“Our private lives and artists lives are pretty much the same thing” – MAMIFFER im Interview

Mit den Arbeiten MAMIFFERs vertraut zu sein, bedeutet zu wissen, was es heißt, wenn das Hörbare zum Wunderbaren wird. Lauscht man diesem Wunderbaren, kann sich bisweilen der Eindruck einstellen, hier feinsten Traumregungen beizuwohnen. “Das Kunstwerk stellt eine Welt auf“, dieser Heidegger-Satz fasst wohl am besten das ein, was das Werk von Faith Coloccia und Aaron Turner auszeichnet. Ihr Wirken überspannt den Horizont als Feier der Augen- und Ohrenlust. Ihr Musizieren ist ein Erzählen mit anderen Mitteln und es entspringt einem Dasein, welches andere Farben trägt. Dabei könnten die bisweilen melancholischen Stücke als Spuren eines übergroßen Verlustes interpretiert werden. Jedoch verharren Faith und Aaron nicht als Reservisten der Verzweiflung. Denn gleichzeitig weicht diese große Schwere in anderen Momenten einer Leichtigkeit, die durch nichts außer ihrer Flügel belastet scheint. Jene, denen Leben nicht nur passiert, pflegen ihre Passionen. Faith und Aaron leben sie.

? What was the initial motivation to found MAMIFFER?

Faith: The initial motivation was to create music on my own and create a new platform for my ideas unhindered by past musical partnerships. I wanted to find out what I could make and do by myself, and I did not wish to be bound by a specific group or parameter.

? What was the initial artistic vision for MAMIFFER and how has that vision evolved or transformed through the history of the project?

Faith: The initial vision for Mamiffer was affected by a series of daily migraines and simultaneous reading of Philip K Dick’s Valis trilogy, paired with an intuition to move from the desert to the Pacific Northwest. At the time I was interested in piano composition, pattern, inherited memory, language origins and deconstruction, intuitive sensitivity and fields of resonance. The project then evolved into work examining self, gynocentricity, feminism, confidence, life giving/death wielding and goddess cultures. It has also transformed into a creative relationship based on partnership, and love. The vision is changing again, I am not sure how yet. I am in a process of reevaluating how I make music. Mamiffer is being stripped down into essentials, base materials, and core elements.

? You have got your own label SIGE. What can you tell us about the label and its releases?How would you define the label`s work?

Faith: SIGE was started so that we could release our own records and some of our good friends and collaborators records. We wanted to have a personal hand in all aspects of the record manufacturing process. We create small editions, and identify with independent, experimental, abstract composition and unconventional song forms. We see what we release crossing lines between avant garde, underground metal, and classical composition combined with the spirit of dissidence. Lately for 2014 we have come to see this quote as inspirational for SIGE: “And where the words of women are crying to be heard, we must each of us recognize our responsibility to seek those words out, to read them and share them and examine them in their pertinence to our lives.” – Audre Lorde. This we also apply to artists that may not “fit” into a certain genre of music. We feel are important to support and help share their voices. Here are the upcoming releases for 2014: Mesa Ritual (William Fowler Collins and Raven Chacon) LP/ CS, Death Blues (Jon Mueller) 2xLP, Daniel Menche & William Fowler Collins LP/ CS, Black Spirituals (Zachary James Watkins and Marshall TrammellLP/ CS, Mamiffer CS and new book, MARA CS, Old Man Gloom2xLP/ CS, OakeaterLP/ CS, Menace Ruine 2xLP, Ides of Gemini LP; Re-ssues: Mamiffer/ Oakeater CS, Greymachine “Disconnected” 2xLP over-run edition of 50.

? Faith, your book MAMIFFER “Mare Decendrii” was just released. What can you tell us about the developing process?

Faith: It took me a very long time to make and edit. I used a process of subtraction from all of the documentation and inspirational materials of the time period that Mare Decendrii was written and recorded. I scanned over 20 rolls of film and did post production to the edits, and also scanned my paintings and photographs of paintings. For the design of the book, I used accidental placement for the images on the cover and was inspired by Joseph Beuys for the placement of the interior images. The composition in the book for “Eating Our Bodies” was written by me, and then initially transcribed by Eyvind Kang, who also did the string arrangements, and the final notation was done by Brianna Atwell. The Japanese text was translated by Tadashi Hamada.

? How did you get first interested in photography?

Faith: My first photo class in high school was very motivational, and so were the photos I saw in some magazines.I was curious to find out how certain moments were captured, and how a camera became an invitation to see into the lives of others, or create a life of narrative, as in almost a personal propaganda, like what you capture and show can become your reality. I thought photography was magic. My dad also had a Minolta 35mm in the house, and I started using that in high school. There was one photo supply store in the town I grew up in, and the owner was very enthusiastic about helping me with photography. He was happy a teenager wanted to become a photographer in the old ways he grew up in. He helped me put together a dark room to develop photos and film in the bathroom at my house, where the development trays were in the bath tub!

? What kind of equipment do you use and how do you find concepts, ideas and how do you realise them?

Faith: the equipment I use for photography: Mamiya 645, calumet cambo 4×5 camera, minolta 35mm, and various old cameras. The film I use: Fuji E6, Illford B&W, and various very expired films. I was using Polaroid Type 55(for 4×5), but I cannot get it anymore. For artwork and books I use a Singer sewing machine from the 1960s and I make pigments and mediums as well as using traditional supplies for painting. For charcoal drawings I use charcoals from our fire place and old drawing supplies from my grandfather from the 40s and 50s. We do a lot of printing using an Epson3880 printer. And I use Epson film scanners. For music and composition at home I use a Steinway upright piano and for recording I use Yamaha c7 Grand. On tour( and some recording) I use a KORG SV1, Ampeg SVT4 pro head, and SVT cab. For a microphone live I use a SM57. The only pedal I use is a 1975 Japanese fuzz pedal called a MICA, and in House of Low Culture I use a pedal called a Moog Fooger thats broken, and about 7 Sony dictation tape players. For realizing ideas: I find concepts and ideas from a source within, and I string chance images and situations and personal documentation together to form a narrative. I love to collapse time and space, superimposing different times and places together to create a solid idea or to hold a place of feeling. I pull from a collection of photographs I have taken, like a personal catalogue or archive of documentation to create. And I use a carefully devised system of delivery, as a platform for presentation: documentation, index and archive to contain an intuitively created event.

? How is the workload between the both of you divided? Are there any differences between Aaron and Faith in private life to Aaron and Faith as artists?

Faith: For SIGE: The workload is divided equally, we both decide which people and artists to work with and what formats to use. We both do the artwork and design for the releases. I do a lot of the assembly, stamping and design layouts. We both handle mail order and shipping. Aaron deals with PR and direct contact with our printers. As for music, we share in projects equally and provide critical feedback for each other in our individual art and music projects. Our private lives and artists lives are pretty much the same thing. Maybe we leave a lot of drama to our music and artwork, and take it out of our personal interaction. Our home life is calmer and more mundane than our art, but that seems to be where the empowerment is, in mundane events.Maybe if people saw us at home they would think we were very boring? Haha :)

? You all grow your own fruits and vegetables. How has that influenced your daily living? In your opinion, has this changed the world?

Faith: We do not grow all of our own food, but we grow a lot of it. The food we have grown has taken up a lot of time and I have learned a lot by failing and also accidentally succeeding, and preparing for the food that will come has been a long and rewarding process. This year we will grow most of our own food. It has influenced daily living based on the seasons right now, and it depends on the moon phase and when the sun is out (which can be rare in the PNW). I have to take advantage of it when it is sunny to work in the earth. It also creates a good structure to our lives, and routine. Every little change, act of dissidence, or move toward becoming self sustaining changes the world, at least by promoting and fostering the positive energy of creation. Taking into your own hands the power to give and sustain life, wield death and then to re-generate life from rot and decay- has a ripple effect. It is as if 1 positive action created by someone can undo the “power” of 10 negative actions made by someone else. It seems to create a balance that is needed.We have had a positive effect on both friends and neighbors, who have been inspiring to us also.

? How do you avoid the global hysterics and those always in a rush? Which types of refuge are maybe even holy for you?

Faith: Living on a forest island helps us to avoid the stress of cities and freeways, but we had internalized this stress from having lived in Los Angeles and Boston for so long. It has taken a couple years for me to learn how to not feel rushed. Types of refuge for me are: playing piano, home life, making and eating a good dinner at night, sleeping, working in the earth, warm water, hiking and exploring, ghost towns, abandoned places with “treasures” from the past occupants, nice hotel rooms in foreign countries, cat encounters any where and laying down in the snow at night. A new refuge for me is driving on tour with Aaron. We have had some beautiful experiences talking and watching weather and nature from the van.

Aaron: Living in a quiet place is crucial. After living in cities for years it was time to step outside that and I feel it’s been really good for both Faith and I. It’s still easy to get caught up in the rush of the world, but it now feels very unnatural to me. Being in a rush usually lends itself to making mistakes, as does thinking based on old patterns/habits rather than on conscious choices grounded in my present experience. It has been a conscious effort for both of us to avoid getting caught up in the rushed mentality of the western capitalist patriarchal culture, but of course it still happens from time to time since we have been born and bred in it. Having a home life and being dedicated to it, making art, experiencing nature, and cultivating a life based around compassionate/loving ways of thinking and acting help keep me grounded.

? It seems to be as time has passed that you all live what one would call a sub- or counter cultural life. Is this a fair description? How important is a holistic approach to you?

Aaron: Yes, I think that is a fair description. Living life with a keen awareness of self and how we affect the world around us is very important to both of us. Many aspects of the systems people have devised for living are not sustainable in the long term, and very often destructive. I want to do my best to counter-balance this in the choices I make in my own life. Additionally, part of my motivation for putting work out in the world is to offer a perspective that differs from mainstream cultural values with the hope of connecting with others who are also seeking alternate paths through life.

? When you all look back at the past year, what are the first positive and negative things that you can remember?

Faith: From 2012: I can remember many positive things such as touring in Japan with Earth, touring in Europe with Menace Ruine, singing in the tour van and at venues with Geneviève (from Menace Ruine), seeing Oxbow as a duo live in Karlsruhe, having the good fortune to play music with B.R.A.D, Joe Preston, Daniel Menche, Aaron and Jon Mueller, and also the experience of recording in a Pori church in Finland with Circle, and hanging out with them in a cabin in the woods, and making a record with Alex Barnett. From 2013: I can remember positive things such as: Growing abundant vegetables and fruits, touring with Alcest and Anathema on Mamiffer’s first US tour, becoming wonderful friends with Alcest, and being able to see and stay with all of our good friends all over the country. Blackest Ever Black putting out the Alex Barnett/ Faith Coloccia record, working with Daniel Menche, and hiking with him and his girlfriend, having the opportunity to perform with Julie Tolentino, Black Spirituals, House of Low Culture, and Sad Vicious, recording and mixing our full live set in the studio in a day and a half with Randall Dunn, starting the new Mamiffer full length, and surviving a sort of “near death” experience. This last thing stands out as being the most important.It is very personal and it embodied both positive and negative, and ultimately changed our lives and me forever. It is one of the most profound things to happen to me and I am thankful for the new positive perspective it has given me. I can see that there is no time to waste on this earth.

Aaron: 2013 was a year of birth and death, beginnings and endings. Hydra Head has come to an end of sorts, SIGE is taking more shape. My life as it was tied to Los Angeles is really almost over at this point, and our lives as part of the community here in Vashon are becoming more firmly rooted. The final release of anything new from ISIS is now out in the world and I’ve gotten a lot of new projects started or released. Some old friendships and working relationships have ended and new ones are blossoming. This feels like the second biggest period of change and growth in my life since leaving home at 17 and establishing myself outside of the context of the place and family in which I grew up, and that feels like a very, very good thing.

? Did the end of Hydra Head bring some personal injuries to you all? Is there a feeling of disappointment that still lingers?

Aaron: My feelings about it change from day to day. There have certainly been some painful aspects about the way it ended, but stopping new releases for the label has given me the opportunity to fix some problems that should have been addressed long ago. There’s a number of things that I would go back and do differently with the perspective I have now, but there’s also many wonderful things that have happened in my life that wouldn’t be the same if it weren’t for the existence of the label and the paths it opened up. I am disappointed in some of the people I chose to work with and in how I handled myself at times, but I never imagined in the beginning that the label would accomplish so much and work with so many great artists – and that feeling of positivity outweighs any regrets I have about mistakes that were made along the way.

? Are there artists and projects with which you feel some kind of mental or musical affinity?

Faith: Aaron, Giséle Vienne, Geneviève Beaulieu, Jessika Kenny, Sera Timms,Meg Cranston, Gilda Davidian, Akina Cox, Stéphane Paut, Jussi Lehtasalo, Mikka Ratto, Eyvind Kang, Daniel Menche, Alex Barnett, Andy Ortman, Christopher Forgues, Jon Mueller and Death Blues, Joe Preston, and Mary Kelly.

Aaron: Many, which is part of the reason I’ve been involved with record labels and various musical projects for so long. It would be hard to make a comprehensive list, but if you look at the list of artists released by Hydra Head and SIGE, especially those with whom we’ve done multiple releases, that would be a good pointer towards some of the relationships which have been the most formative and meaningful.

? What music or art is inspiring you at the moment?

Faith: Music: Aaron, Diamanda Galas “The Divine Punishment”, Arvo Part, Toru Takemitsu, Xenakis, Kevin Drumm, Daniel Menche, William Fowler Collins,Menace Ruine, Lungfish, Oxbow, True Widow, Black Spirituals, Helen Money, Promise and the Monster, Vangelis, Richard Skelton, andÉliane Radigue, La Voix Des Notres, Mazzy Star, Fugazi, Alice Coltrane, Corrupted, Inquisition, “Science fridays” from the radio station NPR, Gloria E. Anzaldúa, Audre Lorde, Margaret Atwood, bell hooks, Philip K Dick, Rupert Sheldrake, Julia Penelope,Marija Gimbutas, folk/ Goddess embroidery, rhombus shapes and dot patterns, epigenetics, plant life, Makosha, Giséle Vienne, Louise Bourgeois, archive and index. These are ideas that are inspirational to me at the moment: living without technology, existing without proof (for example, if an action is not shown on the internet, many people will believe it does not exist). Examining, deconstructing and unlearning these methods of competition, hierarchy, white capitalist patricharcy, status based identity, internalized sexism and oppression, gender based identity, ideas of “progress” and methods of domination, habitual judgement and comparison thinking. And focusing on placing value on compassion, love, health, empathy, abundance, sharing, community, friendship based creativity, methods of partnership, and a willingness to understand the things that at first seem abhorrent, frightening, unapproachable, hostile, gross, useless or unforgivable. And trying to create new or tap into old unified fields of resonance.

Aaron: The world of Circle and Ektro records in Finland is always inspiring to me – so many different projects and ideas, and just such boundless enthusiasm about life, music and art emanating from that community! Old Man Gloom toured Japan and Australia with Converge in 2013 which was an important trip for me. It still amazes me what great music Converge has continued to make after so many years together, and the friendships I have with some of the folks in that band as well as those in Old Man Gloom are very important and equally inspiring to me. Being around Faith all the time, hearing her play piano on an almost daily basis and watching her visual art projects unfold is a source of constant inspiration on wonder for me. The fact that our partnership is involved on a personal as well as creative level is one of the greatest gifts of my life. In 2013 I was also lucky enough to play with artists/creators/people like Sad Vicious, Black Spirituals, Andy Ortmann, Helen Money, Julie Tolentino, Alcest, and many others – being part of such an amazing and diverse community of people is one of the best aspects of being a musician/artist and gives me a lot of fuel for continuation of my efforts!

? Is there a basic idea that fuels all of your work?

Faith: If I were to narrow all the ideas down, the one that fuels all my work, is to never stagnate, to not have idle hands, and to always be moving, creating, learning, and uncovering. This way I can have a dialog with myself and keep a connection to a kind of synchronistic, archetypal, universal conversation and in that sense create my self and the world over and over again. And in that way, supporting life loving resonance.

Aaron: I want to make art and music that makes me feel something in the process of making it, and in experiencing the end results. I also hope to make work that evokes feeling in those that come into contact with it. I am interested in conveying my perspective on some specific personal/social/cultural issues, but that concern always comes after the emotional and aesthetic components of the work. What drew me to music and art to begin with is how it heightened my awareness of being alive. In making work of my own I am intentionally striving towards deepening my experience of consciousness and spirit. I want to uncover the connection between the outer world and my own interior existence, and making art and music is the best process I have found for enacting this.

? When did you first know you were going to be, or perhaps already were, an artist?

Aaron: I was interested in art and music from a very early age – as soon as I knew what it meant to make a life around a specific pursuit, I knew it would be art and music for me. I consciously remember telling my parents I wanted to be a “professional” artist and musician from about age 8 or 9 onwards. I always believed it was possible, and following this belief is a part of what actually made it happen.

? How important is one’s biography for the artistic endeavour?

Aaron: Life experience you mean? I think it’s extremely important. Being fully immersed in my creative life means being aware of what is happening inside me, around me, what has already happened in my life, and what I want to happen in the future. All of my most profound life experiences are have shaped my work and my outlook on the world. I cannot separate life and art – and at this point I see them as the same thing.

? What significance do you see, that you have found a form that has allowed you to express yourself? Do artists/musicians have such a privilege?

Aaron: I think it’s crucial to my existence. Without some form of creative outlet in my life I would’ve withered a long time ago. I believe everyone has the capacity to create in some form or another, but not everyone finds that path to that in the course of their lives, and I feel extremely grateful that I’ve been fortunate enough to do so. I think there are infinite ways in which to be creative, but making music, drawings and paintings are the most satisfying outlets for me. Destruction, consumerism and complacency are the easy choices we are offered in our capitalist-patriarchal system, and passionate nurturance of the human spirit through creative activity is a great way to counteract those forces of oppression.

? Are there moments where you listen some of your work and suddenly you are reminded of an event that was tied with this specific piece? Is there perhaps a small story that you’d like to tell to our readers?

Aaron: No, but it can bring with it the sense of being immersed in an emotional atmosphere from the time during which the work was made. It’s like remembering a dream where the specific events are unclear, but a powerful feeling-sense of the dream lingers. Occasionally environmental details will surface, mostly visual: the rooms the music was made in, the faces of the other people involved, etc.

? Are there certain fixed points within the project when a piece of music is considered to be ready?

Aaron: If I’m working on something on my own I usually stop at the point where the piece is as close as possible to what I’m hearing in my head. I actively listen to songs as they’re being built to find what might be missing – a sound, note or texture I want to hear that isn’t already there, and then I work towards finding those elements. I also try to stop myself from working on a song before I get tired of it – it’s essential to me that a song have a life of its own and not be over-worked. If I’m making music with other people, the finishing point is where everyone involved agrees that the song is the best it can be with the inclusion of everyone’s ideas, and that the combination of all those ideas add something to the song. This also means being willing to carve away what isn’t necessary.

? What role does atmosphere play in your work?

Aaron: Tangible atmosphere is something I’ve always been drawn to in the work of others and something I’ve intentionally tried to cultivate in my own work. The development of atmosphere is a major part of what makes a work feel complete- it has to create a believable and immersive environment, which in turn provokes internal responses, and at its best alter the perception of the listener/viewer.

? What do you think about Kickstarter and Bandcamp? Do you feel that nowadays such options are useful alternatives for musicians?

Aaron: I think a lot of it depends on how people use it, and I definitely have a longing for the way things were before the internet radically altered the world of music. On the positive side, I like that music is so readily available to people everywhere, and that artists have direct platforms for releasing albums themselves in an efficient/cost effective manner. The thing that’s problematic is that so many people who use Kickstarter don’t seem to be following through with their promises to the people who are supporting their campaigns. As far as things like Bandcamp, the biggest problem there is that there’s just so much music being constantly pumped out through those outlets that it is eroding people’s attention spans, and making careful/deep listening a much less prevalent practice. And then there’s the problem of people just listening to music on tiny computer speakers, which to me is funny because I’d always imagined technology would improve how people hear music rather than degrade it!

? In Germany copyright laws are currently being strongly debated. Easily said, are there any claims over there that create a feeling of free downloads? The artist is easily dispossessed, are there any such discussions like these in U.S., and if so how do you take these discussions?

Aaron: It’s hard not to feel a bit upset when people are just stealing music that I or we have put a lot of time and money into making, but I don’t know what can be done about it at this point. Fighting it is a waste of time I think, same with worrying about it excessively. It’s easier than ever for people to take advantage of artists, but at the same time artists have often been on the losing end of commerce, long before the advent of digital downloading. In the end, people who are determined to make music will make it regardless of whether people are willing to pay for it or not. It’s becoming harder now in some ways, but at the same time making art isn’t fun unless there’s a challenge involved – part of the challenge we face now is making sure that we produce records in a way that people actually want to spend the time and money to get the physical product.

? Aaron, you are also involved into other projects. Could you tell us something about them and are there any plans for releases?

Aaron: I want to do so many things and work with so many people, and I think I say yes to projects more often than I should! At the same time I feel really lucky to be doing everything that I’m doing and know that it will all ultimately get finished – even if it takes a long time. Right now Faith and I are finishing a new Mamiffer album which has been in the works for over a year. We’re also working on new music with Daniel Menche – not sure what form or name that will take, but we should have something out later in 2014. I’m also almost done with a collaborative album with William Fowler Collins, later this year Old Man Gloom will finish some new recordings we started in late 2013, and hopefully I’ll make a second album with Split Cranium. There’s some other stuff in formative stages as well, but I want to wait a bit before discussing those in case they don’t pan out as I hope they will…

? What can you tell us about your future plans?

Aaron: I just want to keep making music and art with the people I love in different places all over the world, and have time at home to enjoy the daily rituals of eating, sleeping, fires, and walking in the woods. Working on a lot of the specific projects listed above is definitely central to my plans, but I also want to be surprised by life and remain as open as possible to whatever may happen in the year upcoming. Fostering a willingness to encounter and remain present in the unknown is a big part of my daily life and definitely an ongoing project for the future….

? Final words…

Thank you very much for the interview!

Fotos: Faith Coloccia, Aaron Turner

(Interview: D.L., S.L., CVG)

 

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