Though her name may be unknown to the majority of music fans, Kayt Vigil has been part of the underground music scene since the 1990’s. In recent years, she has played live and recorded with Pentagram, The Hounds of Hasselvander and her new band Sonic Wolves, amongst others. Her music always rocks, is always heavy, and never disappoints. In this interview by Steve Wilson, Kayt talks about her musical history and influences, and her plans for the future.
How did you get started playing in bands? Did you play an instrument growing up, or was it something you picked up later, once you discovered rock music?
K- I have been a huge fan of rock and metal for as long as I can remember. Some of my first memories were of listening and dancing to Rainbow, Kiss, Black Sabbath, Neil Young, Aerosmith and Deep Purple (and many more) in the living room as a small child, as early as 4 years old. I have some older siblings who range between 9 and 11 years older than me and that was the music that they would blast from the stereo. It was the late 70’s/early 80’s, so naturally that was the music of the time. They schooled me early by teaching me a phrase to scream at the top of my little lungs “disco sucks!!!” – because indeed it did.
One of my older sisters played the acoustic guitar very well and she encouraged me to start playing music. I was placed in the school band that had very limited options for me and I got to play the “coolest” instrument of all, the clarinet. Not exactly my first choice of instrument, but it was that or nothing. I am thankful though, because I did learn to read music and I was always first chair. I took some piano lessons and picked up an acoustic guitar soon after. From there, my love of playing music grew stronger until I decided it was finally time to go electric. I first picked up a bass at the age of 18 but didn’t get serious until about year later. I bought my first bass and decided it was time to start playing live and get into the studio. I had a couple of room mates who encouraged me to start playing with them and we started our first heavy music project- Downer. We were living in a multiple floor punk/metal/rocker/tattoo artist house called “The Oakland House” and we were considered to be the house band. There were lots of crazy shows in the basement (which of course also served as our rehearsal room) and that is where I made some of my first and longest standing connections/friendships in the music scene-most of which I still have to this day.
You seem to have played in a lot of bands! I know of your music mainly from your band Hatchetface and your time as live member of The Hounds of Hasselvander and Pentagram but you have done a lot more. What has been your favourite or most memorable so far?
K- Well, of course The Hounds of Hasselvander , Pentagram and Hatchetface(2006-09) are forever imprinted in my memory and will always have a profound effect on my musicianship and career. I am very thankful for those opportunities. One of my favourite memories is being in the studio with Bobby Liebling and Gary Isom when we recorded our track for the Syd Barrett tribute compilation in 2008. It was a completely surreal experience just as it was being on stage with them. Playing with Joe Hasselvander was always quite an honour as well. Sharing the stage with Joe, Bobby and Gary made me aware that I could accomplish something more in music if I put my mind to it. That being said, I have so many other memories that have given me lots of joy and experience over the years. As a member of Zed (Philadelphia, 1995-99), we toured a lot and we often shared the stage (and a split 7”) with Burn The Priest who later became known as Lamb Of God. They became friends and were loads of fun to hang out with-especially Randy Blythe. When I was in Catheter (Denver, CO circa 1999), we had some great shows and tours and I made a lot of friends during my time on the road. We shared the stage with Weedeater, Sour Vein and Angel Rot (with the lovely Gyda Gash on bass) just to name a few. My time with Syzslak and Hatchetface (Philadelphia 2002-09) was incredible and I got to play with and become friends with Earthride , Unorthodox, Iron Man as well as the great people in the doom and sludge/grindcore scenes from Maryland to Massachusetts.
Sharing the stage with Grief and getting to know them was another highlight for me since I had been a long-time fan. When I lived in Los Angeles, my time with …Of The Horizon (2010-2012) was fantastic because we got to play places like the EchoPlex with Yob and at the Troubadour with the band of skateboard Dogtown legend, Tony Alva. Even rehearsing and recording in Joshua Tree, CA was a great experience. We rehearsed about 500 yards from Rancho De La Luna (studio for Q.O.T.S. A., Desert Sessions, etc.) and recorded at the Back of the Moon studio with Tony Mason (who also recorded Brant Bjork), which most certainly had an effect on our music and mentality as a band.
To me, making friends and seeing new places is just as important as playing a kick ass show or releasing a record. Playing with or around those who influenced me musically sweetens the deal even more. I have seen the entire continental US and met incredible people all because of my love of music. I view these memories as the building blocks of who I am and the people as family members. We are all one and are connected in some way.
Readers may not know that while you are originally from the USA, you now live in Italy. Do you think Europe is an easier or better place to attempt making underground music than back home, or does it just come with a different set of challenges and setbacks?
K- To be quite honest, my time in Italy so far (3 years) has been spent just trying to build the foundation of a fully operational band. It has been really tough to find members who can dedicate the time and resources needed to make a band live and breathe. However, recently things have finally turned around for us and our patience has paid off (for Sonic Wolves)!! I’m not sure if it’s location or just a sign of the times. People are struggling everywhere just to get by, so I’m not 100% sure that it’s a fair assessment to say that it is harder or easier in a specific place.
As far as I can tell, the challenges are roughly the same. Some things seem a little different to me though. Bands that play in Europe appear to be treated better than they do in the States as far as being paid and such. I see American bands come through Italy a lot and it looks like they are treated pretty well. I don’t know if the same can be said for bands from other places though. I have seen similar situations for bands at that same level (including my own) in the States and it was more challenging for them there. I guess it all depends on where you are from and where you tour. Ask me this same question a year from now and I hope to have a better answer for you.
I know from personal experience that keeping a band going can often be stressful. What do you do outside of music, or is making music the one thing that keeps you sane?
K- Music is the one constant in my life. Especially during lean times. To unwind, keep my sanity and creative juices flowing, I take long walks in nature. I am learning to speak Italian. I make leather bracelets and jewellery. I am learning to sew and create or renew clothes with a rocker/biker flair in mind. To me, playing music live is a full show experience that includes one’s physical presentation on stage. Therefore, I am always trying to come up with unique ways to dress to express my individuality. This may not be for everyone, but I learned this from my time with The Hounds of Hasselvander and Pentagram- if you’re gonna put on a show, dress the part! It inspires me and helps me grow in all directions. It is always my objective that this will translate into my music.
What inspires you when it comes to writing new material?
K- Sometimes I just kick back and take a very observant listen to the bands, albums or songs that I love. I try to discover the exact thing within the music that makes me love the music or moves me. Almost like song “soul searching” if you will. At other times, a riff or lyric manifests in my mind and I try conceptualize it, write it or jam on it. Sometimes this happens for hours on end, sometimes for a couple of minutes.
When it comes to inspiration, I try to capture the idea in some way as quickly as possible, because as many musicians know, this can be a fleeting instance that must be preserved while the moment exists. And then of course, there are times when a single note or group of notes are being played as a warm up and I think they sound cool together, so I try to connect them..lo and behold, a new song is born!
Bands can do almost everything themselves these days, from recording to artwork and design. Do you think a label is really necessary beyond distribution and (ideally) promotion? Would you rather go DIY and keep the rights to everything rather than sign it away and risk getting screwed over?
K- I am a DIY- leaning person. There are however, definitely times where a label can be a huge advantage. It just depends on who’s running the label. It’s all who you know. For underground music, labels run by musicians seem like a better bet to me than a major label. A label such as Neurot Recordings (and Doomanoid!) is a perfect example. They don’t have the financial backing that a major label has, obviously, but labels like that, rare as they are, really do understand what it means to be an underground band. Just like many things in life, you have to be careful, you must be able to trust who you are working with and you need to think things through very carefully. There are some very unscrupulous labels out there that don’t respect the bands in the way that they should. There are also bands who fail at doing things DIY because they are either inexperienced or they don’t understand how things work. To me, it’s a gamble no matter what. You just have to trust your gut and do what works best for your band. Many times, if you want things done right, you have to do it yourself.
Following on from my last question, what are your thoughts on the current state of the music scene? It’s never been easier to hear new underground bands but almost no one is making any money any more. Do you think this is a great opportunity for equality (because we’re all broke), or is it all doom and gloom?
K- Ah money- the eternal thorn in the side of all artists…this is not now, nor has it ever been a new story. I love that I can learn about a new band on the internet at any time I choose. It’s amazing and positive and brings me hope. In my view though, equality for underground bands is the same as it has always been in terms of having the same access to general exposure, since practically every band has something on the internet (a link, a website, whatever), just like nobody did back before it existed as a tool for promotion. You had to know a few things, baby! It was common knowledge that you had to get your ass on the stage, on the road and/or in the studio if you wanted people to know about you. It was all legwork for underground bands. Maximum Rock n Roll’s “Book Your Own Fucking Life” comes to mind from that era. It was up for grabs for those who knew where to go and what to do.
I remember before the days of the internet the challenges (and expenses-my god, the phone bills!!) presented to bands. Communication was a bigger challenge – unlike today. The upside back then SEEMED to be that there weren’t as many shit bands to wade through just to get a show or tour.
This whole “pay to play” thing makes me INSANE. Man, what the hell is happening with that shit? That nonsense is something I stay as far away from as possible. It almost seems like a whole different world of music- one I can do without. In fact, with all these other bands coming out of the woodwork who are clogging up venues and festivals (the ones that I would never go to anyway), it looks pretty bad for the music world since it doesn’t seem like the “pay to play” notion is going to die off (yet).
How do you tell thousands of bands that they are making things harder for everyone? They don’t see what they are doing (when they pay to play) much less understand how they are contributing to the destruction of the music world. To me, it is also greedy venue owners, promoters, etc. who are mostly at the epicentre of this epidemic. It is up to US, the ones who try to maintain that music is a way to make a living or at least be self -sufficient, to keep the torch burning.
It’s time for a revolution in the music world, brothers and sisters! It’s not too late to turn things around! It’s going to be difficult, but I don’t think it is all necessarily doom and gloom because I see people close to me making it happen every day. Let’s keep doom in the music, not the business side of it! Testify!! (Can you tell that I LOVE the MC5?)
Your new band Sonic Wolves’ demo was release a couple of months ago. What are your touring and recording plans for the band?
K- Sonic Wolves has many plans for the future. Full North American, European, Australian and Japanese tours are goals. We are in the process of releasing our first full-length album this year. We are currently creating merchandise and getting ourselves ready for a few local concerts to get ourselves started. As we recently added two new guitarists to the line-up, things are going extremely well and we are finally able to make solid plans. We are really just in the beginning stages, but look for us in the future because we will be there!
Are you currently involved in any other musical projects that people should know about?
K- I also play bass in two other projects; Rogue State and Cranked. Rogue State also includes Vita from Ufomammut on drums (same as Sonic Wolves) and is a heavy hard-core project. Cranked is a proper punk rock-n-roll band. Both are a lot of fun and I enjoy playing with the other members of these bands because they are all quite talented. Playing in different bands with different styles is a great way to keep one’s chops up and delve into the world of music more deeply. To me, music should be fun and enrich one’s life. This is exactly why I play in all three projects.
Thanks for taking the time out to do this interview Kayt. Do you have any final words for the readers?
K- Thank you for the interview, it is indeed my pleasure. Black Sunday rocks! Keep it heavy, keep it true and as always, Peace, Love and Rock-n-Roll to all of you out there\,,,/
Facebook links to Kayt’s bands: