The full version of this interview can be found in Astral Noize Issue 2.
Amidst a society in breakdown, the socio-political commentary and escapism so often offered by the science-fiction genre have once again become incredibly relevant in music. Almost everywhere you look in the worlds of television, film, video games, and of course music, science-fiction has once again become a prominent force in our lives.
In sharp contrast to the mournful, post metal-laden doom of 2014’s Citadel, Memnon Sa – the brainchild of veteran studio engineer Misha Hering – has returned with Lemurian Dawn – a release taking its cues from Misha’s musical heritage within electronic music’s vibrant origins inside the experimental, sci-fi induced new-age mysticism of the 1970s. The influence of sci-fi is incredibly important to Misha, who has built Lemurian Dawn around the concept of a primordial alien incursion to earth.
Memnon Sa’s fresh take on his sound acknowledges his contemporaries within drone, doom and post-metal, imposing analog synths and influences from the new age synth-work of krautrock and cosmic jazz upon Lemurian Dawn’s doomy, post-rocky landscapes. It’s this fresh, psychedelically-minded approach to post-metal which lends Memnon Sa’s sound a vibrant, almost cinematic dimension on the release.
We caught up with Misha to discuss the effects of professional studio work on the creative process, the tenuous existence of ancient aliens, and the world of Lemurian Dawn.
How has your work as a studio engineer influenced your creative process?
It’s a real gift and a curse. In a certain way, the technical side of things can get in the way of the spontaneity of creation. Instead of focusing on composition, ideas, melodies, I might spend an afternoon trying to get a synth to ‘sound right’ or fill up a certain part of the frequency spectrum. While these things are important, I honestly don’t think they are as important as good ideas, arrangements and melodies. In a way, I wish I could only focus on those things, but alas, my ears and everyday experience of working in a studio constantly gets the better of me.
On the flip side, working with other bands and understanding how things are recorded, and more importantly mixed, has helped a lot in terms of showing me what works and what doesn’t. This isn’t to say there are any hard and fast rules, but having countless hours of studio experience can function as a guideline, to either follow or knowingly disregard.
You stated in the run-up to Lemurian Dawn’s release that it’s follow up will be very different to previous releases. With such a varied sound, how would you say we would be able to recognise Memnon Sa? What defines Memnon Sa’s sound?
I think, and hope, that you’ll always be able to hear that a Memnon Sa record is a Memnon Sa record. Ultimately, textures and instruments will change over time, as they did between Citadel and Lemurian Dawn, but in terms of tone, I think I will always aim more or less towards a certain thing or a couple of things. I love the fine line between the feelings of awe, euphoria and terror.
It’s a hard-balancing act, if you lean too far towards awe you can end up sounding pretty, but too far towards terror and a record can become draining and hard to digest. I like records that fall into both of those categories, but finding a middle ground is really interesting for me and is something that, when I encounter it in other people’s work (films, paintings, music) resonates the most.
Another element that I hope defines the music I make is that I’d hope for it to be seen as ‘cinematic’. Films, in general, are my biggest influence, and when writing music, I always have images or sequences in mind rather than emotional or melodic beats.
How did you get into krautrock originally? A lot of artists seem to be implementing neu and krautrock influence within the more experimental side of drone/doom these days, why do you think this is?
My father is German and I grew up listening to a lot of jazz and kraut, so it was something that I was exposed to long ago. That being said, it was upon watching my first Werner Herzog films in my late teens that I really became interested in German experimental psychedelic music. I cannot overstate how important Popol Vuh (who soundtracked a lot of Herzog films) were to me in terms of a gateway drug into the music that I listen to nowadays. Ever since I heard their soundtrack to Aguirre I was hooked, and haven’t looked back since.
Do you plan to play any live shows or tour as part of the new release? Or will Memnon Sa remain a studio only venture?
I would love to play shows, but it is a huge challenge. As the music is so dense and songs don’t necessarily evolve in a traditional chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, verse manner, the commitment to learning and bringing this kind of music to stage is pretty daunting. In order to properly perform Lemurian Dawn, for example, we would need at least three to four synthesisers, a drum kit, percussion, guitars etc. It’s a lot. A few people have expressed a lot of interest in helping me bring Memnon Sa to stage, and I’m taking their proposals very seriously, but for the moment, it’s going to stay in the studio!
Lemurian Dawn is out now on Aurora Borealis. Purchase here.
Words: Richard Lowe