|More than a year after the release of Murkrat's sophomore album and its celebration all around the web, the album collecting raving reviews and drawing new fans to the band, doom-metal wanted to know a bit more about Mandy VKS Cattleprod, the artist behind that very special solo project.|
1) Hi Mandy, and thanks very much for agreeing to be interviewed for Doom-Metal.com. Could we start with a very brief history of Murkrat and where it came from?
I started writing Murkrat just before I left Lycanthia, in 06, I think? Originally my old friend Becky was playing drums for me, but she was too busy with golf (she was a the NSW Institute of Sport at the time) so I had to go it alone for a while, before Neil (from Blue Mountains death metal band Innsmouth) came along to help me out with the second album. It was great to have him play on that album.
It’s not a really interesting story, I just starting writing really personal music with no ‘expectations’.
2) And what about you – where are you from, originally?
I’m from Thirlmere, in semi-rural New South Wales. It’s been quite an average, uninteresting journey.
3) Did you have any formal musical training? You can obviously play a number of instruments, and sing: which of those do you prefer to work with? Any that you hate playing yourself?
I did quite a number of years of piano and also a few years of vocal training (in that Elizabethan Come-Ye-Pretty-False-Eyed-Wanton style). I don’t like recording guitar much at all, because I’m chronically shithouse.
4) Do you have support from family and friends with everything you are doing? Any people you'd especially like to thank for going the distance?
Yeah, I’ve definitely had support from friends and family. I think they know who they are – I’d hate to name names and then miss someone out, so I’ll steer clear of that whole hornet’s nest.
5) Are you a full-time musician now, or is there a day job as well? If you weren't making music, is there anything else you'd really like to be doing?
Haha, no chance. I have a day job like pretty much everyone in the Australian metal scene. My main goal in life was actually to become a fiction writer, but I’m getting closer and closer to acknowledging absolute failure.
6) After so many years of female-fronted and female-led bands, we – in Europe, at least – don't really think anything of it. But do you feel that being female has made any difference to your musical career, positive or negative?
I don’t think it’s had an effect at all. As a feminist, I certainly hope not.
7) Doom is still quite a small niche, obviously not the easiest place to find massive commercial success. Presuming that wasn't a great motivating factor, what led you into the genre? Were you inspired or influenced by any particular bands or musicians?
I’m not sure really, but for me, it’s one of the few genres where there’s still a lot of room to move & do your own thing. It’s also the perfect place to start when you want to express a really desolate outlook. Murkrat could only be doom metal or some kind of atmospheric ‘suicidal’ black metal.
As for particular influences, I tend to mention really early influences, because they are the ones that push you in a certain direction. I guess to pick a few really quickly, I’d say – Aghast, (early) Alice Cooper, Burning Witch, Black Sabbath & the early The 3rd & the Mortal releases.
8) Any other music you listen to, not necessarily as influences? What about books, movies or other art – any favourites? Do any of those feed into your own creations?
Hmm, I listen to a lot of music, so I’m not really sure where to start! I like old heavy metal, doom, death metal, black metal. I’ll pick a few favourite metal bands of the top of my head – Arcturus, Megadeth (early…), Coroner, Bolt Thrower, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Ved Buens Ende. I worship Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell, classical & baroque music, other orchestral stuff as well, Pink Floyd was always huge for me.
As for reading, I guess I’m a sci-fi / cyber punk nerd, I like my nightmare-vision-of-the-future type stuff. I also discovered China Mieville a few years ago and had my brain blown to pieces.
Favourite movies…Donnie Darko is up there for me, Mad Max (the first & only Mad Max!!), Children of Men, Pan’s Labyrinth, A Clockwork Orange, a recent discovery for me was the animated version of Watership Down.
Art-wise I’m a bit of a poseur. I don’t have extensive knowledge, but I am a sucker for a melodramatic pre-raphaelite painting like The Death of Chatterton. Also, surrealist stuff like James Gleeson. But really, anything dark or political catches my attention.
9) Australia's home to some quite amazing and innovative doom bands – Virgin Black and Mournful Congregation spring immediately to mind, along with other genre-breakers like Mekigah. Is there much of a musical scene, or does the sheer size of the place hamper that? Are you part of a wider musical community yourself?
I’m not sure. I mean – most of us know each other in some way and to some degree, there’s a lot of sharing of band members between bands as well. Stu from The Slow Death now plays in Mournful Congregation, for example. I’m not a hugely social person, so it’s hard to say what kind of community there is, but I can say that there’s not a lot of ego floating around the Australian metal scene, so in general, everyone’s pretty cool and happy to support each other.
10) You've played and guested with other bands, such as Lycanthia and Reverend Kriss Hades: was that a good experience? Did it help you in your own musical development? Is it something you'd consider repeating, with the same or different bands? Does your work in The Slow Death collaboration fit under this heading, or have you got a controlling influence in that band?
Playing in Lycanthia was classic. I joined the band when I was 16 and still in high school, and I made heaps of friends that I still have now, over ten years later. They were never playing a ‘trendy’ type of metal, but they are so dedicated. They’ve been around since 96 and are still going. It was good to get experience playing thankless live gigs as well!!
Stu is the main driver of The Slow Death, he creates the songs and I add vocals, lyrics, artworks and some keys, so it’s not really a “band” so to speak, but I do put a fair bit or work into it. I really enjoy it, and I feel pretty lucky to work with Stu, I think he really writes the most beautiful guitar lines & harmonies.
11) Presumably you prefer working on more-or-less solo projects, though? Is it easier to be creative when you can control and manage everything, or is it a better frame for self-expression?
I am definitely more comfortable having my own projects – I’m a pretty anxious person and having the expectations of other band members, no matter how wonderfully supportive they are, always cramps my style and adds a stiffness / awkwardness to anything I contribute, including artworks and lyrics. Entirely my problem, and almost entirely explains why I do more solo stuff than anything else!
12) You've released other solo works, as Dust To Dearth and Dust And The Howling Wind: are these projects going to continue in parallel with Murkrat? Do you feel that they give you a completely different perspective to work with, or just a different way of framing the same thoughts?
I’m not really sure about The Dust and The Howling Wind – it’s something that just kind of “happened” in a very short period of time, I got fixated on creating this demo out of nowhere. I’m not sure I have the ability to take it any further.
I don’t really have any future plans for Dust to Dearth at the moment. It may have just been a one-off.
13) You're best known – here, at least – for Murkrat. Is it your primary and/or favourite project?
Yes, Murkrat is definitely my main project, it’s my personal project and I invest a huge amount of emotion in it.
14) "Drudging The Mire" was released last February to considerable critical acclaim and deservedly stayed on a lot of lists of best doom albums of the year – mine included. Had you expected it to be that successful and were you pleased with the reception?
I didn’t really expect too much – I felt that the new album would alienate those few people who liked the first CD / demo, and I think that it did. The fact that new people liked the second album was a lucky break and I guess I was pleasantly surprised.
15) It's a much more atmospheric and funereal release than your "Murkrat" debut, replacing some of the hard edges with deeper, subtly disturbing textures. Is that a musical direction you see yourself continuing in for now, or something that captured your particular mood of the time?
I think it was definitely the mood of the time. Whatever I do with Murkrat in the future will probably be entirely different again. Murkrat just is what it is, I can’t really force it into any particular direction.
16) The lyrical content is quite constant over both releases and paints a pretty dark picture of humanity, somewhere between anger and despair. Is that your mirror on life in general, or just the darker side of expression in art? How much of it is giving your own personal demons a voice?
It’s not much of an exaggeration of how I feel day to day. Something I try to make clear is that I’m not standing here pointing the finger & saying “You’re all wrong for these reasons” – I’m well aware that I am just as hypocritical, irrational and selfish as the next person.
17) Stu at Aesthetic Death has put together a really solid catalogue of high-quality releases. Are you happy being part of that? Are you likely to stay with AD?
Absolutely. Stu is a great supporter of my work & he genuinely understands Murkrat, which is really great. As long as he wants to continue supporting Murkrat, I’ll be with AD. As you say, it’s also great to have so many awesome ‘label-mates’
18) Are you working on anything in the studio at the moment: any plans for another Murkrat album sometime soon? Anything else in the pipeline?
Murkrat is in indefinite hiatus at the moment, although it will never be “gone”. The 2nd ‘The Slow Death’ album has just come out, which is exciting. I’m a lot happier with my contribution to this album than I was with the first album. A lot of my current energy is taken up with a new band I’m working with called ‘Crone’ – which is more traditional / epic doom metal. I’m doing vocals and bass, Todd from the excellent Australian death metal band ‘Innsmouth’ is the main driver (on guitar) and we have a brilliant drummer John McLaughlin, who plays in too many bands to mention, and also did the drums on the new The Slow Death album.
19) What about playing live – does that interest you; do you enjoy it at all? Would you ever consider putting Murkrat – or any of your other projects – on tour; if so, which parts of the world?
I’m very hesitant about bringing Murkrat to the stage, mainly because – in Australia anyway – we would be playing to a half empty room with most people just chatting and mucking around; and nine times out of ten, something goes wrong with equipment or the mix is terrible, and the atmosphere would be pretty minimal – that’s not even taking into account the possibility that I’d f*ck it up – and I’m just too emotionally invested in Murkrat to have it be a shitty, lame failure on stage!
Crone, however, will definitely be playing live.
20) That's probably enough questions from me: hope they've given you a chance to express yourself freely. Thanks again for the interview. Is there anything else you'd like to say in closing?
Nothing more to add. Thanks so much for the interview.
Visit the MurkRat bandpage.