Don't Ask Taylor Momsen of the Pretty Reckless About Gossip Girl

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By Ashley Zimmerman

The Pretty Reckless currently has a hell of a lot to be happy about. The band's latest album, Going to Hell, has already produced two hit tunes -- "Heaven Knows" and "Fucked Up World" -- and the group just kicked off the second leg of its North American tour.

It's no surprise that Taylor Momsen, who once acted in Gossip Girl, is heading straight to the top. What is surprising is that she's been able to do it with aggressive rock & roll. While most music geared to 21-year-old girls is total "popcorn" pop, as Momsen calls it, she told us she's on a much different musical path.

As for whether we'll be seeing Momsen on the big or little screen again, the answer is, probs not. We found this all out and so much more when speaking with Momsen before the tour brings the Pretty Reckless to the Pageant on October 23.

Ashley Zimmerman: What's the best part about performing live?

Playing. Playing is the best part. It's so much fun to get on stage and crank amps and play, and we have a setlist that we throw up onstage, but we can deviate from that if we feel like it. And connecting with the audience is always amazing, and hearing your fans sing your songs back to you is the greatest compliment you can get as a songwriter. So there's kind of no downside. But playing is the highlight of every gig, unless you suck. And then you just want to redo it.

I love that you love rock and that you care about making good music that's raw and real, and doesn't cater to music-industry trends. You're 21 and a lot of girls your age are into pop. I love that you love Nirvana and Garbage. Do you think rock is going to make a comeback on mainstream radio anytime soon?

I don't know. You know my line is, I don't think rock can ever die, I think it's just resting at the moment. [Laughs] I think it comes down to, you know -- I say rock & roll all the time, 'cause it is. But at the end of the day, it comes down to good songs and just good music that takes time to create, by a real artist, and not having a song by a manufactured artist for the machine. Like, no more popcorn. Popcorn is great for the movies and for two hours -- it's entertaining -- but at the end of the day I think people want a little bit of depth in their lives.

Personally, I think pop is for kids. I think it's kids' music for kids, and I'm not that kind of artist, and I'm not making that type of music. So if the kids can relate to what I'm trying to say or musically what I'm trying to do, then I've succeeded as a songwriter.

Which is why touring is so fun, because you get up onstage and.... You know, I write a record and I go away for a year -- or however long it takes -- and isolate myself from the world to write a record, and then you put it out into the world. And you have no idea how the response is going to be, and then you go play it live, and you see how many people have actually not just heard the songs but connected to them and are responding to them and understand them on multiple levels. It's the highest compliment.

What was the first CD you bought as a kid?

Well, I didn't actually have to buy a lot of CDs as a kid because I grew up on my dad's vinyl collection. So he already kind of had all the great music. He's a big rock & roll fan and I grew up on the Beatles. They're my favorite band of all time. They did everything, and I worship them.

So I grew up on the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, the Who, Pink Floyd, AC/DC, and then as I got a little bit older in my teens I got into the '90s like Nirvana, Soundgarden. We just played with Soundgarden, and it was my favorite gig ever because I fucking love Soundgarden. And then I got into Pearl Jam and all that shit, and then I went back to the earlier blues. I always get the question asked to me, do you have anything embarrassing on your iPod, and I'm always like, "No, I only like good music." I like artists who have sat there and are actually saying something.

I saw your music video for "Fucked Up World" and, first of all, it's an awesome song.

Thank you, it just went No. 1 yesterday, so we have two Nos. 1 on the rock charts right now. Currently "Heaven Knows" is No. 1 on mainstream rock, and "Fucked Up World" is No. 1 on active rock. We have two Nos. 1 on different rock charts from the same record, which is pretty awesome.

I didn't even know if this record was going to come out, and I certainly didn't know if there'd be any hits on it. And now we have two Nos. 1, so it's cool in my mind. I'm not gonna lie.

I wanted to talk about that video. What was the concept behind it and the message you were trying to put out?

Yeah, well, I wrote the treatment, I co-directed it with Jon J, who I also directed with on the "Heaven Knows" video and wrote the treatment for that. The "Fucked Up World" video was meant to be a take on pop culture. That's cynical in some way, I guess. It's a very sarcastic video in that it's a fucked-up, world and everybody is smiling about it on the beach in tie-dye. And what are you going to do? It's a fucked-up world. I'm not lying.

Continue to page two.

What about acting? Do you see Gossip Girl as your last project, or do you think you'll end up acting again at some point?

I see Gossip Girl as my childhood, to be honest. I see acting as my childhood. It's just something that I got put into at a very young age, and it was six years ago, and I keep saying how many Nos. 1 do you have to have before people stop asking about acting? Because I've had three at this point, and I still get asked about Gossip Girl, which was six years ago that I quit.

I'm not looking to go back to it. Gossip Girl was a great experience, and it helped in one way and hurt in another, but it feels like forever ago. I've been around the world 7 billion times since then, and when we go to shows, the fans don't give a fuck about the TV show. They're there for the music, for the songs and the records and what we've created as a band.

What has been the most fulfilling or exciting moment so far in your musical career?

Well, this record. I think the goal of every artist is to have every record be better than the last. And it's a non-commercial record in every way -- like there's no hits on this record, and the fact that there's two is insane. It wasn't even going to fucking come out. There was no record label at the time we made it, and now we have two Nos. 1 in rock in America.

Yeah, that's pretty awesome.

As a female, and it's fucking great. I mean it's crazy, but it's amazing.

What's next for you and the band after the tour?

Well, the tour goes for about three months, and then we'll probably be going around the rest of the world, South America, Asia, Europe.

There should be a big U.S. tour again in the spring. And in between all of those tours, we're starting to write the next record right now. Hopefully we'll get in the studio, so there's not such a giant amount of time between records this time.

There's too much heartache in this record. We went through a lot to make this record, Going to Hell, from a national disaster with a hurricane to the death of very close family members in the entire band. There's a lot of tainted pain in this record, and I think we're really excited that it's doing so well and that people are hearing that and responding to it but at the same time. I've got new songs, and I'm ready to fucking record them.

Can you tell me a little bit about the new songs?

Uh....nope. [Laughs] Not yet, not yet. But there will be a new single off this record, so there's going to be more videos and stuff, but that's all in the works right now.

What's one thing about you that would surprise most people?

The way tabloids have promoted the band or me personally and the way I'm perceived on the Internet is really inaccurate. So that's the biggest thing I think. I'm just a fucking chick in a band. I mean I've worked my whole life, and I just like writing songs and I like playing music. So I think the biggest thing that would surprise people is that I'm actually pretty fucking normal. I mean, I'm a little bit out of my mind -- I'm a writer, so like any artist I'm a little bit insane -- but I think the way the Internet perceives me is entirely wrong.

I constantly meet people and they go, "Wow, she's so nice" or, "You're so down to earth," or whatever. It's like yeah, I'm just a fucking dude, man. I'm just a normal fucking person who likes doing what I do. I'm not trying to shock people, and I think that's probably the biggest misconception of me. Frankly, it's all a bunch of bullshit. If you want to know about me or the band, listen to the fucking songs, it's all right there. My entire life is in the songs.

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