Emily Lazar – a.k.a. September of September Mourning – speaks with ReGen Magazine about her unique transmedia project, what lead up to it, and art as a healing mechanism.
An InterView with Emily Lazar (September) of September Mourning
By Sarah Heiber (SHeiber)
September Mourning is a rock band, but not just a rock band. The music is only one facet of a unique transmedia project created by Emily Lazar in 2009. She had a storyline and wanted to tell it via various platforms including comics, music, video, and social media. Lazar pitched her idea to Marc Silvestri, a well known comic book artist (Uncanny X-Men, Witchblade) and CEO of Top Cow Productions; together they developed the characters and story for the comic book while Lazar went into the studio to work on the musical aspect of the project. The concept of the story revolves around a one-of-a-kind human/reaper hybrid called September. Her human half wants to give some of the souls she collects a second chance, thus toying with Fate’s plans. In 2015, the Volume I EP was released, as well as A Murder of Reapers, the first volume of the comic book; the full-length album Volume II, and second comic called The Hand of Fate, were released last summer. In early 2017, September Mourning joined headlining industrial acts Dope and Combichrist on the Blood, Lust, Death Tour, with additional support from Davey Suicide. ReGen Magazine caught up with Emily Lazar after her September Mourning set in Pittsburgh, PA, where she discussed her transmedia project, her favorite comics, how her background and interests shaped who she is and the creation of September Mourning, the concept of art as a healing mechanism, and what is ahead for the band later this year. Combichrist drummer Joe Letz also made a surprise appearance and joined us for a few funny moments during the InterView where Lazar took over and playfully asked him about his stage character, costume, and the stress and excitement about playing in their shared hometown of New York City.
So you’re obviously a comic book fan. Did that help spark the idea for your project?
Lazar: Of course! Yeah, I wanted to do something that was transmedia. There are bands doing bands. That’s been done for ages. Growing up, my mom and dad liked Alice Cooper, KISS, and things like that. They always had something going on beyond just having a band. I really wanted to take that to the next level, so that’s where the whole transmedia thing came in, and comic books I’ve always loved.
What kinds of comics do you like? What are your favorite titles or characters?
Lazar: I like Deadpool, Batman, Witchblade, The Darkness, The Joker, Harley Quinn… a lot of those villains from DC Comics. In (the world of) Marvel, I like Iron Man. I do kind of like Captain America now – I used to not so much, but lately, I’ve been getting into him. I like a lot of anime like Vampire Hunter D and Death Note. I’m also into other things like Star Wars and Guardians of the Galaxy.
When you created the September Mourning story, did you have the whole story arc with an endgame in mind, or does it unfold as you go along?
Lazar: You have to have the end game. You have to know where you’re going to get there properly.
I had read in another interview where you mentioned an obsession with death based on things that happened in your early years and from other personal experiences.
Lazar: Yeah, that’s where this started.
I’m interested in and involved in the healing arts so I’m curious if this project is a healing mechanism for those difficult experiences and a way for you to explore them?
Lazar: Yes, I think art is always healing for anyone that always does art from the heart and the core of their soul. You do it because it heals you, you know? The reason I’m onstage every night is because that’s how I live in this world. That’s what heals me. I think that’s a very general statement about artists.
You’ve said that some of the stories in September Mourning come from your life experience. Are the stories ways to examine more closely those experiences you’ve been through?
Lazar: Yeah, there’s a little bit of that, there’s a little bit of the things I’ve thought about, different scenarios I’ve thought about, and different stories I wanted to tell because of the emotional impact that they have on people. There’s a lot of that (aspect involved) too.
What did you do before September Mourning?
Lazar: I did a couple pop projects – pop music and also some punk bands just to test out my chops with songwriting. After that, I started writing a lot and came up with… I’ve had a couple of record contracts, some production and development contracts with producers, but I kind of wanted to go out on my own and do my own thing. I learned that if you want to do your art your way, you have to just do it your way and that’s why September Mourning became what it is.
You probably got a lot of business experience from that and truly learned what you like and what you don’t like.
Lazar: Yeah, it was good for that, but it’s really hard to do the art that you really want to do. It’s a lot easier to do something that is simply a mimic of something else.
Hey, Joe (Letz) from Combichrist is here! Joe is an amazing drummer and he has a character onstage. What’s your character onstage?
Letz: Tonight it will be Jolandi Viscera.
Lazar: Oh my God, is that the name? I love it. What are you going to look like onstage? Tell us!
Letz: (Jokingly while looking at September, who is still in her signature white leather costume, black and white hair, and black and white makeup) I’m going to wear a black wig and I’m going to paint my face white.
Lazar: (Laughs) Ohh, like me?! Are you going to wear the one-piece that we bought at Goodwill?
Letz: The cheetah-print one? Oh, no.
Lazar: Aw, you got me all excited!
Letz: No, not tonight; after (the) New York (show).
Lazar: We are both from New York, so a homecoming show is always exciting, but also a bit stressful because so many friends and family are there to see us. (Laughs) So anyway, Joe is an amazing drummer, if you’ve never seen him in Combichrist, whoever is reading, you have to go out and watch these guys. He throws shit at you. It’s great!
Letz: I break noses.
Lazar: He almost busted me in the head with a drumstick. It was the best night on my life. (Laughs)
The last time I saw Combichrist in October, Joe threw a drumstick at the beginning of the show and a kid was looking down for a second, and *boof*, right in the head.
Letz: That’ll teach him that he should be watching the drummer! (Laughter)
Lazar: That’s true, though, sometimes it comes so fast and you’re like ‘which way is it coming from?’ (Laughs)
You said you’ve done some pop projects before, but your music itself feels like you have different genres mixed together. There’s definitely some pop, industrial, metal influence in there.
Lazar: (The music) has a lot of different things going on. I don’t know how you’d really classify it. I classify it as hard rock. It definitely has a pop influence and it has a hook influence. I really like hearing songs with hooks… that’s really my thing, so that’s what I go after.
You just released your latest music video, “20 Below,” in January. I also saw teaser clips on Instagram of you making your latest video and you were doing some ballet on pointe (in toe shoes). Do you have a background in dance?
Lazar: Yes, it was the very first thing I did. I was four-years-old and onstage in a tutu doing my thing.
So you weren’t forced into tap dance? I still have nightmares about that!
Lazar: No I wasn’t forced into tap, thank God! (Laughs) I haven’t done ballet in such a long time and it was so painful to do! I lost like two toenails to that video! It took a piece of me, like literally!
Ouch! Was it worth it though?
Lazar: Yeah, totally worth it! It’s going to be awesome!
When will the new video be released?
Lazar: Probably more towards the June dates we do.
How long is the tour this summer?
Lazar: A couple of weeks and then we’ll probably go out with somebody else, and then go back out with another headliner in the fall. This summer we’re headlining with all local openers. We want to give them a chance and have them bring their fans and do that sort of thing.
Photography by Heather Donovan