Michel, thanks for taking the time out to answer a few questions with
Cathedral13. For those not already familiar with Disjecta Membra can
you give us a brief history of the band up to this point?
You’re welcome, but
ah… not sure if a “brief” history is possible! This is the first Disjecta
Membra interview I’ve done for a few years, so there’s a bit of catching up
I started playing music in Hamilton, New Zealand. In my early teens a friend
and I put together a short-lived dark metal project called Nösferätu (no
relation to the UK gothic band Nosferatu); and meanwhile I tried my hand at
solo home recording experiments using the name of Danse Macabre from about
1987. Neither of these projects resulted in any noteworthy output, but I
mention them as they were central to Disjecta Membra’s genesis. The earliest
demos of “Cathedral” and “Third Song” among others were recorded at this time
under the Danse Macabre moniker, while early versions of songs like
“Necrophilia” were first played with Nösferätu.
In about 1991 Nösferätu fizzled out, and Danse Macabre eventually became
Disjecta Membra when I decided to learn guitar and focus on my own project,
inspired by seeing local gothic/post-punk/indie bands The Haunting,
Hapukalypse Now, Book of Martyrs and Cygnet Committee.
Between ’93 & ’94 my friend Dave Jones and I started jamming and recorded
many sessions together, culminating in a 6-song Disjecta Membra promo
cassette entitled “Sex Insekta” which received a bit of play-listing on local
student radio from around March/April 1994. So I guess the
‘official/on-record’ history of Disjecta Membra commences there.
‘Membra became a live unit in ’95, which usually consisted of me on guitars,
vocals, synths and programmes and one Benjamin Cauchi on bass guitar. We went
through a few third-parties on keyboards and second guitar, most notably Paul
Kennedy and Scott Barnett. From late 1995 we also collaborated with a
visual/performance artist called Anna Maggat, and
writer/poet/orator/conceptual artist Deonne Rowland who contributed quite
heavily to Disjecta Membra between ’95 and 2001, and still does, on occasion.
In the studio we worked with a private sound company called Theta Productions
- Dave Whitehead (former Cygnet Committee guitarist who now produces
award-winning sound-design on movies like Lord of the Rings) and his business
partner Dave Lowndes who, in the studio at least, effectively became a member
of the group. This led to our second demo release simply entitled “Theta
Sessions” recorded between December ‘95 and February ‘96. These sessions
received a lot more airplay through student radio networks nationwide, and a
bit of attention in Australia via dark music specialist shows; ultimately
securing an album deal with Heartland Records in Melbourne.
Following the respective departures of Paul Kennedy and Scott Barnett we
eventually recruited Tamlyn Martinovich from industrial-grind-punk outfit
Genitus Lung in mid 1996. Genitus Lung and Disjecta Membra played a number of
shows together between 1996 and 1997 with quite a bit of cross-pollinating
side-projects emerging as a result.
It was the line-up of me, Ben and Tamlyn that established the “grass-roots”
following around New Zealand from DM’s live shows and which is still
remembered by older followers as the ‘definitive’ group – certainly not how I
remember it though; there were always many contributors coming and going from
day one, which is of course in keeping with our namesake.
In late ’96 we released a single version of “Cauldron of Cerridwen” on
Heartland’s label sampler A Bouquet of Barbed Wire, and recorded the
Achromaticia album with Dave Lowndes at Theta. Heartland released the album
internationally early the following year. We toured in support of the release
from July – September of 1997 with Jacob Sullivan replacing Ben Cauchi on
bass; whilst Jacob’s other band Reserved For Emily toured as our support act.
August ’97 Tamlyn quit in the middle of touring because he was “bored”. So he
went wandering around South East Asia with an acoustic guitar, moved back to
Auckland, trained as a chef, and since 2005 is now a member of the awesome
AVOTOR, alongside founding member H. Walker (also formerly of Genitus Lung).
Tamlyn replaced AVOTOR co-founder Bev Langman Painter, who, between 1996 and
1998 had also regularly contributed to Disjecta Membra in a behind-the-scenes
capacity – giving technical assistance with demos, event organisation,
road-management, lighting tech and so on before he and H. Walker formed
AVOTOR in ‘98. Bev and I had also been live members of a short-lived project
Falling Cynic in 1996, fronted by Logan Poppelwell (also of Genitus Lung).
Bev was last heard of heading for somewhere in Asia in 2005.
With the release of Achromaticia Disjecta Membra established a more
widespread international fanbase, thanks to Heartland and distribution
through their partners Nightbreed and Resurrection in the UK and Europe,
among others. Around this time we acquired the tag of “New Zealand’s leading
gothic band” from local and international fans and media, with appearances on
Australian and UK compilations from ‘97-‘98 and awesome support from
specialist DJs, promoters, fanzines and radio shows around Australia, the U.K,
Germany, France, Italy and to a lesser extent North America - although
interest stateside seems to have grown quite solidly over the years since.
The follow-up album Sibylline Leaves was already written, rehearsed and demos
were well under way by the time we recorded Achromaticia. I had suggested to
Heartland that I’d like to record and release two albums simultaneously, as I
was eager to move forward and already tiring of the Achromaticia material,
some of which dated back to the days of Danse Macabre and Nösferätu. But
Heartland felt it simply wasn’t viable, so recording of the second album was
postponed until the end of 1997.
Disjecta Membra then completed full studio recordings of Sibylline Leaves in
its entirety twice; at which point I can probably reserve the rest of the
story for some of the questions further below.
It's been just over ten years that Disjecta Membra has existed now and I
had, as I'm sure many others had, given up hope on hearing anything new
material from the band. What was the cataylst that brought Disjecta Membra
back to life?
It’s always been
a ‘loose-end’ in the back of my mind that I wanted to tie up one day, but
there were a number of reasons why the timing was right to resume work on
this project now.
At the end of 2003 I moved back home to Hamilton – having previously
relocated to Wellington in December ’96 once the Achromaticia sessions were
in the can. The idea of coming home was to ‘get away from it all’ and
reconnect to family and old friends. Disjecta Membra was a long way from my
mind by then.
Last year I was asked by my cousin Te Haupa Tupuhi from indie band St. Lucy
to play a ‘one-off’ show, at a tribute event to Hamilton’s underground music
scene that he was organising. I agreed, and by the by I recruited drummer
Paul T (formerly of Hapukalypse Now and The Haunting), who suggested bassist
Paul Oakley (also ex-Hapukalypse Now), who in turn roped in lead guitarist
Stanley Jagger (from Hapukalypse Now and Book of Martyrs).
These three characters have been playing together as stalwarts of the
Hamilton underground for about 15 years now in various bands and projects,
too many to name. The line-up was formed with the intention of playing one
show only, but as soon as we started rehearsing new material together one
thing led to another and it became a regular thing. The mere fact that they
were among the musicians who had originally inspired me to start the band,
coupled with being back in Hamilton 10 years on, and paying tribute to my
hometown’s underground music scene… it was the culmination of factors like
these that all seemed fitting for Disjecta Membra to ‘return to its roots’.
It was also due to being free from many other commitments, which I’ll also
talk about further below. And of course the response I’ve received to the
news of our reincarnation has certainly been a very encouraging incentive to
take things further. I was quite surprised to learn that there was even more
interest in Disjecta Membra now than there was when we were last active,
especially from the UK and US, which is great news.
The follow-up to your debut album Achromaticia which was titled Sibylline
Leaves has never been released due to many unusual and unforeseen
circumstances from what I understand. Some people have even gone as far to have called
that album 'cursed'. What went wrong or perhaps a better question would
be was there anything that didn't go wrong?
I’ve been asked about this quite a few times
but I’ve never actually taken the time to tell the whole story before. And
you’re quite right; it’s more a case of what didn’t go wrong.
The album sessions really were quite literally cursed, that is to say, I know
of several individuals who cast ‘spells’ for want of a better word
specifically intended to impede our work. Some people might not believe in
that sort of thing but my own experiences confirm it more than sufficiently
for me. Several members of the band - myself included – and a number of our
associates dabbled in a lot of self-serving hocus-pocus at that time; while
our lifestyle, music and subject matter attracted the attention of a lot of
unstable, impressionable people who had very strange, romanticised ideas
about who we were and what our music was all about. Like me, many of those
people were also involved in things they were ill-equipped to handle
responsibly. So in certain circles I became a bit of a fake-plastic guru with
deluded ‘followers’ for a while. Some of those people after becoming
disillusioned made serious efforts to impose their own will over Disjecta
The repercussions taught me many valuable lessons though – not to fool around
with sacred things that you don’t understand; not to accept anything, no
matter how flattering or well-intentioned from fragile and misguided people;
and not to present one’s self as something you’re not.
Besides the negative ‘spiritual’ focus I was the subject of myself, upon the
release of “Cauldron of Cerridwen” Paul Cook at Heartland also began
receiving burnt and bloodied curses in the post from a doomsday cult known as
Disjecta Membra, who objected strongly to our use of the name and harassed
the label incessantly about the subject for some time. Very strange times…
On a private level I was at a personal low point between 1997 and 1998. I
wouldn’t like to say too much about that side of things, but in a nutshell
there was a lot of unexpected death and loss very close to me; break downs in
inter-personal relations; problems with alcohol and substance use and so
forth. I wouldn’t suggest that the deaths of others around me had anything to
do with any malicious “curses” on Disjecta Membra but it certainly
contributed to a bit of a downward spiral in my own state of mind from the
time that I started work on the album.
The first sessions I performed and recorded on my own between ’97 and ’98
utilising a friend’s private studio facilities. During these sessions Jacob
Sullivan may have played bass on one or two songs I think, but other than
that it was effectively a solo undertaking.
The entire album was then re-recorded with a new five-piece band between late
1998 and 2000, and produced by myself and Mark H. Beast (formerly of HLAH and
Demoniac). Mark was our drummer by this time, and had previously been our
touring sound-tech since shortly before Achromaticia’s release.
Both times that the album was recorded, before it was possible to mix down a
final master, all of the original multi-tracks were completely erased. All
back-up copies went missing in transit, as did all the multi-track masters
from Achromaticia and numerous other unreleased recordings.
The coming and going of band members also became a major hindrance to
With Ben and Tamlyn already gone by the time the first lot of album sessions
started, that left me, Jacob Sullivan, and a drum-machine doubling up on
Mark H. Beast quit his other band HLAH, constructed an electronic kit and
became our drummer in late ’97.
Shortly afterwards I wandered into a bar one night and saw a woman called
Jordan Reyne playing to about 20 people with her backing band Dr Kevorkian,
and hijacked their guitarist Barnaby Dromgool.
There was a violinist and cellist recording with us at one stage, friends of
Jacob’s, but I can’t remember their names.
The line-up of myself (guitar, vocals), Jacob (bass), Mark (drums) and Barney
(lead guitar) barely survived til about February ’98 before Jacob quit over
petty rivalry towards ‘Membra on the part of his other band Reserved For
Emily. This was the source of some considerable contention for me. I’d gone
out of my way to endorse and support them, funded them coming on tour with us
from the sales of Achromaticia, and as soon as the sycophantic little
(expletives go here) started going down well with our fans they got it into
their heads that they were the new Disjecta Membra, jumped ship and set up
some ridiculous anti-DM campaign. They even went so far as to organise the
DTM (Don’t Tell Michel) Gothic Ball… although I actually thought that was
quite hilarious. Of course, our supporters constituted the majority of their
potential audience and all decided to boycott. They folded within a few
months – none of them went on to do anything noteworthy.
I replaced Jacob by teaching his ex-girlfriend Jayne bass when she moved in
with me for a while, but of course that was never likely to work out for the
best. She later became Elliot from N.U.T.E’s girlfriend and they taught her
to press buttons much more successfully.
Our next stand-in bassist was James Bennett. He also only lasted very briefly
simply because his blackmetal leanings were incompatible with the band. No
bad feelings at all, awesome guy James. He lived with Barney, Deonne and I
for a while after that and became a sort-of
part-time-roadie/guitar-tech/security-guy (pulling angry promoters off me and
suchlike); before going on to co-found Harlequin Squared with electronica
maestro Russell Dench. Russell had been a semi-regular member of industrial
outfits Creassault and later N.U.T.E. As Harlequin Squared, James and Russell
produced a highly original blend of electro-industrial, blackmetal, darkwave
and experimental ambient-psychedelia.
So after three unsuccessful bassists during the first few months of ’98
Barnaby finally roped in his old Dr Kevorkian bandmate Jaz Murphy. Once he
came aboard we had difficulty figuring out why we never thought of him
sooner. Jaz is probably the most sane, stable, reliable and competent
musician ever to play in Disjecta Membra (probably why we never thought of
him sooner), and was still playing shows with me as recently as 2003.
At about the same time Barney also introduced the band to a witch from
Croatia by the name of Petra Skoric who joined on keyboards and guitar.
So from mid 1998 the line-up became me, Mark, Barnaby, Jaz and Petra, and
that was the line-up which commenced the second take of Sibylline Leaves.
Musically speaking, that was the best line-up we ever had. Personality-wise
we were nothing but trouble.
Barney had no sooner recruited Jaz and Petra when he quit later that same
year because I pulled his hair at the DTM Ball, also saying on his way out
that he and his partner couldn’t stand Petra and “it’s not that I don’t like
you Michel, it’s just that I despair of you”.
He was briefly replaced by a guy called Vivian who was wrongly dismissed over
a misunderstanding that wasn’t actually his fault at all, and now plays in
the wonderful Serenna.
Mark’s flatmate Alex Mein Smith, formerly of punk band The Baines and dub
outfit The Black Seeds became our fulltime guitarist from 1999-2001. Like Jaz,
he was surprisingly sane and reliable too, not too sure what the poor bugger
made of the rest of us though. He now records and performs solo as Little
Thief, very interesting dark-ambient and experimental electronic sounds. In
the end, with so many guitarists coming and going I wound up playing most of
the guitars myself in the studio.
Petra was disposed of in 2000 AD when the full extent of her meddling in
inter-personal relations within the band finally came to light; before going
on to completely destroy an excellent blackmetal band called Coven under
equally dubious circumstances.
I think Mark, Jaz, Alex and I continued until about Feb 2001 when I finally
gave up on Sibylline Leaves in dismay and went into hiding in Auckland for a
Are there any plans to ever release Sibylline Leaves or will tracks from it
possibly find their way onto future Disjecta Membra releases?
No. All that
survives of those songs today are some preliminary demo and live versions
recorded between ’96 & ’99, which I mixed down onto analogue cassette for
personal reference. These surviving tapes are now aging badly and of very
poor sound quality, and were only very rudimentary recordings to begin with.
Everything else is gone.
I have attempted many times over the years to transfer those tape recordings
to digital format before they deteriorate much further. I’d have liked to
have at least made them available as mp3s for anyone who was interested to
hear at least some of the songs, but no such luck. Each time the files have
at first been captured with no trouble and cleaned up quite well, but within
a short time they invariably undergo bizarre metamorphoses and for no
apparent reason come out sounding like pure glitch. This occurrence is unique
to the Sibylline Leaves recordings. It sounds like digital Hell. Of course, I
could always re-record those songs if I really wanted to, but I don’t.
There are, however, songs written around the same period that were never
intended for Sibylline Leaves and have never yet been recorded apart from
some very primitive 4-track demo-tapes back in ‘96. Several of those songs
have endured numerous line-ups as live favourites over the years and are
still a part of the current band’s set. Some of them, namely The Skin
Charmer, Boneman and a recent reworking of a song which has had the working
title of “Lilith” for some time; will appear on the next album alongside a
much larger body of work that has been developed since. The songs once
earmarked for Sibylline Leaves itself, however, will never see the light of
day – that decision was made a long time ago; it’s simply not meant to be.
Outside of those who have been fortunate enough to catch one of your recent
performances, most of us haven't heard anything new from Disjecta Membra in
quite some time. How would you describe the songs that you're working
on now in comparison to what you've done in the past?
As a whole, the
material certainly contains elements that will be familiar from the Disjecta
Membra of old, but there has of course been a considerable evolution – I
wouldn’t be satisfied releasing anything that I didn’t think justified such a
long wait, but at the same time, there’d be no point calling it Disjecta
Membra if there was no common thread between old and new. It’s probably fair
to say that there have been three major transitional phases in Disjecta
Membra’s style and sound since the first album was released.
-1: When I was writing Sibylline Leaves I became very directly influenced by
playing live, which was not the case at all with the first album. So I moved
away from the very gloomy, atmospheric ‘gothic horror soundtrack’ sound of
Cathedral, Necrophilia, From the Cradle etc; to a more traditional ‘rock’
format. This was further emphasised when we started recording with the
5-piece band, with a human drummer playing both acoustic and electronic
drums, up-tempo guitar-driven work, and much more immediate melodies and
hooks. Songs written at this time overall represented an extension of what
had started with Cauldron of Cerridwen, Skin Trade and Rats but with a much
fuller sound, and with a more natural energy influenced by post-punk, early
gothic rock and deathrock. Boneman and “Lilith” (for want of a real name)
certainly fit that description, although The Skin Charmer has something more
of a middle-eastern slant melodically; with prog-rock-ish guitars and
downtempo dub rhythms. There are a couple of other songs from the same period
that are still the subject of internal debate.
- 2: While based in Auckland from around 2001 my right-hand-man in ‘Membra
became Russell Dench, who I mentioned earlier as co-founding Harlequin
Squared with James Bennett. Russell is a very gifted pianist and something of
a notorious eccentric who also produces a lot of ambient, electronic and
experimental music as The Harlequin Cube (also called THC or TH3). Harlequin
Squared had become THC when Russell left Wellington and took over the reigns
alone, shortly before he and I started work together. We knew each other from
Wellington and were both new to Auckland at the time so decided to hook up
musically – something we'd talked about for a long time but never got around
to til then.
So from Auckland, Disjecta Membra became me (vocals, guitar, programmes),
Russell (piano, synths, samples etc) and Louise Juventin (bass, acoustic
guitars and vocals) for roughly a year. Louise was then replaced by Ana
Roxburgh (formerly of N.U.T.E) when Russell and I returned to Wellington at
the end of 2001 - Auckland was driving us both nuts. We’d have happily
carried on working with Lou but she’s an Auckland girl and had no intention
of uprooting and coming with us. Back in Wellington we also added guitarist
Matthew Scott (also known as Iris P. Love) to the line-up – another former
member of N.U.T.E, who now plays in Sullen Moon.
Throughout this phase we brought the tempo and energy back down again,
reverted to use of programmed drums (and in many cases no drums at all), and
absorbed a lot of folk, jazz, blues, country, classical, ambient, dub,
ethereal, experimental and noise-industrial influences – all unified by an
overriding sombre, grinding dirge-like sort of feel. We did a cover of
Motorhead's "Ace of Spades" in the spirit of whiskey-soaked
casino-lounge-cabaret meets sombre hill-country ballad for a bit of a laugh
which we won't be repeating but I guess it set the tone quite a bit. I was
also influenced by a lot of my friends’ music at this time, especially Jack
Crawford from Canis and Hog Haul Valentine; Justine S of Flinch, DiS and
Pulchritude; and David Khan of Drawing Room, Vaccine, Leonard Nimoy,
Bocctahne, DiS, MiG-21 and zer0 (among others) who also runs the kRkRkRk
recordings label in Christchurch.
Although Disjecta Membra was very-much a part-time project by this stage due
to commitments to Mediatrix, we developed a lot of new material between 2001
and 2003, from which about 5 or 6 of the stronger pieces now form a part of
the current album sessions. Deonne Rowland also co-wrote some of this
material, and both Lou and Ana were specifically brought in because Deonne
and I had written material for both male and female vocal parts. Ideally, it
would be quite nice to get Russell, Matt, Ana and Lou to each come in as
session players on a few songs before we wrap things up, but logistically
we’ll just have to wait and see. No promises.
- 3: The most recent music we’ve put together since last year with Stan,
Oakley and Paul T has drawn influence from songwriters like Johnny Cash, John
Lee Hooker, Nick Cave, Ennio Morriconne, Leonard Cohen and Jeff Buckley among
others through to bands like Joy Division, Birthday Party, Dead Kennedys and
post-punk influenced New Zealand bands such as Gordons, SPUD, early Shihad
and (more recently) Die! Die! Die! So sometimes it’s very seedy, smoky,
swampy material with bit of a drunken swagger to it, and other times it’s a
bit more neurotic, frenetic and raw. This newest Disjecta Membra music
contains no synths, no samples, no drum-machines etc; just the good old
“organic” band set up. It’s generally a lot grittier, earthier, there’s more
grain and texture to it, with Stan’s
spaghetti-western/rockabilly/surf-punk/swampland blues guitar leanings really
drawing out the “Southern Gothic” elements found in not just the new songs,
but quite a lot of what’s been written in the last five or six years.
If you can imagine a cohesive blend of the best elements from all of the
above then you might be part way to imagining what the new album is shaping
I think the most important progressions I’ve probably made in composition is
that my lyrics are a lot more honest and direct, with much greater emphasis
on narrative, metaphor and story-telling instead of the abstract hotchpotch
word-collages I used to write; and although the music is still “dark” and
expressive, it’s far less contrived in terms of imagery and atmosphere and a
lot more natural. It has its roots in the earth, rather than its head in the
How far along is the recording process currently and do you have a working
title or tentative timeframe that you're shooting for it's release?
I make a point
these days of not saying too much about schedules and release dates and
suchlike until it’s all stitched up good and proper. It will be ready when I
say it’s ready!
Are there currently have any plans to tour to support the new album?
Yes. But as with
release dates, right now would be a bit premature for me to confirm any
details of when and where. In the interim we're still playing occasional
'one-off' shows but they tend to be very low key affairs, as I'm saving up my
energy and enthusiasm for performing until after the release.
One of the reasons given for the inactivity of Disjecta Membra was your role
with the label Mediatrix.
How is the label doing and what other bands make up the Mediatrix roster?
formed around ’98/’99 by myself and my friend Jason Just, with the assistance
of a handful of close associates. Jason had previously fronted the post-punk/coldwave
inspired band Burnt Weeping Eyes from ‘93-‘98, and has since been the
founding member of Shemsu Hor with Mark Grady (also ex BWE), Lightslastfading
(solo) and more recently, Distorture which is still in formative stages. We
met playing around New Zealand together since about ’96.
One of the drawbacks to Disjecta Membra’s international profile at the time
was that outside New Zealand, some people also took to referring to us as
“New Zealand’s ONLY gothic band”. Given the extent to which I had been
inspired by New Zealand’s long and illustrious
dark/gothic/industrial/underground music history I was quite upset by that.
Brendan Perry of Dead Can Dance first cut his teeth fronting Auckland punk
bands The Scavengers and The Marching Girls, whose drummer Des Hefner was
also in Dead Can Dance, The Birthday Party and Lord knows who else. S.P.K and
Fetus Productions both hailed from the late ‘70s and early ‘80s of post-punk
New Zealand and were instrumental to the emergence of early industrial music
worldwide. Around the same time bands like Nocturnal Emissions, This Kind of
Punishment and Children’s Hour would easily have been considered ‘peers’ of
dark post-punk bands like Joy Division, Killing Joke (who also have New
Zealand connections) or Siouxsie & The Banshees – had they come from the UK.
From the mid-late ‘80s and early ‘90s I was an avid follower of
gothic/industrial crossover bands from all over New Zealand; Trasch, The
Flickering, Skeptics, Lung, Leonard Nimoy… even made it a personal priority
to pay tribute to The Haunting by covering “Rats”.
So to some degree I put Sibylline Leaves on the back-burner and decided to
use Disjecta Membra’s profile to instead make sure that people knew there was
a lot more where we came from – The Mercy Cage, Dr Kevorkian & The Suicide
Machine, Burnt Weeping Eyes, FEARvLOATHINC, kRkRkRk recordings, Creassault,
N.U.T.E… There just wasn’t enough exposure for these bands simply because
they weren’t signed to overseas labels, and I felt a certain obligation to do
something about that. Even within New Zealand far too many fans of the dark
music scene knew virtually nothing about what was right under their noses and
were more interested in rubbish like Marilyn Manson. So in 1998 Tim Simpson
(from Exquisite Corpse) and I built a (now defunct) website called G.U.N.Z
(Gothic Underground New Zealand) – the first website of its kind from New
Zealand. I contacted everyone I could get hold of in the scene, mostly other
bands and DJs and promoters I’d met through tours and shows, and started
building a database profiling all past and present dark/alternative bands,
events, artists, promoters and what have you from New Zealand to give our
community as much local and international recognition as I possibly could. It
featured literally hundreds of bands. From the networks established via
G.U.N.Z, Mediatrix was formed about a year later.
Mediatrix was slightly more selfishly motivated, in the sense that G.U.N.Z
would give exposure to anyone who fit the criteria, whereas Mediatrix was a
platform for our own projects and the stuff that Jason and I actually thought
was really good.
We began as an artist collective and a networking/promotional resource rather
than a label; and from the start there was always an emphasis on multimedia
as opposed to music alone. Jason is an author and illustrator of horror,
fantasy and science fiction, as well as a talented multimedia designer; other
multimedia artists at the core of Mediatrix include painter, illustrator,
sculptor and designer Sean MacIntyre; Deonne Rowland whose literary and
conceptual talents I’ve mentioned – she also dubbed us ‘Mediatrix’; sculptor,
painter, performer, illustrator, designer and promoter Melanie Tahata whose
work in recent years has also formed an integral component of Disjecta Membra;
director, editor, film-maker, sound-designer, photographer and painter Jason
P of Interim Inc film; painter, sculptor, writer, and noise-merchant Jack
Crawford; photographer and graphic designer Doug Peters of Umbra Digital
(also Disjecta Membra’s photographer) who came to the fold more recently, and
several others whose involvement was comparatively fleeting.
The company “Mediatrix Publishing Ltd” was then set up as the “business arm”
of the Mediatrix artist collective. This was the recording and distribution
label which ran from 2000-2005. We released CDs from The Mercy Cage, Dr
Kevorkian & The Suicide Machine, Shemsu Hor, N.U.T.E, Winterland, Torture By
Roses, Lightslastfading; videos by Interim Inc; prints and merchandise from
visual artists like Jason and Sean; and also collaborated with FEARvLOATHINC,
Hog Haul Valentine, Nothinghunger, Creassault, The Harlequin Cube,
Pulchritude and the kRkRkRk recordings label among others in areas such as
promotion, event production and distribution of the artists’ own independent
releases. We enjoyed trade partnerships and distribution deals with a number
of excellent labels worldwide, particularly in the U.S, Germany, Asia and
Australia and meanwhile Mediatrix releases from The Mercy Cage, Dr Kevorkian,
Shemsu Hor, Winterland and others can still easily be obtained through most
of the better known international dark-alternative music specialists.
From 2000AD we also ran a number of large-scale dark/underground live events
including the annual Darkness Gathering festival – a weekend-long event in
Wellington which by the third and fourth time around was attracting bands,
performers, fans and media from all over New Zealand, Australia, Asia,
America and elsewhere. By 2002 Darkness Gathering was known on all sides of
the Pacific as Oceania’s largest dark music and subculture festival, and
although Mediatrix and associates have been on holiday from event production
since 2004 we now have something very special lined-up for 2006 to fill the
gap left behind by Darkness Gathering.
Today, Mediatrix no longer runs a record label. As artists like The Mercy
Cage and Dr Kevorkian grew more successful, they required far more
promotional and marketing resources to move to the next level in their
careers than a DIY artist collective like Mediatrix had at our disposal. The
only way we could be of benefit to those artists beyond that point was to
stand aside and encourage them to move on to bigger international labels. It
was also no longer in the interests of mine or Jason’s creative ambitions to
continue running a label, as the administration of business had escalated to
a point that was impeding our ability to focus on our own creative output.
Hence the closure of the company became another reason for Disjecta Membra’s
regeneration. The Mediatrix family still exists as a collective for the
purposes of networking and creative collaboration, and we have many exciting
projects on the horizon, but since January 2005 we no longer trade as a
company in music distribution. Basically, I’m satisfied that we accomplished
what we set out to achieve and would now like to focus on my own work again.
Outside of other musicians, who or what would you consider your single
biggest influence in life or artistically?
I would have to say my greatest guiding
influences both creatively and in life in general have always been family,
friends, partners and a few ancestors in particular who seem to still like
having a say in what their descendants get up to.
Do you have a favorite Disjecta Membra song or for that matter, one that you
would rather just forget about and why?
I tend to have love/hate relationships with
most of them. I guess that’s pretty normal. I don’t think I’ve ever written a
song that doesn’t dissatisfy me on some level or another, but I can’t think
of any that I’m not also fairly attached to in some way. It’s always
frightening to let people hear them, but at the same time, you can’t carry
them around locked up inside yourself forever.
I think maybe one of the better songs I’ve written so far is called Gael.
It’s one that has only been performed live since last year, and for a long
time I was seldom sure if I wanted too many people to hear it. One of the
lyrics is “I pray this song remains unsung/I pray this story’s not yet done/I
pray its weaving comes un-spun…” but even in allowing it to be heard by the
band and playing it with them it’s lifted the burden of the sorry tale from
my own shoulders, so people can definitely expect to hear it again in the
The Skin Charmer has only ever continued to get better over time. It’s taken
on so many new dynamics with each successive line-up to have played the song
that it makes me grateful that no definitive recording was ever released
during the 10 years since it was written. And I’m still not satisfied that
it’s finished! But I probably won’t think that until it’s actually out there.
In the past I got really, really sick of “Cauldron of Cerridwen”. Ben, Tamlyn
and I threw it together in about half an hour in rehearsals one day from a
handful of riffs we had floating around. I’d just been asked to submit
something for a Heartland label sampler and I figured we should probably do
something up-tempo, stupid and repetitive. Everybody likes stupid, repetitive
music. So we used all the most obvious goth-rock riffs we could lay our hands
on, cranked the drum-machine up, threw in some abstract hocus-pocus lyrics
that sort of rhymed, went into the studio with Dave Lowndes one evening and
that was that. That’s not to say I wasn’t genuinely inspired by the legend
from which the lyrics were derived, but it wasn’t exactly something I had to
painstakingly toil over… it all just seemed too easy. It became a bit of a
self-fulfilling prophecy, really, because the Cauldron really did churn out
something far greater than the sum and substance of its constituent elements.
I was told it was very well received in some of the specialist clubs in
Australia and the UK at the time – it was certainly one of our most popular
tracks here in New Zealand, and we picked up quite a large international
neo-Pagan following above and beyond the target goth-club market Heartland
was going for… And that was all great – it was the desired effect after all,
but the long term result was that it was always the one that everybody knew,
the yardstick by which all other DM songs were measured, and the one
everybody would heckle us to play long after we were sick to death of it. And
of course whenever we did cave in and play it everybody would jump around and
squeal and carry on very enthusiastically for that one stupid, repetitive
song and just sort of sway politely to everything else that they didn’t know
so well but which I’d actually put some sort of effort into… It still annoys
me. But it annoys me on principal more than anything else; in reality I don’t
really mind the song that much. Everybody likes stupid, repetitive music.
There are others on Achromaticia that have irked me, and again it has more to
do with the reactions than the material itself. “Cathedral” for example I
wrote when I was 12 years old. We released Achromaticia when I was about 22
so its inclusion was partly sentimentality, in the sense that I wanted a
permanent record of the first song I ever wrote to also become the opening
song on our debut album. Perhaps that’s why I only seem to be able to
complete the process of writing and recording albums in ten year cycles! But
I couldn’t stand to put out a song so naïve without first having a bit of fun
with it, so I decided on giving the final studio version a very overblown and
grandiose spooky-goth-by-numbers arrangement… I spent hours in the studio
singing all the choral parts, one voice at a time… partly to mask and partly
to accentuate the sheer absurdity of it all. And it was absurd; I was
hyperventilating by the time it was done. But of course most people thought
it was to be taken very seriously so that was a bit of the double-edged
sword; on the one hand you’ve got very earnest people telling you how great
it is when it’s really just a joke, and on the other hand critics slagging it
off for being an over-the-top gothic cliché when that’s precisely what it was
supposed to be. Both responses were quite funny until the novelty wore off.
But whichever way you look at it I still think it’s not bad for something I
wrote when I was 12.
Then there were a lot of people whose favourite song of ours was “Rats”. That
was a bit embarrassing, because due to a misprint on the CD sleeve nobody
realised it was a cover. In truth though, it’s one of my favourites from that
album too. “Rats” and one other (which shall remain nameless) are the only
Achromaticia songs that the new band knows how to play. We play them very
differently, and we only play them if we really, really have to.
It’s often bothered me the way some people have interpreted “Necrophilia” but
it’s hard to discuss that without doing a disservice to some very devoted
people who found some kind of solace in it. It was supposed to do that, to a
degree – but some people took their interpretations a bit further than I
could be overly comfortable with. It’s been saddening more than anything
else. It’s hard to explain.
I quite like the song Danse Macabre in places but it annoys me how people
yell “Buggery in the backroom!” at me and even consider it one of my better
lyrics. I mean, really…
One of the worst things we ever released would have to be “Halah-Rain”. An
unfinished demo from the Sibylline Leaves sessions that was submitted for a
New Zealand gothic compilation in a hurry… I wish I hadn’t bothered, I really
do – it just wasn’t up to scratch at all. To make matters worse, when the CD
came out - I knew many of the bands on that compilation and we were all
cringing from one end of the country to the other – because it had this
godawful cheesy cover photo and it’s entitled “Solid Goth Hits!” We’d never
have been involved if we’d expected that!
“Antoinette Marionette” was one of my favourites from Sibylline Leaves but I
think the version which appeared on a compilation called “Eternal Chapters”
might not be a very good take on it. It’s another rushed out-take rather than
a finished, definitive version, although I can’t comment on the quality of
that particular recording because the master DAT disappeared years ago and I
never got a copy of “Eternal Chapters”. So I don’t actually have a copy of
the song at all, and can’t remember if it was an overly worthy version or
What's the strangest experience (on tour or otherwise) that you've
encountered while involved with Disjecta Membra?
Oh I wouldn’t have
a clue… honestly; it’s been nothing but strange experiences. Probably the
most noteworthy experiences would be the ones that were surprisingly normal –
like working with Jaz or Alex.
If it wasn't for music, what might we find you doing with your life?
I generally spend a
lot of my personal time researching and recording the traditions, histories
and genealogies of my iwi (Maori tribe), Ngai Tai, which I am passionate
about. I descend from predominantly Irish and Scottish ancestors but on my
maternal grandmother’s side we are also custodians of a very long history and
genealogy from Ngai Tai. I also now work for my Marae (tribal meeting place)
and the iwi Trust offices, where I’m deployed in the development of tribal
internet resources, genealogical databases, and utilising communication
technologies in general to reconnect descendants of our iwi to each other and
to our heritage and ongoing history. My work with resources like G.U.N.Z and
Mediatrix have been of great benefit preparing me for this more important
work, and my enthusiasm for the complex overlapping histories and
interconnectivities within underground music and subculture have served as
great training for getting my head around whakapapa (tribal genealogies and
histories). I suppose that those traits that I’ve inherited from Ngai Tai to
do with tribal community values have also been at the root of my ‘neo-tribal’
collective ideals and values hitherto exercised through Mediatrix and local
I guess you could call it a day job, but it’s more like a personal mission in
life – more-so than music, no question of that. So if I didn’t play music I
expect I’d just spend more time doing what little I can for the Marae and our
Michel, thanks once again for taking the time out to do this. Any final
don’t like being overly final about anything, but I will say that so far,
this is the longest interview I’ve ever done and I’m sorry for leaving it so
long as to necessitate such an epic update! You're very welcome - thank you
again for all your great work and for supporting Disjecta Membra.