N O   P A R T   O F   I T
Far more important than baking bread is the urge to take dough -beating to the extreme - Otto Muehl

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Interview Series #24: Michaella Babbitt

 The NO PART OF IT Interview series was a strain of questions sent to a number of different people between February and March 2019. Each entry was scheduled chronologically to be thrust upon the world on a monthly basis since then. Each individual is introduced informally as if they were being discussed at a bar. 

Michaella is one half of the synth pop project WAX FRUIT, and I like the directions they have been taking.  I've been aware of their work since they had a name that offended people unreasonably so, and it's probably been active for around 10 years.  I like that the lyrics have more of an overt purpose than a lot of derivative work in this vein, and the melodies have their own force, to my ears, irrespective of their notch in history.  Their recent tape (I reissued it since this post was scheduled in March 2019) also has some experimental directions to it, thanks in part to the fact that the other half, Dom Dufner, has a long-running noise project called Sigulda, and as a whole it runs like a carefully crafted lo-fi gem of the cassette culture underground's bygone "glory" days.  Well anyhow, having toured St. Louis more than thrice, I've done shows with these folks and slept on their couch.  Michaella took me to a record store that she used to work at, which is more like a library than a little boutique shop, and we have in general spent a fair amount of time talking about music.  As a DJ, I'm quite sure she is STL's greatest kept secret and although I have not attended, I understand she has a Synth Fest that is going strong for a while now. 

1.  What types of things have you been getting into lately?
The same types of things I have always been into, just in different modes. That's the thing about being an artist- you never truly master everything. You master modes and move on to new modes, but it's all same desire to create and expand your skill sets. A never ending search for one upping yourself is kinda fun, you know? 

If you want specifics- writing fully actualized compositions on my MC505, record collecting (as always), and a vast variety of arts and crafts. Learning to cope with my mortality and "reality" and making art from the subsequent feelings and thoughts. 

2.  What you do, do you do it as an artist, or is it a hobby?  
I kinda feel like you only earn the moniker "artist" when you monetize your output. And as a woman, most art created by us is considered "craft" or hobby art, so from an outward perspective what I do is craft, or hobby. But I consider it art because I consider most everything art. If you created it with your hands from your thoughts- it's art. So, technically, both.

3.  How would you describe what you do?
I have many, many, MANY ways that I harness my creativity. I try to do it every moment. In expressions, the words I choose, the way I use gestures and move my body. The "main" outlet observed by my conscious mind is musically for my band, wax fruit. Sometimes on the edge of falling asleep my brain is just pumping away playing me a synth pop symphony. I write songs about things that I think about... and obsess about. I'm obsessed with the future, specifically the dystopia we're setting ourselves up for. I love to think about AI, and how mankind is so dismissive of machines evolving to have machinations of feeling. Obsession seems to be a trend with me. I get obsessed and enamored with things, use synthesis to absorb the feelings and then move on to new things and experiences. 

4.  How would you describe your creative progression over the years, in a brief synopsis?
Generally, ideas morph and change over time anyway, so my creative process is as varied as there are problems to solve, or not solve. I always hated the manufactured finiteness of fine art and how pieces I would work on never truly felt finished, even when I would have to force myself to stop working on something to keep from completely "ruining" it. It is endlessly frustrating to never feel satisfied by things you're creating. I also think that when you're making "art" you are more apt to scrutinize your output through a lens of what you think "art" should be... When I was a student, I would seek out incompatible materials to watch the decay process and to ensure that my projects would not survive very long because I want my art to die. I want it to decay. There won't be any left past my lifetime.My art serves as a living artifact to me. and that's pretty much it. 

That's why I like to write music. Some songs write themselves and are set in stone, but some songs in our repertoire have been evolving for years, and sound completely different from where they started. Sometimes you just don't feel that way anymore and it's totally ok to change your art to accommodate that changing and evolving. Sometimes we just stop playing a song because I just don't feel that way anymore, so it feels weird to go through the motions of the feelings I had. Generally, when that happens the songs get renewed or updated in some way, because I don't want to scrap something that has potential. I just want to bring it back to relevance in my life. 

5.  How would you describe your philosophy?
I would say my main philosophy for making is that of the Hegelian, or triad approach- thesis, antithesis, synthesis- and has been for a long time. It's why I end up with a lot of triptychs. I am always drawn to the number three. And witchcraft (rule of threes). I have a lot of philosophies, but my main squeezes are "don't be an asshole" and "be a dick and get be'd a dick to".

6.  Do you believe in psychics, magic, ghosts, or gods?  
I believe in magic to a certain degree, psychic energies and ghosts, but not gods. Gods are created by man, obviously, so I guess you could believe in Gods if you believe in certain feelings being so strong that they make manifest incarnate, but I prefer to not give any man that much power. I prefer to believe in magic or ghosts because they are specifically tied to the inclinations of the willpower of people. I practice divination regularly, and am always so impressed at my subconscious ability to manifest the answers to my inquiries.  I produce the answer by pumping energy into an inanimate thing. And often it's an answer I don't want to hear, but that's the beauty of divination. It's just honest. If it tells you something good, and it makes you happy it was all you. And if it tells you something bad and it makes you unhappy, you're just not ready to accept the truth and need to sit with your discomfort. 
7.  What would you say was your most definitive experience? 
I have many, many MANY definitive experiences. So many that I find it hard to pin point one. I think there's a most definitive experience, then another experience comes along and proves more definitive. One of the most definitive experiences of my life was having a 20 lb ovary surgically removed at 22. It's was a good thing that it happened, but it was traumatic in the worst kinds of ways. Another definitive experience was this last years synthfestl, which was just a fantastic time from beginning to end. 

8.  Do you have any side projects that I am not aware of?
 I have all irons in the fire at all times. The nice thing about Saint Louis is that much of the scene is just a blank canvas waiting for the freaks to be free.

what is something you'd like people to know about you, that you don't think anyone would ever ask? I am a huge bore.

9.  Would you care to name any theoretical "desert island" records, or at least releases that you think are approaching your concept of "perfect"? 
 Yaz- Upstairs at Eric's comes to mind. It's an album that i've played dozens of times and it's good all the way through. Every time. After years of replaying. Also, Roxy Music's first record. Erykah Badu - Worldwide Underground is also up there. Patti Smith's Horses. Thee Satisfaction- Awe Naturale.

10.  What is the earliest childhood memory you can (or are willing to) recall? 
 I remember meeting my first step dad when I was maybe 3? I was terrified of him, and would be proven correct in that assumption time and again.

11.  Are you able to appreciate other peoples' creative work regardless of their personal shortcomings or inherent flaws? 
Of course, because I can still listen to David Bowie understanding what came to light. 
To what extent?  Well, everyone does mental gymnastics to like what they like, or they just own up to liking it regardless of what that person did. People just love a scandal, and to simultaneously infantilize and sexualize women. So, you know, you just differentiate the person from the process, and take the art at face value instead of this persons philosophy. That goes a long way.

12.  Do you have any heroes or heroines?
  It's wrong to idolize humans because they will almost always let you down.
 Who are they? if I had to pick one.... I don't know.... Tina Turner... No, no, Aretha Franklin. 

 Feel free to add anything that makes them stand out.  
Both are incredible performers who overcame adversity in many forms. Aretha, especially because of her humanitarian efforts. 

13.  What would you like to have on your epitaph? 
"damn could she cook a steak"  

Or what is your favorite quote?
 "if only they had one neck and that my hands were upon it"- karl panzram talking about people who were trying to get him released from prison.