Metal Mother Writes Bonfire Diaries: An Interview
One of the most riveting albums I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing recently is Bonfire Diaries by Metal Mother, aka Tara Tati. She’s definitely not metal and, as far as I know, isn’t yet a mother. But she is a daringly eclectic singer-songwriter employing a wide variety of instrumentation and narratives throughout Bonfire Diaries. Just watch the video below for “Shake” and you’ll wish your mom was as cool as Metal Mother. (No offense to your mom.)
ELM: To start off, I just watched the video for “Shake” (posted below) and was riveted, especially when I saw that you had directed it. Can you tell me more about the making of the video, how you see it relating to the song?
TT: Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed it. The song is about the heaviness that comes with growing up and the urge to LIGHTEN UP, to shake free the pains of life, yet still be beyond juvenile ignorance. In the video the three alien girls portray a concept of ‘future human’, refined and evolved to the point of being devoid of primal passion. Eventually they eat an elixir from the earth that forces them into a catharsis in which they “shake” free from the binds of their oppression. This is one way of interpreting the video, but I also wanted to keep it abstract so that the viewer can extract their own meanings from it.
ELM: Are you going to make any more videos?
TT: Absolutely! I have so many ideas and film is such an amazing media to express them with.
ELM: You produced Bonfire Diaries in addition to making the music. What was it like from a production standpoint?
TT: Seeing as it was my first time taking on a project like that, I really don’t have any other standpoints to compare it to. I learned a ton, made a lot of mistakes, and impressed myself by following through on the project and not getting intimidated by the daunting amount of time it required. It was a really organic process and I never doubted that I could pull it off. Still, I wasn’t really attached to its success either way, should something have come in the way of its completion. I just kept working on it, adding things, taking parts away, until I felt it was at a place of wholeness and stability. It was more fun for me than it was ‘work’ or stress. While I can’t speak for anyone else, I think everyone involved enjoyed it in some way or another.
ELM: How did you get started making music?
TT: Just goofing off really. I’ve always been a huge music fan and have been surrounded by musicians most of my life. It wasn’t until I got my first keyboard in the early 2000’s that I started taking it seriously. And by ‘seriously’, I mean allowing myself to make music when I want to rather than looking at it as a waste-of-time hobby that I should only do on weekends or when I’m done with all my other work.
ELM: Do you have any other creative outlets?
TT: So many! I spend a lot of time working on my garden. Also I love to dance, draw, paint, sculpt, assemble magical objects, and costume design…you name it.
ELM: What was the biggest lesson you learned about making a record?
TT: I learned to start with a solid plan, stick with it, choose the right team and try to stick with them through the completion as well.
ELM: What is “W” about?
TT: It’s inspired by George W. Bush, but it goes out to all the fat-cat politicians and corporate royalty as an inquiry about their lost humanity.
ELM: In the latest issue of Bust (which is where I heard about you), there was an article about the new possible genre “witch house.” Do you feel that your music qualifies as “witch house” (if you consider it a valid genre)?
TT: From what I gather, most of the bands that are embracing the name have heavier electronic/synth/drone based sounds, so if that’s what defines it, then no, I don’t believe we represent that. Though I really enjoy some of the music that’s been called “witch-house”, I think I’m too into live instrumentation and story-telling to call myself that based on what I’ve released.
ELM: I’m not asking this pejoratively, but what has your experience been with the occult? Have you dabbled in divination or has it been a more serious spiritual pursuit for you or neither?
TT: I’ve studied many esoteric traditions, faiths and religions, and am fascinated by mysticism and the occult. I am an herbalist, and I like to think I’ve perceived unseen worlds… Lets just say I have faith in the imagination, and sometimes I like to have fun with the mechanics of intention. Most of all, I believe in the Power of Love.
ELM: To me, the title Bonfire Diaries, when paired with the music, conjures up an intimate session of purification, letting fire burn away what needs to go. What does the title mean for you?
TT: I like your interpretation of the name! And you’re right, there was a level of healing and purification that came with writing this collection of songs. The title was also inspired by a mental image I kept having of myself beside a campfire telling stories, as its historically been a place for our forebearers to tell the stories of their people. Seemed like a good backdrop that all of the songs could be painted against.
ELM: In some songs, there’s an almost tribal sound. Where does that come from?
TT: Many of my close friends have done a lot of traveling and collecting of stories, habits, and instruments from around the world, and have forged a counter-to-mainstream lifestyle. I suppose that’s influenced my affinity for ‘tribal’ sounds. Also, Tribal drumming has been a huge part of my spiritual and musical development; be it African, Celtic, Native American or whatever, I need it. In addition, Tommy Cappel of Beats Antique did a lot of the drum parts on the album and he’s been wildly inspired by tribal drumming as well.
ELM: Can you tell me more about “Willow?”
TT: Willow is actually the oldest song on the album. Looking at it now, the theme is so silly to me, so cliché, because the whole song is about “you are this, and I am that”. Its kind of saying, “I am what completes you, I am what you need”. To dissect the elusive hooks I’d say: The Willow tree represents flexibility, the Coyote represents trickery, and I’m asking that together they help us to be flexible enough to be tricked into “a place where reason takes its bow”, because clearly our conscious minds won’t easily allow it. It’s about the need to be ridiculous, really.
ELM: “Billy Cruz” is such a different sounding song than the rest of the record. Can you tell me more about that?
TT: The melody and drum parts of the song came to me right at the same time as I was meeting the guy who is the subject of the song, so I just threw them together. Its such a happy song about such a crazy guy. We just needed that one goofy song to give some color to the album.
ELM: Who are your role models, musical or otherwise?
TT: Hmmm, I’d start with Joni Mitchell, Grace Jones, Ada Lovelace, Joan of Arc, Jean Paul-Goude, Kate Bush, Brian Eno, Trey Parker, the dancing guy at Sasquatch Festival…
ELM: Do you consider yourself a feminist?
TT: I stand for equality and respect of both sexes. With that said, GIRL POWER!!!!
ELM: Who are your favorite writers?
TT: Anais Nin, Tom Robbins, William Shakespeare, Dion Fortune, Graham Roumieu