The name Mona Mur has been associated with the German industrial scene since the early 80s. September the 30th sees her new album, Snake Island released on the GIVE/TAKE label and Mur amping up the guitars with guest artists such as En Esch, former member of KMFDM and PIG. So, we asked a few questions about the new release.
Welcome to the dark heart of Onyx, Mona Mur, where we can commune with cups of hot beverage and ignore the lacy spiderwebs.
You are unleashing your new album, “Snake Island”. How long was this album in the making and what lead up to its creation?
I was interested in playing really heavy guitars and make this an album. My friend Goldkind supported this idea by sending me some exciting electronic textures he had created. They were just perfect to play guitars on. I added strings or synths where necessary to create harmony. Vocals were the last thing I did on the tracks. So, we were sending stuff back and forth. We are already a dream team, since our first mutual album, DELINQUENT from 2019. I know Goldkind since the 80s, he was one of the first punks in Hamburg, where we both are born. He was a frontman and trombone player in his own band, then quickly became an accomplished producer of some hits over here in Germany. We had lost track of each other, then got back together in 2017 to create DELINQUENT. He is a kindred spirit without any doubt.
Was covid something that instigated the making of the album or hindered it?
To be honest – I am spending a lot of time in my own recording studio KATANA which I built over many years, doing productions for myself, for other people and for films and games. Collaborating with other people certainly became more difficult. Yet, I am used to work online, in teams. So – I was able to adjust and not so much changed for me. Of course, almost all live concerts were cancelled – which is a drag. Still, I am happy as long as have my studio where I am in charge and can do what I want.
You have said that the title “Snake Island” was a tale you heard of. Could you please tell us a little more about this story and how it has influenced the creation of your latest work?
I came across a story about a small island off the Brazilian shores, where twenty-thousand snakes dwell— deadly poisonous vipers. They sleep nine months, then awaken only when a certain species of bird stops by to breed. So, the snakes eat them and survive. The snakes are everywhere.
They’ve killed two lighthouse keepers so that the lighthouse is abandoned now. I imagined myself living on that island, maybe even as one of the snakes. I found this a very strong and malicious metaphor , it helped shape the energy flow of the music I was about to create, or rather, the painting.
The masterful En Esch (ex KMFDM and Pigface) also features on the album. Can you tell us about your friendship with En Esch and how he came to be on the album?
En Esch is one of the greatest and most unique artists I ever had the pleasure to meet. I actually know his former band KMFDM since October 1985, when they opened for the MONA MUR Band in Hamburg. You can find some footage of this live concert as well as some funny backstage stuff on Youtube. Much later, in 2007, I met En Esch when he came back from the States to Berlin. We then put out two albumstogether as MONA MUR & EN ESCH. His musical skills in many realms are universal and comprehensive, his dedication is limitless. Although SNAKE ISLAND is a MONA MUR solo album, it is always great to have him contribute something – as the icing on the cake. Like his fiercely and immaculately played guitar take on the song RAKE.
Gary Schmalzl plays electric guitar for you. What is it like collaborating with Schmalzl?
Schmalzl graced me with the wicked solo on Ace of Spades. He is another beloved friend and absolutely outstanding guitar player who has been working with many great bands and artists, like Thurston Moore, Jingo de Lunch, Bela B. and more – and he is always up for playing with me. His tone is one of a kind, his technique unparalleled. You cannot ask many people to play an adequate ACE OF SPADES solo.
How important was it for you to have that heavy guitar sound?
As I said, I wanted to play a lot of the guitar myself this time, and my style is kind of slow, raw, huge, heavy, doomy. It was the driving motor for the whole album. It seems my lave stream of expression has found another outlet.
There is the cover of the Motorhead track “Ace Of Spades”, so was Lemmy Killmeister a musician you looked up to?
Hm, I not particularly looked up. But, I admire him, as probably the most uncompromising Rock n Roller ever. Actually, I fell in love with MOTORHEAD only recently. But ACE OF SPADES for me is an exceptional song, the pure raw energy, the lyrics, the attitude. There are awesome live videos on Youtube with all kinds of line ups, I love to watch this loud at night, when I relax from a long day in the studio. “THE PLEASURE IS TO PLAY, MAKES NO DIFFERENCE WHAT YOU SAY” is just a killer statement for me.
This new album is described as Mona Mur going back to her industrial roots and you were linked with Einstürzende Neubauten. How has industrial music influenced you musically and especially “Snake Island”?
When I started out in 1981, I was obsessed with listening to THROBBING GRISTLE and LAIBACH. Also, my close friends were FM Einheit, Alex Hacke and Mark Chung of “EINSTÜRZENDE NEUBAUTEN”. We hung out together, and one day I went with them to their rehearsal space in a tower in central Hamburg. I had been singing and playing instruments my entire life, since I was a small kid. I had a strong urge to create. I knew the time is right, to help shape this kind of music movement myself. The rest is history.
Jon Caffery does the wonderful mastering, known for his production work on music for such projects as Einstürzende Neubauten, Joy Division, Tubeway Army and Die Toten Hosen. What is your history with Caffery?
Jon Caffery is a long lost and found again friend. We had met in the 80s when he was in the studio with Neubauten and Abwärts and other collegues I was hanging out with. I had back then, with the MONA MUR Band, worked with Raymond „Nainz“ Watts as sound engineer. (actually, these recordings also come out soon, on Vinyl, in December). But for SNAKLE ISLAND: I only found out now, that Jon always had wished to work with me . So, luckily , this happens just now.A gift.
Do you have any favourite tracks off the album and if so why?
No, really, I love that the album has a flow of its own and you can listen through it from A to Z being really absorbed. This is what I want to achieve.
Vocally, I can hear a maturing of a singer. Do you feel you have changed vocally over the years?
Everything goes more effortless than ever, I just precisely do what I like. Very often, I use first take recordings, sometimes I even do not write down the Lyrics before recording. I am totally uninhibited, much in contrast to my early years.
Mona, you are heavily linked to the early industrial days with bands such as Einstürzende Neubauten. What was the scene like back then for yourself in West Berlin?
Actually, I am from Hamburg. So, I was in Hamburg AND Berlin, moving back and forth, crossing the Iron Curtain many times. The scene was small, exciting, elitist, excessive, loud, raw, original, intense, life was fast, the world was bleak, the big cities our play ground, no risk, no fun. I immediately loved it and became a driving force in it, as a fish in water. So much space was there to create real new, original art.
What do you think of the modern German industrial scene?
I have no idea whether there is such a thing in Germany. I rather see something like this happening in the US, like the revival of the Chicago scene around WAXTRAX ! and the Cold Waves Festival for instance, and I had a great time touring in the US and Canada between 2010 and 2015, playng WAXTRAX! Retrospectacle in Metro Chicago in 2011 as a guest of En Esch, Raymond Watts and Günter Schulz. Hope I can follow up on that. So, Germany, no idea. Also,, I do not think so much in “scenes” anyway.
Who were your musical influences when you were young?
Black Sabbath, Patty Smith, Throbbing Gristle, Laibach, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Lydia Lunch.
Are there any modern acts that you like to listen to or find inspiration in?
I love Fever Ray, Karin Dreijer being a stunning artist. I love IF I HAD A HEART which became title song in VIKINGS, so I had to watch 89 sequels of this.
I always play guitar to „RED TRAILS“ – her most beautiful and heartbreakingly painful song. If she ever needs a guitarist on stage, I ll be there. What else ? DIE ANTWOORT has some cool tracks. And HAFTBEFEHL, A Kurdish/german gangster rapper and in the same time melancholic music poet from Offenbach am Main, with a killer sound production.
Will you be doing a tour for the album?
I look into touring the US in 2023.
If you could choose any musician (dead or alive) to record with, who would that be and why did you choose them?
Play guitar for Karin Dreijer.
Thank you so very much for gifting us with your time!
Snake Island | Mona Mur (bandcamp.com)