The Burning Questions: An Interview With Faith & The Muse
Photo by Clovis IV
By A.C. RiedelFaith and the Muse is a rock band that allows no boundaries to the music they create, creating Dark Rock with Cinematic Soundscapes, using elements of Celtic, World Music, Electronic, and Neo-Classical. From personal acoustic pieces and traditional/tribal folk melodies to grand orchestral production and ferocious dark rock epics, this diverse combination reaches across historical genre and cultural style, placing Faith And The Muse in their own musical category. Monica Richards' distinctive, charismatic voice possesses the emotion of a Greek Chorus, and along with Faith's immeasurable capacity for instrumentation, each album they have released has been hailed as a singular piece of lyrical and musical history, taking the listener on a journey through the ages with the underlying message that something amazing transcends the mundane.
Faith & the Muse want to burn those ideas you might have of who they are. With the release of their fifth album, The Burning Season, William Faith & Monica Richards show how they have matured and grown in the past 10 years. While this album uses everything they have worked with so far, Faith & the Muse is not afraid to experiment and forge new ground.
The Burning Season is the first album in three years to include all original material from Faith & the Muse. Their fourth album, Vera Causa, a compilation of live and demo tracks, covers, remixes and rarities, was released in 2001 to acclaim from critics and fans alike. The album served as a tribute to a healthy career and loyal listeners, but many were surprised to hear club-ready remixes of some classic Faith & the Muse songs. A pleasant surprise that opened questions about the direction the band would take with their next release. What would Faith & the Muse do next?
Since Vera Causa the artists have left clues as to where their current tastes lay. William Faith has produced and collaborated in many albums, and began work on the scoring of the upcoming short film THE CORRIDOR (featuring Monica Richards, his wife, as Lillian Chambers in her first leading role ever). Monica Richards, besides acting, has featured her artwork in galleries nationwide and recorded her first presentation of her poetry in the German compilation The Ascension of the Mother Dance. Her likeness appeared in the logo for the documentary MTV2 PUNK: PISTOLS TO PRESENT this year. Follow the dots and it all leads to The Burning Season.
With tracks reminiscent of their prior work like the title track, “The Burning Season,” a cinematic and classical piece with a neo-tribal soundscape featuring two voices, or “Sredni Vashtar,” a hard-rocking death rock/tribal song that rises in intensity, many listeners will recognize some elements used in prior records, but the album as a whole bears many surprises. Listen to the humor in the punk rock track “Relic Song,” or the way Monica’s voice soars into the heavens in the song In the “Amber Room,” or the raw instrumentation in the classic 1940’s jazz song “Gone to Ground.”
If there is a constant with Faith & The Muse is their dedication to their craft and music, to their fans and art, and the candid, lucid, insightful interviews they provide.
PSF: This is a very different album for Faith & the Muse. You have experimented with new sounds and styles, some never tried before. What inspired The Burning Season?
William Faith: It stemmed from a desire to burn down all preconceived notions of who we were; to destroy all definitions – even our own – and start over. We reached the end of a cycle with Evidence of Heaven, and Vera Causa was very much a closing of the book on that era. The Burning Season is the end of something old; the birth of something new.
Monica Richards: Strength, cleansing, rebirth. It’s a state of growth, as far as stretching our tastes further, but also a fuller spectrum, incorporating our original influences as well.
PSF: Faith & the Muse came together in 1993. Ten years later, how do you see yourselves now?
WF: We’re doing what we’ve always loved, and we’ve got a whole decade of memories, both good and bad, to look back on; we’ve achieved some remarkable things for a band at our level, and we’re rather proud of what we’ve accomplished to date. Right now, I see us at yet another crossroads – our path seems to be littered with them – and we are finding different words, different tongues, colours and textures to express ourselves through. I am very enthused at the thought of what the future may hold – but the path to it is really the goal, isn’t it?
MR: Excited for the future as far as artists and songwriters, but also very proud of what we’ve accomplished. When I listen back to our albums, I realize we’ve never chosen one type of music, we have always done what we pleased, which opens us to anything. If I choose to do an album of Big Band songs, I will, or spoken word or soundscapes, I can. We aren’t trapped by expectations or genre-specific music, it’s all very much our own.
PSF: In the title song, “The Burning Season,” you sing “Burn it Down, Burning your effigies, Burning down the seems of change.” The call for change is strong in this song. What does change mean exactly to Faith & the Muse?
WF: As I said, it really is a time of change for us, and change is always welcome in our world; it’s the only constant, thus it is wise to make an ally of change. Artists or people who do not embrace change become relics in their own time; the road to self-parody being a short one.
MR: I think there had been a swelling of superficial lifestyle expectation that has kind of imploded on us all. And now, there’s a great deal of panic and fear in the air, but it is a sort or surreal “what if” idea, and we still have choice, we still have lives to lead, and the truth of what we are runs through it all. The world can end tomorrow or a million years from now, and it shouldn’t change our hearts or our dreams.
PSF: There’s a more organic and electronic approach to how the instruments are played in this album, as in songs like “Whispered In Your Ear” and “Visions.” What was the inspiration behind this choice?
WF: It was a simple matter of what the song called for; in both cases, the songs themselves, as written, were very dance-oriented, based around a strong beat. The subsequent adornment and ornamentation simply gave a little colour, if not geography, to the song. It usually only takes a little experimentation to divulge the latent direction that the song itself wants to go in; one need only follow…
PSF: The track “Relic Song” is uproarious! Reviewing your musical past we find your punk rock roots, and so many years later you revisit it with uncharacteristic humor. What’s your opinion on the punk scene today?
WF: “Relic Song” is nothing if not cathartic for us; we’ve been biting our lips and playing nice about this phenomenon for far too long, and we finally just burst – we grew up as punks, and seeing this so-called “punk rock” on MTV and on the cover of Rolling Stone has sickened us to no end. 90% of the bands sound identical to each other, and they’ve just missed out on the whole point entirely. “Relic Song” is the product of our rather marked disdain for this corporate crap posing as something we loved.
MR: Every new band that comes out is a carbon copy of other bands twenty years earlier!!! How can these kids sleep at night??? Come up with something new, please! Seriously, I was there back in “The Day” and I guess I feel sorry for the youngsters that missed out. “Relic Song” is our answer to what’s happening now, and I KNOW people from my era totally agree with us.
PSF: Were there any creative challenges in the creation of this album?
WF: Every album is a creative challenge for us; we labour under a creative tension that, while a bit volatile at times, is 100% necessary in creating true visceral art. Unchecked creativity often leads to self-indulgent waffling, and we do keep each other on our toes.
PSF: Monica, this album features a great deal of your poetry set to music, a trend one might say began with your recording of “The Bird” for the compilation The Ascension of Mother Dance. You also design the album cover and liner notes, play instruments and sing. How important is it to incorporate all of your artistic talents to create the ultimate expression of yourself?
MR: All-important! I express a great deal more with poetry, as there’s no need to find a lyrical theme or chorus idea, I just go with it. To be able to actually relate some lines from my written work, as well as add visual expression, it’s a complete package.
PSF: In the year 2000, William Faith founded his studio, Wisperthal, and along with other bands Faith & the Muse has recorded most of its music behind its walls. What freedoms has this afforded to Faith & the Muse in the creative and production processes?
WF: It has probably been the most significant development in our creative process since we began; the freedom to record any idea at any time and not have the clock ticking and our budget melting away is huge, to say the least. Production-wise, we are free to try and do anything we can imagine, and as daunting as that freedom sounds, it is also incredibly liberating and inspiring.
PSF: How did you find the experience of writing The Burning Season?
WF: It was definitely different from all the other albums, in that we decided to trash the things that were starting to become “standards” or “staples” in our sound. Routine is unwelcome here. We didn’t want to rely on the old tried and true sounds – we wanted to push ourselves more and think outside the box, as it were, so we did things in different ways; instead of writing each song together, we did some separately; instead of taking the more mythic, prosaic approach to the lyrics, we opted to take on more directly personal and social issues – some more obvious than others. We feel we did more with less. We were more open to different sounds and approaches to things, and I think it really helped us make an album we’re both very proud of.
MR: I was able to actually write songs rather than pick out parts for William to learn back to me. I’ve been using software and writing complete songs in my own studio, and just give them to William to finesse. It’s been incredibly freeing to be able to do this.
PSF: Many of the themes visited in The Burning Season are studied within the frame of your experiences and education in an almost empirical manner. One of these themes is how we cope with depression. You also bring forward your ideas about what the word ‘Woman’ really entails, and what women have of themselves. Why are these themes so important to you?
MR: I find it's important to always be yourself no matter where you are, and by saying that, I think I can express elements of life’s pitfalls in ways that can be understood by others who’ve felt or lived as I have. I’ve viewed the entire Rock’nRoll experience through the eyes of a female, outsider, at times. Having started in the harDCore punk scene, it was nearly impossible to be taken seriously as a girl singer in a completely male-dominated genre. I had to be tougher than any guy around, stronger, more self-assertive, and that very much influenced my work. My songs are often about the female experience, historically, mythologically, and through current events.
PSF:You have been incredibly prolific, both in music and other projects, throughout your careers. How deep is the well?
WF: As deep as any one person can be.
MR: There are not enough days in the week or hours in the day for me to release everything I create in my head. And I’ve been this way since I was very, very young. I used to stage operas in my head when I was about 7 years old, all vocally, as I didn’t play any instruments. My family on both sides is full of painters and singers, writers and musicians. It’s in m’blood!
PSF: You will tour again this year. What can your fans expect this time around?
WF: Our best, plain and simple. We’ve put together a killer live band for this tour, and we’ll be taking it out over the next year to support this album.
PSF: Monica, you acted in The Corridor, and you, William, composed the music for the short film. You have also spoken of a DVD project that will include videos and original writing & material from Faith & the Muse. Can you update us on your side projects? Can we look forward to another book by Monica in the future?
WF: The DVD is our next collective project, but I also have other things in the discussion stages at this point – unfortunately, nothing firm enough to mention.
MR: Oh definitely, though I wish I had the time to concentrate on getting my books published properly. Like getting my paintings into galleries, it’s a whole other egg to crack, and I continue to release in the hopes that it will somehow just happen! Meanwhile, I release books in small ways for those who wish to buy them, and I have a full book of poetry finished. The Corridor is on hold for now as the director is editing something he made before this one.
PSF: What is next for Faith & the Muse?
WF: Getting the DVD finished and touring!
MR: Touring and getting the DVD finished!
PSF: Any final words?
WF: Burn your masks…
MR: We thank everyone that supports our music and the music of Underground artists. It’s all important for us to continue and we are eternally thankful. Thank you very much for your time and your answers!
Please visit the official Faith & the Muse website at http://www.mercyground.com
Please visit the Wisperthal website at http://www.mercyground.com/wisperthal
|MAIN PAGE||ARTICLES||STAFF/FAVORITE MUSIC||LINKS|