‘Fetish Bones’ by Moor Mother was the album for a really bad year in music, last year, 2016! Camae Defstar aka Moor Mother is a promising artist from Philly, Pennsylvania very much involved in the local DIY scene. I was more than lucky to have a live chat with her via Skype quite a while ago, and thanks to the technology, after a series of unfortunate events (hard disk crashed…), here it is for you to get to know one of the most promising and uncompromising acts of the latest years. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome Moor Mother!
Welcome Camae to Last Day Deaf. So, what did ignite you to begin the Moor Mother project, in other words how did it all start? Regarding Moor Mother always.
Yeah, well I was singing in a punk band called Mighty Paradocs and it was a 5 group, 5 members, and I just wanted something to do when I was between band practice and shows, just something I could do alone and so that’s where Moor Mother started; just stuff that I was just doing in my bedroom.
What about the other project? Is live? Is it still live, the punk band? Mighty Paradocs?
No music project ever dies with me, so yes, it’s still live.
A little different then from what you’re doing at the moment with Moor Mother, isn’t ιτ?
Well yeah, I mean it’s still it’s punk. I feel Moor Mother is very punk, but people have their own ideas. But it’s punk and it’s political. I think someone who likes Moor Mother would definitely like Mighty Paradocs.
Have to congratulate you on the excellent debut ‘Fetish Bones‘ and would you like to talk about which were the main inspirations for this album?
Um, well it wasn’t something that I just sat down and wrote an album. It was just like a bunch of songs that I was performing live. I never had a chance to record my live set, I was only like recording stuff that I was just making at home with electronic stuff. But my live set is very vocal so it was just me recording those songs so this will be my – like next album, will be the first time where I like to sit down and like write an album, like a conceptual thing from start to finish. But ‘Fetish Bones‘ was really just me wanting to record my live set.
I listened to the album it’s very difficult to tag it under a specific genre. From hip-hop to experimental and from noise to political punk and sound collage…Some journalists could say it’s a little bit deliberate.. Would you agree with that? Please discuss.
No, I don’t agree. I would just say that, like that’s what I listen to. I like punk, I like hip-hop, free jazz and I also have projects also. I’m in a free jazz band called Irreversible Entanglements, I have a hip-hop project called 700 Bliss. This is just like parts of me; I love really really old time music like old blues, old gospel, old funk so you know like all of that is just what I listen to and I draw from my inspiration of those, musical, artists that I like and styles I don’t. Yeah that’s just mainly a mixture of all those things I enjoy. I’m self taught, I haven’t been taught to play any type of style of music, so..
But this project you mentioned apart from Mighty Paradocs, were well hidden. I couldn’t find information about the free jazz band on your page or somewhere else, am I right, or..?
Yeah well on my Soundcloud page I just recently shared a clip like an excerpt of my jazz band on there. And there’s an excerpt from the project 700 Bliss on there but a lot of this stuff will be coming out this year.
I see apart from the arts you are also a political activist. Do you believe that music can alter things in the dark era we are going through? Can it serve as a medium or even as a “weapon” for things to change?
Most definitely I feel like music has proven itself to be a conductor of change, whether we’re talking about the 1960s and America, whether we’re talking about political music in Africa or the kids in Portugal, or creating their own way of making beats as a form of making themselves heard. I feel like, yes, music is very empowering for not everyone, but it is powerful for those who can make the connection between making music, and also upholding the stories and dreams and hopes of the community, of using music to think about a future that we all want to participate in. I feel like those are the powerful aspects of music but it can also help and also act as an agent to disturb and music can also be a form of sonic warfare.
Well that’s quite rough I think [laughs].
What about the collaboration with Don Giovanni Records. A label that looks for future and groundbreaking music. How did this come to life? Did they get in touch with you?
Yeah, they sent me an email about an interview that I did with an online publication called Fuck The Media based out of Boston and I just did an interview and this drummer in a band called Screaming Females actually saw the interview and sent it over to Joe who runs Don Giovanni Records and that’s when he sent me an email just asking me, and really saying ‘I’m sure I know you probably don’t need any help, you’re doing pretty well, but if you ever need any help putting out a record we would like to help’. And no one has ever contacted me outside of like small local noise. A label called Vague Audio Tapes, they like redid a tape of something I put on my Bandcamp, released it on a short run of cassette tapes, but besides that no one reached out to me, so it was just – I was so thankful to be given a chance to be able to put out a record.
Familiar with Don Giovanni Records’ other artists?
Well yeah, there’s actually good friends of mine Aye Nako is on the label, and the Downtown Boys is on the label, and in Philadelphia I had an event that I did for 10 years called Rockers (BBQ Weekend), where I would book most of the people on their label. Don Giovanni. So I knew about them already. I had been stalking them before, just looking on the website of my friends albums like, ah one day I hope I can put out a record, and so it kind of all worked together when they finally sent me an email.
I see. What about hype? Are you afraid of this hype publications like Pitchfork, Wire, some of the best newcomers albums, are you afraid of the hype of the next album?
No, I’m not afraid of it at all. I’m very thankful for anyone that’s written about my music, because it’s been so hard to get anyone to write about my music. And once people find out about me and go ‘oh she has been working and putting out music’, I put out a lot of music, I have no problem coming into 2017 and maybe having people saying she’s putting out too much music. I’ve got a lot of stuff in store.
Aren’t you afraid? If the lights go out…? In Greece it’s very difficult to listen to such projects, do you believe this will continue or maybe in two years time you think maybe Moor Mother will end up to obscurity? Do you get my point?
Yeah I mean, to be honest, I don’t know. You can name – I don’t know who you can name. I feel like musicians are going to keep putting out music. I hope that I inspire people to step up their lyrics. I’m still me and I’m still my perspective and the thing is – the difference is, I don’t know any other from my personal standpoint and upbringing. I don’t know anyone else that matches that. That’s why I think it’s been such a good received – you know, people receiving the album well because they haven’t heard this perspective. And I think that is – I think that’s going to continue and I don’t think next year is going to be the year that women in music are going to being respected like men. I took a risk of not fetisizing any part of myself to create this album. I didn’t say ‘oh I’m this queer‘, and I didn’t say. I just told the stories and I just told the truth, so you know, like, I think that’s hard for any artist to do because like most artists are run by money and jealousy and competition and all of these things, and I don’t think that’s going to go away, but I hope. [laughs]
How does it feel like going from DIY basements to great bars like Berghain/Panorama Bar in Berlin?
Well um, I mean I’m used to – I think it would just be a mix because with Black Quantum Futurism and the rest of the work I do I’m used to being in a, you know, like a museum setting where people are just watching and are more interested in the aesthetics of a performance. But, I think I’m going to do a mix. I’m not going to keep it as I’m in some museum or in some big presentation style. I’m going to keep my punk roots and my DIY aesthetic also, and not try to fill in the shoes of everyone else. You know, like big projections. Of course, I perform with projections but that’s not going to be part of some aesthetic or kind of thing.. I want it to be as raw as possible because I think that’s what’s missing…
You’re deeply involved in the DIY scene so I have to ask you this question. There was a very sad event in what happened in Oakland’s Ghost Ship fire in December. Do you believe this will change what happens in the DIY scene, because there’s been much talk recently after this event. some DIY spaces have already closed down. What do you think will happen after this, do you think there should be safety measures in DIY spaces,- and I think everyone agrees with this-, but do you think this will change the DIY scene everywhere? United States even? Globally?
I mean, yeah of course, there’s always a crackdown from the underground, but there’s always been a tradition of underground artists with a passion and a vision to keep digging deeper. And to keep finding spaces more and more off the radar and to become more innovative, I think that we need to get back to the roots of organizing our events off the internet. That’s gotta be the first step and I think we’re starting to make strides of doing that.
Was a failure, right?
Yeah, there was a fire, and there definitely were warnings and there were a lot of things that come to that and that’s just an extension of -we’re trying to find, especially in the underground scene, places to express ourselves. And sometimes these places are not very safe and the vibration of the community needs to do whatever’s in our ability to stay on top of these things but, it’s a risk. People never said that playing music was a safe thing…
Regarding your DIY movement? The Rockers BBQ? What’s this? Are you involved in this?
Yeah, it’s an extension from the event that I was telling you I did for 10 years called Rockers. It’s just an event in August where we take time to celebrate the year in DIY music, especially political music and people of color and queer and trans artists.
I see. What other Philly DIY projects would you suggest? What should we take notice of?
There’s a band – I got their T-shirt on now called SOUL GLO. They’re a hardcore band, they’re really good…
You’re friends with someone in this band, are’ nt you?
Yup. SOUL GLO, really cool. NAH, yes is another artist I was just emailing with him a few minutes ago. A DJ named DJ Huh-Rahm [I put the pronunciation because I’m not sure of the spelling]. There’s a DJ Skeem. There’s an artist, High Priest that’s really talented from the Antipop Consortium, King Britt, The Nosebleeds..another punk band, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League another punk band. Um, yeah, you know. There’s a lot of good music out here.
And what about the Washington scene? Because of course, you play punk, you like punk.. What are your thoughts on these 80s, 90s bands? Fugazi, Minor Threat?
Yeah like out of all of those bands, I like Bad Brains and Fugazi the best. But I found out about them late. I was mostly listening to California punk and New York punk when I was growing up. I didn’t know, I was so close to DC and I didn’t really know those bands. There’s actually a band in Amsterdam.. Funeral Oration. Do you know them? Yeah they’re from the 80s and 90s.
What holds the near future for Moor Mother? Probably start recording the new album? Or is it too early for this?
No it’s time. It’s time. I have to turn it in in April so it’ll come out in the fall, but I’ll have other stuff releasing in between all of that so there’ll be a lot of music coming.
Don Giovanni again or…?
Yeah, Don Giovanni. Um, I’ll have two records coming from Don Giovanni: I’ll have a record coming in the beginning of January in conjunction with CTM, so something very soon. I’ll have the 700 Bliss and Mental Jewelry record coming out.
Sorry for this personal question. Are you living from your music or are you working too? You can avoid this one if you want.
It’s okay. I coach basketball. I’m a basketball coach. For high school varsity basketball. But I’m definitely still a struggling artist but my job is – I coach basketball.
Would you leave basketball for music? For full-time job, music?
Well I’ve been doing both for the past 10 years.
So it would be difficult to leave out basketball.
Well just because I love it so much, but more because of love. But yeah, I definitely need to work and definitely keep producing. Once I feel like I get into – once I’m able to have more than one album.
I see. Thank you very much for accepting this interview.
Yeah thank you very much for writing a good review, so.
For me it was by far the best album, it was not the best year as far as music…
Transcribed by: Sarah Medeiros
Photo credits: Chris Sikich (1st one), Eva Wo (3rd one)