Discovery: Porcelain Black
Published July 26, 2011
Take the onstage antics (and panache) of Mötley Crüe and the classic beauty of Portia de Rossi, combine them with a whiskey-drinking, raspy-voiced, to-the-minute relevant performer, and you’re starting to understand Porcelain Black. (Think Lady Gaga, but way back when she was wonderfully downtown, less intimidating, and danced at ’80s metal dive bars with her own portable fog machine.) A Detroit native who gained Internet fame under the name “Porcelain And The Tramps,” a project reminiscent of Myspace-hyped grunge pop like The Millionaires and Jeffree Star (except Porcelain’s was actually good), the singer/songwriter was signed to Virgin Records at the ripe age of 18. While Porcelain continued to build on her explicit, gritty rock-pop persona, label execs pleaded with her to go less Alice Cooper and more Avril Lavigne. She demurred, and was eventually dropped from the deal.
But Porcelain didn’t stay downtrodden for long-soon enough, the up-and-comer was introduced to Gaga’s partner in crime RedOne and signed to his Universal Republic imprint, 2101. Her new single, “This Is What Rock N Roll Looks Like,” has generated all kinds of buzz, and the pop-rocker and her crew even showed up on Letterman last week. Now back on her feet, backed by a label that loves her and new friends like Lil Wayne, the freshest face of the pop-‘n’-roll spoke to Interview about life growing up, Hole, and her role in Tom Cruise’s new musical-turned-movie Rock Of Ages.
FAMILY LIFE: My mom is a super-straightforward, boring accountant—she’s not boring, but she’s like “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.” She’s very normal. My dad passed away when I was 16, but he was a crazy rock-‘n-roller, played guitar, owned a dope hair salon. I was backstage at fashion shows growing up, then I’d go to his band’s shows, photo shoots, and then he’d take me to an AC/DC concert. He was crazy, whiskey-drinking badass—I blame him for being such a fucked-up human being. I’m kidding! He was the shit, though—he was crazy, but he was a good person and a good influence. That’s how I am.EDUCATION: My mom was pissed when I was growing up, because she thought I was growing up to be just like my dad—her and my dad separated, and she remarried, and then we moved from the ghetto to a really nice area in Rochester. She wanted me to fit in with all the snotty kids, but it just wasn’t happening. They tried sending me to a Catholic school, and I got kicked out of that school when I was 15. They sent me to the public school, and then I got kicked out of that a couple months later, and I just never went back.
ON HER FIRST MUSICAL INFLUENCES: The first two CDs I bought were Oasis’s What’s The Story, Morning Glory? and Hole’s Live Through This. “Violet” was my favorite song growing up. Led Zeppelin, AC/DC and Iggy Pop… but then I would also listen to Aaliyah and lots of ’90s R&B and hip-hop, because I grew up in Detroit. I listen to all kinds of music—it opens your mind and makes you a better songwriter at the end of the day.
THE RECORDING PROCESS WITH REDONE: I’ll go in, sometimes I’ll have an idea I came up with on my own on the piano or he’ll play me beats he started, and I’ll see the kind of vibes I get from a beat he plays. I come up with song ideas all the time… like, all the time. Sometimes I’ll make up a song title and build a song around that. I like to take lyrics and ideas that I already have and try and build a melody around that, because when you build the melody first, it’s hard to properly fit your message in, because of the amount of syllables and stuff like that. We usually do melodies together, and then I do lyrics—he doesn’t really do lyrics.
BEST PLACE TO GET VINTAGE FURNITURE: I find shit on the side of the road all the time. I found this huge, wooden, amazing mirror that has frames and slots for candles and it’s super old. I used to drive around Beverly Hills on trash day—rich people throw their shit away all the time, and I’m like, “Hell yeah!”
ON ROCK OF AGES: It was fun to play a rock star—because it was set in the ’80s, my hair was crimped and full of hairspray and huge. My costume was made of some of my actual stage clothes—we mixed it in my own stuff with some of the things that the costume designer had pulled. I sang an original song in the film called “Rock Angel,” which only took me about an hour to record. I’m super big into AC/DC and Mötley Crüe—Tommy Lee is actually a good friend—and since my performances are always pretty physical, I wanted to do a good job of combining both that ’80s rock feel and my own performance. I left the set with my knees covered in bruises and bleeding. I went to Gloria Estefan’s house that night with the cast—Tom Cruise and everybody was really nice, and I had on this red dress and my knees were all bruised. One night, some of the actresses and I went out to the clubs in Miami. Everyone got along well.
FAVORITE TATTOOS: I have my dad’s hair salon logo, so probably that because it has the most sentimental meaning and value. And my one that says “Turn The Lights Down, Turn The Music Loud”… .because I like it dark and I like to drink, and I like it loud.
MOST ROCK-‘N’-ROLL MOMENT: I was going crazy on stage and my microphone flew out of my hand, so I was like, “Fuck this shit!” You could hear it roll offstage and down to the ground. So I walked over to where my bass player and grabbed his mic stand and dragged it over to where my guitar player’s was, and I went down the runway with both microphone stands, and I was just dragging them and threw them on the ground. Then I got cussed out from the guy on the I Am Music Tour for breaking three mics in 12 minutes. I just played a show in LA at The Factory and I busted open my eye and my lip, because I was head banging. And then the other day I punched myself in the face at rehearsal. I get crazy sometimes.
FOR MORE ON PORCELAIN BLACK, VISIT HER WEBSITE.