Artist to Artist Interviews
Daniel Menche Vs. Mamiffer/Locrian
Word Sound and Power are all alive in this very thought altering interview/conversation between Daniel Menche, Mamiffer and Locrian. It should be noted that this was Menche’s first time very coming up with questions for someone to answer and from my point of view they were honest and induced some really real answers from Mamiffer and Locrian. Actually the words you are about read have very special quality about them and it’s CVLT Nation’s honor to share them with you. So after the travel into the minds of Daniel Menche, Mamiffer and Locrian…Bless Them That Curse You.
Locrian/Mamiffer/Daniel Menche three way conversation. Daniel Menche’s first time as an interviewer! Read the interview after the jump…
The Austrian composer Gustav Mahler once said: “For myself I know that, as long as I can summarize my experience in words, I would certainly not make any music about it.” This saying certainly speaks louder than words “no pun intended….Oh wait actually it was.” Yet this rings true a bit. Yet most musicians today forget all of this concept and the purest pursuit about creating music: It’s easy to forget the mantra: “Where language ends – music begins”. More so than ever musicians just want to talk, talk, talk, babble babble bable, yadda yadda yadda…. about music.. Maybe that is why it seems that music is dying – we can’t shut the fuck up and truly listen anymore. What is there to say about this collaboration recording when as I am hearing it now, there isn’t really anything to say because it’s extremely emotional and does not really need any explaining or intellectualizing. Explaining the unexplainable seems to be the carrot in front of us donkeys that likes to blabber on about music….or nothingness. Why talk about something that can’t be talked about such as this personal and emotional recording?
André (Locrian): Good question. I think the music stands on its own. It’s a really emotional statement, but it’s also something that I think we’re all really excited about. Unfortunately, we’re not touring on this album, but it’s something that we want people to hear.
This is also a really unique collaboration. Talking about the making of music often leads me to new insights. It helps me to reflect on the creative process and to reinforce what I learned during the process. Mamiffer are phenomenal artists and I had a lot of fun making the album and I also learned so much from them as well as the process that we went through in order to create it.
Terence (Locrian): Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent”. I have always enjoyed that, especially when the culture now is very heavy into everything but the music.
Faith(Mamiffer): I am really happy you feel the way you do about our record! The recording process was a great experience, and working with Locrian has been a very important time for us.
It is good to hear you talk about NOT talking about music or artwork! I have struggled with speaking about my music and artwork over the years, and find that I can better communicate through music. I am beginning a new relationship with words, yet what you say is a relief to me. This quote from a book I’m reading by Louise Bourgeois gives me strength in my hesitation with language:
“An artists words are always to be taken cautiously…the artist who discusses the so-called meaning of their work is usually describing a literary side-issue. The core of their original impulse is to be found, if at all, in the work itself…The work is supposed to speak for itself. So whatever the artist says about it is like an apology, it is not necessary….With words you can say anything. You can lie as long as the day, but you cannot lie in the re-creation of experience…”
Aaron (Mamiffer): I don’t wish to talk about making music in the context of interviews. I do it because I want people to listen to what we’re doing, so it’s really out of an obligation to the PR machine and as a means to reach more listeners. I’m not comfortable with the process, though I love talking about music with close friends and collaborators. I want the music (and sometimes the lyrics that go with it), to speak for itself – that’s why I’m a musician and not an author.
There are two references in the bible that mentions the title of this collaboration. One in the Old Testament as follows: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. – Genesis 12:3. The other in the New Testament: But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; – Matthew 5:44. The Old Testament laid out the groundwork for the concept of “Doom” and the New Testament laid out the foundation of the concept of “Hope.” Some would say or argue that it was the politicians who developed the concept of “Hope” to keep socially-minded people under control. And it was the theologians who developed the concept of “Doom” to keep spiritually-minded people in control. Rather big business after all these years?!?!! Imagine all the voters who voted for politicians in the name of “hope” and imagine all the religious types running to the houses of the holy in fear of the “doom.” Without the apocalypse, the church would be outa business! The concept of hope and doom is certainly a human thing and arguably non-existent in the animal kingdom. I would think the animal world would agree with me on this one: “No hope and no doom…just live as strong as possible until death.” And so I tend to gauge music in regards to the ability to ascend beyond hope and doom and I feel this recording achieves this. Not to say it’s a Nietzschean “Beyond Good and Evil” thing but it does side to that concept of sorts. Yes, it’s extremely beautiful and yes, it’s very heavy and introspectively deep…..but not at all hopeful or doom-ful. Do you feel this recording consists of any doom or hope, but rather something beyond?
André: I feel like there are elements of both of those concepts in the album. That’s really flattering that you think it transcends those concepts though. The world isn’t that simple unfortunately. We live at an interesting moment in the history of the world. Humans have used more resources since the end of World War II than all of humanity before that and we keep trying to grow our economy and population and that can only grow so much. I feel a lot of doom over that scenario, or the scenario that humans are going to be the r-selected species eventually. That means that we’re exhausting the carrying capacity of the land rapidly at a time when we’re growing rapidly and eventually our population will drop really rapidly. While I realize this trend and it’s definitely a doomy scenario, I also have some hope that humans will do something to prevent ruining ourselves and other species completely. So the feeling, for me, in this recording, and in all of my Locrian recordings, is uncanny: it’s both doomy and hopeful.
Terence: Well humans tend to think in a binary way right? Good and evil, black and white, etc. I, like many others, have always been more attracted to the dark side of things, the abject. But you need contrast, I mean you need the hope to make that despair all the more deep. So yes I think the album drifts between hope, melancholy and despair. I think this approach make for better art.
Faith: Its great that you think the recording transcends that! I definitely didn’t think about either word “hope or doom” while we were recording. If there is hope represented I feel like its a reaction to the supposed “progress” of societies, technologies, and dominator models of behavior. Like there is a secret hope of mine that these things will fail. It is really exciting for me to use what is left of failure (doom?) Like old useless technologies, abandoned cities, and discarded ideas. Its like living outside of progress and using what you find as a means to create. Finding value in what is deemed worthless. Empowerment in worn out structures. The underground can become strong using the remnants of the past, while everyone else is distracted. I feel like we are part of a new community that is emerging, it is very inspiring and supportive – where there is strength in adversity, beauty in rottenness, power in the forgotten, positive out of negative, truth through the reversal of lies and life out of death. The title “Bless Them That Curse You” exemplifies this idea: feed me with your hatred, allow me to learn from your ignorance, your evil eye fuels my process. This is a really exciting and strong time to be creating.
Aaron: I wasn’t really thinking about the concepts of “Hope” or “Doom” while working on this album. I was trying to find meaning from painful experiences in my life by writing about them. I was interested in finding connection with the other people that I was working with. I was excited by the joy that comes from unexpected musical events that happen by playing with others. Making music, even if it has to do with heavy subjects or harsh sounds makes me feel the fullness of life, partially because I feel comfortable expressing myself through music, much more so than in almost any other way.
Satan seems to be old-fashioned these days. It was fun while it lasted, say in the 80s, but it seems that “entropy” is the new black…err I meant Satan. I remember the 90s television show “Millennium” and how there were two millennium groups: one a religious apocalyptic group, and the other a secular apocalyptic group. Both sides battled each other for the grand ending the control of the world. It was great TV premise for rival gangs of the apocalypse. Now it seems almost happening now in extreme music and art these days. Case example: in metal or experimental genres, there is either a religious doom vibe or a scientific entropic vibe. It does seem that artist/musicians sway both ways these days. And so do you feel this recording and or any of your recordings have an ode to “entropy,” which has a solid scientific concept and not at all religious. Or do you feel there is indeed an internal spiritual warfare going on and the music represents this weight? Needless to say, this recording is “heavy”…but in what way? Define your ouroboros!
André: I don’t think that any of our Locrian releases are either of those categories. I wouldn’t say that those aspects are absent entirely either.
Terence: I can identify those “vibes” but I don’t know if we fit into either very comfortably. And that is ok. I would side ore with “entropy” but I think we don’t judge the breakdown of things, or society, or infrastructure it just is a part of our landscape.
Faith: Aaron and I have been watching Millennium! We are on the second season. We just watched the episode ‘Avatar ‘ where Frank Black says “what I do exists beyond words”. (sort of like your first question!)
As far as entropy goes, I am interested in heat and decay, and personally and spiritually so in the case of “birth, death, rot, rebirth”. These ideas and feelings often find their way into my music. I think the original title for “Corpus Luteum” was actually “She Rots and Ripens”.
My idea of “heavy” in the music I make is represented by sounds in space like a sculpture in a room. The presence of a cold stone face occupying a room. I work towards solid heavy foundations of sound in my compositions, as well as phonetically and linguistically, but not necessarily heavy in content. I want the sounds to have a presence, and to “feel” for others. One reason we mixed this record with Randall Dunn is that he is amazing at separating sounds in space, you can feel the presence of intent.
Aaron: The idea of personal/social entropy does relate to what I was thinking about in the lyrics for The Emperor. It’s about the disintegration of an old way of seeing things, the death of my old life and the patriarchal ideas that defined it. By acknowledging the death of old self and old ideas I’m also acknowledging the beginning of a new cycle in life.
As far as the idea of heaviness goes, it doesn’t correlate directly to the emotional/personal content – it has to do more with aesthetics for me. Low tuned guitars, droning bass synths, crashing drums, really slow moving chord progressions equate with the idea of heavy to me. I don’t think heavy necessarily means loud by any means either – some really quiet and open passages of piano and tape samples have as much or more gravity than pummeling blasts of guitars.
Flat Earth geography vs. wooded mountainous geography. I know that Chicago is FLAT, and when visiting there I got uncomfortable with how flat that city was. No way could I ever live there. Only in thick wooded areas and mountains can I get any sense of inspiration. Mamiffer is based on a remote island in Washington with vast forests, mountains and water. I can certainly relate to the Mamiffer side, living here in the Northwest all my life. The geography of the land simply matches what makes me tick as a creative musician. Yet Chicago really freaks me out; how flat it is and how middle-of-the-land it is. So far away from the oceans and beaches. It makes me shudder thinking about living in middle-USA! There’s an interesting perspective about the three main monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) – they were founded/discovered in deserts by so-called lonely guys hanging out in the dry heat without food, and staring out into vastness…well, there’s a way to get some inspiration! To each their own, right? Geography does play an important role in the imagination and creative spirit. For many, geography does not affect them because they are so technologically-minded and have their faces in their computer screens all their life…thus making very technical, machine-like art and music. One could say that technology is its own geography, but that’s seems to create very soulless art/music. And so the question to throw at you is, does land and environment affect your work? And if so how?
André: I really like living in Chicago, but it also symbolizes a lot of things that frighten me about humanity. I lived around the St. Lawrence River, and the Great Lakes all of my life and Lake Michigan can almost seem like an ocean. I also grew up in the mountains and around some really wild places. Chicago lacks any of that for sure. We have simulacrum mountains: sky scrapers, but I definitely feel like it sparks my creativity to be in this environment more than anything. I think that I have a unique perspective since I spent my early life in the country. Most people in the city lack that frame of reference: they’ve never been some place truly wild. I miss being around wild places.
There are some wild places around Chicago that are truly unique and inspiring, but they are places that you have to seek out. For instance, one of the most beautiful places around here is the native prairie, which is essentially what Illinois would look like if there was more wild land instead of land used for growing soybeans and corn. There’s very little native prairie left in Illinois. Most Chicagoans have never seen the native prairie though so they lack an appreciation for that.
I definitely feel inspired when I’m alone in the wilderness, but there are so many things about Chicago that disgust me that the only way for me to deal with that feeling is to be creative and express it. Take the Chicago River. It flows backwards! It’s the only river in the world, to my knowledge, that does. So Lake Michigan is slowly being drained into the Chicago River which then flows into the Mississippi River. The water in the Mississippi picks up all of the run-off fertilizers and insecticides from all of the farms in that area and then all of that water, which should be fresh, flows into the Gulf of Mexico and a lot of it becomes part of the giant dead zone in the Gulf. Nothing can live there and fresh water is not renewable. Stuff like that pisses me off! Where do you go with that feeling?
Terence: Sure, it does. For me it is more finding land that has been sullied. I find the total erasure of all potential to be very inspiring. Do you know this photographer Edward Burtynsky? He has this series of photos from copper mines and they are beautiful, horrifically beautiful. I mean in the end it isn’t very different then what the Romantics were attracted to right? Ruins and the sublime.
Faith: Chicago is very inspirational to me. It is the reversal of the northwest where we live on a wooded island. I love it and have some really great friends there, but could never live there! Walking through Chicago I notice all the things that get left behind, unnoticed sounds, auto parts in alley ways, abandoned buildings, and all of these things are very inspirational. There is a certain loneliness there that I can relate to. Probably from having grown up in the desert.
The land I live on affects my process and work by giving me a solid foundation on which to work from. Living here in a rural secluded area allows the time to get internal inspiration, from the vast world inside of me that is endless. I find inspiration in inherited memory, divination, sympathetic magic, and through trying to trace my matrilineal/ uterine ancestry with gut feelings, signs and emotions. Part of my inspiration comes from learning how to believe in myself and my processes, and to challenge myself. Being in the north west, a place where you are personally affected by changes in the seasons and by the moon, allows me to commune better with ideas, internal rhythms and the life force. It is easier for me to try to superimpose inherited memory onto the present while in this environment, and rain makes me happy!
Aaron: Though I’ve lived in a lot of different places and climates I can see an uninterrupted thread of continuity in all the music I’ve made regardless of location. I think living out in Vashon and being in a relatively remote area makes it easier for me to concentrate on creative stuff, but doesn’t have a really noticeable effect on the musical results in the end. Personal experience has shaped my music more than anything else. I experienced an emotional/personal/creative diminishment while living in Los Angeles and I think some of that had to do with the place itself – it’s a harsh environment that ultimately brought me further away from my own life force. Being back in a more rural environment has helped me regain a connection with that life force, which is also the main thing I seek in making music.
If there is one word overused and unnecessary to describe art and music these days, it must be the word “esoteric.” It seems to be the new fashionable trend to describe something that can’t be described, which actually is laziness in word form. Yet this brings it all back to the inability to talk about music, so that word “esoteric” gets thrown around way too much. Even the original definition of “esoteric” really doesn’t apply to anything that folks use/misuse that word for: “belonging to an inner circle” or “further inside.” This music is not at all esoteric. but I am sure many will define it as such. Why can’t we all just shut the fuck up and LISTEN: the purest observation and perception of sound and music. I mean we are animals right? Why are we such annoying animals that we have to intellectualize the unintellectualizable…And now I ask thee…to be esoteric or not to be esoteric? That is the question!
André: I think that artists should be able to talk about what they want the listener/viewer to know and what they don’t want them to know. There’s nothing about what we’re doing that we’re trying to keep secret. I don’t think artists should feel an obligation to talk about what they want the listener/viewer to know or not know though. We can tell you about our creative process or ourselves, but in the end, the music, medium, and artwork is the real message. The message isn’t meant to be esoteric, but it’s also not meant to be direct either. It’s art!
Terence: Be esoteric. Who cares if some idiot doesn’t get it, eventually they will and if they don’t it’s probably better that way.
Faith: Its great if someone can get a “one to one” relationship with this recording. I think we need more emotional relationships in music and I agree with your perspective Daniel. Many people sacrifice the emotional to the overly intellectual and suffer as a result and possibly live a half-life. There is an inevitable death awaiting every self. How about instead of intellectualizing the unintellectualizable, we think the unthinkable, and give expression to the unspeakable!
Final question…Crispy Corn Flakes or soft Corn Flakes? Reference:
André: I’ll have whatever Vark isn’t having please.
Terence: Crispy, just like my prison synth tone.
Faith: Coffee instead for me!
I’m a fruit loop type of guy…crispy or soggy as long as it’s fruit loopy!