Interview by Miriam C.
I candidly admit that often I have serious issues in creating some real introductions for my interviews because I’ve learnt that music has to be enjoyed according your personal mood, without boundaries and without any definitions of any sorts. Well, now you will ask yourselves what is the nexus with all this general idea that I’ve introduced before: it’s simple, really. Mamiffer‘s music has to be listened without being preconceived because as our reviewer Warren described “The World Unseen” in his review: “It is a listening experience akin to floating through an asteroid field”. And I believe him. But let’s go straight to the facts: Mamiffer is an American post-rock, experimental duo composed by Faith Coloccia and ISIS‘s Aaron Turner. On April, the duo has released via SIGE Records their fourth album called “The World Unseen”. And this interview, Faith took some time to delve into the creation and their cross-pollination with arts and multimedia. Just a little curiosity: Faith has handwritten her replies and digitally trascribed all her replies – this fact says all about the care and effort an artist can put in its musical creature.
Hi Faith, welcome to Femme Metal Webzine! It’s a real pleasure to have you here and thank you for find sometime to reply to my questions! Although you have already published your fourth album, it’s the first time that we have the chance to interview you, do you mind shed some light on the history’s band?
Mamiffer started around 2007, as just me writing piano compositions, I also had my friends participate in the recording process of my first record for Hydra Head Records. After I started working with Aaron Turner, I started to compose with his guitar accompaniment in mind, he became a member of Mamiffer in 2009, and we started to play shows together, and release more recordings. I then started to compose for the live setting, and this changed my writing process. Mamiffer is just myself and Aaron, with occasional collaborators, and I am the main song writer.
“The World Unseen” was released via SIGE Records on April 1 and according the press release
“the songs took their shape from source material that stretched back as far as 2011”. What insights can you share about its genesis?
I usually take a long time to write and compose a record and then record the material. Many collaborations also happened during this time period of writing “The World Unseen”, and many field recordings and tours also. The process went on for a long time, with many demos and different versions of the songs, including live versions. We had so much material and I had to decide how to condense it, and what songs went with others. The record was split into 2 different records: “The World Unseen” and Mára‘s “Surfacing” (my solo material), I also decided to go with my own recordings for the Mára record, and use one of the studio versions (called “Mára”) on “The World Unseen”. It was a confusing and complicated process! 2 of the songs also went on to be mixed by Daniel Menche for our collaboration with him “Crater” released last November- and 3 songs became the Japanese record label Daymare‘s bonus disk for their release of “The World Unseen”. There are also 2 songs still left that we are using for a split with the Finnish band Circle.
I was really impressed by how the press released describes with a few concise words your album: ““The World Unseen” is a conceptual and liminal document of numinous connection through an experience with loss”. Would you like to explain more about this by taking your lyrics as cross-reference?
The record was started at a time of experimenting with creation and destruction, and we passed through a time of loss. The record is a document of our attempts to deal with this loss creatively and spiritually. It also documents my attempts to understand invisible influences and communications/messages, and to understand the body vs. the heavens. The material world vs. the etherial world. Lyrics such as those from “Mára”: “Raised from the floor of worship, arises weightless, glowing spark from the tinder” illustrate this ascension into darkness and invisibility and unknowing, leaving the body.
On “The World Unseen”, both jazz aficionado Eyvind Kang, Earth‘s Joe Preston and Geneviève Beaulieu contribute respectively as session violinist, bassist and vocalist. How they got involved during this album’s session? Could you share some information about Geneviève Beaulieu?
I have been working with Eyvind Kang since 2010: we worked on “Mare Decendrii” together and we became friends, we lived on the same island for a while and I am also friends with his talented partner Jessika Kenney. We worked together on the Mamiffer + Circle collaboration and we have performed live shows together. I thought of him for the string arrangements for “The World Unseen” because he is amazing to work with. He has a very great understanding of abstract composition and non-academic language/composition. I wrote “Domestication of the Ewe” parts 1-3 for a tour Mamiffer did with Menace Ruine in Europe in 2013. We shared a van with Menace Ruine and Genevieve and I would sing together. At the time, I had no confidence in my singing ability and I was afraid to project my voice and ideas, she helped me to practice and find my voice. We are good friends, and often we talk a lot about our musical process and lyrics together by sharing creative criticisms and observations. She is a very powerful woman with an amazing and huge voice and Menace Ruine is one of my favorite bands. Joe Preston and I have been friends for quite a while and him and my husband Aaron have been friends for about 17 years! He and I get a long really well. He came with Mamiffer as a performing member on the previously aforementioned tour and he wrote his parts for “Domestication of the Ewe” during that time and so it made sense to have him perform on the record also.
The great singer-songwriter Marissa Nadler during a takeover at gorillavsbear.net in occasion of her new album “Strangers”, she took some time to praise “The World Unseen” with the track “Mara”. Now, if you should do the same with “Strangers”, which track will you choose?
Yes, that was a great surprise and it’s really awesome! I respect how she works, her abilities, music and friendship. I would definitely choose the very last song “Dissolve” from “Strangers”. It is such a simple and striking song, it sounds very true.
The press release quotes and states that Mamiffer‘s “The World Unseen” can reflect “Arvo Pärt‘s delicate minimalist beauty, Thomas Köner‘s narcotic pulses of noise, and Richard Pinhas‘ s sublime textural patterns”. In what way has the art and imagery of the aforementioned artists influenced the composition of the record?
These are all artists that helped me know that I was on the right path with my compositions. I feel a sound and conceptual kinship and emotional resonance to their process. I am also very interested in music that reflects a hallucinatory or transcendent/4th dimensional state, like drugs without drugs, spiritual resonance contained in sound, sound as a physical force and how listening can be a prayer: these artists can also reflect these ideas.
Browsing your discography, the peculiarity that stands out are the multiple collaborative albums that during the years you have recorded along with Locrian, Circle and Daniel Menche. I’m quite curious to know, in this specific case, how everything get organized and from who originate the idea for a collaboration?
Most collaborations arose out of friendships or a mutual interest in each other’s music. Most of the time we have initiated the collaboration. In the case with Daniel Menche, our collaboration was created and formed out of hanging out while hiking together and making field recordings together. Sometimes organizing the details of the collaborations is hard and time consuming, although everything always comes together. I learn so much from collaboration, it is good to be made uncomfortable and have an outside input and invite people into your creative process.
“Parthenogenesis”, along with “Flower of the Field II”, represent the two singles that you’ve chosen for promote “The World Unseen” and in addition you’ve also shot a video clip with Daniel Menche. Would you like to tell us more about these fantastic two songs and the promo clip?
The video was made with footage I took of fleeting light and shadows in the winter projected onto the walls from outside our house. These videos were manipulated by Daniel Menche to represent the space of incompleteness or limbo, the sense of holding or waiting. Trying to represent abstractly a very “present” moment in time without start or end, a sort of eternal “now” of the mind and body, sometimes brought on by illness or healing. This is what the song “Parthenogenesis” is about. The title is a reference to “virgin birth” or creation without man, replicating the self such as snakes and rabbits in captivity still do. “Flower of the Field ll” is a song about coming out of the other side of this holding space, of being shocked back into reality, coming out of the other side of illness and rising up out of the bodies fever dream or hallucinations. The words in the title are a reference to the biblical quote “Their glory is like the flower in the field, when all flesh is grass” also used in a Philip K. Dick book called “Scanner Darkly”.
We must not forget that your husband Aaron Turner is also part of ISIS, Sumac and Old Man Gloom. How does he manage to contribute to 4 different band at the same time and do you have any recent updates to share with us?
He has a lot to do and he stays busy while we help each other. We also have a great booking agent in the US, that helps us plan our year! His new SUMAC record “What One Becomes” just came out on Thrill Jockey and they just got back from an EU tour. SUMAC have toured the East Coast US in August while Old Man Gloom also have played a couple US festival shows in the fall. Mamiffer is taking a tour break until 2017.
Instead, I’d like to spend a couple of words about “Domestication of the Ewe”. Do you mind delve into this amazing suite and explain us more in detail about its musical and lyrical concept?
The title “Domestication of the Ewe” holds my ideas about the first domesticated animals tamed by women or gyno-centric neolithic groups/cultures. The reference to the spiritual ewe/lamb (as older female/mother) is also contained. This starts off the concept of me exploring ideas related to “domestication” of females in Patriarchal culture and what this entails with reproduction and finding the spiritual/erotic in the small and mundane (domestic)- such as cleaning the house, birth, washing floors, breast feeding, cooking, conception etc. I am also invested in communicating to women and their private emotions, the emotions that stay within a woman, within the house. A main inspiration for “Höhle” (cave/womb) was the Aretha Franklin song “Say a Little Prayer”. Trying to understand my matrilineal bloodline,and the emotions experienced by my great grandmother, my grandmother and my mother in all the work they did, their birth stories, the homes they kept, their secret thoughts, dreams and desires, their spirituality and the female friends they shared their darkness with. Genevieve sings with me on this song- which is important- we support each other in many respects and have shared darkness, shadow aspects of self, she helped me find my voice and how to sing my truth. The power that women can have within a system that is not welcoming to them, can be immense behind the scenes. The lyrics are about the “dark mother”, Animal Goddess, the shadow feminine “Life giver/Death Wielder”, someone who can give life and choose to take it away/cut down/harvest.
The part one of “Domestication of the Ewe: Est Ovum” refers to a dream I had about the words Est Ovum, “the Egg”: the beginning. The sounds and sonic qualities in the song represent the travel of the egg, the world between death and life – re-entering the ‘womb door” – and the psychological/hallucinatory/psychedelic aspects of this time. Life and death can be so close, they grace each other and intertwine. Creating life is beautiful chaos, when all the miraculous steps must magically fall into place. Part 3 the “Divine Virus”: it’s this life taking hold within the body from without, the egg implanting, stilling itself in the body- it is a reference to conception and the otherworldly and invisible becoming manifest, the power to create something from nothing.
Where your fans can catch you in the next days? Do you have any plans for a full EU tour?
As said before we toured with the band Sumac in August, maybe we will be back in 2017.
So, Faith, it’s time for your parting words – I really thank you for your time – please greet freely our readers and your fans. Thanks again!