Interview bonus Obsküre #21 (English Translation, part 1)

For our English speaking fans, here’s an English translation of the Interview that appeared on Obsküre magazine’s website on June 2nd, 2014.

This is part one.  We will publish more as we can, as proper translation takes time.

From Obsküre magazine #21.
Interview by Mäx Lachaud.
English translation by Christine Caroen.

Museum of Devotion

Museum of Devotion. Robert Anderson (left) and James Cooper (right).

An add-on to our interview with James Cooper in which we cover the story of Museum of Devotion, an electronic coldwave music group, ahead of its full re-release by Infrastition records.

Flashback on the circumstances in which the band formed itself at the University of Michigan in the eighties. Robert Anderson and James Cooper met each other at the same university they both attended, and oftentimes they’d frequent a club in Detroit, Todd’s Sway Bar, where they listen to bands like Fad Gadget and Section 25 as well as disco. Influenced by Joy Division, the electronic side of Ministry and tracks like “A Forest” by The Cure, they started composing and crafting their own sounds.

ObscureMag: Was there a scene in Ann Arbor or were you the only ones to produce this kind of music?

James Cooper: There was a rather very important music scene in Ann Arbor, a lot of indie music. Either students were protesting against American Corporations who sold goods to the Southern African Apartheid, or they were joining bands.

ObscureMag: At first, there were other musicians involved with the project, notably Christi for vocals and Peter Cooper on Bass. Were there many incarnations before the recording of your first album…To the pink period?

James Cooper: Yes, Christi stayed until the 1990 album, “Wants versus Needs“, and Peter devoted himself to his career.

ObscureMag: How did you get in touch with New Rose and Lively Arts records? How did you find out these French Labels?

James Cooper: We had sent out a thousand demos and we prayed hard. It was a different world than today’s. New Rose contacted us, and things started to fall into place. These people were super, I have a lot of respect for them. They set us free in everything we did. I don’t feel great about it as I believe we made them loose money. The first time we saw “…To the pink period” at the local record store, we could not contain our excitement, just like kids. It’s a fabulous memory of hard work, done with passion and also a little talent. Making this disc was fun; we did a lot of crazy things, a lot of metallic percussion, and running the guitars through three amplifiers. The recording equipment was very rudimentary if you compare to today. We loved this analog work. You can’t compare that to digital. The bass and the kicks sound so much richer in analog.

ObscureMag: Your music was not only coldwave, it was also very danceable, and you seemed interested in new forms of electronic music (EBM,house,techno,acid…). Which electronic material did you work on at first?

James Cooper: In terms of equipment, you could say that we were not ready for the electronics. The songs rendered better with guitar in my opinion. We had a six track, we synchronized the computer with a few toys, but the lower bass lines were very heavy, and were difficult to record. Our sequential tom came from a drum machine which was stolen from us after the first album. So, the album “Want versus Needs” has a very different drum machine that was not so cold. We lost this very Sisters of Mercy like clear box sound.

ObscureMag: The title of “…To the pink period” sounds like a reference to painting and had a beautiful cover. Could you elaborate on this cover and title?

James Cooper: I love these songs. This album was the essence of who we were like Arty, with its becoming beat, not very aggressive, more passive in approach. It was not very well mixed but we were young kids, and we did not know how to do better, and maybe that is what makes it unique. That said, it is better mixed than the one that followed. We had a lot of fun making the artwork. I had a photographer come to my parents’ house on the lake. We organized everything in the water. There was no wind, so we were very fortunate. It’s our friend Tammy who posed. At one point, she took off all of her clothes and she resembled a mermaid, a 22 year old beauty, a real goddess in the water. We thought we ought to be careful and we did not use the nude shots. In hindsight, we might have used them as these photos rocked. But in the end, it all worked out well anyways.

The title of the disc is very political. To us, at that time, national health care in America was and still remains a real problem. I lived in London for two years, I got ill several times and my care was always free. It was awesome and I was very thankful. I even went back to the clinic to take flowers to the staff that helped me. In the United States, there were still many questions in relation to AIDS. It was the Reagan years, when the moral majority, who was really neither the majority nor moral, was selling AIDS like a price to pay for deviant behaviors. Things changed a little, when Rock Hudson, a movie star and close friend of Ronald Reagan’s, died of AIDS. Reagan started to change his habits, and he was so popular that American perception began to change. The inhumanity in all of that disturbed us, and we felt there was a need for change. Then, there were three personalities who inspired us greatly and died in these years: (Andy) Warhol, Cary Grant and Divine. I think that Warhol and Divine still had so much to offer. The world of art is what creates or destroys great civilizations.

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