Chasing Dreams: Talking with Rock Star Emily Lazar, 18-Person Hungry March Band Performs Tonight

I used to tell all my potential first-time nightlife industry employees a little ditty before they actually agreed to come aboard. If you are a regular reader (well, you must be quite irregular for that) you have heard this before… and now you’ll here it again: I told the people working for me to have an exit strategy. The money is good. The people, the celebrities, the action can be an addiction – but the life, except for a few, has an expiration date. When it’s over, you have to have a way to support yourself. It ends when you need a change but no one will hire you because they want younger, or you just can’t put in the hours anymore, or the "distractions" of the night become a real problem. I would tell them nightlife is like a rollercoaster…you pay a little money to get on and the first thing you do is go up a great hill and from there at the top it seems like you can see forever, when in reality you are seeing just a bit more. Then its a fast ride down and around, thrills spill treacherous curves, some screams, some fear, some exhilaration, and when it’s over you end up basically where you started, spent a little time, had some fun. Many creatures of the night are putting themselves through school or are actors or artists or dancers. They are pursuing dreams in a place built on them. They often service stars, people who were just like them a decade ago. Failure and shattered hopes often are a heavy burden as time goes on. Breaking out is hard to do. The odds are stacked against them. Emily Lazar left NY behind to chase her dreams on the left coast. She used to work with me. She’s a rock star trying to let the world realize that.

Most nightlife workers are doing this on their way to that… Tell me about the jobs you took in nightlife so you could perfect your art. Tell me about your club life and how it helped you chase your dream.
I think i’ve done pretty much every job there is in nightlife… promoter, bottle service, assistant to the manager… it was a way to keep me going as I developed my craft. Working in that industry taught me how to develop relationships with people on so many different levels. I was lucky to have you watching out for me and helping me on my way to where I am.  
 
Tell me about the band.
September Mourning is the creation of a universe. It is not a band, it is a story… a fantasy storyline with a musical element intertwined within its world. I created it with Marc Silvestri/ Top Cow Comics. The hard rock musical element of it was previewed on stages with the legendary Marilyn Manson, only months after its inception a few years ago…. Performances with The Birthday Massacre, I Am Ghost, Hanzel Und Gretyl, and Dommin followed, as well as radio play across the country. This past year at Comic Con in San Diego, SM announced a partnership with MTV Geek that will further the development of the character and the world in which she dwells through webisode programs and online comics. Top Cow also announced the unveiling of the graphic novel of the same name in 2012. In the overpopulated music scene of today, I’d like to think that September Mourning stands alone in its originality. We have been recording new material with a slightly different musical direction this year (much more of a hard rock/ alternative feel) for release in the states, but we decided to put together an album of songs that we toured on in the beginning of the project and release it before we release the new direction and sound here. Our album, "Melancholia," drops on May 18th on Repo Records in Germany and Russia, but can be preordered now online at www.poponaut.de.
 
You are in LA, and yesterday a very savvy guy told me that it is much better than ever and in many ways – low rents, jobs, an easier place to pursue a career and have fun at night. What have you found?
The music scene here is thriving. Rents are lower, but you have to have a car, and with the gas prices as they are, well… I think it evens out, haha. But for musicians, there are definitely more opportunities to develop as an artist here. Even the art scene in general seems to just be more inspiring… but I’m a New Yorker at heart. There’s an energy in Manhattan that you won’t find anywhere else on the entire planet. It’s electric almost… and being there, it pulses through your veins and drives you. I kept that with me when I moved, that energy. I also miss the people of NYC that I hold so close to my heart. If I could transplant all the people in NYC to here, this town would be almost perfect.
 
More importantly, do you miss me?
Every hour, every minute, every second of every day… hehe  ūüėČ
 
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Hungry Marching Band
 
David Rogers-Berry is a friend and BINGO buddy. He was raised in rural South Carolina and has that southern hospitality-way about him. He is the drummer in the touring band O’Death and has 500 concerts in the US of A and Europe and has three studio albums to brag about. He is also a cancer survivor. The other night at BINGO he told me about his part in Brooklyn’s inimitable  Hungry March Band." There are apparently 18 people in this act and they have a following in Bogot√°, Columbia. I can’t make this stuff up!. It is logistically impossible and very expensive to get 18 people and equipment to Columbia, so they’re doing an event in New York.
 
I know you as the drummer of O’Death and as a friend. Now, I hear you are involved with an 18-piece marching band. Tell me about this project.
Hungry March Band (HMB) was established in 1997 for the sake of marching in Coney Island’s annual Mermaid Parade. Since then, the band has become the cornerstone of what you might call an anarchist marching band movement. Nowadays, you will find bands like this in most major cities around this country and abroad. HMB has made three or four studio albums and toured Europe and America. As you can imagine, traveling with this many people can be a logistical nightmare – hell, just working in a creative context at home can be enough to drive a person insane – and it has! Right now, there is an influx of new blood injecting this Brooklyn institution with fresh vitality. The band remains an NYC fixture that can always be seen in Greenwich Village’s Halloween Parade and Coney Island’s Mermaid Parade, but we also play clubs, private events, art happenings, late-night speakeasies, and the occasional protest. The band maintains no political affiliations, but  there is anarchy at the heart of what we do, so we find ourselves aligned with Socio-political institutions from time to time.
 
Tonight, you are trying to raise money to get this crowd to Bogot√°, Columbia where you have a large following. Tell me about whats going on to raise funds.
Tonight’s event promises to be spectacular, with live performances from the band and other musicians, aerial acrobatics, some burlesque, drink specials, a cocktail hour, and an extensive silent auction. We’ll be at Galapagos Art Space at 16 Main street in DUMBO, Brooklyn. This is a beautiful and unusual space, for anyone who hasn’t witnessed it before. We’re getting started early – doors are at 6pm, and the festivities kick off around 7, the auction closes at 10pm, and the winners will be announced around 10:30 – then, there is only drinking and socializing left to do!
 
How does one get a large following in Bogot√°?
We’ll be working on that with this trip, which is the band’s first to South America.  We’re going to Bogot√° for the massive Ibero-American Theater Festival. Some of the festival organizers saw the band in Europe a couple years back and invited us to be a part of this event that lasts for two weeks and includes many outdoor street theatre presentations, in addition to more conventional productions in venues throughout Bogot√°.
 
What’s up with O’Death?
O’Death is preparing to tour in early summer and we’re becoming more and more comfortable with our status as a genuine cult band. I’m hoping the band can start recording our next record in the fall, but in the meantime we have a lot of other eggs to hatch.

Sad, Sad City

The city continues to wage war on clubs. The fining, suspending and eventual closing of many clubs speaks volumes about an administration, which in its quest to end smoking or coddle to real estate interests, has once again lost sight of the man or woman on the street. Clubs suffer from a zero tolerance policy from City Hall. If a couple of patron–out of thousands–light up a cigarette, city agencies swoop down and declare it a public menace. God forbid a couple of drunks punch each other. The city’s response is, “OMG! See what I mean?” And an order to close the place is obtained. If a drug dealer sells a joint, that becomes living proof of the reincarnation of Pedro Escobar and a declaration of war on the club is issued.

This might sound like an exaggeration, but when I spoke to M2 owner Joey Morrissey last week, he cited these very reasons for the shuttering of his joint that put over 400 New Yorkers out of work. However, go to a Dead concert at Madison Square Garden (Don’t go, take my word on it) and you’ll pick up on that sweet smell of familiar herbs. A fight might break out, cigarettes will be smoked here and there (despite the best efforts of MSG, their security forces and the hundreds of cops the city will supply for the affair), but nobody suggests closing that joint. If someone gets caught dealing a few pills, that person is arrested and nobody talks of closing the Garden or declares it a public nuisance. I guess if it happens during a Knicks game you’d have some takers.

We’ve talked about this before. The city is using the nuisance abatement law, designed to close whore houses and gambling parlors, to harass an industry that employs hundreds of thousands, generates billions in tax revenues and is frequented by more people in a year than the Yankees, Mets, Knicks, Rangers, Broadway shows and museums put together. The cops get a judge to close a club under the flimsiest of pretexts: a few people smoking cigarettes or someone sells a handful of joints or a couple of pills. A judge signs an order one day and the cops wait ’til Friday afternoon or evening when there is no judicial recourse and that’s that. The club is closed until Monday when invariably the order is overturned. However, the resulting loss of revenue puts hundreds on the street and hurts the club so badly financially that it can’t survive, let alone mount a vigorous defense in court.

Today I talk to Emily Lazar who has made her living in clubs while she chases her dream of being a rock star. Her appearance the other night with her band September Mourning at Irving Plaza, opening for Ratt marks a step towards her dream. There are thousands of people supporting themselves in a jobless economy by working in clubs. Many are actors, writers, musicians, dancers, students, poets, Broadway performers, mothers, fathers and such.

A billionaire mayor sits in the clouds and never really gets it, never understands the struggle. How could he? The loss of “night” jobs severely affects the ability of many creative folks to make it here. Dustin Hoffman, Bruce Willis, Debbie Harry and so many others worked in joints on their way to stardom. Emily Lazar sees a light at the end of the tunnel. Her ambitions have been supported while she worked with me and many others. It was work, a little sleep and band practice daily for so many years. Her big stage NYC breakout the other night is one story of many that tell a tale of careers that get paid for through night work. Irving Plaza was a big break. Now she’s hoping to break out.

You grew up in and around NYC working in clubs and in the scene. How would you explain this molding your artistic vision to what it’s become today? I started coming into the city when I was about 15. NYC is its own living, breathing creature. The city attracts so many artistic people in so many different industries and houses them on a relatively small island. It’s truly a melting pot of culture. The nightlife scene here has left its mark on me as a performer. The scene gave me the freedom to express myself in so many different ways. There were no limits. The more larger-than-life, the better. There are so many amazing personalities that have their roots in this scene. I think my artistic sense was developed through my exploration and creation of my own “characters” and personalities that I’d become when I’d dress up and go out. I can definitely see a correlation between my stage persona and some of the people I’ve met in nightlife. There’s definitely a little Kenny Kenny fierceness when I growl into a mic, and some Amanda Lepore sexiness when I prance around onstage.

You front the band September Mourning, but you see yourself as a performance artist. What distinguishes you as such? September Mourning started a few years ago as an art project. When we launch it in the fall you’ll see why I still reference it as such. The band started a little over a year ago. The music is the sonic impressionism, the costuming which I made and designed myself and the makeup and overall look is the visual presentation. There are a few other facets that’ll be revealed in due time. I consider myself a creator and connector, in all different mediums.

What’s your motivation behind your artistic pursuits? What drives you? Chuck Palahniuk said it best. “We all die. The goal isn’t to live forever; the goal is to create something that will.” We’re all given gifts and the resources to make our mark on this world and to accomplish the things we dream. We just have to have the courage to pursue them.

You’ve worked in clubs for many years while you pursue your career. What jobs did you have? I worked the door at some clubs and reception and helped in the offices and waitressed.

You’ve been trying to make it for awhile now. Are you getting closer to your goals? I’m definitely getting closer to where I wanna be. It used to be that I wanted to be on tour for the rest of my life, but now it’s a greater goal. I have an artistic vision and movement that I’d like to start/share with the world. I have an abundance of emotion and creativity inside of me. I’ve been waiting my whole life for the proper way to channel it and this project is it. We opened for Marilyn Manson on tour which was amazing. Kerry King from Slayer was there, DJ AM, so many people saw us. The Ratt show was also amazing because Irving Plaza is a special place for me. I’ve watched so many bands play there and I’ve always wanted to take the stage.

What drives you? For people like me, art is our sanity. It’s our husband. It’s our therapist. It’s our lover. It’s our most prized possession and the gun at the back of our head as well. It’s not something I do because it’s my job, more of an instinctual thing like breathing.

You’ve been linked romantically to a few famous players. Can you speak to that? I’ve dated a few guys who are in well-known bands. Dating other artists is one of the hardest things to do. First of all, finding time for one another in your schedules is nearly impossible unless you’re at the point where you are flying in private jets and have a house on both coasts. It’s pretty brutal. Right now I’m very focused on my career and where I need to get to. I feel like the rest of my life will fall in line when it’s suppose to. I like putting all of me into my art because it’s the one thing I can give my heart to knowing it won’t ever say it doesn’t love me anymore.

Who are your musical influences? I’ve always been a fan of heavy music. A lot of my influences stem from heavier bands. Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, Dillinger Escape Plan, Slayer, Metallica, Sabbath. Recently, I was fortunate to be welcomed into the home of Ronnie Dio and his family for Easter. Dio’s voice has always been one of my personal favorites, and his career is inspiring. He was a staple in the metal world and of rock as a whole. Meeting and speaking with him was amazing. My heart goes out to Wendy and his family and friends. He’ll truly be missed.