“Fire Power” A solo exhibition of new work by Alison Mosshart, front woman of The Kills and The Dead Weather, recently closed at Joseph Gross Gallery. The expansive show included over 127 mixed media pieces that saw Mosshart working with tapestries and canvases. Many of which, she carried around in a suitcase while traveling from city to city.
“I don’t carry around pen and paper everywhere I go and still have acquired quite a body of work. Its the most joyous thing in the world to be backstage alone. You have all this strange time you don’t know what to do with between soundcheck and the gig time because you can’t really go outside. Its the perfect time to create and make things. I enjoy it anyways.”
Here, we talk with the raspy visual artist to get her take on life on the road, creating works on the go, and recording new music.
JP: Can you tell us a little bit about the work you featured at Joseph Gross Gallery?
AM: Umm, its a very slash and burn kind of style. It is not like you can sit, staring at it, wondering what it could/would be. Its not that kind of work. Cant you tell? Haha.
JP: I saw that a lot of the pieces were about the size of a suitcase. Do you carry a lot of your materials around with you and work from there. Is that kind of where the quick and dirtiness comes from?
AM: Yeah, you know of lot it. Well yeah, most of it. I don’t carry around pen and paper everywhere I go and still have acquired quite a body of work. Its the most joyous thing in the world to be backstage alone. You have all this strange time you don’t know what to do with between soundcheck and the gig. Because you can’t really go outside, its the perfect time to create and make things. I enjoy it anyways.
JP: So the theme of the show was based around your life on the road. Did a lot of the those ideas come from what you were experiencing and the people you were meeting along the way? I noticed a lot of the pieces you have done were more character based.
AM: Yeah, I’m definitely being affected by my environment and the people I run into. There is no way I can ignore all of that stuff. I’m living a life that is constantly changing. Its my way of remembering and thinking about it. You know, it goes in and it comes out. I do the same thing with song writing. However, sound writing takes alot longer put together, but Jamie and I hold each other together.
Collecting drawings, taking photographs, and making things, has been a big part of our band since day one. It is kinda of only natural to do. I don’t know, I don’t know if I’m caught off guard by that or not.
I started posting photographs of my paintings to instagram as I was going along and creating them. Friends encouraged me to do that. I was like “oh, no. Instagram, I don’t know.” But I did it. I’m not really a social media person. I just rather not. Not really my thing. It was super funny because they were right. With in like two seconds. I got off for sure. It just kept happening. It worked, I don’t know what I was aiming for but, you know people are receivers That is amazing to me that people like my paintings.
JP: You mentioned you guys are on the road, you and Jamie; taking photos and doing these things. I know in the past you have done collage work while in Florida and now you have these other opportunities to create things that are not just paintings. In the future will you do shows that will be photo driven or collage driven?
AM: I have no idea. I just can’t plan ahead about these things. Really interesting opportunities come up and that is what I like. If you have a great idea for something, do it at some point it will make sense in the world to do it. No rush. No hurry. There is plenty of time for all this stuff. I sometimes need to just focus on the canvas which is right now. With the tour coming up, there is a lot going on.
JP: Yeah, you are just busy, busy. I was like how is she creating so much work?!
AM: Well it is really busy. I start tour. The busier that you get the more traveling around, doing all these crazy odd jobs, recordings, and touring. All this stuff happens, and you start to have this odd time on your hands. These few bizarre hours here and there, where you are too tired or too awake or too something that is kinda of when the cool stuff happens you know? You don’t know what to do with yourself. You should be asleep but you can’t. You got to go some where in a few hours.
JP: The wee hours of the night…
AM: Haha yah, it is good. Interesting ideas come in those strange moments between everything.
JP: I got the impression a lot of your work has a bit of an experimental approach in the way that you create it. One of the pieces that really stood out to me was the one you did where you drove around a remote control car on canvas until the batteries died. How do you conceptualize or approach a new piece?
AM: It is a very, honest, childish way of doing things. I get excited about things and do them. There is not too much conceptualizing. That comes later, when I’m trying to figure out why the hell I did that. I was going to the store in the middle of the night and checking out tire tracks on remote control cars and buying a shit ton of batteries. This is clearly fun for me. I’d come home and roll out a 7 foot canvas on the floor and destroy my whole studio with paint. There are tire tracks everywhere. Its joyously fun and exciting.
It all comes from my complete love of cars and travel. I love this job still, I love it! Its endlessly inspiring for me and that is where the ideas come from. If it sounds fun and cool, I am going to try it out. For the tire tracks, when the idea started, I was going to run my actual car over canvases. It got a little complicated.
That Got me going to this used tire place out of town. Checking out all these tires, buying some tires. Looking at the tracks. But, they didn’t look right because there isn’t any weight to a track that isn’t connected to a car. It just sucks. It doesn’t have that same tire track feel. It looks like a stamp. So that idea then shrunk down to I’m going to Toy-R-Us. My big’ole idea got shrunk down, to the tiniest thing, to get the result I wanted.
JP: I know that your art has been an outlet for a musical career. I would love to get a quick in about your musical projects. Can you tell me about the upcoming Deadweather record and what we can expect as listeners from it?
AM: The Deadweather record is super super rounded. Well, crazy for a deadweather record, I love it! I’m obsessed with it right now. Because it’s so new to me. We just finished it the other day before I left to go to London to rehearse. We mixed and mastered it in the last two days. all fresh and new for me too. It sounds great. It was exciting. It was done over the course of two years, but Probably, all in all, 6 weeks.
JP: Awesome! Do you find it difficult to transition between The Kills and The Deadweather or vice versa, both have different styles and approach. Do you find it a challenge going back and forth creating songs?
AM: I think for all the reasons that you just said. I don’t find it difficult at all. Its just so different. Everything about those two bands is so different. The way I approach it, the way we write it, is so different sitting in a room with four people jamming writing in that fashion is 100% different from the way The Kills write. We build songs from the ground up. everything has to be caught up. With two people, its a really a different situation.
Recording with The Kills is another situation. Its like walking a tightrope the whole time when you have a drum machine. You can’t fall off, can’t speed up, you can’t lose your place. A totally different kind of creative energy to stay in line, while trying to be human at the same time.
Deadweather is completely led by the heart, everything changes all the time. Not one show is like the other, it changes all the time. We can speed up, or go back to that song. It’s like four people that are linked together and can take it 25 different directions in fifteen minutes. It a completely different thing, it’s much more jam oriented. Its a completely different discipline. To me, thats challanging. I haven’t done that since my first band. Even then, none of us where good enough to do that.
JP: You mentioned jamming. You’ve had the chance to play with some amazing folks. If you could play with anyone dead or alive, who would it be?
AM: So many, umm. Neil Young would be a rad person to jam with. If I could pick someone that isn’t alive anymore, I’d probably have to say Captain Beefheart. I would have loved to be in that band.
Be sure to check out The Kills who are currently on tour and doing a handful of select shows and festivals. Check out the dates below. If you’re within driving distance, hope in your car, blast your stereo, and let the night air take you places.
The Kills Tour Dates