"We are the erotic as well as the ascetic, the grotesque and the beautiful, the fragmented ritualized and improvised whole. We experience the medium and the world beyond our bodies not through stagnant objectification, but rather through intense mutual sensation within the movement of the dance." - BUTOH
Middle Pillar's Butoh Compilation
Butoh: The Dance of Darkness
(photos courtesy of Middle Pillar')
Butoh, pronounced "Boo - toe," is a form of dance that first exploded onto the art scene in the late 1950's/early 1960's shattering long held beliefs about dance and movement against the backdrop of postwar Japan. In rebellion against the strict codification of traditional Japanese dance and driven by a need for a more personal means of expression, it combines dance, improvisation, theater and Japanese elements with German Expressionist dance. Called both controversial and universal in its expression, its become an internationally recognized form of dance with troupes through out the world.
In 1959 Hijikata performed a piece called Kinjiki, an adaptation of Yukio Mishima's novel Forbidden Colors. This short piece, without music, raised such a scandal that the lights were turned out on the performance before it was over. Hijikata was banned from further performances with The Association and became an "outlaw dancer" in Japan. Hijikata joined with Kazuo Ohno, who was heavily influenced by Western dancers including German Expressionists, to further develop this avant garde form that would later become known as Ankoku Butoh (literally the Dance of Darkness).
Butoh performances "often deal with taboo subjects both in brutal and serene ways...it is the simplicity and purity of movement. The wonder of the body's ability to move, to express itself.1" Butoh has been called, "shocking, provocative, physical, spiritual, erotic, grotesque, violent, cosmic, nihilistic, cathartic, mysterious2" and often evokes "images of decay, of fear and desperation, images of eroticism, ecstasy and stillness3."
The Idea Happen
I asked Kevin at Middle Pillar how the idea for doing this compilation formed and if either he had any personal interest in Butoh.
Kevin replied, "It was important to us to do a label comp that had rhythmic elements, that strongly suggested movement, but that not betray the integrity of the label. We're relatively young, and impressions mean a lot. If we came out with a re-mix compilation of dance tracks, that might appeal to the gothy-club side of our potential audience, but it might alienate those that prefer the more esoteric side of things, who just happen to be our biggest supporters. I've recently become more interested in Japanese culture and I felt that perhaps a 'Butoh' themed compilation, might be a perfect marriage between the darker, experimental side of of the music and a more rhythmic approach that might allow... dare I say it.... dancing!"
"I watched a single, solo, Butoh performance many years ago. The act was powerful, descriptive, kinetic and tortured, all at about the same time. I did some research when the idea came to me about the possible theme for a Middle Pillar label comp, and I was surprised at how varied Butoh was, in theme and design. Although nothing I read or saw expressed the notion, I couldn't help but feel that some of the dark themes derived from the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, although some Butoh concern themselves with how it feels to be a flower, or bestiality or the awkwardly ridiculous. It's really a mixed bag thematically."
When asked how he went about chasing the bands and tracks, he said, "Some of the bands on the comp expressed palpable excitement at the prospect of doing a song based on Butoh, but other artists had no idea what the hell I was talking about. 'What's Butta?' I can almost hear them speaking aloud! "
"I did ask that while the songs didn't have to be exactly inspired by Butoh, like in the instances where we were getting material already written, that the music or themes not be antithetical to what I consider to be a rather broad idea. The music should be dark, rhythmic or suggesting movement, and under seven minutes. For the bands on the label at that time, we asked that a previously issued track be re-mixed with the comp theme in mind. Bryin and Derek from A Murder of Angels actually gave us two new tracks that were done before hand, and fit extremely well. The Wench track, Thread re-mix and Zoar re-mix were done specifically for the comp in mind and those three cuts vary greatly in style and substance, yet work very well with the Butoh frame."
The packaging itself on this CD indicates a taste of what lays in store musically. Rich in thematic colors and objects, its one of the more elaborate CD sleeves I've seen in a while.
Kevin related, "Howard Forbes of Unknown Graphic Services (http://www.unknowngraphicservices.com/) did a really incredible job on it. I knew I just wanted the Japanese characters for Butoh on the cover and the MP logo on the back. Howard did the rest. Not only has Howard worked with us before (he did the layout for The Mirror Reveals 'Frames of Teknicolor' and oversaw The Unquiet Void's 'Between The Twilights'), but he has a definite affinity for Japanese culture."
"As for the package we knew we wanted to use the soft-spot packaging which was a recent product development from Oasis Duplication, our pressing plant. It allows for eight panels of graphics, which unfolds like a book within a book with no plastic parts!"
The compilation opens and closes with two instrumental tracks from Kobe that act as the prologue and epilogue effectively binding this mixture of dark aesthetics. The powerful drumming of "Primary" sets the stage and conjures images of live traditional Japanese drumming (kudos to the boys at Middle Pillar for the feel of authenticity) - effectively communicating the mystery and pride that is core to Japanese culture.
A Murder of Angels usher in the dark ambient ("dambient") undertones of this CD with their track "Words That Lay Buried Forever." Creepy enough to be the backdrop to the scariest movie you've ever seen, this cinematic composition is a descriptive masterpiece utilizing atmospheric elements and dissonance to develop a sense of vast, lonely space. As bell tones sound out in spooky echoes and haunting humming slithers through the background, you can almost see forms take their place on a dark, back lit stage and my imagination swirls with the curling, morphing, grotesque movements that would accompany such music. If your nerves are frazzled by the tension in the air when this piece ends, it did its job.
The listener is then given some resolve when Mors Syphilitica pick up the dissonant chord and temper it with angel-like vocals that skip carefree over whatever darkness lies beneath in their song "As A Mirror (Dance Hall Mix)." When the beat of a strong bass drum kicks in, they are off on a journey. The tone here is one of adventure in the face of adversity. An excellent track and one that'll certainly garnish some spins at goth clubs.
"The Unaware" by The Machine in the Garden proves to be a slower piece with an almost trip-hop groove behind it that keeps the tempo interesting while drowsy female vocals soar in a dreamlike melody. Later they contribute the track "Midnight (Dancing There)" which is a more dance-oriented piece with a faster tempo. Again, the vocals are impressive and contribute a sense of movement to both pieces.
With "Chrysalis", long time Middle Pillar band The Unquiet Void spins the listener back down into an ambient void where choruses of voices boom and angels melt into demons and back again. The listener is again left in tension at the end of this track only to get resolution in the next track by Wenches. [A word of praise to Middle Pillar for song sequence on this - it's very effective]. Later in the CD, The Unquiet Void contributes "Angels (The Tortoises Are Nodding Mix)" which is a fairly disturbing ambient piece sprinkled with voice samples. It's a dark world we're spun into where your notions of what's good (Angels) is twisted.
"Morpheus (repraise)" by Sumerland is surreal and sweeps in to absolve the fear. You are set afloat in a dreamy wash of chimes, piano and chants that comes across as spiritual enough to make you cry. The making of this song - I've heard from the band members, was as inspired as it sounds. The vocal chants that Dorien does on this track are something that came to him as the music was playing - unrehearsed. What he was channeling that day I'm sure we'll never know but the after effects of that recording make goosebumps rise on my skin.
Murder of Angels comes in again with "Vessel of the Incubi" - an organic song full of chirps and textures against a backdrop of menacing drumming and droning tones. A stately melody line of synthesized strings develops in the background is brought out more clearly by the middle of the song adding a very worldly feel to this lush and dense song.
"Damnation," an exclusive track by Wench, continues the organic, ethnic feel in their own severely seductive way. Primitive percussion beats supported by a deep male chorus are flanked and highlighted by the slithering feminine vocals. Dark and rich, this song is my favorite on the CD.
The Mirror Reveals, who just released a full length CD on Middle Pillar Presents, contribute "Moebius Stripped (There's Always Tomorrow Mix)" which added some nice textures and beats onto the original ethereal track making it almost sythnpop in style. Its rather like Ivox (Battery's side project).
Self-described as "experimental electronic aggro-ambient music," Thread brings us "Blue Darkness (Inverse Mix)" which starts off with what sounds to me like futuristic chimes of the orient. This instrumental piece vibrates between experimental electronic and dance - there's enough tweaking going on to give your brain and ears a work out and your feet will gladly follow the beat. The dark images of Butoh dance are communicated very nicely through this music.
Called "...masters of the cinematic instrumental..." by the New York Times, Zoar gives birth to "Secrets of Death" - a fast ride through layers and layers of spookiness backed by a grooving beat. Again, motion is the underlying theme here and this will not disappointed. Cynical and evil , the music moshes about without a care in the world. What's more sublimely delicious then knowing the Secrets of Death? Referred to as "Dark Industrial Dance" I think most people will be surprised how accessible this track is.
In the end, Middle Pillar has accomplished what it set out to do on an impressive level. This CD in total, from the art work to the individual songs, is an expressive interpretation of Butoh - in its tone, movement and exploration of the human psyche and state of being. Its about dance and what it's like to be submerged totally within that concept. In this they've truly created something that is beautifully dark. To my knowledge, no other culturally rich compilation of this kind has been attempted by other labels in this genre. The thought and vision that went into this was spectacular and any time music can make you more culturally aware is something quite special indeed. Congratulations to Middle Pillar and all the bands that contributed tracks - its something to be truly proud of.
Tracks and Band Links:
"Primary" - tribal drumming / instrumental - exclusive track.
"Aftermath" - tribal / industrial / instrumental - exclusive track.
MURDER OF ANGELS
"Words That Lay Buried Forever" - damnbient / instrumental - exclusive track.
"Vessel of the Incubi" - damnbient / baroque / instrumental - exclusive track.
"As A Mirror (Dance Hall Mix)" - ethereal / female vocals - exclusive track.
MACHINE IN THE GARDEN
"The Unaware (Smooth Motion Mix)" - ethereal / goth / female vocals - exclusive mix of a track from the forthcoming Out of the Mists CD MPP994.
"Midnight (Dancing There)" - gothic / female vocal - exclusive mix of a track from from the One Winter's Night CD MPP999.
"Chrysalis" - ethereal / tribal / instrumental - exclusive track.
"Angels (The Tortoises Are Nodding Mix)" - dark electronic /experimental / vocal samples - exclusive mix of a track from the Between The Twilights CD MPP99.
"Morpheus (Repraise)" - ethereal / male vocals - taken from the All Is Always Now CD-EP.
"Damnation" - ethereal / goth / female vocals - exclusive track.
"Moebius Stripped (There's Always Tomorrow Mix)" - dark dance / eclectica / female vocal - exclusive mix of a track from the Frames of Teknicolor CD MPP997.
"Blue Darkness (Inverse Mix)" - "Experimental electronic aggro-ambient music w/ complex rhythmic and melodic substructures." dark electronic /experimental / instrumental - exclusive mix of a track from the forthcoming Abnormal Love CD.
"Secrets of Death" - dark industrial dance / instrumental - exclusive track.
Art of Butoh Dance by Ralf Rosenfield"
2 Bonnie Sue Stien, "Butoh: twenty years ago we were crazy, dirty and mad." The Drama Review 30 (1986)
Voyant: Sharp Eyes On The Future
~by Mike Ventarola
(photos courtesy of the Claire Voyant website)
years fraught with strife and disorganization, Victoria Lloyd, Chris Ross,
and Ben Fargen left their previous bands and like a phoenix from the ashes,
re-emerged as Claire Voyant. With tongue firmly planted in their
cheek, they utilized a name with a double entendre, which ultimately resulted
with their being on a top ten list for the worst band names.
In retrospect it seems they are also as clairvoyant as their name implies since this trio saw the future in unmistakable terms and didn’t yield to any compromises on their artistic integrity nor did they let the snide remarks about their band name discourage them. Their previous working experiences gave them insight to what was needed to run a band correctly without the added ego trips and dysfunction that had plagued them in previous groups.
Following their collective bliss culminated with a cohesion laden with spiritual and emotional components. This almost psychic harmonization was galvanized from their prior working experience together, thus this camaraderie permitted the band to strive and create music that was as emotionally charged as some of their favorite inspirations. They sought to keep the emotions real and the sound unique while avoiding the pitfall of sounding like anyone else in the various genres they would be compared to. Despite their integration, songwriting is still a muse like endeavor that they are at a loss to explain. Claire Voyant expresses the gamut of emotions from light, darkness, beauty, and hope and anticipates that the musical journey is as healing to the listener as it is to each of them. Fans from all corners of the globe are connecting to this exhilaration, making the band a rising star in the underground.
last year, Claire Voyant was signed to European Label, Accession-Records,
fronted by Diary of Dreams' Adrian Hates. A collection of remixes titled
"Time Again" was released in May 2000 which contains remixes by VNV Nation,
Front 242, Covenant and many others and the entire back catalog of CD’s
was just released in Europe on Accession in November 2000. The band
continues to receive critical acclaim from magazines such as Zillo, Orkus,
and Sonic Seducer just to name a few.
Most currently, the band signed with Metropolis Records for a domestic re-release of their entire back catalog which will be available January 2001 and a new album is scheduled for release in Fall 2001 which will also include a small US tour to accompany the new album.
An element that has consistently helped the band on their upward climb, besides their increasing sales, is their humility and close rapport with the fan base. Victoria is quite open and accessible to her audience and still tends to blush at all the accolades heaped upon her and her bandmates. She is a trouper in many respects and acknowledges the patrons every chance she can. Their growing popularity has also increased the amount of mail, but certainly not their egos.
Victoria states, "This is exactly what I was meant to do and I feel I am following ‘my bliss’ when I sing, write, record, and perform. When fans write to us or zines interview us and ‘get’ what we are trying to do, everything seems right to me. This must sound contrived, but believe me it is not. I have intensely spiritual, deeply emotional ties to the music I work on and those who partake in it. I meet people everyday that just ‘listen’ to music...unable to ask for more than the mainstream...unable to actually be touched, healed, angered, or seduced by music...I don't know how they survive. When I was very young…I used to play anything just to let it move me to tears...I thought it was magic...it was! Jump ahead to 1985...I heard "Charlotte Sometimes" by The Cure...same feeling.... The Smiths…The Cocteau Twins... Music is now a full fledged addiction and my life's work"
Victoria has even found time to work on a collaborative effort with Daniel Meyer of Haujobb called HMB, which brings out another facet of her artistry. A sample of this can be found on at www.mp3.com/HMB. It has an EBM/ Industrial component to it and should be making its way into club and Internet broadcasts by the time this article reaches print.
Victoria muses, "I hope that in 2001 I am able to keep up with the CV releases and the HMB release that will surely happen early in the year. Daniel and I hope to do some European dates and maybe even US dates for the release of the HMB record. The experience of collaborating with Daniel is something I think we both enjoyed enough to continue...who knows? : ) HMB is my alter ego...his music brings out a completely different side to me lyrically and vocally...I feel a much tougher exterior with his music...more angst...more chaos! ha!"
not being a traditional Goth band, Claire Voyant has found that they do
have a large following in the gothic underground. The goal for this
band is not to be pegged into any one genre, thereby limiting their creative
outlets, but they are ever grateful to the darkwave fans and consistently
try to maintain fan base loyalty by keeping the music moody yet enchanting.
Lloyd relates the bands immediate goals; "Claire Voyant hopes to build a larger fan base over the next year by touring and reaching out to those that support the ‘underground’ music scene. The 4AD years are over...but there are plenty of people who remember and who are dedicated to reclaiming the melodic, dreamy, and otherworldly presence for today’s Darkwave artists."
As part of Starvox’s Women Who Rock series, Victoria graciously supplied some insightful answers to the Q & A portion of this feature.
MV: What emotions run through your mind when you see all the attention the band is getting?
VL: Well of course I am excited by the attention the band is getting...It brings out a lot of hope for things to come.
MV: What is it about Claire Voyant that intrigues the listener more than any of the other bands any of you have worked with in the past?
The fact that Chris, Ben, and I have worked together long enough to "know"
intuitively what works for
Claire Voyant... This comes across in the music and it emotes a "comfort" factor in the music I think. We are very focused on excavating feelings with our music.
MV: What were some of your most moving inspirations?
VL: Generally Speaking: Love. Everybody wants it, needs it, and feels empty without it...while we do everything we can sometimes to push it away...that type of conflict.
Beauty. All people have different ideas about this subject. Whether it is internal or external...how true beauty is achieved...how it drives people to do so many wonderful or terrible things.
Time. Milestones inspire me...birthdays, solstice, anniversaries...anything that reminds me that the world is spinning regardless of what I am doing seems to bring a burst of creativity...weird!
MV: Why do you think that many bands are fearful of the "goth band" label despite some making a decent living as a "goth band"?
VL: This is such a weird phenomenon...I know (or have heard) from talking to managers and record labels that supposedly the term "goth" in the description is detrimental to a band...I am not sure why. I think if a band is good there is a market for what they do... "industry people" like to make up things to scare bands into conforming. It goes back to the whole mainstream idea that all bands have to fit between "The Backstreet Boys and The Red Hot Chili Peppers" or "Brittany Spears and Alanis Morisette" "change your music, your look, etc. and we'll give you a record deal" at that point who would want one? Not me! I already have a job where I don't like what I do for money, Ha!
I think some bands take the goth/darkwave underground fans for granted and when they are not as "huge" as they think they should be...they "blame" it on the crowd that has been so supportive and faithful to them. That is sad and I am sure offensive to many in the scene.
We don't label ourselves a "goth" band...because I feel that label defines ideas, fashion scene, etc. in concert with musical aspirations. I think most bands would hesitate to "label" themselves anything...it feels restrictive. Bands like This Ascension, Falling You, Angels of Venice, to me represent the kind of variety you can find...all wonderfully talented and hard to label.
I am proud and not at all offended when we are referred to as Gothic. Our
music is gothic tinged...and
so are we. We are lucky enough to have been embraced by the Gothic, Darkwave, and even Industrial Crowds. We love these fans and we would never want to lose them...
MV: How has availability on the internet helped your progress as a band?
VL: Our web site gets an incredible amount of traffic...I really can't believe it! I think a lot of it can be attributed to Hidden Sanctuary and MP3.com as well as some heavy European Advertising done by our label there. I believe fans of underground music tend to be internet savvy and will seek out new and different things on the web.
MV: How do you feel companies such as Mp3 help or hinder an artist’s progress?
VL: Well...I think this remains to be seen. So far I can say that while we may have a couple thousand downloads per month our sales on albums do not really increase the way you would think they should based on the volume of new listeners and fan emails we get... The DAM CD's we actually sell on MP3.com haven't sold well at all... So I think this is a forum for publicity...I think we have to see what happens as far as artist progress, etc. Some bands make a tremendous amount of money from MP3.com just from downloads...it's an exciting new adventure!
MV: With all this channeled muse like energy going on, how do you know which song should be included on a new release?
VL: This is a tough one... I would have to say that I tend to be the critical one...Most of the time I can tell within a few minutes of working on something if I like it or not (no goosebumps)...For those songs that get past that initial test...Ha... if they don't move us or get us excited when we are listening to the demo or finished recording...they won't make the new album...which is scary...but leaves us with B side material..(laugh)
MV: What are some great gig memories that you can share?
VL: Gosh...opening for Love Spirals a few years ago in SF had to be one of my all time favorite shows. It was that rare "perfect show" Sadly I don't think they thought it was...but for us it was dreamy! Everything, (sound, promoter, etc.) showed up and started on time. Sound check was perfect, soundman knew how to mix the monitors, my ringlets turned out perfect : ) and we played a great set for a full house that loved it. Very often what we hear(or can't hear) on stage is frightening...on this night it sounded almost as good on stage as it did in the club...we can't ask for more than that :)
MV: Now that you are on Metropolis Records, can we expect a CD-ROM on the forthcoming release? If so, what theme would you strive for?
VL: This is something we are thinking about...I would love to incorporate some video, interview, and media footage on the album...The theme is very up in the air at this point.... Stay tuned!
MV: What is your favorite Claire Voyant song thus far and why?
VL: "Time and the Maiden" (right now) this does change frequently : ) It was the first song that when I listened back to it I thought...wow! I think if this came on in a club or radio show I would really like it...The song completely wrote itself...one night we all came in and in about an hour were astonished that this song just came out...I was on a high for weeks...that's what keeps us coming back for more!
MV: How did you and Daniel Meyer actually hook up to form HMB?
VL: We are both managed by Colin Gibbens. Daniel and Dion had done a remix for us for "Time Again" and I guess Daniel liked my voice:)
MV: For those who never heard HMB, how would you describe the music?
VL: This is always a tough one...hmmm...it is dark "electro-pop" I can't think of a better description than that : )
MV: Is it only the two of you in HMB or are there others?
On the album that will be released in 2001 there will be some other guest
vocalists. In Strict Confidence does a track and Daniel and Vanessa Briggs
do a track. If we decide to make another album I believe it will be Daniel,
Myself and Chris Ross (programmer/keyboards for Claire Voyant) Chris did
lot of engineering and production work on some of the HMB tracks.
MV: How does the HMB project differ from Haujobb for Daniel?
It's much more vocal oriented pop...at least for my contributions...I can't
really answer this one for him...From what he has said so far I think he
enjoys this because it is different. The process is: He works on
something, sends it to me, I cut it up, arrange it, sing on it, send
back the tracks, he works more magic, and voila!
MV: You mentioned about people being complacent and just listening to music without seeking something more. Expand if you will on this since many folks are guilty of just listening and not delving into the music deeper to feel the artistic essence. Describe this process and the resultant feelings for those who have no clue what this all means.
boy...this is tough! I can't really explain it in any way that it makes
sense...I think that it requires a bit of vulnerability and to know what
you like...I can't really describe it more than that...some people are
extremely moved by things I can't stand...Art is so subjective that only
the individual knows what stirs them and what touches their soul...that
is what brings communities together..like the underground goth, ethereal,
and darkwave scenes. The same aesthetic longing...only satisfied by dark
and moody textures. Others might be in Nirvana listening to Garth Brooks
(aaagh!!)....but I know it happens...basically I think mainstream
feeds the public such "generic" fare that people forget that there are a lot of other forms of musical expression. When will the music industry remember that variety is a good thing? ..why do we need to clone what is already popular?...Take chances! I will ALWAYS believe that there are enough potential fans out there for Hidden Sanctuary/ Darkwave style artists...we can never stop trying to reach all who will listen! We just have to work harder and not compromise.
MV: Why do you think so many have tuned out this essential component of hearing music?
VL: I think you get callused to music when you hear the same 20 songs all day long...(unless it was Peter Murphy...Depeche Mode...well...maybe even then) a lot of the music fans today like what they are told to like by MTV and the radio.
MV: Besides Claire Voyant, who else would you recommend to listeners in order to search those feelings that they need to find to "hear" the music?
VL: It depends on the person... I am VERY opinionated and not musically well rounded...so I hesitate to just give my list of favorite bands...I think you know it when you hear it. Stop....Listen...let yourself get goosebumps!
MV: Do you think that reviewers who write bad and/or nasty reviews have a hidden agenda or have they just not "heard" the music?
VL: I think writers that write bad reviews are just that. Writer's that write bad reviews have opinions and have taken the time to write them down and have found a forum to have their opinions heard. I relish a good review so I must also respect the not so good. It stings initially to hear someone say negative things about our music...but that is ONE opinion. I have actually bought albums based on reviews that were more negative. The reasons why the writers disliked them were the reasons I like some music...they turned out to be some of my favorites!
people that write NASTY reviews are just rude. I think if you think an
album is worth so little that you can absolutely trash it...your opinion
is worthless to everyone and mean spirited. I think our scene is
pretty good about not trashing artists. A lot of people in this genre are
just "asking to be moved" I love that : )
learn more about this dynamic band, please visit the web pages listed below.
Band Web Site: www.clairevoyant.com
Contact: Victoria Lloyd firstname.lastname@example.org
Victoria Lloyd: vocals
Benjamin Fargen: Guitar
Chris Ross: synth
~interview and photos by Blu
I think I've told this story a thousand times already -- about when I first saw Myssouri perform live in Atlanta (god was it two years ago now?). I knew nothing about them and was set on getting a drink and waiting for the headlining band. But then this twangy guitar caught my ear, and these deep, mournful vocals that had just enough anger and sadness brewing in them, poured out of the sound system and made me stop what I was doing and wander up closer to the stage. I stood there, captivated, for the rest of their set.
You see, these are no ordinary songs -- no high school poetry chopped up and rehashed for a mindless generation of Mtv-fed fads. No, if you listen to these words, images form in your mind - in the greatest detail, and suddenly you're lost on an endless desert road, on your last breath pinned between heaven and hell and begging for vengeance, or redemption cause they're both interchangeable at that point. I can always make out the die-hard Myssouri fans in the crowd -- they're the ones that actually have all those grueling lyrics memorized and can sing along. That takes practice. The band, however, and the man behind it would remain a mystery to me.
It took my moving away to another city and realizing how much I missed seeing them perform live, to summon the courage to ask these guys for an interview. Intelligence can be intimidating. I worried I wouldn't be able to think of good questions. Finally at the onset of their second release, Furnace Songs (ep), I threw caution to the wind. I did ask and Michael Bradley, vocalist and founder of Myssouri was kind enough to indulge me.
I have to admit that what follows is one the best interviews we've posted so far in StarVox. And I'm not patting myself on the back. Its not my questions that are so incredible. They are questions that any Myssouri fan might ask. It is the thoughtfulness and time and sincerity put into the answers that makes this so special. Its the amazing mind and character of Michael Bradley that continues to intrigue me - a man with all the humbleness in the world; who doesn't give himself near enough credit for what he and the other members of Myssouri have created thus far. He comments, "I know the potential Myssouri has and we're not there yet." If this is any indication at all about what lies on the horizon for this group, I might start saving my Myssouri memorabilia for the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame right now.
" my friend in Orlando called it a 'millenial word horde.' --I dig that. "
Blu: You get this question a lot I'm sure, but where did the name Myssouri come from? Even though its pronounced like the state – I've always fancied it as a play on words with “misery.”
MB: Myssouri is pronounced just like the American state Missouri, and of course it's a bit of a play on "misery," as well as others, like "my," "sour," and "I." It's just fun wordplay in a sort of negative and narcissistic fashion, I suppose.
I had moved to Atlanta in 1996 and recorded some solo demos, and I was toying with the name Myssouri as a one-word pseudonym, like an inverted, American "Morrissey." Then a band fell into place and the name covered all of us.
Blu: Myssouri started making waves in the music scene not too long ago and your first full length self-released CD has nearly sold out of its printing and has earned you prestigious reviews in a number of well –known music magazines. From the beginning, the band was solid and strong so obviously, even though the band itself was new, you, as a musician are not. What musical projects were you into before Myssouri was formed and how did you meet the original members and decide to form a band?
MB: Well, Myssouri's drummer Chris Jansen sessioned on those first demos I mentioned. He was involved in a pop/lounge project that ultimately dissolved, making him available. He was acquainted with Greg Thum from some previous session work--Greg had his own band, Trampoline, but was interested in pursuing a side project. I put an ad out for a bassist, received numerous replies, and Myssouri was a 4 piece for a long time. I've always liked the tightness of a 4 person band, but I really wanted the fullness a 5th member could add with keys, pedal steel, and guitar. Like most bands, we experienced some turnover, usually due to differences in creative direction, usually with the bass player. What is it with bassists? I've had 3 so far and I'm currently working on the 4th!
I was in 2 bands in Florida in the early-mid '90's: Alabaster and The Black Helicopters. Some songs I wrote in both bands have found their way into Myssouri's repertoire. "Open Road," for example, used to be called "Idiot," when I was into a more minimalist, sloganistic style of writing.
"I have changed my mind.That version was actually recorded (poorly). Perhaps I'll put it on our Mp3 site one day for laughs. Whatever makes us money keeps us alive.
Servile and surface. Understood.
I have robbed me blind.
Dense and docile.
Smooth and good.
I'll stuff my idiot into you..."
Blu: It would be a collector's item one day I'm sure. I'd buy it just to have for keepsakes. I'm quite fond of the "Red Grass, Black Pasture" live version you have up on the mp3. Its not available anywhere else is it? Its an amazing song, any chances that song will be recorded on the next CD or why wasn't it on Furnace Songs?
MB: I have it on a CDR somewhere. But I'd have to listen to it, evaluate it, perhaps run it through some sound software to improve it. From what I recall, the problem is the mix.
Grass--well, my intention was/is to have a full-length Furnacesongs LP,
and Red Grass was going to be the leadoff song. But money didn't
permit, and moreso the band lineup wasn't solid...for the EP, if you'll
notice, there's no real bass player.
But, yeah, I'm definitely going to record Red Grass someday, hopefully this year.
Also, the Furnace Songs EP had a goal of being very 'rock' oriented. (I imposed that goal--to attract label interest.) We've got plenty of songs that would be great album cuts. But I'm looking to attract a wider audience, so that we'll achieve the popularity that will bring us the freedom to do long, wordy, slow songs like "Red Grass, Black Pasture".
Blu: And while we're on the subject of that particular song, what's the story behind those lyrics? Your use (intentional or not) of alliteration is great - infact, its quite a tongue twister to try to sing along with. It's a great example of how vivid and powerful the imagery in Myssouri's songs can be.
MB: Hard to say there's a story--my friend in Orlando called it a 'millenial word horde.' --I dig that. I had been writing blocks of call and response to the repeated phrase "I will find you" for a while. That's the kind of song that obviously takes a lot of honing. I'm still not entirely satisfied with it.
Oh yeah, there was one piece of tangible inspiration--the book "We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families" by Philip Gourevitch. It's a documentation of the Rwandan genocide. I'm very fascinated with the social anatomy of genocidal behavior. And Rwanda was horrible and therefore riveting, I'm sorry to say. But the effects of studying it are not like getting a buzz from a good horror film. It'll make you sick. Machetes, machetes, machetes.
Blu: You've been compared to bands like 16 Horsepower, The Swans, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and even Johnny Cash. You've spoken of admiration for some of those bands in interviews. Is it fair to say they are also some of your influences musically? What do you listen to personally?
"Pink Floyd and The Doors merge in the new millennium, then are smeared back to the Old American West."
MB: I have a deep and true respect for those artists, and definitely count them as influences. I have to say, though, that as a new band striving to get noticed, we're always asked to list bands that we sound like. I personally had never heard any of 16 Horsepower's music until we started getting compared to them favorably. (We opened for them in July '99--extremely cool people.) Same goes for Gun Club. I still can't name for you one of their songs, but people who like them tend to like us--so they get mentioned. Of course I look forward to the day when I don't have to describe Myssouri with someone else's band.
Influences are elusive things anyway--I always call Michael Gira and Swans a big influence, but none of our songs sound like them. Songs just come out, you know? There's never been any conscious attempt to duplicate something we like. On the contrary, it's often a deliberate effort to create something new, that hasn't been said or heard, within the parameters of a "good song." Sometimes there ARE slips, like to me, "My Eye" is too Nick Cave-ish. It's both funny and frustrating how one's original vision for a song in the studio is subjected to a series of compromises, one after the next, that ultimately morph the song into something unintended. Sounds you can't get, performances that differ, running out of time, running out of tracks. Money would cure all that, I know.
I think any band that lasts will develop its own unique voice.
Blu: And that'll come with familiarity. Its funny when you think of it in terms of well known bands, you never say, "well the Rolling Stones, they sound like...you know..." Unfortunately, comparisons and labels are sometimes a necessary evil when trying to describe to virgin listeners what a band *sounds* like -- especially when its a band as unique sounding as Myssouri is. (Perhaps just a more journalistic challenge for reviewers to come up with good descriptive adjectives! ) How would you describe the music of Myssouri?
MB: Oh yeah, I know. I'm the most guilty of describing Myssouri with references to other bands. But that's because I have to. In ads for bassist wanted, etc. To weed out huge blocks of potentially wrong people. I'm just saying it would be nice to achieve the level of being one's own frame of reference. Like Nine Inch Nails and Smashing Pumpkins. No one ever says they sound like someone else. And yet they're not something that's never been heard before. Are they?
describe Myssouri as...well, as soon as I get a tag line I'm happy with,
I'll have a great one-sheet to send out. I don't know, so many adjectives
are drained of meaning. Dark, cinematic, intense. And I always want
to add the 'american' sound in there, but how? Short of saying 'american'
or 'western.' Cause we're not country. Not Johnny Cash.
Malamericana? Requires too much explanation. Also, Myssouri's
recordings represent a fairly diverse group of sounds. So, what we
are today is not what we were yesterday, and I can promise you that we'll
be different tomorrow. Pink Floyd and The Doors merge in the new millennium,
then are smeared back to the Old American West. I dunno.
" Maybe I'm a romantic at heart, living in a post-post modernist world."
Blu: “Sense of place” seems to be a big part of Myssouri songs. Almost all of your songs conjure images of stark landscapes, open desolate roads and scenes from the country. At times it sounds like something out of Kansas, or maybe the desert in Nevada, and sometimes the haunted rolling hills of Virginia and North Carolina. Where do you get this strong sense of place – is it something personal? Have you spent time in any of these places?
MB: I never really analyzed the frequent occurrence of 'sense of place' in my lyrics, but I think you're right. Where that comes from, I can only speculate, because much to my chagrin I'm not very well-traveled. Yet. I'd say maybe my desire is to be in places like those I describe. Except maybe Hell.
I think I could say with more assurance that I usually have a desire to be somewhere other than where I am.
Myssouri has seen a lot of changes this past year with its members. People
have moved on to other projects, some have come back and new members have
even been replaced a time or two and yet you managed to record and put
out a new five song EP, Furnace Songs, almost without skipping a beat.
You've even played a number of live shows with fill-in performances by
past Myssouri members. How challenging was that and was it your own drive
to create that pushed past the obstacles?
MB: Going back to my answer for your second question, it's been enormously difficult to sustain any momentum with this band when the lineup keeps changing. We'll get a great booking--a festival or a conference--while I'm looking for a new player--so my only options are to turn down the show or ask old members to do me a favor and sit in. That has kept Myssouri gigging over the past year, but the writing of new material has suffered. And touring? Forget it. We're working hard to change that, though. You say we haven't skipped a beat, but I know the potential Myssouri has and we're not there yet. We've still not created a record that really satisfies me.
Blu: Where would you like to tour?
MB: I would like to tour the entire US, especially the big cities and especially the Northwest, where I wish to live eventually. And I want to tour Europe. Esp. Eastern Europe. I think we'd go over well there, too. But I can't fund a tour. Not now.
Blu: Your lyrics read like prose – they summon detailed images and emotions and are one of the reasons I'm so enamored with the music you create. They're completely engrossing and sharply witty with double meanings – smart phrases and twists that make the listener think (An example that comes to mind is from “Hey John” when you sing, “There's no divinity in a double cross.”) I never can fathom how you manage to weave all those words into a tightly packed song. Its an assault on your senses when you read them… and to hear you sing them just adds fire to whatever emotion you drowning in. How do they come about?
MB: Well, I suppose I have a knack for rhyme and pun. Some songs just seem to pour out, others need wrenching. It's an enjoyable challenge to create lyrics with interesting rhymes and some meaning behind them. So few lyrics in popular music today seem to have been paid any thought. Who let the dogs out? The general public seems drawn to such mindless, inane things. It's a curious study. If I had to guess, I'd say that life is so complicated and overflowing with hectic information that people need brain-dead chants for relief. Meditative chaos. But the great lyrics of old standards that are cleverly woven with such intricacy--those are major influences on me.
Blu: What are some examples?
MB: I have records by Jo Stafford, Frank Sinatra, Nat Cole, Johnny Mathis, Andy Williams.. to name a few. Though sometimes simplistic, the words were very romantic, heavy and memorable. No one writes like this anymore...
"Long ago and far away, I dreamed a dream one day...the rhymes, the alliteration, the rhymes within the lines, not just at the ends.
and now that dream is here beside me.
Long the skies were overcast, but now the clouds have passed,
you're here at last.
Chills run up and down my spine, Alladin's lamp is mine--
the dream I dreamed was not denied me.
Just one look and then I knew that all I longed for long ago was you."
--Long Ago and Far Away, sung by Jo Stafford.
"There was a boy. A very strange, enchanted boy. They say he wandered very far,I could go on and on. And of course, the words may seem trite on paper. But the performances have immortalized them.
very far, over land and sea. A little shy, and sad of eye, but very wise was he.
And then one day, one magic day he passed my way. And while we spoke of many things, fools and kings, this he said to me: 'The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love, and be loved in return.' "
--Nature Boy, sung by Nat King Cole.
Blu: are you or can you ever see yourself doing a collection of either prose or fiction?
MB: Regarding the writing, it should be no surprise that I entertain fantasies of writing books professionally. But there's a big difference between lyric writing and novel writing. Coming up with plots for stories is the hard part for me. I could write the meat of it. But the actual story line is the upfront challenge that has kept me at bay. I definitely will write at least one book, fiction, though. I've been plotting it for a few years now. One needs immense quietude to do it. I don't have that these days.
Blu: To continue on with the subject of lyrics – what is the song-writing process like for you? Do you have an idea and do the lyrics first or does the music come first?
MB: Since songwriting is that symbiotic relationship between word and music, songs come to me in different ways. Sometimes I'll have a chord structure that creates its own rhythm, requiring the lyrics to mold to it. Other times I'll have a set of words that, through their own rhythm (rhyme, etc.) dictate or at least initiate the melodic changes of the guitar (which is what I most often write with).
But the thing about rhyme is that it's a great device for remembering. I used to want to consider myself a poet, and I thought that, to be serious, I'd have to eschew rhyme completely. But I can remember the sonnets of Edna St. Vincent Millay better than any poem by Charles Simic. I think another element is romanticism. Maybe I'm a romantic at heart, living in a post-post modernist world. I love both Michael Gira and Morrissey, Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett. Can there be a synthesis between 2 such disparate camps. I think so. Radiohead's a good example.
Blu: Like many artists that are driven to create, I think its safe to say, and this is not meant in the negative sense in the least, that Myssouri is a world that revolves around your vision and that part of the problems you've had with the line up is finding people who understand and are willing to go along with the sometimes bleak world that Myssouri exists in. Am I way off base or is that the case? What is your vision and what's your goal as far as Myssouri is concerned? Is the perfect band line up a process of finding kindred-souls in the creative process?
MB: I must say immediately that Myssouri only exists as a collaboration between myself and those who've been members in the past. It's true that I've written the skeletons of the vast majority of the songs, but I really rely on the talents of the others to add on the flesh and blood. Many times my original idea is altered by another player's interpretation of it. I'm not trying to be falsely self-effacing. It's just with the high member turnover I've experienced, this is an issue that's always on my mind--that I'm not, nor do I wish to be, the dictator of the band. But as far as the bleakness/darkness (however one chooses to characterize music that leans on a lot of minor keys), yes, it is always difficult to find musicians who gel with my idea for the band. Alot of musicians out there just want to have fun and make money, and Myssouri doesn't appear to be that kind of project--at first glance. Because it has been very fun, cathartic and exciting, as well as financially promising. There's certainly an audience out there for our type of music. We just need more exposure.
My goal for Myssouri is to reach the point where it can be a self-perpetuating exercise, and brings me some sense of satisfaction. I'm obviously driven to create in some form or fashion; music's the outlet right now. But I'd really like to reach a point where I don't feel at complete odds with the whole world.
" There's definitely a sense of humility there, probably born of the inner disbelief that any other human would willingly spend time and money listening to what I have to say "
Blu: Back to the lyrics and the subject matter of your songs – they are often fraught with emotional turmoil – struggles of the soul, betrayal of the heart, feelings of unworthiness in the face of love, the deception of religion, and if I'm reading them right – even the sad and unacceptable way the US has treated Native Americans. This is the lure of Myssouri for me, as a listener – this dark, painful world that's semi-shrouded in mystery. Where does all this pain and unrest come from? There is an urgency in your words – a sense that it's a message you need to get out or at least demons that need to be exorcised. Are these songs based on personal experiences or are they highly imaginative creations of fictional circumstances?
MB: Well, I struggle with a response to this one, because I could go so deeply into my personal life/history that it could take pages, and all the while I'm wondering to myself, "Who the hell am I to talk about my problems to the world?"
A few years ago someone described me as the most unhappy person she'd ever met. And I recall being admonished for my "defeatist" attitude by my mother, when I was probably only 5 or 6 years old. As I look back on the various troubled times of my life, I remember thinking those days were only temporary, and that once things clear up and I can get on track, I'll be a happier, more positive person. But that's how I'm looking at these days now. Sometimes I feel so far off course that I could never get back. And perhaps I'm just not meant to be the zesty buck full of fervor, energy and love for life, participating in the X Games. Who knows where his individual destiny lies?
Blu: You seem to be a rather aloof figure on stage – reverent and humble to an extent. Are you an extremely personal and self-contained person?
MB: There's definitely a sense of humility there, probably born of the inner disbelief that any other human would willingly spend time and money listening to what I have to say. You know, it's not often that I return the favor. As for whether I'm extremely personal and self-contained, I would say that if you asked any of my friends, they'd testify that I have a very hammy side and an absurd, silly sense of humor. It comes out in some shows more than others. Only you can prevent narcissism. Only you.
Blu: Myssouri is heavy music in tone. Once at a party I was spinning your CD and someone quipped, “Good god Blu, we wanted to drink not contemplate suicide!” But there's sometimes hints at a lighter side – “Devil on My Shoulder” although dealing with the obsessive natures of drinking and lust, is a romping song that's a bit upbeat with its riotous chorus (sounds like the minions of hell singing a drunken song at the pub). Is there a lighter side to Myssouri and to Michael Bradley?
MB: Of course there's room for humor and levity in Myssouri's music. I'm one of those people in life who's often misunderstood, misinterpreted. Everyone knows one. Lightness in our music may not be evident in obvious ways--maybe that's not my nature. But I slip in a line here and there. On the other side of the equation, I've never understood people who sarcastically say, "Oooh! I think I'll go kill myself!" when they hear a slow song in a minor key. Like people I've known who protest when I switch a radio station to classical music. They'll hear one violin note and say they're going to fall asleep. These people rule the world.
Blu: Classical music? ahh... what do you like?
MB: Again, there's a combination of romantic and modern. I love Schubert and I love Wagner. And Strauss waltzes. But I love Ligeti, Penderecki, and Arvo Part (who is actually a return to the romantic.) Have you heard Gavin Bryars "The Sinking of the Titanic"? It'll make you cry.
Blu: What do you do when you're not working on music for Myssouri?
MB: I'm a devoted husband, and father of 2 beautiful girls, Madeleine and Mara, ages 4 and 5 months, respectively. Currently I'm still imprisoned by financial obligation in the oppressive day job from which I've been plotting means of escape for the past 10 years, in the printing industry.
Blu: What books are your favorites and do you read often? Movies?
MB: I'm an avid movie watcher and reader--no surprise there. I was a film major in college and I love a well-made picture. And I'm constantly, constantly reading, usually at least 2 books going at a time. Unfortunately, the busy-ness and hectic pace of my recent life has left me little time to catch films in the theatre. I've missed a great many that I promised myself I'd see. "Dancer in the Dark," for instance. I love everything I've seen by Lars Von Trier. And just waiting for the video release is a letdown and a compromise. But it's better than nothing. I have some videos I watch repeatedly for therapeutic purposes. Robert Altman's "McCabe and Mrs. Miller." Any Sergio Leone films. Unforgiven. Raging Bull. David Lynch's films. Others that escape my mind right now.
Books I love and recommend--anything by Cormac McCarthy, especially Blood Meridian. That's my Bible. Don Delillo. The Journal of Albion Moonlight by Kenneth Patchen. Samuel Beckett. Ah yes and The Bible.
Blu: Any aspirations in doing any thing with film now?
Nothing solid. I have only enough time to pursue one artistic
endeavor at a time.
If music doesn't pan out, I'll probably go back to theatre and try to get some parts in films. I do hope to write screenplays too, but that the same problem as writing novels.
Blu: The art work and title of “Furnace Songs” struck me as genius the other night. I was looking at the straw angel on the font and then I saw the *very* faint image of a lighter on the inside jacket. What a perfect visual image of this CD! I noticed Chris Jansen – your drummer, did the layout. Was this your idea or his? How did it come about? And then – because I’m curious, what is the image on the backside of the CD? I haven't been able to make that one out yet.
MB: Chris is totally responsible for the images, layout and design. That's his day job, see--he's a graphic designer. How lucky for me! I asked him about the lighter image, and the burnt matchbook (on the back)--he just said he was playing with images. I guess keeping with themes of fire, furnaces, etc. But until you asked that question I myself hadn't put together the symbolism of the very flammable angel on the front with the instruments of conflagration. Thanks!
" I might seem out of place or eccentric-looking at a Gordon Lightfoot concert "
Blu: What’s your fan base like? You seem to get a good turnout at most local shows I’ve been too which is often times hard to do in Atlanta. Do you think some of your success is due to the fact that Myssouri is not readily classified in any one genre?
MB: It's hard to get people out of the comfort of their homes, or the simple fun of socializing in bars, and into a loud venue to pay attention to a band for a long period of time. That actually can make headlining shows a drawback. There needs to be something very alluring. Such as the promise of hearing songs they recognize (which is why airplay is so crucial--often all it takes is one song)--or a great stage show. It's a constant process and I'm always working hard to bring both of those elements to life. As for our fan base, it's pleasingly diverse; young and older, men and women. I've made some good friends whose tastes I respect through Myssouri shows, like film director Nick Rosendorf, who went on to shoot our EPK (electronic press kit) and a video for "Open Contempt." When people I respect are respecting Myssouri, it tells me we're headed in the right direction. And it's true that we can't be classified under one genre. There is a goth crowd element to our fan base, but just as many regular, working-class (not that goths don't work!) folks who aren't concerned with appearances or any elaborate self-presentation--you know what I mean--who've just discovered Myssouri by word of mouth or radio or what have you. We've received a lot of favorable press, and of course that helps. I might seem out of place or eccentric-looking at a Gordon Lightfoot concert, but I'd be there with bells on, because his music is excellent. Of course the bells would get annoying.
Blu: Glad you mentioned videos. I've been dying to see anything from you guys on film. Is any of this available to the public, for purchase or otherwise?
MB: We just made like 10 copies for submission to labels. But I'll see what I can do. I don't have a copy of the full music video, and I've encouraged Nick to send it to IMTV or whatever that is. the indie music network that accepts all submissions.
Blu: What was it like working with Jarboe this summer and how did you get involved with her?
MB: The precise circumstances that led to Jarboe asking me to participate in her "Living Jarboe" band (her first post-Swans live outing) are somewhat muddled to me now. But I do know that I had been corresponding with her via email when M. Gira's Angels of Light were coming to Atlanta and receiving no advance press or airplay. Myssouri was opening and of course I'm a great fan of both MG and Jarboe so I was trying to use whatever contacts I had to help. You know, I wanted it to sell out. So that established the relationship. Then she was offered a one-off show in Chapel Hill, NC, and she asked if I wanted to play guitar and sing backup. As those plans coalesced, she was awarded a "Work-In-Progress" grant from Camel Cigarettes (funny--she HATES smoking) which was basically a contract for 3 live shows--Atlanta, Chicago, and NYC. We were ushered about in stretch limos, put up in fine hotels, per diems, the works. It was excellent and my only regret to this day is the poor sound we had at all 3 shows. The Knitting Factory in NYC was the closest we came to getting it all right, and it was our last show. Jarboe wanted to work with local, unknown musicians. Also, stage presence was a big concern for her, for she certainly could have found a better guitarist than me!
I was able to meet and hang out with Jim Thirlwell, The Knoxville Girls (with Kid Congo Powers of the Bad Seeds), The Gunga Din and of course M. Gira. And who could forget Kendra from The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black, who was stark naked, painted completely blue, with hair like black medusa snakes, preparing to spit blood and throw huge rubber snakes into the crowd, who walked by me and sweetly said, "Hey." Rock and roll.
What can I say about Jarboe? She's a consummate professional and we're still friends and she deserves to be set up for life, financially. I need to start playing the lottery.
Blu: What is it that attracts you to the music of the Swans and the kinds of things that Michael Gira writes about?
MB: That's hard to put into words. I've tried to turn friends onto the Cop/Raping a Slave era Swans, and they just aren't moved by it like I am. I relate to it's violence and rage, and I'm envious of it's purity. And all of Swans material. It strikes an identifying nerve within me. Like he's saying what I've been wanting to say. Like we're long lost brothers. If you haven't read The Consumer, you need to. But that's the same with me recommending McCarthy's BLOOD MERIDIAN. Some people take my advice, and imagine my disappointment when they're less than enthused. I can't get that. It's brilliant. MG is brilliant, and I'd like to have a shitload of money so that I could make him comfortable too.
Blu: Are there any other side projects or collaborations that you've been doing lately?
MB: Jarboe has mentioned something in the works with a lot of male guest vocalists. Some of the people she mentioned to me with whom I would be included on the record definitely make me say "I'm not worthy!" I'll believe it when I'm holding the CD in my hand. Other than that, no. Myssouri has a huge amount of work to do.
"It's kind of sexy in a cerebral-electroniconjugal way "
Blu: You've had a mp3 station up for a while now and have been featured on some mp3 stations like StarVox’s radio station and Mike’s Hidden Sanctuary. Obviously you support that medium. Do you have any opinions you'd like to share on this new technology and the controversy over mp3’s?
I'm thrilled by MP3 technology. I'm sending our new EP to our
#1 fan in Italy this week. We always get requests from Norway, Sweden,
Germany, Romania. And we're not even signed to a label. It's only
technology that's made it possible.
I'm still trying to figure out how or if it's going to be possible to make a living without the participation of a label at all. Because unfortunately the artists out there who are making real money are all signed. Yeah there are a few exceptions.
I hear that Napster, which was a beacon of hope for artists who want to
circumvent major label conglomerates has begun signing deals with those
labels. So will the 'revolution' happen? I hope so. It certainly
feels like some big change is underfoot. I mean I'm being interviewed
by a magazine which only exists electronically. So my thoughts, which
originate as electrical impulses in my brain are then transmitted electronically
to Starvox, which disseminates them for its readers, where they return
to electrical impulses in those readers brains. It's kind of sexy
in a cerebral-electroniconjugal way. I'm in your head right now.
M Y S S O U R I NEWS
Myssouri will perfrom Friday, Jan 19th at the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta for the 30th Anniversary of WRAS 88.5 (previous home of DeadAir). Doors open at 6, Myssouri will begin promptly at 7. For more in fo, see WRAS.ORG.
will also perform at the Benefit for Jeremy Wilkins on Thursday, Feb. 8th
at the Echolounge in Atlanta.
Jeremy, a key member of UNDERWATER, was injured during a sledding accident and has no health insurance. Also playing are Crybaby, Adom,Dropsonic and LARVAE.
$7 at the door helps our friend fix his back.
is scheduled to perform a live soundtrack accompaniment to F.W. Murnau's
classic silent film "Nosferatu"
as part of GSU's Cinefest, 2 nights in late February. Details to come...
Myssouri.com, the official Myssouri website, is on the verge of full re-launch. Keep an eye out for drummer/designer/webguru Chris Jansen's stellar work.
our new 5 song EP, will shortly be available for international credit card
purchase thru CDBaby.com.
It is currently available in Atlanta stores. Malamerica is out of print, but a DAM Cd of Malamerica highlights is available through our Mp3.com/myssouri page for only $6. Also, the entire FurnaceSongs EP is now posted for download.
Long Road to Memphis
A Conversation with the Infamous Mr. Paul Morden
(exclusive photos provided courtesy of Mister Morden)
Fate has some how conspired to always keep me a few states away from Mr. Paul Morden. And perhaps that's a good thing. He's convinced that I stalk him from afar (the only polite way to do it) and that may be true because I've been a rabid fan ever since I heard The Brickbats on a Neue Aesthetik comp eons ago. The Brickbats became one of my favorite bands and have led the way, I believe, in the growing popularity of Gothabilly bands (they were doing it before it was even called Gothabilly). [See StarVox's previous CD review, interview and Paul's tour diary in our Archives]
this summer, our paths criss-crossed as I drove out to Seattle from
Atlanta and he to LA from New York. We probably passed each other at some
nasty truckstop piss-hole in Kansas and never even realized it. Fall came
and went and winter finds Paul back in New York. It's been a long couple
months for Paul and where has it gotten him? Well, on the long road to
Memphis. Memphis Morticians that is. Check it out...
Blu: So I know you're back in the North East now; what was Southern California like and why were you out there?
Mr Paul Morden: I found California in exactly the same condition as I had left it five years ago – which is odd because I would have figured that some one would have cleaned up the mess after all these years. I originally went out that way to do some work with Gitane and clear my head, take a vacation from New York and see what the “Wild” West was all about. Frankly, I feel that is somewhat of a misnomer as it wasn't very wild at all, in fact by East Coast standards I felt California was pretty tame.
Blu: What was it like to work with Gitane Demone?
Mr Paul Morden: Refreshing and frustrating at the same time. We had a few disagreements and when I say “disagreements” what I really mean to imply is something much closer to “deathmatch”. But we also clicked very well the majority of the time. I can't say enough good stuff about Gitane, she's certainly earned all of the eminence that she has received. All in all, we made some great art and music together and never recorded a bit of it. I learned a great deal from her.
Blu: Any funny stories from the concerts out there?
Mr Paul Morden: By far the most interesting place I played was in Anaheim, basically these promoters had rented out a strip club and brought in their own PA. There was a brass pole in the middle of the stage and little cautionary notes about how “one should not touch the customers” in the dressing room. I broke two guitar strings and chased a scantily clad Gitane around the stage with my upright [bass]. Sadly, that was about as exciting as it got out there - no hookers, gambling or gunfights.
Blu: You drove across the country right?
Mr Paul Morden: That's really the only way to do it. VonErikson and I took a team of six horses and a covered wagon all the way across.
Blu: Any harrowing stories from the road?
Mr Paul Morden: Of course we were more than just a little nervous crossing the Cherokee Nation but once we got West of the Mississippi we were surprised to find that everything was “Please” and “Thank You”. As I said, not nearly as “wild” as we were told. I'm glad I didn't vote to re-elect Polk this year, his claims of wealth in gold and silver were grossly over exaggerated. I did however, mine a small fortune in borax in Calico.
Blu: Now that you've performed on both coasts - what's the difference between the two as far as live fans go?
Mr Paul Morden: I have taken notice of a couple fairly consistent contrarieties: It seems that the California set tends to be wallflowers, they stand in the back of the room and chat with each other. Attendees at the East end of the country seem to come much closer. From this I have concluded that those who have chosen to settle in the West are far less myopic. Other theories I have revolve pretty heavily around the time/space continuum and positronic engineering but the boys back at Harbottle Labs are still trying to come up with evidence to back me up so we ought not to discuss those yet.
Blu: What did you do - being the ghoul you are, for Halloween?
Mr Paul Morden: I performed community service and spent the day frightening the elderly. I dressed up in a nice white coat and visited all the local hospitals, finding bed-ridden folks then pulling the sheets up over their heads. Most who were coherent enough asked,
“What’s happening to me?”
To which I would reply, “You've just passed away, I'm taking your body to the morgue for an autopsy as we suspect foul play. Do you see a light?”
“You should go towards it.”
At this point in time they would try to reach for the overhead lamps and I would just push them back into bed. This would go on for about fifteen minutes before they would inevitably pass out from exhaustion, at which point I would bring them to the morgue and lay them on the slab. I'm certain they all awoke to much hilarity, but by that time I was busy with the next ruse. I love to brighten the lives of others who would otherwise be lonesome.
Blu: What were Corey and DW doing while you were gallivanting in the sun?
Mr Paul Morden: I've heard a couple different rumors, but the cablegram was out during my stay so I can not really be certain what sort of nefarious activity that pair have been getting themselves into.
Blu: Did you get a tan?
Mr Paul Morden: I did. I have it preserved in a mason jar of Thanatoid Gliscoene on my mantle as a bibelot, it's a very impressive specimen.
Blu: Is there a gothabilly scene on the West Coast or did you not notice?
Mr Paul Morden: The scenery is by far some of the most impressive I have had the good fortune to see, however none of my machines indicated even trace elements of gothabilly. At first I suspected my findings were erroneous so I re-calibrated my instruments and learned: there was no error - there was no gothabilly.
Blu: What was your favorite place to hang out on the West Coast?
Mr Paul Morden: Although technically not anywhere near the coast, the Empty Pockets Saloon in Holbrook, AZ found me on more than one occasion.
Blu: What lies in store for the Brickbats?
Mr Paul Morden: It's very tough to say at this point, there are talks about all sorts of things: new album, national tour, trip to the moon, movie deals … we'll just have to wait and see.
Blu: What are you currently working on?
Mr Paul Morden: The Memphis Morticians, that's my undiminished point of convergence for now; writing a tremendous amount of songs, rehearsing three times a week, booking spectacles up and down the East Coast and preparing to get into the atelier and make a damn fine sound recording.
Blu: How do the Memphis Morticians differ from the Brickbats? Is what we know of Paul Morden still recognizable in a different context?
Mr Paul Morden: Well straight away, I'm playing guitar in the Morticians so it's a completely different angle for me. The overall sound is significantly more organic and raw … a lot less complicated than what I was known for with the Brickbats. I can't safely liken the sound to anyone contemporary, at this point in time all I can tell you is that it's definitely Swamp Rock, it's creepy as hell and it's a lot of fun! This is the creeky clank that I've had stuck in my head for a few years now and I'm really happy to be cranking it out. While, doubtlessly, it has a lot more of a “black water” feel than Brickbats fans are used to hearing I think people who really know what I do aren't going to have any trouble at all hearing my influence with this new collective.
Blu: What does the future hold Mister Paul Morden?
Mr Paul Morden: An awful lot of work. Given the basic priorities: the Memphis Morticians record and more than likely a tour to follow, I'm about to put a solo album in the works. The sort of stuff I've been very mindful of lately, lonesome old traditional country songs. Songs dealing with soldade, duende, drinking, misery, loss and train wrecks. This stuff has been eating away at me like crazy and I've got to pay some attention to it and just put it out there for anyone who's interested.
Blu: That's a great segue into my next question, I've heard a few rumors that you're somewhat of a hillbilly and that your favorite meal is chicken-fried steak. Is there any truth to that?
Paul Morden: Actually, there is. It's all true and I've grown
very tired of hiding it. I grew up on a farm, we had horses, chickens,
cows, trees, swamps the whole thing. It was a pretty big influence on me
as a child and recently I've just decided to give in and let it go where
it wants to.
Blu: So why do they call it chicken-fried steak if it's not chicken at all? Answer THAT one!
Mr Paul Morden: “Chicken-fried” actually refers to the way it's prepared, deep fat frying, the “eleven herbs and spices” if you will. It's not at all uncommon to have chicken-fried chicken, in fact a lot of things are prepared “chicken-fried” that most folks wouldn't dream of, like pickles, okra, corn bread dough …
Blu: What is your 2001 New Year's resolution?
Mr Paul Morden: At first I was going to say “retirement” but on second thought I think I’ll just try to be less like most people and more like something inanimate that will blind you if you stare directly at it, like the sun or arc welding.
Blu: What did you want for Christmas and did you get it?
Mr Paul Morden: I could really use an assistant, nevertheless I’ll most likely end up with a bottle of laudanum, which I could also use.
C/O Dysmal Abysmal Recordings
PO Box 217
New York, NY 10013
1- photo by VonErickson
2- photo by Fairbe
3- photo by VonErickson
4- photo by Fairbe
5- photo by by Splatter
6- photo by VonErickson
7- photo by Dzzzd
8- photo by Harbottle and ....
Memphis Mortician Shows!
-Friday, February 23rd @ Dottie's in Atlanta, GA w/ The Gettin' Headstones and The Moonshine Killers
-Saturday, February 24th @ The Dawning (Tokyo Rose) in Charlottesville, Virginia w/ V8 Pussy