Plague Haus converses with long-standing Power Electronics protagonist ROSEMARY MALIGN.
Greetings Rosemary! Some of the readers might be aware of your work as part of Eugenics Council (and some may not). Please be so kind as to give us a little history lesson up to your current activities.
A Little history lesson… well growing up I was trained on piano, and then later guitar. I banged around a lot and was in some terrible bands. Around 1995 I started working with DN (of the Eugenics Council) on a project called “Total Waste of Time” later we changed the name to EC and released our first DIY album. We’d both listened to a lot a punk/metal/industrial growing up and we wanted a more intense, chaotic sound. Something heavier and more violent. A form that admits chaos. We built instruments and recorded on anything handy, including an old shitty tape recorder. Later we started doing live shows and bringing “explosives” or whatever into the performance. EC was a great project for me, there was a lot of collaboration between DN and I, also we both recorded our own (solo) material and released it under the Eugenics Council name. Eventually I moved 2 hours away from him and it became more difficult to work together, so I started putting out solo work on comps etc and started collaborating with others.
How many releases do you have available as a solo artist?
Well I suppose that depends on what “counts” as a release. Right now, I don’t think there’s much available. I put out a small self release last year (The Violet Time) and have been on a few compilations including “Satanic Pysops”, “Pollution Auditive 001”, “Military Fetish”, and of course the “EMFW”. I stayed “off line” for quite a while and was completely out of the loop. I spent several months traveling to Alaska and working. In the interim I was still recording and the amount of finished material really started to pile up; around 2004 I started sending it out to different compilations, I have no idea how many I’ve done. I’m terrible at keeping track of that sort of thing.
Do you have any new releases on the horizon?
Yeah. This month I’ve an album called “For the Device” coming out on Noise Park Activities (I’m very excited about this), also “Therapy for the Insane”, a 3 way split with Religious Nightmare and Tropical PainForest put out by System Breakdown Recordings. “The Violet Time” is being re-released by Clinical Records, this time its comes a coloring book (art by Dave Diaz). An Open Wound comp called “Manifestations on the Road to Death” (with Sewer Goddess, Kadaver, Flutwacht, and Halthan) and later in the year a full length solo on Open Wound called “Alley of Despair”.
Can you enlighten us a bit with the story behind “The Violet Time”?
I love the study of history, especially American History, and specifically folklore and the history of American history. I’ve managed collect many books over the years and there was one specific folk lore book written in the 1960’s which had a chapter on secret songs of sororities and fraternities. The language and outright dirty sexuality of the songs floored me. Specifically the songs “The Violet Time” and “Fascinating Bitch”. The Violet Time is a song about a girl wanting to be violated (deflowered) in a seemingly rape-like fashion, the second about a girl wishing she were a prostitute rather than a student. They’re cute, wonderful little songs. I started looking up sheet music and trying to find field recordings. I found a ton of great stuff, and managed to get some live recordings of little old men and women actually singing them! The whole project took about 3 years, and I’m still discovering new material. I absolutely love it and cannot wait for the second installment. You’d be amazed at what’s out there. The album is vulgar and lovely. We’re led to believe, as a society that “the state of things” are getting worse and worse, that everything is over-sexualized etc. But the reality of it is that men and women have always been obsessed with sex and have been expressing it in one way or another. That the human is a dirty, horny animal! The thing about the field recordings though, is although some of the language seems absolutely shocking by “normal” standards”, the tone of those singing is quite cute and innocent. Almost as if they were singing, “Mary had a little Lamb” or something. Of course, there are some seriously violent feeling tracks on that album, which is my misanthropy leaking through.
Are you involved with any other projects outside of EC and your own?
Actually, with the exception of one show in October of 2007, I haven’t been involved with EC for years. I’m not sure what they’ve got going on, if anything. There are rumors of new work being released, which I really look forward to hearing. Currently I’m looking forward to an art and musick collaboration with Stephen Kasner. Also, I’ve worked a few times with J. Stillings of Steel Hook Prostheses and we’re working on a new project called RMF. I’ll be doing collaboration very soon with Mark from Smell the Rott, Sluck and Torturecide. He’s my absolute favorite vocalist in PE, and the only person I know who’s as raw, ugly, and honest as I am. It should be a very intense set. Outside of noise, I play lead guitar in a local Horror Rock band, and work on a sort of apocalyptic “found instruments” acoustic project.
You currently reside in St. Luis. Is there any “scene” to speak of there? Are you associated with any other musicians there or participate in any shows?
Yeah, there is a scene, or at least scenesters. I’m told there’s a great noise scene here, but I know many who would argue. There’s a lot of noise, but the impression I get is that there are very few that are any good. I know APOP has a lot of shows in their basement “Camp Concentration”, and there’s stuff at the Lemp Arts Center, but I’m not involved in what’s going on here at all. I’ve never played the Midwest noise fest here, I tried to once, in 2004 and was told that I will never play or be allowed to step foot into the place. I really don’t associate with the local artists. They’re younger and coming from a totally different place than I am. Seems there’s a lot of “noise for noise sake” going on, knob twiddling and lack of energy, but I’m no authority on the matter. I do know there are a couple of artists here, beside myself, that record pretty consistently; but they seem to, like myself, keep to themselves.
I’ve seen you play live twice now. After both sets I was completely exhausted just from watching you. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone pour themselves that completely into a performance. It looks almost painful. Is the live ritual something you enjoy doing? Is it cathartic or just a necessary evil?
Sometimes I enjoy it, though it is always painful. It’s cathartic and a necessary evil., one can’t put that much into something without feeling excruciating pain and the pleasure in release of the climax. Once I’ve traveled, and I’m up there, its all or nothing. I hate the idea of it; “performing”, setting myself up and presenting my work to a bunch of people that I probably hate. At times, it almost feels exploitative, like I’m some dancing hate monger for the amusement of others. Those sets are short and not often. But, I get to meet a few decent artists and get to see some good work so it’s worth it. Also, for some reason I just have to perform. Something about a live set, as opposed to a recorded one, puts my nerves on end and I just explode, even though at times I don’t feel the audience deserves to witness it. Usually I don’t even remember my set, It’s all red and loud and blurry. A good loud live performance is better than anything in the world. It’s difficult to explain…I’m sure others know what I’m talking about.
At what point in your life did you decide Power Electronics/Industrial was going to be your musical medium of choice? Were you involved in any other genres of music (or non-music) before?
At no point in my life did I decide this. PE was just the category others put me in. I’ve always been involved in other genres or music and I still am, but this is my favorite, it’s better than any drug, better than sex. When I started, I didn’t know it was a genre or that others really did noise. I’ve always sort of lived under a rock, so to speak, so I was clueless as to what others were doing. I think that its probably a good thing too, I don’t want my work to be influenced by what others think it should sound like. It’s very important to me that my sound and my ideas be completely pure. To me, noise was just a natural progression, it’s the only thing that truly expresses my ideas, what I hear, what I feel, what I think. Hate, angst, anger, denial, disease, the apocalypse, madness, sensory deprivation by overload, these are not things (to me) that can be reflected accurately with a nice melody or a good “beat”. What I see, what is communicated to me by the masses is not organized or nice, it’s one ugly thing after another and what is recorded or performed is my interpretation of it. It’s the perfect genre for me to express my disgust.
While your output speaks for itself, it’s probably impossible to create in this particular genus of music without acknowledging the fact that you are indeed, a female operating in a male dominated scene with a major part of the songs and imagery dedicated to hatred and violence towards women. Are you met with much resistance or maybe ignored? After seeing you live, I think I’d be intimidated, which can also be a disadvantage.
I keep myself fairly isolated, going years without involving myself in the “scene”, and I rarely read reviews, so I’m not sure of any resistance, intimidation, or being ignored, though I’m sure it happens. Years ago, I think there may have been more of an issue. I really don’t think about it, what other people think is irrelevant to my music, and I’ve no interest in worrying about the gender aspect. I know there are a lot of women who are inclined to focus on gender, and involve themselves with projects/compilations based around the idea, I prefer not to. I worked with William Bennett on a track before I realized it would be put on the EMFW, and in my experience with it was not good. Anytime someone emphasizes on “women”, or any other novel concept, skill goes to the wayside. A person with a high authority over their own sense of self, does not need this sort of trivial unification. Camaraderie based on genitalia is shallow and reeks of insecurity. Any art form should stand on its own, I won’t pretend persecution or work based around so-called “feminist” ideas, I won’t allow my work to be reactionary and lowered to something so uninteresting. To me, focusing on novelty (or creating one where there isn’t any) is a cop out.
Does the misogyny portrayed by a lot of your male contemporaries ever offend you at all or do you find most of it just an act to offend?
This question is presented in an “either/or” fashion, “either” I’m offended, “or” I think it’s an act to offend. I don’t find most of it to be an act to offend, when it is, I can see right through it, and when that is the case, I am insulted by the waste of my time. I hate projects that use racism, sexism etc. just to shock; it’s a sad childish cry for attention. Begging for notice and validation through schlock is an act that in the past was limited to angry teenagers and I have no tolerance for it. When misogyny is present, and it isn’t there just to shock, no, I’m not put off at all, just as I’m not upset by anti-Semitic statements. I’m a firm believer in honesty, free thought, and free will. Yes, I’m a woman, but I don’t take any of it personally. Hatred is a natural emotion, and at least a lot of those involved in PE are honest about their feelings, unlike a lot of our society’s men who claim equality and truly believe that they aren’t sexist, or racist, or classist, but deep down they are, we all are to an extent. The ability to admit something perceptively ugly to oneself is a lot more difficult than just going along with the flow. When you get don’t to it, we’re all animals with hideous ideas and fantasies, and mainstream society blatantly caters to this with news shows about pedophilia, and TV shows about detectives solving heinous sex crimes and hate crimes and catching incestuous, murderous perverts. The shows are graphic and detailed and the viewers are bombarded with an hour or so of gratuitous sex and violence and given an unearned feeling of righteousness for being on the side of “good”. The dark aspect of the human psyche is explored under the guise of entertainment. Morality is invariably injected towards the end of the program to reinforce cultural boundaries and to remind the viewer that indulging in an hour of fictionalized crimes is a perfectly rational way to spend an evening. The same happens in popular music, women objectify themselves to sell albums, men objectify them for the same reason; violence is used in video games and movies to satiate the humans need for blood, for war, and for hate. People aren’t comfortable admitting that they have this need, so they feel the need to use terms like pornographic, racist, immoral, misogynist, whatever. The animal uses labels to catalog what they find intimidating so they can dissect it and drain it of what makes it feel so threatening while at the same time getting off on it all. We as a society are taught that hate, for any reason, is wrong, when in fact its human nature. In most extreme arts, you will find that most individuals involved will inevitably organize themselves and their creative output within boundaries that feel safe and acceptable by popular standards. All of this isn’t present in PE (most of the time), and that’s part of what I love about this genre. The absolute freedom to express even the vilest things is a rare and beautiful thing. Most people haven’t the nerve to do this. It’s bigger than gender, bigger than me, so no; I’m not offended, I’m grateful that such a genre exists.
Tell me a little about your own creation process. Do you start with lyrics or sounds? I know you use field recordings as well. Do you build songs around those or mostly use them to enhance?
It’s a mix of both, depending on what’s going on. Sometimes I just need to record, I have to plug everything in and completely drown myself in sound. I do this when I don’t have words, (lyrics) to articulate what I want to communicate. It’s restorative for me, therapeutic. This can go on for hours or days even. Later when I’ve worked the thoughts out I can try to lay in the lyrics. Other times I’ve got all the words and I’ve got to get them out and then work the music in. With the field recordings on the Violet time, I was inspired by the content, and used sounds to emphasize the nature of the lyrics and the tone of the recording. I was lucky with the material for the “For the Device” album, lucky and the vocals and noise were coming out together and complimenting each other perfectly. It was 2 days of recording, and probably the most invigorating, exhausting, and enjoyable set of recording sessions I’ve had in years.
What influences you when writing and creating? Is there a particular source you draw from for inspiration?
Dilapidation, hate, misery, truth, disease, denial, etc. and all the sounds that I discover/create that can express them. All of these things are given to me by the society around me, I’m very sensitive to all the terrible atrocities, contradictions, ugliness, hypocrisy, etc around me. I absorb it, wallow in it and excrete it exactly how it’s presented to me. Unattractive, disgusting, disturbing, loud, and to some, threatening…
Without giving away anything you don’t wish to, what’s the basic set-up you use to record with? I know you make a lot of your own instruments as well.
I’m always within a wall of sound and equipment ranging from a recorder full of field recordings I’ve picked up, pedals, old folk instruments, guitars, toys, trash, whatever. There’s no way of knowing what I’m going to drag into the mix. It changes each time I start on new musick. I have several different contact microphones and different types of contacts that I use on older instruments (like the ukelin), and found art/instruments. Also, I do a lot of modification. I live half a block away from a thrift store where I discover a lot of “garbage” and in the alleys around my house. Anything that I think can become a good instrument I try to use, a lot of the times the stuff I’ve created fails miserably. I also like to come up with ideas and draw them out, go pick up what’s needed and try to build them. Often times these ideas fail as well. But I keep trying. I’ve never been the type of person to go spend a ton of cash at a music store for new synthesizers etc. I prefer to make my own sound. Sometimes, the creation of the instrument is as satisfying to me as the recording/ performance process. Usually I go weeks of recording non-stop and then seemingly out of nowhere the need ends. This is why I can go weeks or months without recording. Quality is important to me, not quantity. During my down time, I build or come up with ideas.
I also discovered recently that you’re a published author. You appeared in the “Apocalypse Culture II” anthology on Feral House alongside some other pretty impressive subversives. How did that come about?
From what I understand, Adam Parfrey was working on the book and was looking for more material. I’m told that he contacted William Bennett, who suggested my website; he then went to the web, found my piece “I Am the Hate”, and asked if he could put it in. I got to do the book signing in Chicago with Adam and Peter Sotos, it was pretty interesting.
Do you continue to write and is there any chance of seeing more in print?
I write a lot. And yes, I’d love to have more in print; unfortunately I have no idea how to make that happen.
Do you express yourself through any other mediums, painting, sculpture, etc?
Well you could call some of my equipment “sculpture”. I do a bit of painting and drawing as well. Sometimes my ideas are better represented through visual art. I’d love to put out a hard back book with my painting and writings and a vinyl LP.
What about hobbies or other obsessions? Are you a fan of film, an avid reader, scrapbooking or collector of Godzilla toys? Feel free to let your dork flag fly.
I am an avid reader, especially history. I also collect certain books, early editions of Jack London, Ayn Rand, Mark Twain, and random old history books and historical fiction. I’m also a fan of pulp paper backs. My dork flag: I’ve an embarrassing collection of Isaac Asimov and other science fiction. As for film, I’m a horror and documentary nut. I love a good film, and have been lucky enough to do a couple of soundtracks. Of course, I’ve a lot of music as well, and a pretty decent 8 track collection.
What’s on your current playlist? What does Rosemary like to listen to when she’s not creating her own audio abominations?
Well I’ll admit that I am a glutton for some more popular stuff, and I like a lot of old blues and folk music. Also, I got a record player a few years ago that plays 78’s so I’ve been listening to them lately. Obviously I like some noise, and industrial, old punk, goth, apocalyptic folk etc. It’d be easier to ask what I don’t listen to… On computer playlist, the first few are: The Murder Junkies, Alice Cooper, Danzig, Leonard Cohen, Big Black, Foetus, Throbbing Gristle, Brainiac, Tom Waits, Samhain, Slayer, Cannibal Corpse… You get the idea. As far as in the “scene”, right now I’m really into Sluck, Steel Hook Prostheses, Awen…um Oneiric Imperium is great. There’s too many to mention.
Thank you very much for taking the time. It’s been an honor. As always, the final words belong to you.
Thanks, good questions!
Violet Time cover by Dave Diaz