“Magica est Realis…” an in-depth interview with Canadian doomfolk experimentalist DENMOTHER

WL//WH Interview DenMother

DenMother, photo by Jordan Anthony Greer

“Frantic Ram” is the brand new album by Canadian electronic experimentalist DenMother and instead of writing a review about it, I decided it was about time for me to look for that amazing musician from Ontario. To our surprise, we saw a message the other day in the WL//WH email that included the new album and kindly asked if we were interested in a review or interview. There was no second thought, I should speak with that woman, and the last thing I thought before I started thinking of the topics was something like “WTF man, this lady caught up with us, DenMother who I follow silently for years now, what an honor, what a wonder”. The result is this amazing and in-depth interview about all things DenMother and I must publicly thank her so much for it, here we go!

  • Hello Den Mother, welcome to WL//WH! Let’s go straight up to the hot news, a few days ago you released your brand new album “Frantic Ram” and I read on your Bandcamp account that the new album “embarks on a journey loosely inspired by Dante’s Inferno, mythology, occult symbology and Jungian archetypes”, tell us all about it, please!

Oh yes! Well, a lot of these themes had been arriving in my life before the conception of this album, but were then emphasized when we faced the confusion and confinement of the first global lockdown of the pandemic. I remember feeling like a trapped animal (I’m sure we all remember that feeling…) and having no real outlet except through music.

I realized that we were collectively feeling fear, anger, guilt and grief, which made me think about the archetypes and the hero’s journey and Watcher at the Threshold and the underworld and the work we do on ourselves by facing these dark feelings head-on. That ultimately led me to using Dante’s journey through Hell as an album skeleton. Because what greater way to face your demons than to traverse these unknown depths of the psyche and make art from it?

I used a lot of art and music references and my own personal meditative practices to dive deep into the occulted symbolism that has followed us through the ages. It was really powerful and interesting and I learned a lot about myself and the way I create and also what my limits are. At one point I had submerged too deep and entered a blackness that hindered my creativity completely, so I then took another approach, where I worked more from the “outside looking in”, instead of “being completely in”.

  • On October 8 you let out the official video of SALEM (Victoria’s Reprise) that apart from the ‘pagan grounding’ in the footage the lyrics also describe that similar intendancy “ I am a woman who runs with the wolves and I will bring/take you down to the den”, give us the stigma of the song, please.

The song is about accepting your fate, good or bad. At first, it seems like she knows her role and is just doing it – going through the motions. Almost dissociated from her tasks and actions. But then somewhere along the way, something shifts and she finally understands that THIS is what she is and THIS is what she must do. With that, she assumes the responsibility of her “job” and fully accepts her place, which then makes her incredibly powerful. Almost by accepting her fate, she now controls it.

  • Later on October 20, you unveiled another official video for the song “BIRDS (Dance of the Gluttons)”. What is that song about?

Ah, this song… I was really hurt and angry when I wrote this. And so at the moment, it felt like it was some maniacal sorcerer planning to exact revenge on his enemies. But now, as I’m removed from that moment and have healed that part of myself, it’s what I think a bruised ego would sound and look like. This song is one of my favorites on the album. I lost my voice for a few days after recording it.

  • The name Den Mother is not an easy or a safe monicker for an artist, I’d like to ask you why you chose it and what does it mean to you?

This name was actually a gift from someone dear that I used to work with years ago. I’d been making music under a different name (Orphan) and felt like I’d outgrown it and when DenMother was presented to me, it just made so much sense. It felt very dualistic – like she’d be one to wound you, but then immediately lick your wounds she’d inflicted. But I always feel like I’m growing more and more into the name so I’m excited to see what it means to me moving forward.

  • Experimental electronic music all along your way so far, my question is what leads you toward these musical experiments and where are you aiming in the long run?

I’m not sure, honestly. I think I sometimes go into songwriting with the hopes that I’ll make a fairly formulaic, conventional song, and then for whatever reason, it gets derailed and something more experimental comes out! But I’m happy about that. I’m not sure if I’m a conventionally formulaic person. And in the long run – I just want to keep learning more and more about song structure and music theory, and discovering new and interesting ways to make “things” into music.

  • You also tag your works as doom folk, feral, and haunting at times. Please Den Mother, confess to our readers what sort of a composer are you?

I’m drawn to the darker side of things, but not necessarily the gory sides. I love the weird and twisted, and the things that make you double-take because you’re not sure if you saw it right the first time. So I think in terms of composing, I like to play around with that idea of dark and odd but not too obviously dark and odd. Sometimes a song will be so clearly feral and wild while other times, I try to hide a deep sadness behind more upbeat sounding instrumentals. I don’t really have any method to my madness except for my madness.

  • Where are you emerging from artistically and what really inspires you for creating your musings?

I think I’m learning the art of patience in creating. And to look at making music more intentionally than I used to. I used to just create a song in one sitting and think “that’s it – it’s done”, and sometimes that’s still fun and necessary, but I’m finding there is something really powerful in taking my time and really experiencing the act of creation. Also for whatever reason, I think about this Chanel quote: “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take at least one thing off” so I’m learning to apply this to songwriting. Sometimes 5 bass tracks in one song is not the right answer, so I’m learning to edit myself!

  • …and what about the lyrics? These are not just usual words for that kind of music, what are all that hardship and the joys you chant for?

I think the right words find themselves in the right songs. I’ve always looked at my vocals as part of the instrumentals so it’s only recently that I have actually wanted the lyrics to be a clearer part of the music. Singing about the hardships and the joys is like an evocation and sometimes I want to bring something forward through words, and sometimes I want to dismiss and remove a memory or situation.

  • Many of our readers are musicians too who would like to know about the machinery you use, can you give us your studio gear and anything else that you tried in “Frantic Ram” LP?

I wish I could give you some profound list of equipment, but honestly, up until this album, I was recording on a 2010 MacBook and running an out-of-date version of Garageband. But I’m happy to confirm that I’d been able to upgrade my software and equipment for this album which gave me so much more to work with. I’ve been learning more about plugins and synths, and I’m slowly working towards having a studio filled with instruments and objects to experiment with. Always learning!

  • What are the future plans for the artist Den Mother?

I want to perform! I miss performing so much. It’s a ceremony and ritual. I’ve been so fortunate to be able to perform to a degree through these videos (there are four in total for this album) but I can’t wait for the days when I can travel and tour and share the magic with everyone in the room. In-person. I also want to try my hand at film scoring… one day!

  • Would you like to give us a few of the albums that defined you as a musician and a few more too that are currently on your stereo?

Yes – so many artists and albums! Too many to list but some musicians that have inspired me long term are Sinead O’Connor, NIN, Barn Owl, Sigur Rose, Fever Ray, Depeche Mode, Kate Bush, Cocteau Twins… but more specifically during this time I was listening to a lot of Lingua Ignota, drone metal, Chelsea Wolfe, Nick Cave, NIN (to name a few) and a bunch of classical and opera. I did make a Spotify playlist called Frantic Ram of some of what I was listening to around the time of writing and recording.

  • Den Mother, we thank you so much for this interview in WL//WH, last words on you!

Thank you so much! I’ve been a listener and reader for many years so I feel so honored to have been able to share my thoughts with you today. Magica est realis!

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Interview by Loud Cities’ Mike