I was going to write a glowing introduction to the one and only Tenebrous Kate. But her bio on her website lays it out pretty well:
“Tenebrous Kate is a New Jersey-based writer and artist whose work explores her longstanding fascination with all things dark, fantastical, and forbidden. She is the editor of the Heretical Sexts micro-publishing imprint and writes for publications including Dirge Magazine, Slutist, and Ultra Violent Magazine. She likes to keep extremely busy, appearing in pop culture variety shows including Kevin Geeks Out, Meet the Lady, and Bonnie and Maude, collaborating on zine and book projects with fabulously smart and talented people, and illustrating posters and shirts for clients that include Spectacle Theater and Porta Nigra. Love Train for the Tenebrous Empire is her long-running blog. Her interests include psychosexual cult films, downer vibes, basement bars, surrealist and decadent art, and all manner of esoteric nonsense.”
The artwork, words and performances created by Kate are simply magical. Overflowing with intelligence, talent and creativity is one hell of a mix which you should check out on her many websites and works linked throughout this profile. But there isn’t much more I can say about her so without further ado, here’s the one and only Tenebrous Kate. I can assure you that she is every bit as hilarious and amazing in person. So definitely find a non-creepy way to be her friend.
How did you first get into writing, drawing, speaking and everything else amazing you do and have you achieved all your wildest dreams? And, as a follow up, what are those dreams and how have they changed as you got older?
Wow! This is quite a comprehensive question! I’ll start at the beginning: I made the tremendous mistake of studying illustration during college because teenaged me thought this was a “practical” art degree to obtain, unlike simply a “fine art” degree. It sort of makes my Plan B of studying literature seem like a career-minded option. Around the same time, I got involved with the world of exploitation film fandom through indie zines and AOL chat rooms, where I connected with the founder of what would become Ultra Violent Magazine. I had my first articles published there, and I’ve been writing about movies, art, and music consistently ever since. More recently, I’ve re-engaged with visual art in a serious way (nothing will destroy the creative drive more thoroughly than art school–be forewarned, kids) and have produced illustrations, comics, and poster work for a number of terrific people and projects.
As to the achievement of all of my wildest dreams: ruling with an iron fist in a velvet glove seems like a lot of work so that’s been back-burnered. I’m doing a lot of bonkers, creative stuff with collaborators who I absolutely love to death, so that’s going to have to suffice until I get around to remaking the world in my own image.
Just in the past year, I’ve gotten to illustrate movie posters for Spectacle Theater in Brooklyn, I’ve done artwork in collaboration with Porta Nigra [editorial note: you can see the shirt Kate designed here], I’ve put out three publications under my Heretical Sexts zine and art book imprint, and I’ve co-hosted a pop culture variety show about villains where the host trusted me enough to let me make an extended Nazi zombie/necrophilia joke. The real, lifelong dream is to be as bizarre as possible and be loved for it by the right people, and I think I might be achieving that.
What’s the most you have ever debased yourself to get a promo, guest list, sketching model or interview that you really cared about?
I have very little in the way of shame, but I’ve been lucky thus far in not having to embarrass myself too terribly much. I’ve gotten good at putting myself out there and asking for what I want. You don’t get what you don’t ask for, and I’ve been fortunate in identifying like-minded creative folks who are willing to work with me. I try to keep moving and keep finding opportunities to work on weird, cool projects. So yes–if you are a person who does strange, loud, intelligent things, then we should probably have a conversation.
That having been said, I’m not ruling out sinking to Sacher-Masoch [editorial note: link added by Manny-O-War] levels of debasement should the right opportunity flicker onto my radar. I have a wishlist of people I’d love to work with and I guess I’ll have to trust their moral compasses in this regard.
Dear Kate: I can’t believe we didn’t lead with this question but, how did you get to be so awesome? What’s the secret to your success?
This is the part where I graciously accept a compliment and move on while trying not to ruin the illusion of greatness! My own secret to getting stuff done is threefold: 1) I don’t waste time with shame, 2) I play nicely with others, and 3) I don’t wait around for an invitation. I think there are a lot of people who get nervous about calling themselves “writers,” “artists,” or “musicians” (lord knows I’ve been there rather recently), but if you’re writing, making art, or making music, you deserve to give yourself credit for that. Claim your place at the table and get involved!
What are some of the most important issues (social/political/humorous/etc.) for you and how do you insert those issues into your writing/drawing/speaking/life?
Well, I think there’s a tendency for people to want to categorize things neatly and I’d like to challenge that. People love soundbite communications, and it’s so easy to de-contextualize and misinterpret ideas, especially on social media–an idea is seen as only as good as its best 140 characters, and that’s kind of scary. Breaking down categories and making ideas messy and complicated is important to the kind of work that I do.
On a lighter note, I think it’s crucial to find opportunities to inject humor into life. As a culture, we’re risking losing the art of satire and we need to be careful about that. Hell, if you ever want to improve your life experience, just spend 24 hours assuming everything you read, see, and hear is super-incisive satire. It will cheer you up immeasurably.
What, or who, got you into metal and how old were you? Was your family supportive?
As a kid, MTV was banned in my household (I have Duran Duran’s “Girls on Film” video to blame for that), so I grew up on my parents’ rock records from the 60s: the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the soundtrack to “Hair.” All of this had the unintended side effect of priming me for tween rebellion, a tactic of which was sneaking into the TV room after everybody went to bed to watch episodes of Headbangers’ Ball. The first time I saw Alice Cooper’s “Poison” video, I was absolutely enraptured. It had the familiarity of the rock music I grew up with, plus added theatricality and questionable taste–what was there not to love? My parents were really great about my newfound passion, especially considering how carefully screened my entertainment choices had been up to that point. My dad even took me to my first concert, which was part of Ozzy Osbourne’s first retirement tour in 1992. I think the heavy metal thing appealed to his existing anti-establishment leanings.
What’s the stickiest you have ever been?
I have a friend whose performance antics included stage blood and she was into hugging people while in the throes of her post-show endorphins. “Stage blood” is just below “tar” in terms of stickiness and I don’t recommend being in proximity to the stuff, ever. The jury is still out on “hugs” in general, really.
What advice do you have for aspiring artists out there?
This should probably come with some kind of caveat that I’m not necessarily a model for success or good behavior, but here goes… For starters, spend less time bitching and more time concentrating on the things you love. It puts you in a productive, positive state of mind plus it makes you a person that other people want to be around. This will let you find other, compatible creative people and once you’ve found them, support their work, tell the world how great they are, and make the effort to keep them in your life. I can’t overstate how important it is to surround yourself with inspiring fellow artists!
I have a personal obsession with pens and other writing implements. Thus, after seeing, and following, your art (which is incredible) I have to know: what are some of your favorite pens, pencils and other implements and what’s so great about them?
First: thank you so much! And to answer the question: I like traditional art supplies. Although I incorporate digital finishing into many of my pieces, most recently I’ve really focused on working with tools and techniques that I could have been using in the 19th Century. My go-to brush is a Raphael Kolinsky Extra Pointed Round Red Sable #0 that I use on almost everything I make, from inks to watercolors to the occasional acrylic piece. It has this gorgeous bounce to it that makes creating linework a delight. When I want to get into delicate details, I use Speedball dip pens (#102 crow quill and #107 hawk quill nibs) to get very fine lines. It’s a wonderfully meditative thing to work with old-fashioned tools. I know I could move faster with the right digital set-up, but I find it extremely pleasurable to feel the writing instrument moving on the page. Ink, brush, and pen will always be a part of what I do, even though I employ digital coloring and lettering when needed. Also, there’s something to be said for the “static and feedback” you get from working analog. It’s like musical artists who use throwback amps, pedals, and recording set-ups: those things add a unique texture to the finished work. You have to love the process, though, right down to the fact that it’s time-consuming and requires you to embrace “happy mistakes.”
Finally, what are some of your favorite not-metal listening favorites? And, what were some of your favorite releases of 2015?
There’s a lot of stuff that spans the gap between the metal I like and the non-metal I like. Ghost is a band I have gotten into what we’ll dub “Spirited Conversations” while defending, I like a large percentage of various incarnations of doom (yes, even several straight-up Sabbath-worship bands), and I enjoy some of the stuff that seems to be dubbed “post-punk” right now that probably would have been called “gothic rock” if it came out twenty years ago, like Grave Pleasures. Of course, there’s always room on my playlists for the classics of various “pan-spooky” genres (Depeche Mode, Death in June, Sisters of Mercy, Ministry, just to name a small handful) alongside delightfully niche dark music subgenres.
I’m probably overly-energetic on this topic, but I felt like 2015 had some really great heavy metal releases. Is it tacky that I’m putting Porta Nigra’s “Kaiserschnitt” at the top of my list? I didn’t know Gilles when I first encountered and reviewed the album, so I’m giving myself a pass and hope you will too. I’m a sucker for intelligent, intense, complicated metal with its roots in history and literature, and those guys are at the head of that particular class. “Antidote for the Glass Pill” by Lychgate is an insanely creative, frightening, and immersive album that warrants many re-listens, and not just because it prominently features the pipe organ. Other releases I enjoyed a great deal were “Exercises in Futility” by Mgła, “Stellar” by Der Weg Einer Freiheit, “Exile” by Regarde Les Hommes Tomber, “Feldpost” by Horn, “Grief’s Infernal Flower” by Windhand, and “Niederkunfft” by Helrunar (shout out to Nine Circles’ own Corey for turning me onto that). I feed off of those downer vibes, what can I say?
Thank to the lovely and wonderful Tenebrous Kate for her time! Feel free to support Kate by checking out her AWESOME Web Shop where you can purchase this book: