We spoil you rotten with a double dose of MAMA this Friday. Here we premiere her new album Dreams of Liberty whilst giving the songstress a New Noise grilling
Having played Glastonbury, Notting Hill Carnival and released her EP ‘Dominonation’ via Bpitch control, it’s safe to say 2014 has been an incredibly busy year for MAMA. Born in South London and based in Berlin, MAMA featured on Tiefschwarz ‘Corporate Butcher’ in 2012 and has attracted a range of remixes from the likes of Hannah Holland, Catz and Dogs, Paul Kalkbrenner and Pan Pot. Not that she’s spent her whole musical career locked in a studio, she also supported Bloc Party’s Kele on his first European tour after he turned up at her gig in London.
While her album may be called Dreams of Liberty, its contents aren’t all peace and love. For MAMA, dreams of liberty fall along spiritual, geographic, sexual and emotional lines with the search being one of fear and obsession. Written during a miserably cold Berlin winter, Dreams of Liberty, proves that MAMA triumphs in any surrounding. Hopefully we won’t have to wait too long until we hear the results of a summer spent in Sun.
How did you first start making music?
I’ve been writing songs and lyrics for 10 years but I caught the production bug when I moved to Berlin 5 years ago. I just couldn’t find a non-Techno producer in Berlin at the time so I thought to hell with it I might as well learn to produce my own music. It was the best choice I’ve ever made.
What did you listen to growing up?
The sounds of New Jack Swing, Gangsta Rap and Kate Bush.
Who (if anyone) did you work on the new album with and how did those collaborations come about?
I wrote and produced this album in my bedroom over a very cold winter in Berlin hence the dark vibe.
The Oscar Wilde interlude at the beginning ofDreams of Liberty is fabulous and mad. How did you come to write it, or is it quoted from something else?
I had a dream that I was washing Oscar Wilde’s feet in exchange for some of his wisdom so as soon as I woke up, I jumped in my studio and tried to capture the dream.
There’s so much going on in London at the moment, both musically and artistically. What made you decide to decamp to Berlin?
I was on holiday in Berlin one weekend and dancing at Berghain when a old guy with dreadlocks and a cane came up to me and whispered in my ear “Move to Berlin and make music everyday” and then I lost him in the crowd. Maybe I was tripping, who knows but I took his advice anyway whoever he was.
That’s a great story! There’s something haunting and industrial about the sounds on the album, what inspired those effects and how did you achieve them?
I suppose it’s because I’m quite a sensitive person and I exposed all my deepest darkest fears on this record. Some of the lyrics are terribly sad but I find it quite uplifting because it was a sort of exorcism for me. It set me free, so to speak.
You toured with Kele, what was that like?
First of all, I was a Bloc Party fanatic so when Kele randomly turned up at one of my London gigs I was completely overwhelmed. The show itself was a disaster. The sound guy didn’t show up, I forgot my backing track music at my parents place on the other side of town, my poor Mother was ill in bed but insisted on driving one hour to drop it off for me just in time for the show. My dancers at the time cancelled last minute so I just dragged these two hot Grace Jones-esque girls off the street and asked them if they could dance and luckily they were incredible. Kele watched the entire show with his fingers in his ears, I thought it was because he hated the music but he later told me it was because the sound was terrible. Anyway, I’m glad I made it happen in the end because if he hadn’t seen the show he wouldn’t have invited me to open for him on his European tour. The tour was like a dream come true. I would do it again in a flash.
That’s a pretty iconic life moment. What can we expect from your live shows? Are they as dramatic as your sound would lead us to expect?
I perform live with Riccardo Paffetti on the keyboards and drum machines. The live show is like a journey. The music starts quite emotional and deep then leads to absolute dance mania. I try to ensure that people are screaming, raving, making out and hysterical by the end of my set. I feel free onstage, it’s the only time I can be myself and I want the audience to escape within my world.
You recorded the album in your bedroom, yet there’s an expansiveness to the tracks that suggests otherwise. How did you stop the recording process from becoming too insular?
I find making music in my room gives the sound a very personal touch. It was important for me to write as soon as I felt the desire to write a song whether it was at 3am or when I just woke up out of a nightmare. When I completed the songs, I tried to open it up to some other influences with a rap verse from an artist called Rubinkarta on ‘Hysteria’ and some extra guitar parts from Flip X on ‘Electricity’ and ‘Freedom to Love’ and then I finally took the finished product to Riccardo Paffetti who mixed and mastered it in his studio in Kreuzberg.
What were your main inspirations while you were writing the album?
The only thing I had in mind was to be truthful and intuitive.
There’s a darkness to your music. What message are you trying to get across in your songs?
To let those who hurt easily know they are not alone. We’re all in it together and we should support each other.
Now that you’ve completed your debut LP what can we expect from you in the coming months? Have you started work on the next record at all?
I’m always writing so my 2nd and 3rd album are probably done. I’d like to tour the album and expand the live show with visuals and lighting at some point. I’ve also written several album collaborations with other artists such as a house and techno producer called Argy. The ‘ARGY & MAMA’ album is out on Bpitch Control Records in January 2015. My alto ego ‘Mona Lazette’ has an album out in 2015 produced by Munk, I also feature on 5 tracks from the new MUNK album out in October 2014 so I really look forward to exploring all my different musical personalities and to, of course. keep writing intuitively.
Is it a nice feeling to have the project finished, or are you ever struck by the urge to go back and tinker with it?
If I could I would most definitely make more tweaks, hire a live orchestra, get Dr Dre producing the beats with tracks featuring Lil Kim and Tricky. I’ll hold that lovely thought for a bit longer….mmmmm.