Military Position is the uncompromising output of sole member, Harriet Kate Morgan. Both on and off record, the straight shooting, no bullshit ‘psychedelic death industrial’ of Military Position knows exactly how to make its audience weak at the knees. Aiming straight for submission, weakness, and vulnerability, Morgan’s ‘take no prisoners’ approach is guided by pain and tortured by stolen innocence. Taking confrontation further than most, the hyper-sexuality of Military Position emanates trauma, rather than merely researches it, screaming its unguarded narrative from a rock of empowerment.
I exchanged words with Morgan over the last month on topics ranging from her relationship with industrial music, her history with metal, and the world of extreme music from a female perspective.
Hi Harriet, thank you for taking the time to speak with Discipline Mag. Where are you from and where do you currently reside?
I come from Adelaide, Lorne (coastal town in Victoria on Great Ocean Road) and Melbourne. I live in Melbourne now and am trapped here until further notice. I am very much an Adelaidean at the core of who I am and though I do not bear and patriotic feelings towards Australia, in the way it treats Indigenous people and women, I do like the vernacular of Australia, the tone of the voice and particular sayings/wordings. I am inherently Australian although I do not feel connected to the land in any way shape or form, but also I do not pertain European sensibilities. My heart is wild that that of the Australian, dispossessed here like that of films Wake in Fright.
The world of industrial noise music in Australia is rather small, but there are a committed few. What were the early catalysts that began your relationship to industrial music?
My interest in Industrial came from a sign above, albeit slightly related to those around me here aka Streicher and SPK. It came from an interest in other sounds, in something other than the usual, in mental illness and the capitalist condition. To quote the document: “To Turn Illness Into A Weapon”.
Suffering from various mental illnesses as “a modern day woman with a weak constitution” (Lana Del Ray), I had no choice but to make this sort of contribution. The worried well, or sheer disgruntled person does not pertain to this ability. The genre chooses YOU. As I say in my records, “Against Nature, I have chosen this art” in that it is not a particularly becoming genre for a female. I liken it to warfare. For me to choose this art has meant a definite deviation from the path I was originally on as a well educated and cared for young woman. It has brought me little to no joy and left me destitute. This is a protest. Military Position is a protest and a fit of rage towards the idea of being female in Australia.
Military Position brings with it strong themes of BDSM, domination and submission. How detached, or not, are these themes to you personally?
True industrial for me stems from queerness (an act of defying the hetero normative a lot of the time) and an aim to attack the ideas or conformity of gender. I do not care for a lot of power electronics. It is too simple in most cases. A dead art in many ways. Hence my collaborations with such projects as Bizarre Uproar and keen following of Alfarmania. I do not care for the literal theme of submission at all times, but more assume it for the way society makes me feel. True industrial to me is aside from gender and things as simple as BDSM. Although I have practiced the art of domination for years, I am not interested in this when it comes to my musical work. The masked and faceless trope is to talk about the idea of female worth being based on their looks only within music and how this plays a part in your success, as opposed to men, who can age and remain ugly at all times.
On the surface, it can feel like your work is pandering to the male gaze, but a deeper reading seems to unravel and expose the simplistic, animalistic tendencies of male desire. I feel like this comes to a head on A Woman’s Work Is Never Done. Would you say this is correct? What is it that led to the culmination of these ideas on that release?
This record is about sexual assault and the way it has affected my life specifically. My body has turned into a shell, a hardened surface to protect me from rape. The idea of the male gaze has plagued me for many a year and when it comes to some males, I feel as though we have different ideas of sexuality, me and these types. I am a victim and have been for many years of sexual abuse, sex against my will as well as sex I have wanted. I am detached from sex in many ways now and my body does not want it. It wants something else from men, a trade in that it has been a currency for me literally throughout my life. I feel sexless and worn out by the male gaze. It bores me.
Throughout the history of experimental industrial art, there has been an occasional tendency toward transgressive topics that were not always considerate of the female perspective. Conversely, genres like power electronics and the like are attracting a new wave of female performers such as Pharmakon, Puce Mary and of course, yourself. What do you think has stimulated this growing interest and assertiveness from women in the genre?
The idea of the submissive or agreeable female is one I wasn’t brought up with. My mother dominated the household and my father was the bitch. I find it hard to emotionally submit to my male contemporaries as I think these other artists mentioned may too. The laboured topics of new PE or “industrial” aka War, disease etc – I like these topics in the era of original industrial like SPK or in terms of larger entities like Genocide Organ aka where it’s done well. But these groups have covered it and in terms of newer groups it is an assumed form that is taken on by bored posturing minds. Boys see and want it for themselves but it is not interesting when they merely copy it. I enjoy good work where it is made and of course there are many exceptions to the rule but generally speaking, this idea and these ideas have been covered. Work made about the human condition or more specifically, the male condition, are much more appealing to me. But I mean, I generally listen to many different musical genres and don’t JUST listen to this genre, All of this has contributed towards a change in my output within ‘industrial.
The performance of yours that I caught on Valentine’s Day felt like an emotional purge or an eruption of emotion. How do you prepare for your performances?
Without sounding pretentious I literally go into a state of manic rage. Society has taught me to be a spectacle and it is at this point as I allow myself to be one. This is what I have been pushed to through years of conditioning and abuse. I could not be any other way than terrifying. The way I engage with the audience is unadulterated sickness and insanity. I find it grounding to be angry on stage as the ideal female performance is one of beauty and poise, of which I don’t relate to. Tom Ellard from Severed Heads once told me to entertain or work with the audience rather than merely assaulting them. I like to achieve a gentle blend of both.
The salacious and unrestricted nature of your work signals to me a high degree of autonomy which I feel carries over into your personality. Solo performers can and do still suffer from motivational lapses. Is your personal drive sufficient to keep you motivated with Military Position? What kind of rituals do you have, or inspiration do you seek to get over this kind of a hump?
Suffering from the illnesses I do as well as the backlash I have had from being insane at times and speaking my truest mind – I am human and I find it hard to keep making work for an unappreciative “scene”. This has played many a game in my mind but then I remember what it is I am trying to say and the point I am trying to get across, as well as receiving feedback that makes me realize it is all worth it, in some way. However, I do lose hope constantly in not so much what I am doing but the field in which I am doing it. It truly is a man’s world and fighting a war with haters and those against me feeds into making more work. My soul is hardened and blackened by it but it in a way feeds perfectly into what I am doing. I try to balance this with art and exercise and healthy living as well as meditation.
In light of your cover of Sleep Chamber’s Babes Ov Babylon, it seems you’ve formed a working relationship with John Zewizz. How did this come about?
I’ve recorded vocals for some new work of his and this is very exciting for me as Sleep Chamber is one of the only projects I truly love within the vast field. I sent him the cover I did and he loved it. And then it just went from there to me loosely joining the band (when I say loose I mean it here). More to come hopefully on this soon.
While your history playing in metal bands seems very much behind you for now, they were obviously very formative years. What are some things you remember fondly about your time in bands? And on the other end of the spectrum, what are some things you’d rather forget?
Metal is a genre I love but the Australian scene holds many a (lest we not name) cretin. It is a misogynistic scene especially in Australia, not so much in Europe, and paid me little to no respect so I hold no fond memories of it, apart from a few people who are lovely and unique but let’s call a spade a spade. The bands that lead the genre (lest we not name names) are somewhat fucked and I felt always as an object with a time limit due to age and looks. The female in metal is something I am obsessed with though as there is a hard history of women in metal being abused, dying of drug or alcohol addiction or suicide. It is a genre close to my heart but is limiting and full of rules. My favourite metal bands like Mystifier challenge these limits and when a band is revolutionary or different in metal, I tend to love it. Although I do have a soft spot for traditional bands like Judas Priest etc. I am currently making black metal and hard rock though so it isn’t behind me, I just needed a huge break from it.
…I always did metal and industrial side by side but MP took off in a way that metal didn’t. Bands are hard especially with mental illness at play and at the time I wasn’t well. There was a time when I was in around seven bands and I had a mental breakdown from the anxiety of it all and managing it. As a woman I was always the caretaker, the cook and the driver as well as on stage and contributing to the music. It was exhausting caring about all of this as well as being worried about my looks and being a literal product. Being a female metal musician unless you look like Doro Pesch (aka a Barbie) is fairly thankless. I even saw someone recently commenting on how she doesn’t look good anymore and it angered me as men can go on and on ugly as sin within metal without anyone really caring. It seems unfair but hey, that’s life.
I feel like the United Forces Of Industrial event in London, 2017 would have been a highlight for you and your work thus far. What are some notable memories you have from this event?
It was certainly a highlight I won’t forget. The audience was so different to that found in Australia. The scene is active and very perceptive towards what I do and I found it easy to perform for them. Meeting Tamon from AM NOT was a highlight as well as Keith from Stab Electronics and Genocide Organ. My main highlight though was playing Sundsvall in Sweden and staying with Kristian Ollsen aka Alfarmania. He is such a highlight in this world and truly understand what I am trying to do, who I am and what it is that makes good quality work.
In 2018, probably around the time of your performance supporting Mortiis, I noticed on Discogs that your Black Noise cassette was available from merchants in the Ukraine. Do you have any idea how your material found itself distributed in far eastern Europe?
I have no idea but I have my suspicions of which I cannot discuss but rats are all around and always at play.
What is psychedelic death industrial? Did you invent this term?
I don’t know if I invented it but it was the only genre that fitted what I was doing. It is my genre, my field and I don’t know how else to describe the work that I make. I see what I do as audio collage from a basis of industrial. As I previously mentioned, what I do is firmly based in mental illness, turns of the mind – a sort of soundtrack to the fear of being in a female body, one almost always in a state of fight or flight. After years of abuse my body went into a state of exhaustion due to thrashing against what I was dealing with. The repetitive nature of the music I make also lead me to the term psychedelic as it seemed trance like, almost made for ritual or sex.
Do you have any plans on the horizon? Your previous releases were produced in extremely limited quantities. Is there the prospect of seeing any of these rereleased in the future?
This is all coming out very soon. A box set of tapes will be available soon through ASRAR records and also an LP through Aufnahme+Wiedergabe, Goatowarex and potentially a tape through Old Europa Cafe.
What can we expect from (upcoming album) Nothing Lasts Forever?
I want to say beats and revenge.
Thank you for talking to Discipline Mag!