INTERVIEW: Mueran Humanos - Hospital Lullabies
Mueran Humanos are an Argentinian, Berlin-based duo. They’ve released a handful of singles and albums across various record labels and have defined their work by merging synth-pop, industrial, performance art and punk into a sharpened, identifiable aesthetic. As with their visual art, they dissect, slice and refit each piece it to fit their means. I was immediately awe-struck seeing them live in Los Angeles a couple of years ago. When I got home, I ordered all of their records that were available and they’ve been a stereo companion ever since. Their latest offering, Hospital Lullabies has been a steady listen since releasing this past month and I had to reach out to see if they’d like to share what they’re about, their process and especially their new film accompaniment. They responded immediately and kindly answered all of my questions. Below is the first interview conducted for Neon Waste with an International act and something I’m very proud of presenting even if I feel I was a bit unprepared! Enjoy!
Neon Waste: When Mueran Humanos started was there a focused intent on creating the type of music and concepts? What were your backgrounds like before working on this project?
Tomas: We met in Argentina, I was just leaving my old band behind, Dios, who released only an album in 2001 which is the subject of a documentary. It was comprised only of bass, drums and vocals, very dry, repetitive and confrontational. I was just starting to play with Travesti. Carmen was playing in another band, Mujercitas Terror. All these bands have released albums that you can check out.
To cut a long story short, two years later I was living in Europe and Carmen came. She was kind of disappointed with music and wanted only to make art and experimental films. However, living together we started to play just for ourselves and I was fascinated by our quick chemistry, I kind of saw that playing together produced very powerful, very characteristic sounds so I proposed to Carmen to make an art group. She will be doing her stuff and we can do music to complement it, sort of Coum Transmissions-like to give you an example. So with this in mind we set our first installation which was a funeral, complete with a coffin and a corpse (not really dead), using video and using geometry defined by the placement on the space of the objects and subjects (the corpse, us playing live). The music at that time was completely abstract and we weren’t using any vocals. The thing was, we liked very much to play music together, we were doing it everyday, for hours, and gradually it evolved to singing and arranging those chunks of abstract music in a way that worked as “songs”. That lead us to play live in traditional venues, outside the gallery circuit, which we didn’t like anyway, and that’s how we passed from an art group to a kind of rock band, sort to speak. Interestingly, many of those early film works by Carmen were resurrected this year when she made the movie that accompanies our new album. Half of the movie is comprised of those early experiments.
Neon Waste: I read how important for Mueran Humanos to have their albums viewed as a complete work - cover art, sequence and tracks. With the video component accompanying Hospital Lullabies there is so much more to digest. What came first? What is the writing process in general?
Tomas: It’s a really long process. Pieces of music and lyrics and artwork that we made keep floating around and they are combined and recombined endlessly until organically an album appears and starts to take shape. The name of the album, the artwork, the track order, everything is decided in this fashion, after many versions are tried and discarded. In a way we work 24/7. In this album there are lyrics that are 10 years old for example, it took them that long to find their place. We don’t work on setting a narrative, we don’t discuss concepts and then work on it. It’s a constant flow, a kind of game we play, and we let the final work appear by accumulation, refinement, synthesis. We don’t push, we believe beauty itself has something to say to us, so we pursuit beauty and let it speak. It can be frustrating sometimes but this is what we are devoting ourselves to do so we accept the downside
Neon Waste: I'm very happy with the wait! The artwork that accompanies the albums manipulates that beauty to bring out a grotesque re-imagining. Where does the inspiration come from in your collage work?
Carmen: I am a fan of Dario Argento, what I love most in his work is that he uses gore in an undeniably artistic way. I have always felt close to that perspective. On one hand, I like to keep my approach to art wild and when you don't have any budget you use what you have. There is always blood there. Blood is a beautiful looking substance. Blood, fire, black substances can work as a painting even if they are not. In the case of the film, Hospital Lullabies, the female characters in the movie are the main subject I guess.
I love when I find a woman that I can identify with because that doesn't happen very often. Not to me. The two girls on the movie are both females that have made a strong impression and inspiration in my life. So that film is derived from those people themselves: Patricia Fort (the brunnette) and Paloma Pluss (the blond one) Feminine Portraiting is my specialty. It can be a drawing, a collage, a photo, or a video. But the thing I am best at is the female portrait.
Tomas: I did include some of my collages too in this record. My work is mostly with words, I do cut-ups using newspapers, in fact before the band started, Mueran Humanos was the name of a publication, a sort of fanzine, that I did with such cut ups. Sometimes I do paste words into images, mostly to alter the meaning of them. I like the juxtaposition. Six of those cut up words pasted on images ended being part of this album artwork.
Neon Waste: I never thought of that parallel with Argento before. I love the way it looks. The coloring makes it looks so light in contrast with the gore. But Hospital Lullabies’ cover is a departure in that it doesn't heavily feature a body. It kind of reminds me of old spirit photography but with a violence present. The body is more present in the film accompaniment. Do you find it difficult to put trust in these actors to portray what you want from them? Or did it come naturally?
Carmen: It is interesting that you ask this, because indeed all of it has come naturally between the "actresses" and me (the camera). It was all made by instinct. They shared them selves with the camera. there is no "acting". On this point we can call it a "poetic documentary".
Neon Waste: In the first sequence there is an instance of vampirism, but with the blood coming from a stone statue. Where did this come from?
Carmen: All the shooting with Patricia Fort (the brunette) is new. All the shooting with Paloma Pluss (the blond one) we did 10 years a go. About the scene with the statue and Patricia and the blood, I don't exactly remember how it ended like that. Hahaha! I wrote a script for shooting with Patricia. When I proposed to make a portrait of her I sent the script. I was just fascinated by her persona. And I started imagining scenes with her while walking in the street and more when I’m riding my bike, when I ride my bike good ideas pop in mind. She does not live in Berlin so I had to make a plan. I needed to plan ahead but also needed that freedom to not follow the plan precisely. At the end of my short script I added a "p.s" saying that we might not follow this at all. She answered immediately after that, because that same fluidity matches her 100%. She has the strongest sense of "non-sense" ever. So she came to Berlin 3 weeks later.
Neon Waste: So your film-making is as open ended as your music. Are you often surprised at where you end up?
Carmen: Yes I am often very surprised. I don't process what I'm seeing on camera while I shoot, I just focus on catching the spirit when I see it. Then, later I observe.
Neon Waste: The piece with Paloma is quite dreamlike. Erotic with a sense of madness to it. I like that there is an importance put on play.
Carmen: Right. Erotic with sense of madness" couldn't express better what she is. She is very wild, there is some childhood intact that you can see in the shooting.
Neon Waste: Will we see more Mueran Humanos films in the future?
Carmen: Definitely. This is just the beginning. I'm working on a new piece that I shot at an afterparty with a lovely goth gang we met in Chile last year. Well not exactly goth in the orthodox meaning, I'm not interested on that. But is quite dark. It will show a real third word location. And also the same approach. Playful and real.
Josh: I look forward to it!
Carmen: I will show it to you soon.
Neon Waste: I like the idea that the music and film in Mueran Humanos is not always fresh and that the concepts can be derived from older material re-purposed (or finding purpose). Archiving work for later usage. This kind of alchemy based approach always has interesting results. Would you agree that your Hospital Lullabies is your best presentation? I've listened so many times already and I'm continually finding new threads to follow.
Tomas: Yes you can consider it an alchemical process with its various stages until completion, it's a useful metaphor for the kind of long process that all of our albums undergo. I also agree that this is our best album, or most completely realized, album yet. I got that feeling when we finished, that I never had before, that I didn't want to change anything on it. I feel that we evolved and learned how to pack a lot of content without overloading the songs. We were more focused on the essentials on this album. As with the other two, we recorded it twice. The first version was discarded and we started again from scratch. But this time it was even more radical because the previous version was ready to be released, already mixed, mastered, the label was ready to release it and we realized it wasn't quite what we wanted. That was very painful at the time, but now I am glad we did it.
Neon Waste: Aside from the Coum Transmissions that you have already mentioned - Does Mueran Humanos take inspiration from any other art collectives? I liked the idea that when the group had started you cut yourselves off from the outside world in order to create without distraction.
Tomas: Well, we didn't consciously set to follow anyone steps. But we were interested in many artists and some art movements and surely some of them influenced us. The first two years especially were very isolated, because we were alone in a city in which we didn't have close friends or relatives. We were kind of existing in a vacuum and developing our work, looking back it was a great time. We wanted to develop our own style, which we did by simply doing our own thing over and over. After those two years we moved to Berlin which was a new unknown territory. As far as things that may have inspired us, we were always into Velvet Underground, The Fall, Coil and Suicide mainly musically. We also share a passion for Musique Concrete. On film Dario Argento, Kenneth Anger, Maya Deren, Bergman, lots of horror movies. We share also an interest in religion and the supernatural so all kind of things related to that. Punk was sort of our high school years so there was always something that stayed with us from that. In literature Lewis Carroll was a shared love. For art movements Surrealism, Dada and Situationism, the theories of Gysin and Burroughs regarding the cut-up technique were influential to me as well as the experiments of John Dos Passos and the concrete poetry movement. Egon Schiele, collage artists, lots of things.
Neon Waste: Thank you for this, my girlfriend and I had no idea about Mueran Humanos before seeing you in LA at a festival and you were our favorite group. If you have any interest in coming back to North America I'd be pleased to help set something up in Vancouver BC. Thank you again.
Tomas: Thank you so much Josh. That Berserktown Festival was a difficult performance because 30 minutes is too short to us as our songs are pretty long. I remember we could only play 3 songs and our moog wasn't working because of the different voltage there. I am glad you guys liked anyway! Always happy to be back in North America and we have never played Canada which is something we must solve!
Carmen: Thank you Josh it was a pleasure. Very nice to chat with you.
Mueran Humanos released their third LP, Hospital Lullabies on Cinema Paradiso Records and I highly encourage you to pick up a copy. For more information and music please click HERE for their website.
September 20 Barcelona at The Garage of the Bass Valley.
September 22 Madrid at sala Sirocco.
October 10 Stockholm w/Hide
All images provided by Mueran Humanos. Photo credit goes to Pilar Gost. It was a real pleasure to interview this group as they’re very dear to me and really encompass what I envisioned with this website: Genre-less coverage of groups as it relates and contributes to subculture. I’d like to thank Tomas and Carmen for speaking with me once again and hope they have success with their future projects.