Temporary Transformation Machine
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Temporary Transformation Machine

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Please see www.spaceteamelectra.com. - Various








Looking For Liberation
by Scott Thill                                  

Myshel Prasad is a woman who has her fingers in so many pies that you’re amazed she actually has the time to stop and enjoy their respective tastes. Most will probably recognize the multitalented artist as the ringleader/chanteuse/agitator behind the ethereal but tough indie group, Space Team Electra, but Prasad’s also an actress, a poet, a visual artist and one hell of a political wit.
But really what sets Prasad apart from today’s multi-taskers is her deep desire to crawl within phenomena -- whether they happen to be religious, artistic, musical, sociopolitical, psychosexual or whatever -- and inhabit them beyond the point of simple assimilation and redefinition. She’s got that rare American trait, an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and experience, in excess. Plus, she can perform an exorcism, which is nice.
?Melt: You began creating art at a very young age. How do you feel your approach to creation has changed over the years?
Myshel Prasad: I think that as a child I had what I call a boundary problem, which I guess all children have! In other words, I didn’t know how to separate the social from the personal, the sexual from the simply intimate, the sacred from the profane, or the aesthetic from the pragmatic. I used to do a lot of weird little rituals when I was little. I grew up without a religion -- and I am still without a religion -- but my friend Renee hipped me to Catholicism when I was in grade school, and it was an artistic inspiration to me even then. I conducted some bread and water fasts (with Wonderbread!) and later performed an exorcism on her, which was definitely a piece of theatre.
I guess I haven’t changed much since I still have all of those boundary problems! Maybe the real difference is a greater sense of context. So I think that, when I create, now I’m still coming from that indistinct place but attempting to sort it out as I go along. I have a more developed sense of responsibility in the way that I interpret my experiences because the possibility of lying or stopping short for comfort or convenience is always there in a way that it wasn’t when I was a kid.
Melt: Talk about Space Team Electra. It has the feel of the ethereal works of 4AD's finest like Cocteau Twins, Lush, and Dead Can Dance, as well as the aggressive space rock of My Bloody Valentine. How do you envision the band's music, and is the idea of categorization anathema to what STE's all about?
MP: All those bands were original influences. Catherine Wheel, too. I think that creating open and textured sonic spaces -- even rhythmically -- is a big part of what STE has been about. I’ve always loved heaters, fans and electrical hum. I love the diaphanous interplay between secondary tones in amplification that generates a sort of ghost orchestra if you bring it out. In fact, I often use three amps, two that are heavily effected and in stereo and a clean Vox AC30 in the center, just to generate and experiment with that phenomena, and I’ve written songs around it.
But I’ve always felt that there’s a danger of detachment that can emerge from atmospheric music, this beautiful Wizard of Oz poppy-field experience that is seductive but at the same time unsatisfying. I prefer to throw my existential glove in the ring, so I guess my songs move in and out of detached and dreaming places, and then to more aggressive or more naked places. I think that’s actually how I live.
As far as categorization, I guess it is a sort of anathema to the music in that it is a limitation that doesn’t really exist in the actual experience of living. Although maybe I shouldn’t be too quick to say that! Experience is starting to conform to categorizations now, in the same way that market research no longer focuses on how to make products to fit desires but how to create desires that fit products! It’s a real soul-killer, and it puts artists in a weird new position, but a potentially very powerful one if they can take the lead.
Melt: Who are some of the artists that have inspired your work? And how has your work with NYU, John Drew Theatre, NC School of the Arts, etc. helped shape your aesthetic over the years?
MP: Oh, the list of influences is much too long! Artists that come to mind immediately are Bill Hicks, Laurie Anderson, Nico, Marrianne Faithfull, Patti Smith and Ani Difranco, Mazzy Star, Phil Ochs, Diamanda Galas’ Plague Mass, Rumi, Duane Michaels, Nick Drake, Maria Callas in Pasolini’s Medea and Renee Falconnetti in Dreyer’s Joan of Arc.
As for the people I studied with -- Uta Hagen in acting, Allen Ginsberg or Amiri Baraka or Anne Waldeman in poetry, or teachers like Steve Hutkins and Sharon Friedman and Lauren Raiken at NYU -- they all awakened my mind to new hungers, which is probably one of the highest goals of any education.
Melt: Your interests are wide-ranging. How do you keep your focus when there is so much you like to do?
MP: I don’t worry about that as much as I used to. There are certain things I’m looking for, a certain taste, and it doesn’t matter that much how I find it anymore. But following through on what I begin and bringing things to completion, that takes a lot of discipline and it’s really critical to me now. Getting Intergalactic Torch Song finished was excruciating! I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to walk, just get free of it. But I think you weaken yourself when you fail to complete something that is important to you; it makes you weak in so many ways.
Melt: Talk a little about Intergalactic Torch Song, especially its various mythical intertexts: Christianity, Ouroboros, Eden, etc. How does myth and history play into your creative output?
MP: You know, it’s almost painfully embarrassing to admit this, but it all started with a dream. I dreamed that I was approaching a tree, that I felt instinctively was the tree, the World Tree, or the Tree in the Garden of Eden. But this tree was blooming with roses and fire and blood; it was gorgeous and terrifying, and as I got nearer to it I thought, “Wait a minute, this is sacred, I don’t know if I should be getting this close.” And then I woke up.
There were so many things going on at the time that were driving me. I had just read Nietzche’s Birth of Tragedy, which got me involved with his concept of the Dionysian capacity of music. I borrowed from Christian imagery a lot in describing my experiences, I think, because it’s such a cartography of dangerous but ecstatic psychic experiences and violent transformations. I mean, what is essentially the image of a victim of state torture is its most common symbol, as well as the eating of flesh and the drinking of wine as blood is a sacrament
But you know, all these dualities -- Paradise/Holocaust, Hell/ Utopia, The Perfect City/The Ghetto -- are sort of fascisms of the imagination. That’s why they’re so powerful. But real liberation is beyond all that, and, ultimately, liberation is what I was looking for.
Photo by Tamara Madden
For more Myshel Prasad visit?www.spaceteamelectra.com


 






© Melt Magazine 2003 
- Melt Magazine (Los Angeles)


SPACE TEAM ELECTRA
THE INTERGALACTIC TORCH SONG
(Sonic Halo)
BY MARK BARTON




I won’t attempt to conceal my awe for this amazing full length and long awaited follow up to the Texan four pieces ‘Vortex Flower’ debut of 2000 because it really is a goodie bag packed full of mystery, turbulence and fascinating dramatics. Co-Produced by the legendary Sandy Pearlman, ‘The Intergalactic Torch Song’ is one of those rare treats that refuses to kowtow to fashion fads, instead it displays throughout its duration a positively bewildering spectacle of accomplished musicianship that mixes high art with crafted invention, those that swoon to the timeless melodies of such luminaries as Dead Can Dance, This Mortal Coil, Cocteau Twins and for that matter any number of early 4AD releases will gush with sentiment at the towering tempestuous and elegiac rings that this album sounds.

A passionate record to say the least, focused at its core is a blaze of emotional turbulences provided in the main by Myshel Prasad’s part nightmarish / religious / darkened lyrics, deeply colourful and enriched classically edged melodic swirls contort and divide Catherine wheel like into splintered sub plots creating a deeply complex and consuming weave of creative compositions, at times the gems found within ‘The Intergalactic Torch Song’ are all at once alluring and frightening. Prasad’s lyrics give the whole thing an unusual edge, a polar opposite to the likes of Kate Bush but with the same approach for creating a tense backdrop on which to build the melodies around, this is pop music for Doctorates. The feelings evoked by love are all explored, yet this is love from a more spiritual perspective rather than skin deep, guilt and regret are despatched diligently while a notion of aggression and fury are symmetrically underlined by the overpowering, layered spit and sting sensations of the music atop which shifts disturbingly against the obscure word play of Prashad’s tipped Cupid’s arrows.

‘Mars’ opens the album, snake winding Eastern influences that recall Jah Wobble’s Invaders of the Heart meeting early Cult on sun drenched dust plateaus, hypnotically alluring, underpinned by cavernous hanging chords that instil an almost Arabic alchemy to the proceedings that at the close ascend to create a vicious whirlwind of apocalyptic atmospherics. ‘The marriage’ appears almost schizophrenic in comparison, jagged chords carve out the opening parts before settling to swirling sky soaring melodies that recall the March Violets at their most brutal. ‘Absinthe’ is perhaps the albums highpoint, almost reminiscent in mood to the Banshees ‘Voodoo Dolly’, creepy music boxes open up to mysterious chants that fall away almost with dream like composure to herald the ghostly delicate machinations of Prasad’s twisted Leer like imagery, angelic harmonies are matched by the most sublime of lifting melodies. As with most of the tracks on this CD there’s still time for a spot of artistic licence when the soothing sounds reach a crescendo like impasse that ushers in a Floyd like intermission that neatly settles back to more serene pastures. ‘In Ribbons’ perhaps neatly exemplifies the Nico style delivery of Prasad’s vocals, the point is probably given more weight as this particular track could easily at intervals pass for some kind of lost track from Velvet Underground’s debut album possessing as it does all the easy feel replete with bells sound of ‘Sunday Morning’. ‘Dissolution of the order of the star’ on the other hand is a remarkable excursion into awkward, splintered time signatures, rolling bass lines do battle with the pensive hierarchy while Prasad’s vocals soar aimlessly overhead

Ultimately what makes Space Team Electra tick is their ability to cross over through so many genres, their sounds are intricate, absorbing not for easy dissection but rather for dedicated enjoyment, ‘Intergalactic Torch Song’ is not so much an album but an impassioned performance complete with the drama, the hurt and the human touch.

An unflinching masterpiece.

MARK BARTON

- Losing Today (London)


Space Team Electra


"Intergalactic Songs"


Interview with the beauty singer/writer/guitarist Myshel Prasad



By Sergio Vilar

Can you give us some insight into the beginnings of Space Team Electra as a musical project? How did it initially come to be?
The members of what would become Space Team Electra came together initially in Denver, Colorado as a band called Dive, which began as guitarist Todd Ayers, drummer Kit Peltzel and guitarist Bill Kunkel. Bassist Greg Fowkes and I were working on some songs together independently and joined the others in the spring of 1994. Todd left the band later that fall (but he has often since stepped in for Bill on guitar) and the remaining members formed Space Team Electra.

Why the name?
The name has a sort of cartoon-like Superhero connotation that I like! I had a superhero name to go with it - Captain Infinity Starpants, the Silver Rocker (I used to say that I came to earth to challenge and destroy Sammy Hagar the Red Rocker for poisoning the higher consciousness of rock and roll, but really, he can’t take all the blame, of course). But the Space Team Electra name it also reflects a genuine and optimistic aspiration to explore psychic and sonic territory, a hopeful and ecstatic mission, even if that territory has nihilistic or terrifying aspects!

Before Space Team Electra, were you involved in any musical projects or activities?
The other guys had all been in different projects, Todd had played a lot around Denver, and Greg had been in an emo/punk band in Michigan called Vine, but Space Team Electra was my first band! I had been an actor first, I went to an advanced training program, North Carolina School of the Arts, before going on to work with actor and teacher Uta Hagen in New York. Later I attended and graduated from New York University and went on to the Naropa Institute’s MFA program in Boulder, Colorado to study with Anne Waldeman and Allen Ginsberg at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. I was heavy in to spoken work at the time and did a couple tours and won some slams (poetry performance competitions) and eventually performed a slot at the Lollapalooza music festival, just after the Breeders got off the stage and before George Clinton went on! Pretty cool to warm up the stage for George Clinton! But once I found the music (or it found me) there was no going back!

What are your major influences? What kind of sound are you trying to achieve?
When we first came together our influences were My Bloody Valentine, Catherine Wheel, Lush and a little bit of the Cocteau Twins and Sonic Youth… Later, as a band, we were all really in to Radiohead and Sigur Ros… I love all that music but (with the exception of Sonic Youth) sometimes it can be a little too beautiful, too consistent in texture or emotional dimension or something… I love all those sounds, it’s like an opium addiction or something, just floating in that dreamy sonic universe, in those amazingly crafted songs... and I actually love pop songs and pop structure… but there’s an equally strong drive in me to corrupt those layers of symmetry or beauty and cut a little closer to the bare bone. I struggle with that opposition all the time.

Definitely other musical influences drive me, like the gorgeous grandiose glam of Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust” record, the unapologetic theatricality of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”, the wide-open veins of Leonard Cohen and Patti Smith, the haunted houses of Nick Cave and Tricky, the transcendent strain inside the voices of Maria Callas, Jeff Buckley, Diamanda Galas, Nico, Maria Mckee, Alessandra Belloni, Piaf, the unreal Kalthoum… as well as those deliciously psychically disorienting strains of sacred music from various religious traditions (Sufis know how to rock)! And of course the literary influences might be more powerful than anything else; wrestling with Artaud and Rimbaud and Neruda and Whitman and Joyce and Baudrillard and Bataille and Borges and Nietzche will keep anyone up at night! I don't know that my own writing reflects any of those more lofty influences, of course, but I am certainly inspired by these minds and feel a deep affinity.

Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of Mogwai, Godspeed You Black Emperor, an Indian/Persian combination called Ghazal, some electronica, this project called Vas, featuring an amazing LA percussionist named Greg Ellis, and of course your very own magnificent Puente Celeste!

I also really really really love Led Zeppelin.

How does your process of song-writing usually work? Do music and lyrics evolve simultaneously or does one take precedence over the other?
For me personally, the music usually comes before the lyrics, oddly enough. First there’s the hunger or the need, something rising up in me… then I sit with the guitar and try to pull it out, to understand it… then I start singing along with it, and some words start coming, which I’ll structure in to some kind of narrative later, something that does through words what the feeling was doing through the music. That’s the goal, anyway! With the band, I’ll bring the song in and everyone generally comes up with their own part or idea… sometimes Bill (who is an extraordinary talent) would bring in a riff or a whole guitar piece and we’d build off that. The writing process is sort of the same for me when that happens, except that I’m ingesting something from the outside first and then processing and structuring it after.



Can you tell me a bit more about your album called “The Intergalactic Torch Song”. Is there a deeper meaning about that album-title and is this album kind of a concept or are all songs standing apart from another?
Well, I love the old torch songs, those despairing songs of unrequited love! The title for me represents the longing I felt for unity on a grand scale with the raw forces of reality, to melt in to the core of things and expand beyond all boundaries... Sort of an existentialist cabaret! I wanted the record to be a sort of cathartic story, like a love story, a cartographical record of my own passage to and through the heart of things, landscapes of external and internal warfare, edges of horror and bliss and back again. It’s amazing what human consciousness is capable of, the historical and psychological and mythological world we inherit, create and live in…

Anyway, I have always felt a sense of grace in this life and a deep rage against all the forces that keep me or the human collective out of that grace, one of which is often, ironically, religious beliefs, so that definitely shows up in the record. I was also having a lot of visions, these pseudo-apocalyptic dreams while writing this record and was haunted by them. It was strange to watch events unfold in the world that seemed to reflect those visions.

I was in NYC a couple days after the attacks on the World Trade Center. The city was beautiful then, filled with grief, yes, the fires were still blazing, but everyone on the streets was so loving… there were candles and flowers and pictures of lost loved ones everywhere. Later the flowers would disappear and be replaced by flags. The Good Vs Evil medieval crusader rhetoric of US President Bush seemed to echo the very schism that I so abhorred, that I was examining… so it was interesting to be finishing the writing and the recording of that record at that time, while the drums of war were beating everywhere and a whiff of fascism started creeping in to political rhetoric and policy...

In the midst of it, I could feel how deep my love for this world really ran, deep in my blood, certainly well beyond any impoverished or desperate nationalism… My longing for freedom or for liberation is everywhere in that record, a freedom that has nothing to do with anyone’s god or flag, and has everything to do with embracing the Other as Ourselves… i.e. in the end, the devil is always our own.

There are so many great songs on this CD. How do you guys come up with some of the music and lyrics?
Some parts of the lyrics came from a poem I’ve been working on for years, called “Theriac”. Theriac, also known as treacle, was a European cure for the plague in the 1300’s, made from all sorts of weird things, snake venom being one interesting ingredient! They thought that since the plague was a poison, it would take another poison to cure it. But many of the songs came out of direct experiences or visions and I searched through various guitar sounds to come up with the tone and the effects that best echoed that experience and worked out the rest of the song and the lyrics from there. I would have to say that they were all pretty difficult to work out except for Original Sin! Kit and Bill and I lived together in Denver for years in this great two-story pink house… I wrote the lyrics to Original Sin in my bedroom while Bill was playing guitar in the living room and they just fit together!

Your last CD was in 2002 are you working on new material and can you tell us anything about it?
Space Team Electra made a record in Chicago after Torch Song, called “Kill Apollo”, but it’s still unreleased. I’m not sure what’s going to happen with that. I had to leave Colorado and lived with my parents for a couple years until my father died last December, so I’ve had a long break from playing and recording. I was very close to my father who was a truly spirited and loving man, so this has been a difficult time for me and the rest of my family. Since then I haven’t been performing at all. I’ve mostly been writing poems and songs and painting and just exploring this new skin... Anyone who has lost some one very close knows that in a way, you die with them and must somehow be reborn in to your life again… but of course you’re no longer the same person you were. I’ve have been living in California, in Los Angeles and San Francisco, but recently started recording some new songs in Boulder, last July.

Tell us your thoughts on how the next Space Team Electra album is going to be different from the previous album?
The songs that I’ve been writing since Torch Song are different. In a way, Torch Song was like an exorcism for me! At the end of the whole process I had a taste of that sweet center where love is not so much a feeling but a wave form, a frequency domain…I'm interested in different levels of communion with that, in devotional and trance states. I'm also interested in the implicate and explicate layers of the erotic, and in desire itself as a liberating force, and of course death is very real to me now on a deeply personal level so I suppose the next record will reflect that, too. Greg left the band back in 2001 and Bill left a couple years later, so there are different players coming on which will inevitably change the sound. I’m also interested in approaching recording a little differently. I’m hungry for something a little more intimate, maybe more stark, but we’ll see.

Meanwhile, what I’d really like to do is get back on the road and tour again! Out mailing list has been growing (especially overseas) and I’d love to get out there and meet some of these people. Maybe every band feels this way, but I feel like Space Team Electra listeners are some of the coolest people in the world! They’re all such intelligent, creative, and interesting people! I love getting their letters and learning a little about who they are… I feel very lucky there.

What do you find most interesting, outside of music?
What doesn’t interest me?! Okay, never mind, there are actually many things that don’t interest me, like babies or cocktail parties (unless of course all the drinks are free). Politics has been a big interest and history and travel. I also love poetry and theatre and cinema and painting... David Hare’s play, “Stuff Happens”, was really interesting (the title is based on the infamous Rumsfeld quote, regarding the pillaging of precious artifacts from Iraqi museums) and I always love Shakespeare. I just saw “Enfants du Paradis” in San Francisco a few weeks ago (with Sandy, who I did Intergalactic with; it’s wonderful to still be such close friends)! This is an amazing film… filmed during the Nazi occupation of France, and released in 1945. Arletty, the lead actress, could not attend the screening because she had been arrested for “horizontal collaboration,” i.e. sleeping with the enemy! I also like zombie movies. My dear friend Patrick Gleason made a fascinating existentialist zombie film called “The Laughing Dead” which is one of my new favorites.

As for painting, I’m a big fan of the fauves, the surrealists (all those manifestos and mutual interviews and investigations, I love it!), and some of the modernists… but I saw a Basquiat exhibit recently that impressed me very much and I discovered a painter that I had known nothing about before, when I was in Buenos Aires a couple years ago (just as the US began bombing Iraq, actually), named Xul Solar…Very cool, very unique work...

Are there any other projects you are working at present?
Todd Ayers and I are playing together in a project called Sonnenblume. We are both singer songwriters and have distinct aesthetics and yet we have a similar vision and a very open sense of what the possibilities are, so I’m excited to see where this leads us creatively. Another singer, a woman with a beautiful voice, is playing bass and Space Team Electra drummer Kit may join us. I’m traveling a lot this year, I’m going to Istanbul and then to Paris this fall, and taking a Hindi class in preparation for a trip to India in December. But we’re getting together to write and record in November, before I leave for India; we’re taking my father’s ashes to the Ganges, as was his wish. I’m also working with a friend of mine tomorrow, DJ Munk, here in Detroit, so I better get to bed (it’s already 5am here)!

In closing Myshel, we'd like to thank you for this interview. Do you have any final words or requests?
I’m so sorry it took me so long to get this to you and I apologize for being so lengthy in my responses! I’m quite notorious for it but I can’t seem to help it! I’m also sorry I have to do this in English… I actually just wrote my first song in Spanish yesterday! I’m sure it’s terrible (I’m calling it "Cancion Malo")! It seems very difficult to write songs in a language you don’t really speak yet, but I’m working on it!

Thanks and love to you.
Con besos y ojos de luz!




www.spaceteamelectra.com



Nucleus interview: 28/08/05




Nucleus nucleus@iwinds.com.ar

- Nucleus (Buenos Aires)


Discography

"The Vortex Flower," and "Space Apple deluxe," (EP) STE, produced by Keith Cleversley and Myshel Prasad at The Playground in Chicago. "The Intergalactic Torch Song," STE, produced by Sandy Pearlman and Myshel Prasad at Alpha/Omega in San Rafael, CA.

Photos

Bio

Temporary Transformation Machine/Myshel Prasad is a Los Angeles musican, poet and painter, currently working on her first solo record with Lee Wall (formerly of NYC band "Luna") and singing back ups for Xu Xu Fang.

She studied acting at North Carolina School of the Arts and then with Uta Hagen at HB studios in NYC (and graduated from NYU) before moving to Boulder to attend The Naropa University's Jack Keruoac School of Disembodied Poetics MFA program, where she studied with poets Allen Ginsberg, Anne Waldeman and Amiri Baraka, among many others, and sang the title role in Ed Sanders' opera "Cassandra," performed by torchlight on Flagstaff Mountain.

After graduating from Naropa, Myshel became the singer/songwriter/guitarist for the rock band Space Team Electra. She co-produced two full-length albums, "The Vortex Flower" with Chicago producer Keith Cleversely (Flaming Lips, Spiritualized, Hum) and "The Intergalactic Torch Song" with producer Sandy Pearlman (Blue Oyster Cult, The Clash) in San Rafael, CA. The Denver-based band played the SXSW and NXNE festivals and toured throughout the US (see www.spaceteamelectra.com for more info).

As a poet and spoken word artist, Myshel won the slam at the greatly missed Nuyorican in NYC and performed on the main stage at the Lollapalooza festival, and at various events in Los Angeles, Boulder, Denver, London (BBC Electric Proms), Montreal, and Prague.

Myshel plays the tenor #2 part in the Glenn Branca's guitorchestra piece, "Hallucination City, " and has performed with the ensemble at Disney Hall in Los Angeles, Sculpture Park in Seattle, and The Roundhouse Theatre in London. As a solo artist she has played the Montreal Pop Festival and three London gigs with Jont Whittington's traveling Unlit party, and she is a contributing member of LA's new and most mysterious press-conference-only project "Night People: Music for Old People by Old People," featuring singer/songwriter (and film director) Matthew Buzzell, former Luna guitarist Sean Eden, and formidable percussion and production talent, the very patient Lee Wall.