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The Story Of Kittie

Legend has it that the genesis of Kittie came about in a school gym...

Posted 4th September 2006 in Features, Kittie | By Kirkland Ciccone
Kittie

Metal is typically the sole preserve of men, strength is their culture. There have been attempts by women to stamp this out and claim that loudness for themselves but most have been only partially successful. This is the story of a band that had the potential to do something very interesting with metal and in the end was frustrated by many difficulties.

This is the story of a band called Kittie.

Legend has it that the genesis of Kittie came about in a school gym. They were four girls with a passion for metal and the youthful exuberance to do something remotely different rather than bash a guitar and sound like cats being strangled by their own vocal chords. The original Kittie were sisters Morgan and Mercedes Lander, Fallon Bowman and Talena Atfield who was drafted into replace Tanya Candler who suffered from ill health. For most fans they were the best version of Kittie as later line-ups descended into pure metal parody – when they first started though, they were very good. So they had names from Dynasty and voices from The Exorcist but what music they made! Their original demo showed enough promise that when producer GGGarth got hold of it, he immediately wanted to produce their amazing debut 'Spit'. So the girls went from sitting in the gym at school discussing metal and Nirvana to supporting Slipknot. Very surreal and yet totally deserved as 'Spit' was a good, cohesive debut or as Kerrang said, “Like a smack in the face with a crowbar.” That should be amended to "a smack in the ears with a hammer,” it was by turns heavy and (with the ending of track two 'Charlotte') surprisingly mellow proving that Kittie could alter their sound effectively. There was also the mighty 'Brackish', a metal dance track which pissed over most of the crap nu-metal posturing that was the norm at that time in rock. If you haven’t heard 'Brackish' then hear it right away.

The strength of the original Kittie, apart from a cauldron of malevolent music metal, was the fact they all had individual identities. Talena Atfield, despite being the bassist, had the strongest image and (as testified by myself personally when visiting Kittie forums) inspired many girls to pick up the bass and learn it proficiently. Fallon Bowman was also very strong visually and talented, indeed she was also something of a rarity in metal music in that she is of ethnic origin. The real powers behind the band, however, were the Lander sisters. And Morgan, the lead singer, was determined to prove that metal was not a men only club.

Kittie, as a female rock group, found it difficult to break the inherent sexism in the music industry and press. Rumours abounded that their songs were written by their dad and that they were manufactured (if you check their publishing credits, you learn that is rubbish) and soon inter band rivalries started to ruin what was potentially a great rock group.

Fallon Bowman, the founder of the original Kittie, was the first to leave. Fallon never gave a specific reason and the band retaliated by replacing her with Jeff Philips, an obese bald rocker. He wasn’t an official replacement and soon Kittie were a trio of the Lander sisters and Talena Atfield. This group released 'Oracle', the follow up to 'Spit'. 'Oracle', sadly, had lost most of the originality that 'Spit' contained. It was as though the group had decided to prove that women could make ‘traditional metal’ as effectively as men and what you get is an album that, although powerful sonically, is also very dull by the numbers metal.

Fans were horrified when Talena Atfield, the colourful satanic bassist, announced her departure from Kittie. Rumours flew around online as to her reasons. The Lander sisters took most of the blame and Talena was replaced by Jennifer Arroyo in time to record the dire third Kittie album 'Until The End' alongside other new member Lisa Marx. Of course they too left the band and were replaced.

It looked suspiciously like all members of the band were utterly dispensable and so Kittie went from being a credible band to being a revolving door of women backing the Lander sisters. 'Until The End' is a really awful record; even to the day I can’t listen to it without wondering what could have been. There are flashes of creativity but not enough to really capture and hold you in a heavy metal headlock.

There were other problems with finances and legal problems ensued between Kittie (or rather the Lander sisters) and their label Artemis Records, in fact legal documents available to be read states the main problem as ‘unpaid royalties’. Thus we come back to the mysterious reasons for Talena Atfield and Fallon Bowman’s departure…

Talena Atfield has remained silent and mysterious (like her image) for all this time but has made a comment on her official forum which may or may not be truthful, it goes thus: “I would like to clear something up, the money wasn't an issue for me and that was not the reason for my departure, they replaced me before I even left. They gave me an ultimatum, to sign something I was unable to sign because it did not benefit me in the least and did not give me control over myself, they said to sign it or leave because they had already found someone new to play bass. And that right there was enough for me to decide on, if they could replace me that quickly without even talking to me then they obviously didn't want me there anyways. They can state whatever reasons they want for me leaving. They don't even know why because they never even called me to talk to me about it, they had Jeff call me to tell me the news, and I am sure it makes them look better if I am a "money grubbing whore" or so they have been saying.”

Fallon gets an even more bizarre rumour for her departure, it is claimed by some that she became obsessed with the Columbine shootings but Fallon has herself denied this and it does seem unlikely for a girl that once confessed that she quite liked Mariah Carey. Whatever the reasons, it could very well be financial similar to what Talena claimed.

So what about Kittie now? It seems they going into a joint venture with The Platform Group to create their own label with major distribution so the battle for equality in the male dominated world of metal may not yet be over, it just lost direction.