underground since'89

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Interview with Marissa Magic

marissa magic is a writer (deep suburbia, FAB, MRR) and scream-y punk rock girl noise maker (awesomes, the punks, the divine feud) from the bay area. she used to live in olympia and now she lives in san francisco. this interview took place via email. i asked her about her current writing projects, feminism, punk, noise and what bay area bands she is excited about right now...i miss having her in olympia but there's a lot of cool stuff happening where she's at right now. here is what she has to say about it:

What writing projects you are involved in right now?

my most consistent writing thing right now is MRR. I do music and zine reviews, the occasional column and the occasional interview. I'm a writer for the bumpidee reader but haven't posted in a while, I am slowly working on another epic zine that's going to be similar to Deep Suburbia but it's going to be called Endless Bummer. I write for a literary zine called Deep Leap that comes out occasionally. Oh! and I am working on a script for a riot grrl zombie movie with my friend Gentry McShane.

How do you approach writing for MRR?

For the most part I do reviews. Cissie says I always reference the 90's. It's true. I can be kind of harsh and sarcastic but really, they sent their record for review and I review it. For interviews I tend to just try to talk about the things I want to read about. For the most part I don't really care about tour shenanigans and songwriting process, I wanna know if punk and politics work together, I want to know what the DIY community a band is a part of is up to, I wanna know about their thoughts on feminism and queer issues and class issues and race issues. These are the things I find most interesting to read about. When I write columns it tends to come from just talking about punk and feminism with Layla, and I'll make a point or explain one of my theories on something and she'll ask me to make it into a column. In all of this I also try to write like I talk.

What are some of the ideas behind Deep Suburbia?

The core of Deep Suburbia for me was a way to validate my writing for myself. Like most girls I constantly question whether my opinions are valid and that's such bullshit. There's something about having a physical document of your ideas, something you give to your friends and sell at shows and leave at libraries - there's something about that that makes your thoughts feel really real and worthwhile and important. It was also a document of being 25 and not only having grown up in suburbia but a lot of it was written when I was living at my parents house in suburbia for 6 months when I was 25. My long term plan for it is to write one every five years, and at some point after a couple cycles of that compiling them all into one document. A big theme for me when I was writing it was not only trying to prove to myself that my opinions were valid, but also to try to document how my theories and ideas would change and be different as I got older. The essays are basically my ideas about the world, society and my community when I was 25. To come up with the different subjects I mostly just did a lot of jotting down random ideas and then just writing more and more about those ideas everyday.

Can you describe the Awesomes band concept for our readers?

awesomes started out as mainly being about subverting female stereotypes. At this point that explanation seems kind of simple. We have different performances that we do before each set, like we have one where we dress up in work out gear and do aerobics to "let's get physical" by olivia newton john, during it we have mcdonalds burgers that are filled with fake blood that we chew on and spit at each other and rub on ourselves, and then we play, basically being about body image and consumerism, kind of playing with a theme of bulimia and the image of the all american burger and then making it really foul and animalistic. Another thing we do is put black tape over our nipples and then hand out toy squirt guns to the audience filled with fake blood, then they shoot at us, which is just a comment on mainstream medias habit of censoring sex and controlling women's bodies but not really censoring violence. As for the actual set we're usually wearing weird skimpy outfits, and if we're not we usually end up in our underwear, we're covered with something - sometimes blood, sometimes chocolate or whatever and then we're performing. We're making ourselves incredibly vulnerable but the music that we play and our stage presence is extremely aggressive. And then all our set up is is drums and a ton of effects pedals, things that I feel are traditionally kind of male things in music, you know we're not playing keyboards or a tambourine. It's fucking with the idea of what it is to be a woman not only as a performer and as a musician, but just in general what it means to be a woman in american society.

Do you think there is a feminist noise scene right now?

There are definitely feminists who play noise - I hesitate to call it a scene because that implies community, which I don't feel that feminist noise makers are very united and/or supportive of each other. I know some other feminists who play noise and there are definitely some ladies doing rad things like marlo eggplant doing a three cd ladies in noise comp or anna oxygen doing her performance/noise group or sharon cheslow doing sonic tryptych. I guess in reality is I don't feel like it's cohesive scene. I know people here and there but I don't feel like I'm part of a community which is a bummer. Though the other day awesomes played a show with schwule and american splits - mostly ladies, mostly POC's, mostly queer, mostly feminist bands and I felt like I was part of something really awesome, it was a fundraiser for girls rock camp. That was inspiring. I guess I just wish that would happen more and there would be more idea sharing and collaboration within that.

Who are some of your favorite women in noise?

I kind of feel like a lot of women just have this different way of approaching music and approaching art that comes off as noise but I always just think of it as really weird and noise-y punk, but when I think of noise I usually just think of one dude twiddling nobs. anyways- some noise ladies whose music I like - viki, MOM, stuff that azita is/has been involved in, metalux, inca ore, u.s. girls, magik markers (though I didn't like balf quarry), soft shoulder (I don't think the girl is in it anymore though), Marlo Eggplant, Pauline Oliveros, anything that erika anderson does, Bonnie Mercer...

What bay area bands are you really excited about right now and why?

Schwule are great, they are these three really radical ladies that play this really off-kilter hyper punk with weird instrumentation and lots of effects, they do weird skits too. American splits are really rad, my friend described them as drugs at the disco, basically super minimal disco and my friend meals sings like something between yoko ono and a valley girl and it's amazing.

TITS are really good, it's like five girls that play this super doomy metal drone and they all chant lyrics together. No babies are always exciting, kandis(drummer in my band) just joined them, they got kicked out of a bar show they were supposed to play at the other night so they played in the parking lot with the guitarists playing trumpet and clarinet and the singer running through the crowd and screaming, it was really exhilarating. The dudes from long legged woman started a new band that I'm not sure what its called but it's amazing doomy chaos. I just got dadfags record for review at maximum, realized it was an amazing mix of 90's girl indie rock and no-wave. brotman and short are completely amazing two dude darkwave! The dudes from that are in another band called base of bass thats super heavy and exciting, they run the vocals through this crazy speaker that is the size of a person and the singer wears it on his shoulder. Grass widow is good. Rank/xerox are really good, they have a split tape with grass widow thats super awesome. Shannon and the clams are a good time. and of course I love hunx and his punx and younger lovers!!! Those are the bands I am excited about like right at this moment.

What are some of your favorite things that happened in music in the past 5 years?
the feminist takeover of MRR (still going), the bus that has shows here,
being in all girl bands, teaching myself guitar and drums, watching the gossip get famous, Lady Gaga (I don't really like her music but her presence in mainstream media blows my mind!), everything that veronica ortuno does, the rad almost all-lady punk show in olympia, getting involved in girls rock camp, the solo show I played in portland where colin self unplugged all of his equipment midway through his set and he just spoke to the audience in a normal way and everyone was completely silent and mesmorized, feeling like part of the punk scene here but feeling like I still have my northwest membership.

How do you see the future of women in punk/noise/underground whatever?

I don't know. I have fantasies of all these girls who go to rock camp starting noise punk bands and RAGING. I wanna see more ladies playing music that rages and that has a point and a message. I hope for it. I'm kind of cynical. I want to have some level of feeling safe going to shows.

How do you see the future of punk/noise/underground/independent culture and feminism? More specifically, does punk etc have anything to offer feminism?

I think feminism has far more to offer punk then punk to feminism. I guess I was involved in feminist stuff for a long time but I didn't fully connect with it until it was in a punk context. But other than that in general I feel like the punk scene (here at least) is kind of highschool-ish. Theres dumb jocks who say dick shit to me, I mainly hang out with the weirdo stoner kids, theres lots of girls who are really concerned about being fat and unattractive and they're not really involved with making music or art, they're just hanging out with their jock boyfriends. My point is is that I feel like feminism is a way of calling that kind of shit out. feminism is a vehicle to say you guys are living your life basically in the same way that those assholes do. why? In some ways I feel like punk without feminism is just dudes drinking mass amounts and singing songs about fucking girls. Feminism forces the question of how are you going to live your life differently? what do you want? how will you get it? how can you help others around you?


the punkssssss - thank you for the alternative rock - 5RC

Punksssss - live cassette - 777 was 666
Marissa Magic - fuck off fer sure like totally - bumpidee
punxxxxxxx - unanimous bangers - 5RC

Marissa Magic - abeyance - self-released

The Divine Feud - drum machine demos - self released
Marissa Magic - vocal fuck place - self released
ladyz in noize - 3 marissa magic tracks - spleen coffin

awesomes - "we don't put out" - self released

marissa and me, back in the day:


Anonymous said...

This is really cool Tobi! Thanks for sharing this interview. I saw that movie about Girl Rock Camp and am glad to see that the movement is still thriving. I wish it would come to more parts of the U.S. Love the blog!

XYX said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
XYX said...

Ah, thanks for the interview!! Really great, interesting stuff. It is disheartening to ear it out somebody else's mouth that there isn't a distinct community amongst women/feminists in music anymore. Being 17, I can't confidently say that it is because women have been integrated into previously male scenes, due to my lack of experience...but I'd like to think it's because of integration rather than the abandonment of an important movement.

marissa magic said...

For me I don't really feel like part of the girl noise scene. When I moved down here (SF) from Olympia I just felt kind of blown off by the noise girls here, so it might partly be kind of sour grapes syndrome. I think it's partly that when I think of noise I think of dudes, even though all the girls I hang out with here play really weird noisy stuff. Also Feminism is kind of different here. In Olympia feminist culture felt so deeply ingrained that it seemed weird if you weren't a feminist. Here it seems like girls are pretty content to be "one of the guys" or just not political really at all. Not apathetic just not confrontational. HOWEVER - after thinking about it I do feel like theres a really radical queer culture here. There is also a really strong sense of radical feminist community swirling around girls rock camp that I find really empowering. I do wish there was a tight feminist noise scene, but a lot of the time I wonder if it really truly doesn't exist or if I'm just alienated and not a part of it.

p.s. I read some of yr. blog svetlanda and it's real radical. I write for MRR and LOVED the queer iss so it's really amazing/exciting to hear of other people being inspired by it.

Unknown said...

so raaaaaaaddddicalllll hearing these thoughts. when are the bay women hosting the next riot/festival/generator show?

fagnetic mields said...

Hey, this is melissa of schwule and I'm also part of Girls Rock Camp.
A couple things:
There is something really important going on at Girls Rock Camp. As an "adult" or mentor working with adolescent girls who are there to create something and put it in the world, you are in the position to encourage them to make music, but especially to do it together. The encouragement we give and the communication we facilitate can be so crucial especially for girls who are not offered other opportunities or support in their creative expression. A lot of us otherwise isolated, alien female musicians from all different scenes/backgrounds/genres come together here in the Summer to collaborate on making shit awesome for girls and that to me is so RADICAL and that to me is COMMUNITY.

I have doubts about there ever being a feminist noise scene and it almost feels like an oxymoron. I automatically have negative associations with the word 'scene' because so often it implies a level of conformity and emulation that negates anything I'd perceive as feminist. Of all possible genres of music one can make, people I've known who make noise tend to be the highly nonconformist and experimental which more often than not makes them the most isolated.

Anyhoo, awesome interview--thanks!