By John Schulze Special to Published Aug 21, 2011 at 1:02 PM

Kittie has been evolving ever since they first showed up on the international music scene in 1999 with their groundbreaking debut CD "Spit," which boldly defined the band as a force in the music industry.

Their innovative brand of metal has since gained them a multitude of fans all around the world. Much has changed since those early days. Kittie has grown and matured in such an organic way that right now where they are at musically feels like a perfect and natural progression for these talented and seasoned Canadian musicians.

There weren't giant leaps from each release to the next, but measured and calculated steps of growth that occurs when a band pushes themselves to expand their musical abilities and spur new paths of expression that furthers their creative output. While their "Until The End" and "Funeral For Yesterday" discs offered fans raw emotive fury and savage yet beautifully crafted songwriting, the efforts were still stepping stones that led Kittie to the current lineup of Morgan Lander, Mercedes Lander, Ivy Jenkins and Tara McLeod. The last three years found Kittie at the strongest and most artistically inspired stage of their career so far.

The new Kittie CD, entitled "I've Failed You," is due to be released Aug. 30, and having previewed the new album thanks to their record company eOne Metal, I can assure the fans that they are in store for a real sonic treat. From the crushing and brutal opening title track "I've Failed You" to the heavy and soulful "What Have I Done," the album is full of diverse and thoughtfully crafted songs that build upon a career's worth of success. It's the CD that I hope defines Kittie in the long run, because it's that good.

In my two-part interview I first had a conversation with Siegfried Meier of Beach Road Studios, Kittie's producer and recording engineer on "In The Black" and I've Failed You." I next sat down with Morgan Lander before Kittie's Aug. 13 show at The Rave with her sister Mercedes sitting close enough to make a few comments as well. We spent some time catching up about what's been happening the past 11 months since the last tour ended, the new CD and videos, and even learn about Morgan's favorite song from the '80s. Siegfried, this is the second full-length CD that you've produced and recorded for Kittie. What were your initial concerns based on their previous recordings that you wanted to address to improve the overall experience for the average listener and also the audiophiles?

Siegfried Meier: The concern when producing a second record with any band or artist is making it excel from the previous album. You always need to push yourself in directions that you think aren’t possible, and perform feats that not only make the artist grow and develop with each record, but that force you to grow as well. All too many producers these days rely on their tried-and-true tricks when making records, especially with using Pro Tools/plug-ins, etc. Lots of guys get into ruts where they try to clone things they’ve heard on other albums - the artists often get stuck in that as well. I don’t have a problem referencing something, but when I feel it’s getting to the point where we’re trying to copy an exact thing that’s already been done, my brain kinda shuts down and I lose interest, and I discuss it with the artist and explain that it’s more important for them to be doing something original. You want others to dig your sound, and scratch their heads in disbelief at the tones and textures you’ve created on your record, and make them want to get that sound on their albums.

OMC: Both Morgan's guitar and Tara's guitar have unique and distinct tones that complement each other exceptionally well. Without giving away any trade secrets, tell me about some of the techniques that were utilized to obtain the guitar tones on "I've Failed You."

SM: Most of the distinct tones from Morgan and Tara come from their hands - the way they articulate their playing, the way the flesh of their fingers attacks the strings, etc. You could have them both play through the same amp and guitar, and it would be immediately obvious who was playing what part. For "I’ve Failed You," we incorporated a lot of different tones and textures in the guitar parts by using various amplifiers and mic-ing techniques. The goal from the beginning was to make the album much more interesting to listen to by using different tones for every different part that happens. This way, when you listen to the album over and over again, and at various volumes, you hear new things every time. We also added more synth/effects/treats to parts than we’ve done previously for similar reasons, as well as creating a mood and a vibe that traditional guitar parts don’t always create.

OMC: What were some of the challenges you faced in tracking Mercedes' drums? Tell me about the process of placing mics around her kit to obtain the perfect drum track.

SM: This time around we actually went to 2" analog tape with Mercedes. It was something she’d done in many previous albums excluding "In The Black." I had actually purchased a Studer A827 for that record, had it shipped to Beach Road Studios from L.A. and spent several weeks wiring it into the control room and aligning it so that it was ready in time for the album. At some point during the first day of "In The Black" we discussed making the album sound much like another record I had done to Pro Tools only. It felt a little disappointing with the amount of work I’d done getting the machine installed, but it certainly wasn’t a waste - the 2" machine has since been used on a number of records, and it’s one of my favorite tools for recording.

For "I’ve Failed You," we decided to finally incorporate the sound of analog on Mercedes drums, and the biggest challenge of course is doing full takes to tape. That’s not to say that you can’t punch in parts or sections, but it often doesn’t work as well as digital and you hear the punch. In my experience, it’s most often easier to just do another full take and comp the best of the best together into one fantastic take. We ended up using 23 tracks on tape, saving one for Morgan’s guitar guide track. We had a sh*tload of mics all over the Beach Road tracking room capturing some glorious room sounds, as well as plenty of close-up attack mics and even spot mics on all the cymbals. Of course, making sure everything is 100 percent phase coherent is crucial when doing these kinds of mic-ing setups, and with metal it’s often necessary to physically go out and make sure the kit isn’t moving, mics aren’t moving or falling over etc. - the faster and harder the song, the higher the chance that things get shoved around. I’d make sure to go out after every single take to ensure this didn’t happen. It’s easy to miss, and when you’re editing a few takes together you have to make sure every mic is still sounding the same from take to take. Mercedes has one of the best/cleanest setups I’ve ever seen. It’s easy to place mics all around her kit, and she’s very aware of where things are sitting, so no accidental stick hits to a mic, etc.

OMC: Ivy wasn't able to come to the studio, so you went to her. Tell me about the process of recording her bass tracks off site.

SM: It became apparent early on in the album that scheduling conflicts were going to put a damper on Ivy getting to Beach Road Studios to cut her bass tracks. Initially we had planned on just sending the sessions to a studio near where she lives and have someone just record a number of takes that I could comp together. I could sense her uneasiness with my suggestion and so I did what felt right to me at the time. Once the main tracking for the album was done, I packed up a small mobile rig and drove seven hours to Ivy’s home and we set up a makeshift studio in her upstairs hallway. I made sure that I brought the necessities and that the signal chain was pure and clean, so that I could manipulate things sonically once I got back to Beach Road. Since we only had headphones and a limited number of things that I could take with me, we decided to just record a clean DI signal out of her Tobias 5 string bass.

Ivy had already been rehearsing the album for weeks - I’d sent her rough mixes after every step of the way in the studio, right until the end where we had everything but bass added. These proved to be the best steps we could have taken, for when I arrived I was floored at the level of productivity and precision in her playing. We got a number of takes for each song, I’d make suggestions if I felt parts were odd or we’d just get some alternates that I could play with back at the studio - you have to remember that I’d been hearing these songs without bass for weeks and weeks on end, and hearing any bass parts beyond simple root notes threw me for a loop at first listen. We’d joked that the album had an "...and justice for all" feel because of the lack of bass. Once back at the studio I performed bass comps of her playing, and the DI track was re-amped into my Ampeg SVT Classic bass amp, along with a few other little treats and sonic tools. What seemed like an impossible situation at the start of the album turned out to be smooth and problem-free.

OMC: Talk to me about the process of recording the vocals for "I've Failed You."

SM: For Morgan's vocals, we used a combination of different vocal chains to capture both the heavy, guttural screams and the soaring singing stuff that she does so well. As we had done on "In The Black",, we used her pink Heil PR20 for the screaming vocals - the same mic she uses live. To capture the low end and the weight of the sound, I preferred to keep her in my main tracking room, which is quite large of a space. For the singing vocals we used the small vocal booth, to keep it tight and dry, and my U47. Morgan's got that X factor in her vocal, so the challenges of tracking the various parts isn't as difficult as you might imagine. The magic is all there in her throat and chest cavity, so some basic engineering skills and some direction in certain parts is all that's needed. I prefer to use some of the custom mic preamps and tube compressors that I've hand built, and I find they add some real magic to the sound.

As far as takes and parts go, we decided to go a little more overboard than for "In The Black" regarding harmonies and extras. We also doubled a lot of the lead vocals in choruses, a typical classic trick that I'm not always a fan of but that worked incredibly well for the sound of "I've Failed You." For some of the crazy demonic backup vocals, we had Mercedes go through an SM7B and she just screamed until her voice blew out, and it gave it some real emotion and desperation. In the end, when you've got incredible singers, the job becomes that much easier.

OMC: Was it easier or perhaps more difficult to record "I've Failed You" versus "In The Black"? Looking into the future at a third full-length recording, do you have anything you might do differently as far as techniques or utilizing different gear?

SM: In some sense it was easier. Because "In The Black" was the first record I’d produced with the girls, we’d already gotten to know each other well. We knew our strengths and our weaknesses. I knew when to push them and when to back off. I knew what to say at the right time, and when to keep my mouth shut and just make things work, no matter how difficult the task at hand may have been. "I’ve Failed You" had its share of issues to work out, as every album does, but in having the close relationship that I have with the girls I knew that keeping the sessions relaxed and flowing with laughs and good times were as important as hammering down and being strict when I knew we had to get sh*t done.

The great thing about the location of Beach Road Studios is that we’re in the country, in a relaxing environment overlooking a beautiful great lake and the gorgeous sunsets, away from the pressures of the city and the lure of distractions. We’d have barbecues, night-time campfires and long chats in the kitchen, discussing music and funny tour stories. I’ve had my share of working with producers and engineers that attempt to make albums difficult, just for the sake of. I don’t buy into that, and I think it just makes them look like pretentious assh*les. I keep things fun, and I make sure the work gets done in a timely fashion and on budget. As far as a third full-length record, I think it would be cool to record the next album on a mountain top, with unicorns surrounding us while we make the record using water as the recording medium ... or maybe we’ll just record the entire album to a Tascam 4-track like Springsteen’s "Nebraska" ... I’m up for anything! Morgan, let's sort of recap the last 11 months. The last time I saw Kittie play in 2010 live was September at Tailgaters; it was my fourth show of the year. You played one more show in Michigan, then crossed the border to Canada and went home. Did you take some time to absorb the experience of 2010 or did you hit the ground running and work on the new CD right away?

Morgan Lander: No actually, we kind of came home from touring in 2010, not gonna lie, a little bit defeated. We did do a lot of support slots, which was really cool and a lot of fun, but we were really burned out and really, really needed to just kind of go home and chill out and re-group and just kind of assess all the things we accomplished in the year and see what we could do differently and all that sort of thing.

OMC: Was it a little more difficult not playing to your home team every night?

ML: Well yeah, playing in front of another band's audience is always an interesting scenario, right? You never know what you're gonna get. You don't know if people are going to hate you or like you, especially if it's a mismatched bill like the ICP tour for instance, which actually did end up going over really well. It was totally cool and we were really happy about that.

But yeah, so we just kind of came home and just kind of did our own things for a while. We didn't really start work on the next album until January. We kind of made a thing like, well, we've got a couple months off. Then once the new year rolled around, we said Jan. 1 let's get together and start. But we all had ideas prior to that, it wasn't like we came into practice one day completely fresh with no ideas at all. We all stockpile things and have ideas. It's like even when were not working, we're still working, you know?

OMC: There's never really an off time when you are an artist! Your new CD is titled "I've Failed You." Tell me about the title. In a word, it's strong. It has impact.

ML: It does! Which I guess is kind of cool. A lot of people have actually mentioned that they dig the title.

OMC: It's apologetic in a way.

ML: Yeah, it is. Absolutely, I think you hit the nail on the head. It's sort of like the feeling of letting all those you loved down. I think you're right, it is very apologetic in the entire context of the album.

OMC: It's very different than your other CD titles in the past.ML: You think so ?

OMC: Especially "In The Black" which has a happy tone to it. There's a lot of good connotations to being in the black.

ML: Oh yeah, absolutely! Especially with in the black referring to making money and doing well and that sort of thing.

OMC: Success ...

ML: Yeah, that was what he kind of aimed for with that. But you know, "In The Black" was again, sort of re-establishing ourselves as the unit that we are now. This is the second album that we've had Ivy in the band and all that sort of thing, so it was kind of like, that was the foundation and now we're able to sort of build on things a little more.

OMC: Right, the cohesion is there.

ML: Yeah, and "In The Black" we kind of felt was undoing the damage that "Funeral For Yesterday" did, and so now that we've got that out of the way, with "I've Failed You" we kind of just felt like we could do exactly what we wanted to do musically, which you know, I mean there are a few little diverse things on the album which is kind of cool, I guess.

OMC: You worked once again with Siegfried Meier. Tell me from the other side of the recording booth what it's like to make a record at Beach Road Studios. It seems like one of those hidden gems that should be a destination for any band that values near sonic perfection.

ML: It should! It really should! I am not gonna lie, anybody that I know and that we know as a band that's looking for a studio and a producer, we always send them his way. Siggy is really, really ridiculously talented and really laid back and I think that's, you know, two of the main reasons why we go there as much as we do, other than the fact that he's a good friend. He's been involved with Kittie in some way since 2001, like he worked on "Oracle" with us, he was I guess the second or third engineer-slash-b*tchboy, you know? He worked at the studio that we recorded at and basically he was doing all of the errand boy stuff. We really enjoy going there, the atmosphere is really good, you don't feel a lot of pressure. And I don't know if it has anything to do with the fact like, we actually are good friends with him because we're comfortable with him.

OMC: It helps ...

ML: It absolutely does help. But, just him, in the way he achieves things and gets people to work, it never feels like work, it never feels like there is too much pressure.

OMC: It also seems so organized.

ML: Oh absolutely!

OMC: The updates that we were getting were a gift, because a lot of bands you don't get that sort of intimate updates about what's going on. Some bands enter a studio and it's like a void sometimes.

OMC: Yeah! I think that's the beauty of social media these days as well, like you know everyone is able to give people a little glimpse into what's going on behind the scenes. Siggy is very organized with what he does. He's just really very professional, but at the same time so highly unprofessional when we're hanging out together! Again, one of the things we really enjoy is his sense of humor because we are such good friends. Quite often we're usually left in tears laughing so hard.

OMC: He's got a big personality, it really shows.

ML: Yes he does! He's a lot of fun!

Mercedes Lander: That will show up in the next couple of studio updates!

OMC: The first song you released to iTunes was "We Are The Lamb." Tell me about the song, and the torch that's being passed on.

Morgan Lander: Actually, "We Are The Lamb" lyrically was written by Mercedes. It's a song about sacrificing yourself for the greater good and for other people to be able to move on and survive and that sort of thing. The torch that's being passed on is the torch of, I guess, from what I can see in it, it's the torch of burden, the torch of suffering, the torch of taking on problems. When there are problems, they don't always go away when someone else goes away, you know, they're passed on. That's kind of my interpretation of it, in coming from Mercedes' brain, which we do kind of share some brain, we're kind of Borg, so ...

OMC: There is a sister bond ...

ML: Yes!

OMC: "Empires Part 2" was the second song you released. it's as close to politics as I can remember in a Kittie song. It's a two-part song with an acoustic intro - the calm before the storm, I think I have heard you say. It conjures up notions of the grand empires in history such as the Egyptian empire, the Roman empire and the Greek empire. All of them, as powerful as they once were, all fell ...

ML: Honestly, it's not a political song at all because I don't really care about that stuff. The world is f*cked and there is nothing I personally can do about it. But that's besides the point! It's actually a relationship song. It's likening a relationship to an empire, when you're happy and things are going well, you know, you've built upon a foundation and it becomes strong and powerful and you don't think that it can end because things are going so well. But, like I've said, and history proves, even the greatest of empires, something crumbles and falls and it is no more.

OMC: You recorded two videos in one day in New York City. Without giving away too many surprises, tell me about the experience of making the first two videos for "I've Failed You."

ML: Well we got there and we kind of had no idea what the f*ck we were gonna do, honestly. It was a lot of fun though, we worked with Dave Brodsky before, he did "Sorrow I Know" and "Cut Throat." We did those videos back-to-back as well. Dave and Alli at My Good Eye, which is their video company, are really, really professional. They make performing videos, and working with them is really fun and easy and even if there isn't really too much of a plan it kind of just happens and it ends up working out amazing because they're so talented. We did "Empires" first and we set up outside in front of a bunch of rubble, there was some smoke and it just kind of looked like a little bit of an epic mess going on, sort of in a wooded area. We set up shop there and it's just a live performance video, but it captures the intensity of the song.

OMC: It seems like a daunting task for any lesser of a band than Kittie to do two videos in a day ...

ML: Well, I'm sure it's been done, but I guess you know the magic of technology allows for these things to be accomplished. They're working with a mobile unit, almost. So yeah, we did that, and we recorded the performance video and then we moved on to focus on the "We Are The Lamb" video which is actually going to be more of a storyline, more so than actual playing. it's probably the first video that we've actually done acting, ourselves.

OMC: More along the lines of the "Die My Darling" video?

ML: Yes. Yes, definitely. There's a little bit of performance stuff in it, but ... I don't know if I want to give too much away, but it definitely has a horror theme to it, we'll say that.

OMC: That's a great teaser, that's more than enough for everyone to be satisfied with for now. I would be remiss on my duties if I didn't ask about your appearance at The Gathering of the Juggalos.

ML: Of course!

OMC: Was it a strategic move to start the tour at the Gathering of the Juggalos or a happy coincidence?

ML: I'd say it's probably a little bit of both, I guess. I mean, we knew that prior to the album coming out and booking the tour that we would be touring around this time. We actually had booked the Gathering before any of these shows were booked. So it kind of made sense to start the tour there and just kind of build it from there, and it was a lot of fun. It was an interesting experience, that's for sure. ICP have always been really good to us, you know they invited us to do it. It was a great crowd, we played to a lot of people.

OMC: You went on in the middle of the night?

ML: Yeah, we did actually! Our set was supposed to be at 1:15 a.m. and it ended up that we were on at 3:45 a.m.

OMC: Who played before you?

ML: Bobby Brown! Bobby Brown played his set, all of his hits! "My Prerogative," and all that stuff! And he actually was really, really good! He just kind of rolled up there, brought a black car, dropped him off and he went onstage. And then, when he was leaving the stage, he had the microphone and he was singing all the way into the car and then he took off!

OMC: And that was the end of Bobby Brown!

ML: Yeah! He didn't stick around to mingle or anything. The rock star treatment, I guess.

OMC: The import version of "In The Black" contains a real gem of a song called "The Only." It was recorded after "In The Black" was released. Is there enough material on tape to perhaps one day release more songs that haven't yet seen the light of day?

ML: No! (laughs) No, anything that we've actually written pretty much has either been recorded already for bonus tracks for other albums and stuff like that. We don't have like a vault or anything of unreleased stuff. Which, I mean, we could maybe do it one day or whatever ... There's enough stuff that's like rare or available only on singles that we could put together like "The B Side Collection" or whatever. Like the "Safe" remix, or "The Only" or f*cking uhh ... (looks at Mercedes) I don't know what other fun songs do we have?

Mercedes Lander: A bunch of really dumb acoustic stuff for the first record.

Morgan Lander: Yeah, yeah. We have enough stuff that we could put something together, but it wouldn't be like the first time.

Mercedes Lander: The 800 versions of "Paperdoll!"

Morgan Lander: Yeah! (laughs)

OMC: You contributed a track to The Runaways tribute CD, covering the classic "Fantasies." It's the first time I can remember Kittie doing a cover since "Run Like Hell." How did you get involved in the project and how did you pick that song?

ML: They actually contacted us and asked, and we thought it was a really great idea because it was for a cancer charity and we thought it was really cool. We saw the list of other bands that were going to be involved in it and we said, 'Sure, why not?' Basically, in terms of choosing the song, they just gave us a list and they said, 'Hey, what do you guys want to do, this is what's left, this is what's available,' you know? I guess they wanted to cover all the eras of The Runaways, "Fantasies" is on their third album, or something like that, third or fourth album, when Joan Jett was singing. So yeah, we just listened to a bunch of the songs and we picked the one that made the most sense musically for us, in terms of like what we could do to it to make it sound like Kittie. The Runaways have a very specific sound, it's really not very metal, not very us, I guess because "Fantasies" was like a slower, stoner rock-ish Black Sabbath-y kind of song, we figured that there's enough space in there that we could turn in into Kittie.

OMC: You definitely gave it the Kittie treatment.

ML: Yes we did, for sure! Some of the other songs probably wouldn't have turned out quite as well, I think "Fantasies" was the perfect song to choose just because it made the most sense, we turned it into kind of like a doom song, kinda fun!

OMC: I asked the fans what they wanted to know.

ML: Did you get all the most ridiculous f*cking answers?

OMC: Over the last year a lot of fans have found me because of the photos I've taken of Kittie. The number one question is from fans in Mexico, 'When are you going to play a concert there?' I would be remiss if I didn't ask the question because so many have asked me, I feel responsible to talk about Mexico and your fans there. They seem like probably the most zealous fans in the world!

ML: We love them, honestly! It is long overdue, a trip there, I understand that. We've sort of been trying over the last couple months to get in contact with our people down there. I think we may have to end up trying to find some different people, because we were working with a particular company down there at one point, but I'm not even sure they're a company anymore! But we would love to, and we hope that within this next album cycle we can actually make it happen.

OMC: I've seen the videos from when you were there in 2007, the place was packed!

ML: Yeah, it was insane, we had the greatest time going down there, honestly. It was a lot of fun; it was amazing. The kids there are die-hard fans. They deserve to have us come back there, and we would love to go down and play for them again.

OMC: One final question before you hit the stage tonight. What's your favorite '80s song?

ML: F*ck, I don't know! I'm gonna say ... f*cking some Gowan, man. F*cking "Criminal Mind." That's my favorite '80s song, there we go!

OMC: For the record, that's it!

ML: Larry Gowan.