Some of you may have become familiar with Storm Large when she was a contestant (and finalist) for lead singer on 2006’s Rockstar Supernova, which, according to Wikipedia, was “a reality television-formed supergroup consisting of drummer Tommy Lee (Mötley Crüe), bassist Jason Newsted (Voivod and ex-Metallica), and guitarist Gilby Clarke (ex-Guns N’ Roses).” As many of you know, Storm has continued to build a name for herself as an independent musician, stage performer, and, soon, as a novelist. Storm’s 2009 one-woman show, Crazy Enough, which featured the song “8 Miles Wide,” was a smash hit, with all shows sold out.
On April 30, 2010, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Storm Large and TNB contributor Quenby Moone at a local taco joint here in Portland. Storm, who showed up in a pair of jeans and a well-worn white hoodie, sans makeup, was gorgeous, gregarious, generous of spirit, foul mouthed like a long-haul trucker, well-spoken, and hilarious. Storm gave me over an hour of her time, answering any question I asked with tremendous honesty peppered with frequent F-bombs. We discussed her music, sex, her recovery from a heroin addiction, growing up with a mentally ill mom, her book, the future of the publishing industry, sexism in the music industry, boob jobs, an amazingly simple recipe for pot candy, and so much more.
In this, the first of two installments of my interview with Storm Large, we discuss social networking, punk rock, why people hate her for being a woman, and Prince.
GH: I’ve been writing for The Nervous Breakdown since January, but I’ve been associated with it for years – as a commenter. So, to finally start meeting these people who I’ve only known online is kind of weird (referring to Quenby.) Do you have any online associations?
SL: I have no online associations. Oh! Wait! I do! I have a few friends who do web stuff for me. I’ve met them all except one, who lives in Germany. And I know what she looks like and I talk to her and I kind of get her personality. But I’ve never met her. And pretty much that’s it. I’m not a Luddite but I prefer flesh and blood communication. When I do Facebook and stuff like that, it’s all about, “Hey, I went and saw this movie,” or, “Hey I’m gonna play this show.” I don’t know; I don’t use it for social networking or meeting people or dating.
I would imagine you don’t have as much trouble with that as maybe most people?
Well, it’s kind of my job to fill a room full of people and make them love me. So, with that, I really have big walls and boundaries. I’m very, very friendly, warm and accessible, but I don’t have a lot of really close friends. Quenby is probably my best friend. And her husband is one of my best friends. We can all have varying degrees of relationships. But, the online thing, I think I’m just…I’m just old enough to be suspicious of that. You know, younger people are like, “Oh yeah, totally. We met online, we’re Facebook friends and we’re going to meet at this party. We’re going to have flash mobs.” Whatever. I mean everybody’s online now. But I still feel like people who rely on the internet and electronic communication for their RELATIONSHIPS and for their bonding experiences to other human beings, to me it still kind of describes a very specific personality, a more introverted person that I wouldn’t really want to hang out with anyway. I mean… I don’t know… I like people. And I hate people. But I want to be near them, and smell them, and sniff ‘em out. Because I’m kind of distrusting. It’s like everyone online is on their first date and are putting out their funniest, their best; they can be anything they want.
Well you can’t see the facial expressions. And you can’t hear the tone of voice. And you can’t see the tic.
Yeah! You can’t see the human ears on their desk.
You can’t see their club foot online.
Yeah! You can’t see the Borderline Personality.
Well, that’s hard to hide. That eventually comes out.
That eventually comes out, but online, the voices can be like, “Don’t type now. You’re too crazy right now.”
[pause – Storm starts singing “Hot Blooded” by Foreigner]
Do you break into song a lot?
No. I don’t. I try not to. And I hate it when people invite me to karaoke. People are like (in dramatic Valley Girl voice), “Oh god! Storm! You should totally go to karaoke! It’s so amazing!” And I’m like, “Hey! No way! You work in a café. You should come to my house and just make coffee. That would be awesome. Just keep doing it over and over and over again.”
I’d like to hear more about your book. Is it written?
No, I’m working on it. It’s a memoir. Nonfiction.
Do you already have a publisher?
Yes, I do. Free Press at Simon and Schuster.
What can you say about it?
I’ve submitted the first hundred pages and I’m working on the next hundred pages. And we’re just doing it in acts and increments.
Is it similar to your stage show? I mean as far as content?
As far as content yes. But it’s not going to be called “Crazy Enough.” It’s about growing up with a mentally ill parent and believing you’re going to be mentally ill and you’re going to kind of lose your mind at any moment. And basically discovering that everyone’s kind of fucked up in some way. And it’s whether you decide you’re fucked up or it’s just who you are and how you deal with it. And how you work with it so that it’s a positive and not necessarily a death sentence.
In researching you for this interview, I saw multiple times in multiple places where you talk about growing up with a mentally ill parent and your fears surrounding your own mental well being. I’m just wondering: at what point did those fears really go to bed?
Oh they haven’t. They’re not as acute as they used to be. When I was doing drugs and I was in a really dark place in my life –
And that was in your mid-twenties?
Yeah – early twenties. I really thought that I was going to go crazy. Or that I had gone crazy and I was just starting to see the manifestations of it. Panic attacks. Palpitations. Hallucinations. I was hallucinating. But I was doing heroin and speed and I was not sleeping – and you’re gonna hallucinate. I mean, I know that now. But when I was younger I thought, wow. This is what it feels like. And maybe…maybe I need to die. Maybe I need to die. And as soon as the thought of “maybe I should die” happened, I started to swing up out of it. Because my mother was always trying to kill herself and to me that was the ultimate expression of madness –- trying to kill yourself. That’s what she did. And I hated her for it. And that’s why I was like, no matter how bad shit ever gets I will never kill myself. At least not on purpose. So as soon as that thought actually became clear in my head – if you died, you wouldn’t feel this way – that’s when I started to put on the brakes inside my own head. I said no, no, no. Wait, wait, wait. This isn’t where we’re ending up.
Was it hard to make that lifestyle change and remain in the music scene? Especially because you were in San Francisco?
It was before I was in music. Actually, music got me out of drugs because my dope became people in front of me going [makes a face]. Seriously. It’s not rock and roll to admit, but my job now is to fill rooms full of people and get them to love me. And some of them don’t. But a lot of them do. And that’s why I was doing drugs. And that’s why I was fucking strangers and that’s why I was being such a shit. Because I grew up believing nobody loved me. And so I did anything, anything, anything to feel like anybody loved me just for a minute. And heroin especially makes you feel like you’re loved and everything’s fine. And you rarely do heroin by yourself. I mean, lifers do – super lifers do. But in general you have a partner. Or there’s a community of other people – a small collection. And I was connected with this one person. And there was this body near me and we were feeling this…I was feeling this euphoria. I mean, he was a hideous human being. But brilliant. He was so brilliant. And I thought if he loved me… If I could get him to love me, I would really be worth something. And he just…it was awful.
That seems to be common, actually – especially among young women. Which brings up a question I wanted to ask. Several things, actually, made me want to ask this question. One is, I read that you used to write an advice column for Exotic magazine called “What’s Your Fucking Problem?”
Yeah, I wrote under a nom de plum. Demi Mondaine.
I knew you’d get it. Smart people get it. People are like, “Demi Mondaine. Is that like Demi Moore, but mundane?” “No, it means ‘whore’ in French, but that’s cool.”
That is awesome.
Isn’t that a hot name?
Yeah. It would make a great porn star name.
Yeah. So, yes What’s Your Fucking Problem.
Did you come up with that?
Of course I did! Because I – am brilliant! [laughs] Just kidding.
Then, I recently read a Salon.com article about the hook up culture, and about young women in our society, and about the idea of how hooking up has changed over the years. And how it’s hard to define what’s hooking up and what’s not. Like, is it a relationship if you give a blow job? And it was fascinating to see that dialogue being had. And then, your stage presence, your public persona, is so sexual and you obviously have a very healthy perspective on sex. And so, my question to you is: what advice would you give to a fifteen year old girl about sex? Or have you given?
Advice to a fifteen year old girl: don’t have sex with fifteen year old boys if you want to have decent sex…Um…You know, all I can think of is what I would say to my fifteen year old self. If I were a grown up and I was talking to my fifteen year old self: You have no idea how beautiful you actually are. And how…much pain you are asking for by…limiting yourself to this form of expression. I love to fuck. I have loved fucking since I was thirteen years old. I’ve enjoyed it. For the wrong reasons, for the right reasons, for whatever you’ve got. But nowadays, it’s really become so much more casual than even when we were young. And I think it’s probably a whole lot of elements coming together at the same time – like what we were talking about before with the mass communication and the…really the indifference of internet communication and the ability to create your own false idea. And you can – sexting – and everything’s so separate, and the actual connection – the sexual connection – is even more shallow than before. So, I don’t know. It’s such a different world that I don’t feel like I could give advice to a modern fifteen year old. ‘Cause it’s not my world at all anymore. Really. You meet someone and you’re like, “Wow. Wanna?” and then you’re in the bathroom. Or you’re drunk and you’re next to me. Or, wow! You have coke and a place to stay. Perfect trifecta: dick, coke, bed. Woooo! You’re my dream date! So honestly I don’t think I could. If they ask me something specific, I could try – based on something I see in them at that exact moment about what they’re asking. But in general? I don’t think I could speak to modern teenagers.
Yeah. That all makes sense.
And, I’m not a parent. I don’t have my own child. I lack that access to what they’re experiencing in school. I think you guys [points to Quenby and me] have way more experience with what’s going on with school-age children and beyond. Your kids are getting to that age where they’re around middle school kids. And you’re hearing the language and meeting other parents who have twelve to eighteen year olds. And you’re like, “Oh, fuck. Oh my god.” For me, at this point, knowing what I know – if I had a kid, I’d have a tiled room with a drain in the middle of the floor and maybe a rubber mat that they could sleep on. And they would just…stay there. And I would come and I would read to them and teach them to read, and they could just stay in the tiled room. And they’d be clean! But there is a backlash, I think, in the uber-communication thrust in the uber-high tech thrust of everything. It’s like, what the fuck is the iPad but a big, breakable iPhone? There’s no point to it. So gadgets are just kind of coming out for gadgetry’s sake. But the backlash, I think, is slow food – the restaurant business here and people gathering together in actual physical contact communities. Book clubs, and writers groups, and more physical minded communities that are happening in the twenty-something to forty-something set. And art and music and live interaction. Internet and television and electronic media are still used to promote to push those things.
Like the way you said you use those things.
I absolutely rely on it for advertising and to sell and market myself. But as far as social networking, I rely on my own social skills. My hard won social-fucking-skills. Which are questionable. But that’s kind of coming back – you see it in the service industry. You see it in music and entertainment. I mean the internet is a part of it, but it’s actually an enhancement of actual physical connection with humans. ‘Cause we need that. Humans are tribal creatures. We’re community-minded creatures and we need to gather. We need to gather, and we need to rub up against each other at some point.
QUENBY MOONE: Sniff butts.
SL: Sniff butts!
I think it will be interesting to see, when today’s young people are in their twenties, how technology has transformed and how it’s affecting the literary culture.
I really think that the Kindle and that kind of thing is affecting the physical creation of [art]. You know, coming up in the musical industry where you needed to get signed. And you needed to get a record deal and you needed to have a record label. And I never had a deal or a label ever in the twenty years I’ve been an independent musician. And the internet has sold my music forever – when it was physical CDs all the way to when it became MP3s. And now MP3s have completely trashed the old dinosaur version of the record industry and made it more in the hands of the artist. So, yes it cost some jobs on one side, but it creates jobs on another side. Same with the Kindle. Same with The Huffington Post. The Daily Beast. The Drudge Report. The newyorktimes.com. The printed book and the tactile industries are going to suffer, but everyone’s still going to want a thing to touch and hold. And there’s going to be a market for that. It’s changing, for sure.
Would you say it’s changing for better or for worse? Or is it a lateral change?
I think it’s lateral. Just change for change sake. It’s going to suck for some people – because some people don’t respond to change really well. And some people who are kind of on the edge of things. I’m lucky because I make art. I make art and I can do it anywhere. I don’t need to make my money by making a physical disc to sell. I can make an MP3 to sell. The money is real and the music is just this electronic data that goes anywhere I want it to go.
So that’s empowering.
It’s very empowering. I wouldn’t be able to afford this fantastic meal without it.
You mentioned just now that everybody was telling you to get a record deal. From what I read, you left the music scene in San Francisco because you were just fed up with the whole god damned thing. You were like, “Fuck this. I’m out of here. I’m going to be a chef.” But then I read – and I found this interesting – that when you happened into this great opportunity to go on Rockstar Supernova – which is fun – I mean, I would do it!
But I’d been playing music again for four years before Rockstar came along.
But then, what’s interesting is that you were saying that when you got that opportunity, people were telling you you’re a sell out. And I thought: are these the same people who were telling you to get a deal? Because those messages are so opposing – and how do you even deal with that crap?
The people that tell you you’re selling out aren’t going to line up to pay your mortgage, so they can suck it. When I got a boob job, I had lesbians come up to me telling me that I was destroying my goddess body. Whereas, I would look at them and they would have so many fucking piercings in their face, they looked like a god damned tackle box – jangling at me with their bullshit. And I’m like, “Are you kidding me? What did you do to your body?” Just because it’s punk rock. Have you ever seen a boob job on the surgery channel? That is fucking punk rock! I got my pectoral muscle filleted and I got stuffed with bags of saline through my nipples! Suck it! That’s punk rock! And now they’re awesome.
You do have very nice boobs.
Thanks! They’re not that big!
QM: Yes, but they really fill out dresses nicely.
SL: They do.
Right. So I just found it interesting that you had people telling you to get a deal, and then you sort of get a deal and people were complaining. And I would be like, “What do you fucking want from me?” Do you ever feel like that? Like: What do you want me from me?
Right. Yeah. Well, in San Francisco, and I’ve noticed especially in Portland, there is a very small, very loud circle of people that if you’re trying to become successful – as an actor, as an artist, as a musician – and you have a modicum of success, you suck. The Portland Mercury was the first paper in town to write about The Balls. And they wrote about us; they wrote about me, saying: Guess why you’re not cool? It’s because you’ve never seen this amazing thing that’s going on down at Dante’s for one dollar. It’s when we were charging nothing to get in. And The Mercury was like: this is the coolest thing you’ve never heard of and you suck because you’ve never seen Storm Large. They were the first people to write. And now, oh my god. I show up to save a kitten from a tree, and I’m doing it for attention. You know, it’s like: Storm Large is a sell out! They just talk shit about me – because I guess it’s really cool to hate someone who’s popular.
Do you read your own press?
Unfortunately, I do sometimes. And sometimes, it’s really painful. And sometimes I read it to make sure it’s accurate – especially if it’s about a certain political situation. Something I’m endorsing or something I’m passionate about. I want to make sure they get everything correct. And sometimes I read stuff that’s just downright mean. Spiteful. And personally attacking and making assumptions on my character that aren’t true. And just hateful. And it hurts. It actually really does hurt a lot.
What do you do with that? Where do you put that?
I cry. I talk to friends. This last time in The Portland Mercury, they wrote… Uh, a specific guy who, for some reason, really hates my guts. And he wrote an out-and-out lie about me. And so I wrote to the paper. I’ve raised money for their charities before. And I really like Stephen Humphrey, who runs the paper. And I think there are some really great writers who work for them. But for some reason, this guy just fucking hates my guts; and he wrote something that was completely untrue. A couple of months ago, he wrote that I demanded top billing at a benefit, in exchange for my exorbitant fee. Which is bullshit. I was asked to headline a benefit. And so he wrote this thing that was really inflammatory and untrue and uncool. And a lot people wrote in and said, “What the fuck is your problem?” And then this last one, he wrote that I took money from these people I disagree with – my political foes or something. And someone’s gotta get paid and I have no respect for Storm Large because she takes money from…something. But it was untrue. And so I wrote him a letter and I said, “Hey, just so you know what you wrote wasn’t true. And I understand you hate my guts. And that’s cool. But if you’re going to talk shit – which you do so well – just make sure it’s true.” And so he wrote a caveat that said, “Oh, it turns out that Storm just got a bottle of Maker’s Mark for her trouble. I stand corrected.” But – he had already…the damage was done. And people who read that who don’t know me…
And who don’t read the follow up story…
Yeah. They could be like: what a cunt. Oh my god. She acts like she’s so nice but she’s such a bad person! And what [the writer for The Mercury] doesn’t know is that I like to kill kittens with syringes full of bleach. And if he knew that – wow! Would he have some ammo!
I like how in the last ten minutes, you mention saving kittens and killing kittens with bleach.
QM: She saves the kittens so that she can store them in her basement to kill later.
SL: Because Storm Large giveth, and Storm Large taketh away. No. But, I deal with it. You know, when you’re a public person, people are going to hate your guts for no other reason than they heard your name. People hate me because they think it’s a fake name. People hate me because I’m a woman.
I was going to mention the woman thing!
Isn’t it weird that I’m a woman? Have you seen my hands?
You know what they say about women with eight mile wide hands?
And don’t you forget it, baby!
I read somewhere that for your stage show, you wanted to use a David Bowie song. David Bowie – like the drug abusing, raunchy David Bowie.
Yeah, yeah. Right. But his label said that you were too sexualized or something?
That I was too sexually irresponsible.
And that just stood out for me. I thought, “Because she’s a woman?” We’re talking about a David Bowie song. We’re not talking about a Barry Manilow song. And I know. I’m not naïve – I know that it’s just the fucking way it is. But I’m just like…Ugh! Did that just incense you?
No. Because I didn’t take it as sexism, I took it as a huge irony. I’ll give you another irony: I was playing at Dante’s. Prince was in town. And Prince’s management was looking for a place. Because whenever Prince plays a show, he’ll go to a little club and jump up on stage and do another show. That guy is amazing. He’ll play all night long and it’s always incredible. And it’s always amazing.
So you’ve met him?
No. I’ve seen him do these small gigs. Because I can’t afford the nine thousand dollars to go and see him at the big garden festivals. But I’ve been at the DNA in San Francisco and I saw him in an 800 person theater where you’re just like: Holy shit. And he just played for three hours and I knew he was going to play for another three hours and sing his ass off and play guitar. He’s incredible! So, he was going to do that in Portland. And he had heard – or his people had heard – there’s this woman and she plays downtown and she’s amazing and maybe we should go there and have our after-party. And then Prince can get up on stage after her. So, the manager comes in. They’re getting the club ready. They’re cordoning off a certain part of the club for Prince’s entourage to come and see the show. Well the manager – who’s a woman – comes in just in time to see me having a pissing match with someone in the balcony. And they were talking shit. And I was talking shit. And they were talking shit. And I was talking shit. Then they threw ice at me. And I picked up the piece of ice. And I stuck it down my pants and I rubbed it across my butthole – and then I threw it back at them. And I’m like, “Suck on that, you fucktard!” And I’m screaming at them. Meanwhile, the manager – Prince’s manager – leans over to the bartender and goes, “Is she always this crass?” And the bartender says, “Uh, yeah.” And the manager asks, “Can you tell her to tone it down?” And the bartender laughed and said, “You can try?” And so Prince was… Well, I don’t know if Prince ever heard my name. But his people were like, “We are not coming here.”
QM: The lovely “Darling Nicky.”
SL: Yeah! Prince taught me how to finger fuck girls.
QM: But he can’t come see you.
How to masturbate.
Come? Hi. Come? Get on, cream. Get on top. But –- I doubt Prince ever even heard about it. His manager was just like, “No. We’re not letting him come here.”
Come back next week for Part II of my interview with Storm Large, wherein we discuss Storm’s views on feminism, every possible euphemism for a woman’s girl parts, Sarah Palin, werewolves, and how to make simple candy out of marijuana.
Graphic design for the CD cover of Ladylike courtesy of Quenby Moone.