Prince Rama x Men Without Hats
live over germany
Admittedly, you wouldn’t necessarily state that this is a) the long-awaited logical conclusion or b) a match made in heaven - but, wow, it certainly makes for a line-up that will raise more than just one eyebrow. These days Brooklyn-based psych-dance powerhouse Prince Rama - which released the excellent “Xtreme Now“ earlier this year via Carpark Records - is supporting Canadian synth-pop/new wave veterans Men Without Hats on their German tour. To celebrate, the Larson sisters asked MWH a few questions. Check the great, great, GREAT interview out below.
Catch them right here: Sunday, November 20 @ Das Bett - Frankfurt, DE / Monday, November 21 @ Lido - Berlin, DE
Taraka Larson / Prince Rama: What was the sketchiest place you've stayed on tour? Ivan Doroschuk / Men Without Hats: The sketchiest place I've ever stayed at was a few years ago at a festival in South Africa just outside of Johannesburg. We were put up on site in a series of spectacularly huge hunting-lodge type thatched roofed mansions that were absolutely magnificent. The sketchy part was that all the staff that worked in the houses, i.e. the cooks, cleaning ladies, gardeners, maintenance staff, etc...all lived together out back in this tiny little shack built out of mud and straw, with a tin metal roof, no electricity or running water, wild dogs barking out front and a cow leaning up against it. When band member Rachel, practically in tears, asked the promoter how many people lived in there, his answer was "more than you'd expect".
Couldn't help but notice your posts on Faust and Kraftwerk... What other German music are you stoked on? Were you able to catch some of the Kraut movement as it was unfolding or were you too young? Faust and Kraftwerk were big ones (I can still remember the first time I heard Autobahn), early Klaus Shultze and Tangerine Dream too, but I discovered bands like Ashra Ra Temple (with Timothy Leary), Grobschnitt, Neu and Can by flipping thru the import bins as a teenager and buying unknown records just for the cover.
I've also notice you've been spinning some cosmic jazz lately-- Alice Coltrane, Sun Ra, etc.-- records probably a lot of people wouldn't really expect a new wave dance dude to be spinning. What are the common threads you see between the kind of music you make and spiritual jazz? I imagine that the common thread or connection between the music I make and music by Sun Ra or Alice Coltrane lies in the vortex that I create in the form of an inverted cone above my head that sucks the music down out of thin air when I sit at the piano.
Is there anyone in particular that you feel like has been the sonic Yoda to your Skywalker over the years? Someone who you feel a ninja-like connection to that has helped you tap into that personal musical force? It doesn't have to be a musician per say, it can be an artist, a writer, a poet, etc... Back in the '80s, at the "height of my fame", I got the extraordinary chance to meet poet Audre Lorde and sit in on a few of her creative writing classes at Hunter college in NYC. I remember being introduced to her and thinking to myself oh boy she must be pretty impressed! only to realize that the look she was giving me was one of being definitely NOT impressed, and that in fact she, the black lesbian radical feminist poet, was staring at me, the white blonde blue-eyed male rock star, like the enemy. The whole experience gave me the kick in the ass that set me off on a journey that I haven't finished yet. I've read almost everything she's written, and I keep the memory of her stare close by for whenever I start getting too cocksure. She might not be my Yoda, but she's definitely the egg on my face.
I really love that Roxy Music cover of "Editions of You" yall do... do you keep up with Brian Eno much? What are your thoughts on his recent theories about the digital dark ages? Brian Eno was my favourite part of Roxy Music, wicked synth solos like nobody else was playing them, closest would be Sun Ra. Best outfits too. I really got into his solo albums after that, 801 & Quiet Sun with Manzanera, No Pussyfooting with Robert Fripp, the Discreet and Ambient Music series, the Portsmouth Sinfonia, Cluster...all groundbreaking stuff. I kinda lost sight of him when he started producing U2, but his early work really touched me. The digital dark age I think every musician of my generation has been living in for a while. Midi didn't even exist when I started making music. I have floppy discs of any size you want, boxes of DAT tapes, ADAT tapes, reel to reel quarter inch tape, one inch tape, two inch tape, two inch digital tape, cassettes, L-cassettes, multiple vhs and beta formats, CDs, minidiscs, vinyl, hard drives, the list goes on. Whatever. A good song is a good song, and it exists independently of the format. Too bad people aren't going to have any pictures to look at in the future though.
Whatever happened to the lost unreleased Men Without Hats concept album, "UFOs Are Real"? Did you change your mind? Are UFOs actually fake? Every now and then somebody reminds me of that session, and I have no idea. I can't even remember what format it's on. As far as UFOs are concerned, they're probably just some kind of Tesla-powered government black ops disinfo project, started right after the second world war with machines the Americans captured from the Nazi bases in Antarctica.
Critics have a lot to say about rock n roll, but they don't really talk about it in terms of actual rock formations. If you were to describe yourself and your musical trajectory as a geological phenomena, what would it look like? Are songs you wrote years ago like fossils frozen in sedimentary rock layers that feel like separate entities, preserved and compressed with time? Or are they like igneous rock, constantly melting and cooling into new lava formations? Or perhaps they are like crystals slowly sprouting new complex fractal nuances and growing in pressurized energetic force as time goes on? When you play in a "Vintage" band like the Hats (term coined by Boy George), your sound had better be fossils frozen in sedimentary rock layers that feel like separate entities, preserved and compressed with time, or your fans won't be happy. It has to sound exactly like it did back then, or else the time travel thing doesn't work completely or something, I don't know.
I read somewhere that you wanted your last record to sound like it was written 2 weeks after Safety Dance... do you feel like you succeeded in going back in time? What was the process like? Could the converse be true-- that perhaps Rhythm of Youth was written in the 21st century, 2 weeks before your new album? I'm curious if you can briefly describe your "Doroschuk Theory of Time Travel" in relation to your music. We reproduced the sound of Rhythm Of Youth quite easily, we just went out and rented the same gear that we used back then. However, I don't think we actually travelled back or forward in time because I think that time is a human construct, and that it's always now.
On the time travel tip-- the first time I heard Safety Dance I thought I was having an episode of time-schizophrenia and was tapped into some lost fm radio station from the 12th century... when I watched the video, this confirmed my belief. How influenced are you by the medieval era, or was this just an aesthetic show? If you could travel to any era in history and make a record, what would it be? (The future counts) Apart from having been a Knight Templar in a former life, and being an almost mythical figure with the Medieval Fayre crowd (Sir Dance-a-Lot), this was pretty much an aesthetic thing. If I could I'd go back to NYC around the middle of the 20th century, and make a band with all those cats before they get scooped by Miles.
I was pleasantly struck by the lyrics to "Hey Men" and find them oddly relevant. "I got a woman inside, Tells me things that I should understand..." Jung believed that every man has an analogous anima within his psyche (a feminine being with emotional and intuitive potential), and every woman has an analogous animus within her (a set of unconscious masculine attributes and potentials). In ancient hermetic writings, there is also a lot of talk about the soul's origin being hermaphroditic, and the process of awakening required one to spiritually reacquaint his or herself with their inner other half. However, in this PC age of hyper-correct gender terms and non-binary-trans-sys-this-and-that, I feel like the core message of these writings has been lost or misinterpreted. It's too bad because it's super fun to be in touch with that "inner dude" / "woman inside" and I feel like my inner dude has helped me with music a lot. I even write duets for my inner dude to sing with me! I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit about the backstory of your "woman inside" and some of the things she tells you. Does she ever sing with you? Am I totally misinterpreting this? I have this theory that everybody's gay, and we have this meter inside us that has an M on one side and an F on the other, and wherever the needle lies is the percentage you have of each. Every single person's reading is different, which is why I completely agree with your take on PC gender labeling, because in my theory there are as many genders as there are human beings. These days, I tend to use my woman inside for dancing more than anything else.
I just realized recently that the main guitar riff of "Sideways" and "Smells Like Teen Spirit" are almost eerily identical. Especially strange because both were released within months of each other in 1991 ("Sideways" came first technically). What are your theories on this? Do you think Kurt Cobain secretly had ESP and tapped your brain to mine this melody remotely somehow? Or do you think this is an example of the same glitch in the matrix or "sideways memory" that caused Charles Darwin and A.R. Wallace to come up with the theory of evolution at the same time in different parts of the world totally independently of each other? Either one of those theories is quite plausible, or it could be that Kurt and I both had Suicidal Tendencies' "I Saw Your Mommy" playing in the background when we came up with it.
Since I'm also in a band with my sister, I'm always curious about ins and outs of other siblings making music together. What was it like playing music with your brothers? I'm looking for real honest answers here. I mean the two brothers behind Jesus and Mary Chain wanted to basically kill each other at various times throughout their career. At what point did you transition into being the sole permanent member of Men Without Hats and how has that changed your relationship to the music? Do you find more creative freedom or limitation? I realize you guys still collaborate from time to time, but for the most part their current involvement seems more satellite or production-oriented in regards to the band. Being in a band, or any business for that matter, with a family member is a tricky thing. It can go either way. I have a great relationship with one of my brothers and we still collaborate occasionally. The other brother not so much, and I'll be able to tell you more about it when the court case is over. MWH has always been my thing right from the beginning. I wrote everything alone and brought finished works to rehearsal, my brothers were basically there to help me perform it live. I actually prefer to not have them in the band anymore, the tension got to be unbearable (the 3 of us have very strong personalities), and it led to an artificial democracy that was ultimately unsatisfying for me.
In an interview long ago, you described MWH's music as "laughing in the face of death, a celebration". With so much apocalyptic talk in the air, how would you describe your music's relationship to death now? Do you believe pop music is headed towards creating an ultimate utopia or dystopia on earth? I used to think that the Pop music charts were one of the most powerful platforms from which one could effect social change. As I grew older, I began to question whether I had been a true revolutionary or just a court jester. Looking back at the Safety Dance video, one could argue that I had been co-opted right down to the uniform. Regardless, we shouldn't abandon hope for a better life through art and music, and in the words of the contemporary forward thinker Bruno Mars: "Don't Give Up"