Interview by Parisa Eshrati
On her second full-length release, All Bitches Die, Lingua Ignota's Kristin Hayter combined harsh industrial noise with neoclassical stylings to create an intimate and harrowing narrative of domestic violence. We caught up with Hayter halfway through her US tour to discuss the intentions of sonically recreating trauma, surviving domestic abuse with a fervent nature, inspirations from women martyrs to baroque art, and much more.
The music from your latest release, All Bitches Die, plays a lot on ideas of aggressiveness and tranquility. The most difficult parts to listen to are the most tranquil segments where we have to really focus on the lyrics and how devastating the content is. By doing this, do you also feel that you are flipping expectations of femininity and people mistaking tranquility for pacificity?
Absolutely, that’s definitely intentional. I want to subvert expectations not only about femininity, but also what extreme or brutal music means. I want to show brutality in a way that’s really, really intimate, in a way that almost hugs you. That juxtaposition of taking pieces that are really quiet with quite horrifying text is a device that I like to use to make the listener really focus on what I have to say.
You’ve mentioned in previous interviews how the biggest impact of your music is indebted to having very harsh transitions from those passive to aggressive moments. How do you feel that putting a listener through these unexpected transitions can make them better understand trauma, or ultimately gain a better appreciation for your lyrics?
I feel like the harsh transitions function on the couple of different levels. In one respect, I almost replicate the experience of domestic or sexual violence and not dealing with the repercussions of trauma, because so often in a situation of domestic violence everything is fine and then it’s suddenly it’s really not. Putting the listener in a space that’s very destabilizing where you don’t know what’s going to happen next is in some ways trying to recreate that feeling for those who may not have had that life experience. Ultimately, though, the goal is to allow for an understanding of this non-linear approach to how violence works.
Your master's thesis focused on survivors of violence reclaiming their bodies through self-immolation. I want to relay this to your live shows where you’re quite physical with your space. Can you elaborate on how you mimic this sort of Hildegardian idea divine martyrdom? How did your research in this subject allow you to further use your stage presence as a means for catharsis?
Aside from just mimicking the idea of divine immolation, a part of my performance practice is influenced by fluxes of performance art from the 60s. I think a lot about indeterminacy and creating a creative environment where I have agency but also I kinda don’t, where chaos can occur and it’s not exactly certain whether I’m in control of it or not. Throughout my set, I move through the space carrying lamp heads and create this weird map of where I’ve been but also get entangled in it. The entire performance could totally fall apart, which has happened before. There have been shows where the computer shuts down and everything turns off, and I have to improvise in that moment how I’m going to put things back together or if I’m even going to be able to make it work again. It’s almost like a dissociative act. I don’t really know what’s going on. I kind of control my limbs, but I’m not really thinking about the motions. My body just kind of does what it deems necessary, and in that way it relates to this idea of ecstatic performance and I get to replicate this idea of a divine immolation, in a metaphorical sense but also in creating this environment with the lights where I could potentially catch on fire. So yeah, I’m definitely trying to access that idea of divine, ecstatic suffering and figure in how it relates to performance art.
We were just talking about what people could gain from your music who haven’t experienced trauma, but I feel like your music coupled with your live shows offer insight for survivors too. It seems like you’re offering a more intense means of coping, seeing as how most survivors are pressured to be docile.
Absolutely. Everything I’ve read about surviving is so saccharine. Survivors are always told to be patient, get a hobby, learn to garden, learn to bake, get in touch with your emotions, etc. When I got out of a five year domestic violence nightmare, I wanted to burn everything down. And I wanted everyone in the world to feel what I had felt. I feel like there is this enormous pressure on women to maintain civility no matter what. Like, no matter what horrific act you’ve endured, you have to be a civilized woman that doesn’t speak about pain in a way that’s fervent or aggressive. It’s not seen as feminine and therefore unacceptable, so I want people to feel like there’s no right way to survive. Do what feels right to you.
Absolutely. I’d also like to discuss your use of sampling Aileen Wuornos. There’s a trope in extreme music to sample serial killers just for the sake of being edgy or sounding “evil”, but you use that sample for her to actually be heard. Can you discuss flipping this paradigm so the sample is not to reflect on you, but for the audience to reflect on themselves and our societal repercussions?
You know, one of the most rewarding things about playing live shows is when people recognize Aileen’s voice or when people ask me after my set who that sample belongs to. It gives me the chance to talk about Aileen and how we wrongly murdered her. It’s great to have these conversations because it allows some people to consider things about the way our society treats issues of trauma and domestic abuse in a way that they’ve probably never thought of before. I think women, and queer women in particular, look up to Aileen or see that she’s not respected, so we get to have this great moment of bonding when we hear her voice. There have been so many great sets in the South actually where as soon as her sample comes up, I hear people in the audience yell “WUORNOS!” or “YEAH AILEEN!”, which I get so psyched on. It’s also really interesting that when I talk to people who don’t know much about her story or what she actually went through, I detect some shame in their responses and feel that energy out there too.
Sometimes I feel concerned about using her voice as a vehicle for my work because I don’t want to co-opt her pain or make her pain my pain. I only want to honor her and raise awareness for what she went through. My friend told me awhile back that she thinks if Aileen heard my music she’d be proud, so I hold onto that.
I’d definitely agree with your friend on that. I’m also really interested in your unique visual references. The album cover for All Bitches Die was inspired by a fashion line from Julien Fournié which was based on women martyrs, and I know you're a big fan of Klaus Nomi too. Do you have any other similar visual inspirations for your upcoming record?
Yes! I’m honestly not sure how much I can discuss the new album, but it’s somehow much grosser than the previous ones. It’s more depraved but also more stately. So I’ve been looking at a lot of baroque art, Dutch still lifes, Archibaldo portraits, as well as listening to a lot of baroque music like Henry Purcell or George Handel. I’m also looking at a lot of Greek forms, i.e. El Greco, Francis Bacon, Egon Schiele, and any artworks that have a grotesque theatricality and a focus on skin and the corporeal self. Overall, just very disgusting, fleshy themes.
I assume those visuals will translate heavily into the new direction of your music.
Oh yes, definitely.
I read that there are a lot of historical influences on this upcoming record. You draw a lot of reference from women martyrs, i.e. the Hildegard von Bingen reference of your artist name. Who else are you incorporating into your new work?
For this record, we’re taking a male counterpart and flipping it. Aileen still figures strongly. There are so many more I wish I could discuss, but until the album comes out I have to keep it to myself. You’ll find out soon!
You collaborated with The Body on their last release on the song “Nothing Stirs”. Do you have any other collaborations with them or other bands in the works? What else can we look forward to for the rest of the year?
I have a split coming out soon with The Rita. As far as other collaborations, I have a bunch of people working with me on this new record. I have some vocalists, drummers, and a few more instrumentalists as well. This new project will be a lot more expansive than what people have heard so far. Aside from that i’ll be touring what seems like forever, and going to Europe to play too.