Written by Mandy McGee
Winter Parkin (aka Negative Nancy) creates the magic behind Isis and the Ghost. With her dark and haunting vocals and repetitive ghostly beats layered with droning guitar riffs, Winter pulls you into realm inhabited with otherworldly creatures of myth and legend. Isis and the Ghost takes you to a place where dreams and nightmares manifest while heightening your every emotion. I got a chance to sit down with Winter to find out more about who she is and what goes into making her beautiful music.
Mandy: Where are you from or did you grow up in Seattle?
Winter: I was born in San Louis Obispo California, but my family moved up when I was 3 or 4. I like to consider myself from both places. But I grew up here definitely.
Mandy: How long have you been a musician?
Winter: As long as I can remember to some degree. I used to love singing when I was a little kid, or just tinkering around on whatever instrument came my way. When I learned flute in elementary school, I liked to write out renditions of songs I liked and play them in my room as a form of practice. I started really writing songs when I started high school though when I got a hold of my first guitar.
Mandy: how would you describe your music?
Winter: Its dark, and hypnotizing in its repetitiveness. I have a really hard time putting labels on it in terms of genres because nothing seems to really fit. I hear Gothic a lot, but I don’t really think its entirely appropriate, and am not too fond of the connotations that go along with that any more. Someone once told me my set was monolithic, which I loved. So Maybe I would say upon further thought it is Dark Hypnotic Monolithic non-Goth music. Or something to that effect. Its about ghosts and demons and haunting memories, as well as angels and redeeming oneself. Its really a search for light in human imposed darkness.
Mandy: Does anyone else in your family play music or is creative, and do they support what you do?
Winter: Both of my parents are very creative, as are my siblings. I would have to say specifically that my musical inclinations come from my dad however, who instilled a lot of artistic qualities in me. He is an excellent pianist and writer, and was who really introduced me to a world of poetry. My family is very supportive, whether they are completely understanding of it or not.
Mandy:What is your favourite childhood memory?
Winter: Childhood is a pretty magical time, and I have a lot of good ones. Id have to say at least one that comes to mind right away, is the first time my dad read the Raven to me. My brother and I were spending the summer in Atascadero California with my grandparents where my dad lived at that time. It was the summer before I went into third grade I believe and I remember this day my brother and I had found a lizard and brought it inside and lost it. Anyways, we were being read to before bed, and my dad thought I would like this one. So he read through the poem perfectly, you know, all slow and mysterious. It scared the shit out of my brother, but I remember thinking the rhymes were really pleasant. So the poem is over, and my dad leaves the room. Then a tapping on the window outside….the Raven. Tap tap tap….my brother screamed. Maybe cried. I thought it was hilarious, and incredibly exciting. I had him read me the poem constantly after that, and went on to memorize it for a project that next year in school. I was a weird kid I guess.
Photo by Ron Tipton
Mandy: Do you remember the first record/tape/CD you bought? What was it?
Winter: Spice World-Spice Girls, it was a Cd the first record I bought years later was two at a time Wild Love by Smog, and Desert Shore by Nico.
Mandy: What music do you like to listen to? What bands influence you?
Winter: There is a lot more that I like than that which I don’t like. Id say I draw most of my direct inspiration from the whole No Wave thing. I still get excited every time I hear Michael Gira scream at me to go fuck myself with the money of Jesus while he’s writhing on stage and bleeding in those early videos. Or whatever he says. But I like a lot of things. I love the blues. I love Son House. I also like a lot of psych and shoegaze too…..Basically I like any really emotionally driven or poetic music. Things that make me want to drown in whiskey while sobbing, trash things, kill people, or go to church and be saved. Anything that makes me feel something, inspires me.
Mandy: What equipment do you use and like the best?
Winter: Right now Im using a little Vox amp, and a Samick semi-hollow body guitar which I think is from the early 90s. As far as pedals go I use a boss distortion, a eternity overdrive clone (which was custom made for me, and I love dearly) a digitech jamman stompbox looper, and a digitech digi reverb pedal. I use a combination of a little circuit bent casio, a yamaha keyboard, and a boss drum machine to build my loops. Id have to go look at the models of all of those, I’m not good at shop-talk! I like really washed out sounds, but that get contrasted with heavier tribal beats and distorted guitars. I’d also like to get into sampling.
Mandy: How do you write and record your songs? Is there a method from to start to finish or does everything happen organically?
Winter: Its definitely a combination. Sometimes I start with lyrics, or just a single line. Sometimes it starts with a drum beat. Or it’ll start with a guitar progression. So whatever the first point is, it will normally flesh itself out naturally from there. I write a lot about my dreams as well, so I guess you could say it starts with a dream.
Photo by Peter Thadeus
Mandy: If you could have any super power what would it be?
Winter: Teleporting-I’m lazy.
Mandy: If you could sit down and talk to any fictional character who would it be and why?
Winter: I can think of two, and I am indecisive. Alice from Alice in Wonderland because she’s seen a lot of shit, and if I remember correctly was quite articulate. Or Santiago from The Old Man and the Sea, because I love fishermen tales and I wouldn’t have to keep trying to find an old fisherman’s bar to hear a good story. Those don’t exist….or the doctor, for obvious reasons.
Mandy: If you could tour with any band who would it be?
Winter: Swans, but Swans from the early 80s. Or Silver Mt Zion, less appropriately.
Mandy: Are you involved with any other projects?
Winter: As far as musical projects I’ve been doing keyboard and a little percussion with This Blinding Light. I have a lot of art projects going on at home, paintings, jewelry and crafts.
Mandy: Do you have those on sale anywhere?
Winter: I have some jewelry up on etsy under Northwest Mystic. There is not much up there right now. Its supposed to be a combination of handmade and vintage jewelry and magical tools. As far as paintings go, I’m possessive, I have pictures up on my facebook, and will definitely talk to anyone interested. I haven’t set up a page for selling those yet. Mostly because I’m scared someone will actually take them from me.
Mandy: Do you have any hidden talents?
Winter: Hidden talents…not really any more. I used to be able to lay on my stomach and twist my legs around to touch the floor by my head. I cant do that any more. I do have hyper mobile joints, and have to be super careful with my knees in particular. Not that that’s a talent.
Mandy: What advice can you give others who want to be musicians?
Winter: Just do it. I think a lot of people, especially kids or beginners, are afraid that they aren’t going to succeed. It’s a very evil kind of fear that keeps people from creating, that wants to stop humanity from connecting with the universe. So if you have the inspiration, you should follow it. There’s no rules. And if someone judges you, all the better. Following your creative motivations and ideas is a really important way to discover yourself and the reality happening infinitely around you, and a disservice not to. Keep strong and find what inspires you. Then do it with your entire soul. Never let anyone tell you how you can follow your desires. or rather to full fill your desires.
Mandy: Is there a place people can check you out on the web