Interview: Mariëtte Groot
Mary Ocher, the wonderful singer / songwriter / performer / producer I have seen live more than once, has always been all over the place. These days, when touring has long been just something you dream about, Mary has settled in Berlin, working from there and even enjoying the more homely life..
For years she toured intensively, and thereby collected a great deal of stories on the road. Recently she published a comic book where she asked twenty-three illustrators and comic artists to visualise these stories. The result is Moop! – it’s hand-printed in RISO, and.. it’s fantastic.
The first story is one of my favourites, because it somehow sounds familiar to me. Olli Ferreira made the comic.
Mary enters a record store in Berlin and asks the grumpy guy behind the counter if he is interested in buying her new record, “Eden”, produced by King Khan. He comes up with all sorts of excuses but it is clear he is not into it. Mary offers to play some of the songs from his laptop so he does not have to damage the wrapping. The guy is really rude and goes about his work ignoring her and the songs she plays. In the end he says he only wants to swap. Mary’s (then) husband Tom, who is with her, says he wants to buy a record so they can swap.
Once outside again Mary can’t control herself anymore and shouts out loud what an asshole that guy was, however he has heard it and comes running outside throwing her record at her, screaming : “I heard you! You can take your scheiss record and shove it!!” Later Mary heard that the name of the producer, King Khan, probably freaked him out because King Khan was said to have banged his girlfriend, which in the end was not the case, it was some guy from his band.
Great project Mary, my compliments with MOOP!
Why thank you! These are mostly stories from touring, the best ones are certainly those that are tragically funny… and there’s plenty of those. 🙂
It was published by the Underground Institute. What kind of Institute is this?
The UI is a(n experimental) music agency and a platform for culture, everyone involved is into niche music and passionate about somewhat esoteric work… I have founded the UI and I am its curator. It may expand into being a proper label, we already had several releases, but no proper distribution yet… I wanted to bring folks I like under one roof, though the range is pretty wide… and help get the word out there – of course the pandemic had plans of its own, and instead we’ve been focusing on projects like our radio series Underground Institute Picks (with many wonderful partners: Soho Radio/London, Dublab/LA, Kiosk Radio/Brussels, Jolt/Miami and more), promoting the work of the artists and postponing dates again and again.
I read your essay called “The West Against the People”, written in the same period that your album of the same title came out. You wrote there:
“Interestingly, it is often not the threat of the newcomer that is the cause of the rise in xenophobia, but rather the insecurities and paranoia ingrained in the host society itself.”
This was some years before the COVID-19 crisis occurred, how do you see this observation in the present light? Did the pandemic have an impact on the ideas of East and West?
The socio-political notions of east-west are in constant flux… like mentioned in the essay. What was perceived as “east” in the past – China, for instance, is now a financial giant with enormous political power and that’s a huge game changer, other “eastern” economies are on the rise as well, and that really tips the boat..
If anything, I suppose that people have turned against one another, everyone all of the sudden was a foreign body (if you will) and a potential threat – a friend, family, every one at any given time. That is a terrifying thought.
Have there been musicians, composers, writers who were a great inspiration or influence on you?
We are constantly affected by someone else’s thought, aren’t we?
At the moment I’m reading Anais Nin (about time! I almost feel too old!)… perhaps as research, also re-reading the Old Testament – so many parts were skipped when we were in school – it’s really quite gruesome… so much graphic violence, incest… I’ll be describing bits in a sound piece for a festival I’m working on right now in the south of Germany…
Music-wise, recently: Scott Walker (earlier stuff), Pyrolator (holy shit!), Rotary Connection (that innocent cover of The Stones’ “Lady Jane”! woah!), Jon Hassell, Delia Derbyshire…
Do you enjoy touring? Any perspective on gigs to come in the near future? Any other projects on the horizon that you feel excited about?
It used to be my whole life, it’s odd how quickly we adapt. I’ve learned to enjoy relaxing, just being in one place. It will be hard to adapt to being on the road again. We’ll see… I think I’d like to make some changes in the future… two records are waiting for release, lots of exciting collaborations – we’re slowly working on promo material – videos etc… no concrete release plans yet. I have made some changes in my life already and though I have lived in Berlin since 2007, I’m now getting my own place in the center, where I now know I can stay indefinitely (or at least as long as Europe doesn’t throw me out, since I am not a citizen). 🙂
As a young girl you moved together with your parents from Russia to Tel Aviv. I assume that your parents still live there? How have they experienced the recent outbreak of violence in Israel?
They do. Lots of running to the shelter in the middle of the night. It was hard for them, they’re not as mobile as they used to be… it’s complicated. They chose to live there. We arrived in the midst of the Gulf War – it was the same, only with gas masks – waking up at 2am to the sound of the siren and running to the shelter…
If you are interested in buying MOOP! .. or any of Mary’s records, visit maryocher.bandcamp.com.