Militia Vox: Horror's Next Audiovisual Icon
Militia Vox, the four-octave range, multi-instrument, metal musician has been breathing music since she was just twelve months on this planet, belting a line from Styx's "Babe" that "freaked out and thrilled" her father. The source of her aesthetic and "supernatural sound" has its roots in a love for the horror genre. Many people know her as the “Femme Metale” of the hard rock community, but there's a clear emphasis on the marriage of this influential genre and her work as a director, cinematographer/DP and EFX artist.
Her latest video and track, "NYCTOPHILIA" centers a Black woman in an almost alternative reality New York where the sun never shines and the five senses are maximized. Living by "disgrace your stereotype," Militia creates award-winning art with a special intelligence and reverence for the horror/gothic genre. This Judas Priestess frontwoman also has a wide wing expanse behind the scenes and wanted to chat about how much her love for horror bleeds into everything she produces.
Where did your love of horror begin and how has it laid the foundation for what you’re doing with your work now?
As long as I can remember, I’ve always been intrigued by the concept and visuals of horror and the macabre. I grew up in Maryland, which has its share of haunted places and happenings. As a kid, friends and I would have sleepovers and trade spooky stories to scare each other and watch horror movies. I remember hearing stories about cult activity in the area and eventually saw some of it. I would hear stories on the news about small dead animals laid out in fields in circle formations, I saw bloody pentagrams and sigils carved into trees wrapped in barbed wire at places where tragic events had happened and sometimes saw people in black trench coats gathering in the forests. I found it strangely fascinating (although the small dead animals part is fucked up and I can do without.)
I also used to visit old graveyards, haunted historical sites and The Exorcist stairs in Georgetown, Washington D.C. One of my earliest and most significant introductions to the genre was the works of Edgar Allan Poe. We studied his work in 5th grade and I was smitten. We went on a field trip to his house and his grave in Baltimore. I was the only student that had ever brought flowers to Poe’s grave on a school field trip. I became friendly with the caretaker, Jeff Jerome. He invited me to participate in the ceremony marking the 200th anniversary of Poe’s death- which I did- and has invited me to other Poe events since then. I’ve always had respect and an affinity for the beauty of darkness. I try to show that respect in my work the music and the visuals are equally important in conveying that message. I never want it to come off cheap, easy or gimmicky. My intent is to honor.
Was there a specific scene, production aesthetic, or character in a horror film that incited your muse?
I don’t know if I consciously show my influences but now, reflecting on what I like, they seem obvious! I definitely enjoy the work of Stanley Kubrick- he’s genius because he creates worlds where horrific and supernatural images and characters appear very naturally and without imposing special effects. Also the way he shoots the action, it’s somewhat still, removed or distant, often making the audience a peeping tom. I enjoy that kind of observing- where the place or the scenery is its own character and just as important as the subject, and often the subject is just part of the scenery. It conveys very detailed messages to your senses. Kubrick also uses a lot of fluid, long shots and stationary cameras, which I enjoy. You can see this in A Clockwork Orange in the infamous “Singing In The Rain” scene and in The Shining where Danny meets the twins. I have a similar thing happening in my latest video “NYCTOPHILIA” where I use one long single shot to set the scene, so when my ‘clones’ step into it, it’s surprising and jarring to the viewer.
As a director and cinematographer, how do you plan standing apart with your videos? During the pre-production phase, what colors, camera angles, concepts come together to define your style?
These are good questions, thank you! I do my damndest to make each video immersive. In pre-production I take my time to identify what colors convey the mood, that’s usually my first base. I listen to the music constantly and try to “trip” to it- which typically means putting on headphones and closing my eyes and try to hallucinate images in my mind that match the music. It comes in colors, shapes, scenes, vibes… Distance is a reoccurring theme in my work, both musically and visually. It’s important to decide the level of intimacy with the listener and viewer, which then determines the camera angles.
I think I’m still finding my style, but I strive to outdo myself every time. I believe what makes my videos stand apart is the strong female perspective, there’s definitely an intense female energy that’s very mischievous and borders on madness. So often women are praised and idolized for their softness or for their image of hypersexuality. I remove those polarized images from the equation by creating a dark surreality and evoking fear- which can be very powerful.
In “Nyctophilia” you utilize much of NYC’s old architecture. In relation to the lyrics and persona (clones included), it feels like a play on history and the speculative of how much energy haunts or looms in such spaces. What was your overall intent in coming up with this concept?
AH HA! You got it. Very perceptive - mission accomplished! Yes, I believe that inanimate objects and places can hold energy. Everything is a conductor. Just by walking and touching things, you’re leaving your cells, your essence… Have you ever been to a battleground before? Like Antietam or Gettysburg? Tell me you don’t feel something there.
In “NYCTOPHILIA” I wanted to demonstrate that idea and how even my energy is still haunting the city streets just by having walked them so much. A theme that I can appreciate in horror is that of repetition. Energy can get trapped in a place and then repeat in a ritualistic fashion. Like in Lady in White or even in this dream sequence in A Nightmare on Elm Street 4.
What do you think it is about horror scores that resonates with both the wider population and personally, you? As a musician, what are some of the sounds and techniques do you find are unique to creating a horror score that others may not pick up on?
Horror scores evoke primal fears. The sounds used and the way they are patterned are to excite and trigger fight or flight responses. It’s visceral. I use horror sounds such as sub basses, sonic booms, explosions, sirens, violently strumming violins and screams. I even like to have ‘jump scares’ in my music- like the moment in NYCTOPHILIA where the electronics stop and the live band kicks in- it’s startling and unexpected. It’s all a sonic roller coaster - to build anticipation and take the listener on an adventure. It’s for thrills. It’s all for thrills.