Preview versions of images of Michel by Disjecta Membra's photographer Doug Peters @ Umbra Digital

(Please obtain permission from Disjecta Membra before reproducing any of these images.)

 

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 to do…

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 Membra.

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 recording.

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 sequenced synths.

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 while.
 

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 up like.

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 clouds.
 

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?

Mediatrix was 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 future.

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 not.

 

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 counterculture.

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 people.
 

Michel, thanks once again for taking the time out to do this.  Any final thoughts?

Well I 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.
 

 

 

Disjecta Membra from 1994-2004 have been Michel and Dave Jones, Deonne Rowland, Paul Kennedy, Benjamin Cauchi, Deus ex Machina, Scott Barnett, Anna Maggat, Tamlyn Martinovich, Jacob Sullivan, James Bennett, Jayne Billing, Mark H. Beast, Barnaby Dromgool, Jaz Murphy, Petra Skoric, Vyvyan something-or-other, Alex Mein Smith, Russell Dench, Louise Juventin, Ana Roxburgh, Matthew Scott and possibly others...
 

 Disjecta Membra 2005-2006 are:
Michel (vocals, guitars); Stanley Jagger (lead guitars); Paul T (drums, percussion); Paul Oakley (bass guitars).

Unofficial Discography:

Albums

Compilations

1997 - Achromaticia

Heartland Records

 

(out of print)

click the cover to download it!

1996 - A Bouquet of Barbed Wire
Heartland Records

 

features an exclusive version of
Cauldron of Cerridwen

 

1998 - Dark Eyed & Starry They Were
(Volume II)
Heartland Records

features Cathedral
(Deus ex Machina Mix)
 

1998 - New Alternatives IV
Nightbreed UK

 

features Skin Trade

 

2000 - Sibylline Leaves
Mediatrix Publishing

 

(unreleased)

1999 - Solid Goth Hits
Club Bizarre

 

features Halah-Rain

2001 - Darkness Gathering II
Mediatrix Publishing

 

features ...and Close Your Eyes

2003 - Eternal Chapters
Sacrament Radio

 

features Antoinette Marionette

 

official site: http://www.membra.mediatrix.co.nz

Myspace Page: http://www.myspace.com/disjectamembranz

Live Journal Page: http://www.livejournal.com/~membra/

 

 

 

 

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