I walk up to the apartment and give a couple quick knocks. "I'm coming," I hear a woman's voice from the other side. The door swings open and before me I see a small space that's at once quaint and hardcore. Posters of Metal bands and bondage acoutrements adorn the walls in the living room. The kitchen is filled with tea paraphernalia and cat food dishes. It all fits the dweller, Elizabeth Chaykowski, a 51-year-old Ottawa native and long-time fan of heavy music. A small woman with short black hair in a gothic style, she defies her age and intends to keep pursuing her "bliss" as she refers to it. She is the mastermind behind Rabbit Hole Productions; an Ottawa-based Metal and Rock promotions company which has been putting on shows across the city for about six years. These shows have included the infamous Metal Mayhem Madness shows: Extravaganzas of art, music, and alternative culture, including BDSM. I sat down with her to discuss what makes her, and her company, tick. Here’s some of our conversation…
Matt Miller: So I just wanted to start by asking a couple of questions and getting all the basic facts right. I wanted to get your full name, your exact position with Rabbit Hole productions, and if you wouldn’t mind… your age?
Elizabeth Chaykowski: I don’t mind telling my age because I think that’s part of the message that I’m trying to put out. I think my age clearly states that you don’t have as many limitations on you as you think. I’m 51 years old, and I know I’m an odd ball for my age group. But on the other hand, I’ve never bought into ageism. I’ve never believed that, when you hit a certain age like… the system tells you grow up, you go to school, you go to post-secondary school, and you pick a career. You get your career, you establish a resume, you find someone in your correct social strata and you get married and have kids. Then you put in your 25 years, get a gold watch, and then the system tells you that, at that point, you get to do what you want to do. The problem is, by that time, the system has sucked all the life out of you. You see it on the bus every day at five o’clock.[…] So I’m 51, I love Metal, and I’m hoping to see where this [Rabbit Hole Productions] takes me for at least the next 10 to 15 years.
MM: When did you get into the music scene in Ottawa? What was it like at that time?
EC: When I was young I had a little cassette recorder. I used to sit by the radio […] and I’d wait for a good song to go on, and then I’d click the switch and I’d record it. I used to make my own tapes that way. […] A lot of music at that time, you know MTV hadn’t come along yet, so a lot of the stuff that was on the radio at that time was actually really radical. The next thing that happened that really turned me on [to music] was when a boy in my class brought Led Zeppelin III into class. [He put the record on] and everything inside me was screaming! Somehow I managed to con my father into buying me that album, and I used to listen to it very quietly in the wee hours of the morning when everyone was asleep. Through my teens I was going to bars [and seeing bands] and one place I remember was the Black Swan, which is now the Metro on Rideau Street. I remember going there one night with one of my friends and the place was packed. There was this band playing that had these two incredible female singers: Heart from Los Angeles. I was still going out in the mid-80s, but then I got married. […] I started getting seriously back in to music in the late ‘90s. I remember saying to a friend, we were at Zaphod’s one night, and I say to her, “We could do this! Why don’t we just make some business cards and [start promoting bands]!”
MM: Are there any shows [that you’ve done] since you started doing Rabbit Hole Productions that stick out in your mind?
EC: The first Metal Mayhem Madness [October 2008] was incredible. It was the only show I’ve actually made money on thus far [laughs]. It was great to see how I could perform in that situation. When I was in high school, I couldn’t do public speaking; I would actually get violently ill. So it was nice to see how I had grown and to see myself be able to stand up in front of a crowd of people and say some incredibly nasty things! It was a milestone of personal growth. But you know, every show has had something special about it. I had people come up to me at [Metal Mayhem Madness Two] and they were crying, thanking me […] for having a place where they could discover new things about themselves. [That event] really touched me and encouraged me a great deal. […] It’s about encouraging people to love themselves exactly the way they are; to hold their head(s) up regardless of whether the mainstream is accepting of their thoughts, their opinions, and their appearance. […] I hope that in everything that I do, in how I conduct myself with both bands and with people I meet that what really comes through is a sense of inclusivity. That there is a different way that things can be done and that it begins with love of self, which then extends unconditionally to love of the other.
MM: What do you think of the scene and the music world around us today?
EC: […] I think that as, globally, the tension increases […] now is the time for Metal and radical alternative music because when people feel disempowered, scared, and they aren’t being given answers that [make sense], they start turning to the more radical, expressive forms of music. I think this is a time for Metal. That’s why, even in this city, we’re seeing a resurgence of the live music scene, particularly with Metal. That doesn’t mean we’re seeing a lot more music venues, but there is more live music being produced here that is really, really good. Just like Black Sabbath was born out of the slums in England, and a lot of good Metal has been born out of a hard time, I think we’re going to see more and more Metal being born now as things get more obviously corrupt and hard to understand for the average person. […] What’s very cool about this is now we have an opportunity to create a meaningful music community on the basis, not only of the music, but shared ideas and mutual support.
MM: Is there anything you’d like to say about yourself, Rabbit Hole, the scene in Ottawa, or do you have any thoughts you would like to leave people with?
EC: I’ll say what I say at the beginning of every Metal Mayhem Madness event… No factions, no isms, no schisms… all welcome, all loved, all embraced… respect yourself, respect the person next to you, and party your f***in’ ass off!
If you’re interested in finding out more about Elizabeth and Rabbit Hole Productions, check out their Website and their Facebook. The next Rabbit Hole Productions show is Soul in Stone & Kill City, Finnigan’s Pub on Montreal Rd., April 14th.