Micose And The Mau Mau's: Interview
Sloppy CD-Rs & a 4-String Brazilian Ukulele

Based
out of San Francisco, Micose and the Mau Mau's is an eclectic musical concoction
spearheaded by multi-instrumentalist Miguel Serra. Drawing upon a variety of
influences and utilizing an unusual mish-mash of instrumentation -- 6-string
banjo, cavaquinho (4-string Brazilian samba instrument), samplers, guitar and
bass (sometimes heavily processed), effects pedals, junk percussion (pans, metal
parts, bottles, etc), more percussion (including more samba stuff as well as
tribal Korean drums), field recordings, treated voice, tape recorders, etc. --
Micose delivers a unique sound that confounds, intrigues, and explodes -- all at
once! I got a chance to chat with Micose's head-honcho a few weeks back.

Tell me a bit about yourself and how you first got into music.

I first got into music in Brazil when I was 10. There was this girl I met in 4th
grade who gave me this tape that had all this Beatles stuff in it -- songs,
interviews, and other stuff like that. She wanted me to translate some of it for
her since I spoke English. But then I accidentally broke the tape. I felt really
guilty so I made a deal with her: I would buy and record all Beatles albums for
her at some point. So in the process of slowly finding Beatles records in my
parents' collection and buying some myself, I ended up hooked to their music and
decided I wanted to play guitar so I could learn their songs. Before that I was
just started listening to Faith No More, Guns 'n' Roses and, well, Roxette. But
it was the Beatles that really made me want to make music. Then I had guitar
lessons for a few years without really progressing much. I eventually moved to
South Korea because of my Dad's job and I ended up getting a drum machine and
some Korean drums and a 4-track while I was there. It was also at this time when
I got my cavaquinho (a 4 string Brazilian ukulele). So I would just make all
these home recordings but I was never satisfied with them. I was always
concerned about making it tight but I always had really bad rhythm. Then I moved
to San Francisco and started listening to a ton of weird and lo-fi and sloppy
music... I was into a lot of weird Japanese music at that point (it's kind of
funny how I had to move to the US from Korea before I could get records from
Japanese artists). And then I just forced myself to quit trying to make songs in
the traditional way and incorporate mistakes and focus more on texture. And
that's pretty much when Micose & the Mau Maus started, in late 2002.

How have the different cultures you've experienced influenced your approach
to making music?

Well, I've been to a lot of places, but it's hard to tell which ones are the
ones that ended up influencing me. At the same time I'm sure they all left an
impression. But the thing is, I listened to completely different music at the
time I visited the majority of the places I've been at since it all happened
years ago. I've lived in Brazil, South Korea and the US, but I've been lucky
enough to be able to visit Mexico, Japan, Poland, France, New Zealand,
Australia, Philippines, China, Italy, Switzerland, and probably other places
that I can't remember off my head right now. Now that I think about it, the
countries that have had the biggest impact on me musically -- because of the
fact that I just happen to own more records by bands from these places - are
Brazil, The US, Japan, and more recently Germany even though I've never been
there. It's kind of interesting to realize that other than Brazil those three
countries are the three richest in the world. So it makes more sense that
artists from there get more exposure.

But you know what, being in all these different places and experiencing all
these different cultures made me realize more than anything that I do not
identify with any particular culture. Being an "international kid" you get
forced into these different societies that dictate cultural norms that are so
different from yours, and then by the time you get back home you realize how
much you've grown out of the very same cultural norms that you were raised with.
And some cultures are stricter about how they want you to be. One of the great
things about the US (well, at least San Francisco and the Bay Area anyway) is
the fact that there isn't one universal cultural pattern that everyone is
supposed to follow religiously. And that has been one of the biggest things that
affects the way I make music. When I started to listen to Japanese artists like
The Boredoms I began to realize how fresh the music sounded particularly because
it didn't follow any previous musical structure too much. And then when I moved
to San Francisco I was able for the first time to listen to music that defied
stylistically from everything I had ever heard before -- music from all over the
world. So the cultural fusion I found here in San Francisco and the daring
attitude I first found in the records from the Japanese underground music scene
available here were definitely two of the most influential things to me in the
past 5 years.

Tell me what Micose and the Mau Mau's is about and how the project came
together. Is it a solo project or a loose collective of people or what?

M&theMMs has not yet been completely defined by myself or anyone else, and
hopefully never will. The project is about approaching things in different ways;
using instruments in ways they wouldn't traditionally. It's about making our own
free rhythm as well as incorporating more traditional rhythm structures. In the
end, it will be easier to try to describe each album individually as opposed to
the band itself. The debut CD-R that is out now was pretty much just me layering
all kinds of instruments and electronics by myself. There wasn't much thinking
done at the time about the style. I just started playing and pressed the record
button. Then I went back, layered on top, recorded over parts I didn't like, and
then added some more random stuff on top and did random cut-and-paste edits. And
I didn't want to stop. I wanted to incorporate my friends playing accordion,
upright bass, more drums, violin, toys, and just about anything else I could
think of getting my hands on. Oh yeah, and lots of vocals too (well, voices with
no particular lyrics). But then I just got impatient because I wanted to do get
some music out already. So I decided to do some rough mono mixes without adding
too much else. Those mixes, which are the ones on the CD, came out sounding kind
of blasted since I had the levels up so high. And I just really liked the way it
sounded, the texture it had. So I decided to put those songs out just the way
they were. It's a sloppy and quirky record, and that's definitely a Micose & the
Mau Maus aesthetic. But in the future we're going to release even sloppier
records as well as tighter records. There will be the records that will consist
of jam sessions, and other that will be carefully planned out structurally and
aesthetically. We'll have tapes, CD-Rs, and hopefully pressed CDs and vinyl if
any one out there is interested in putting this stuff out.

I forgot to mention that Micose & the Mau Maus is a band with a semi-opened
line-up. For the past few months it's been a 4 member band. I'm thinking of
cutting it down to three people (me included) and occasionally add more
musicians to make each set different. I also want to record and produce a M&theMMs
CD/tape/whatever that I'm not actually involved in musically.

I'm going to tour by myself in February supporting some friends of mine, a

"Soviet post-punk band" with a growing gypsy spirit called the Full Moon
Partisans. So the line-up at that point will be me with some help from them
until I get back to San Francisco. I don't know what the line-up will be after
that.

What is Cococonk exactly?

Like M&theMMs, Cococonk is not yet fully describable because it is in its
initial stages. Right now it's just a small-scale hand-packaged CD-R label, a
website, and a vehicle for me to organize shows. In the future I plan on
expanding on all these fields. I want to have a bigger record catalog (which is
hard right now because of the lack of time and finances to promote to many
things at once). I also want to build a somewhat interactive webzine with
assorted literature, music, and visual art. I also want to set up a ton of shows
and mixed-media events always with the intention of exposing the audience to
things they have never seen/heard/experienced before as well as to things they
are very familiar with. Hopefully I'll get more people to help me out with
cococonk, and I also hope to work with other labels and organizations in order
to co-release records, organize events and whatnot.

It seems like you've got a unique arrangement with Micose as far as the
instruments go (synthesizers, percussion, tape effects, etc). How did you
develop this set-up?

Well, I'm just a sucker for gathering instruments and knick-knacks. It's not
like I own vintage stuff from around the world though: most of my "collection"

is made up of made-for-tourists "ethnic" instruments and toy instruments as well
as affordable electronics. And there's also all the pan lids, tin boxes, and
assorted garbage I keep laying around in my apartment.

This abundance of sound sources is really a blessing because of the variety it
allows me to inject into the recordings, but it's been nearly a curse for the
band in the live environment. Our first show was just a disaster because
everyone was jumping from one instrument to another in a blink of an eye, so it
ended up being pretty chaotic. And I'm also scared to have too many electronic
gadgets in a live environment because of all the technical difficulties that can
happen out of nowhere, not to mention the time it takes to set up a bunch of
crap like that. So now we're just going to concentrate of a few instruments at
each show. That will ensure that we always sound different and continually
challenge ourselves to figure out how to incorporate different things into our
music. But then again, we're still going to end up using more stuff than your
average band does.

What do you have planned for Micose?

I want to get more records out ASAP. Not that I don't like the last one. But I'm
over it now especially since I did it all by myself a long time ago. We are
going to re-record those songs and add all the instruments I mentioned before,
but not right now. I want to have more of the quirky/sloppy CD-Rs and tapes that
I can give away for free or exchange for other things, but I also want to
release more polished records with the help of other labels and try to get them
in stores since right now the only way to get a CD is by contacting me or going
to one of our few shows.

I have a ton of stuff recorded on tapes from our rehearsals. I just need to
settle for an idea on how to organize them and release them. But I'll figure it
out soon enough. Actually, right now I'm actually in the process of editing some
rehearsal tapes to make a 9-minute song for the Deathbomb Arc split-tape series,
which I'm really excited about. Other than that, the only fully concrete plan
right now is a short North West tour through Eugene, Portland, Seattle and
Olympia with The Full Moon Partisans in February. Other than that, I want to
organize multi-media Micose shows involving film and performance. We will also
be recording lots of covers/versions of bands we like, particularly Brazilian
underground groups. I probably won't feel good about making any money with that
(not that I make ANY money with this band), so those songs will probably end up
posted on cococonk.com or will be given for free with the purchase of something
else. Exchanges are always welcome too…

  

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