Hi Amy, welcome to Vents Magazine! Congratulations on the debut of “KITTYDECIDES.” How does it feel to have released the video?
Fantastic and a huge relief. Huff Post premiered it on Friday. CatConLA attendees, pop culture aficionados in Japan, #CatsAgainstBrexit, rockers, kids – a wide variety of people dig it. It’s a kick to watch them take in the weirder elements of the video, such as Omniscient Cat. They went into it expecting cats and got psychedelia.
It seems like such a fun project, how was the filming process?
Every part of it was an adventure. As a lifelong fan of “Star Trek,” filming at Vasquez Rocks was a bucket list knockout. William Shatner battled the Gorn in “Arena” mere steps from where we parked the pink trailer. Despite the 100-degree heat, I was compelled by some Trekkie-induced euphoria to scale those iconic rock formations in my 4-inch heels and black pleather and I loved it. Tuna, the white cat who bookends the video, was a true pro. I scouted her at a travelling cat circus (an actual thing) and she loves to work. Try to pet her; she bites. Her expression of love is to ring her bell without “payment.” Cats do only what they want to do — it’s part of what makes them so fascinating to humans – but they are fast learners and surprisingly trainable. Samantha Martin is the best in the biz and aligned with the KITTY DECIDES mission in that all of her performers are rescues who live with her. Wrangling a kindle of 7 week-old kittens was another story. Between them and the little grrrl rock band, it was literally herding cats – unwieldy and adorable.
Where did the initial inspiration for #KITTYDECIDES come from?
KITTY DECIDES was inspired by that moment when you’re petting a cat and the cat’s loving it and flips over on its side to present its stomach so you pet the stomach and it chomps you! Their native unpredictability and the fact that they share 95% of their DNA with tigers make them a unique blend of domestic and wild, which appeals to segments of the population more fluid in dealing with grey areas and things they can’t control. This makes many “cat people” interesting and better able to adapt to an evolving ecosystem. There’s also a feminist mission in the mix. As with cats, some ascribe unpredictability to women and throughout history, this has resulted in suppression and efforts to control them, all stemming from misplaced fear. Part of my point of view as an artist is to encourage freedom of expression, strength and boundaries in women and girls. To let them know their choices are their own: KITTY DECIDES.
How was this different from your previous projects?
They say that every album needs a novelty song and KITTY DECIDES is it for my forthcoming album, GIRLS GET COLD. CAT BIRD COYOTE, the first video from the project, is dark, Darwinian, and animated. Annie-nominated artist Tahnee Gehm had originally created a storyboard with traditional, shot by shot animation, but at the last minute, we flipped the aesthetic to stark, black and white and then layered the symbolism of the circle of life directly into the piece. The soundtrack is a musique concrète-style piece featuring field recordings as rhythm. Film festivals dig it; it’s been in around a dozen and won a couple. Both are part of a live media installation about the animalistic behavior of humans in love coming later this year, commensurate with the release of the album.
How personal is this project for you?
As an adoptee, I’ve always had a spot for homeless animals. In a sense, all baby animals are adopted — or left to fend for themselves. I identify with both. Animals acutely activate the rescue urge because unlike humans, they cannot advocate for themselves, and we all need an advocate. Animals can seem as void of conscience as predatory lenders, as persistent as addicts, as ritualistic as priests — lustful, loyal, even loving — but it’s all for mostly pragmatic reasons which describe so many “modern” relationships. I’ve been torn apart and educated by such dynamics throughout my life. The media installation as a whole examines animal energy in an effort to harness, rather than be ruled by, the animal in all of us.
What’s the main message behind #KITTYDECIDES? What do you hope to achieve?
My dream is to see a button next to every online animal video that would allow users to donate to animal rescue in one click. Studies have shown that watching cute cat videos reduces stress and can even boost productivity; yet for every happy, domesticated animal we see online, there’s another out there in the world suffering from abuse, sickness or hunger. KITTY DECIDES aims to translate our enthusiasm for watching cut animals on the Internet into meaningful donations to help them in real life. Most people want to do good and when it’s easy, fast and cheap, most will. Imagine if every cute Internet cat video view equalled a penny for animal rescue. With millions of views, funds would add up quickly, and this system could be applied to every cause: domestic violence shelters, refugees, educational advocacy, etc. We are living in a moment of populist activation. My goal is to channel this energy to advocate for just treatment of all sentient beings. Heady stuff for a grown woman who runs around a major city in a catsuit, but that’s how I roll.
What projects do you have on the horizon? What’s next for Amy Raasch?
This summer I’ll be working on the live show and finishing up the album for release in the fall, meeting with tech innovators regarding the revolution of the online donation platform and rescue advocacy. I’m also looking forward to some fun gigs on flute — my primary instrument; playing electric guitar, writing new songs and shooting a couple more videos. One of them may even rival KITTY DECIDES in quirk, albeit from a different angle. I’ll be sending out updates via email as things progress. In the meantime, if people would like to donate to animal rescue, there are direct links on kittydecides.com – including the Animal Rescue Site, which is an easy, way to help for every day for free from the comfort of your own home. Shelters can also use old towels, sheets, pillows, even newspapers. Lastly, if you have feral cats in your neighborhood, contact your local shelter and ask about TNR – it’s the best way to humanely control the population and stop the killing in shelters. Every little bit truly helps.