Talita and I met via the nebulous, virtual wonderland of Twitter, and I have long admired her passion for heavy metal as much as I enjoyed her witty commentary. For six years, she handled worldwide publicity and promotions for Earache Records, specializing un the UK and European markets. Recently, she struck out on her own and is now doing freelance PR and events for such respected bands as Rival Sons. She also regularly displays her impeccable taste as a presenter on TotalRock, where she masterminds “The Talita Twoshoes Show” and “Breakfast at Talita’s.” She also regularly works as a DJ. I’m very happy to have my long time e-friend as a part of Girls Don’t Like Metal.
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What first drew you to heavy music? Tell is your heavy metal love story.
The origins of my heavy metal love story is the story of my first boyfriend. He used to get the same bus to school as I did, and he was a metaller. He had a full-length Sebastian Bach poster above his bunk bed and I wanted to impress him.
I was already into The Doors, Hendrix and Meatloaf via my siblings, but I thought that in order to impress this guy in the year above me at school, who played guitar in a band, and acted like a dick to me in front of his friends, I had to be as metal as his friends. It was a boys club, and I wanted membership. In trying to win admittance to his pubescent buddies club (they made me make them tea whilst they played Risk), I stumbled upon my real love: Heavy Metal and Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Luckily, that experience lead me down a much truer path than that young man could and it went from there. I started getting tapes off friends, getting into grunge, getting disappointed in grunge, getting into hardcore, getting into Shelter, thinking about becoming a Hare Krishna, seeing Ray Cappo drink beer, deciding I didn’t want to be a Hare Krishna. Then nu-metal emerged and somehow I got involved with Lostprophets after a chance encounter on a street in Cardiff because of a Sick of It All hoodie. I always thought it was a path that spoke to me, a passion I could understand, and it was more real than any boy I met in my teenage years.
What made you decide to make heavy metal a career choice and such a significant part of your life?
I’m not sure I ever consciously decided to make heavy metal a career choice. There were just these opportunities and ideas that I had to follow. I started a crappy fanzine, because I wanted to understand more and doodle, and I loved these photocopied fanzines I got at hardcore shows. Millencollin had just put out their second album, I was really into that whole Burning Heart Swedish softcore scene, and most of my fanzine was taken up with that. I faxed interviews and phoned up Brazilian bands, American bands, Scandinavian bands with a tap on the phone to record the conversation and a huge lack of knowledge about anything. But, I was enthusiastic.
I was a good girl, a girl guide, and somehow I ended up in a photography course (with a guy who was also strangely a glamour photographer I found out years later and did the first Lostprophets shoot, but that’s another story) in a youth club that as populated by rock kids and metalheads. I showed my fanzine to the manager and he suggested I got involved with the festival there, which became Uxfest that then took up the next ten or so years of my life. Uxfest and Lostprophets happened and from the errors or the successes I had with those I was on a path to heavy metal. I used the payphone during school breaks sorting DIY shows; doodled during English lessons, drawing flyers instead of reading Jane Austen; and stealing blank tapes from the language department to record albums on, getting suspended in the process. Luckily, my week off school was right during Uxfest prep so I was able to finish some “great” poster artwork, which would never have been done if the teacher’s daughter hadn’t dobbed me in.
Heavy metal chose me and I chose it, because I looked for community and found it lacking where I was, and took the path where I did find it. I chose it for passion, I chose it for adventure, I chose it because I wanted to be the rebel, I chose it because it was a fire that was already lit inside me, and I just hadn’t realized it.
The times where I’ve tried to not wear my colours on my sleeve, I’ve felt incomplete. When I ran a children’s charity, I loved the work, but it felt too clean for me, and I left because I yearned for Rock ‘n’ Roll.
I think the music has also gone hand in hand with some need to have ideas, produce, organize, plan and manage things too. It was something I could get involved with on the ground level because I was enthusiastic and worked hard. The more I put into it, the more I understood, and the more it became my backbone.
Tell is about your work. What record labels and bands have you worked with in the past?
I left Earache Records in January 2012 and have since been working freelance, pretty much just with Rival Sons worldwide (which is a full-time job!), but also with my friend and rock, DJ Lady Starlight, plus working on festivals and events. I sometimes find events more exciting than PR. I was PR and Promotions manager at Earache Records for six years, so I was responsible for the thrash campaigns with Municipal Waste, Evile, Gama Bomb, Bonded By Blood, etc., and the “new wave of traditional heavy metal” stuff like Cauldron, Enforcer and White Wizzard, plus working on the At The Gates reformation, Akercocke, Annihilator and more. I planned press, radio, TV for the whole of Europe, came up with strategies and ideas, photoshoot concepts, even some covershoots, replied to thousands and thousands of emails, travelled Europe lots, made friends with lots of journalists, enjoyed working with some great artists and people. When I left, I posted a highlights reel of my time at Earache.
I handed my notice in at Earache last November 2011 and left without a concrete plan, but I knew I was in need of a break. I wanted to have some time to do things for myself and with my own creativity as opposed to other people’s. Rival Sons and Earache took me on to manage their publicity on a freelance basis, and I started working freelance for organizations like Serious and The Barbican on (shock and horror) Jazz and World Music shows, which have been really relaxing, exciting and fantastic!
Most of my time these days is spent with Rival Sons: out on tour, in front of a computer or wherever, and it’s 98% of my work load. It’s a joy to work with them; not only are they supremely talented and growing by the day, but they’re very real, sweet people and we get on well.
What made you decide to strike out on your own and do freelance PR and events?
It wasn’t an easy decision, but it was a long time coming. I believe you can only complain that you’re unhappy for a certain amount of time before you actually have to take action, so I took action. I was overworked and I needed to have some more fun in my life. Sounds weird to some people I suppose, as they probably think that the whole Rock ‘n’ Roll world is fun. It has its moments, but it’s also quite stressful, involves a level of sleep deprivation and it’s intense. There wasn’t a lot of time for Talita mixed in with all those rock stars! In fact, for a while after I left I didn’t even know what Talita liked to do with herself in her free time, it had been so long since I’d had any!
I hate missed opportunities, but its inevitable when you’re spread too thinly that you miss things. There just aren’t enough hours in the day, and I don’t have enough hands or keyboards to type the amount of emails I needed to! It’s one thing covering one territory but covering multiple territories with multiple groups is impossible to keep on top of 100% of the time. Essentially, I just made a decision to be happier and live a life with less responsibilities and duties for a while. In some ways, Rival Sons made the decision for me. Not just with some chats with Jay Buchanan, but also the song “Soul” profoundly effected me.
I think there are also some points from a (part-time) Buddhist perspective about change and also about creativity that I think are so important. Change is integral to life; it is the one thing that is constant. Change is growth and change is forward motion. I mean, it’s good for the soul. Also, when you’re working supporting other people’s creativity, sometimes you don’t get time to be that creative yourself, I’d been too left brain for too long!
I still don’t really have a long-term plan, but I enjoy working hard and I’m just enjoying what I’m doing and who I’m working with at the moment, and from being someone who always has a plan, I just love not quite knowing what is round the corner for the minute and also knowing that whatever it is, I’m prepared for it.
What has been the high point of your career so far?
I loved working with Municipal Waste and Evile and that whole thrash ‘movement’ was a lot of fun. When I left school after my A-levels, I ran a French hip hop club, and that was fun too. I’ve done a lot things and had a lot of parties and events that have been memorable and hilarious. I’ve met wonderful people and worked on great projects. I think one of the new high points is definitely working with Rival Sons, but its also having a reputation for being the person that will get shit done, for being reliable and hard working. Working with Lady Starlight has been awesome of course, because I got to work backstage on Lady Gaga tours. I suppose that’s as glitzy and glamorous as it gets. Getting a heart-felt thank you is always a high point and a bit of a tear jerker. Really though, I think the continuing high point is the good friends I’ve made and the continued connection with people who are so creative, talented and inspired. That’s a delight and a pleasure.
What kind of temperament and expertise is required to get into PR and events for heavy metal bands?
I think it takes all sorts, so this isn’t a how-to guide, but determination with a smile is definitely key. I’m an ideas person, a problem solver, so finding your way around obstacles to reach people is always good. Creative thinking to find solutions and a good work ethic is needed.
I think there’s an element of needing a thick skin, but I don’t think I have one. As long as you keep your head down and work hard you shouldn’t need a thick skin; there are way too many jaded and cynical people in this business already.
Enthusiasm is key, and above all a love of music. It needs to drive you to want to do your best. Obviously common sense and an ability to deal with artists as human beings, and to anticipate their needs and reactions is very useful.
Really though, these days it’s about starting to work on your own path young. You need to be working on something to do with music and media from your mid-teens. A blog, running shows, taking photos, something. Get some experience. Read books about the industry, and don’t expect things to land in your lap. Also, you need patience to deal with artists and journalists. And you need to keep trying to cultivate other interests too. As much as music would be your life, it’s good to still be able to talk about other things! Oh, and you need supersonic speed of light typing and Kali-esque multi-tasking.
Either when you were working for record labels or on your own, did you ever find yourself facing challenges specifically related to being a woman?
I think there are always challenges, both from guys having to deal with a girl and from a girl having to deal with guys. These occur in any workplace, but of course the world of Rock ‘n’ Roll has been paved with the panties (I hate that word), and legends have been made out of, and stereotypes of many male fantasies. It would be stupid to overlook these and think that the myth that a girl only has one job backstage doesn’t still exist. But if it exists, it exists in other people’s minds and I certainly don’t take on those prejudices nor do I pay them any mind. Sometimes I wonder whether I’m so used to misogyny that I must be blind to it, but really I don’t think I see it all that much. I don’t know whether that’s because I’ve earned respect by now or because it generally occurs less and less.
I can tell you back in the days of Uxfest there was a lot of assumptions made about me as a girl.
Still, at some venues I think there’s a level of default “groupie” assumption. I don’t really care about that shit, if anything I find it quite funny. Everyone likes gossip about who’s getting it on, and people are happy to fabricate stories in their minds about these things. However it’s your attitude and your countenance and the way your carry yourself and your work that makes people respect you. Some people say I’m scary, which is funny to me, but I guess I am used to dealing with assumptions so I have a “don’t mess” approach sometimes.
To be honest, I’m so busy that although I guess chat goes on, I don’t really see much of it. I have dated musicians in touring bands, that was a challenging path I found more difficult to tread, because people seem to want to have water-tight pigeon holes for you. You’re the Madonna or you’re a slut. You’re either working or you’re dating. The idea, which is actually the reality for a lot women in the industry, that you can mix business and pleasure without being a groupie is still be sometimes alien. People like to think in black and white, but with long hours and all of your social life being the industry you work in, its unlikely as a woman that you’re not going to date a sound-guy/lighting guy/musician/journalist etc. at some point. And of course rules surrounding guys’ dating and liaisons seem to be quite different.
From the point when I first had to make tea for the teenage boys playing Risk, there has always been an element of servitude to men’s needs in my life that I’m well aware of. Looking after the talent is what you have to do. I don’t mind it. I’m okay with that. It actually makes me happy as long as I manage to keep my own life going too, and have my own interests. Female PRs sometimes give so much of themselves to the bands they work with and that band’s dream , and that is usually a function of a patriarchal dream, that they themselves are alone in their personal lives. In a business that is social in nature, its easy for all your time and friends to be people you work with, which is entirely un-healthy in this industry.
Besides all of this personal relationship stuff, I would say the challenges are:
* Having a period when you’re on tour
* Not getting emotional when you haven’t had any sleep
* I should note as well, that I always hating the term “press-girl.” You would never term a man “press-boy” would you? No. Well there you go.
What advice would you give someone else who was interested in following a similar career path, especially other young women?
* You will need to work hard and prove yourself
* You will have to earn respect
* You must know your music
* Don’t think in romantic terms or in terms of attachment
* Have other interests
* Enjoy it!
* Don’t expect to get paid lots
You have to be in this business for the love of it. It’s not a money-earner, it’s not a business for home-bodies or for people who can’t think on their feet. I’ve been lucky with the things I’ve done and the projects I’ve been involved with. I’ve also nearly always put my career and my job first. If you don’t think you can do that then at some point you’ll want to go and get a steady job instead.
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Talita has worked in music since the early age of 15, running festivals, managing bands, then more recently as PR manager for Earache Records and now publicist for Rival Sons. She replied to this interview from somewhere on the road between sell-out shows on the Rival Sons European tour. You can follow her on Twitter here!