INTERVIEW: Mary Ocher | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Sven Serkis

Mary Ocher’s latest offering Faust Sessions And Other Recordings is an eclectic mix of weird and wonderful diversely influenced tracks – which is nothing less than you’d expect from the Berlin-based electronic musician and visual artist. It starts off melancholic and resolute, with Mary’s pseudo-operatic tremolo sailing out “I was born a stranger and a stranger I will die”.

She seems surprised at its widespread success. “The album has been received well; ironically, its subject is the terrible state of affairs worldwide. It’s much easier to talk about these topics in Europe, in the US the general mood is so beaten that hardly anyone is in any way optimistic. The UK must be the most adventurous spot musically I know. So much interesting stuff finds a home in the UK, while the rest of the world waits for some sort of stamp of approval before they dare to make up their own minds.”

From the Balkan chime of A Beginning Of Disobedience, to the unexpected instrumental Piano Edit, and the unashamedly tribal Ulifant Fadera (complete with animal noises), this album is a cornucopia of experimental and wildly free-spirited self-expression. 

“Most of the pieces were made when recording The West Against The People [released in March last year] we just didn’t have enough space for them all. They’re not outtakes but pieces that were collected for a different assemblage. Some would have gotten more attention had they been on the full length album, it’s sad how releases of less conventional lengths are treated differently by press and record stores.”

The visuals accompanying Mary’s music are a fever dream mirroring her musical eccentricity; psychedelic videos offer us a fabulous sensory overload and have been nominated for film festival awards, but she remains humble despite these accolades.

We should never think of what others might think, the moment you make anything to please others you are a lost cause

“I don’t aim for anything in particular apart from just to be happy with it. We should never think of what others might think, the moment you make anything to please others you are a lost cause.”

The mediums by which Mary chooses to release her work are as carefully considered as the music itself. She constantly curates ‘making of’ material, sharing her experience of touring and recording. “The process itself is interesting and I fear it may be lost or forgotten, or not experienced entirely. I don’t make these for others, but for myself to remember.” The latest album has been released as both 10” vinyl and cassette tape. “My audience doesn’t care much for CDs. The Swedish label [Sing A Song Fighter] suggested a 10″ format, and the US label [Related Records] suggested a cassette tape for the US tour. Tapes are more popular in North America. I suspect that’s because more folks drive cars with tape players.”

A serial collaborator, this album features Julia Kent, The Great Hans Unstern Swindle, and collaborative drum duo Your Government who provide a layer of sonic texture and grit. Who’s next on her list? “The incredible Mbira player Stella Chiweshe in Berlin. We’ve talked about writing together last year, which was up in the air until we were approached by the curators of the Songs We Taught Your Mother series and we selected Dorothy Ashby as our subject.”

Known for her fantastically bonkers live performances, Mary is on a marathon US and UK tour which takes in Newcastle’s Cobalt Studios on Wednesday 16th May, a venue known for its refreshingly open-minded approach to performance. Sharing a bill is Natalie Stern, who brings her love of horror and folklore with looped vocals and synth drone.

 

 

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