METAL PULP AND PAPER: Hello Monique. So glad to be catching up with you. Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions for Metal Pulp And Paper. We appreciate it. 

How are you? How are you doing this summer? 

MONIQUE ORTIZ: Aside from being in the middle of a hurricane, I’m fine. 
MPAP: So, if someone were to walk into a record store and start flipping through the albums and they came across Alien Knife Fight's Some Girls and you were standing right next to them, what would you want to say to that person? 

MONIQUE: Nothing. I would mind my own business and I’d expect the same from anyone else. 
MPAP: What else would you want to say to them to draw them in and want to pick up the Some Girls album and look at it a bit closer?
MONIQUE: As I said, nothing. I wouldn’t want them to get any closer. I’m not keen on those who don’t respect boundaries, and I’m not interested in convincing anyone of anything. I make my music and if someone likes it, great. If not, no skin off my back. I don’t make music to please others. I don’t seek anyone’s approval or validation. 
MPAP: You walk away now that they have the album in their hand, but before you leave what would you whisper in their ear so they would go to the checkout counter and buy your album? 

MONIQUE: This just isn’t anything I would ever do, and I can’t stand it when other artists shamelessly push their material on me. If someone did that to me it would have the opposite effect. I’d likely walk away from them. First of all, how many people do YOU know who go to record stores? I loved hanging out in record stores in the 1980’s but, like so many things in the world now, the internet has ruined all of that. 
MPAP: Some Girls came out in March of 2016 with some great reviews. How are you feeling about it now that the dust has settled and it’s been out for almost a year and a half? 

MONIQUE: I was never entirely happy with it. We made the mistake of departing from our usual methods, recorded it in a different studio, with others involved, only to end up having it sound shrill, with the annoying sound of too much compression. We paid way too much money for what we ended up with. The process was riddled with problems, and we had to go into the studio right after two of our dogs were killed, and while we were struggling to keep our home. Bad timing with a lot of negative energy. I was happy to cut my losses on it and move on.  
MPAP: Do you feel there could be some pressure when it’s time to start recording new music that you will have to top Some Girls? Or will you just go into the studio, which is in your house, and you’ll all just make music and whatever happens, happens? 

MONIQUE: Pressure from who or what? People barely know we exist. I don’t approach making records as having to top the last one. That’s a very slippery slope for an artist. That’s not a sincere way to proceed. It’s not a contest. As I get older I am less concerned with who’s saying what, or how many followers we have, or what the critics say, etc. In the big picture, none of it matters. We’re a trio now, thankfully, so I’m focused on developing the new sound, which is the sound I was always going for but could not achieve as a duo (unless we use more devices, and I’m not into that). In November we’ll be heading up to Columbia, Pennsylvania to record at a studio a friend of mine engineers at. We might do a couple shows along the way. We don’t have much of a fan base so finding venues that will guarantee us enough to cover expenses has been fruitless so far, and we can’t commit to crowd sourcing because a successful campaign is a project unto itself, that we just don’t have the time or manpower to run. My 45th birthday is on Thanksgiving this year, and that’ll be our first day in the studio, so I’m really looking forward to it. It’ll be nice to be home also. 
MPAP: How would you say you’ve personally grown as a musician since your Debut EP (2013) to Some Girls

MONIQUE: Well artists evolve over time. That’s just what happens. The more you play, the more you evolve. However, most artists soften as they get older. I feel I have toughened. My music is getting heavier and louder, and my lyrics, more abstract and more metaphorical. 
MPAP: What about going back even further in your career, how would you say you’ve grown as a musician since the days of when you were in the band Bourbon Princess in 1997? 

MONIQUE: I’ve been clawing my way out of the shadow of Morphine. I owe a lot to my various collaborations with members of Morphine (Bourbon Princess and A.K.A.C.O.D.) and that circle of incredible musicians. They are like family to me, but it has been as much of a curse as a blessing: For the most part people lack imagination and often compare artists to anything remotely similar. Playing slide bass, or playing any instrument with a slide, means you get pigeonholed into “blues” or “blues rock”. Fact is I really know nothing about the blues and it doesn’t interest me much. Venues often want to book us with blues acts or bands doing the gimmicky duo thing, a la White Stripes or Black Keys, and it’s very disappointing because I’m not into that stuff at all, and when you put us with acts like that much of the audience doesn’t really know what to make of us. There are hundreds of duos calling themselves “dirty blues”, “swamp rock”, “gothic Blues”, “sex blues”, or any number of corny labels, and they all sound the same to me. I have no control over how people perceive us, but being pigeonholed like that kind of turns my stomach. I grew up on mainly punk, post punk, experimental music, goth, and new wave. People often tag us in social media as “low rock”, which is a term Morphine front man Mark Sandman coined, but at this point we really don’t sound much like Morphine at all. My slide bass and fretless bass playing are more influenced by people like Josh Homme, Robin Trower, Mick Karn, and Tony Levin. My vocals have evolved as well. I’m more of screamer these days, but still work to keep a very wide range. I have no interest in revisiting much of my early material. I guess that was kind of a torchy phase, but singing like that just feels like milk toast now.  
MPAP: What got you into music? What made you want to dig your heels in the dirt and what to start a band. It can be a very hard job along the way. You must make a lot of sacrifices to get and go anywhere. As the saying goes, “it’s a long way to the top if you want to rock and roll.” What keeps you motivated to keep doing this?
MONIQUE: It’s just who I am. I am an artist. I’ve been playing a variety of instruments and making art since I was able to hold drum sticks or a guitar, or a paint brush. I do music and visual art for a living. I could never hold a straight job for long because I couldn’t deal with people and they couldn’t deal with me. I also could never grow accustomed to making low money to make someone else rich. Yes, it is a struggle. Living hand-to-mouth in your 40’s is precarious. Mike (AKF drummer /producer) and I decided against having kids. I knew that unless we were financially stable and/or had a lot of support from family and friends there’s no way we could have a good life AND raise kids. I don’t have the temperament to be a parent, and this is a pretty fucked up world to bring a child into anyway. Yes, we struggle, but the freedom of self-employment is key to being able to record and tour whenever we want.  
MPAP: Meeting Mike Howard back in 2010 must have been some motivation because he is a great musician? 

MONIQUE: I met Mike at a job I worked at briefly. We were dating before we decided to get serious about making a go of this band thing. He’s mainly a bassist, and a far better technical player than I. He hadn’t played drums in decades before meeting me, but he bought a kit that used to belong to the drummer of The Sword and we started jamming. We record everything we do. After a while we thought maybe a few of the recordings were worth developing into songs, and those few ended up on the first EP. 
MPAP: Going over some recent news that was announced, AKF just added vocalist/guitarist Ted Calaveras to the fold. You are now no longer a duo? How does this make you feel? 

MONIQUE: Relieved and excited. Sadly, over the past 20 years, duos have become this cute kind of gimmick for the most part. We never intended to be a duo, and we’ve had third members come and go (due to them having too many other commitments or not bothering to properly learn the material). We got fed up with constantly having to re-teach the material to other players, only to have them bail a month or two later. You can’t develop a solid sound of your own when that keeps happening, and we didn’t want to let the lack of third player keep us from touring. We decided to develop the sound as much as we could on our own and stop looking for the third player. We thought that if we can make ourselves as versatile and sound big as possible as a duo, that third member will find US, which is exactly what happened with Ted. Plus, I’ve been playing in duos for 25 years now. It’s fine; I know how to make it sound bigger than the sum of the parts, and do it in ways that others don’t, and in ways that don’t involve laptops or tablets, but I’d rather have one or two more multi-instrumentalists, and not have to do a pedal dance at every show.  
MPAP: Were you ever scared to be bringing someone else into the AKF family when it has always been just you and Mike? 
What does Ted bring to the AKF table that you might have been missing before? 

MONIQUE: I wouldn’t say “scared”. Sure, having played in the duo format for that long, and having honed a certain sound, we must be patient and recalibrate things, but it’s a process I’ve been hoping for and looking forward to ever since we resigned ourselves to being stuck as a duo. There are certain songs that actually work better with just bass and drums, and on those songs Ted will do percussion and backing vocals, or just sit them out altogether, but a good song is a good song: If you know anything about arranging and composing you can make any song work on one instrument, all the way up to a symphony orchestra. Right now we’re working on brand new material with Ted, and reworking a few older numbers. Having Ted join us is proving to be a huge shot in the arm. I love his guitar tones and he’s a great vocalist. I feel kind of like Dorothy in that scene in the Wizard Of Oz, where she walks from black and white into color. 
MPAP: Having him will be a great addition to your live shows correct? 

MONIQUE: Absolutely. 
MPAP: AKF stomping grounds are in the beautiful State of Texas, a small dusty town called Creedmoor to be exact. What brought you to that very, very small town? The 2016 Census has it listed as a population of 219. You probably have almost bumped into everyone at the corner store I’m sure? 

MONIQUE: Mike has lived out here for many years. I moved in with him in autumn of 2010. It’s mainly a lot of ranchers. We know our neighbors, but not really anyone else. Everyone minds their own business, which kind of feels like an antiquated courtesy these days, and one that I am grateful for. No one lives too close, so we can crank our amps up and play as loud as we want, whenever we want.  
MPAP: Not that that person is stalking you that bought your album earlier, but what if he was passing through Creedmoor. What might he find you doing there?  

MONIQUE: That person would see nothing but ranches and a landfill. Well they might drive past the Creedmoor General Store, which is in the film Love And A .45. They wouldn’t find me doing anything because we own several acres and are nowhere near the road. Trespassers will be shot of course. 
MPAP: What’s something you like to do when you’re not neck deep in making music? 

I’m a yoga junkie. I bake a lot. I used to work in a small bakery up in Boston. That was my favorite job. I will often bake cakes or bread and ship them to friends or family. I’m also a glassblower and a painter, but I guess those are really my other jobs, outside of music. I do a lot of photography. For many years I worked as a veterinary technician in one of Boston’s largest animal shelters. I’ve always had a hand in animal welfare and almost went to vet school after graduating art school. When I was pursuing my degree in Fine Art I took a few courses in criminology and sometimes regret not going after that as a major, or something in forensic science or astrophysics. These days I read a lot of true crime and things pertaining to nuclear physics.  
MPAP: I get the feeling after looking at your website and Facebook page that you might pick up a camera now and then and look through a lens maybe? 

MONIQUE: Sure, but I’ve dramatically limited my time spent on social media and intend to keep most of my images to myself from here on out, unless I decide to publish a coffee table book sometime. Social media has become the global Skinner Box, and it just gives me a sick feeling to see how it has changed people, and how people treat each other. It plays a large part in the devolution of humanity. I don’t need to share my images to get that little dopamine shot.  
MPAP: All good things must come to an end, but before we bring this interview to a close, what’s next for AKF? I see there are some shows coming up soon, but is there anything else on the radar that your fans should know about? 

MONIQUE: We’re always up to something. We keep our shows updated in all the usual places.  
MPAP: On behalf of myself and Metal Pulp And Paper, I’d like to thank you, Monique, for spending some time with us so we could get to know you and your band Alien Knife Fight. Look forward to what you do to finish out the year 2017 and beyond.
MONIQUE: My pleasure. Thank you. 
MPAP: Any last words you’d like to say to the readers and all your fans out there? 

MONIQUE: Yes: Don’t be that asshole at the show with your phone in the air. Put your phones away. You paid to experience a performance. Live in the moment and free yourself from the black mirror. Stop posting your shitty quality phone videos. You aren’t doing the performers any favors with that crap. Leave it to the professionals please.