Leo Francis' Interview with Sara Mayhem at Shockfest Film Festival of Hollywood
I had the honor of getting to sit down and talk with one of the performers at Shockfest, Sara Mayhem. I found her story as intriguing as I found her music, which feels like a sort of retro-industrial - think early Nine Inch Nails or KMFDM. Sara was born without eardrums and underwent thirteen surgeries to have man-made eardrums implanted. And now, after a career as a jeweler, model and actress, she is trying her hand at music. Seem like it would be impossible for someone who was born with out hearing? Then you haven't met Sara. She is passionate and determined, on top of being naturally talented. She premiered the music video for her first single: Dominance, from her new album XTC available on iTunes. Check it out on her page. www.SaraMayhem.com A special thanks to Sara for taking the time to talk with me, along with her guitar player / producer Andre Noe, her husband, Billy, and her manager, Vicki. Here it is...
Leo Francis: I am here at the Shockfest Film Festival of Hollywood with Sara Mayhem. Or Windy West, which is the name you use for your acting and modeling work. Why do you differentiate the two?
Sara Mayhem: Well I started modeling and acting under the name Windy West, but I also figure that when you get into the music business, if you're known as a model or an actress, people don't take you seriously. So I came up with a new pseudo name, and my real name is Sara - and we figured Sara Mayhem would work pretty well considering I really like the darker music.
LF: Yeah, the industrial-gothic thing seems to suit you. What is your musical background?
SM: Actually, growing up, I had some issues with my hearing.
LF: Yeah. I read that you had the undergo thirteen surgeries to fix that.
SM: Yes. Thirteen inner ear surgeries. Dr. Max Wertz, he's the one who came up with it. He worked for the Mayo Clinic, and they basically made man-made eardrums and stitched them on. It took thirteen tries, but I guess it's lucky number thirteen for me.
LF: My best friend in the world has three children, two of whom were born deaf. They have both received the cochlear implant, which enables them to hear. This is not the same thing, correct?
SM: No the difference is that with the cochlear implants they actually get it right here on the back of the head. Mine is different, I didn't have a problem with the cochlear, mine was just a birth defect of not having an actual ear drum.
LF: So when you were born were you completely without hearing?
LF: How old were you when you first heard your voice for the first time?
SM: It was so gradual, because I went from surgery to surgery. And each time it was a little better and a little better. And what's funny is that when you do get your hearing, there are certain sounds that are just horrible. Like chewing.
LF: Is it hearing other people chewing, or yourself?
SM: Other people chewing, myself too, but when I hear other people chewing I'm like 'Oh God. What is that?' Even gum chewers.
LF: (I suddenly felt happy that I had spit my gum out before this interview) Do you have super-sonic hearing?
SM: When it comes to higher pitches, yes I do have super human hearing. But when it comes to lower pitches that's when I have issues. And if there'e a lot of people around, I end up… like these ladies (two women standing about 100 feet behind her) are speaking very loud, I'm having a hard time hearing you, I'm actually reading your lips. So I'm a very good lip reader.
LF: I am sure over time you've gotten used to it. So you attended a High School for the Performing Arts. And you also play piano, correct?
SM: Actually growing up I played the flute, piccolo, handbells, clarinet, piano, marimba, pipes, bells, chimes, timpani, harp and timbale, basically any type of auxiliary instrument. I played a lot but I wasn't really good at any of them. But I really gave it a try. But the instrument I would say I was the best at was the flute.
LF: What's the first piece of music you heard? And I mean, really could hear and appreciate.
SM: There's a song called 'Music-Box Dancer' (by Frank Mills) it's a classical piece, it's all piano. But it's one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard. It's also one of the first songs that I heard and I have been in love with it ever since. But you know my dad was a rock and roller, while my mom was really mellow. So she was into Carly Simon and Jackson Browne, and my dad was listening to Pink Floyd and Metallica.
LF: Sounds similar to my parents.
SM: Yeah. So I was very well rounded. And diverse.
LF: How do you want to be defined as an artist, or how do you define yourself?
SM: I define myself as somebody who beat the odds. I never in my wildest dreams, ever thought I would be able to sing and sound presentable.
LF: And in front of a large crowd of people, no less.
SM: Yeah, tonight was actually my first night singing in front of people.
LF: You're kidding?
SM: I'm not kidding. First time ever. I have to tell you, I have been drinking only water, but I really wasted to take a shot. I didn't. I was good.
LF: You're overall vibe is pretty badass. Are you a badass?
SM: I don't really know. I consider myself a person that when I want to do something, if people tell me I can't do it, or can't accomplish it, I'm gonna do my best to prove them wrong. Same thing with my degree. I went through GIA. I'ma diamond grader and a jewelry designer. I did that for a very long time. And then I was like, "You know I could try modeling." And I got my modeling going, and I am on a bunch of romance novel covers. Then I though acting might work. And I tried acting and now I am in movies. And one day I get this phone call saying 'Hey can you sing?" I said, "Well I can try." So I suppose maybe I am a badass. I like just like to be taller than everybody and bigger than everybody. I like to be very dominant.
LF: No doubt. You should be playing Wonder Woman.
SM: Wouldn't that be so much fun. Wonder Woman? Super Girl? I'll do it.
LF: I really found your story to be inspirational. I thought, it's an amazing thing to be here tonight, saying it's your first time singing in front of people. It's even more amazing that you can say that having overcome all that you have had to. It's not only inspirational but commendable. Truly remarkable. That's why I was really happy to get a chance to talk to you, and why I was interested in asking you a few questions.
SM: Thank you.
LF: And I was floored, I think you sounded awesome. And I thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me. Have a lovely evening.
- Leo Francis