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The Pretty Reckless’ Taylor Momsen: “This record saved my life”

Taylor Momsen of The Pretty Reckless
(Image credit: Press)

Four years on from their last album, The Pretty Reckless return in the face of personal loss and depression for the follow-up, Death By Rock And Roll. In the meantime, we challenged frontwoman Taylor Momsen to answer your burning questions on the band’s new era, making dream collaborations come true and… really rubbish tigers?

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What can you tell us about how the new album is sounding? Debbie Smith (email)

“Awesome! I’m ecstatic for people to hear it. It’s been a long time coming and we’ve been sitting on music waiting to put it out, it’s been torturous. I don’t want to say too much but I am very confident with this album – in a lot of ways, this might be our best album yet; it’s very much a rebirth for this band and it feels like the first record in a lot of ways. I know to my core that I’m extraordinarily proud of what we’ve accomplished on this album, it’s a new chapter in the band’s life. This record saved my life and I’m really excited to share it.”

If you could collaborate with anyone on a future album who would it be and why?

Jenni Owens (email)

“I don’t know because I don’t think of music like that, I think collaborations have to come about organically and in these modern times of streaming, collaborations are used more as a marketing tool than an actual artistic statement and I don’t really like that. I very rarely collaborate with people, but I say that just as I got to collaborate on this new album with some amazing people like Matt Cameron and Kim Thayil of Soundgarden on a song called Only Love Can Save Me Now, which we recorded at London Bridge Studios in Seattle where Soundgarden made Louder Than Love, Pearl Jam made Ten and Alice In Chains recorded there. It’s such an iconic space, so being there with those guys and hearing the song I wrote come to life with them playing it was one of the best experiences of my life. The collaboration came about in a really natural way through a lot of tragedy; we were opening for them on that last tour before Chris Cornell passed and that created a bond. We also have a song, And So It Went, that features Tom Morello playing the guitar solo – again that was such an amazing artistic collaboration. When I wrote the song, he immediately came to mind as a voice that could really express the concept, the lyrics and the point of the song and really take it to another level and he certainly does; when he comes in, it’s undeniably Tom Morello and it’s awesome!”

Taylor Momsen of The Pretty Reckless

(Image credit: Press)

What do you think of them rebooting your old TV show Gossip Girl? Danielle Harris (email)

“I’m curious to see it! Social media and technology has changed so much since that show first aired so it’ll be interesting to see what they do with it. I remember on the show, they used to periodically give your character a new phone and it was still flip phones when it started… now everyone’s glued to iPhones and you feel like you’re dying without a smartphone. The social commentary alone will be interesting to see how they take that and bring it into the modern life we’re all living in.”

What did 2020 teach you? @immortalevfan (Twitter)

“It’s taught me patience, which I think I had a pretty good handle on ahead of 2020 but it certainly has tested my boundaries of how patient I can be. It’s taught me to appreciate the small things that we overlook in life – if we were on tour right now, I wouldn’t be getting to spend time with my tiny dog ,who’s very old, before she’s inevitably going to pass. I’ve been enjoying the little moments of being at home because the rest of my life has always been a whirlwind and was always on the go, so now there’s no other option but to reflect on your own thoughts and your own life.”

Would you rather have an army of badass ducks or one really crap tiger? James Brian Fitzgerald (Facebook)

“Can’t it be one badass tiger or a load of ducks? I’m kind of a solitude, isolated person; I have very few friends but the friendships I have go deep. Because a lot of ducks seems a little overwhelming, I think I want one tiger but I’d have to get him on the game. He just needs a little sensei training; I’ll give him a Soundgarden record and we’ll be on the same page. I’ll reform that tiger!”

Who in the music industry was most helpful to you taking your first steps and adapting into that world? Jane McAhrane (email)

“I have to give credit to my managers who I’ve been with for a very long time, they’ve always supported my visions and always had my back, but I think the main people are in the band. It started when I first met Ben [Phillips], our guitarist and my songwriting partner, and our producer Kato at the same time. There was an undeniable chemistry and magic that you can’t duplicate – it was something otherworldly, if you believe in that kind of thing. It was a defining moment in my life. Through that, I met Mark Damon [bass] and Jamie Perkins [drums]. When we all came together and made the decision to see where this was going to go, quit our jobs and I quit acting, we really jumped in with both feet. The support, camaraderie and the way we looked at music and life, everything about it is amazing.”

In your opinion, has having the career in acting helped or hindered the public perception and success of the band? And how long do you think it took for people to see you as a musician rather than the actress who has a band? Matt Heeks (Facebook)

“I think it was a combination of both a hindrance that we had to overcome and a slight help to the press side. In the beginning it certainly helped get our name out there because I was known for something else and I was living in a tabloid world at the time, so it spread the band’s name around, but I don’t think it contributed anything to the actuality of what it is to be a band, to make music and to be successful at that – having your name written in a bunch of articles doesn’t validate anything. I think the people who gave the album a chance without judging it with a pre- existing notion and went in with an open mind, they noticed pretty quickly. The rest of the world took a while to see this for what it was. There’s no facade, it’s just who we are as people.”

Do you think we are more likely to cry or headbang during the new album? @xxrecklesstayxx (Twitter)

“I think you’ll get a bit of both! There’s a very full spectrum on this record; it starts in the dark and ends in the light and it really takes you on a journey. If the first half doesn’t work for you, you’ll find something in the second half and vice versa. It encapsulates everything we’ve been through since the last time we were out and about in the world. A lot of this record was made due to how much tragedy and loss that suddenly thrust itself upon our lives in a short amount of time, from Chris Cornell’s passing to our producer Kato Khandwala [who died following a motorcycle crash in 2018]. [Kato] was my best friend on the planet and that was the nail in the coffin for me. I went down into a hole of depression and substance abuse and I didn’t know how to get out of it; it was music that saved me, it pulled me out and made me want to keep going. Writing this record was all I had left and I think you can really hear that on the album.”

What do you miss most about touring? Aimee Baker (email)

“I miss you guys, the fans! I’m going through show withdrawal, I miss being onstage with my best friends and cranking the amps, screaming into microphones and never really knowing what’s going on. I miss the whole energy of live shows because there’s nothing like it; it’s a drug and there’s nothing that competes with it. Being in the studio and writing gives you a different substantial kind of high that lasts forever, whereas shows are just one night but you can’t beat that one night.”

Any plans to release an acoustic album of any of your songs or covers? @Jmj2022 (Twitter)

“No specific plans but it’s certainly something we’ve been talking about for years now at this point. Because we haven’t been able to get together as a band plugged in, I’ve been doing a lot of acoustic stuff from home. We just released a piano version of House On A Hill, which is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time and I think that turned out really beautiful. I’ve got to work with some amazing friends and musicians; Alain Johannes and I covered Chris Cornell’s The Keeper together, I also got to work with Matt Cameron and we recorded Halfway There by Soundgarden. Things are happening that wouldn’t have come about if we were on tour.”