Margaret Killjoy of Nomadic War Machine reached out to us recently with the first video single, “The Fields Lay Fallow,” off their upcoming album Always///Forever. Between the dark electronic drone and breathtaking images of witches and ceremonies I was instantly glued to what I was seeing and hearing. It had me in a trance so to speak, the music pulls you in and the visuals that Killjoy and Charlotte Taylor came up with are the perfect fit. Since it floored me so, I sent over our set of Profile questions to learn more and Killjoy wasted no time in returning answers. Head inside to find out more for yourself and don’t forget to click the links at the end to support Always///Forever so the rest of this album sees the light of day soon.
How did you first get into playing music, and have you achieved the level of success that you hoped for?
In high school, when I first started messing around with digital music, I wanted to be Trent Reznor or Moby. I didn’t know shit about music though, and was terrible at playing guitar, so all I managed to do was make a bunch of noise tracks. Since then, I’ve learned theory and had countless projects and bands, industrial, metal, or acoustic, and have finally started to get a handle on what I want to do. I think I’ve achieved the level of success I hoped for as a kid, because I can actually create the kinds of music I want to listen to. But my dreams are a bit larger now, twenty years later, and no, I’m just starting. I’d love to have a wider audience for my music and to tour more.
What’s the most you have ever debased yourself to get your band onto a show, into a magazine or otherwise promoted, covered, and praised? (If you don’t have a story, please tell us any funny/embarrassing story.)
I played electronic drums in a friend’s gothic rock band on a tour. The thing is, I’m not a drummer. I offered to play synth, but they insisted I drum. One show, I started fucking up. Drifting off beat. Without batting an eye, the guitarist went over and pressed down a pedal he’d already programmed for exactly this contingency. Backing track drums kicked in, my volume went down, and I spent the rest of the show pretending to play drums. That’s when I realized I was a glorified stage dancer.
It didn’t happen again, the rest of the tour, but it was weirdly relieving to realize I’d just been hired to look cool on stage and they didn’t need me.
What do you see as some of the great things happening in metal and what are some of the worst things happening inside the scene right now?
The worst thing happening within the scene is the same worst thing that’s happening throughout the world: people with shitty ideas are getting polarized to the Right or are just less afraid to admit that they’re white supremacists and anti-queer and all that bullshit. The worst thing happening to metal right now is the presence of nazis and the don’t-call-me-nazi nazis. Yeah, there’ve always been nazis in black metal, but those nazis have historically been marginalized away from the broader fascist movement. I’m not sure that’s the case any longer.
As for what’s good, I mean, the polarization has gone both ways. People stand up for me as a trans woman in music, and people stand up for other marginalized people. Besides political shit, though, the other thing that’s good for me is that there’s a broader acceptance of dark aesthetics and music, at least in America, so there’s a wider variety of people playing and appreciating dark music. Eight years ago, when I put out the first Nomadic War Machine album, I feel like my potential audience was only a tiny fraction of its current potential audience.
It seems that now everyone has a passion for some cause and that those people are very open about displaying their passions. This is probably a very, very good (and progressive) thing socially. What are some of the most important issues (social/political/humorous/etc.) for you and how do you insert those issues into your music?
Nothing about my music is subtle, politically and socially. I’m an anarchist: I want to live in a world of cooperative, autonomous people who support one another. I don’t want capitalism, the state, patriarchy, white supremacy, or any other system that imposes hierarchy. That said, politics and music can be complicated. Nomadic War Machine isn’t a political project at its core, it’s a musical project and an aesthetic project. I basically carry those politics over into the whole aesthetic: into the samples I choose, into the projections behind me when I play, into the album imagery, into the music videos. I treat my music, especially live performance, as a spell I’m trying to cast, so the aesthetics matter quite a bit. I’m not trying to propagandize, however. I’m trying to make music for people who appreciate the aesthetic ideas I’m using.
What, or who, got you into metal and how old were you? How did your family take the news?
In high school, my best friend was the other long-haired boy in my high school (I hadn’t come out as trans yet) and he was into black metal and kept baseball bats full of nails and shit like that buried in the woods behind his house. My girlfriend was Finnish, and I went with her to the Helsinki Metal Fest in 1999 and saw Amorphis, Nightwish, and a ton of other bands. I didn’t really stand a chance to not get into metal, even if I was always more of a goth at heart.
My family… well, I was the weird kid in a family of weird kids. They pretty much left me alone, never censoring what books and music I was into.
What advice do you have for aspiring music critics and outlets out there? How can we all better serve the genre in the eyes of a hard-working musician?
I’m not convinced you all don’t work at least as hard as musicians do, and for remarkably less praise. Right now, since music labels don’t wield nearly the power they used to, we’re largely without gatekeepers. I think tastemakers are incredibly valuable, to help us sort through all the music out there. The main thing I think you all can do, though, is to de-emphasize the voices of bigots of every stripe. To me, that isn’t even a political stance, just a stance for making sure that metal stays a welcoming space for who it was originally designed for: misfits. People who are marginalized by society.
What’s your goal? You guys thinking world domination? Maybe saving a continent? Maybe invading one? Any interest in starting a cult? Do you guys have day jobs or hobbies you want to share? Whatever it is, please let us know.
Well, I’m ostensibly trying to destroy the prison-industrial complex, smash capitalism, and overthrow the government, but if I’m being honest I don’t have a ton of hope I’m going to succeed anytime soon. So in the meantime, I’m trying to make more and better music. I also write books, make things, and run around dressed up in medieval clothes and fight people with spears and swords.
When you’re not obsessing over your own material, what are some of your favorite albums to listen to currently? (Feel free to include non-metal)
The main time I listen to metal is when I’m crafting with wood or metal. At the moment, the band I put on way too much is Caladan Brood. But the rest of the time, well, y’all might hate me, but I’m getting totally obsessed with synthpop and even regular pop. I straight up think there are pop musicians right now who do goth better than most bands that are consciously goth. Chvrches and Grimes and The Knife and all that.
What is the 12-month outlook for you or your band? Any specific events on the horizon that the masses should be aware of?
We just finished this music video, and I’m running a kickstarter for our upcoming album Always///Forever. After that comes out, Nomadic War Machine will probably head in a slightly different direction, focusing on songs with vocals… my own and other singers’. But I’ve got a strange attention span for projects, so I might switch over and try to finish a full-length with my solo black metal project Feminazgul or maybe finally get together an album of my acoustic songwriting on guitar, piano, and harp.
Summarize your band in exactly one word. (Disclosure: If you include additional words, we will select our favorite for the final publication.)
Many thanks to Margaret and Nomadic War Machine for their time!
Always///Forever is currently up on Kickstarter with a projected release date of August 2018, help out if you can. The band’s debut full length I have a gun. Give me all the money in the register is available now on Bandcamp. For more information on Nomadic War Machine visit their official website. For information on Margaret’s black metal project, Feminazgul, visit their official website and Bandcamp page.