Sometimes described as "Nirvana meets Danny Elfman", My Own Private Alaska recently released their album "Amen" produced by none other than Ross Robinson (The Cure, Korn, Slipknot). They've opened for Metallica and are on tour now in Europe with their eyes set on the US. Alex Gilbert checked in with MOPA to discuss the new album, songwriting, touring, and more.
Your latest release, Amen, was recorded with the legendary Ross Robinson (Glassjaw, Korn, etc.)! That’s quite the credential. How did MOPA initially get in touch and peak his interest?
You know, MySpace can be magic sometimes... We just sent him a request and the day after, he sent us a message, telling us how he could help us, cause our music was amazing and beautiul... That's as simple as that ! After this, we had to find executive producers to finance the project, and we found KERTONE PRODUCTION here in France, who got the guts to do it with us and Ross. Then he invited at his home studio in Venice on July - August 2008.
The piano on Amen is really enough to suck the listener in. There is just something so creepy about it, and the mood can and does change in a heartbeat. Amen is the ultimate soundtrack to life and tragedy. What is your interpretation of Amen?
The word "Amen" has got several meanings, all over the world. It's not only a word for one religion. It exists everywhere, with different typings... and different meanings. We came to that title, once we finished all our work with Ross. All has been so deep, so hard to live psychologically and emotionnaly... We gave so much of ourselves... We put our hearts on a table, our hearts, our lungs, our livers, our guts, everything. We gave everything. At this point, we could only say : all has been done. We did the job. We said our prayers. We sung our vision of the world, of human beings, of women, of wars... So "Amen". Trust life. Trust in yourself. Follow the stars like a sheep keeper. Don't be afraid. Keep the faith. And go on giving everything, day after day.
Any plans for another music video after “After You”?
Yes, we plan to get some music video for the song "Amen", which is very meaningful to us. We don't want to make something too obvious of it. It's a song talking about death. But we don't want to be too explicit with that private story, which is not directly ours.
Still on the “After You” subject, that’s my favorite song on Amen. So powerful, catchy, and equipped with a strong message – definitely a hit song! What are some of your favorite songs off Amen?
"Anchorage" is about the same deep and dark feeling as "After You". So I like this one too. It's about the same girl, the same crappy story, the same dark and tragic issue... Songs like that help on stage to dig deeper and deeper within me to get out to most savage tunes in my voice, and speak only with truth and not with fucking vocal technical screamy stuff. Although it's a song quite hard to sing, I love "Broken Army" too. Ross Robinson helped me to sing it in a way I never supposed I could sing it. People say now I sound like Omar from AT-THE-DRIVE-IN, which was totally crazy to my eyes, 2 years before ! Then there is the first MOPA song written, "Die For Me", who means a lot for everybody in the band, and was hugely successful on our russian gigs ! It was amazing. An in the end of our shows, you've got "I Am An Island", which is the most extrem song. Really in a punk way, although I think we play all our songs in a punk way ! On stage, "I Am... " is so extreme that we never know how it will turn out. Yesterday our drummer just threw away his drums on the floor at the end, and screamed and forced so hard playing it, that he just puked 4 times after having left the stage... The day before, I broke the cable of my mic, so I jumped on the floor in the kick drum to sing in the kick mic... It was kinda funny! But while we're playing, it's not that funny...
“Broken Army” is another great song on Amen, and really lets out the chaotic side of MOPA. Everything seems to just come so naturally. Out of curiosity, how many songs were recorded initially before you had to choose what exact songs would make Amen?
"Die For Me", "Page Of A Dictionary", "I Am An Island", "Kill Me Twice" were wrtitten before. At least one year before. Then we had to compose 4/5 songs quite in a hurry, in two months. But that helped us to be more savage in the composition.
I’ve got to ask, who / what are some of your main influences when composing?
When we compose, we don't think at our influences. We think at our own songs. However, I could tell we listened to many bands together. Bands which let an imprint in our minds... UNFOLD, NIRVANA, WILL HAVEN, NICK CAVE, TOM WAITS, SIGUR ROS, MOGWAI...
You toured Europe with Will Haven in 2008. That must’ve been a fun one, eh?
Oh yeah... I must say that touring with this band was a great souvenir. We tried to stay quite sober and serious during this trip, but the WHVN guys were really hot hot hot. Many of them I must say ;-) And on some days, some of us were not that sober and serious neither...
Milka, you’ve layed down your vocals in plenty of places, including full time vocals with Psykup, a guest spot on Hypno5e’s song “The Hole”, and more. Any more plans to spread your vocals in other outlets?
Not for the moment. I used to get some proposals from time to time and did a lot of featurings here and here. But my position was always to refuse what I didn't feel. I also refused some propositions, and only accepted the ones from bands I really appreciated the universe and aesthetics...
Looks as if MOPA is going to tour the whole world! That’s got to be great seeing a bunch of new things. What are your excitement levels to spreading MOPA’s message to the world?
Touring means traveling. Touring means opening our minds toward different people, different cultures, different horizons... And that is so strong to feel those people connected during the time of a song, of our songs. Music can really link people. That is wonderful.
Here’s a fun and tricky question. If you were to organize a dream tour, who would be on it?
Mmm... SIGUR ROS, then TOOL, then NIRVANA ;-) Haha ! But you know what, we'll be on the bill with 2 bands really respected here in Europe, and as I hear, in the US too now. MOPA will play on a festival with EZ3KIEL and GOJIRA. We're really proud and excited.
What are some guilty pleasures that one might not expect to find on your ipod?
On my iPod, I got the first BLACK EYED PEAS... Old MOONSPELL stuff.. and "Punk in drublic" from NOFX ;-)
It looks like the popularity of Amen is going great, and is going to continue to grow. How does the future look for MOPA?
I don't know. But we trust life. We trust the future. That's what we learned during the recording of the album with Ross. Not to build roads with fear, but with a naive will and with a blind hope.
Okay, thanks guys and good luck!