An Interview with Aaron Turner and Faith Coloccia
*Note: The English transcript of the interview withFaith Coloccia and Aaron Turner follows a really amazing, genre-bending introduction in Hebrew. Too bad you can't speak Hebrew, huh?
טוב, תכלס אני די מתרגש. זה אולי נראה או נדמה שזה קורה לא מעט ההתרגשויות שלי, ויש מצב שאולי הגיע הזמן לבדוק למה אני כל כך מתרגש כל הזמן, אולי זה כל הבננות שאני אוכל בזמן האחרון, אבל הפעם יש לי זכות מלאה. יש מעט מאוד אנשים, אפשר לספור אותם על יד אחת, שעיצבו את החיים שלי דרך המוזיקה שלהם. מוזיקה שהיא לא סתם משהו נחמד או אפילו יפה אלא מעוררת השראה ובעיקר מלווה אותך בחיים שלך כמו חבר טוב. וזה כי אני דפוק, כן זה נכון, ויש לי ספרים, גם לא הרבה מהם, שהם חברים טובים שלי יותר מרוב האנשים בחיי, אבל זו ההרגשה – חבר טוב שמראה לך ארץ חדשה ונשאר לשתות קפה, למרות שהוא לא באמת שם והוא הזייה בראש שלך. בסדר.
ארון טרנר פרץ לחיי ב-2002 עם צאת אושיאניק, אלבום המופת של Isis, להקת המופת שלי חיי, אולי יחד עם Fugazi ו-Megadeth. הייתי שבע ממטאל, שבע ממוזיקה בכלל, ופניתי לאינדי חסר נשמה. שהרי אינדי חסר נשמה הוא המקום שבו אנשים שאוהבים מוזיקה אמיתית הולכים למות. ואז זה קרה. זה היה כבד, זה היה סופר חכם, זה היה מלא חיים. ובדרכים רבות ומשונות, יחד עם The Mantle של אגלוך, כנראה גם אלבום המטאל הכי טוב והכי חשוב שיצא מאז שהתחלפה הקידמות של האלף. כנראה לפני גם. וזה הצית לי את החיים מחדש.
מאז ועד היום, המעקב אחר פועלו של מר טרנר היה ועודנו משימה לא פשוטה. היה את אייזיס, ואז את Old Man Gloom, ואז עוד מיליון הרכבים, שפעם אשכרה עשיתי פוסט רק עליהם. אבל הביאה מחדש של ההשראה שהוא הביא לחיי הייתה דרך Mamiffer, הרכב שבעצם הוא היצירה המוזיקלית העיקרית של פיית׳ קולוצ׳יה ברוכת הכשרונות (צלמת, אמנית, מוזיקאית, מה לא), ונוצרה אגדה חדשה. אולי פה צריך להוסיף שהשניים הם בני זוג, מה שהופך את מאמיפר לפרוייקט אמנותי, רוחני, ומשפחתי. כאלה אני אוהב.
הראיון הזה בעצם בא באמצע תקופה מאוד עמוסה לשני בני הזוג האדירים האלה – למאמפיר יצא אלבום בנובמבר בשם Statu Nascendi ועתיד לצאת עוד אחד בקרוב. אולד מאן גלום, אחרי שהם עבדו על כל העולם ואחותו ושחררו אלבום חדש מזוייף, שחררו בסוף אלבום כפול לקראת סוף 2014 בשם The Ape of God, ואם כל זה לא היה מספיק, הרכב חדש שכולל בשם Sumac שכולל את טרנר, בריאן קוק (ראשן סירקלס, בוטצ׳, ועוד) וניק המתופף של הבפטיסטס, מוציא אלבום חדש בפברואר השנה בשם The Deal דרך Profound Lore, אולי הלייבל הכי הכי במוזיקה הכבדה של הכמה שנים האחרונות. את השיר הראשון ששוחרר אפשר לשמוע פה.
אז אין צורך לומר שהיה לא פשוט לתפוס את הצוות המבוקש הזה, אבל איכשהוא זה הצליח, וללא ספק רגע חשוב בחייו של בלוג חסר חשיבות זה, לפחות מאז הראיון עם האיש ההוא, שאת שמו לא נזכיר אבל כנראה שאראיין שוב כי הוא אל. אבל, כרגע, הנה נחזור לאלים הללו. מכיוון שני הזוג מועסקים במשרה מלאה במאמיפר ניסיתי לשאול בעיקר על החוויה המשותפת, אבל לא הייתי יכול להמנע משאלה פה ושם על אייסיז, בעיקר כי אני חצוף. תהנו.
It would seem almost impossible to list the numerous projects both of you have been involved with in recent years, with Old Man Gloom and Mamiffer, of which you are both members, set to release new material this fall, and a much-anticipated new project, Sumac, expected to release a new album in February 2015.
So, I guess a very easy way to start off such a potentially fragmented interview would be to ask both of you what it is you feel drives you to get involved in different musical projects?
Faith: The drive I feel is one of constant questioning and interest in the undiscovered. Music mixed with art is like a map that helps me navigate terrain of darkness, like a guide to enter emotional archeology, or to analyze cellular or inherited memory. The major force for my creation is a constant mystery, I am always intrigued, and so I keep creating.
Aaron: The desire to be involved in multiple projects stems from a couple things. First, it's not possible for me to explore all the areas of music I'm interested in in the context of one project or even two. Each project has has it's own musical personality, and maintaining the purity and focus of these projects is essential to their existence. The second important thing has to do with the people involved and the connections that come through the effort mutual creation. There are many people who resonate with to on a personal level and who I admire as creative entities – to work together is an opportunity to learn more about them, about myself as a creative person, and how to communicate and connect on a spiritual/intuitive level that isn't possible through language and speech.
Both of you seem fully invested in the visual aspect of your art, at least as much as the musical side of things, what with Aaron’s artwork and Faith’s artwork and photography. Could each of you say how you feel this inclination affects your understanding of the music you create, or your creative process in any way?
Faith: Music and art cannot be separate for me, they exist within the same context depending on the artistic concept.
The way I became a musician was through art college, and in my heart I am first an artist that happens to perform music for now as a means of expression. The creative process is very important to me, almost more important than the end result. I find that music, and putting out the record, serves as a multi-functional platform, where sound and image can (hopefully) be read together.
I am always doubting, or wondering if this is "the end" for me in making music, like I ask myself if it has run its course as a means of artistic expression, and then I can move onto the next challenge. However, new challenges always come up for me, and so I know I am still deeply involved in the questions music and art ask of me.
Aaron: Much like Faith, music and art do not exist separately for me – they come from the same place of wanting and needing to express myself creatively. The main difference for me is the process – creating visual work is often a solitary endeavor, where as making music is about regularly being involved with others during the creative process. I need and appreciate both. Ultimately, what I want to discover in myself and what I want others to see is the same in my visual and musical work – the same ideas, themes and feelings are present in everything I do, though they evolve and deepen over time.
There’s a sense, an perhaps I’m wrong, that Mamiffer serves as a vessel or the next step perhaps for much of the experimental or even spiritual aspect of some of Aaron’s past work with Isis. At least a spirituality that I have not sensed in any of the other projects. Would you say there was conscious effort to bring in an experimental or spiritual, almost liturgical, feeling into Mamiffer’s music?
Faith: Mamiffer existed before Aaron's involvement, I created Mamiffer in 2007, he participated in a recording in 2008, and did not become an official member or songwriter until 2009. I do however believe, that Aaron's spirituality has been a very important aspect of working together. If you can see Mamiffer apart from Aaron's past or other projects- you might be able to see that what Mamiffer serves is an expression of and exploration of my spirituality, which existed before Aaron's participation/observation.
Now that we are a couple, and both invested in Mamiffer: our love informs my spirituality which in turn influences what we make together in Mamiffer. This act in conscious on both our parts.
Aaron: My involvement in Mamiffer is as a supporter of Faith's ideas and overall vision. The spiritual aspect of our music is formed through the sounds, structures and concepts as directed by Faith and I am happy to be able to participate in this process with her. There is a spiritual dimension that exists in Mamiffer that I had not experienced in any of my other bands and projects – namely, making music with someone who is a partner, someone I love on a level that is different, deeper and more intricate than friendship. This has created a level of spiritual awareness in the process of making music together that can only exist because of these specific circumstances. I'm glad if this is something people pick up on when listening to the work we make together.
It seems to me that there are a few parallels between the so-called post-metal or experimental music scene since the beginning of the 2000s and the 1980s hardcore and post-hardcore scenes. A lot of unique, almost DIY bands, with a kind of word-of-mouth circulation, and, as was the case with Isis, which, I guess you could call the Minor Threat of the scene if you want to go along with my little theory here, what was perceived as a woefully premature demise. I mean, here I am asking about it, years after the fact.
Aaron: Comparatively, Minor Threat's existence was way shorter than Isis, only 3 years as compared to 13. It seems to me Minor Threat lasted about as long as one would expect from people so young, and Isis lasted way longer than I ever would've guessed. A lot of our contemporaries broke up after one or two full lengths, so I'm grateful we able to accomplish what we did. Though there are bands like the Melvins and Converge who have stuck around for decades, the reality is most bands don't, influential or not. What it boils down to is that it's hard to make music with and live with the same people year after year after year – especially when you consider what touring is like for most people at this level. You spend all day in close quarters with people, and if you start out young, things are bound to change, goals, creative ideas, ideologies, etc. It's great if a band can create a lasting impact regardless of how long they stick around, and I'm happy if anything I do leaves a lasting mark. However, what I'm doing now is always the most important, so I hope people who appreciate my past work will continue to follow what I do for as long as I'm active.
In such a potentially oppressive pressure cooker of both support and expectations, do any of you find it difficult to seek out your own avenues of expression? Is there a sense in which an albeit very loyal your fan base is somehow demanding you of a certain product, one that isn’t always compatible with what you want to do
Faith: My involvement with music is still very young. I came to a point in 2011 where I started to feel very observed, and almost a feeling of oppression of having people like my music. before I had created freely, not knowing there was an observer/listener. Then I realized that people were interpreting what I had to say, teasing out the meaning, finding their own meaning, and I felt very paralyzed and fearful. I can say, that because of my earlier experimental music I was very used to a "negative" audience reaction, so this was a shock for me, to feel such anxiety over people emotionally connecting to the music I created, and liking it. I have come to a better place with that now with more experience, and talking with Aaron about his experiences.
Aaron: When I'm working on something the first and most important thing I look for in the work is if it makes me feel something. If I don't feel connected to what I'm doing it doesn't matter what anyone else will think of it. Beyond that initial personal expectation, I do consider what people will think of what I'm doing and hope that they'll like it. I wouldn't be making art publicly if I didn't want people to engage with it. I've tried not to let outside opinion affect what kind work I make and that it's retained its integrity in that sense. There is more of a conscious consideration of how what I do will be perceived when to comes to placing it in a context – what labels to work with, what sort of bands to tour with, timing, public image, etc. All of those kind of things make a statement about intent that expands on what the work says by itself.
How has the work on the new Mamiffer album progressed and how was it a different writing recording process for each of you? Is there a defined division of labor between you two when it comes to writing/recording?
Faith: The process for the album "Statu Nascendi" (which is released on November 5th) was to record and mix in one day at Avast Studio with Randall Dunn. It was 2 days after we got home from a month long your, and we recorded our live set with him, and mixed it that night, in all it took 13 hours straight.
For the record we just completed "The World Unseen" that comes out in 2015, the process was much different. I have been writing the songs since 2011. Every night I compose or practice and make demos on a 4 track. In August of 2013 Randall Dunn recorded all of my Piano parts on a grand at Studio Litho, and some of the string arrangements with Eyvind Kang. In Janruary 2014 we recorded the guitars, organ, vocals, and started mixing. When we were finished mixing we realized that the record was not right at all, and went through a lot of emotional turmoil and doubt. We started to re-write and re-record some of the material, and thankfully re-mixed the record with our producer Randall Dunn in October 2014.
As far as the division of labor:
I write all of the song structures, piano parts and some of the guitar melodies, and record the field recordings, and initial demos. I also art direct or explain what I need from Aaron and the other participants. Aaron is in charge of recording my vocals and doing rough mixes on a computer, and also in charge of not letting me throw away good piano parts when I feel discouraged, he is very encouraging and an inspirational peace keeper. We both contribute to the lyric writing, after I have worked on the concepts and done research.
Both of you have had some experience as label heads since Sige was formed, and with the effectively deceased Hydra Head. Does having the added business or distribution responsibility, as well as overseeing other bands, affect the way you approach your own projects? Does it make your own work more personal in any way?
Faith: This was our busiest year for both Sige and Hydra Head. This has made me more invested in my work, and time has become a lot more precious, and has lead me to understanding the need to distribute time effectively. In a sense it has created more motivation in me to pursue my music and art, in a much more personal and reflective way.
In the way the music industry, especially what could be called the alternative music industry, is structured today, with Bandcamp and Facebook taking center stage, does it still feel as though you two are working within a defined artistic community?
Faith: Yes, regardless of the internet, I feel that we have a musical and artistic community of good and supportive friends. Sometimes the internet helps to connect to other like-minded people who perhaps pick up on obscure references or symbolism in our records, and they can reach out, and develop a friendship based on ideas and new information.
What are some of the bands you were inspired by or thought of during the writing and recording of any of your new projects, especially the upcoming Mamiffer, Old Man Gloom albums?
Faith: During recording the Mamiffer music we listened to a lot of Kevin Drumm, Daniel Menche, Dirk Series, Killing Sound, Hildur Guðnadóttir, Fugazi, etc. I was reading a lot of Audre Lorde, Barbara Walker, Marija Gimbutas, Adrienne Rich, Philip K Dick, and Barbara Ehrenreich too.
Aaron: As far as Mamiffer, playing together live more frequently was an internal inspiration. It allowed me to see more of what we were capable of when stripped down to a live duo. This informed the music a lot and helped to free my thinking by providing limitations – with only a limited amount of elements to work with I was moved to see them in different ways and figure out how to expand their possibilities. It also made the immediate potential f the music more apparent – there wasn't a long slow process of development in the studio for "Statu Nascendi" – it became what it was going to be as it was recorded, rather than just a foundation for a structure to be built over time. I felt inspired by what we could do in a small amount of time with just the two of us playing a room together live and recording the outcome.
With Old Man Gloom, I was inspired by Carcass and the Dead C – a mixture of brutal precision and barely coherent song-form. I was also inspired by humor – not something that is a visible part of the music I'm involved with. To be able to laugh at myself, the people I was playing with, the music industry and the world itself is at the heart of what OMG means – to be serious and completely absurd at the same time is a recognition of the daily contradictions of being human.
Finally, Aaron, could you say just a few words as to how Sumac or even the idea for Sumac came about, and what should we expect from the new project?
Aaron: I wanted to start a new heavy band that could function on a more full time basis than Old Man Gloom is capable of. I also wanted to take my songwriting in more complex direction, which required a different group of people and the time to explore that. The line of thinking about this is in a way similar to what I described above with Mamiffer – using a small amount of tools and players to create a vast soundworld open to many possibilities. The music I've written our first album is the most gratifying stuff I've done for quite some time, at least as far as riff-oriented rock music is concerned. It's also the most personal – this as close as I've come yet to making the kind of music I've been hearing in my head for many years now. I hope to be able to push that even further as the band develops. I'm very much looking forward to seeing how it develops from here….