We are understandably excited about the Locrian/Mamiffer collaborative LP Bless Them That Curse You, out now via SIGE/Utech/Profound Lore. As a result, we fanagled the world's most eloquent pugilist, Oxbow's Eugene Robinson, into discussing the release with both bands. The results of said discussion is below. -BBG
TWO + THREE = INFINITY or: How Mammifer and Locrian will make mad the weary and drown the stage in tears.
by Eugene S. Robinson
A lot of times, well almost more times than not, the math and the mathematicians bungle the fucking job and adding cool to cool just results in everything being half as much instead of twice as much cool. How this happens and why probably has everything to do with the fact that this is more about magic and less about math, and putting Aaron Turner and Faith Coloccia's Mammifer together with the fine young men in Locrian and the results are less about a subtle power and grace and much more about the first hand experiences of loss, failure, and unnamed corruptions.
Forthwith: a chat with AARON TURNER, FAITH COLOCCIA, TERENCE HANNUM, STEVEN HESS and ANDRE FOISY....
Isis at MHOW (more by Meghan McInnis)
EUGENE: The through-line from Isis to this might seem a departure for those who came to Isis via Tool, but less so for those whose first exposure was perhaps something like House of Low Culture and so on, but why this now? Specifically when the environment for "new" and "experimental" is maybe not as welcoming as for something "Gaga" or "Bieber"?
AARON TURNER: Part of the reason why I no longer wanted to participate in ISIS was because over time the "new" and the "experimental" dwindled within the framework of what we were doing, while the "rock" and the "polished" became more and more defining/confining. I lost my way in my personal life over the course of my mid-late twenties, and that wayward wandering coincided with the narrowing scope of what ISIS was making. I made a decision (the wrong one), to chose a personal relationship over having multiple musical projects, and because ISIS was at the time the most developed of these projects, I chose to focus on that one to the exclusion of all others. Now that I've changed some of the more destructive elements of my personal life, and ISIS is no longer operational I am now free to do all the other things I missed out on doing during my "dark years". In some respects being involved in Mamiffer allows me to pick up the threads I dropped years ago in the stuff I was doing in House of Low Culture, Lotus Eaters, Old Man Gloom, and so on.
So your mid-to-late twenties were your "dark years"? Well are you now finding the ship that you totally control more artistically satisfying than the ship you only partially controlled?
AT: Well, I'll say this: making any kind of art where I'm steering the ship is satisfying in a way that group creation can't be, but the reverse is true as well. I feel I need to participate in both scenarios in order to feel fully engaged and satisfied as an artist. Allowing myself the freedom to choose what I want to be doing at any given time is the most important thing for me. In the past I thought I had no choice, and that was the most limiting device of all - the prison I'd constructed for myself. The most liberating change for me overall has been realizing I have the power to choose what I want and need to do, and not to let myself revert to old patterns of feeling bound to any one thing simply because I perceive it to be something I'm supposed to do.
Another thing I'd like to add in relation to this: being part of several groups now where open critique is more accepted is a very positive change, though hard to deal with at times since I didn't really work that way in most creative contexts earlier in my life. Opening myself up this way hasn't been easy, but it's provided a challenge and an opportunity for growth I'd otherwise ignored until now - I confused being open to critique with being weak minded, when actually just the opposite is true.
Mamiffer at Utech 2011 (more by Stefan Raduta)
Is opening yourself up to this when it's your spouse you're dealing with difficult? And then was it difficult to not have this become a Sonny and Cher, Steve and Edie, Captain and Tennille type of thing?
FAITH COLOCCIA: Oh, I never thought of that! So I guess it was not so difficult! In the context of working in Mamiffer together Aaron and I see each other as creative partners first. Our genders and love relationship are secondary to our focus on creating music within the context of Mamiffer.
I feel that our relationship informs our material, but it does not dictate what we do creatively.
I believed it until you said "our genders and love relationship are secondary" Do you really think that's possible?
FC: Yes I do think it's possible. Just because it's secondary doesn't mean it's not important to me. It does serve as an inspiration to us both in many projects, and I love to play music with my partner. But Mamiffer does not exist solely as a platform for expressing my feelings and ideas about my relationship to Aaron.
Our initial connection was based on creative kinship, not upon romantic interest. Our relationship came out of working together, not the other way around. My ideas about song arrangements, specific parts, and lyrical content are about many things other than just the part of my life as defined by my love relationship. Mamiffer is partially motivated by a desire to break out of conventional modes of thinking, including those of socially constructed ideas about gender. Aaron could also make a Mamiffer record without me, and I without him.
Well my music is inextricably connected to my maleness I think but OK. So from Everlovely Lightningheart to the cover art to the song titles that refer alternately to fulminic acid-related blazes to Greek gods of knowledge/wisdom/illumination, there's a relationship to light/heat and ultimately power that you could be accused of steadfastly pursuing if not before this record then certainly through this record. What are you finding significant about making common cause with the lightning bringers?
FC: Well, Everlovely Lightningheart came from a very long poem my old band mate wrote. My use of sympathetic magic is also a factor. (A friend and I used to try to get hit by lightning when we were bored and lived in the desert.) The theme of the record was also originally conceived by Terence (from Locrian) and I in our discussions about a storm we had to get through to get to Chicago to record with Locrian. I had also captured a photo of lightning on the way, which serves as the record's cover.
But my interest in lightning/energy and "weather" in general definitely came from growing up in a desert that only had summer and very mild winter, hardly any seasons or rainy weather at all. Rain was very scarce. I would be really happy when a storm would come. I used to make weather machines when I was little to "call" forth storms to my house.
Now my interest in lightning has to do mostly with internal acts of creation and divination.
FC: Internal acts of creation such as: Ovulation, blood supply creation, fertile body fluids, and contractions. Divination in the form of reading: dreams, weather signs, observation of objects in space and time, and synchronicity.
And this record's themes?
AT: Mostly those things that make me deeply uncomfortable and confused as a conscious human - identity, ego, culturally influenced value systems, self perception vs external perception, struggles with parental figures (both as archetypes and as literal people). Mortality is another unifying theme, though not in the sense of dealing with the topic of death directly - more what it means to be alive and how to fully appreciate and experience that. The subjective perception of reality and how that can be changed through force of will has been a constant as well. I've historically felt afraid of actually talking to people about my thoughts/feelings - positive or negative - so I found other ways of letting it all out. Basically my impetus for making art, and the themes I've chosen deal with feeling I'm inappropriate for life, and figuring out why and how to work with that.
To delve further in to the personal aspects of this terrain is something I don't feel comfortable doing in an interview - but that's why the art and music exists.
And therapy. Well, in the song "The Emperor" you seem to be pursuing a Nietzschean line of God death. Have I got this wrong?
AT: No, you're on the right track, though the content has a very personal/non-metaphorical intent as well. My deification of certain close characters in my life has left me feeling lost, alone and scared at numerous times along my path - this is about coming to terms with that and throwing off the mantle that's kept me crippled.
Is working with Aaron and Faith here constructive artistically or artistically reductive [a la Branca's guitar symphonies]?
TERENCE HANNUM: Constructive totally, we built something. Though we had to reduce a lot as well, for example I think Andre realized he didn't play any electric guitar on the record. I didn't even realize it until he pointed it out.
STEVEN HESS: Yes, BOTH constructive and reductive, and both of those in the most positive of ways. Working with Mamiffer in the studio was definitely a very good experience, for all of us I believe. When you have that many people in a studio at one time, with no "real" songs that you've been rehearsing to start laying down tracks for at the beginning of your studio session, one might panic or start stressing out, but once we started talking and playing ideas/sketches for each other things just started to snowball, but never to the point of there being too much going on, or making the tracks too claustrophobic. There where a lot of very good to great ideas from everyone, some that made it onto the record and some that just didn't work for some reason or another. As far as artistic construction, I feel we all had a sense of when we should add a specific track or sound, and more importantly, when to sit back, listen, and hold off on adding anything else, or removing something completely that was already there, and might have seemed to work earlier. There's a fair amount of improvisation with Locrian when we record and it was a great experience to do this on a larger scale with Mamiffer.
In the end I think we really created a very special record that captures elements of both groups, and how we were all thinking and feeling at that particular point in time. Obviously, I realized that this is not a new way of approaching certain studio situations, I'm sure a lot of us have done something similar, hell, possibly every time your band goes into the studio, but I found it impressive that there were that many individuals involved and it all fused together so smoothly.
Lyrically, your attraction to Ballard, and even your name [I assume the band is named after the musical term and not the tribe of ancient Greeks] seem to embrace a certain absence of human as a desired state of being. Is the messiness of the human condition what you're seeking to control?
TH: I don't think we're trying to control anything, but you are correct it is a response to the chaos. A commentary. We offer no solutions, there are no donations to greater causes or ways of betterment. Each pathway is fraught with downfall, failure and corruption. Obviously Ballard has been an inspiration for many musicians, I think for us "The Crystal World" really lead us to something that was inevitable, beautiful and horrific that gradually outside the boundaries of the novel would engulf all known creation. I would say I turn my lyrical gaze toward tragedy and a negative view of human efforts to improve society, while generating predicaments rife for failure. An encroaching pall.
Failure is a many splendored thing, and you've mentioned it twice in one paragraph. How are you measuring failure?
TH: I guess kind of up against the modern ideals, identifying the contradiction of our consumption. It's troubling to say the least. Where there is the contradiction there is failure and an inability to reconcile.
But given that more contact is just a greater opportunity for failure, isn't this also a desired state somewhat?
TH: I don't think more contact increases failure. Failure is inevitable alone or with others, maybe with others it is more bearable sometimes but most of the time I prefer to be alone. I don't desire failure or the state of failure, it just is whether I approve of it or not. That is not a pessimistic statement, you cannot pass judgment on something that is inherent to our designs.
And any plans to play this stuff live?
Make sure to catch Eugene Robinson with Scott Kelly (Neurosis) and the newly added John Baizley (Baroness) and Toby Driver (Kayo Dot, Vaura) when the foursome play Knitting Factory on Sunday (3/4). Tickets are still available.