“I decided I wanted to be a clown when I was 7 years old,” says Theo Kogan, lead singer of Theo and the Skyscrapers. The whole clown thing didn’t quite work out, but, she says, “I think in a way I sorta became a clown on my own, especially with Lunachicks [Kogan’s first band]. That was taking clown to the best possible place.”
Since then, Kogan has had a different aesthetic—if clownish at times—and not merely in the styles she chooses to wear. Rather, her appearance has become an expression of self, and she is a work in progress, musically and artistically. It sounds cliché, but it’s true.
“Once I found punk and metal it helped me to express myself and become an individual,” Kogan says. “I was never your textbook punk-rock kid. But I think music helps people find a community. It’s a way for people to be together, communicate, and believe in something—as crazy as that may sound.” But Kogan is quick to point out there are some people who take advantage of the camaraderie of music. “I see kids who hang out dressed as ‘hipsters’ and they’re abusive [of the music scene] and think they’re really cute. There’s always a poser or two. But the people who are real will see through it.”
Kogan has always been one of those “real” people, though perhaps she hasn’t always been understood. When she was in Lunachicks, she says she got really obsessed with turning femininity into something grotesque. “It was the feminine ideal vomited back in people’s faces. People didn’t get that, and that’s why I think [The Lunachicks] never got signed.”
Currently, she’s taking some time off from touring after So Many Ways to Die, her second album for Theo and the Skyscrapers. She says her friends have since signed her up for a couple of online label competitions for Music Nation (the Label Geeks picked Theo and the Skyscrapers for the quarter finals, and one of judges was Perry Farrell). She says, “To me that’s fucking awesome. Being liked by people whose music I love is way more important than ever getting signed. … After all these years of never being on a major label, I’m still not on one and I’m happy that way.”
She’s also in the midst of her normal life, which involves deejaying for the Motherfucker party (an indie-rock night) and finding a spot for Rated X, The Panty Party, which she’s been hosting for the past five years. She’s also shooting a noirish film with Rob Roth for their art production Screen Test and she recently wrote music for Big Art Group, an experimental, multi-media art collective. If that’s not enough, she’s also collaborating with Los Angeles-based handbag designer Allison Burns on a line of makeup called Armour. Oh yeah, and she’s doing all this on top of her modeling.
As an artist, Theo Kogan has been evolving since she first started performing, and despite being at an age where one might think she should be settling into her music career, she’s not about to sign her freedom away.