An Interview with Ego Likeness

Ego Likeness logo

Ego Likeness return to Minneapolis on November 17 at Ground Zero (full info). We had a chance to ask Ego Likeness founders Donna Lynch and Steven Archer a few questions and they discuss the forthcoming re-issues, the upcoming tour, tour mate Servitor, working in the studio, bees and more.

Lynch and Archer have been busy in the studio, finishing up their next Ego Likeness album, titled “Know Thine Enemy.” They are also re-issuing two of their earlier albums, Order of the Reptile and Water to the Dead on Metropolis records on November 26.

In addition to their work with Ego Likeness, Lynch and Archer have numerous other creative projects, musical and not. Both are accomplished authors and Archer is also an accomplished visual artist.

Thanks to Donna and Steven for their time. We are looking forward the show and hope to see everyone at Ground Zero on November 17!

Kilted Farmer Koncerts:
What can audiences expect from your live show during the upcoming tour?

Donna:
We’ve got a couple new songs that have only had a limited release and one that hasn’t been released yet at all. All three will be on the next album. And in addition to Steven, Mike, and myself, we have a new semi-regular keyboardist, Brendin Ross, from Frontal Boundary. Hopefully, Rick (Mindcage) will be able to join us for a few shows, as well, and we’re hoping Servitor is going to join us for a few songs, too.
Also, bees.

Steven:
We are answering this at different times… Did Donna say bees already? Because that’s important. Also we are doing a bunch of stuff with video now that I’m really excited about. Somewhere between the bees and the video stuff we play music…

Donna Lynch & Steven Archer

Photo courtesy of Ego Likeness

KFK:
You’ve both stated that you are avid readers. What kinds of things do you like to read while on tour? Do you have anything lined up to bring with you?

Donna:
I usually don’t have time to read on tour. I do the majority of the long-distance driving, but even if I didn’t, I can’t read in the car without getting nauseated. I recently contracted Lyme Disease, and since that happened, reading has become very difficult. It’s nasty stuff when it gets into your brain. I’m lucky I can still write. And when I’m doing those really long drives, and everyone is asleep, I’m able to come up with song and story ideas.

Steven:
Is she going on about the Lyme disease? So boring. I got a hang nail last week, now *THAT* was horrible.
Let’s see… what have I been reading… I loved Hugh Howey’s “Wool” series. I read a lot of Science Fiction, but I also enjoy contemporary fiction. I love Barbara Kingsolver’s work- Flight Behavior in particular is great. I’m also a huge fan of Margaret Atwood.

KFK:
You are reissuing two of your full length albums this November on Metropolis Records – 2006’s “The Order of the Reptile” and 2004’s “Water to the Dead”. Both have been remastered. How did these releases come about? Why was 2013 the right time to do so?

Donna:
Well, we ran out of copies of “Order…” haha! Actually, that is partially the reason. All the existing copies from Dancing Ferret were gone, and since DFD is no more, it was do a re-release or that album would be gone in physical form forever. And “Water to the Dead” wasn’t too far behind. Metropolis stepped up and saved them from extinction, so we were pretty happy about that. At the same time, we wanted to give people something new, and the next full-length isn’t quite finished, so it seemed like a good time to take care of both issues.

Steven:
Did she mention the Blasphemous Rituals? I bet she did. Look, the last time things got out of hand, and we had to hire a outside clean up crew, but so what? It’s not like that doesn’t happen to everyone at some point in their career. I mean really, it was all going just fine until the goats got into the pile of dead virgins….

Water to the Dead album coverOrder of the Reptile album cover

KFK:
Donna – You’ve said in past interviews that though you are a classically trained pianist and vocalist, you didn’t start writing and performing your own music until you met Steven. And Steven – You’d been in bands but hadn’t tried your hand at writing until you and Donna formed Ego Likeness. How did you make the initial transition to creating your own music? What were some early challenges?

Donna:
I didn’t pursue a career in classical music because I really wanted to write my own material, but I had no idea where to start. I think finding a creative partner was exactly what needed to happen, especially someone as motivated as Steven. He basically told me to put up or shut up. And for many years, the biggest challenges for both of us were learning to get over ourselves. I had to toughen up and Steven had to learn to remember that we also had a marriage to maintain. It took some time to get it right. Also the challenge of not murdering each other in the studio. I’m difficult and impatient and easily frustrated. I try not to be, but there’s a big block for me when it comes to songwriting, and it’s there *every* time we do an album. I don’t envy Steven.

Steven:
I’m very much a autodidact. If I decide I need to know how to do something, I just learn it. So for me it was pretty easy. I’m not the best technical musician, but I think I have a good ear, and after living as a visual artist, I know how I learn and think. Once I figure out *what* I need to know how to do in order to make something sound the way I want it to sound, it’s pretty easy.

Also, I’m a joy to work with in the studio. Unlike some people I could mention.

KFK:
You both have numerous other artistic projects, some together (e.g. The Trinity Project), others separate. How do you juggle all of these projects?

Donna:
Sometimes we don’t, which is why Trinity was put on the shelf indefinitely. But Steven is a crazy man and needs a hundred projects at any given time, so that works for him.

Steven:
I have more ideas than I know what to do with and I’ve worked very hard to create a life in which I can do that.

KFK:
What are some things you do to capture inspiration or ideas? How do you choose which medium (or which musical project) to use to express an idea?

Donna:
For me, an idea chooses it’s own form. I let the idea sit, or write it out simply- just a line or a description. When I find it again, either in a notebook or on my phone, it usually tells me what it needs to be. When I see scenes or entire movies in my head, those are the ones that become books.

Steven:
I start throwing sounds into the sequencer, and then try to figure out where all those sounds live. The music comes out of the place. And what that music is handled depends on which hat I am wearing at any given time.

KFK:
How do you primarily come across or seek out new and interesting music?

Steven:
I’m not as aggressive about finding new music as I used to be. Often I stumble across it in strange places. These days I think I am more influenced by books I read than music.

KFK:
What are some new or up and coming musicians/artists you’re excited about or that you think more people should know about?

Steven:
We’ve toured with some amazing bands over the past year or so. Servitor who does a solo tribal drum thing. He opened for us at a show in Detroit last year, and we liked it so much that we are bringing him out on this next tour. Cryogen Second out of Nashville, who are great industrial metal. On the flip side, we love Zola Jesus and Fever Ray.

KFK:
You’ve toured quite extensively throughout your career thus far, playing to thousands at large festivals in Europe and the US and also playing to much smaller crowds in clubs. What has been one of the most important lessons you’ve learned while on the road (practical, philosophical, whatever)? Why?

Donna:
The traveling part needs to be loved as much as the performance part. The checking into motels at 4AM when you have to get back on the road at 7AM. The truck stops and creepy rest areas in the middle of nowhere. The eating Subway for weeks on end. The getting excited when you find a place to wash your clothes, even knowing you’ll have to choose between sleeping and laundry. But, you get to see *everything*. It’s amazing and one of the best ways I could ever imagine spending my life. Seeing canyons at sunrise, weird roadside attractions, plains, hills, mountains, rivers, oceans, deserts, castles, iconic monuments. Every day you’re on tour you see something that makes you have to pull over and take a photo or just sit and *look*. If you hate that part- if it’s all long, uncomfortable drives, and being tired and miserable- you’re missing out on 50% of why touring is so amazing. You’re wasting half the experience.

Steven:
I have one goal at every show: Don’t fall down. Any show that I manage to not fall down, it’s a good show.

Ego Likeness band photo

Photo courtesy of Ego Likeness

KFK:
You’ve had the opportunity to open for and rub elbows with some pretty amazing and well known musicians thus far in your career. Of all the people you’ve met, who has given you fanboy or fangirl butterflies? How did you meet?

Donna:
Aw, I can’t answer this without name-dropping. It’s a trap! I try to play it cool, but I won’t lie- opening for Peter Murphy was pretty crazy. And New Model Army and The Damned. We’ve played with so many bands that were influential to us, fifteen-year-old me can’t even handle it. Fifteen-year-old me AND thirty-nine-year-old me also can’t wait to play with The Dead Milkmen at Twisted World in PA this spring. What a weird world.

KFK:
Sheffield, UK club Revolution created a list of “retired songs”, never to be played again during their club night. The reasons they cited are that they believe the songs have been overplayed, worldwide and that the artists on the list have newer and/or better songs that can and should be played in clubs. What 3 songs would be on your “retired songs” list?

Donna:
I gotta’ say- I don’t like that concept, that there should ever be a song that people love, or loved, that gets expelled. Are there songs that don’t need to be played every week? Sure. Mix it up. Get the new blood in there. Take chances, try something new, or new to you. But there’s room for everyone. My problem with it is not that people don’t want the same set lists week after week. I get that, and I don’t want that, either. It’s that those lists sometimes become too personal. “I *hate* this song, or that song…even though it packs the floor, I don’t like it and I don’t want anyone else to enjoy it, either”. There’s too much cat and snark drummed up by those lists. If you’re a DJ- balance your shit out…play to crowd, and do it your way. *I* might be tired of Dead Stars or Military Fashion Show, but if it makes sense and the floor is calling for it, then let your audience have a good time. It’s four minutes, for fuck’s sake, and you don’t have to do it every single week.

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