"It’s like I’ve just taken scissors to the footage over and over again, and sometimes it’s great and sometimes it’s like, whoops!," says the Kills' and Dead Weather singer.

By Claire Lobenfeld
April 09, 2020 at 02:59 PM EDT
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David James Swanson

Alison Mosshart, the fiery frontwoman of the Kills and the Dead Weather, just released “Rise,” the first single under her own name. The song is a bluesy slow-burner packed with the singer's signature yowl, and is featured prominently in the Season 2 finale of the Juliette Lewis-starring FacebookWatch series Sacred Lies. Though Mosshart insists the track, which she initially wrote in 2013, is not a starting point for a solo career — her and Kills’ bandmate Jamie Hince have been working on new music and are eager to get the band back on the road as soon as its safe — it does find her adding a new skill to her artistic acumen: director and producer. The Nashville-based artist spoke to EW about “Rise,” self-helming its music video, and her upcoming book CAR MA.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did this first big solo outing come to be? 

ALISON MOSSHART: I was asked by the Sacred Lies [team] to write a song for a bunch of different characters to sing at the end of the show — a song that was something all of these people knew but they didn’t know why they knew it. I had to think about lots of different characters and find something that tied all their stories together. I read the script and remembered this one I had written in 2013 that I always loved but didn't really fit within the Kills' realm or the Dead Weather realm. I revisited the song and worked on it a little more and I finished a really simple acoustic, one-track version of it. They loved it and used it and then asked me if I would record it for them for the final credits. I got to go to Lawrence Rothman’s studio in LA and got Jamie to come in and do some guitar bits on it. I needed a guitar player and who better to ask than my favorite guitar player? [Laughs.] Then Domino [Records, the Kills’ label] heard the track and wanted to release it as my song.

You made the music video by yourself while in isolation. What was that process like for you?

I drank a lot of wine and I filmed that whole thing. There are three takes of me singing it, none of which are perfect all the way through; the lighting is weird, I’m in the studio at my house, I’m using this camera that I don’t really know how to use. It started on day four of “house arrest” and I got so obsessed with it, I just did not stop working on it for five straight days. I was just having the greatest time.

The cuts in the video feel very stylized. Was there any visual inspiration for it, or any filmmaker who you might have been thinking about while you were working on it?

There was nothing. [I was using] iMovie and I hate it. I kind of likened working on it to making a fanzine with a really sh––y photocopier. You don’t know what you’re gonna get. You have kind of an idea and the mistakes are interesting — other times they’re awful, other times you have to just go with it. There are funny edits in there. It’s like I’ve just taken scissors to the footage over and over again, and sometimes it’s great and sometimes it’s like, whoops! and that’s what it is. [Laughs.] 

The car footage in the video is also self-shot. Where did that come from?

A couple of weeks prior to [the COVID-19 pandemic], I was in East L.A. with some friends of mine to go see all these low-riders. That was the first time I’d ever used this video camera that I bought myself back in November. I really missed having a video camera, so I got one but I don’t know how to use it, which I think you can tell from watching the low-rider footage. But I had all of this and it was so beautiful being there, so I thought it was a perfect juxtaposition for a song called “Rise” and the vibe of it. I’m glad I had that footage because without it, I would not have a music video. It would be something very different. Cars. I love cars.

You have a book coming out later this year, CAR MA, which is about your interest in cars, and collects some of your writing and visual art. What was the creative process like for compiling that work?

My dad is a used car dealer. I grew up around cars, hanging out in lots. [There were] lots of weird cars around all the time at his shop where people were detailing cars. It’s always been in my life. It’s what I see and it’s what I do and it makes me feel a lot of things, so it’s always crept into my art, my photographs, my paintings, my songs. That book was a real love letter to all of that. It starts when I’m little, from photographs I find in boxes and weird writing I did when I was 18 or 20 — anytime I found a thread that aligned. That book could have been 600 pages long if I let it be.

How much does your visual art inform the music you write and vice versa?

I can’t tell you what piston fires in my brain when I’m led to paint a painting instead of picking up a guitar but if I’m stuck on a painting, the next thing I’m doing is playing guitar and vice versa. Music is so exciting because of the performance element of it. You don’t have that kind of adrenaline when you’re painting a picture. There aren’t thousands of people staring at you, you’re not garnering that kind of energy from a room of people, so I think the performance of music is quite different from the act of painting but there are similarities. I’ve gone on tours where I liked to paint backstage and I liked people being around. I like people walking over to me and I don’t mind doing art in the public space — I’m not like, Don’t look I’m not done. I’m not like that. It’s like, Please step on it, it might do something cool.

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CORRECTION: A previous version of this story inaccurately listed the name of the series Sacred Lies as Sacred Life. The mistake has since been corrected.

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