26 July 2010

Fresh Meat Monday - Mammoeth

Would you care to introduce yourself?
Hi I'm Russell Kostulin, originally from Banchory in the north east but now living in Edinburgh. I am the man behind Mammoeth.

How would you describe the music you make?
I have previously described it as "sweetly sick sour pop" which is a gimmicky way of trying to convey the basic premise that this album contains quite a few songs which are musically upbeat and poppy with the saccharine pop being subverted by, and juxtaposed against, the dark lyrical content of many of the songs. High concept pop maybe with some multi-instrumentation? Think the Bay City Rollers (without any alleged paedophilia) if they were produced and arranged by Sufjan Stevens in collaboration with Dave Fridmann, with lyrics by Nick Cave during his murder ballads period and voiced by Emitt Rhodes.

How did you start out making music?
I was forced and bribed (1p per minute going towards xmas pressies - seriously) into playing the violin from an early age (5) by my mother who is obsessed with music. Then as most people do, in my teens I formed a band to get girls (didn't really work), and then started learning the guitar and writing kind of sh*t songs (inspired by Supergrass and other pioneers of the interesting chord change) which I think/hope became less sh*t the more I tried. I tried really hard not to be sh*t for ages and I think got better as time went on. I built up a body of tunes which had a theme and which I considered to be pretty good and then I decided to record an album and now we arrive in the here and now, where I'm trying to peddle both the album and the accepted wisdom that I'm not sh*t at writing songs and that people should pay a bit of attention...

What process goes into the way you write songs?
Well I always (almost always) start with a chord progression that I like and then I improvise singing over that until I find something which I think is good and I record it onto my dictaphone and forget about it. Then I revisit it later (sometimes hours sometimes months later) and try it again and see if I still like it or if it needs to be changed. That is almost always the "verse" for some reason, I never start at the chorus, and once I have that it's mostly pretty easy to get a chorus. Normally I'll just play chords until I find something that feels like a lift or that feels natural and I'll sing over the top of that and then I'll record that too. Sometimes I put in a bridge, sometimes an outro sometimes a few more sections depending on what moves me. Then I sit on it for ages until I find some lyrical inspiration and once I've finished the lyrics I demo it. The hardest part is finding the first chord or chord progression that unlocks the song - that's the key that opens the box, once you've got that and a decent melody it's normally easy enough to finish it. Most of my songs start with serendipitous mistakes which I like the sound of. Lyrics are a nightmare, that's actually the hardest part most of the time. I'm pretty obsessed with songwriting - it's a bit like solving a puzzle, except there are many ways to solve it and you're the invigilator and marker, so you can't go wrong, unless you solve it rubbish melodies I suppose.

What can people expect from your live shows?
A pretty faithful reproduction of the album, some mediocre between-song chat, some handsome violinists, a couple of beards, a soupcon of awkwardness and an impressive laser display.

What are you all listening to at the moment?
All of me listens to a mixture of new and old - I listen to the old when there isn't much new that interests me. In terms of old I like most things, I'm going through a Giorgio Moroder phase at this very moment but all the usual stuff applies. I've been listening to a lot of Flaming Lips recently too, some Nick Lowe, some Kate Bush, some Brian Eno stuff - mostly that recent collaboration he did with David Byrne particularly Strange Overtones which is so good. Ach, loads of stuff - all the normal stuff that gets fed to people as classic stuff. There so much that's "classic" these days that people can't get through it all anymore never mind the stuff that is not deemed "classic". In terms of new stuff, the new Yeasayer record is patchy in terms of pop tunes but the highs are super high, stuff like Ambling Alps and ONE and the production is uniformally great, very interesting. That Morning Benders tune "Excuses" was really good, I got butterflies the first time I heard the live version they did of that for Yours Truly. I've been listening to Stornoway too, mainly to try to decide if it's good or not - it's deeply uncool but there's something naively charming in that and I like the fact that they're signed to 4AD and getting lots of attention - it's paradoxical. I've kind of been listening to the new National album but it just seems like more of the same but without a killer tune like Fake Empire to get you hooked in. I know they're a grower though so in 3 years I'll probably like it more. The producer I work with did the Magic Arm debut album and I don't know why that didn't get more attention last year - to me it was a great record in terms of mixing styles, and it was thoroughly melodic and really interesting - so much going on. The vagaries of the music business. Why do we bother?

What can we expect to see/hear from you in 2010?
Well there's a debut album out today called "Nascent" (which you can order from my bandcamp page!) and shows preceding that in Edinburgh (Wee Red) and Glasgow (Classic Grand) on the 24th and 25th, respectively - they'll be proper full band shows. There will be a tour later in the year too and hopefully I'll start recording album number 2 towards the end of the year, there's 3 or 4 tracks written that I want to demo and record before the year is out.

Mammoeth - This City Life


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