Operation mockingbird was a big thing with the CIA in the 1950s, does your name have anything to do with that? Are you guys vampires!? Haha or is there another reason?
Chandler: Right when we first started the band, I was looking through a list of old CIA projects. Initially I was looking for more information on Project Paperclip, which eventually ended up being MK Ultra. As I was going through this insanely long list though, I came across the name Operation Mockingbird. Since it was the CIA’s program used to manipulate media via propaganda, I thought that it would be a great name for a band. At the time it was just Janell and myself working with the drummer we started the band with and playing mostly rock (Albeit darker rock, but rock all the same). I thought that the name fit with what we were doing at the time and it has stuck ever since. When we ultimately moved from simply a rock based sound, The Janell re-designed our logo to emphasize the Mockingbird more.
Dead Bettie: That is really awesome to learn. I had originally thought you guys were vampires and never aged and were involved in/around Operation Mockingbird. Haha, just kidding.
What type of music genre is Operation mockingbird?
Chandler: We will typically say that we are simply Goth or Gothic Rock because that seems to be the most all encompassing of genres. Essentially with either of those, you know what you are going to get; darker music, jangly guitars and rumbling bass. I have always been really bad at determining a genre of any song, especially my own, so we end up writing what we feel like at the time and usually it just so happens to fit with all of the rest of our music.
How many band members are there and what are their stances in the band?
Chandler: At the core of Operation Mockingbird is The Janell on vocals and myself, Chandler Grace, on guitars, synths and whatever else I need to play. L. Ron Jeremy comes in on bass. We have had drummers interview the past, however that is a whole other story
What are band practices like? Do you have a set time each week?
Chandler:We do not have set times at all. We have a lockout in Downtown Santa Ana with 24 hour access. Both Janell and I will go in and rehearse and write there numerous times per week from anywhere between an hour to several hours. We don’t really have a “set time” though. When we have shows coming up, Jeremy and the drummer of the month will come down and we will do some epic 4-5 hour rehearsals in prep for the show.
What has been your biggest challenge as a band?
Chandler: Hands down the biggest challenge has been keeping a drummer. It is completely mental how hard this has been for us. Originally I started the band with a drummer I knew from another project. We worked at the band hard for several months but family and work life proved to be too much of a problem for him and he had to leave. It has been a revolving door ever since. At one point I had my 18 year old son playing drums for us, but he just stopped coming one day. Our last drummer, who you can hear on our latest release “The Man” & “Lorraine”, disappeared while on a trip to the Ukraine with his wife. We haven’t heard from him in almost 2 months. When push comes to shove though, we always have backing tracks which are always reliable.
If you guys could play at any venue anywhere, where would it be?
Chandler: I set a goal for us early on to play the WGT festival in Leipzig, Germany. Even though it isn’t one specific venue, it is definitely where we want to be. We have had a great response to our music in Europe in general, so it seems like a natural progression to get out there an play.
Who writes most of the songs?
Chandler: The Janell and I take care of all the writing. Typically I will write the music, at least a rough outline of it, and then Janell will sit with it testing out vocal melodies until lyrics present themselves. So far the only song of ours that I didn’t write the music for is “The Gift”. Janell wrote the music for this when she was on keyboards before moving over to vocal duties.
The design for Operation mockingbird is so pretty, who designed it?
Chandler: The Janell designed the current logo for us. She has a graphic design background not to mention the fact that she is an incredible fine artist where she paints and makes assemblages out of found objects.
Our original logo was a gas mask wearing headphones that I had designed. The thought initially was to play up the whole CIA angle but once we started seriously writing we realized that this was no longer applicable.
Hi, Janelle we have a few questions for you. We will spread them out around the interview> So you make art we hear, tell us about that?
Yes, first and foremost, I am a visual artist. I work in almost every medium, but over the past several years I’ve worked almost exclusively as an assemblage artist. Typically I use illustrations and texts I’ve cut out of actual vintage anatomy textbooks. I never use digital images. I never print anything out. I then add bones, dried flowers, rusted metal, and whatever other imperfect damaged items I find to create a story. "Only the sound remains" "Unbeknownst" "The Interim" "Of Sorrow and Ashes"
The most recent assemblage I did was "Of Sorrow and Ashes" for “Requiem: The Art of Mourning” show at The Dark Art Emporium in Long Beach. In June, I will have work in the “Tiny Terrors” group show also at The Dark Art Emporium, the theme being phobias and fears. In the past month, I have started painting again. After a few years off from it, I feel totally reinvigorated and I’m excited to sit in front of my easel again.
I have a website where my fine art that isn't being shown in a gallery is available for purchase
Recently you shared with me your rad anatomy flasks and cigarette cases! They are so rad. Where can we get those and can you share some photos?
I have a line of flasks and cigarette cases I make under the name of Death By Irony. I use the same illustrations and texts from vintage anatomy books I use in my assemblages to hand-collage onto the flasks and cases.
Obviously, it’s ironic to put human organ systems on alcohol flasks and cigarette cases, but not so obvious is the irony that I’m an alcoholic who stopped drinking 10 years ago, and here I am decorating flasks. I also smoked for 25 years. People in the medical profession like my flasks most, and then next are people who have survived some type of bodily trauma or illness.
My flasks and cigarette cases are available at my Etsy Store
Dead Bettie: Wow, these are amazing ., and I will proabably invest in a cigarette case too. Thank you so much for sharing this with me Janelle!
Do you have a Motto for the band? Or a superstition?
Chandler: A motto for me personally has always been “Keep moving forward, never back”. OPMB has consistently lived up to this since its inception. We try not to let anything hold us back and always look adversity as a stepping stone toward a better outcome.
The closest thing that we have to a superstition though is NEVER rehearse the night before a show, and certainly not the day of! We have tried, and it just does not work for us. Invariably what happens is we have an amazing rehearsal, everything sounds great, the energy is up and we feel great about it. Then the next day rolls around and we are completely spent. We have nothing left, and what is left is exerted lugging all of our gear to the venue. So now it is a rule. We just won’t do it again.
How long has Operation Mockingbird been around?
Chandler: I started Operation Mockingbird on January 12th, 2016. At the time it was just me on bass and a drummer. Janell came with me to the first rehearsal and I had asked her to join in on keyboards. I had to tell her exactly what to play, but she caught on quickly. After about six months she shared vocal duties with our guitar player at the time until he left and she dropped the keyboard and became our exclusive vocalist. I switched over from playing bass to playing guitar live and all other instruments for recordings and backing tracks. We performed as a duo for most of 2017, adding a live bass player upon occasion until Jeremy signed on as a full time member. As I mentioned drummers have always been a revolving door for us, but we prefer to have a full band (Live drummer, keyboardist, bass and guitar).
You guys have a new video that came out recently "The man" what is the meaning behind that? And how did filming go for that video? It's so rad, like how did you guys get the metro trains in LA so isolated?
Chandler: It is funny because we chose to record the song and release the video in a quick off the cuff decision. Our drummer, the one who must be serving a 40 year sentence in an Ukranian forced labor camp, was very new to the band. Janell and I figured that “The Man” should be a simple enough song for him to nail quickly, which he did. We recorded it one weekend and then decided that we would shoot a video the following week.
The Janell found a couple locations around downtown LA as options for us to shoot at, including the Metro station. We did the shooting based on natural light because we just shot it all on a cell phone. We also didn’t get started until late in the day as our drummer had to fly into LAX. We started at a church until they ran us away, then moved on to the iconic Rosedale Cemetery. We then decided that the we would finish up shooting at the Metro station since it would be getting dark soon and the station would at least provide some light.
Since we were at the Metro on a Sunday late in the afternoon there wasn’t a lot of traffic in there. We did have to each buy a card to get down into waiting area which raised our production budget a whopping $10 brining the entire expense to around $50. There was a bit of waiting around in the loading area of the Metro while passengers exited and boarded the trains, but it was a very slow day. A lot of the people in the station were nice enough to walk around us and a few stopped to watch here or there as well. The shots where Jeremy, Justin and myself were in the train we just waited for an empty car, ran in planned a shot and walked through. I was a bit terrified that I would get stuck on the train if the doors closed, but luckily that didn’t happen. There was also a point where the LAPD was down there and we were a bit nervous that they would shut us down, but they kept to themselves.
We were fortunate enough that my phone shoots good video and my eldest son was kind enough to hold the camera for us so that we could all be in the shot occasionally. If he hadn’t helped us out, we had planned on each of us assuming camera duties for a bit, filming the other three. A lot of the heavy lifting was done during the editing process which I did following morning. The video essentially “put itself together” and most of the editing was trying to cut out people that weren’t supposed to be in the shot or matching actions up to the beat.
The story of the video, at least in our minds, is “The Man” is following this woman around around, always present. You never know if/when The Man and his henchmen will take the woman but it could be at any time. At the end, you do not know if they have taken a loved one of hers or if she has thwarted them once and for all.
Dead Bettie: I remember hearing a few things from you guys about this, but getting the whole story behind this video! So much backstory and so much work. I would have never thought this was all done with a cellphone! The time and effort in this video, and all the things incorporated and the editing, came out brilliant. I am super duper impressed, and admire this so much. Here you can see the video that was just talked about
Are you guys working on anything new?
Chandler: Operation Mockingbird is always trying to move forward. We are currently in the process of writing new material that will be included on our first full length album (Currently we have two EPs and a couple singles released). Part of that process will be to include videos for many of the songs as well.
When is your next gig? Are you guys planning a tour?
Chandler: We are currently planning a small tour at the end of July with LA’s 13th Sky. We will start out in Northern California and make as far out as Salt Lake City, UT (Where I lived for 4 years in the early 90s). Yes it is true that we don’t know who will be on drums with us for the tour, but if push comes to shove we always have a solid drum beat provided by backing tracks. Granted, we don’t want to inflict the backing tracks on anyone, but we also love performing live so we will do what we have to keep the train moving.
Janell and I are also considering doing some small acoustic sets at some open mics close to our HQ in Santa Ana. Really more as a means for us to try and give a different take on some of the songs while keeping us moving forward as per our motto.
Dead Bettie: I know a few people that will be beyond ecstatic to see you guys in Utah! Now some more questions for Singer Janelle and bass player L. Ron Jeremy
Janelle, what is something you are extremely passionate about outside of music? Also is there anything you Stand for?
Janelle: I have too many passions to list, but to stay somewhat on topic, I enjoy reading medical books on infectious diseases and other pathologies, especially medical books written before 1945 that I then compare to our current knowledge. Did you know that Pasadena was partly founded by sanitariums attracting tuberculosis patients with claims that the climate would cure them? Tuberculosis helped settle the west along with the gold rush. I used to hate history. Now I love it.
There are free online libraries that have digitized these old materials for everyone to read, all the way back to books from the 1600s. Just thinking about it makes me giddy. Anything you would stand for? I stand for literacy, public libraries, and the free flow of ideas and information are all very important to me, so I donate money or materials. I’m erratic and unstable, though, so I don’t volunteer my time anymore.
Dead Bettie: No, I did not know that, how interesting. Also, these online libraries you speak of, I am now feeling overjoyed and will be using this!
Jeremy, Are you a math genius? We have heard things
Well, I was always into math and science as a kid. I still am. I still study aspects of both to this day and help parents from time to time teaching their kids if they ask. Though, music has been my math class for years now.
Jeremy tell us about the projects you're working on outside of the band?
I have a lot of projects I am working on outside of the band. I have two films in post production right now that I am acting in as well as doing certain audio aspects for both. My other band Frankenstein recently released a new album. I also have a few production projects in the works overseas.
Dead Bettie: Jeremy shared a trailer and posters for some of his projects. Check them out below
Dead Bettie: Can't wait to see what you have coming out in the future! Also, don't be modest you are a math genius silt man
Last question Jeremy! You have been in many bands, started many things through the years. Do you have anything to say about this? Or anything you would like to share?
I have been in quite a number of bands and have started quite a number of productions over the years. I am very fortunate to be able to do the things I do and see the world because of it. I have worked very hard to get to this point and am glad to have played with and worked with everyone I have over the years. I still play with and promote with some of the greatest people ever. Many more great things to come!
Last question for you Janelle. You are a pretty elegant woman, can you tell us about your style and if you were inspired by anyone with it?
I don’t have anyone in particular inspiring my style anymore, but my first music-related style icon way back when was Johnny Rotten. I dressed in men’s suits, but as contrast did my makeup like the early film vamps such as Myrna Loy, Theda Bara, and Pola Negri. Put this way, it sounds like Annie Lennox, doesn't it? She's so exquisite. I was not nearly so refined.
As I moved out of a stiff androgyny, I was drawn towards clothes that a powerful, professional woman would wear. I grew up in the 80s during the rise of “Power Dressing” in which women were establishing themselves in positions of authority in a business and political environment dominated by men. In hindsight, I was attracted to what now falls under the description of Corporate Goth. Fashion, music, and art as they respond to events in society fascinates me. Trends are not random. They happen for a reason.
As far as the vintage elements I incorporate, that is an extension of all of the vintage and historical interests I have. I like to wear corsets because they ground me and alleviate anxiety. Sometimes I stealth them if I am feeling particularly porous that day. My main philosophy in how I dress, though, is that I’ve never been all that comfortable with dressing in an overtly sexual way. I feel too vulnerable, like I have territories to constantly defend.
Any last words? Or quotes you'd like to leave us with?
Chandler: All of us at OPMB have been grateful to all of those who have believed in us throughout our short history. Our music has been played on numerous radio stations, both traditional broadcast as well as internet based, and we have had an exceptional response to each of our videos, especially for “The Man”. Without the “word of mouth” support that we have gotten we certainly wouldn’t be as active as we have been and we owe a debt of gratitude for all of those that share our music consistently.