Tag Archives: Interview

The Bedroom Witch Believes the Dancefloor Can Be a Space for Healing

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Bedroom Witch. Photos by Kristin Cofer, part of “The Rose Project.”

Los Angeles artist Sepehr Mashiahof, who records and performs as The Bedroom Witch, uses catchy, danceable electronic music as a vehicle to explore—and to heal from—personal trauma. Her presence, both on and off-stage, is both soothing and quietly confident—she almost seems to glide instead of walk. Her performances, often accompanied by background projections she makes herself, are designed to inspire her audience to move. “I want all the struggling, beautiful freaks with whom I exist to find comfort in whatever way resonates with them individually through this other world that I designed for myself a long time ago.” she says, “This album is for them—it’s for us. and for our collective healing. Not for anyone else.”

As Mashiahof sees it, the sense of alone-ness that often comes with being socially marginalized can be both physical and metaphysical—which is why that dancefloor can be such a regenerative space. All of that feeds into the music she makes as Bedroom Witch. “My feelings of isolation from society definitely inform why I chose to set the Bedroom Witch [project] in a detached bedroom, floating somewhere in space and time,” she says.

The first full-length by The Bedroom Witch is set to come out on L.A.-based Practical Records, who have previously released work from Jeepneys, Julius Smack and Wizard Apprentice. The album, bluntly titled Injury, is due for tape release on April 21st. The album is a testament to Mashiahof’s fragility, vulnerability, and resilience in a world that sometimes refuses to make space for her. “My intention with this album,” she says, “was to source my own traumas and to confront them lucidly, in an attempt to make peace with the fact that they’ll never really go away.” The album feels simultaneously present, prophetically futuristic, and indebted to ‘80s dystopian cinema. Mashiahof’s dark electronics foreground her personal lyrics, where she calls upon those on the margins to imagine a future where they play a leading role. “When I think of Injury,” she says, “all I see is a vast land of volcanoes, statues, white balloons and shattered hourglasses scattered along seashores looking out into nothingness. That’s where I’ve been, and now I’m looking for the ones who dropped me off here and erased my memory.”

We talked to Mashiahof at length to explore this vision further.

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(She’s Got) Power: Tasha’s Soulful Ethos of Black Love and Liberation

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Tasha. Photo by Zachary Belcher.

Tasha Viets-Van Lear, who records music simply as Tasha, believes unapologetic black love is crucial for black liberation. An activist with BYP100 as well as a musician, Tasha weaves the political with the personal, promoting inner power. Her music focuses on love as a force against societal institutions that would prefer black people hate themselves and their skin. The poetic, thoughtful “Divine Love,” the title track from her 2016 EP, sets forth her ethos with warmth and passion: “I want a song that’s gonna tell me I can love myself/ But not for the purpose of being better at loving someone else/ Got all this light around me/But I can’t see it through this haze of my own insecurity/ This fear in me that I can’t glow from the inside out/But naturally, see, I got moonlight spilling from my mouth.”

Tasha’s a regular on the Chicago scene, playing often, sometimes with a full band—a powerhouse group of talented musicians whose members also play alongside Jamila Woods, Noname, Ric Wilson, Kaina, and more. While she hasn’t released anything since last year’s Divine Love EP, there’s a lot more in the works—music videos, a new website, and new music. Right now, she’s concentrating on building a robust foundation before releasing anything new.

We sat down with Tasha over tea at her Chicago home and talked about her processes, self-actualization, anger and joy, community and activism, journaling, and her music.

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Grey Wulf’s Harsh Noise Ventures Through The Dark In Search of Light

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I met Abdul Hakim-Bilal, aka Grey Wulf, in territory familiar to both of us: a crusty, Angela Davis-poster-splattered, anarchist community center in the middle of West Philadelphia. His band was setting up while I was DJ’ing; as they plugged in, the sound of a dirgey guitar ripped through the soundboard. I looked over and a wiry, tall guy with dreads and an army coat was fiddling with knobs, ready to wreck. “This should be good,” I thought, and I wasn’t disappointed. Hakim-Bilal’s band Among the Rocks and Roots proceeded to smash through a set of chaotic, thundering noise, part wooly Viking incantation, part Afro-Indigenous ritual, that left the space even more damaged than it was before they took the stage.

It’s Grey Wulf, Hakim-Bilal’s solo project, though, that seems particularly relevant now, in these politically unprecedented times—as Grey Wulf, he speaks to even darker, weirder edges of music and culture, conjuring fringe dreamscape-cum-apocalyptic death marches. Take the song “Fated Grips Around the Neck of Destiny,” where Hakim-Bilal wraps the listener in a cocoon of impossibly beautiful sounds, only to reveal a more sordid, darker core beneath. Grey Wulf walked those edges of beauty, danger, and reality with us in a conversation about place, carving out space, and finding a light in the dark.

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Andean Producer Lagartijeando’s Musical Witchcraft

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Mati Zundel, the Andean electro-folk alchemist who records as Lagartijeando, speaks of music as witchcraft, and connecting with other life forms through the use of psychoactive plants. This might seem “delirious,” as he suggested during our Skype call, but the zest and fire in his voice brings a prickling of gooseflesh; to Zundel, this is all very real. As he goes on, it begins to sound like the charming producer/multi-instrumentalist has reached some point of self-actualization. He recalls his backpacking journeys, and stints spent integrating himself with indigenous tribes in South American villages, and times when he befriended trendy producers in megalopolises, experiences that allowed him to develop an encyclopedic knowledge of folkloric and modern music.

Zundel has just returned from a local event called Fiesta de la Guitarra, where regional music is celebrated: “There’s gauchos, payadas, chacareras, samba, chamamé, vidala, copla…I love to see this!” he enthuses. That festival takes place in his native Dolores—a tiny hinterland of 20,000 habitants that’s just a 125-mile drive away from Buenos Aires. This marks his fourth years back home after a three-year globetrotting venture, and he’s enjoying the bucolic lifestyle of being back home. Dolores is also where he recorded his latest effort, the jubilant and meditative El Gran Poder.

On the album, it’s clear that his intrepid journeys provided him with a wealth of musical knowledge. The record fuses blissful electronic ambience with nostalgic pan flutes (or siku) and jaunty charangos, most of which he arranged and performed himself. Zundel talked with us about the mysticism behind ícaros—sacred chants that are sung during indigenous, spiritual ceremonies: “If you listen to my music, there are elements that search and call for that, they ask for protection,” he offers.

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The Ambient Sound Art of Porya Hatami

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Iranian electronic musician Porya Hatami has no interest in making you dance. Part of a robust and fertile Iranian underground electronic scene, his compositions occupy a blurry zone between ambient music and sound art. They combine field recordings with highly processed electronic sounds; tracks frequently cruise blithely past the 10-minute mark.

He’s been shockingly prolific; since 2012, he’s put out at least nine solo releases (including full-lengths and a few 3” CDs), two compilations of remixes of his work by others, and multiple collaborations with artists in other countries, including Arovane, from Germany, and Darren McClure, who lives and works in Japan.

It’s possible to hear echoes of everything from Tangerine Dream to Oval to Bernhard Günter in Hatami’s work. A piece may be built around delicate piano laid atop softly pastoral synths, or it may consist of layered crackle, with barely perceptible electronic pulses gradually rising in the background. When sounds from the real world enter Hatami’s creative universe, they’re manipulated almost beyond recognition.

Hatami’s most recent release is Organism, his fourth collaboration with Arovane. A collection of 19 tracks, some as short as 30 seconds and others in the six-minute range, it creates an ominous atmosphere full of stereo-panned pops and crackles, and dark-toned zooming hums. It’s like the sound design from a horror movie set on a haunted spaceship; on headphones, it’ll have you looking nervously over your shoulder.

Hatami answered questions via email.

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