Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Darkside International: CatacombxKitten, Belgium

My next victim for Darkside International is charming 'airship pirate and 19th century vampire' Saskia, aka Catacomb Kitten or CatacombxKitten, who lives in Belgium. This elegant dandyette surrounds herself with rats, cats, and a dog named Luca, and you can grab a teacup and follow her cupcake-baking, Voltaire-kissing (!), globetrotting escapades at her blog Graveyard Picnic.

Welcome, Saskia!

Photo by Inge Houwen
How would you describe your style and personal image? How has your look changed over the years?

My style has changed a lot over time and I'm pretty sure it will always keep changing. However there are some thing that have always stayed the same, for instance, I usually prefer looking cute over sexy or tough, since I'm quite short and apparently I look younger than I am. In daily life I usually combine frilly skirts with a more basic top and pretty tights, that's what I feel most comfortable in. When I go out, I add things like a corset, a nice blouse, a fascinator, high heels or platform boots, some more accessories, etc. Sometimes I do feel like looking a bit punky or deathrocky (is that even a word?), but I never feel as comfortable in it as I do in cute dresses and skirts. I also adore Victorian, steampunk and EGL, but unfortunately those clothes are expensive and I'm just a poor, little student.

My first years of getting into Goth were quite embarrassing, as I was a terrible babybat. When I was fourteen, I wore baggy trousers, band shirts and too much eyeliner. After a while I started wearing short skirts and corsets, and from that point on it got better, luckily.

Saskia, please tell me - what is the secret of your GORGEOUS, glossy curls?

I'm so sorry, there is no secret at all! This is what usually happens when I don't blow dry my hair. On a good day those curls might look good, but there's plenty of days when my hair looks like something has exploded in it.

I do have one little tip: when you have hair cut in layers, either use a curling iron on the longest (inner) layer or on all layers, starting somewhere halfway your hair. This is what I do when my curls mysteriously disappear again. My hair has a will of its own.

Your make-up is often very light and subtle, and unlike some Goths (me, *ahem*) you're not afraid to leave the house in as little as just mascara. What are your basic make-up tips? Do you have any skincare secrets?

This is the least original make-up tip ever, but it's still true: practise! Also, blend your eyeshadow. Other than that, just do what you like and don't care too much about colours you're not supposed to wear because they don't match your eyes or something. The most important thing is that you like it.

I don't really have any skincare secrets, but I would definitely recommend the new Essence 'my skin' creams. I've only recently discovered them, but they're incredibly cheap and work really well. I also recommend them to a friend of mine, and she says it also helps when you've got sunburn. Definitely worth the try, I'd say.

Has your style ever gained any negative reactions from 'normal' folk? What are the best (and worst!) comments you've received?

I live in a small village with lots of old, close-minded people, so I do get a lot of (angry) stares when I'm walking down the street, but that's usually it. There's several other Belgian cities (Antwerp and Mechelen for example) where I always get shouted at, but that might also have something to do with being a girl. When I go out in Leuven (which is where my university is) I hardly ever get stared or shouted at, one of the reasons why I love being here.

The best comment I got was an old lady in a book store, who was fascinated by the cat ears on my hood. She kept smiling and called her husband to show 'how cute' I looked. I never really know how to act in such situations, but it does make me happy to get positive comments.

The worst ones were all in the first three years of secondary school. I only had a couple of friends, I was completely ignored in class, then bullied through msn and people always talked about me loud enough, so I could still hear it. Needless to say changing schools was the best decision I ever made.

Who are your biggest inspirations (in fashion and otherwise)?

I find it hard to really refer to people, as I get inspired by lots of things. I browse Tumblr daily (I'm not addicted, I swear!) and I love looking at pretty pictures on other people's blogs, DeviantArt or watching tutorials on youtube. I'm also lucky enough to have a couple of friends with great fashion sense, they're also very inspiring to me. To give a couple of names... Voltaire, David Bowie, Adora Batbrat, Razorcandi, Mister Joe Black, Vecona, Amanda Palmer, Emilie Autumn and, very cheesy but true, Tim Burton. And most importantly, my mother has always been one of my biggest inspirations, both in fashion and otherwise.

How do you feel about the Belgian Gothic scene? What are its highlights and what would you like to change about it?

To be honest, the Belgian Goth scene is not all that impressive. It's not that there are not many Goths, but that there's not many interesting parties, the only 'real' Goth party with new wave, deathrock, etc. (Fresh from the Grave in Ghent) doesn't exist anymore. There are several cyber parties (Vampireparty in Antwerp, Nocturna in Ghent) and some parties with mixed music (Bunkerleute in Leuven, Night of Darkness in Waregem), though. Other than those, every now and then there's a ball or another special event, but those are not on a regular basis.

What I think is worst, we don't have one real Goth club in Belgium. There are several metal and rock bars, but that's not the same.
The highlight of the year would be Shadowplay (formely known as Gothic Festival). I didn't go this year, but it's the Goth festival in Belgium. Even when the bands are not great, the atmosphere still is.
I would say, if I could change something about it, I'd definitely want at least one decent Goth club and more parties. I'd love to organise events too, but sadly, I really don't know anything about such things.
If I came to visit you, where would we go to see the best of dark and alternative beauty and culture in your area?
If you really wanted to see people dressed up to the nines, a ball might be a good place to go. Unfortunately, I haven't been to any of the Goth balls yet, so I have no idea whether they're fun (I've heard both positive and negative comments), all I know is that there are many impressive outfits to spot. Other than those, Shadowplay would probably be the place to be. I always like looking at all the pretty people at festivals.
What attracted you to Goth culture? How do you think you would express your 'dark side' and your creativity had you not discovered it?
Ever since I was little, I enjoyed dark things, books, movies, etc. I adored books by the Dutch 'Griezelgenootschap' (which loosely translates to 'Horror society'), especially those by Paul van Loon. He wrote scary children's books about little boys who also happened to be werewolves, a 'horror bus' and a family consisting of a zombie, a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost. When I was 9, I really, really wanted to give a horror party for my birthday. When I was twelve, we went on a holiday to Whitby for an article my mother was writing on Dracula. We found several alternative shops and I realized that I really liked all the clothes that they had there. At that time I also started nagging to be allowed to dye my hair black. I've definitely had a love for all things dark and spooky (almost) all my life, the clothing and music simply came a bit later.
I find it very difficult to imagine not being part of the Goth culture, as I feel as if it has been a part of me all my life. I suppose I would write dark prose and poetry and read lots of scary books. I don't think I'd feel very good about myself, though. Discovering the Goth scene has made me feel less insecure and happier in general.
What are the 'essential' bands in your music collection, and do you have any new discoveries to recommend?
My favourite 'band' is without a doubt Voltaire. He's hilarious and he has some really beautiful and deep songs, too. Other favourites are Emilie Autumn, IAMX, Amanda Palmer/Dresden Dolls, David Bowie and London After Midnight (which was my first Goth band ever, by the way).
As for new discoveries, if you like Dresden Dolls or Amanda Palmer, you should definitely give (Mister) Joe Black a listen. I discovered him at Voltaire's concert in London, his songs are incredibly funny, he's really charismatic and he looks great, too. I've also recently discovered a band called 'The Cog is Dead'. They call their music steampunk with influences from rock & roll, russian folk, ragtime and movie scores. 'The Death of the Cog' is my favourite song so far.
You often travel abroad to attend concerts (most recently Voltaire and the Scary Bitches in London!). What have been your best and worst travelling experiences? And what was the best live performance you've seen?
To be honest, I'm not as fond of travelling as most people, unless it's for a concert. However, so far, I haven't had any really bad travelling experiences. A bit of a downer was how expensive everything in London was, but I could have expected that. Our hotel and train turned out to be twice as expensive as we had planned. Luckily my parents are great; they paid the entire trip for me.
As I've mentioned before, visiting Whitby has made a huge impact on me, so that would definitely be one of my best experiences so far. Also both Oslo and London, where I travelled together with my friend Sara to see Voltaire, were amazing. Oslo is so beautiful in winter and in general it's not that expensive to travel to. I had been to London before, but never to Camden, so that was quite the experience as well!

As for live performances, Voltaire is number one on my list. I've seen him twice now (in Oslo and in London), and I'd travel anywhere (at least, in Europe) to see him again. It's not that his show is so impressive, because it's just him and his guitar, but he's so sympathetic, there's lots of interaction with the audience and he's simply hilarious. He also makes so much time for his fans and you can see he actually appreciates and even loves every single one of them, it's amazing.

At his show in London I also discovered Joe Black, who immediately gained a place in my top five of best live performances ever. He's hilarious and has an amazing voice. Emilie Autumn's show is also quite the spectacle, I've seen it four times now and I'm still not bored of it.

Other great live acts are Amanda Palmer/Evelyn Evelyn, The Birthday Massacre, London After Midnight and Scary Bitches. Oh, and HIM. I'm not even ashamed.

What does 'Goth' mean to you?

The easy way out would be to say that I agree completely with Voltaire's opinion on Goth and I definitely do, but for me there's more to it than that. To me, Goth is something I couldn't live without. It's always there in my daily life. It's the music I listen to, it's the clothes I wear, it's the way my room looks, it's my friends, it's how I make new friends, it's the books I read., it's the films I watch... Simply put, it's a name tag that will tell me whether I'll like something (which does not mean I only like things that are Goth) and that plays an important role in my daily life and my way of thinking.

In a more philosophical way, it means finding beauty in things that are dark, spooky and macabre, or in general in things that are not obviously beautiful; also being able to not take yourself too seriously and having a rather dark sense of humour. Appreciating the fact that sadness is a part of life, just as much as happiness is, and actually cherishing that melancholy. Being a black sheep (pun not intended) and being happy that way, because you're simply being yourself.
Image from Graveyard Picnic
As a karate brown belt, you are better equipped to defend yourself from unfriendly attention than many Goths! How did you get into karate? Has it ever helped you out of any sticky situations?

I can't even remember getting into karate. One day my mum proposed for me to do martial arts, and I liked that idea. Other girls my age did ballet, but that didn't interest me at all. I started practising karate when I was six and I never stopped (except during the exams, of course).

Luckily, I've never had to really defend myself with karate, but it does help me to scare off annoying men who think Goth girls are easy (and there's too many of them). In the first place, it makes me feel safer when walking down the street at night.

You spend a lot of time baking sweet treats and are a lover of tea. What would you serve at your own Mad Tea Party?

Oh, I definitely want to host a Mad Tea Party one day! There would definitely have to be all kinds of cupcakes, it would be a great opportunity to try decorating them in an Alice in Wonderland theme. I'd also want loads of macarons de Paris with different flavours and colours. And a spiderweb cake! It was an invention of my mother for one of my birthday parties. It's a regular sponge cake with white icing and a chocolate spiderweb. In Voltaire's 'Paint it Black, a Guide to Gothic Homemaking' there's also a recipe for a graveyard cake, so that would be a great opportunity to try baking that one, too.

Other than that, there should be enough tea to choose from. Right now I've got about 25 kinds of loose tea, so that shouldn't be a problem.

As a movie and TV buff, what films and shows would you recommend to those of a Gothy inclination?

As for shows, True Blood, definitely! I was hesistant to watch it at first, because of the entire Twilight craze that had kind of put me off vampires, but now it's my favourite show ever. The entire situation is still quite realistic, which it what makes it great; it's as if it would actually be possible for vampires to live (more or less) peacefully among humans. There's quite a few amazing, hilarious and well-dressed characters and the story is very good (even though the first season is a bit slow at times). The only thing I hate about True Blood, are the cliffhangers.

Another show I recently discovered and turned out to be amazing, is Game of Thrones. The story is quite complicated to explain in a couple of lines, but if you like fantasy and medieval settings, you'll definitely like this. It reminds me a lot of Lord of the Rings, but Sean Bean playing one of the main characters might have something to do with that.

A last recommendation would be The Hunger, a cult TV series from the nineties. Every episode revolves around a different story, usually it has something to do with taboos. In season two, the show's host is David Bowie, who plays an extravagant artist. There's a lot of inspiring and dark quotes, it's very impressive and quite scary, at times.

About films, I always say to myself that I have yet to find the perfect film. I'm pretty sure that when I do, it will be one by Tim Burton. Other than his films, I enjoyed Sherlock Holmes (the one from 2009, they're making a sequel right now) very, very much. The clothing, the atmosphere and the story were great, and it even had some steampunk elements. In the same atmosphere, there's also Dorian Gray, an adaptation of Oscar Wilde's novel, but I'm not a big fan of it, as it's not exactly true to the book. A final film that I'd like to recommend is The Hunger – yes, same name as the TV series, but something completely different, although David Bowie plays one of the main characters again. It's a very good vampire movie and the first scene is a clip of Bauhaus' video for Bela Lugosi's Dead, so that says enough.

I know it's a cheesy question, but where do you see yourself in five or ten years' time? What are your hopes and dreams for your future?

Of course I'd like to have a steady relationship when I'm 30, and that also seems like a right time to start thinking about children, but that doesn't really appeal to me just yet. As for a job, I don't really know. Until recently I really wanted to become a teacher, and I started studying literature and linguistics (Dutch and English) two years ago with that idea. However, I've heard other teachers' bad experiences and I'm not so sure anymore. I'm still extremely passionate about language, but I guess I'll have to find something else to do with it, maybe something for radio or TV. I'm not really worried, though. I've still got a few years to figure out what I want to do.

And of course, I'd like to keep dressing as I do now, but I know that's practically impossible. Many of the things I wear now would look absolutely ridiculous on a 30-year old, so I'll try to enjoy it while I still can. I'd probably dress down most of the time, but I hope I'll still attend enough Goth events to be able to wear some pretty clothes every now and then. Maybe then I'll finally be able to afford and wear some lovely Victorian outfits, so maybe that is something to look forward to after all!


Dr. Cult said...

How awesome to see a Belgium-Goth girl interviewed! Most often we here are a bit ignored (but that could be also simply because, as Saskia said, the Goth culture is not really THAT ... Sigh).

Tenebris In Lux said...

Awesome interview ^^

Kind of a shame about the scene in your country :-/ But I still need to travel if I want to see faces ..

CatacombKitten said...

Yay! It was so much fun to answer all those questions, thanks for the opportunity, Amy! ^^
Oh, and just one tiny mistake: my dog's name is Luca, not Luna.

Lynn said...

Omg, I just had a few cups of tea with her during my lunch break! Not really a tea party, though. When is that coming up, Saskia? I would very much appreciate an invitation!
Awesome interview.

ultimategothguide said...

@ Saskia - edited! Sorry Luca :-S

CatacombKitten said...

Thanks! Don't worry, he doesn't mind.

Sara said...

Go Saskia! I loved this interview, well done! Good questions too, Amy (?).

I think that glamrock and deathrock outfits look great on you, don't stop getting inspired by those. And when you're 30, you should give feminine suits (mantelpakjes) a try. ;)

Little comment: I misinformed Saskia about Fresh From The Grave, a friend of mine used to organise these parties but he quit and at the time Saskia asked me about it for this interview I told her that FFTG was dead. But I decided this weekend to revive FFTG after my resits, so FFTG is undead. ;)
If this works out, I'll try to organise more eents in the future.

Shadowplay wasn't that impressive this year, I went one day and the new location is industrial and cold (litteraly and figuratively). I wa so tired and bored that I didn't bother to come back (and pay) for the second day on which the good bands played. I went to the Zoo with my boyfriend instead, that was cheaper and more fun.

I like how you describe what goth means to you, it's not something that I usually think about, because goth is such a big part of my life that I don't think about it anymore.

Can I come to your Mad Tea Party? :)


Lucy said...

Saskia looks annoyingly pretty in those photos. :P Great interview!

Parasitic Alien said...

I love The Cog is Dead. Bad Mr. McArthur!

((I posted on here awhile ago as "She Who Has Seen The Eye! I think.))

Dalestair Ophelia Zodiac said...

THE COG IS DEAD! */respect

Audrey said...

Awesome interview! Saskia is super pretty. :)

Also Joe Black stayed at my house once. He is a mad genius.

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