Interview by Miriam C.
This interview for me represents in somewhat way a sort of rebirth. For a lot of reasons, that principally have to deal with the personal and work sphere, I had to renunce for a long time to donate some of my time to one of my favourite hobbies: music and writing. So,with this interview I want to in both ways celebrate and continue Femme Metal Webzine‘s legacy – offer and discover together the best artists and music out there. Considering this interview, it’s not the first time that I had the chance to interview Seattle based artist Faith Coloccia (the last time was for her project Mamiffer back in 2017) and now, she’s back with the third album for her project together with Champagne Mirror‘s Alex Barnett. The album, aptly named “VLF” out on 22nd February via SIGE Records, will bring you in an outerwordly journey between science and misticism and it was conceived like a soundtrack; but the last recommendation I wish you to offer you is to just dig throught this interesting interview.
Hi Faith, first of all, welcome back to Femme Metal Webzine and how life is treating you nowadays?
Everything is going pretty good, very busy. I have a 2 year old baby, so I have to be very efficient and finish artwork and music during naps etc.
Although, I had the occasion to introduce one of your many artistic side with an interview completely dedicated to Mamiffer`s latest release “The World Unseen” back in 2016, right now we are here for the third collaborative album of you with Alex Barnett called “VLF”. Before anything else, how and when your friendship with Alex Barnett started?
Alex and I became friends around 2005 when I visited my cousin in Chicago at a place he lived at called Mr.City. My cousin said I had to meet his friend Alex who hand built organs from old church pipe organs and keyboard parts. I went into Alex‘s part of Mr. City and instantly became friends with him and tried to play all the amazing instruments he made. We walked around Chicago at night together recording train yards and thunder/lightning storms. Every year I would visit him and the friends I made there. We would walk past industrial areas and meat districts in sweltering heat and smell rotting animals and overwhelming fumes of burning chocolate from factories, explore abandoned buildings, and climb onto train tracks. We watched and heard rivers of maggots lurching from summer heated dumpsters, the sun was like a blinding heart beat. We would walk over bridges through below zero wind, and across unplowed snowy sidewalks to tiny freezing practice spaces and record 3 minute songs onto tiny cassette recorders. It was a really ripe time right after we had both graduated collage, full of weird possibilities, and the dismantling of all we learned in college, what a cool friendship! He was in a band called Oakeater and I was in a band called Everlovely Lightningheart at the time. Our bands toured together and put out music together on Hydra Head Records. One day we decided to make music together in a controlled setting using the limits of the city we were in and the limits of the instruments available in the studio- just us two. We used these same limits on “VLF”. We always find a way to hang out with each other and make an adventure out of each recording.
As mentioned before, “VLF” is your third joint album with Alex and as the press release states that the album centers predominantly on scientific pragmatism. How both you got fascinated by that so-called “middle earth” where “magic and mystery hold equal footing with science”?
This is mostly the area that Alex is familiar with, he is a scientist, and I am “science curious”. I love the possibilities of reality not being solid, and talking with Alex always affirms this. We discuss how limits are actually holograms and mirages. I am very interested in the knowledge of the body, ancestral memory and intuition, so my kind of “non scientific” approach melds very well with Alex‘s scientific mind. Most of the time we talk about our observations of the people and friends around us, and then relate it to our friendship somehow, almost as if we are each others confidants and we are figuring out a grand trick in perception, or seeing through the mass brainwashing of millions of people. We talk a lot about conspiracy theories and new science, parallel universes, black holes, dark matter, and cold hard facts that are bizarre. A common theme is time, and how to keep it, collapse it, and how to find a way to document it and its movements, including synchronicities and fate.
Naturally, the following question which I propose you is: how you and Alex were capable to concoct a feasible plan on how to properly record this album due to the vastity of the thematic?
We use time and place as a sort of limiter. We pick a studio and use what instruments they have available, and combine this with all of the themes we have been talking about. A lot of the time, sort of like a residency- the landscape and the weather of the studios location finds its way into our music, as do the landmarks that we see every day around the studio. They become part of the story. When we work together it is always an experiment, and we don’t know the final outcome until we mix the record. When we record, we are deep into process and friendship, and when we mix the compositions with Randall, he is like the lens that allows us to see what we have made clearly.
In addition, I discovered that “VLF”, which stand for “Very Low Frequency”, was recorded a converted church called The Unknown in Anacortes, WA by Nicholas Wilbur with production assistance by Randall Dunn (Sunn O))), Johann Johansson). Would you like to delve more into this peculiar process?
We started talking about “VLF” after talking about the Vast Large Array (VLA) in New Mexico. We were originally going to record in an earth-ship in New Mexico or in Marfa Texas, and record ghost towns near there, but I got sick (because I was pregnant!) and we had to postpone. I was still pregnant when we recorded in Anacortes, and we decided to use a more local studio for my convince. Very Low Frequency was talked about in relation to the Vashon HUM (A phenomenon here where I live on Vashon Island): it is a loud murmur from the sea that you can hear after 1AM, who’s origins are debated. We recorded onto tape with Nicholas in 2 days at The Unknown, and then mixed with Randall at AVAST when he was still located in Seattle, WA.
Instead if I should enquire more about the songs contained in “VLF”, what sort of information you can divulge?
When we start working on a record together, we bring each other certain themes. Almost as if we are writing a movie, and we make a lot of notes and do a lot of research. Some songs are conceptually large containers for our ideas, and some songs can wind up very far from our notes and research. With the songs on this record, we were interested in mapping out the unknown- in our lives, in phenomena of the world, and in discovering information about the life growing within me. The VLA tracks information coming from outer space, Alex and I talk about our lives and emotions and try to put words to our feelings, I listened to the heart beat of my baby through ultrasound waves etc. So we were interested in these ways of “seeing” into the unknown or into the dark. We used a lot of cassettes from an old archive of Christian fringe cult tapes from the 1980s. The sounds on them were very important to someone at the time who painstakingly typed out “J Cards”. These include sermons, people yelling, possessed with the holy spirit, speaking in tongues, possible exorcisms. A friend gifted them to me, and we manipulated these once important documents into new information and signals. Its nice that we re-used these source materials in a converted church that happens to be called “the Unknown”.
As previously mentioned, “VLF” is your third album with Alex and this upcoming album was preceded by “Retrieval” and “Weld”. Firstly, do you mind share some bits of infos about them and in parallel to “VLF”, how do you feel, musically speaking, you and Alex have progressed?
Our debut “Retrieval” was recorded at Otic studio in Vancouver (Canada), and the studio was full of rare synthesizers, one took up an even entire bedroom (EMS Synthi 100). If I have to recall a specific memory is related to the weather which it was foggy and freezing cold in November, and our drive up to Vancouver from Vashon felt like the beginning of a horror movie: beautiful yet sinister scenery. While, “Weld” was recorded in a bedroom attic studio (Psychic Western/Sean Angelo) in Los Angeles in the summer heat and bright light. The studio had some very cool rare synthesizers, and some great drum machines (909 + Octave the Cat) and a lot of organ keyboards. Here too was a lot of driving on freeways, and meeting interesting people/ borrowing special gear etc. Our latest album, instead, “VLF” was recorded at The Unknown in Anacortes,WA in the summer. There was a lot of light filling the church, and many old acoustic pianos and pump organs. We used xylophones and cassettes and some 80s synthesizers, and recorded onto reel to reel. We utilized the church’s space as an instrument, and I processed all of my cassettes through an Ampeg 8×10. It was very foggy there, and we walked around the docks and boats a lot, so each environment really affects the record. With each record we challenge each other more, and learn different ways of experimenting and being ok with discomfort.
I want to spend a couple of words for the late Jóhann Jóhannsson: how was collaborating with him and how this partnership born?
I sing backing vocals in the “Jeremiah Sand” song (link here). Our producer Randall Dunn was working with Panos and Jóhann Jóhannsson. Him and Milky were writing the song and Randall asked me and Monika Khot to come sing on it. We learned it right on the spot. It was great tracking to a movie! So I did not work with Jóhann Jóhannsson directly, I worked with Randall Dunn.
I should not forget your other two musical projects: Mara and Mamiffer. Do you have any updates about them?
Yes, Mamiffer has just finished mixing 2 new records with Randall, and they will be published in the fall of this year. I am very happy about “The Brilliant Tabernacle” which is a record I made for my son, and started before I became pregnant. It comes out in September or October. I also made a new Mára record “Here Behold Your Own” that is coming out this summer on SIGE Records. I also worked on a collaboration with Jon Mueller and Aidan Baker that it should be released this spring via Gizeh Records.
So, Faith, we’re almost at the end and with this please be free to say hi to your fans and our readers. Thank you so much for this interview!