Maggie St.Thomas

Behind the Scenes with Deathrock Artist Eva O

 

Eva O. and Paris Sardonis with E.X.P. at The Fu Ling in Los Angeles, CA 1993. Photograph by Maggie St.Thomas

Eva O.  is a fascinating Artist who has been performing and recording music for over 40 years. Many recognize this American singer and songwriter as one of the founding Queens of The Deathrock Movement. Her music is dark, atmospheric, and hauntingly evocative. Her lyrics are deeply personal and introspective, with songs that are often about love, loss, heartbreak, and betrayal. Still, despite the darkness of her subject matter, an underlying feeling of hope and resilience pervades her music. Suppose you’re looking for something dark and deep in your music-listening experience. In that case, I strongly recommend checking out Eva O.’s discography

I had the privilege of seeing Eva O. perform live for the first time in 1993 at The Hollywood Auditorium, and she magnificently blew me away with her performance.  She wore a stunning velvet purple gown and thigh-high black boots, and her face was painted exquisitely. Rozz Williams was standing right in front of her with his head bowed down, cigarette in hand. Her voice was deep and powerful, and I remember how she could control the audience with it. As a photographer, I was drawn to her stage presence and how she connected with her fans. 

At another concert Eva O. performed at just a couple of years later, I patiently waited as The Gothic Goddess exited the stage after completing her set. I walked over to her and introduced myself, and asked if she could sign one of the photographs I had with me. I carefully removed the print from its protective envelope and handed it to her with a sharpie. She held up the colorful 8 x 10 picture in front of her, and I was pleasantly surprised when she asked if I was the photographer. She appeared genuinely impressed when I confirmed that I was.

I remember how approachable, humble, and kind she was to me. Over the years, I continued photographing Eva O with Shadow Project, E.X.P., and later as a Born-Again Christian with The Halo Experience. 

Of course, her story was something I wanted to know more about.

Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Eva O about her music and creative process. I asked her if she would be open to recording her story with me, to which she agreed. What emerged was incredibly insightful, and I’m excited to share this piece with you. In this Interview, she discusses her musical influences, the inspiration behind her music in the Deathrock Music Scene, and her most memorable experiences touring Europe with Christian Death. Her views on death and the afterlife, her thoughts on Cremations vs. Earth Burials, the friendship she shared with Richard Ramirez, and the rituals she practices today. As we ended our conversation, she invited me to her home. I thought, what better way to top this Interview off than with a photo shoot!

Here is what she had to say.

~x~

The Interview

What languages you speak.

“I only speak English,” Eva begins. “I am Mexican, though. I was brought up on an air force base, so I was never taught Spanish, though I understand a little. My grandparents on both sides are from Mexico.” 

The first time I saw you perform was at The Hollywood Auditorium in 1993. I also saw Shadow Project‘s soundcheck in ’94 at the Gothic Den. You guys were headlining. It was also the first time I saw Cradle of Thorns.

 “I remember those days.” 

Eva O. at The Hollywood Auditorium, Los Angeles, CA. Oct. 1993- 35mm. Photograph by Maggie St.Thomas

I am familiar with when you converted to a Born-Again Christian.

“The music was the same as Shadow Project; I’ve always had that belief. I just walked away from certain things I was doing. The Halo Experience had a story; some of the songs were about my change and transformation on my realization. The music didn’t change much; maybe my look changed a little. At first, the record title was different. I already had a deal with Cleopatra to do this record, then I made a significant change in my mind, but the music was already done. If it’s about him, I will make it about Christ and make it a little more dramatic. 

My mind was negative there for a while, and I just walked away from that. With Christian Death, those were Rozz‘s songs, so I’m just singing someone else’s music or playing their guitar riffs.” 

‘Here and There’ is exceptional; you absolutely rocked that! 

“That’s funny. “Here and There” was going to be a Super Heroines song. Rozz and I got together, and that was one of the first songs I did to lure him because he didn’t want to make music anymore. I was like, “Come on, we do this punk-metal type of thing.” ‘Under Your Wing’ was one of the first Shadow Project songs we did together.”

When did you start playing music?

When I was about 16, that’s a long time ago. I started playing acoustic guitar. I was very into Cat Stevens and wanted to be that kind of musician and play more folk and heartfelt.” 

Who are some of your musical influences? 

“Cat Stevens, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, David Bowie. I really liked Bowie’s lyrics a lot, the way he wrote. He could write a whole book in one song. How did he memorize all that?” 

Eva O and Rozz Williams onstage in 1991 at Spankys. Photo courtesy Avangelene DeVille

 Bowie was incredible. Did you ever see him live? 

“I got very close to meeting Bowie. I did see him live, but it wasn’t his show. He did something with Nine Inch Nails, and Rodney Bingenheimer took me to the show. We were going to meet with Bowie after ’cause he had all his friends coming backstage, and Rodney was one of his friends. They would take turns bringing people up from backstage. While waiting to go back, I got to meet a bunch of people Iggy Pop, Laura Durn, and Jeff Goldbloom; you know, the guy from “The Fly”? We didn’t wait long enough. It was taking too long, and Rodney wanted to leave. I got to hang out with Iggy; that’s cool enough.” 

I had a chance to photograph Iggy at Coachella, but I missed him. As we entered the festival gates, we were in a mile-long line of cars waiting to go inside and park. I only heard him on stage. I was so bummed I missed his set. 

“Aw, that sucks. I’ve seen Iggy a couple of times; it’s pretty rowdy. That’s probably one of the last big concerts I went to. I don’t like being around a lot of crowds like that, so I don’t go to big concerts. If it’s a backstage situation, I’ll do it, but I don’t want to be in the audience ’cause I get panicky. That time was the worst. I know how people get killed in the audience; that’s how bad it was. I got lifted from the ground not by hands but by the crowd squishing, and all the air came out of my lungs. I thought I was going to die. I was so scared. That was somewhere in Los Angeles; I can’t remember the place’s name. He threw something into the audience. I was right there in that area; everyone went for it, and I got squished. I started kicking my way out of there, like, I gotta get out of here!” 

I don’t blame you; you can faint in that audience.

 “I couldn’t get any air; they squished my lungs. Literally, it was scary!” 

Eva O. at the Hollywood Auditorium, Los Angeles, CA. Rozz Williams stands in the front row. Oct 1993. Photograph by Maggie St.Thomas

What has been your favorite show of all time performing?

 “My favorite show of all time was when Shadow Project played The Limelight. It was an incredible experience. The Limelight was a huge, old church. I felt like Spinal Tap getting lost trying to get to the stage. It was massive, and we had a great tour; it was a fantastic tour!

 Around the same time as the club kids, that guy who killed that other guy was going on; it was that time/ that era. We got there, and they said, ‘don’t do any drugs,’ this whole place is being surveyed; they got bugs everywhere. We didn’t know anything about the background of what was going on, it was right before they busted everybody, and the whole thing ended. Limelight ended after that. Years later, I saw this movie. “Party Monster” with Macaulay Culkin from “Home Alone,” I was like, “Woah! That’s what was going on at the Limelight!” I loved The Henry Fonda, where I did the Christian Death Reunion. It was one of my favorite shows ever. Even though it wasn’t my band, it was nice to do that Christian Death Reunion thing, and they have a video on that. It was an awesome experience!” 

There were two crosses on stage. 

“That’s Shadow Project. That show was the night before The Limelight. We didn’t get any footage, I know someone has that somewhere. I think they held like 2000 at that club.” 

What was it like in other Countries with Christian Death on tour?

 “It was awesome. They had closed this really nice restaurant in Italy and had a special night for us there. They treated us well. Europe was good. I’ve played Europe a lot with Eva O., Shadow Project, and Christian Death.” 

Eva O at The Hollywood Auditorium, October 1993. Photograph by Maggie St.Thomas

I’ve got to ask, how do you feel about Cremation?

 “I don’t like Cremation. I understand why people would do this because burial is costly, but I believe that burial is the way to go. Pardon the pun. All in one piece, if possible. Sometimes you can’t do that. What if someone is burned in the house, and only their sparkles remain? Sometimes that happens. But everyone does what they can. I don’t know what will happen to me when I die, but I know there are many ways to go. To be buried, the traditional way with a coffin/ casket is very toxic to the Earth. I understand this due to the coffin, not the wood but the chemical within it and the embalming process.  I’ve looked into all kinds of ways ’cause I am fascinated with death and funerals. Both my husbands, Rozz Williams and Edwin Borsheim, killed themselves. They both were cremated, and it made me sad. At least I got to see Edwin in the coffin. He had a regular funeral, and they cremated right after that. I was there when he went into the Cremation. I would prefer to say farewell to see the body, say goodbye, and touch them one last time. With Rozz, I wasn’t able to do that. I felt kind of robbed.” 

Was Rozz cremated right away? 

“Yes, he was cremated, and it’s really expensive to do anything else but Cremation. His family doesn’t have a lot of money; they’re like me, just making it by, like all of us.” 

Eva O. inside her coffin. Halloween, 2021. Photograph by Maggie St.Thomas

I understand that you once had quite a very intimate relationship with Richard Ramirez.

“Oh, Richard. Yeah, so what about him.” 

In the later part of ’98, while studying Forensic Science and Criminology at Cal State Fullerton, I read a book, “The Last Victim,” by profiler Jason Moss. He penned a collection of letters to several Serial Killers and later became an F.B.I. Profiler. Jason Moss was a bit of an inspiration to me; as a Forensics student, I decided to pen a note to “The Night Stalker.” I remember receiving and opening the very first letter he wrote me. I would send him magazine tear-outs from various publications my work had been in. Around the time we corresponded, Joey Ramone had passed away, and I interviewed the remaining members of The Ramones. So he got magazine tear-outs of my published interviews with CJ, Marky, and Johnny Ramone. He thought it was bizarre how I could go up to people and ask to take their picture. He thought that was weird. In one of his letters, he wrote that he had a penchant for photographing butterflies. He also sent me a few drawings he made.

 “After reading this article in People Magazine, I wrote a song (Night Stalker) about him when he had just got arrested. I wanted him to hear it. In the beginning, people were bugging him a lot, so he blocked all visitors, and when we started writing, he got a court order so I could visit. I was his only visitor while he was in Los Angeles County for a good four or five years, if not more. We were pretty close for a long time. When he went to Orange County, he opened it up again, and he got bombarded by everybody, so I stopped. 

Let’s talk about ‘The Grey.’ This drink you make. It looks delicious. Tell me about ‘The Grey.’

“The Grey is pretty grey. It’s good. I don’t think the average Joe would think it’s good cause there’s no sugar, and most people like a lot of sugar. Someone whose palette isn’t used to that wouldn’t like it, but it’s delicious. I use coconut water in my drinks, and lavender will give them a more flowery sweetish taste, but there’s still no sugar in it. They all have blue-green algae in them cause I love making that and putting it in my drinks. And silica. I usually try to be pretty healthy, but I went through a bad period over the past couple of years. I treated myself poorly for a long time, but I’m back, trying to get better. I don’t want to fall apart yet. We’ve got more music to make and shows to do!

Something happened, I bought some collagen, and I kid you not; the first two scoops really woke me up. I don’t know if I was deficient cause I was doing bad, eating wrong. Then I bought the collagen, grass feed grass finished bovine-beef collagen, and my mood changed right away. It has to do with brain function; I feel I was probably depleted. I spent many years not eating meat, not that I’m trying to be some cool vegan or anything cause I could care less, but that’s not my way of Life. I just didn’t like it. I had rheumatoid arthritis. I’ve had that all my life; my hands will get stuck, and I can’t open them. My hands stopped working there for a while, making me more depressed. I bought some collagen, and it really woke me up. Now I’m writing songs again, and I’m being happy again and starting to do things.” 

Does heat help your hands? 

“Heat doesn’t help. When it gets humid, my hands get puffy and horrible.. not eating crappy food helps a lot. People don’t understand that most of your illnesses are what you put in your mouth. The sad thing is that even if they know that they don’t know what to do about it, you have to research your problems and figure them out because the world is not going to tell you what to do. They want you to continue to be sick because that’s money. You have to figure out what you can do for yourself without taking all these drugs and stuff. Most of it can be done with good nutrition. Collagen is great for women and MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane). I buy bulk vitamins and make my own pills. If it’s edible or a powder, I’ll just put it in my drinks cause I’m so bad at taking pills I’ll forget. 

Do you drink coffee? 

” I never drink coffee except in espresso form. It’s not as acidic. I found this stuff on Instagram called JOT. It’s organic, so you’re not getting all those toxic things.

 What’s it taste like?

It tastes like bittersweet chocolate, and it never gives me acid. One scoop of that with two spoons of coconut milk, and boy, does it make me go fast! I run around like crazy, like, “Woah, I’m alive!” 

Eva O. outside her home. Halloween 2021. Photograph by Maggie St.Thomas

You are one of the very first Artists I’ve ever photographed. I’m honored to be talking to you and planning a future photoshoot.

 “That will be awesome. This will be fun! It’s really electric here, with a lot of scenery. We can go to a few places and check them out.” 

I’ll bring you some photographs too.

 “I love photographs, and because of that, it validates things for me. It validates that I existed because I forget. We forget things, the details kind of fade away, and then you think, “Was that imagination? Did I really do that show, you know what I mean? I’ll see a photo, like Ron Athey will put up a picture of us from the past, and I’ll be like, ‘Wow, that really did happen. I remember that day, or the week of that day.'” 

Eva O., thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me. This really was a pleasure! 

 

~x~

Eva O. with Rozz Williams crucifix. Halloween 2021. Photograph by Maggie St.Thomas

After sunset, on the 31st of October 2021, I drove to Eva ‘s home for the first time. The full moon hung low in the sky, casting a pale light on the road ahead of me. Upon my arrival, I couldn’t help but notice a couple of dozen eyeball lights she had strung around her property. 

Not long after our conversation, we headed outside to take pictures. In honor of Halloween, I wanted to capture the night sky as the photo backdrop. I asked Eva if she happened to have a crucifix to hold for some of the shots.

“Rozz’s crucifix would be very appropriate,” she responded unequivocally.

Later that evening, we decided to venture out for some Thai Food.

We ordered a round of hot Green Tea and Vegetarian Spring Rolls. When I left her home, she gave me some plant-based collagen powder, a thoughtful memento for excellent health.

This year, she invited me to attend Pascha with her and her family at Saint Andrews Church in Riverside to celebrate Orthodox Easter. A most holy, unique, and unforgettable experience that ended in a feast! Although various friends and family members were familiar with this religious event, I had never seen anything like it.

What I found most fascinating about Eva O. was her unique perspective on death. For her, death is not something to be feared. It is simply a natural part of Life. She sees the darkness and the light as two sides of the same coin and believes that we should embrace both aspects of our existence. I’m grateful she allowed me to capture her story through my photographs.

I never imagined when I held up my lens back in 1993 to this capture this powerful bad-ass woman performing on stage that one day I would be able to call her my friend. It’s been such an honor getting to know Eva O.

~x~

 

Eva O. is a featured Artist in my upcoming book Still Life: The Photographs of Maggie St.Thomas‘.  Spanning four decades of photographic work exploring the fantasy worlds of life and death, compiled in 104-pages. 
On Saturday, the 29th of October, we celebrate the book release and signing party for Still Life: The Photographs of Maggie St.Thomas inside the chapel of Shoreline Funeral Home and Crematory, located at (5443 Long Beach Blvd., Long Beach, CA, 90805). Original framed prints from the book will be displayed on the walls, as well as live performances by The Bourbon Saints (9:00 PM) and Eva O. (11:00 PM), with a grim set by DJ Tony X.
Books are available at the book signing for $50, each includes a limited edition bookmark and postcard. Still Life: The Photographs of Maggie St.Thomas will be available to order online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble in November. 
Interview & Photographs by Maggie St.Thomas.
Edited by Avangelene DeVille.