Outburn - 2004

Rasputina: "I love to torture myself. I have many anxiety dreams..."

  Rasputina is the orchestral fantasy world created by frontwoman Melora Creager, which allows both cellos to rock and ladies to hold court in style. Throughout the years, Rasputina has had a revolving cast of string players that Melora mostly attributes to classically trained musician's lack of long-term enthusiasm for championing rock bands. The lastest trio incarnation of Rasputina, finds Melora with Zoe Keating taking the coveted assistant principal chair and Jonathon TeBeest on drums.

  Beginning with 1996's Thanks For the Ether, Rasputina jettisoned into the stratosphere with the alternative radio hit "Transylvanian Concubine," and its Marilyn Manson remix and opening spot on his tour. Then came other great albums like Quitting the Forest, and most recently, Cabin Fever, with its catchy tunes, like "AntiqueHighHeelRedDollShoes" and the rather creepy "Gingerbread Coffin."

  After completing a cover album, The Lost and Found, Rasputina has continued on its road to redefine what string players and girls are supposed to do, and has created a sound that is uniquely its own on the latest epic masterpiece, Frustration Plantation. The album plays like a lush illustrated picture book of tales from the 1800s South, while mixing in perfect speckles of antiquity and pure rock 'n' roll soul. Melora further explains a few of the tales, and politely indulged in answering a few cellist questions.

Did you ever have a music teacher that was influential in your life?

I studied mostly visual arts in school, but I did have one cello teacher when I was growing up. He was a tough old man from Boston, and we were in Kansas, so he was somewhat exotic and a sophisticated guy. He was more of a disciplinarian, and I never got the feeling that he thought I was anything special, but he was a character.

Do you think wearing corsets help your posture as a cellist?

Corsets make you sit up straight, and I do tend to be rather slumped over, but they are not good for singing, and that is something I have had to overcome. Your diaphragm is compressed and your breasts are up to your neck.

How does Frustration Plantation differ from Cabin Fever thematically?

Cabin Fever I did totally by myself in my house, so in a way, it was me going crazy. With this record, Joseph Bishara produced it, and one of the greatest things he did was make me talk extensively about the themes. I do not really like to talk and I am much better at music. Joe got me to think more deeply about the songs and start being very specific within this theme. Which in turn made Zoe and I really excited and into researching everything.

What type of literature most influenced Frustration Plantation?

I had some historical novels that took place in New Orleans. The stories took place around the time of the Lousiana Purchase, when France sold that area to the United States. There were all these French, Indians, English, and all these different types of people that wanted to become Americans. Everything was sold out from under them...so, I was really trying to capture this vision of early 1800s Louisiana.

Many of your songs involve subjects that pertain to women. Considering Rasputina's costuming and that you have a young daughter, are you trying to address feminism in your work?

Most of it comes down to the fact that I really do not have any idea what it feels like to be a guy. I would not think I am a good enough fiction writer to take that role on, and it really does not interest me. Usually the songs are about women, because I just find it more interesting. Right now, my daughter is four, and I will tell her, "Women use to not be able to do whatever they wanted." She just cannot believe that. I do not think of myself as a feminist. I do not think it is as big of an issue today. No one has ever stopped me from doing what I have wanted to do. I feel that I am allowed to play with the idea of being girlie or wearing costumes if I want.

What is the story behind "Saline the Salt Lake Queen?"

I have someone in my family who is on Lithium, the mental health drug. I was doing research about that and how it is a salt. Zoe and I were reading a book about the history of salt, and I got very into the subject of salt and all the different words for salt. Therefore, I made up this story about a girl cooking in the desert.

What about the song "My Captivity by Savages?"

My friend sent me a picture of a woman named Olive Oakman, who was abducted by Indians in the 1800s. The Indians tattooed her chin, and when she was finally returned she went back to being a proper Victorian lady with the exception of her crazy tattooed chin. I really got into the story of her, and in the Library of Congress, I actually found a whole genre of books that were written by different women who were captured by Indians. The women would write all these religious books or sensational stories about their capture that would hint at having sex with the Indians, but also of their love of God.

"The Mayor" is another interesting song...

"The Mayor" is one of the more personal songs on the album. It is about someone in my life, but you can read it two ways. If you are thinking it is about the Mayor, you will get one meaning, but if you know the reality of my life and this person, then it is so obvious that it is about them. It is a very sad song.

How about "Possum of the Grotto?"

That song is about another friend of mine. It is also a personal song. I am not comfortable writing songs that are very literal like, "He's my friend and he's a cool guy." Therefore, I am much more into writing allegories...so, that one is a song for my crazy friend.

Your stage banter is rather legendary and carnival-esque. What inspires you to tell twisted riddles and jokes between the songs at the live shows?

When we started long ago, I was very scared of playing in front of an audience, and I needed something to fill the space between songs. Since there is so much adjustment between the songs because of the cellos, there also tended to be a lot of dead air. At first, I mostly did straight up introductions to the next selection, and then it just turned into a sort of freeform type of thing. For a day or two before, I have to scare myself into doing it. I really do not want to get on stage, and I really have to force myself to say these crazy things.

So you have a bit of stage fright?

I love to torture myself. I have many anxiety dreams about shows. I am happy when I do not have to do a show...but at the same time, I love it. It is like an amusement park.

Is a uterine plug more like a chastity belt or a contraceptive device?

Actually, there is a belt that holds the uterine plug in place, and it does not have anything to do with sex at all. It was worn because all the corset wearing would literally force the uterus inside out. Therefore, it is plugging your uterus in, so it will not fall out. I have an old picture of one, from an antique Sears-type catalogue.