Waterstained.com - April 2004

Inteview With Fans
By Sara/DreygenFli
(Special thanks to Sara for allowing me to archive this interview here)

  Over the course of a couple of months, I have had the honor of interviewing Rasputina members Melora Creager, Zoë Keating and Jonathon TeBeest, and artists Ryan Obermeyer and Symon Chow. As they answered questions mostly compiled by their internet fans, they gave insight into some of Rasputina’s idiosyncrasies, told humorous tour stories and related interesting facts about themselves. Here we go!

  Touring and the New Album (answers from Melora):

1. Lately, we've been fascinated with how much you've been touring, and with the yearly release of albums. Is this a trend that we are going to continue to see if all goes well?

Well, I don't think we've managed one a year, have we? Maybe with EPs and such. We like to tour as much as possible. The child-rearing limits that.

2. Most of the fans agree that the original work is astounding and that a lot of the covers you've been doing are improvements on the originals. Are you going to be releasing another cover album including songs like "Blister in the Sun" and "Barracuda" in the near future?

I don’t think we'll do another all covers record. Barracuda is such a special thing, we want to put it in the perfect place. It’s cool to have some songs as a "live only" experience. Memories are always better than reality.

3. When will the Knitting Factory footage be available?

I don't know where that Knit. Fact. footage will turn up.

4. Most everyone has heard about the paperwork, but are there any new plans to travel overseas? Many people from Europe and even one from Australia have been pleading for the tours to go abroad.

It's a vicious circle of "Gotta have a record to play a show, gotta play a show to get a record deal". But we seriously are trying to get to London this year.

  General Questions for all:

5. What has it been like working within the dynamic you have currently? You seem to have a lot of fun together on stage, is that usually how it goes in practice too? Despite the distance between all of your homes, are you the type to hang out with one another outside of practice?

Melora: We have a lot of love for each other, and we LOVE to play together. A band is like a family. A lot of families don¹t get along! We have more laughs practicing. A show is like a sports competition, and we¹re a team. A gymnastics team.

6. Do you feed off of one another’s creativity in writing and playing?

Melora: Yes. Jonathon's playing has influenced my writing a lot. Zoë can be intuitive with all the parts. She doesn’t need something so concrete from me, which is great.

7. Is it a challenge to live life off of stage, because of the costumes and the antiquity? Do fans expect you to be old fashioned ladies and gentlemen on the street when you’re really just trying to go about on errands like regular people?

Melora: It feels bad to disappoint people. Not to be a bighead, but we each have a superlative personal style. But people see us when we’re on the road, haven’t had proper time or place for personal grooming in weeks, have worn the same clothes for a while…

8. We know Zoë has been doing a lot of work on the website lately, but are you all pretty involved with the internet? There is a lot of information (and misinformation) about Rasputina and the other projects you are all involved in out there. How do you deal with that?

Melora: The internet is addictive, and a worse time-waster than TV, but that doesn’t mean I’m not addicted and wasting my time! We try to disseminate as much misinformation as possible, and it usually seems to stick.

Zoë: We're normal people really and do a lot of things outside of Rasputina. For example, I'm also an information architect and worked at a software company prior to joining the band. I started doing little things here and there to maintain the website, just 'cause I know how. But I'm too busy now to keep that up and we have someone else working on a new site for us, thank goodness! As far as misinformation, I guess I don't know about it!

Jonathon: I have been pretty slow w/ the whole internet thing, but am working on getting a website up very soon. Until then, here is my background:
I was in the ska band 3 Minute Hero from 1997-2000
I appeared on two albums: Everyday Ninjas (1998)
Operation: Brown Star (1999)
I have been playing w/ the band New Professionals for the last year.
We have recorded our first album, Come Hell or High Drama, and it will be released very soon.
I appeared on the record Rocket Scientry by the band Gravity.
I also recently did all the tracks on an EP for the band THIS.

9. Going along with that, is it strange to read reviews about shows, whether good or bad? Are praise and criticism from so many different people a difficulty, or is it helpful?

Melora: Show reviews are not too interesting. It’s always scary and interesting to read what people think about a new recording.

Zoë: Speaking for myself, I like to read reviews because I find it interesting how an audience experiences the band. Obviously, being on stage, our experience is quite different. That said, I don't take anything they write personally. Everyone is entitled to their own experience and opinion.

10. What new or old musicians are you all really into lately? What musicians have you been fans of for a long time and still keep close to your heart? Have anyone them been an inspiration for songwriting or playing? If you could each tour with any band or artist, who would it be?

Melora: The Clash, Gang of Four, My Bloody Valentine, White Stripes, Britney’s "Toxic".

Zoë: I've been listening to the Cocteau Twins since high school. Their early records mean a lot to me. Actually, I guess I've been listening to the same darn music forever: Steve Reich, Brian Eno, Arvo Part, Kate Bush, Bach's Goldberg variations as played by Glenn Gould. As far as recent music, forgive me, I have to confess my unwavering love for Bjork and Radiohead.

Jonathon: I love all stuff old (1700s to 1970). It’s too extensive to list, but lately if you were to put in any good country i.e. Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Willie, The Everly Brothers, you’d have my heart. I will always love Kiss. They were my first concert when I was 5. I’ve been screwed up ever since.

11. What other hobbies do you each have outside of working with music?

Melora: Hot gluing, seam-ripping, research into hobbies I will never do.

Zoë: Cooking. English history.

  Individual Questions:

  Questions For Melora:

1. Do you think that there will ever be a release of the older songs? Are there any old or rare recordings?

HWQTF has turned out to be rare! Yes, I would like to put some old things together, but I have to get the anachronistic equipment that it was all recorded on fixed.

2. Some fans worked on the lyrics to "The Vaulted Eel" since we can’t find them anywhere. Would you be willing to look at them or give them out, or is that song lost in the past?

I can put it up on the site if it is desired.

3. The link to Uncle Coco's livejournal has been on the official site for a long time now. Can you confirm or deny any involvement in his writings (hehehe)?

Involvement can be confirmed. It is really interesting how it is written, but much like the allure of non-nakedness, I will not tell it now.

4. I’ve noticed that you’ve taken a step back from the drumming and the album artwork as well. Has that been a challenge? What has it been like working with Ryan and Symon?

Drum programming I just did out of lack of a drummer. It was fun, but I don’t miss it. I’m as involved in art as I ever was. The FP art-making was as passionate and involved as the recording. Ryan is so very special. Because he tours with us too, he is just our darling. I can collaborate with Symon well, which is rare for me. I make something, and it’s low-res and messy. He re-does it properly and improved.

5. Is it true that you have been working on a screenplay? Care to share the details?


  Questions For Zoë:

1. What is it like to be suddenly associated with Rasputina? I know that you play solo and with other groups at home, but all around the world, you’re now associated with corsets and old lace. Was the part fun to take on?

It feels totally natural to be in Rasputina. I love it: the costuming, the touring, the rocking out, the comraderie. Melora is a great inspiration. She does her own unique thing, excels at motherhood and music without sacrificing either. I hope to be able to do the same some day.

2. So did you borrow a lot of Melora's vintage clothing in the beginning for the shows? Did you have to go out and build up a large collection of your own?

Oh yes. Luckily she has a great collection and is very generous with it. I had to borrow a lot. I still do because these clothes are expensive and hard to find. Especially when you're 5'11''. But really, it's amazing what you can do with a few rags, a ribbon and some safety pins. Gradually I've been finding old things and I'm having a couple of corsets made.

3. How is your solo work coming along? Are you still expecting to release a full album? Are you still working with Tony Cross and others in California?

I'm working on a full-length instrumental CD that I hope to finish before the summer and I've got a soundtrack to do for an independent film. Also, I really like to improvise in public as much as possible. It's challenging, sometimes scary and a great way for me to expand my horizons while having fun at the same time. I've known Tony since I was 17 and playing music together is like a social activity for us. I expect we'll still be doing it when we're old geezers, playing in the cafeteria of the nursing home.

4. Many of the fans find a connection with you in that you lived in their area at one point in time. First Canada, then Western NY, then NYC, then out to California. What was it like growing up in Canada, and then having to deal with high school Upstate; how did you amuse yourself in rural NY? Are you more comfortable in California?

I grew up all over the place. I was born in Ontario, moved to Alberta and then England. I went to high school in Schenectady, NY and then a tiny farming town called LeRoy, outside of Rochester. High school was grim and I was your typical black-clad outcast. Mostly I just read books and played the cello. My two friends and I would sit around listening to sad music and then go smoke menthol cigarettes in the graveyard. No one in San Francisco is from San Francisco, so it's the perfect place for me but I dream of returning to the magical England of my childhood where I spent long days outside talking to sheep and fairies!

5. Who do you think should be the next president of the United States? Are any of the candidates appropriate, or do they make you want to move back to Canada?

I swore that if George W. won the election in 2000 I'd leave the country. I just swore that again for 2004, but we'll see if I really do it! I am most disappointed in people for not voting. I mean, only half of eligible voters bother to do it! This is important people! Get out there and vote, I don't care who for! I thought about offering a free CD single to anyone who sent me their ballot-receipt, but realized I could go broke pretty quickly.

  Questions For Jonathon:

1.What is it like being an official member of "The Ladies’ Cello Society"? The band has been commonly associated with women along the way, is that ever intimidating?

What can I say, I love threesomes!

2. Are you still playing with other groups in Michigan or elsewhere? Are "The New Professionals" still playing together?

I've been playing in a bunch of NYC bands. The New Professionals have an album coming out very soon. It’s called Come Hell or High Drama. I’m very excited for it. We are putting together plans to hit the road soon, as well! Here’s the list of all the NYC bands I have done work with: New Professionals, Gravity, Mink, THIS, Strangelove I have also been known to sit in with my friends from the west coast, Warsaw, whenever were in the same area. But I’ve been spending most of my time writing my own music. I hope to form a band around that real soon and get it out on the road!! I play all the instruments on the recordings I’ve been doing so I’m not sure what Ill be playing in the band but Ill definitely be singing.

3. I read somewhere that you were once on Maury Povich as a fan confessed her undying love for you. Is it true?? It wasn't a Rasputina fan though, right (She probably is now!)?

Yes, it is true. It was a sweet girl from my hometown in Minnesota.

4. What do you think of your internet nicknames? Speaking of Abe Lincoln, was he the inspiration for the new beard? A lot of people dig the new look.

I have had so many nicknames throughout my life, I sometimes forget to answer when people actually call me Jonathon! Lately I mostly answer to Uncle Jonny. No inspiration for the beard, sorry to say. It started out of pure laziness. I had surgery last year and didn’t feel like doing much of anything in the month following, and so the beard was born.

  Meet The Artists:

  Questions For Ryan:

1. How did you get the chance to work with Rasputina? Did you contact them, or did they track you down?

When I was living in New York I saw a show of theirs when Kris and Nana were with the band. I had been a fan of Rasputina for a few years and spoke with their marketing director about a possible collaboration. I sent them a promotional package of some work that I did with them in mind. Melora wrote back and invited me to another show. We hung out a few times and spoke about the Lost and Found EP that she was working on at the time. Things went from there.

2. Your website is beautiful, and it seems that you work with a few different mediums. Was your work on the new album limited to digital photography? Is that your main area of interest?

When I started working with Rasputina, it was my first real digital work. I had just been dabbling and I found that I really preferred it to painting because of the overwhelming possibilities. My work with the band has been solely digital (save for some stuff in the Overdue Library Book). When we were on tour in the fall I shot some digital photos of the band at a haunted plantation in Louisiana. It was a lot of fun hanging out and really getting into the feel of the old south. Things with the art at that point were very tentative, I knew Symon was involved and at then I became somewhat involved. When we got back from the tour they asked me to create two digital images from the photos I had taken. Right now I’m actually working on a painting for a book jacket. It’s the first work I’ve done in a while that’s not digital.

3. What was it like to tour around with the band recently? Any funny stories to tell?

It’s always an adventure. Initially I was really homesick this time around, but when I got my head on it was so much fun. We’re like a gypsy caravan version of the Von Trapps. There are so many stories! Belle and Sebastian was a lot of fun. One time Jonathon and I got the girls locked out of their hotel room because we were carrying Melora downstairs to go to a bar with us against her will. I’m sure there are more exciting stories than that Zoë took us on a pitch-dark tour of Yellowstone National Park. One night I ended up wearing some CBGB panties in a hotel Jacuzzi with 3 French Hens, 2 Turtle Doves, a few Belle and Sebastians, and a Rasputina.

4. The Rasputina Overdue Library Book that you were selling is lovely. Are you going to have them available again, whether online or at shows? Do you have any future plans for creating Rasputina-themed items?

I have tons of the tour books left. I have no plans for them. I was really happy with the positive response from them. I think I’ll just hang on to them and let them age like a fine wine and sell them in 20 years. I had a few items I was going to produce, including one of those floaty pens with a little moving Melora riding the deer from the Lost and Found cover. All of the items were either not cost-effective or unable to be produced in time. I never know what the future holds.

5. As you probably know, you were the butt (no pun intended…okay I lied) of many Salt jokes during the last tour. Or did you know? Also, there were rumors flying around that you were doing a reality television show involving Three’s Company. Is that true?

I heard the salt jokes every night. I just thought it was my cute shout-out from Melora. I was alarmed at how many people would come up and ask me why I did that to Melora!? I would like to put that rumor to rest; Melora and I are good friends. I would never put anything harmful up her butt.

  Questions For Symon:

1. How did you come across Rasputina, or perhaps, how did they come across you? Why did you decide to start working with them?

I've always been a huge fan of Rasputina. I decided to start working with them because their style seemed to "gel" with my current work.

2. How long have you been working with photography? Has it been a life-time passion, or was it part of a gradual experimentation with art?

I studied photography back in my "yoot" at Parson's School of Design. I have always had a love for photography, from the age of 5, when I was digging around in my dad's closet and discovered his camera collection (which I now own and use to this day). I didn't really pursue it as a full time gig until recently. But no matter what I have done in my career, it has always involved photography in one way or another.

3. Did you work side by side with Ryan Obermeyer on the album artwork, or it an over-the-internet process?

Ryan and I actually didn't have much interaction with Frustration Plantation. He did his work, and then sent them to me, and I integrated them into my work. We have worked closely together in the past though, mostly Off-Broadway productions. Currently we are working on a musical forensics/crime drama for CBS.

3a. What parts did you do, and what parts was he in charge of?

I did the artwork, layouts, typography, and photos. Ryan was in charge of the centerfold and the photo that you see in the frame in the cover art.

4. What has it been like working with Melora, Zoë, and Jonathon? Is it a professional relationship, or has it grown into a friendship? Are they easy subjects to photograph?

Oh it was a blast! You couldn't ask for better subjects! We get along great, in fact, we're planning a Disney Cruise together! Weeeee!

5. What other hobbies do you have and what musical groups do you really relate to? Are you very busy in other things outside of your photography, or is it your main endeavor?

Hobbies include: Collecting vintage taxidermy and skeletons, eBay, being a Mac Geek, Food Network, sleeping, stuff. My musical tastes vary from week to week, but my all time obsessions would have to be: Johnny Cash, The Cure, Tom Waits, Nick Cave and the Badseeds, Duran Duran, and of course, Rasputina! Aside from photography, I am also a graphic Designer, primarily in children’s publishing. And just for kicks, I do some crew work on films and Videos. Nothing beats manual labor! -- (as long as Craft Services are involved) ;)