Girl Media - June 2001

Interview with Melora of Rasputina

  The New York City trio Rasputina is led by Melora Creager, a classically-trained cellist who backed Nirvana on the group's final tour. In 1992, Creager placed a want ad seeking other cellists to form a rock band; among those responding was Canadian musician Julia Kent, and with the later addition of Polish native Agnieszka Rybska, Rasputina was born.

Is there a difference between Rasputina and A Ladies Cello Society?

Rasputina is a division of A Ladies' Cello Society. The Society is the umbrella mini-conglomerate that anyone can be a member of. Rasputina itself is limited to 3 public members.

It's been several years since the sophomore album, How We Quit The Forest was released. Has the Rasputina sound changed at all?

We have been into less drums; playing live without them like we used to do many years ago.

For the longest time, no one could quite explain Rasputina. Descriptions like Neo-Classical-Grunge, Bach meets Marilyn Manson, and the plain simple "It's a God Damn Cello Band" circulated in the press. Has Rasputina come up with a decriptive slogan yet?

Well, 2 out of 3 of those were invented by me, and I'll have to think of new ones for a new record.

The three members Rasputina were found through the classifieds in the Village Voice. Was there an assortment of cello players wanted/posted or was it fate that brought you together as bandmates?

The most recent member, K.Cowperthwaite, was found at the Internet Cello Society. It's somewhat rather fate, as each time with the Voice ads, only one person answered them, and it was the right person. A person who plays well and still desires to be in this odd ensemble is hard to come by.

Is there synergy when you play together?

Sometimes there is "synergy", and that is exciting. Performing has a lot telepathy required.

Do you have a muse when you compose your songs?

I do feel outside of myself when I'm writing music. It's channeling and reaching for something that already exists out in the air, I just have to find it.

When did you start to experiment with pedals and effects on your cello?

We've used distortion pedals for years and years. But I'm no gear head; I try to keep equipment to a minimum.

What is the set-up on your cello to help create the trademark Rasputina sound?

We have amps that are made for stand-up bass, Fishman pick-ups, a cello must have a pre-amp, and we like Danelectro distortion, and Boss Blues Man pedals.

I am aware that you have added a drummer to the mix. Is there any new instruments (perhaps the guitar) included on new recordings?

People often assume we have guitars in our recordings, I suppose from the distortion. Politically, I will never use guitars. What for?! I like to include piano and xylophone when I can.

Rasputina is infamous for playing live shows in victorian underwear (ie corsets and bloomers). Any reason why you opted not to wear the entire assemble?

A full historical outfit looks really uptight, with the high neck, no legs showing, etc. The antique underwear is just the coolest looking thing, but like a uniform. Like in movies like Pretty Baby and Oklahoma.

Where do you find the clothes? Are they original or do you make them yourselves?

Most of the clothes have come from flea-markets. Most are original, but some are historical costumes that were made a long time ago, making them double old.

You have mentioned that being tightly bound helps you concentrate on playing music live. Do you also wear corsets when performing in the studio?

No way-corsets in the studio. I wear lucky clothes, pajamas and overalls exclusively when recording.

After several years of playing in tight corsets, have you suffered any ill effects?

As I've gotten better at singing, I really don't want to be laced very tightly. I was wearing a corset a lot early in my pregnancy, and I believe that led to some strangeness which caused me not to know I was pregnant for the longest time!

How did you land the gig with Nirvana on their final tour?

A friend from art school, photographer Michael Lavine, was friends with Nirvana, and told them about me. Kurt called himself to offer me the job.

On Nirvana Unplugged, you had darker hair (red?). What made you switch over to blonde?

That was NOT me on the Unplugged. I replaced that girl.

How would you describe the other members of Rasputina? What qualities do they give to the band?

Nana is an extremely unusual person. She believes that Rasputina is the greatest thing ever, and I'm very glad she thinks that. K. Cowperthwaite is also dedicated, and I love to play with her. We have fun.

Are you still with Columbia records?

Our contract with Columbia ended. We are free agents looking for a way to release a record.

What's up with you and the rest of Rasputina? I heard that you are working in LA with Eleni Mandall.

We are going to play the New Directions Cello Festival in June, and give workshops on the distortion pedal and singing while you play.

Is there a chance for a new release in the near future?

Who knows when. Everyone is releasing things themselves these days. Maybe the cool misfit thing to do would be to get another major label contract. Ha-ha.

What's your URL?