Liisa Ladouceur interview, Canada’s First Lady of Goth

Liisa Ladouceur, Canada’s First Lady of Goth

We’ve recently found ourselves engrossed in Encyclopedia Gothica, an A-Z of all things dark and beautiful by the Canadian journalist, poet, DJ and dedicated Goth Liisa Ladouceur. A witty insider’s guide to the scene, the book features over 600 spooky entries, from ‘Absinthe’ to ‘Zombies’, with eerie artwork by the talented Toronto illustrator Ghoulish Gary Pullin. Of course, Liisa includes an entry for the Alchemy design studios, which we took as an ideal opportunity to turn the tables, and check out just how many Goth points Liisa has…

The ‘What is Goth?’ question has become something of a faux pas in many Gothic circles – why do you think this is and what inspired you to grasp this particular nettle?

You can’t avoid it! The general public and insiders alike seem perplexed by what exactly this whole Goth thing is. I was recently stopped in the supermarket of my small hometown by a friend of the family who wanted to know if it was a religion, a cult. That was a fun exchange of ideas. Goths themselves meanwhile are obsessed with defining what is and isn’t Goth, from music to shades of lipstick. How else are you going to collect your Goth points? For me, I felt the best way to answer the question was to try and define as many elements of the subculture as I could: the bands, the clothes, the slang and in-jokes. And I certainly hope once you’ve read the Encyclopedia you have you own answer.

Most Goths seem more exercised by what isn’t Goth than what is – what do you think isn’t Goth – I’m thinking here not of mainstream misapprehensions so much as anything embraced by mainstream Goth subculture (if that isn’t a contradiction in terms) that you personally cannot abide…

I’m pretty sure that Emo is not at all Goth, so that confusion prickles me. Also, self-proclaimed “real vampires” are delusional. Both groups are free to do as they choose, but they have nothing to do with the Goth that I love.

Why do you think so many of Goth’s seminal musical icons – from Robert Smith of the Cure and Siouxsie, to Nick Cave and Andrew Eldritch of the Sisters of Mercy – have disowned the subculture so vocally?

Musicians – all artists, really – seem to despise being categorized, and I can’t say I blame them. Because once you are labelled one thing, people can’t see you as anything else, and it can be the kiss of death. Especially if – like the Cure – you pre-date a particular genre or scene, I can understand why you’d find it curious or downright offensive to be slapped with the tag. (I’m reminded here of how Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath reject the term heavy metal for their music, while being considered the ultimate metal bands by many.) I recently had the opportunity to ask Steven Severin of Siouxsie and the Banshees directly why he hated being described as Goth and he answered, “Have you seen the bands who call themselves Goth on MySpace?” The man has a point.

For part 2 of the interview, please check back next week…