpse into our personalities.” When I mentioned that it sounds very similar to Mystery Science Theater 3000 she said if I liked that I’d like their podcast. She recommended I check out one of the later episodes, such as Fright Night, which I explained was one of my favorite movies.
  • She has been writing some music with some members of Black Guard to hopefully release an album sometime in 2018.
  • Mercedes and Morgan had a clothing line in 2004 and 2005 called Poison Black. When I asked if she would run another clothing line again Morgan replied, “I don’t feel I’m cut out for that.”

The last words Morgan closed with was, “First off, thank you if you’re a fan.” “Thank you very much for your support. It is much appreciated. This has been a long journey with a lot of ups and downs. But, you’ll be able to hear all about it on March 30th when ‘Origins/Evolutions’ is released nationwide, online, and in stores. We also are including a live album with the DVD/Blu-ray. So there are 12 songs that are included there so you get the live experience as well. I hope everybody enjoys it. We’ve worked really hard over the last few years to make this idea, this dream, to come to reality and come to fruition. And so we’re just really excited that it’s finally going to be out there.”