We've had the pleasure of interviewing Monica Richards several times, whether for her work in Faith and The Muse or for her solo work, Infrawarrior. Her latest release, Naiades, is truly a work to behold: a full album of creative Underground music that is encased in a book of art and poetry. In this interview, Monica talks about the hurdles she had to get past in order to put this album out in this form, her future plans in terms of more music and touring, and her collaboration with Steve Niles, comic book author and horror writer.
Photo credit: Clovis IV
Lisa Selvaggio: Naiades is truly an incredible product for music fans. The book is a piece of art in and of itself, and the music has taken Infrawarrior to a whole new level. But it took a lot of hard work to get this out, as anyone who has been following your website, blog, and social networking pages will already know. Why, in these trying times (especially for the Underground), did you decide to take such a drastic leap? Why not just put your music out on i-Tunes?
Monica Richards: Thank you so much for that. I just had to! I really wanted to make the release special, take it to more of a high art approach. Recalling how it used to be when you bought an album, I really felt that something is now so lost in just downloading music. I put a call-out on my FB page asking people to tell me about when they used to buy actual albums. One fan wrote that he traveled for 2 hours to get one, something people don't understand at all anymore. Music used to accompany a cover, lyric sheet, imagery, a concept that is full of sound and vision. The reviews have been wonderful, people seem to understand just what I wanted to do with this release.
LS: Can you describe the hardships you went through in putting out Naiades? Many fans contributed donations to help you, but that was just one of the hurdles you had to jump. Perhaps you can educate our readers on the importance of buying albums, not just MP3’s?
MR: My life had been thrown into major flux at the time I was writing the music; I was trying to build a little studio of my own which took time as well as money. As the book idea began to grow, I needed to formulate the work as a whole, find and pay artists and find the best way to get the book pressed. This was why I needed donations, to be able to get the release I truly wanted made, to not just settle for a simple CD. And now all of my donators have their name in the book forever, and they are part of its creation. The best feedback I've gotten is when fans get their copy in the mail and tell me it's like receiving 'treasure'!
LS: You’ve been an Underground artist for many, many years now. How has it changed, positively or negatively, in the time you’ve been in music?
MR: You know, in the end, I think the most important thing is my own relationship with my art. It's had major ups and downs. We artists have to keep finding ourselves as we go through our path in life, we have to flow with the storms that happen, grow, change, connect and reconnect with ourselves. And inside of all of that is business, how to be able to afford to do what we love. I have always called my music my very expensive hobby, and it just continues to be that! Technologies grow, change, we have to bend with them and ultimately be happy with what we do.
LS: The first Infrawarrior release had songs that touched upon Gaia/Mother Nature and the female power that coincides with Her. Naiades is focused on a mermaid theme, with artwork and lyrics discussing these mythological creatures. Why did you decide to take this direction?
MR: I was somehow focused on water, it just took me by surprise! You know when you do something but you don't know why, but it leads you onto new paths, new directions and then afterward you think "Aha, it was a good choice!" I was reminded of my Greek mythology background by Patty of Motherdance, while I was trying to find the right title for “Oreiades,” the live piece I sang on the end of my last EP, The Strange Familiar. This took me to Naiades and the water creatures of that era. I feel myself drawn to water itself, its power, its strength and beauty, its depths and overall - it's ability to transform - from liquid to solid to air… Then I read about the term 'Sea Change' and it really hit me that I was onto something. All songs lyrically have water, fluid imagery. “Pride:” "Past the faceless critics' fingertips, I swam against the current to keep from drowning…" or “Endbegin:” "When the oceans die, your tears will fill the rivers…"
Photo credit: Clovis IV
LS: Many of the songs also get into human emotions involved with falling down and picking yourself up, cycles in life ending and beginning again. What was your inspiration for the songs on this album; did the inspiration come from internal and personal experiences versus what you’re observing in the outside world?
MR: All of it came through my own personal experience. To find yourself realizing halfway through your life that you know absolutely nothing, and you can fall down into the darkness, or you can follow a different path and find happiness again. It breathed through all my work.
LS: One of my favorite tracks on Naiades is “LureinLay,” and on your http://www.monicarichards.com/naiades.htm site, you describe it as a “gut-wrenching classical song.” I’d agree, it is gut-wrenching, especially at the end. Can you delve into the meaning of that song, and why it is a passionate one for you?
MR: It's a very personal love song, actually, but it also morphed into deep self-realization. Finding your own truth, that you may indeed be nothing like you thought you were. Fans of Strange Boutique may find a familiar strain from the song "Glaciers Down" as well!
LS: Another one of my favorites is “EndBegin.” It really encompasses a lot of what your music offers: tribal, multiple vocal layers, a message about Nature, and haunting melodies. Is there anything about this particular track’s creation that you want to share?
MR: I had written the lyrics during the Faith and The Muse : ankoku butoh : sessions, and actually had begun writing it for that album, but realized it wasn't meant for that. I kept the words until they were ready to be matched to the right music, and the music for “EndBegin” came to me while I was driving one day. Somehow it all came together, very happily!
LS: I noticed that there were several lines from “Annwyn, Beneath the Waves,” in the booklet. What was your reason for incorporating this element from Faith and the Muse into your solo project?
MR: The use of water was incorporated through "Annwyn" so I did a bit of a callback. That song had originally been a poem, so I felt it was very appropriate to include it in its original form.
LS: Steve Niles helped you out on a few songs on Naiades. Do you have plans of working more on music together in the future?
MR: Steve Niles and I were punk kids from the Washington DC hardcore scene; we've known each other since we were 18. I'm so proud of him. He, like me, just kept doing his own thing, he's a self-made freelance writer, known for bringing horror back to comics. He co-wrote “The Tail of Two” and “We Go On,” as well as “Pride.” In one way there's been a new interest about what two old punks can make - something hard but also very lyrical and beautiful. We do plan on working together on more music, I want to start on some soundtrack work on his writing, just waiting for the right one…
LS: Any touring plans?
MR: We’re looking to tour Europe in September, possibly some one-off shows in the U.S. if we can afford to play. It's very hard to get people out to see live bands now; we'll see how it goes!
Photo credit: Clovis IV
LS: You mentioned on your Facebook recently that you may need to get back to writing more songs very soon, what with all the debates surrounding women’s rights in America lately. So, uh, how soon is “soon”? ::wink::
MR: Working on it, have had some personal life bumps in the way lately! It's such a clear sense of the turning of the wheel, more like a roller coaster ride, the way history moves up and down its own strange rhythm... guided by the rise and fall of Patriarchal belief systems. I am so shocked and stunned by what is going on, but at the same time not surprised, as extremists have been quietly moving into government to be able to change legislation. This doesn't change the truth of what is happening in the world though. Still every media outlet pushes girls to be sexy at younger and younger ages. We now have a generation of young girls who will have to deal with having their rights removed from fanatically religious state governments (who stand under pretense of not wanting big government in their lives telling them what to do). Reaction to reaction to reaction, a strange dance of extremes. I truly do wonder what will happen when they face these new laws... will they try to abort on their own? Will they travel to another state? Will there be a rash of deaths as girls panic under these new laws?
LS: Do you think your next release will be as involved as Naiades in terms of packaging?
MR: Not sure what I will do next, but I do plan to make each release special! I may try vinyl at some point!
LS: Do you have any plans in place to work more on the Anafae project?
MR: I do plan to but just haven't had a moment to continue on that.
LS: Anything you’d like to add that we didn’t discuss? Links to your projects?
MR: Just a big giant hug and thanks for the interview! Visit www.monicarichards.com