Marla Mase That Crazy Women

Written by on February 6, 2014 in February 6, 2014, Interviews, News To Shout About! - Comments Off on Marla Mase That Crazy Women

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Marla MaseMarla Mase is a writer/performer/producer/singer/songwriter from New York City. She writes songs, plays, monologues, erotica, blogs, and poems. She is known for her gutsy, sexy, raw, performance style and her intelligent lyrics.

All Access Magazine (AAM)  What type of act are you?

Marla: Hmmm, good question. I think of myself as a writer/performer, a performance artist many would say although more recently I am referred to as a singer/songwriter. But actually I’m just the “Crazy White Woman” up front.

AAM  Tell us the brief history of your act.

Marla: My act changes over time depending on what is going on with me, my relationships and the world. I started out writing music in a theatrical context and although it has become seemingly much more straight-up rock-n-roll, I still consider the core of what I do theatrical, based in the words (and the groove.) Well most of it anyway.

AAM  What made you want to be an artist and get involved with music?

Marla: I’ve always been inspired by artists wait, I didn’t want to be an artist. It’s something I have to do to quiet the unrest, “Divine Restlessness” is what I call it and then one day about 6/7 years ago it came to me in song form. And so I began writing songs. Having said that, I used to joke around for years and say, “I really should be a rocker but I don’t sing and I don’t write music, oh well, next life.” Well next life came sooner than expected. (I’ve always loved music, who doesn’t ? and I had this fantasy of incorporating music in to my plays, one-woman shows for a long time. And that’s how it happened. Somewhere my system always knew I was heading in that direction.)

AAM  Who are your musical and non-musical influences?

Marla: Edith Piaf, James Brown, Rolling Stones, Pete Townsend, Tracy Chapman, Kander and Ebb, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim (West Side Story), The Beatles, Peter Gabriel, Bob Marley, Harry Belafonte, Bo Diddley, Jim Morrison, etc. And of course Tomás Doncker.
Non-Musical Influences: Franz Kafka, Milan Kundera, Rodin, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, e.e. cummings, Theodore Dreiser (love him), Clifford Odets, Eugene O?Neill, Lena Wertmuller, Hitchcock, and everyday heroes whose names remain nameless.

AAM  How do you think you’re doing in this scene with all of the other artists, bands, and genres, do you think you’re good enough?

Marla: Of course I’m good enough. I just do my thing, that’s where my focus has to be on my work, on being Mase ? (sure, at times, I have my moments of doubt but I just ignore the negative chatter and go about my business. It truly is a waste of time to listen to any of THAT).

AAM  What are your dreams and goals?

Marla: To tour on a regular basis globally. To continue to help build True Groove Records into an organization that produces and supports artists that are committed to doing great work and who have something to say. I also hope the music climate changes back to valuing great music and great artists rather than a lot of filler. You know they say, there are times of False Heroism and True Heroism? I think so much of our society, not just music has been experiencing a time of Great False Heroism and I believe it is changing. It has to.

AAM  Why did you want to name this act after yourself Marla Mase?

Marla: Seemed logical to me. It is as I said very Mase. No one does what I do. It couldn’t be called anything else other than what it is: Marla Mase or Marla Mase and The Tomás Doncker Band.

AAM  Do you write your own songs? (Discuss the songwriting process in detail.)

Marla: Yes, I write all my songs. The only cover I have done till now is “Hold Fast Your Dreams” (on Half-Life) which was written by my mother Roberta Mase. She had been inspired by the poem, “Hold Fast Your Dreams” by Louise Driscoll (1922) and wrote the music to the words of the poem. I grew up hearing her sing that song (and others that she wrote) and when it came around to doing Half-Life I thought “Hold Fast Your Dreams” a perfect ending for the album. It’s sweet and yet edgy at the same time. I can imagine it in a Disney Film as well as in a David Lynch or Tarantino film. It meant a lot to me passing on the torch from mother to daughter.
OK my songwriting process. Well, first off, my co-writer is Tomás Doncker. He has co-written and produced all my albums. The process varies depending on the project. For example, my debut album “A Brief Night Out” (BNO) was mostly written with me calling my cell phone and singing into it. I hadn’t met Tomás yet and all these songs were coming to me one after another and so I included them in a theatre piece I was work shopping. I realized soon afterwards I need a musician to work with. I never wrote songs before that. (OK maybe one or two but that’s it and never fully realized) So we met and I would sing him my songs and then he would try and match the melody I was singing and then of course add, delete, enhance what was necessary. My second album “SPEAK” was written a bit like that but certain songs like Smithereens and Squirm were written with Tomás coming to me with a beautiful melody (Smithereens was based on a poem I had written) or a groove in the case of Squirm. He just played the main groove and I immediately said, “I wanna shut the shit down”. That one was written in one sitting, almost in one playing.
With “Half-Life” we decided to shift things around again to see what might happen if we based all the songs on a groove so the groove came first (other than Hold Fast ) even with “Things That Scare Me” which was on BNO, Tomás and James Dellatacoma (our engineer and producer as well) came up with a new club beat for it. We did it this way because we wanted to see what I would come up with if the focus was on pocket, groove, first rather than on my lyrics or a melody. It felt a bit out of control for me at first but I let go and went with the process and glad I did. Lots of surprises and I’m very happy with the album.

AAM  What are your songs about? (What specific themes do they cover?)

Marla: War, love, sex and fear.

AAM  How do you describe your music to people?

Marla: It’s very Mase. That’s the best description. If you know my work you will know exactly what I’m talking about. Oh and Global Soul the genre of music that Tomás founded which is about soul (and not just in the Soul Music sense).

AAM  What’s your take on “Half Life” as a whole?

Marla: Nice one. Initially my take was the song, “Half-Life” A bunch of years ago a man I knew from my neighborhood had come to see me perform in my rock opera, “A Brief Night Out” and afterwards he came up to me and said, “I loved it. I loved it. You are as negative about relationships as I am.” And I said, “I don’t think I’m negative at all. I’m a romantic, I believe in love above all else.” My whole show, the one he had seen was about that. And he said, “But you think it has a Half-Life? “Yeah, everything starts out dying” And I paused and I thought about it and I said, “You’re right. I do think that.” That always stuck with me and then when we were creating the song (with this album the writing process was different than with my other 3 albums) I was listening to the groove and the phrase “Nothing lasts forever, no never” kept coming up. So the song Half-Life is about relationships and how they don’t last and yet and yet ..what does that mean, is that what it’s about, relationships, their longevity or is it something else. I decided to call the whole album that because it goes beyond that – it’s not just relationships, it’s everything that we do, there are always two sides, one seen, one hidden, one light, one dark, halves. And then I saw the quote from Junot Diaz, “The half-life of love is forever.” And I thought. That’s it. That’s it. That’s what I couldn’t explain to him, the man who came up to me after my show.

AAM  What’s your favorite song on the EP right now?

Marla: That’s tough to say, it’s changes depending on my mood. Right at this particular moment I’m digging “Drown in Blue (reprise)”. Although I have to say I truly like them all. I find it be a very compact record. You’re in, you’re out and so much happens in between.

AAM  Is it important for you to paint visual pictures with the songs?

Marla: It’s not something I set out to do but people have told me that my writing is very visual. Not just my songs, my poems, monologues, plays, etc. So yeah I guess so even though it’s not intentional.

AAM. What would be the cinematic equivalent of “Half Life”?

Marla: Part of me feels it has an epic feel to it even though it is quite short. That a lot of ground gets covered. Sort of like A Bertolucci Film or a Lena Wertmuller Film (it’s sort of “Seven Beauties” and “Swept Away”) or maybe like “Casablanca” in that you don’t get the conventional Happy Ending but you get a realistic view of life with all the grays, and part of it feels like “Blue Velvet” to me (not in violence but because of its slightly campy edge.)

AAM  What image do you think your music conveys?

Marla: It’s hard for me to know what my music conveys. Art is so subjective-in reality, it all depends on the viewer, the listener and what they bring to it. The audience fills in the images, the artist is just the messenger. I’ve been told my music is defiant, fearless, in-your-face, funny, and sexy.

AAM. What inspires you to do what you do?

Marla: The age-old answer? I have no choice. I have to. And that’s true, when something comes to me I have to capture it and put it down before it disappears. That’s usually the words. That’s how it comes to me, although it could be described as a feeling, a surge, that I translate into words. The impetus for the surge can be anything. But it definitely comes with an urgency.

AAM. What advice would you give to fellow artists/bands?

Marla: Expect to work real hard, 24/7, the creative part is the easy part. It’s when the album is done that the work begins. Be authentic, don’t try to be anything other than who you are. Whatever you present, present it “right”. (this is my business label-head speaking) and don’t expect that you’ll ever have to stop working hard, no matter how successful . In fact the more success, the harder you’ll have to work.

AAM. How does music affect you and the world around you?

Marla: As it has been said Music has the power to Heal the World. It gets into your skin and makes you move and it moves you from your thinking head to your body. As much as I may at times seem heady, I am very much attuned to my body. She knows where it is at.

AAM. What do you have planned for 2014?

Marla: I will be touring in Nashville in the beginning of March and when I return we will be doing A True Groove Global Soul Concert (that’s where the entire True Groove Global Soul Family performs together. Me, Tomás Doncker, Kevin Jenkins, Lael Summer, etc) in NYC, a European Tour, another EP, a performance art piece called “Double-Life”, AND building the True Groove label in general. (I am a SVP-Marketing/A&R at the label as well as an artist.)

AAM. Have you heard Marla Mase?

Marla: I think I’ve heard of her. The name sounds familiar.