Stubble - September 1996
Rasputina: Melora, Julia:, Agniezska
By Steve V.
Before their debut performance at Lupo's in Providence I got to speak with the 3 members of cello based band Rasputina. Here it is....
Did you find it difficult to book a cello trio when you started out? Did people look at you funny?Melora: We've played live in New York for about four years so that's really like homey and comfortable for us. You know, people have seen us before, they know what we're doing and it's a nice situation so it's not hard for us to get booked. But, I think for the audience to see us it's like a lot of information, or if you don't have a preconceived idea it's hard to, you know, "What does this mean?"
Who is your favorite classical influence?Melora: Bach for music and Casalles for cello playing.
Into Prokofiev at all?Melora: Not so much, I'm not...like, I know what I know very well but I don't know, you know, so much. Julia knows everything there is to know about classical music.
How about rock influences? I've heard people refer to you as the Jimi Hendrix of the cello. Are you familiar with Jimi's music?Melora: Yeah, I liked him a lot, how he played his instrument. It means a lot to me when you can have your own style of playing that's identifiable. There are guitarists where I know it's them playing and I'd like to be able to do that myself.
Well, you definitely have your own sound. I was surprise at how you captured such a good rock flavor using traditional instruments like cellos.Melora: It probably comes from having limited classical knowledge. I studied hard as a kid but I've never been immersed in a classical world.
What's the deal with the nanny stuff? How did you get involved in that?Melora: We have a lot of sort of old-fashioned womanly pastimes. We like to sew and do needlework and stuff like that. We like to take care of the house, ha-ha. It was the love of children.
Julia: Yeah, ha-ha.
Melora: We have no children of our own but other people's children in small doses are good. We are like children ourselves, ha-ha.
What do you see for yourselves in the future say a year or two down the road? Do you plan on taking this as far as it can go or do you have other aspirations besides?Melora: I'm going to stay with the band because we have a long history of playing together, but actual recording, you know. Just to have done one thing, it would be nice to see how that develops. I would personally like to get into scoring for films and soundtracks 'cause it used to be more that people would, ahhhh, compose to the film and play along with it and I think that went away for awhile but it's coming back. so, that would be nice.
I've read that you actually write out all the music longhand first and then the band learns it. Everybody reads music?Melora: Yeah, that's something that, ummmm, I think it tends to be looked down on in rock music. For some reason people wish we were jamming or that kind of thing.
Do you jam at all?Melora: Not really because the other girls do come from a much more strict classical background and there you put all your skills into interpreting someone else's' music. There's no pressure to write it yourself, so.
What kind of cellos do you use?Melora: None of our cellos at this point are especially nice because to travel with them, you know, it's terrifying because even a bad cello costs $5000 or something so we have, like, not terribly old, not terribly expensive. I think, ahhh, we have two Germans and one, ahhh, Agniezska's from Poland so maybe her cellos from Poland. I don't know?
You met her at nanny school? Weird place to meet, no?Melora: Yeah, I think a lot of times, ahhh, young girls from far away are, ahhh, use that as a way to move to the city.
Have you met any interesting people on tour?Melora: No, we've been settled about pretty much and we like to rehearse as much as we can so whenever we have a minute we play together.
What's this I hear about binding garments or strangulation garments? What's that all about?Melora: Arrrhhh, well, we wear corsets and I have a big collection of underwear through the ages. At this point it's like just a waitress uniform we throw on to play. We're pretty regimented with ourselves and our clothes are like that too.
Do you think you'd prefer living in another era?Melora: I like living now because you can always pick and choose what you want from a long history of time, whether you want to use technology or not or, you know, the farther back you go the more your limitations.
How many people in the band?Melora: There's me, Julia, Agniezska, and Steve is our drummer.
You do all the singing. Is it difficult to sing and play a cello?Melora: Yeah, it's like, [she pats her head and rubs her stomach].
Where did you find the memos for the Howard Hughes song? Is that legit or what?Melora: Really, the lyrics are almost word for word either the memos of what he wanted his staff to do or things that weren't on the others. Not any elaboration there really. There's a lot of biographies on him, almost everywhere. You can't believe it.
What's "The Ladies Cello Society" all about?We consider ourselves kind of like a club and cellists that play outside of the classical scene or world tend to know each other and have been in and out of the group.
Only ladies though? You won't let men in?Melora: Yeah, they can come and watch or....
...cheer you on, ha-ha. That song, Transylvanian Concubine, are you into vampires?Melora: That is probably our oldest song and, you know, now that I'm a little more mature I'm embarrassed to have to deal with the vampire subject.
There you go. You should have thought about that back then. Those things tend to come back and haunt you.Melora: I didn't think it would go anywhere.
Could you elaborate on the vocal process used on Mr. E. Leon Rauis?Melora: The early Edison machines? They were like before Victrolas. They're a wax cylinder and some sort of needle scratches it to record the sound. In the past we've used different samplings, scratches off records, etc. but we actually used the authentic thing. Nothing can replace that. Actually, we sang it normally in the studio first, then we transferred it to the edison machine and back to tape.
Do you have any bizarre stories from the road or anything else you'd like to talk about?Melora: Well, if we have to hear about Julia's shoes anymore we might scream. That's only been here in Providence though.
You played with Nirvana? Did you get to meet that strange girl from Hole?Melora: She was sort of a vibe presence. People would warn me, "Look out. Here she comes.", but like she wasn't really there.
How did you get involved with Nirvana?Melora: A mutual friend knew they were looking for a new cellist and told them what I do. They gave me a call and I went.
Did you enjoy it?Melora: Yeah, it was really intense because it was a really large scale, huge crowds. It was all over Europe, you know, strange cities and I was somewhat of a fan before so to be there with them I was pretty shy. It was like being new at school or something.
But now that you're an old seasoned pro it's a piece of cake.Melora: Yeah, right, ha-ha.
Do you follow the new band, The Foo Fighters?Melora: Ummm, Yeah, Pat Smear who's in Foo Fighters was in Nirvana and he was probably my best friend from Nirvana. I got along with him really well, so...
Where are you headed next?Melora: We get to go home after the show to New York and we are... Are we doing the TV show this weekend?
Julia: I don't think it's this weekend. It's like next week.
Melora: We're doing Conan O'Brien on October 1st whenever that is. I just lost all track of time. Then we go back to California and come back to the east coast.
You all live in New York?Melora: Yes, in very far-flung corners of the big city.
Excited about doing Conan?Melora: Yeah, ummm, sometimes on those shows they make you, ummm, their stage band play with you. I don't know how that would fly. Paul Shaffer, alright, but the rest of them....
I think you're being too polite. Paul Shaffer, I don't think so!Melora: I value camp value.