Carla Bozulich (Evangelista): Interview
“I want to sooth people, and I want to cut them too.”
I e-mailed Carla Bozulich a few weeks ago with a handful of innocent, journalistic little questions. Although she was then on tour in Europe to support her group's rambunctious new album Hello, Voyager, the Evangelista frontwoman was kind enough to take some time to respond. Respond, in fact, is a rather weak word for what she did in the van between Berlin and Dresden. “Birth a manifesto” might be a more apt description. Bozulich's music exudes desire, rage, and vulnerability, all gorgeously unchained and oven-hot. It's lovelorn steelmaking in reverse. It was a real pleasure for me to find the same molten candor that smokes within her songs coursing through her answers in this interview. After reading this, I felt much the same way I do after giving Hello, Voyager or Evangelista a proper listen: like I've been punched in the mouth by a comet wearing torn, lacy underthings. This should come as no surprise to those who have followed her since the Geraldine Fibbers days. Bozulich's punches are never pulled – they're thrown, baby, bare-knuckled, bloody, somehow both utterly human and darkly cosmic. Voila, Carla.
In one interview, I read that you consider yourself a "worshipper of the drone." What is it about drone that attracts you? Is it a foundation for your songwriting, or do you tend to write with a structure in mind and then let a piece degenerate into more atmospheric stuff?
drone = a current any kind of current. blood, electric, bathtub, river, stream of conciousness, coming, purring, slowly fluxuating forms of reality. 1000 bats taking off at dusk. 10,000 mechanisms at ear splitting volume grinding and smoothing eachother out in into total submission to the sound inside the sound. what's not to love? hum... fuck i'm listening to a recording right now of our cellist, andrea serrapiglio improvising with himself----loops on loops of drone with a defiantly glorious melody shooting out from the top---i'm in the van leaving berlin for dresden. we're listening to last nights gig trying to figure out how we're doing with the new drummer, jason and with the general sound of things. the improvs sound really satisfying to me. like swimming in blood. the traffic is heavy outside the window mixing with the loops and the air blowing through the window. what the fuck's not to love? is it a foundation for my songwriting? there's no single motivating force except to try to step out of the way and see what happens.
I loved the idea that Evangelista started off as just a few worked over samples of a broken machine.
those samples came from one time when i was exploding with something about shameless love about being proud to be dirty and flawed and sexual and pushing up against fear like running up to a bully and hitting him/her square between the eyes. even though you know your gonna take it on the chin or worse. i wanted to speak up for someone. people who couldn't yell like i can. girls and women with their fucking mouth sewn shut by the ever present boundaries of accceptable behavior. also men who want to hurt things because they don't know how to talk or be gentle. also for people who have no one to be gentle to. also for me-----for my lonliness and pitch black times and all encompassing joy when i see something moving or funny or fierce. i was listening to things and i was transparent enuf not to interfere with them meeting up. nels' box--- it's a thing that made one backwards loop of years ago and started singing morose fake operas through my guitar. lots of things have come from his metal discs with holes in them played backwards recorded when he was far from home. also this same tinkleing sound played forwards, the kaliope being something of a hundred year old music box. finally, i could not leave the box so i even recorded the winder from nels' kaliope. also a man named otis giving a spiritual shout/talk in church somewhere deep in the south. i looked for someone to shout in one pitch. i only had to search for about 10 minutes before i found otis jones yelling in the pitch i wanted---the note to drone in with the (backwards and forwards) kaliope . these are the samples that started the songs, album, and project evangelista.
I've read of your love for George Jones, and I think many of our readers are familiar with your re-interpretation of Willie Nelson's album The Redheaded Stranger. What draws you to country as a genre? Do you consider it an influence on your two most recent records?
i can't connect a single shred of it to what i'm doing right now except the fact that i'm singing in my full voice and also really trying to draw the audience together with the music.
I think it's pretty common among critics to try to connect the dots between different records and get inside an artist's head, try to see how she's making different artistic choices from one project to the next. Do you feel like you are working toward finding "the Carla Bozulich style"? Or is each record its own independent experiment?
i don't have time to think about that sort of thing.
Do you have plans for future projects? What's the record you haven't recorded yet that you really want to?
i'm excited and pretty mystefied to hear what happens when me and tara barnes (bass), dominic cramp (keyboards, electronics) and andrea serrapiglio (cello) spend some time writing the new evangelista album. i want to start recording very bare bones in someone's home in december and tour europe a bit in jan--- come back and finish it in montreal with the kooks there. that's what i want but who knows..... maybe we can finish before january.
i love the question about what album do i want to record---but i don't know. i love to feel whatever's moving between my toes when i walk outdoors in the dark. there's definately an instrumental, string driven album in there somewhere ala "for the li'l dudes". mostly i feel really curious about this evangelista thing. i want to sooth people and i want to cut them too----so they can see that we all bleed the same and it's not the end of the world----yet. i want to hear people yelling back at me. i find myself saying things more and more each night (i tour all the time) that might incite a fucking reaction----wake up some indignance on either side of the spectrum----be insulted by me or against the world that sewed your fucking mouth shut. tell me to fuck off cuz i called myself and you a mother fucking faggot. let me lull you. look at someone straight in the eyes-----how bout that--- how hard is that? really hard. it's hard for me, too, i swear. really hard. but i'm so strong. you are so strong. get tossed around in love and the lack of it the lost stomped down vicious control----society's brute grasp on the balls of every inclination to reach out. to pry your heart out of your own fucking hands and throw it up in the air for ANYONE to catch. to yell. in public. we can't show ourselves. we could get arrested just for standing on a corner and yelling "someone come and fuck me please before i completely forget what it feels like to open myself up to something other than my own caged thoughts." we're fucked in the balls we're ripped in the sewn up cunt by the boundaries of just exactly how strange it is cool to be. how uncool it is to be strange. fuck me. now. goddamn it. the word is love. we used to call it punk rock.
On the new record, Hello, Voyager, you've moved from solo recording to being a band leader – what does that enable you to do artistically that you couldn't do before? What limitations does it impose?
i want the music to bounce back to me in a form that i couldn't complete on my own. and i want friends.
"Fuck me. Now. Goddamn It. The word is love. We used to call it punk rock."
If you could have total control over how someone listened to one of your records (place, format, emotional state, kind of person), what would you choose?
greil marcus. i'm calling you out.
One of the most striking aspects of your music is your voice. Totally badass. Are there any vocalists you look to in particular for inspiration?
naming a few singers i think are great..... ian svenonius, mr quintron, claudine longet, fantasia (i just wish someone would get her some new good songs to sing ala "hood boy" cuz she's the best. jennifer herrema with rtx but it's the same thing----i lost the thread after transnomicon---songs, people! ezra buchla can belt it out. i'd say he's pretty amazing in general. joe preston is awesome. i'd have to say that in terms of inspiration---- if you can't feel the presence of true exaltation at a boredoms concert than you're just fucking dead and useless. eye. i'll say eye, for sure. he's a belter. hendrix. dez cadena. al green. carla bley is cool. the patti smith...uh, yeah, of course.
I've read one description of your voice as "inhabited." I think that's a pretty apt description -- who or what inhabits your voice?
cats are all up in my britches!! plus: i sing like a hard rock mountain with a hot marshmellow center.
Both Evangelista and Hello, Voyager are emotionally rich records -- I get the sense that you are willing to follow a feeling through whatever musical badlands it leads. It's some of the most boldly emotional music I've heard, and I think this is thanks in part to all of the vulnerability you layer into the fire and brimstone. So, I'm curious: what scares you? Is fear something that motivates you, that animates your music?
i'm afraid of being surrounded by republican doctors with bullhorns and scalpels. really scared of that. watching a friend die is the most terrifying thing i can think of. yes, it motivates some of my work. i'm second most scared of not being able to do my work--- for whatever reason. also, i'm vain. so all the crap that goes with that. the fact that i have zero time to preen makes it something i have to get ok with every day. i want to be wanted. i want to be lusted after by someone fascinating. sometimes i look at pictures of myself when i was 22 or 32 or whatever and it's so odd how i had no idea that i was hot and now i don't look nearly so sweet as all that but i know i got the aces.
In a lot of your songs, the impression I have is of a battle between you and the song itself, as if you are trying to destroy each other. If you could destroy something, what would it be?
my physical pain. the deadness that walks the streets each day. work. i'd like it if no one had to have a job they hated.
destroy: i'd first before anything destroy racism and economic imbalance. then i'd hit sexism, homophobia and all that fascist bigotry and divisivness. then i'd go and slap every single person as hard as i could just cuz i'm fucking pissed!!!
You've said in the past that it's all about sound and love. Love in particular is a word and a concept that recurs continually in your music. Love and sound: are they one and the same for you? What does love sound like? What does sound love like?