Circuit Sweet Interview, Feature

“…if I say yes, we are nobody. If I say no it can cost us our life”: The La Bufa Story with Guro Moe – Interview Special | Simon Gore

October 1, 2019

“…if I say yes, we are nobody. If I say no it can cost us our life”: The LaBufa Story with Guro Moe

Comila MoE

There’s no one else quite like Guro Moe. The Octobass wielding Norwegian heroine has many a string to her bow. When she’s not conducting commissions for theatre or composing for independent horror films, she’s preparing the most badass Habanero salad in the northern hemisphere. With an appetite for professional momentum that would have scared even the likes of Frank Zappa, it’s hardly surprising that she is making a serious name for herself around the world.

Alongside being one of the most iconic women in Norwegian music, with an honesty and welcoming charm, her social personality is a strange contrast to her firm and fierce on-stage alter ego. We got together in Oslo’s Kulturhuset following one of her latest public talks to discuss the new record, La Bufa with her decade strong, self-titled noise rock/punk band, MoE.

SG: So when we arranged this you were working on a theatre piece?

GM: I was working on music for a new puppet theatre performance for Plexus Polaire with singers from Hamar – where I am from. It’s my mum and local choir singers. But I’ve got many others going on – like tomorrow, I’m doing a structured composition, but how it turns out is dealt with the involvement of the participants. I’m not presenting them a full score, as has been the composition method I have acquired and have liked. This is to reach to the performer’s own motivation to do sound. Obviously, some are more strict and some more open. It’s featuring a fraction of the chamber orchestra, The Touchables. This one is called The Noise is Rest, with two more coming – Svart/Hvit and Dots Kinematics, which is a composition by Pain Jerk.

SG: We should talk about the album. I thought it was recorded at Athletic Sound in Halden, Norway?

GM: Not this one. This was done at Testa Estudio in León, Guanajuato, Mexico. It’s a true copy of Electrical Audio.

SG: I thought it looked similar when I saw the pictures.

GM: The in-house engineer, KB, worked at Electrical Audio for some months. He went back making an identical copy. It’s an analogue studio with 24-track tape. We’ve known about that studio since the first time we were in Mexico in 2013, but in 2017 it just made sense to record there. We’d heard good things about it from other Norwegian and Mexican musicians who had been there. I remember Håvard was very suspicious – “man, we’re recording in Mexico – the guy’s going to smoke pot and it’s going to be a mess”. And it was the total opposite. KB was the straightest guy with an epic work ethic. His only violation to this was Coca Cola, so it went very well.

SG: And you said you recorded live?

GM: Yeah, with some few overdubs.

SG: To me, the guitar sound particularly on this album is very different to your earlier stuff. To my ears this is certainly closer to 13 Songs era Fugazi, or something like that, in comparison to your earlier stuff. Did you ship anything out with you? Because I know you and Håvard are vintage amp collectors.

GM: But the reality of modern touring has made the vintage amp collector perspective fade in favour of functionality. Functionality also makes us not bring anything to Mexico. Also, we had the aspect of using what was in the studio and making it work, which has of course been the issue of a lot of those concerts in Mexico. You know, how can I produce meaningful, valuable music on an amp that’s the size of a matchbox? We change the set every night to fit the surroundings, which has been a strength. But in terms of getting deeper and controlling what you are communicating, this thing of knowing your gear is valuable and necessary. But then I love both sides of it – the precise knowledge and chaos. You have to just work with reality.

SG: So why Mexico? And why that studio? I know you guys have got a big following out there

GM: It happened from not knowing. You never know how a place is going to be the first time you go. You cannot worry, but you can also never predict the outcome. The energy that came towards our music from our first tour in Mexico was so incredible. I had never experienced this energy, ever, until 2013. I didn’t know this could be found in our music. This was a real life changing experience. One which changed the course and our motivation to explore places where musicians wouldn’t normally go. It’s just the confirmation that you have no clue. And also, you must trust your emotions – you’re not supposed to, as it leads to so much trouble. But then you have to. It turns into things you could not have dreamed about.

SG: The internet still can’t tell you everything.

GM: No. On the first tour was a concert in Guadalajara where a guy came up to our guitarist, Håvard and said, “I WANT TO MARRY YOU”. So it can lead to drastic things.

SG: From an artist’s perspective, what is it like out there in Mexico now, in terms of the political atmosphere, in comparison to how it was in 2013?

GM: Because of the time we have spent there over the years, I’m getting more of a clue of how it actually is to live in Mexico. Not just from a visitor’s perspective, but going deeper. Last year the new president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who’s the first left-wing president was put in. Which made a gigantic scene. We were in a taxi and the driver told us to listen up to his speech on the radio, as it was a big deal to the people there. I only know a bit of Spanish, but enough to communicate how special this moment was for them.

As always, there’s opposition as he’s rooted deeply in Christianity and some of our other Mexican friends were saying he’s also following the same structures that the country has seen for a long time. But that country has such intense political changes and corruption, which leads to what happens in closer communities; these are the most valuable and important. The way I feel is how they are – alive in the present. You notice it in how they talk to you and how they put in all of what they are. This makes me feel like I can really rest easily.

The country has had abuse from the USA in forms of demand for drug supply and professional crime for what seems like forever. Obviously you know about this, but on the surface it’s not visible and not really heard of in our circles. How on earth can someone deal with being colonialized and having their whole culture ripped out? I read in a book that actually in terms of how many years humans have been here, the colonisation in South America has been the most devastating in history. It’s hard to imagine when you compare it to better-known cases like African slavery, for instance.

They are suffering also from violence against women – physically and psychologically, which is increasing throughout South America. So I’m also confronted with that when I’m there and I ask questions, like, how I respond to this reality? A reality that is very far from my own.

SG: How does it feel to be the front woman of a perceptively very aggressive musical act, and obviously being a white foreigner performing to such an audience in a place like this?

GM: In terms of a performance like ours, I feel people are embracing it and giving it energy. Someone suggested something to include in this interview: I’d never thought about my necessity. I need to play this music. It is for the audience, but also for myself. My necessity is someone else’s impossibility. I’ve gotten to know a lot of great female musicians who are doing the same, yet it also feels contradictory. To be in Mexico feels like an abrasiveness of the feminine. But you can experience the feminine perspective in how people look after each other and think about everyone. It’s present in their dialogue and their interactions.

But the feminine perspective does not have to deal with gender. I think everyone is screaming for it, as the masculinity that controls and determines our society today, has gone out of date. Now, I think, with the acceleration of violence against women, the world knows the feminine perspective is what will save us. I feel you can hear it from politicians and people at work. Many men also are tired of this.

SG: I’m certainly tired of being around chauvinism and Neanderthal-like, attitudes.

GM: I can also understand that it’s not so easy to be a man today. Having all these limits – be this, be so cool, don’t be something else. Like, to have no places to be in touch with your sensitivity is a bad thing for all humans. Our times do not allow this, whereas music and art do have the power to allow this and make thishappen. This is proven by observing dictatorships and regimes, where music and art is forbidden by the powers.

SG: It’s the model of dictatorship that a lot of men, particularly in this strange, modern world, are chasing. It’s the desire to be able to remove anything that threatens their idealised persona or lifestyle. Like you said – if you are singing about violence against women in a noise-rock band, as a woman, this is going to make people listen and that becomes a threat to the demographic that the dictator is trying to control.

GM: Exactly. Capitalism is also like that, in a way, where they control your needs and your desires. But I do feel grateful that music and touring takes up so much of my life. I have the freedom to do what so many others sadly don’t.

SG: I like the Sophie Scholl quote where she explains, “The real damage (to society) is done by those millions who want to ‘survive.’ …Those who won’t take measure of their own strength, for fear of antagonizing their own weakness.” She tried to speak up about the casual, societal acceptance of these comforts, but sadly the powers at the time saw her as a threat and she was executed as a result of her actions.

GM: I think that’s dependent in terms of who is in power. The thing is, the feminine perspective can be expressed or delivered effectively by either sex.

I was in a meeting recently and overheard a conversation from the organisation director saying that it was such a shame that there were no women in the board making decisions. I couldn’t help joining in the conversation. It can’t be like, “oh shit, we forgot to bring any women”. The necessity of views and qualities this brings should not be overlooked. The feminine perspective is the necessity in this situation, not the gender.

SG: Is there anything you have touched upon in the subject matter of your lyrics this time, in relation to these experiences?

GM: Yeah. I wrote most of the lyrics during a self-made residency in Guanajuato, Mexico, when I had 2 years of support for my personal development. It was important for me to show that the process came from a feminine perspective. One song in particular takes influence from a brutal event in Santa Rosa where a woman was almost killed because she refused to have sex with a guy who had offered her a lift. When they first got the trial to court, she was accused of putting herself in that situation because she said she was sexually active. They tried taking the blame away. But she replied so accurately from the perspective of women, “if I say yes, we are nobody. If I say no it can cost us our life.” Because she spoke up like this, it made the whole thing change.

Her voice made me talk about it with you in this interview. It empowered other women in the same situation feeling vulnerable and guilty, suffering from the same thing happening but not finding words. She also said that what had happened had given her a voice. In the end it’s the patriarchal society that we are living in, I think in all the world. It had different levels of this depending on how a country has developed socially and I think our different countries are not just beneficial for their climate – just to put it in another perspective.

SG: I remember the At The Drive-In song, Invalid Litter Department, was written about the disappearance of young women in Juárez, which became 570 unsolved murder cases from 1993 – 2001. I later read that the initiation process of a crime gang was to abduct a woman, rape and kill her then leave her in the desert and this may have been related to the case. I’m not up-to-date or informed enough to know the outcome of this and were it not for ATDI, I would never have known about it.

There are too many other people who don’t get to hear about these things and not enough press sources making this information available outside of the initial area. So I have great admiration for people when people sing about these globally hidden issues, making the stories accessible through their art. I can remember interviewing Lasse Marhaug years ago and he said that the fundamental role of an artist wasn’t necessarily to change the world, but to provide a new perspective on something – if you provide a new angle of vision for someone, they will see things differently.

This is what I think singing and playing about these subject matters really does – it helps people that may not have access to news sources or information from other parts of the world become engaged in important matters beyond their immediate surroundings. This is channelled through, for instance, what you have done. To be going back to Mexico and singing about these things is incredibly brave.

GM: It’s just the openness between the music and the audience. I can, of course find this elsewhere, but this has another physicality that gives it another level of meaning.

SG: So La Bufa is coming out on your own label, Conrad Sound?

GM: We’ve worked with just one other label in the past, Fysisk Format, but everything else, including this one is on our own. It works better with the model of our band structure. Our creative and professional choices mean we sell albums mostly at concerts. Distributing is something extremely valuable and something I always search for. But to be able to release records following our artistic drive, visions and work, to have our own label is the only way. Well, the way that has functioned best until now. We have done many co-releases on other labels, and especially with other projects.

SG: So what’s next? The album is out now. Are you having a release party?

GM: We must because there will also be a music video, filmed by Amat Escalante, the award-winning director of The Untamed.

SG: No fucking way.

GM: Yeah, he recorded it in Mexico on 16mm film with an awesome crew of Everado Filipe, Martín Escalante, Oscar Escalante and Adrián Alba, for the song, Santa Rosa. It’s all narrative with Alejandra Ramírez and myself on screen and cut/edited by Dalia Huerta Cano. So that will be a party!

SG: You should get a film crew with you next time. Do a Mexican tour video.

GM: Oh yeah.

SG: Do you have a tour booked?

GM: Yes – Europe and Mexico. This is the first step for the album.

___

MoE La Bufa new album, released August 23rd and available now.

https://moepages.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/moepages/

conradsound.bandcamp.com

Words: Simon Gore

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