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The Damed Vocalist Heather Hellskiss Interview

23 July 2019 No Comment

THE DAMED-10_Photo Credit-Melissa YuFem punk three piece The Damed has exploded onto the Hollywood scene with a vengeance. Their new self-titled album is a tour de force of punk angst delivered with an unapologetic punch and creative style.  Here is The Damed vocalist Heather Hellskiss.

Your band name is one of those that’s so good people wonder why nobody thought of it before. How did you come up with it?
Well, our songs are rooted in feminism and it also plays off a certain other all-guy punk band that we admire ;) so it felt like a good fit and nice homage.

What was the inspirational spark that brought the band together and ultimately inspired you to create the new self-titled album?

After the results of the 2016 election I was enraged and inspired to form a new punk band to release my anger and tension. I had just recently stopped playing in a post punk synthwave duo called NAPS. I have previously been in some other punk bands, but I hadn’t been playing that type of music in a few years. I began writing new songs. Once I had a foundation, I was having a bit of a struggle finding people that were still connected to the riot grrrl scene/had time to commit to a band and went thru various configurations of members/music style. It wasn’t sticking right away. I have played with Watts in a couple of past projects of mine and we have an instant musical chemistry and history. She’s a badass hard-hitting drummer that is a perfect fit for this band. And the queer community vibe is both very important to us. So she came on board even tho she was in like 2 other bands at the time. Suze moved to LA from Denver and fronted a band called Battle Pussy there. Once I learned that I knew we would get along. We hit it off right away. We liked the same bands and our politics were very much in line, so it was a no-brainer. And like myself, she is an ex-New Yorker. If you’ve lived in NY you tend to have an immediate bond. She is mostly a guitar player, but is also rad on bass and was behind what I wanted to do with these songs. I finally found the perfect fit with these two.

Did you get everything you wanted onto the album or were some parts or songs left on the cutting room floor and what were they? And will they land on future recordings? 

We had a song I had written a few years ago called “Time Is A Terrorist” that I ended up scrapping a couple months before we recorded the album. We played it live many times. After collaborating on some newer material with the current lineup, I just didn’t feel it held up to the other songs and wasn’t the path I wanted to take musically moving forward.

Lyrically you hold no punches.  What are some of your favorite moments in the lyric delivery department?
THE DAMED-09_Photo Credit-Melissa YuI always love a good scream! Cursing out the current President in the bridge was definitely a highlight in “Ritual Revolution”. I love the content of that song because it’s about covens of witches around the world that participate in a mass occult by casting binding spells over each waning moon until he is removed from office (so he will stop doing harm to others). It’s a real thing and as far as I know these rituals are still occurring.

The lyrics are very vulnerable and intense in “We Are The Proof”, a response I had to the #MeToo movement when the story first started to break. It is essentially 1 long verse that is setting up the chorus anthem – We Are The Proof – a phrase one of the survivors used in a statement when they asked for proof of what happened to her. I always get overcome by passion when singing that one because as a feminist, artist and woman who has experienced a lot of sexism, this is a subject matter I have been dealing with for a long time. I am so glad women who have been abused are finally starting to get some justice.

Does The Damed have a motto?

The Damed’s motto is about taking a stance and letting it be heard, even if you are in the minority. And to acknowledge and fight for those who are oppressed.

Which do you prefer? Writing new songs and recording or playing for a live audience?

I prefer writing new songs and playing live shows. Recording is great too but is a very tedious process. It definitely makes me anxious because I want to make sure the essence of the songs and energy we emit is captured and there is a lot that goes into that.

What image do you think your music conveys?

A solidarity fist.

What’s your take on the current state of America and the world as a whole? Do you think it’s possible to change things?

I think things are a mess and have hit rock bottom. However, because of this people are waking up and taking a stand. Even the non-political people because this is no longer about politics. It’s now about morality. I think it’s a rough road ahead but am hoping that those who are divided on political issues can come together for the sake of morality. Immigrants are in such danger and should not have to live in fear. Tightening gun control laws are long overdue. We need to get 45 and his administration out of office before there is more damage and lives lost. It is also important to recognize the political strides we have made. Congress has a record number of women, with 104 female House members and 21 female Senators. We are already changing things. More people are voting. We need to keep protesting and hold wrong doers accountable and keep making progress.

What’s your take on the current state of the music world?

THE DAMED-17_Photo Credit-Cameron Murray (1)
I miss the strong community that used to exist when the internet wasn’t so rampant. Currently, it’s great that it’s easier to release your music and get it out there to the world/promote shows, but the reality is it’s harder to gain fans and build a scene this way when there are so many other artists promoting their work. I try to be as personal as possible on social media. But it still doesn’t equate to communicating face to face. Everyone is moving at such a fast pace and can be hard to grab their attention in a meaningful way on this type of forum.

Do you feel that the LA and Hollywood scene as a whole affects your sound? Do you think if you originated somewhere else, say New York, you would sound completely different?
Is there specifically a “LA Punk” sound?

I don’t think we necessarily have an LA Punk sound, but we are definitely affected by our environment and the social politics that surround it. I appreciate living in a progressive city for sure. Since I am from NY, I also think the rebellious nature of that gritty city is built into me so maybe we sound a little NY? I think the resurgence/reunions of riot grrrl/queer punk bands like Bikini Kill and Team Dresch have given this genre more of a spotlight again and am grateful for that because honestly I feel this movement was starting to fade. 

What are some of the other bands in LA that you feel are excelling in their music and that you enjoy performing with? What national bands would you like to share a stage with?

AGENDER and Object As Subject just played with us at our Record Release Show and are 2 local arty punk bands that I admire and respect. They really take their music and performance to a higher place and I love what they do. That was a really special showcase of queer women bands. Nationally I would love to share a stage with Sleater-Kinney, The Coathangers, Bikini Kill, L7, Peaches, X and Sonic Youth (if they were still together!).

What is The Damed go to meal before a show? Are there any other good luck rituals or just general weirdness you do before performing?
I don’t generally tend to eat much before a show and avoid dairy because of ya know, singing/the upchuck factor LOL. Tacos are usually a go to for the rest of the band. I tend to have a PB&J. I like to run thru the set day of show on my acoustic guitar to warm up and get pumped. I also try to meditate. We are definitely a weird, animated, sassy bunch when we are together and enjoy each other’s company. It keeps it fun.

What are the goals for The Damed for 2019 and beyond?

We are in the process of working on a music video, writing new songs for our 2nd release, continuing to play more local shows, a northwest tour and hopefully a national and international tour in the future. And most importantly to keep letting our voices be heard and raising awareness.


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