Tuesday 21 September 2010

K&A with Mammoeth

I really ought to start listening to other bloggers! For ages I'd heard murmurings of a band called Mammoeth, but it wasn't until I discovered that the man behind the name was none other than The Kays Lavelle violinist Russell Kostulin, did I head over to his bandcamp for a listen. After the third song on his debut album Nascent I'd already heard enough to get my wallet out and buy it. Great, quirky pop, like the bastard lovechild of The Divine Comedy and The Beatles. Lap it up folks!

Here's Russell to fill you in on a few things...

Kowalskiy: Who is/are Mammoeth?
Russell: Mammoeth is my ego, my superego, my id and a carousel of friends and siblings who help augment the sound and get the live performances sounding something close to what it is on record. I suppose I should also include Robin my producer who has a fairly big role in making the record sound like it does.

Kowalskiy: How did Mammoeth start, and what's the story behind the name?
Russell: Mammoeth started with me messing around in my spare room on my laptop just recording snippets of songs I had lying around - I'd been in a band before Mammoeth so I had a bunch of songs which were left over or never used for whatever reason. I wanted to give them a home, explore some ideas and just generally see what I was about so I bought Pro Tools and started making some very poor quality demos, even for demos they were poor, but as these things go they had a certain charm to them. Some of the ideas worked and some didn't and so some made the cut as I got more ambitious and some fell by the wayside. I write all the time so I've got loads of things lying around, a lot of which is not worth listening to, honestly, so that will sit there until I have the time to demo it - I will have to demo them at some stage though cos it's very frustrating not knowing what they'll turn out like - a bit like say if you have a child who gets to 4 and a half but never gets passed that so you never see that child grow up and mature and fulfil its potential - I'd imagine, I have no kids and certainly not one that stays the same age.

The story behind the name is fairly mundane - I was involved in a massive road accident on a motorway that involved several cars and a lorry and the last thing I remember about it was careering towards a big red truck with the word Mammoet on the side of it. Mammoet are a Dutch haulage company I believe.

Kowalskiy: That's your idea of mundane!?! How would you describe 'your sound'? Don't undersell it now!
Russell: Very melodic (or as melodic as I can make it) alternative pop with the instrumental kitchen sink thrown in for good measure. The songwriting is fairly theoretical, I like 7ths and passing chords and diminsheds and dreaded jazz chords and stuff because it seems to free up melodic ideas. I'd like to study composition at some point cos I'm sure there are some basic things that I'm missing out on - all the stuff I've learnt has been through trial and error so there will be loads that I don't know about.

Kowalskiy: Who/what/where influences your music?
Russell: Lots of things do really, everything I hear, whether its a vintage advert from the '50s or something that sounds like it's from the future - I think if you're interested in sound then anything can be interesting and therefore influential. Everyone goes on their own (clich├ęd) 'journey of discovery' I think with music, and so some stuff you come up with has been done a million times and other things will be completely new and fresh. Some people will get there once and it will be pot luck, I think the good ones maybe get there 3 or 4 times, and the great ones maybe 10 times or more but I think you just have to keep trying. A bit of a tangent there but in terms of influences the main one when I started Mammoeth was Sufjan Stevens but I've kind of moved away from that now (as he has by the sound of things floating around the interweb) and I'm more interested in modern pop and what makes it tick. I think the next record will either be heavily influenced by modern pop or it will be a darker version of what I did last time - I have albums 2, 3 and 4 written musically so I'm not sure which one comes next. We'll see.

Kowalskiy: Your debut album Nascent was released at the end of July on mini50
records. What's the story (if any) behind it?
Russell: It was, there's not really a story as such - I toiled for maybe 10 years writing tunes and then eventually plucked up the chutzpah to do something with them, as I say, I made some demos, gave them to some people, some of them made their way to a producer in Manchester (Robin Housman - he also produced the Magic Arm album which is really good, you should check that out) and we met up, got on really well based on similar tastes and aesthetic principles and started recording a few tunes. We only planned an EP at first but we got on so well we decided to record more. I still see him very regularly and we've worked on a number of other projects since then, we're always recording things together and writing stuff - it's a pain he lives in Manchester though cos I live in Edinburgh. He's more of a collaborator now - I imagine that he'll have quite a big impact on the sound of the next record - I guess that's a producer's job mind you...

Kowalskiy: Your website had rumours of an autumn tour with The Kays Lavelle. Please tell us that's true, and if so, are there anymore details yet?
Russell: Unfortunately the tour has fallen to pieces, I'm sorry to say. It got cancelled a couple of weeks ago which is a real shame - I don't know the reasons, I think there are a few of them, it's complicated as they say. Just now there are no firm touring plans but we'll get something sorted soon I'm sure. We're going to do a couple of single releases later in the year and maybe early next year.

Kowalskiy: What would be your ideal gig?
Russell: My ideal gig would probably be supporting Sufjan Stevens and then playing as part of his backing band. I suspect I probably shouldn't say my ideal gig would be a support slot... I don't have world domination plans of my own so I wouldn't want to play an arena, the sound is always crap anyway. I reckon the venue might be a concert hall or something, like maybe the Usher Hall in Edinburgh or maybe the Barbican in London, although the Camden Roundhouse always looks good when I've seen that. I'd support Sufjan, he'd maybe come on for a song or two with me, I'd have an orchestral backing (maybe the London Phil or something...) and the Sufjan would go on with me playing guitar or violin or banjo or whatever he wanted me to play really, maybe singing some backing vocals. He'd of course have an orchestral backing too, otherwise it wouldn't be fair. The other support act would be Nick Lowe or something playing Jesus of Cool from start to finish, although everyone would leave after he'd done that and we'd be an anti climax I suppose so maybe Ben Gibbard doing a solo acoustic set or something again with some collaboration. I'd get Metallica's roadies cos nobody would mess and maybe I'd get the Hell's Angels to do security, provided they undergo some health and safety courses.

Kowalskiy: What else does the future hold in store for Mammoeth?
Russell: Well as I say we'll do some singles later in the year and I'm hoping that we'll start recording a few tracks for the next album either later this year or at the start of next. We'll see. I'm hoping I can release a new one next year but it really depends on how much time I've got, it takes ages and there are already a few projects in the diary for next year so I'm not sure I'll fit it in. Fingers crossed though, it'd be nice to do a quick follow up given it's pretty much written already.

Kowalskiy: Lastly, if it's not being too morbid, what would you like to have achieved before you die?
Russell: Ah, to avoid the obvious "someone" answer, I'd like to have eked out all my musical creativity and said all that I wanted to say, in short I suppose I'd like to finish my life as a spent force. I don't mind when I become "spent" but as long as it happens before I die that would be fine with me. There's also loads of non-musical things I want to have done before I die like procreate and visit Australia and stuff. But musically, if I can die a spent force I guess in some way I'll be happy.

<a href="http://mammoeth.bandcamp.com/track/i-want-to-be-someone-when-i-die">I Want To Be Someone When I Die by Mammoeth</a>

The stunning Nascent is out now on CD with download on Mammoeth's bandcamp page.

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