The VICE Interview: Amy Lee
The Evanescence singer on karaoke, 'The X Factor' and being a child piano virtuoso.
This is the VICE Interview. Each week we ask a different famous and/or interesting person the same set of questions in a bid to peek deep into his or her psyche.
Amy Lee became sublime the moment she stepped barefoot out of a window, to precariously scale a tall building as the wind howled. The "Bring Me To Life" video all leads to her, a figure somehow both Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas and goth Ophelia in a nightgown, slipping from the ledge because a man has thrown open a window. Holding on by her fingertips she hangs there, as he steps out in baggy jeans and not one but two thick chain and padlock necklaces, and delivers the most iconic rock-rap since Papa Roach's Jacoby Shaddix told us he'd reached his last resort in 2000.
Evanescence are the band everyone in their twenties and thirties remembers for their 2003 debut album Fallen – the cover was a close-up shot of Amy's face in electric blue and black. It reached number one in the UK album charts and has sold millions of copies worldwide. Since all their songs are essentially Max Martin pop bangers with disgusting nu-metal riffs, they appealed to every townie kid with access to MTV as well as to Kerrang! readers. While they might have only kept the rock following – I still listen to Evanescence loads and love doing the aforementioned man rap at karaoke – after nu-metal and emo fell out of fashion, their later albums have been just as haunting.
Ahead of their double headline show in Hammersmith, London recently (which featured Amy wearing a cape of feathers and playing a grand piano), I drank as much of the free coffee as I could waiting for her at her label's office and then got jittery when she floated in wearing a huge dress, in the same electric blue and black as the Fallen cover.
VICE: When was the last time you said no to something related to your career?
Amy Lee: Just now. This woman asked me if I would ever be a judge on The X Factor.
Seriously? Do you know much about The X Factor?
Well, those kinda shows are fine but I'd really want to focus on music. It'd be too much of a distraction because I'd get too caught up on the celebrity part. I'm not into that, that actually makes me feel awkward and nervous. But I love it when they sing my songs on The X Factor. I totally do. It's a really cool compliment and funny and fun. It's like a karaoke machine – have you ever done it?
Yeah, I always do your songs at karaoke, either you or Madonna or some cock rock.
In the beginning days of touring I was really into karaoke. When we were away we'd find a local bar and if we found "Bring Me To Life" on the list we'd have to do it and see if anyone noticed.
What would your specialist subject be on Mastermind?
Legend of Zelda. I've liked it since I was a teenager and I'm still playing it now. There's a new game out, so I'm totally set when I get back to the bus tonight.
Would you want to experience death if it could be guaranteed that you could be brought straight back to life again?
That's very interesting but no. It's not that I'm afraid....Do you have any kids?
Having a child gives you fear that wasn't there before. Now I don't want to die. It's not that I wanted to before, it's just that I put a lot of value into life. You're more careful and realise the gravity of what it means if something happened to you. You become a little bit more fearful since having a kid because you're like: protect, protect. My son is so sweet, he loves me and I love him so much.
If you could live in any time what time would you pick?
I'm not opposed to my time but it would be cool to live in a more innocent time, a time without all the technology. It's hard because you can't go too far back without plumbing...so after plumbing but before cell phones.
How much time do you spend on technology?
Way too much but still less than the people around me. I see it as work a lot of the time. I love being able to speak to our fans, to talk to people directly because we never used to have that. We'd have the fan club or press or whatever and it used to be through somebody else's voice which is difficult, it's always misconstrued in how you meant it.
How did you break up with your first girlfriend or boyfriend?
Do you count those minor things where barely anything happened?
I kinda think there has to be a snog.
Ok, why did it end? It was because of moving away. My dad was in radio so we moved around all the time all during school, I'd be in school for two years and move on, it was crazy.
How many books have you read in the last twelve months?
None. It's really sad. When I have extra time I'm usually going up to my studio and writing music. I know it sounds lame but I really enjoy it and need to be creating something to feel calm. I can't rest and not do something, even if it's just knitting. When we sit in front of the TV I knit or do one of those adult colouring books or do a video game. That's when I feel good.
When in your life have you been completely overcome with fear?
It was when my brother was having brain surgery, and he was 8 years old. He has severe epilepsy and it got to a point where he was having 90 seizures in a day, so every five minutes. They decided the only thing to do was to go in and cut part of it out and it was just a really risky, very long surgery for a little boy. He was my best friend. So my family and I all just sat in the waiting room and prayed and waited all day long for him to come out of brain surgery. That, that was terrifying.
Was there a period in your life though where you were completely fearless?
Totally. When you're somewhere between seventeen and twenty-four you think, "I can do anything" and there's something beautiful about that fearlessness because you have the confidence to just try stuff but also you look back and realise how much danger you were in sometimes.
Do you have any TV or films that make you cry?
I cry all the time. I cry so much more than is reasonable. It's really lame. It's nice to have another girl in the band now because she does too. We both get choked up at the same time about stupid shit. I'm not sure about films but I really, really love The Crown. Americans love it. I've never seen any depiction of Queen Elizabeth as a young person. I cried at that. I cry at kid movies a lot. I was just reading the story Pinocchio last night and I started crying. I get very emotional...incase you didn't notice through my music.
What's the moment in your career you've been the most proud of?
The Nobel Peace Prize ceremony concert in Oslo. We played alongside people that we would never have normally played with from all around the world. It was very prestigious, very powerful, a very love-filled experience. It was a big deal so we had to like dress up really cool.
What memory from school stands out for you more than any other?
I think I was nine. I'd been taking piano lessons for not very long at home. We had music class, and the teacher was teaching us how to write music. It was very simple, like, "This is what a quarter note looks like, this is what a half note looks like". For our final experiment everybody gets a piece of paper and you get eight measures and everybody makes something and it has to fit, and the teacher said he'd play some of them. It was funny because some people would have like *sings some horrible notes* and I was like *sings "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star"* as best as I could, and he picked it and played it and I saw his face change as he realised that I really did something. I wasn't a cool kid, I was kind of a nerd so I was just so proud of myself. And after class he stopped me and said, "that's really impressive".
Where did you go on your first friends holiday?
I haven't taken very many vacations. I went to college for one semester and we got a record deal, and it was off to work. And I love my work, and I get to travel for it so the fun times that we had were usually intertwined with work. Like right now, we've just had two different London birthday parties that were totally a blast, like, London blowouts. We do birthdays right on the road, we really do. And we've gotten to do some really cool vacation spots.
What's the latest you've ever stayed up for whatever reason?
All night. Just waited till the next day. It's happened quite a few times. I can't do it as well now; the older you get the harder that is. Your body just shuts down. I remember pulling an all nighter in college studying for a theatre composition class. We had to play all the scales on the piano properly, and do all this technical stuff, and know how to do it on the spot when the teacher asked you. I had a lot of work to do to just figure it out real quick. They had these tiny rehearsal rooms. They're like as big as this couch, like not even, the whole room is just one upright piano. So I went at like 6pm, and drank a bunch of caffeine and I stayed up until the sun rose. At the end of it I was just trying to calm down because I knew my class was at 8am so I was like, "I'll just study from now until class and I pass".
What was your worst phase?
The most awkward phase of my life was when I was about 13 years old in Arkansas. We just moved again and it was one of those changes where you don't know anybody and it was really cliquey at school. It was a private school and I'd just come from a public school and I wasn't dressed apparently 'cool'. Everybody looked totally different and I just felt like a total outsider. I'd just had my hair cut really short and my hair used to be really thick so it was like a mushroom on top of my head and I had braces. Who likes their body and the way they talk and doesn't think everything is awful at 13? That's all of us.
The new Evanescence album is out later this year.
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