Obsküre magazine

Interview bonus Obsküre #21 (English Translation, part 2)

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 two.  Part one of the interview was translated and published on June 14, 2014.

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

ObscureMag:  Were there any deliberate references to painting and sculpting, like for “Canary in a Cathouse” which referred to a piece by Gustav Klimt or “Caryatid”  which refers to the scultpings of female figurines?

James Cooper: Yes, sexuality plays an important role in what we produce, because I think it directs society, still today.  “Canary in a Cathouse” is inspired by the eyes of Eve by Klimt.  It’s about women forced to work in a brothel, like in a dream of a better life, a window with a view, but stuck in this trap, as we all know most of them are.   The song is the reflection on the fact that we all live in our own theater play, satirical masterpieces like the one authored by Molière.

ObscureMag:  Big cities seem to have inspired you as well, from Paris to Zagreb.  Is there an idea behind all this?

James Cooper:  To see the world, is it not everyone’s dream?  We seek truths in the world and then realize you can find truth at home.  I was in Zagreb the eve of the revolution, everyone knew it was going to happen and it was not going to be pretty.  When I was in Zagreb, I was held by the police without just cause.  I think it was because of the way I looked.  When passing the american embassy, you could see Michael Jackson, as well well as images of Levi’s blue Jeans and Ronald Reagan painted on the walls.  I wondered if that is all we represented to the rest of the world.  I would have preferred Kurt Vonnegut or Keith Haring.  As for Paris, I love that city.  I’d love to retire there, even though my french is not that great. To tell you the tructh, there’s an incredible benefit to not knowing the language.  It allows for darkness in certain areas which could be abrasive.

ObscureMag:  With a name like Museum of Devotion and your reference to faith and religion (“Devotion“, “Save me“), it looks as though you wished to comment on the fanatical aspect of religion which was so alive in the period of glory and televangelism in America?

James Cooper:  Yes, we still live in that world today,  mass media, the god of masses, and massive consumption.  From the minute man sold God to television a two am, the door gave way to the deluge.  We can thank the moral majority, which, once again, is neither moral, nor the majority.  I like museums, they are a sanctuary to escape from all the exterior crap.  Like the Rodin Museum.  What an incredible experience! I would like to die there on a bench, with coffee in my hand.  It would be amazing to finish like that!  We need more devotion and kindness in this world.  And less judging, ideas like the ones from Dalai Lama.

ObscureMag:  Songs like “Those Pale Eyes” or “Devotion” became dark wave classics, that DJ’s play often.  At the same time, with the EP “Racist” and the following album, the electronical grooves became more present.  You even sampled the disco wonder of Donna Summer with “Feel Love“.  Were you involved with this DJ culture?

James Cooper:  It is the minimalist approach of “…To the pink period” that stuck.  It was and is dark wave or coldwave.  It was like a declaration.  Now, we must move forward.  We are coming out with a new EP in a few months.  It will be more seducing but will require more implication/commitment (devotion) on the part of the listener.  But you’ll find that spririt of “…To the pink Period”.  For the EP “Racist”, we wanted to do something bizarre with these three pieces which are very eclectic. We had a fourth piece, “Quimbi Come Home“, which was put on the 13th compilation, another project of Lively Art.

ObscureMag:  What inspired the song “Racist“?

James Cooper:  The hideous aspect of life, racism.  I was in Amsterdam at that time and there was a show about American postcards.  It seemed unimportant from outside.  But inside, that was not the case.  Black lynching in America between 1900 and 1960.  They were like huge social events in the South, with traditional dances on Fridays.  There was a picture with the lynching in the center and evryone around was looking at the camera smiling.  They made postcards of these pictures, and folks would send them to their parents, with a note, like “It’s me at the bottom, on the left.  We’re having a blast in Alabama, I’ll be back next Wednesday. XoXo, John”.  There were three hundred postcards in this show, and I was ashamed to be American.  That’s where “Racist” came from, a show about postcards in Amsterdam.

ObscureMag:  How did people react to the dance side of the second album, even if “Never” or “Kiss me on the moon” remained possibly the darker songs you’ve ever recorded?

James Cooper:  I think it was too eclectic.  There were too many ideas at once, we went too fast.  Those mixes are difficult for me to listen to, even if there are some good songs.  We should have thought it through.  “Crash and Burn” is a good song. The words are good and deserve attention, but the mix should have been darker, and the bass more powerful.  It’s missing that beat which creates a dialogue between the music and its audience.  We built that album at Cabrini, in Chicago.  These were some very depressed projects where people lived.  You could feel the despair, it was very hard. “Slomo” is born from that: “Calculate the time wasted smoking cigarettes and drinking punch.  Go to see the doctor about certain problem, he’s out to lunch. leaky faucet, rusting away”.  These words were right on, even though the packaging was not right, even though right, the intention was.

ObscureMag:  What happened after this album, “Wants versus Needs“?

James Cooper:  Life!  As John Lennon said, “Life is what happens when you are busy making plans.” I think New Rose took a hit with that record, and we had to find work.  I moved to Nevada and Robbie found work in scientific research.

ObscureMag:  What made you want to resurrect Museum of Devotion and to record new pieces?

James Cooper:  Two friends of Purveu, LLC told us it was possible.  Brian and Matt respected our music and thought we could get some interest in Europe and in other regions.  They had the know how and we had the desire.  Technology allowed me to revisit this material with little financial risk.  It’s what you call a computer!  We revisisted and felt as though all was left unfinished.  Our four new pieces, on the EP “Another Cold Wave“, are extraordinary in my opinion.  You can hear my daughter’s voice on “The Trees” and Robert’s guitar lands like a tornado.  It’s very special and I love the bass.

ObscureMag:  Infrastition will edit the original work published by New Rose in a remastered piece.  Was it important that this comes from France, as you had a special relationship with this country, from an artistic perspective?

James Cooper:  We were looking for a partnership in France and we found one.  Alex is an outstanding person, with a clear vision and we are proud to belong to this vision.  It’s always awesome when other people’s vision are a reflection of yours.

ObscureMag:  How do you look today at the work that was done some twenty-five years ago with Museum of Devotion?

James Cooper:  Unfinished.  There were two obstacles in the past ten years.  First, all of our original tapes were destroyed in a flood at the house where they were kept.  Then my last computer where I stored some fifteen new songs crashed and all of the data was lost.  It was hard, but opportunity sometimes dresses like workpants and looks like work.  We did not let it go to waste.

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