Talented and slow ethereal from the Projekt label. I’m kinda new to this group, but I think time tells me that I’m going to find out much more after hearing their newest release. See, Seattle did come out with something good besides Alice In Chains and The Melvins.
Chain D.L.K.: How are things over in Seattle and in the world of F&D? Getting rained out lately with the summertime weather?
Faith And Disease: (Eric Cooley) Quite the contrary, it’s hotter than hell here (late July), but we know there are probably 7 to 8 weeks of sunshine here ALL YEAR, so it’s alright… (Dara) We’re all doing just fine…which is the best that one can do in these uncertain times. A bit of sunshine does actually help to ease the ever-looming gloom of this city.
Chain D.L.K.: I read on the bio that you are considered part of some tag called “sadcore” (whatever that might be) with bands like Low. What are your thoughts on this musical tag and what exactly is it?
Faith And Disease: (Dara Rosenwasser) You’ve guessed as good as I could at that one! Sad, moody, dark are all adjectives that have been used to describe our “sound”. We are quite fond of Low and other bands with a similar tone. I have never liked our music being defined by one certain genre. (Eric) For better or worse, our versatility and range of influences have probably shut a few doors that would have otherwise been open if we were a narrowly-marketed niche band.
Chain D.L.K.: What or where is a “Kunming”, and where did the title for the new CD come from?
Faith And Disease: (Eric) Kunming is a city in China, a city we were invited to play a music festival in. They were going to fly us to China for the festival, put us up for a week, etc, and we agreed. About a week or so before our departing flight from Seattle, they informed us “for complicated political reasons” that the festival would not include bands from “the West”. Deflated and with allotted time on our hands, I had the brilliant (smirk) idea to record an entire album…Whether we were ready to or not. I felt the band needed something to fill that gap we had planned on, so we recorded “Passport to Kunming” that rainy dark winter, and some of the songs were as embryonic as you could imagine, which I feel only fueled the creative energy. That, and we had a bit of melodrama with Charlotte and myself, but the end result of Passport is what counts, and it’s my favorite body of music of all 7 F&D releases. (Dara) Yes, there were some challenging times during that recording, but overall what came out of it was heart-felt and strong. We tossed and turned a bit on the name and even now DJs are mispronouncing it, which is hilarious. (Eric) We’ve even had our somewhat simple band name misprounouned in print. “Faith and Diesel” comes to mind. Dara has always been called “DARE-UH” by people, sometimes “Dana”. I’m always…(Dara) (rudely interupting Eric) E-Rock!
Chain D.L.K.: Were there any effects added to Dara’s vocals (which is common in the world of ethereal), such as echo or reverb, or is it all natural on the new CD?
Faith And Disease: (Dara) I’ve been told countless times that my voice does not require the crutches of effects. I, however, think they are necessary to complete a “wall-of-sound” tonality, especially in live performance. Hey soundman…I need more REVERB. (Eric) Reverb is Dara’s form of oxygen. (Dara) … and coffee.
Chain D.L.K.: Is there a general theme to “Passport to Kunming? ” Does it in some way revolve around the artwork photos on the CD, or vise versa?
Faith And Disease: (Eric) No. There is no concept really, no 70s-like “message” encoded throughout the album. Just a bunch of songs we came up with, and personally labored over production-wise. The artworks are cells from the video. That’s me running up the stairs (filmed in Seattle) and Dara walking down the street in Los Angeles, in the cloak. To her immediate right is the MTV building – I’m serious! The film crew thought it would be a good idea to use the streets in Studio City as an ideal locaction…at 4 AM. (Dara) It was complicated to create the imagery long-distance, since I was still in California at the time. Eric called me and asked, could I attempt to get some stills from the video and send them? I used my crappy little digital camera to capture the images and, like magic, that was the concept art for the CD.
Chain D.L.K.: On the cover, what is the photo of in the left middle, right below the person climbing the stairs?
Faith And Disease: (Dara) That is one of the images (see above notes) of me walking in a wonderful costume cape from some by-gone day of pageantry. (Eric) The girl at the chalkboard is a still from a 1953 educational filmstrip. I stole it. (Dara) Shame on you!
Chain D.L.K.: How has the, would you say, melancholy atmosphere (well, it appears that way from a visitor’s eyes, considering I’ve only been there twice) of Seattle inspired you, or inspired this CD in any way?
Faith And Disease: (Dara) We get that question a lot. All I know is that it isn’t necessarily what the climate is like as much as it is where your present state of being is. (Eric) That and the fact that the creative process involving these new songs originated at various times when we were, in fact, NOT living in the Pacific Northwest, but rather in the coastal region of California, but it wouldn’t matter if we were in Miami Beach or on the set of Baywatch, we’d still sound like dreary rainy Faith and Disease.
Chain D.L.K.: With the guest musicians on the CD taking care of percussion and such, will they also be part of the touring ensemble?
Faith And Disease: (Dara) Yes, we’ll be taking along all of the “band” with the exception of our keyboard player, John Clough. (Eric) The 5 of us are all close, and I consider the 5 of us on Passport to be F&D, but John can’t make it due to his real job – he’s the smart one!
Chain D.L.K.: What is some of Dara’s vocal training throughout the years? The vocals have a feel between controlled operatic vocals and that of older ethereal artists like Liz Frazier, so I assume there is quite a bit of training involved.
Faith And Disease: (Dara) Eric and I were actually discussing that last night. I know my voice has matured naturally as opposed to intensive vocal training on a daily basis. In fact, the only formal training I’ve had were the two years I spent in college attempting a voice major. That wasn’t any fun at all and in retrospect I learned more from my “real-world” experiences performing with F&D. (Eric) We both dropped out of an exclusive, private art school. Too expensive, too pretentious and too…lazy!
Chain D.L.K.: With a dance remix (well, not in the often corny sense of the word, in this case), an album version and a video for it, will “She’s Got a Halo” be released as a single?
Faith And Disease: (Eric) When you’re on an indie label like Projekt, they don’t really release “singles” to the public or radio like, say, a major lable would, so no. But there is obviously an attempt to “promote” a song over the others, and obviously “She’s Got a Halo” is that song. (Dara) Yeah, “She’s Got a Halo”, and “Between the Folds” are our two strongest yet, dare I say, “commercial” sounding songs to date. I still get so excited to hear our songs on the radio. It proves there’s still life in us yet, ha ha.
Chain D.L.K.: When the group first burst out into the scene, buried in a sea of grunge fads, how did the grunge crowd receive you over time? How would you say the mood has changed since the demise of grunge, overall and towards you?
Faith And Disease: (Eric) We were elbow to elbow with all those bands, we even had Nirvana next to us at our practice space. Hole was on the other side. No big deal at the time, but interesting now. We’d pass Kurt Cobain and company in the hallway, that is how small Seattle was at the time. It’s changed of course, but we played all the same clubs as those Sub-Pop bands did, and even though we had a darker, artier crowd than say, TAD or 7 Year Bitch, there wasn’t really a fence between bands. Despite the trimmings, we were (and still are) basically a rock band with drums, bass, guitar, vocals, and…gasp…keyboards.
Chain D.L.K.: Is Ivy Records still active? Why did you decide to start your own label after recieving letters of interest from three major labels?
Faith And Disease: (Eric) Ivy is no longer an active label, seeking out new talent and putting out releases. It WAS for a good 7 years, but Ivy is active in the sense that the back catalog of F&D is still maintained. We grew tired of waiting for the nibbles of interest from majors to resolve, and gave up on the Cinderella Complex that comes along with it and signed with li’l ol’ Projekt Records. Sam and I have a steady dialogue and he’s essentially on the same page as his bands, being a musician and leader of his own Black Tape ensemble, so it’s fine.
Chain D.L.K.: What are some of your inspirations and influences when making music, and with the new CD?
Faith And Disease: (Eric) Hard to say, really. Most of what we do is elusive and hard to articulate. We make music and see where it takes us. It’s not easy doing what we do, but at the end of a good decade of making albums, I think anyone involved with F&D can say they are proud to have been part of the music and that there is substance to it. You cannot buy that feeling, and it’s a purity of purpose that inspires us. (Dara) The lyrical context comes out of life and living it day by day. I find great inspiration from others such as Billie Holiday, who truly knew how to sing sadness, This Mortal Coil, Jarboe, and the list could go on. Personally, our latest material was spawned from my travels to Eastern Europe and the inner journey that I took.
Chain D.L.K.: I noticed on your news section it said “Born and Died on the 23rd”. What exactly does that mean?
Faith And Disease: (Eric) It’s a song I wrote from Beneath the Trees, the album before this one. My father was born on the 23rd and died on the 23rd. It was cathartic for me, but I wanted it kept vague, otherwise a eulegy to your dead father could be percieved as self-serving.
Chain D.L.K.: With the artwork on the CD, I sense there is a feel of a film going on or the intention of it. Would I be correct in saying that?
Faith And Disease: (Eric) Yes, for some reason, maybe the fact that we added a video for the first time, and for reasons Dara knows, the cinematic theme kept surfacing. (Dara) For reasons unknown as well. After all, music is a beacon of light that reflects off the surface of the soul. Life at times can seem as though it’s being played out, staged, filmed, and captured with such irony that you sometimes feel like it’s all just a big laugh.
Chain D.L.K.: If so, is there any film that you would, perhaps, liken it to?
Faith And Disease: (Dara) I love film and have delved deeper into it than I think Eric has, but no particular film comes to mind. Well, maybe Wings of Desire.
Chain D.L.K.: If I were to ask you some of the mental visuals you have when making and playing songs from Passport to Kunming…
Faith And Disease: (Eric) Change, renewal, fragility, strength, perseverance, melody, rain, bridges, escapism, reality. The longing for something better to come and take you away from your drab existence, a new location, romanticized far beyond its capabilities. (Dara) Eloquently said. I’m in agreement!
Chain D.L.K.: Any different mental visuals you get or like to invoke while playing live?
Faith And Disease: (Dara) I tend to close my eyes a lot. It allows me to listen in. Not only to the other instruments, but to the presence of audience and the presence of spirit. (Eric) Just remembering exactly where the chorus fits into the song so you can nod to your bandmates who are expecting you to know. (Dara) Yeah, that is a key element in not messing up the song! Sometimes we just have to communicate via body language which, after 10 years, still seems easier said than done.
Chain D.L.K.: You worked some time back on a CD for an Italian label called Amplexus Records but it is, I assume, out of print (there were only 555 copies made). Any chance of that being released stateside in any kind of anthology or whatnot?
Faith And Disease: (Eric) No. Dream the Red Clouds, and Livesongs: Third Body (1996) are out of print. People should stick to the concept of “Limited Edition” and all it stands for.
Chain D.L.K.: Does Charlotte Sather (vocalist/flute player from “Beneath the Trees”) appear on this CD at all?
Faith And Disease: (Eric) No. The vocals are 100% Dara Rosenwasser, just as almost every F&D album with exception of Beneath the Trees is. Charlotte was a big part of F&D from 1998-2002, especially touring, when she played about 120 shows with us in that timeframe. (Dara) Charlotte and I have an amazing bond that goes far beyond the work we did together in F&D. I do miss collaborating with her live because we seemed to feed off of each other in a way I can’t even describe, once again very spiritual.
Chain D.L.K.: Are there any other groups she is part of?
Faith And Disease: (Dara) Charlotte is an amazing classical composer, which most may not know. I once told her that I think this is the direction to focus on. She is very involved in quartet work and gives voice lessons on a regular basis.
Chain D.L.K.: On the last CD, we saw a little bit of country and folk (perhaps even some death-folk) influence, even covering Blue Sky Boy’s “Banks of the Ohio”. Is there still that same feel to you in the new CD?
Faith And Disease: (Eric) No. Having barely dabbled in what could be remotely descrbed as “folk” let alone “country” in sporadic passages on a few of our albums, we decided we never wanted to hear those two words ever again in print when referring to us. Then I see the new All Music Guide and sure as hell, there it is again. I see TWO songs that fit that mold (“Old Dusk Dakota” on Insularia, and that’s only because our producer Kevin Suggs added a steel-pedal guitar over the mix), and Banks of the Ohio, which WAS an ode to the TRADITIONAL MURDER BALLAD. A third, “When the Roses Bloom Again” was on a compilation album that no one ever heard anyway. (Dara) Yes, but that one passage from a previous write-up on Insularia (they drape the back woods in black) really appeals to me in a Nick Cave sort of way. I can’t deny that I’m influenced by certain folk music. It’s how I learned to harmonize and play guitar.
Chain D.L.K.: With some of the more stripped down accoustic elements of Passport to Kunming, could we see an ‘Unplugged’ type show on your next tour?
Faith And Disease: (Eric) No, we’re done with that. Crowd attention spans are far too short or sparse for tranquil music in a club.
Chain D.L.K.: You also mentioned having done that cover song in all mono. Have you considered going that route again, or would you prefer all your music to have that modern feel to it?
Faith And Disease: (Eric) Thank you for noticing that! Recording, mixing, in MONO was a curiosity of mine as a producer, and my way of paying homage to the golden era of vinyl and analog – the polar opposite of compressed, tinny-sounding. wav or mp3 files. (Dara) Eric’s really into the recording process/sound. I just sing and do my thing. It all works out in the end.
Chain D.L.K.: I also noticed that the Johnny Cash tribute CD you sang on went out of print. What song did you cover, and could we ever see that cover come to light again in the future?
Faith And Disease: Eric: That was a Carter Family song, actually. Johnny Cash covered it in virtual obscurity, but we tend to favor the buried gems of songs out there when we decide to cover another artist.
Chain D.L.K.: Any soundtrack work or film scores in the future?
Faith And Disease: (Eric) We did that with Jeff Greinke. Now all it needs is the movie to go along with the 23 minutes of material. Of all the comments we’ve heard about our music being “ideal” for film, the closest thing we got was when The Real World used 4-5 of our songs as background music on their episodes, not exactly what we had in mind for soundtracks, but we welcomed it, the hilarity of F&D being used in that context. (Dara) This is the real world…Wake up. You can’t always get what you want, but if you try…
Chain D.L.K.: Since I’ve never seen a Faith and Disease concert and can’t seem to figure out how to access the video from the new CD (I’m a little computer retarded, I’ll admit, haha), what is a live show like for you and your audience?
Faith And Disease: (Dara) Candles, incense, dimly lit stage, and of course the 1 or 2 loud-mouth bastards who talk throughout our entire set. I think we should employ duct tape in the future. (Eric) The added bonus video should work on any PC or MAC, it was tested to do so…I hope.
Chain D.L.K.: OK, a couple of just goofy, laid back questions after barraging you with all these questions…Do you ever run into the problem of getting road rage while being stuck out in a really bad hydroplane out there when it rains? That could make for some amusing behavior I think!
Faith And Disease: (Eric) When I hydroplane on the road it’s not rage I feel, it’s fear for my life. I drive a Geo Metro! (Dara) The scariest driving moment was two years ago driving in a storm en route to Baton Rouge. Every five feet there were cars that had driven off the road! I couldn’t even see in front of me. It was surreal.
Chain D.L.K.: What exactly could you do with that sausage and scrambled eggs in the end (reference to Frasier, which is taped and based in Seattle)?
Faith And Disease: (Eric) Uh, feed it to that little trained monkey of a dog. Doesn’t he say “tossed salad” too?
Chain D.L.K.: Doh! If you wind up a guitar good enough, you could probably launch the sausage into the air, I would think, haha. The eggs, good luck launching
Faith And Disease: (Eric) Not with a ’79 Les Paul Custom you wouldn’t! (Dara) Yeah, try it and I’ll send ya packin’!
Chain D.L.K.: Anything else you’d like to add before we go, and what can we expect from you in the near future?
Faith And Disease: ERIC. . even more time between albums and playing live. (Dara) We seem to have grown accustomed to the time-in-between phases, as of late. Perhaps it is for the best. Time to clarify and create individually. (Eric) To make better as a whole…
Chain D.L.K.: Thanks for your time, answers, and the great new CD. Take care and good luck on tour!
Faith And Disease: (Eric) Thank you! Good questions, even the sausage and Frasier ones.
Visit Faith And Disease on the web at:
Faith And Disease at Projekt.com
[interviewed by Shaun Hamilton] [proofreading by Audra Brick]