What’s your middle name?
Elizabeth. It’s my mother’s name.
What’s your earliest memory?
I can’t really distinguish the real memories from the dreams and the stories I’ve been told, but I do have clear memories of profound philosophical symposia with cuddly toys. And also hearing what I naturally presumed was God calling my name when I was playing in the garden, but turned out to be my next door neighbour who proceeded to drench me with a Super Soaker 3000.
Who was your first crush, and did you ever confess?
I’d be betraying my child self if I told you!
What’s the worst job you’ve ever worked and what was so bad about it?
Working in an office. Hunched over a computer, staring at a spreadsheet in an artificially lit room with the blinds down on a sunny day. Please pardon the melodrama but I swear I could physically feel my soul and spirit wilting.
What would you be if you weren’t a musician?
What would you tell your teenage self if you could go back in time?
“Boot the grime of this world in the crotch, dear.”
What did you listen to when you were growing up? Who did you first see live?
My Dad got me into Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. It’s my mother I owe for The Smiths. Other than that I was really into ’60s pop songs and Motown/soul when I was a kid. And then Slipknot happened. The first band I really loved as a teenager was Nirvana, shortly followed by Pixies, PJ Harvey, The Smiths and Green Day. My first gig was Green Day when I was thirteen, then Reading Festival the following summer. And thenceforth I was hooked.
Do you have an instrument you’d still like to learn? What’s stopping you?
I used to play electric guitar in my teens but I sort of put it aside as I don’t play in the band. I might have to start another band so that I can justify picking up the guitar again!
What’s been the best moment of your career so far?
For shits and giggles: touring in Germany is just about the most fun I’ve had in my life and I pretty much live for touring now. I cannot wait to get back on the road to Europe and hopefully beyond.
For “job satisfaction”: I used to be all about the live show and regarded recording as the boring bit. That all changed this year when we recorded our album. Working with Jim Sclavunos as our producer and Dave Sanderson of 2Fly (Sheffield) was an invaluable experience and a fucking scream. I have many joyous memories of playing with many weird and wonderful noise-making tricks and bouncing around the live room yelping and shouting. I think that the electricity in the air when we were recording has helped enormously with creating an energetic-sounding album.
What’s your funniest gig or studio memory?
Covering our guitarist in butter and watching him being chased around naked by the organist’s dog, wrestling on dusty mattresses, watching upsetting porn in between takes, Mr Sclavunos beating the living crap out of a cow bell until it was but a shrivelled husk; it’s a laugh a bloody minute with this lot!
How important is image to your music, on a personal level?
Personally, I like to look like one of the gang, rather than be separated out too much as the “female frontwoman”. There’s no band hierarchy. They don’t treat me like a fragile little lady so I don’t put myself across that way. I want to be a strong and captivating performer like Iggy Pop or Mick Jagger or Grace Slick or Donita Sparks, not some twinkly little bauble.
What are your biggest obstacles as a musician?
My body being my instrument. Infuriating when all I want to do is get wasted and party hard but I have to think about my voice.
Have you ever had any bizarre comparisons to other musicians? How do you feel about that?
Sadly, being a female vocalist means that the pool of well-known counterparts is smaller for journalists to choose from, so I invariably get the same obvious comparisons over and over again. I don’t like to say it’s wrong as I may well sound a bit like these women, whether I’m aware of the influence or not, and the artists themselves are commendable so the comparison is flattering in a sense. Having said that, you can’t help but feel that some more imaginative comparisons would be welcome at times!
What’s your favourite poem and how much of it can you recite from memory?
I don’t know how I would choose a favourite, but I’m going to go with John Keats’ ‘Lamia’, which I could recite very little of as it is bloody long but bloody beautiful. And I should also mention ‘Lament For The Moths’ by Tennessee Williams which is largely responsible for our band name.
What’s your favourite joke or quote?
“When I am dead, I hope it may be said: ‘his sins were scarlet but his books were read’” – Hiloire Belloc
Name the last good book you read and tell us how it affected you.
John Paul Sartre’s Nausea. I’m not quite finished but I have vague memories of having read it before. I love it. There’s nothing quite like that feeling of reading a writer who articulates intense sensations deeply familiar to you but in a far more eloquent way than you could personally muster. In her diaries, Susan Sontag talks about her intellectual communion with Gide and how she feels labour pains for every thought he gives birth to. I loved that idea. I’ve also been reading a lot of Michel Houellebecq, which is a seriously unhealthy habit.
Are you a dog or a cat person?
I really, really love dogs. I have an embarrassing amount of love for them that sometimes erupts uncontrollably. I like cats a lot too but unfortunately I have cruel allergies.
What’s the best thing you’ve ever seen on YouTube?
I spend far too much time on YouTube to give you an overall favourite, but this week I guess it would be this. Absolutely terrifying…
What’s your favourite song to cover and why?
We covered ‘Sign Of The Wolf’ by Pentagram on tour last year and that was fierce. I’d really like to do an L7 cover soon though.
What are your views on feminism?
The most devastating thing for me is that it has become a dirty word. I hear intelligent women saying “I’m not being a feminist or anything but…” and it’s really sad. I think it should be explained and promoted in schools early on, so that little dudes of the female and male varieties are brought up understanding their equal worth and strengths.
What’s your biggest fear?
Anything bad happening to any of my friends or family.
What makes you angry?
Mainly, creatures making no effort to understand each other. There is a distinct lack of empathy in the world. This leads to ignorance, selfishness, judgemental behaviour, competitive behaviour, prejudice, haters, whiners, grabbers, liars, Jeremy Clarkson, war, cruelty to animals, etc. Oh and “banter”. Ugh, “banter”.
How would you define your personal politics?
I am fairly anarchic in my approach to everyday life but in all honesty I wouldn’t have a clue where to start with running the country/world. It seems like an absurd idea at best.
Are major labels doomed? If yes, is this a good thing?
I don’t know. It looks that way I guess, but the music “business”, just like the art “industry” always has and probably always will leave me cold. This probably sounds naïve but you just do what you’ve got to do to keep on keeping on. And keep rock ‘n’ roll alive. I’m just really grateful that we’re working with such a wonderful little indie label (New Heavy Sounds) that supports our vision entirely and shows us nothing but encouragement and support.
What gives music its worth?
For me, it’s the raw power, the pure Dionysian thrill of it. Good lyrics and purpose can be a massive bonus but really it’s about the rousing riffs and rhythms that awaken the rebellious spirit.
What kind of person would have sex to your music?
Sexy people with good taste, good rhythm and super-strong neck tendons.
If you were an answer in a crossword puzzle, what would be your clue?
Hard rock lepidopteran.
How are you most likely to die? What would you want written on your headstone?
I’m almost certain I will end up under the wheels of a passing vehicle I’m afraid. I’ve had a few too many near misses due to “away-with-the-fairies” tendencies and am shockingly irresponsible around traffic. I won’t have a headstone as I’m not going to be buried. I carry an organ donor card, a necro card (that’s not the thing they give you at Sainsburys), and I fully intend to have my skin used to bind a book.
What’s in your pockets right now?
Two Wham bars, some Fruitella wrappers, Oyster card, a replica eighteenth century love token that my friend got me from the British Museum, a pen and my inhaler.
What have you done today to make you feel proud?
Woke up in yesterday’s clothes, stumbled home in the sunshine, ate three Wham bars and drank black coffee, decided not to do any work, felt good. I don’t know if proud is really the word but there was a certain amount of semi-stoned, partially hungover contentment going on.
Catch Harriet and the band this Bank Holiday weekend in Leeds and London. The Killing Jar is out on Monday (May 7).
05.05.12 Live At Leeds, Leeds
06.05.12 Camden Crawl, London