2015 One-Eyed Doll interview by Brenton Clutterbuck
Appropriately it was Chaos that led me to a chance encounter with rockers One-Eyed Doll. I was part-way through a project doing interviews with ‘Discordians’; members of a semi-serious parody religion that celebrates chaos, confusion and disorder. The figurehead of Discordia is the Goddess Eris, whose act of throwing a golden apple with the word Kallisti – to the prettiest one – into the wedding of Peleus and Thetis. This caused a fight amongst the present Goddesses, which ultimately led to the Trojan War in Greek mythology. With a tendency to celebrate chaotic mayhem and strong women, it’s little surprise that One-Eyed Doll and Discordia both attract some of the same fans.
One of those fans goes by the name of Gavriel Discordia, founder of the ‘Discordia Culture Shop.’ Online, he recommended to me that I get in contact with the band One-Eyed Doll, and offered set up an interview with lead singer and guitarist Kimberly Freeman.
[Oh, certainly. She’s a Discordian also?] I posted in reply.
[Haunted by it more likely] he said, a comment that would take some time to comprehend.
The process for checking to see if One-Eyed Doll were available was characterised by long periods of can they/can’t they uncertainty, that stretched across the months, right up until the very night I was in Austin, the site of the proposed interview. When Gavriel sent me a message of confirmation, late at night, I contacted the band via email and soon found myself sending texts back and forth. They were in town, and keen for an interview, and were available in the next few hours. I took a bus to 24-hour coffee-house, Bennu, and ended up meeting the members of the band around midnight.
Kimberly was a bubbly and passionate artist, who continuously smiled and expelled energy. Jason Rufus Sewell (aka Junior) was quieter, more reserved, with tight cut hair, who seemed to consider each question deeply, and gave detailed answers. They were accompanied by friend and ‘bodyguard’ Crystal.
Brenton: I found out about you guys through Gavriel Discordia who has the Discordia culture shop. So how did you get in contact with him, or did he get in contact with you?
Jason: “I believe he sent us a Facebook message cos-”
Kimberly: “No, he showed up to a show with One-Eyed Doll merch. Like they had made, we played that little show in Louisiana, and Julia [Gavriel’s wife] came up to me-”
J: “But he sent me a message on Facebook first.”
K: “See I didn’t know that. To me, it was completely random. Julia, this cute girl comes up and she has all these buttons with our logo on them, and pictures of me and stuff and I was like, wow, that’s cool.”
J: “He sent us a couple of messages before like asking if basically we wanted to, he had like a button making business and wanted us to hire him. And we were like, ehh, we get it done somewhere else, you know. And so rather than just letting it slide he made the stuff anyway and bought it to us like ‘no you really want to,’ it was like really cool designs. He’s actually designed a lot of our shirt designs and stuff.”
K: “He’s really talented. He and Julia both are really, really amazing artists.”
J: “It’s just a style that really fits with what we do. It’s a little punky, you know, street, kind of street art.”
BC: I like that some of it seems to be very tongue-in-cheek and very irreverent. I think today I started watching the ‘Vampire’ video and you guys are obviously having a lot of fun in there.
K: “Yeah. We just clown around really. So what are you all about? I want to hear about some things.”
I explained my project to Kimberly and Jason. Kimberly asked a few more questions about Discordianism, which I answered as best I could. It isn’t clear at first why Gavriel would put me into contact with One-Eyed Doll, though slowly his assertion that they were ‘haunted’ by Discordia comes to make sense. From her first job, to her working relationship with Artix, to attracting the attention of Gavriel and her status as a powerful female role model, Kimberly has been stalked ruthlessly by Eris every step of her musical career. Jason is a little more familiar with the ideology, and is able to point out the first of a number of Erisian connections to Kimberly’s career.
J: “I’ve heard, a friend of mine that was really into it that I kind of grew up with. So I’ve been exposed to certain aspects of it. So we, she used to work at Golden Apple Tattoo.”
K: “Well actually it’s funny because that was sort of the springboard… My very last day job before doing music full-time – just completely diving into it and seeing where it takes me – was at this place called Golden Apple tattoo. And they’re all about the Golden Apple, and in fact the owner who was my friend, his son was named Kallisti, so he’s just all about that. So that was my last step, I had this kind of like really flexible independent job where I was able to launch doing music full-time off the back and I haven’t had a day job since and it’s just like, every day is a new adventure just have my passport in hand and be ready for everything, these opportunities just happen and we have to just make sure we can get there and it seems impossible half the time-”
J: “Usually right up until something happens we just dive in and it’s like OK we have to somehow get to L.A. and put on a show tomorrow, how are we going to do that? We’ll book it and then we’ll figure it out later.”
K: “But it’s funny you telling me the story of throwing the apple and then watching all the stuff kind of come from that, and that’s exactly what happened, that was the start of my like ‘oh what’s going to happen next’. So funny, it’s ironic.”
The second connection, after Golden Apple comes from Kimberly’s chance encounter with Artix and Cicero, game designers.
J: “So there’s that and then, we’re characters in this video game.”
BC: Yes, I was going to ask about that. Adventure Quest right? I didn’t realise you were both characters.
J: “Well Kim’s a main character, I’m separately in it as one of Kim’s-”
K: “He’s my minion.
J: “Minions, yes. So she was the 6th Lord of Chaos, Discordia.”
J: “It was 6. That was basically–she was one of the main villains. There was 13 of them and she was the sixth one.
K: “The way that they wrote this character is that it seemed like I was a friend of the Heroes of the game, the players are called Heroes. They’re the good guys. It seems like I’m going to help them find Discordia, cos I’m going to help them defeat Discordia, but it turns out that I’m Discordia, and I was lying to them all along. So you don’t know what to expect. But then it turns out at the end that I could just be faking being, it gets really layered and confusing and you don’t know if I’m good or bad, if I’m helping you or if I’m drawing you to some-”
Crystal steps in to offer tea. Everyone accepts gratefully. The pair tell me a little more about the game design pair, a creative duo based in Florida.
BC: So that was Cicero and-
K: “Artix. Basically Artix is the creator of this game and Cicero is his main programmer guy and they’re total buds. And then they have like 50 people who work for them. And then they’re amazing writers and artists and, just like if you get to actually go there, it’s just this awesome wonderland of creativity and they’re hilarious and they, they’re just great.”
BC: And this is an MMORPG?
J: “Yes. Massively Multiplayer Online Game.”
BC: Excellent. These are people you both know?
J: “They saw One-Eyed Doll perform at DragonCon in Atlanta, probably around 2009. And then about 6 months later they had prepared a game for One-Eyed Doll to be featured in. And that was a big hit. And it really boosted our fan-base quite a bit.
K: “They say there’s like 200 million registered players.”
BC: And it features one of your songs.
J: “Several. It takes three hours to play the game and there’s six of our songs looping over and over and over.”
K: “They love music and they love putting music in the game. They’ve had several artists come in and be special guests of the game, they’ve had They Might Be Giants and Art Attack, us and Voltaire. It’s just really neat how they do it. We actually wrote a song for them called ‘Battle On’.”
J: “Just released a whole album that’s kind of themed for the video game. I don’t know if you saw the video for ‘Committed’, it’s like a mental hospital.”
B: I saw a little of it live, so I haven’t seen the official video.
J: “The official video, that was also released.”
K: “It’s like, they made a whole event, you have to escape from an insane asylum.”
BC: So the game’s constantly changing, and your part, I guess your characters change in their roles as well?
K: “Yeah, and then I do voices for, I have another character that they have me do voice-over for, the Necromantress Sally. She’s pretty crazy too. There’s just lots of little, there’s offshoot things that I do songs or voices for. They did this one that was, had to do with germs in your body fighting each other and I did all the little splat and squeaking sounds for that, and there was Pony vs Pony video game where ponies battle each other in friendship and love and we did the song for that. They’re just like, all over the place. Artix’s creativity knows no bounds, there just, there’s so many different things they do, its’ awesome and I love that. It’s an honor.”
BC: All came from them coming to a show-
K: “Yeah. Kind of a weird show where we weren’t really supposed to be there. They stayed and helped us clean up afterwards and hung out with us for a while. Nicest people yeah.”
In the background, the music is slowly rising and the genre is progressing from ambient electronica to heavy rock, and we struggle to continue conversation. After discussing my plans for travel with Gavriel, I ask about the roles of each performer.
BC: You do drums?
BC: What else are you on, anything else?
J: “Typically on One-Eyed Doll albums I’ll also play, I don’t play live as a bass player, but I record bass and then we make other types of music, we have an electronic album and it’s got a lot of you know, electronic music.”
BC: Was that the one released under a different name?
J: “Those are all released under Kimberly Freeman. So it’s like, One-Eyed Doll is going to be guitar/drums rock music. Kimberly Freeman right now’s got a kind of like orchestral, folky acoustic album and an electronic album. We’re working on a, we actually have unreleased more experiment 70s kind of prog rock weird album, it’s finished but hasn’t been released yet. And then we’ve conceptualised and have recorded a little bit of a bluegrass album.”
K: “Just kind of casually working on it. Do you guys want to move? The music is becoming very distracting.”
We move to another table and continue to discuss.
K: Yes. I rule basically in the band.
J: “And songwriter.”
K: “I write the songs. And solo stuff, sometimes I’ll play instruments, a little piano. I’ve been dabbling in banjo and writing a little that way. But that’s just, that’s my limit. I’m not a really learned musician like Jason is. I just sort of back up my lyrics, that’s all I care about.”
J: “She’s the chaos, I’m the order.”
K: “He is, he puts everything in order. That’s actually a really good team situation.”
One of the things that I find impressive about the band is their willingness to find creative solutions to making music their career. In a short documentary I saw, by David Bates Jr, Kimberly is shown hand-making merchandise from cheap clothing found in various places, including second hands shops. At one point they find a box of giveaway clothes, and take them to turn into patches. Their approach seems to be a growing one in an industry increasingly characterised by an adapt-or-die mentality.
B: One of the things people have been talking about in the record industry is that the old models aren’t working any more, of just being able to make your music and sell your CDs as a model. Obviously you guys have the computer thing which is very different approach, a very different way of marketing yourselves. Do you see yourselves as in the process of exploring other ways to make being in the music industry a profitable venture?
K: “Oh yeah, it’s so much more that performing shows and putting out CDs. It’s like-”
J: “I think artists have always been, you know. They always make their money in all sorts of ways. With shirts and with music and with performances. So merchandise and music and performances are three separate things you can focus on to make money on. And in the old days, the record company made the money on the records and to a certain extent the publishing of the music. Right. So they used to be kind of really focussed on the music and now not just music but pretty much all information is free, right so you know, any kind of information, that’s the kind of revolution that we’re going through right now. Information is totally free. So, music, books, pictures, things that can be turned into digital data, anything that can be distributed over the internet, you really can’t charge for and make big business out of it.”
K: “People will just steal it anyway. You kind of expect it, it’s available for free somewhere.”
J: “It’s not really stealing: It’s a revolution that we’re going through. Not only is it free but it should be free. I feel wholeheartedly, with the advent of 3D printers, soon I really think that we’re going to be able to print carrots and chicken legs and feed the world with free information. So it’s really important that we start with something that’s kind of disposable which is the intellectual property of music and books and work that into the subconscious of everyone’s mind before we get to the things that will really be cutthroat. Is KFC going to be happy that you can print free chicken legs? Probably not, no, and they’re far more powerful than the music industry. I think getting people used to the idea of things like that being free is really important. What we do, is we have a name your own price system so you can choose, with our blessing to download our music for free, and a lot of people do. Some people have chosen to pay $500 for an album, a lot of people have actually, a surprising amount, or $100.”
K: “When people can do it they often do, and when they can’t- One reason that I thought about starting that way of doing it, cos we have fans in third world countries and different places where some of them are little kids who might not have money or a Paypal account or a credit card, we just want them to have our music. We don’t want them to get it from some torrent site where they might get a virus or their parents’ computer or do something to get in trouble. So it’s like, just have it. If you can’t pay for it, don’t. And if you can, we appreciate your support. It really does keep us going. We’re going to do this full-time, I think a lot because of the donate-to-download system. You know we pay our bills with that. So it’s been amazing, somehow it happens every month.”
J: “And then we still have the traditional other ways of selling shirts and hoodies and all sorts of stuff, wristbands, key chains, some homemade stuff, things that Gavriel from the Discordia shop, he helped us out with this artist collective that just different artists from around the world will create One-Eyed Doll stuff, and sell it through our website and our little system. Artists get bored really easily. They may only want to make ten of something.”
J: “Or one of something.”
K: “They do. They get bored so easily. They don’t want to make merchandise, they want to make art. My mom is one of them. It’s just kind of cool to have these crafters and artists from all around the world selling our stuff, and these are people who might not have been able to sell their stuff before and now they have a market for that too. Sort of our way of supporting the arts and also they’re supporting us, and the fans love it cos they’re getting this special stuff. And as far as our music, downloads, we also have our stuff available on all the standard systems too, on iTunes and Amazon all that stuff so they can choose to get it that way too. That’s cool too.”
J: “To answer your initial question, in some ways things are changing a lot. I think just like anything, you have to embrace the chaos, who knows what tomorrow is going to bring, the number one thing for us is that we’re doing something we enjoy. We’re making the music we enjoy, and we’ll figure out how to make money on it later.”
B: In what other ways do you sort of maintain a relationship with your fan base?
K: “Still pretty busy doing that.”
J: “Yeah, Kim’s, she’s always communicating on Facebook any time someone buys something she writes a little note and autograph things a lot.”
K: I try to.
J: “And, I mean, obviously we don’t have time to do it all the time.”
K: “There’s fan mail which I really stay way behind on. And eventually we always get back to people. After shows all, you know, up until this point at least, my thing is that I’ll leave the stage and directly go to the merch table and do a meet and greet basically until the next band starts playing. In between the bands. So I hope to have a change to meet all the fans for pictures, hugs, whatever, autographs. We try to like, have a real life interaction with people besides the Internet as much as possible and show them that we appreciate their support. I know, I think it’s really easy for artists, bands nowadays to be like “Facebook” and “Twitter” and just do that stuff and not worry about the live shows so much. I think that you can get sucked into all the social media and become really anti-social and not know how to act around real people any more. I see that happening with a lot of people. You really, you have VIP experiences with fans on tour which helps us out with gas money, it’s really fun to hang out with them and get to know them and why they’re into us, and ‘what’s your story’ you know, we get to learn about different people and some of us are just really interesting. Like people that we never would have met before. I’ve heard so many crazy stories because of that. We’ve made some friends that way too. We try to cover all the bases, interact as much as we can. They’re the ones that allow us to do this, if we didn’t have fans supporting us, listening to it, supporting it, we’d be working McDonalds, whatever, you’ve got to show your gratitude.”
B: What I’ve seen of what you’ve done is extremely theatrical. With the makeup, the design, the emphasis on putting on a visual show as well as an audio one. Where does that come from?
K: “Not really sure, it just comes out like that. My first experience at a live performance was when I was a kid. I saw my grandpa perform at a party. Just impromptu in the living room of some house with a bunch of people with their wine glasses, whatever they were doing, and he just started performing, someone said, oh Bernie’s going to perform for us, and he put on this hat and he became this character he called Ollie Stinson and he had a Swedish accent. He did skits, like comedy stand up stuff… he was playing instruments, all sorts of instruments, and getting everyone to sing along with him and go back and forth. And was just super, super good. And I think that probably imprinted a little bit on me. I feel like he’s definitely one of my heroes, one of my influences. I wasn’t even trying to just follow in his footsteps or be just like him but I think I just naturally kind of went that way just because he had an influence. He’s a great performer, kind of silly and slapstick, the way I am I guess, so. The band is named for him.”
K: “He had one eye. It also has to do with the third eye and stuff like that. We can be blind this way but always remember to stay in the present. I used to really dwell on the past. It’s kind of half in reference to that and half in reference to Bernie. The story depending on who I’m talking too, and who’s going to understand it. You know who helped me come to the conclusion of the band name and where it all went was Daniel who worked at the tattoo shop.”
One-Eyed Doll offered me a lift home. They’d been playing shows recently, and had a car full of merchandise, some of which they gave to me. Kimberly lent me her ‘chaos hat’ and when I joked that it looked so good on me that she wasn’t getting it back, she insisted that I keep it. I passed them on my copy of the Principia Discordia in return.
They drove me to my hotel, and said goodbye.
A few days later they sent me an image of themselves and a deer they found, feeding it a golden apple.
- Brenton Clutterbuck is a writer from QLD, Australia. Updates from project Chasing Eris can be seen at www.chasingeris.com.
Editor’s Note: This interview actually took place in 2013.