Autumn interviews Mistula

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Mistula Interview

 

 

Mistula is the Philippines’ first virtual band; all four members are dolls. Mistula’s latest track is Pista ng Patay (Feast Day of the Dead). Find out more about the band at the official website, http://www.mistula.com/

1) How would you describe your music?

LUGOSI:
I would say it’s… “fluid”. It constantly shapes and reshapes itself into how the song wants to present itself.

Mistula tracks are always based on poems. The idea behind the poem has always been central as to how the song should sound. The music we play, it becomes the medium through which that idea is best delivered. Is the message sad? We play sad. Is the message happy, and chirpy, then turns into rage that feels like you want to throw things? Then we play happy, and chirpy, then turns to rage that make you feel you want to throw things.

MANX:
It’s dark and heavy, for me. But always lots of fun.

UNO:
It’s Mistula music, period. Or exclamation point in some parts where I scream.

LOBO:
I imagine, it’s not the best music to listen to during children’s parties.

2) What does Mistula mean?

LUGOSI:
It’s a Filipino word, literally “in likeness of” or “similar to”, which speaks about the band’s existence being “virtual”, on a very basic, surface level. “Mistula” the band however, over the course of our existence, has come to mean many things: providing disruption to the more usual course of things; shaking up beliefs of what “can” and “can’t be”, what “should” and “shouldn’t be”.

It has come to mean packing your toys and playing in a sandbox all your own, away from all the other sandboxes in a very big playground, and ultimately feeling more fulfilled about it.

UNO:
We chose it because it’s easy to pronounce, even for those who are not Filipino. It’s easy to Google, too.

3) Do you ever wish you were humans instead of dolls?

UNO:
No. I like being carried around by young girls.

MANX:
I don’t understand why some humans are always hesitant to admit their boobs are fake. My boobs are fake.

LOBO:
Humans are bloody complicated.

LUGOSI:
I wish humans were more like dolls, really. Then they’d be easier to control.

4) Do you think The Philippines are proud of their first virtual band?

UNO:
I do think a lot of Filipinos are bewildered but proud.

LUGOSI:
We just got an email from one very recent convert, I think he saw us in one of the TV appearances, saying how proud he felt seeing a Filipino band in the UK indie charts. He said he gets a kick out of hearing our tracks, all written in our local language, in a foreign arena.

So yeah, I think Filipinos are always proud whenever someone hits it big out in the world. Every Filipino feels like its his own personal victory whenever, say, boxing champ Manny Pacquiao batters the bejeesus out of his opponents. You know, the whole country practically stops whenever he has a match? Crime rate drops to zero because everyone’s glued to their TV sets.

MANX:
That’s so true! Kinda like when Metallica played here ages ago. Suddenly, everybody was going gaga over Kirk Hammett being part Filipino.

LOBO:
We have yet to figure out what to do with all those gig invitations, though.

5) What other art forms are you interested in?

UNO:
Photography. I can be quite photogenic, you know. I also realized that people are more interested in stories that have a lot of pretty pictures.

LUGOSI:
Catholic iconography has always fascinated me. Here in the Philippines, religious idols are real idols. The Statue of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo Church, for instance, is flocked by millions of devotees during its feast day. It’s an incredible scene, watching the Black Nazarene crowd-surfing.

Literature, obviously, since our songs are always poetry-based, as well as fiction and essays, which are also found in the website.

LOBO:
I collect funnybooks. Their prices aren’t all that funny, though. Mostly bronze age DC stuff. I love Bisley’s art.

MANX:
Nudity. And I’m not the only one interested in it, I’m sure.

6) How have these other art forms influenced your music?

LUGOSI:
I think the real question is: how can anything you’re interested in NOT influence some other thing you love doing, right? That’s how Mistula works. Built around a central idea, we try to extend that into different works of art which build into each other, which we think would give the audience a better grasp of what we are trying to communicate. It’s like a giant woven tapestry, where you start with a basic idea, then weave something that connects to that, then extend it further by weaving some more, and so on, until you step back and see this huge woven monster thing that you’ve created, that’s essentially taken a life of its own, that displays the whole picture.

MANX:
When dear Dragan, our former rhythm guitarist, left… he went back home to the UK… he left behind this huge hole in the band, and in my heart. I talked to Lugosi, he helped me write the poem Nuestra Señora Dolorosa.

LUGOSI:
Then she added in the music, with just her, singing and playing a solo guitar. So, from the idea of real life “loss”, to a poem that communicates the “loss” felt when a fellow guitarist friend leaves, to music that feels physically and literally “empty” without another guitar…

UNO:
…which even connects to our next track after that, right? That’s the last line of Dolorosa you hear at the beginning of Pista ng Patay, immediately followed by a new riff played by Lobo who became our new rhythm guitarist.

LOBO:
Oi, so that’s why you insist I do that opening riff alone.

LUGOSI:
More fulfilling for us, when lines seem somewhat blurred and you don’t necessarily “see” anymore where one work ends and where another begins. Because it proves you’ve executed the idea fully and seamlessly.

7) Which music artists have influenced you the most?

UNO:
Definitely not the Karaoke King next door.

MANX:
Uno listens to A Perfect Circle all the time. I don’t know why. I like watching Slipknot.

LOBO:
Sex Bloody Pistols! I like punk the attitude, and I wish it weren’t dead.

LUGOSI:
Recently, I’ve unearthed this album by Mutiny, a heavy band from the
Philippines from the 90s. And I’m suddenly reminded why I’m in a band, all over again.

But I guess I could speak for the rest, this band draws inspiration from all types of music influences. It’s always a learning experience every time we hear anything. We like to put them in these neat library shelves called “inspirations”. And just a little note: stress on “inspirations”. Because we think, too often, bands confuse “musical influences” with “musical pegs”, and they end up playing what’s on their radio station’s current playlist. Nothing wrong with that, really… unless we want 5,000 more My Chemical Romance-s in this world. Influences should be there mainly to inspire us into doing our own thing, to trigger us into doing our own works, in our own terms. It’s the whole point of “creation” in the first place, trying to accomplish something that hasn’t been done before. God never said, “Let there be light… because everybody’s doing it and it’s the totally in thing to do.” Nope, doesn’t work that way.

UNO:
In the advertising world where I go to work, “been done” is the worst comment your creative team could say of your ideas. Aside from the occasional “that’s crap” or “next”.

8 ) Do you have any plans to tour the U.K.?

LOBO:
Bloody hell yeah, I’m sick of being an Englishman in New York, Cubao.

MANX:
I’d love to go to the UK! I want to hear some real British accent.

UNO:
Just as soon as our roadies secure their VISAs. We never travel without them.

9) Who are your favourite U.K. music artists at the moment?

LUGOSI:
The latest Bloc Party record sounds solid. Also the new Radiohead stuff.

But yeah, aside from the usual suspects, I think majority of the really great artists are the ones in the margins and not the centre players.

LOBO:
Long live Johnny Rotten!

10) What is your latest track, ‘Pista ng Patay’, about?

UNO:
Pista ng Patay is the Day of the Dead celebration, Philippine-style. The web update was scheduled November, so we decided to do something that tied in with the most important Catholic celebration during that month.

LUGOSI:
And we just had to feature the most strikingly Filipino about the event. It’s actually called All Souls Day, a long holiday weekend of going to the cemetery, visiting your dead loved ones, meeting relatives, getting together with friends.

And what makes it more unique in the Philippine setting is the powerful contrast of the events that literally bombard your senses. Because amidst the solemnity, and the prayers, and the lighting of candles, you also get the endless food tripping, and the late night karaoke singing, and the gambling with playing cards, and the trips to the beaches… it’s one big party. A time of excess in a time of quiet internal meditation. And it’s by no means a disrespect for the dead or for the occasion, you know, it’s just how people have gotten used to celebrating it. That’s why when we wrote the track, instead of doing it all spooky and dark as you would expect a song about the Day of the Dead would sound, we turned into a big marching band merrymaking extravaganza, all busy and fast and wake-the-dead kind of up-tempo playing.

MANX:
Yep! It was also a chance for us to experiment on sounds and kind of fit them into each other, and just see how it goes. If it worked, we retained it. If it didn’t… we found ways to make it work, haha.

LOBO:
Cor blimey, I remember Manx and myself, we had to do much guitar exchanges all throughout that song. That took a while to choreograph.

MANX:
Oh yeah, that’s me on the right and Lobo’s on the left.

LOBO:
Came out really tight in the end, though, so it was all bloody worth it.

11) Which of you is the most high maintenance?

LUGOSI, UNO, MANX AND LOBO:
Our roadies!

12) What’s your favourite quote?

LOBO:
“Da Fug!” from Chubby da Choona.

MANX:
Oh! For me, it’s “When a man lies, he murders some part of the world.” That’s from Cliff Burton, a very badly-missed bassist.

LUGOSI:
“Paano mamumulat ang sambayanan, kung ang isusulat ay walang laman?”

“How will the nation wake up, If all you write are empty words?”

That’s from a genius of a song from a genius of composer, writer, artist, musician – Gary Granada. In that song, to demonstrate his point about music discrimination, he jumps styles from pop, to folk, to rock, then to jazz, to waltz, to 5/4, to reggae, ethnic music, ska, and many, many others. All in one damn song. Pure genius.

UNO:
I thought your favorite quote was “If it’s not working, kick it.”

LUGOSI:
That’s profound. Who said that?

UNO:
Uh, you did?

13) What are your plans for 2008?

LUGOSI:
There’s this big event this coming February 16-23. It’s a week-long doll fair for Manikako, a charity project which Mistula has been endorsing ever
since its launch. Manikako sells do-it-yourself ragdolls, proceeds of which fund free art workshops for calamity and poverty-stricken children. The exhibit will feature Manikako ragdolls custom- made by our national artists, musicians and other famous Filipino personalities. The event will culminate on the 23rd where Mistula is set to debut a new track written especially for Manikako. We will be collaborating with Prof. Vim Nadera, current director of the University of the Philippines Creative Writing Center and considered father of performance poetry in the Philippines. So yeah, that’s definitely a landmark thing for us, definitely worth watching out for.

UNO:
I plan not to sleep while Lugosi is answering interviews. Wish me luck.

Interviewed by Autumn for UKEvents.net

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