On Horror Films & Art Installations: My Interview with Emma Ruth Rundle

My friend Frederic is an enticing source of inspiration for me. Not only does he manage to speak to my mind and to my heart, but also to my ears. His passion for researching music, his almost impeccable method in finding gems on a steady basis, and most importantly the intensity of his self-expression when talking about music renders his person quite endearing. I keep telling him that he should open his own music store already.
During one of our numerous chats, Frederic introduced me to “Marriages” and I took it from there and discovered Emma Ruth Rundle’s other projects; The Nocturnes, Red Sparowes, her solo albums etc. Moreover, I noticed that she is also a visual artist.
I am keen on unpacking how do images, words, and sounds relate to each other, in the cinema and outside of it, and how do “side” projects of an artist relate to or diverge from what is considered to be their main activity and how does the whole constitute a universe that is uniquely theirs. I, Hanin Hannouch aka Kinofrau, was lucky enough to have been able to converse with Emma Ruth Rundle about her world…Here are some tracks from her new album, scheduled for release at the end of this month.
This post is dedicated to Frederic C.
Photo by Gregory Burns.jpg Marriages, from left to right, Andrew Clinco (drummer), Emma Ruth Rundle (guitar, vocals), and Gregory Burns (bassist, keyboards). 

HH: Hey Emma, thank you for taking the time to do this interview! I would like to start with the first image I saw of „Marriages“, the cover of your album „Salome“. I read that Greg Burns did the cover, and I was wondering if or how does the story of Salome’s dance that lead to the death of John the Baptist relate to the music in the album?  

ERR: Thank you for taking interest: The cover of Salome was a collaboration of all the members of Marriages. I don’t have a sharp memory so it’s hard for me to pinpoint when exactly she came into our creative space but I want to believe it was while the lyrics for the song were coming out. While the content of the album is not explicitly about her or about John, I felt that she was a good figurehead and power to invoke. Manipulation, sexuality and vengeance were all themes for me which I felt she could help convey.  

marriages-608x608.jpg
Cover of Marriages: Salome

HH: As for the cover of „Kitsune“, are you particularly interested in Japanese culture?and what drove Marriages to the choice of title and cover in relation to the choice of music tracks?

ERR: Yes, I have always been fascinated by Japanese folklore, Shinto and Animé. The cover art was another collaboration between Greg and I. Kitsune is really one long composition broken up into tracks for conventional reasons. We wrote that record from beginning to end as you hear it. It follows the possession of a woman by the Kitsune: She is transformed, she is spirited away and delivered from the darkness by the end.

a3210800160_10.jpgCover of Marriages: Kitsune

HH: You said in a previous interview that you like serial killer films and Asian horror and have re-watched I saw the Devil (2010, directed by Jee-Won Kim). Can you tell us more about movies that have recently caught your attention?

ERR: I have had to put away overly violent films for now. I think as I experience more physical pain on top of my mental strife, the harder it becomes for me to detach from such graphic content. For me, film is the greatest art form as it employs all the elements of the arts and creates a true experience that can really transport me. Films are everything. I have not had much time to watch movies this year. I will say that the last movie I can remember claiming genius status in my feeble mind was Melancholia.
A masterpiece! For someone who really struggles with mental illness I felt that this film somehow described it perfectly.

By Roughtusk.jpg
Emma Ruth Rundle by Roughtusk

HH: Do you remember the first film that had an emotional significance for you?

ERR: Being from Los Angeles, film and TV are the lifeblood. My grandfather was an actor and we were perpetual inundated with moving images. I had more obsessive relationships with the films I would latch onto and NEED to watch them over and over. I still do this. My mom has said that Alice in Wonderland was officially the first movie I became obsessive about. Though I don’t recall what the emotion was, I know I was very invested in fantasy and escapism. Magic was absolutely real for me and I was left with the responsibility of discovering out how to bring it into the mundane world. At around age 12, I bought Eraserhead on VSH and again became obsessive about it, watching it over and over.

“Film is the greatest art form as it employs all the elements of the arts and creates a true experience that can really transport me.”

HH: I saw on your website that you’re selling some artworks you drew, a lot of which are portraits. Can you tell us more about when you started drawing and where you see yourself heading with that activity?

ERR: I feel comfortable calling it art now, but the truth so far has been that I do a lot of expressive and elaborate doodling. I wanted to be a painter as a child, from day one. It was my dream and I used to be so committed to the notion and to the romance of it. I have tried to take an art class but was not able to complete it. I have had a dream to study in the way of Dutch masters and become someone who has the perfect technical command, but in fact that will never happen. I am not trained and I am coming to understand something about myself and my art: I have a very hard time learning things. So I’m content with just doing what comes. I imagine I will always do art and I would love to gain some respect as a visual artist but I’m not holding my breath. Its a very different world from that of music. It has a whole other cast of people whom I don’t know anything about. I am preparing to engage in a larger series of paintings this year – not sure to what end but that never is the point of making art.

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Check out Emma Ruth Rundle’ solo album “Some Heavy Ocean

HH: I liked the artwork „Resentthatdiscontent“ and saw that it has some influences of religious icons. Are icons an art form that you’re particularly interested in?

ERR: YES! I am very effected by religious imagery. Its so powerful. While I am not a religious person – I was in fact raised in and out of various cults – actual religion is mysterious and the art it inspires, so beautiful. There’s so much drama and divinity there. Holy places, particularly churches and cathedrals! Oh my god the sound inside those places makes me weep- literally. “Resent That Discontent” was the name of my old blog that I used as a venue for sharing my visual art. The name comes from a Skinny Puppy lyric. I have neglected it for some years now.

“I am preparing to engage in a larger series of paintings this year – not sure to what end but that never is the point of making art.”

HH: What drove you to sell your artworks as opposed to exhibiting them in galleries for a broader audience?

ERR: I sell my art because I have to. I need money to sustain myself. I also have a mental tic about holding on to things…as in I don’t like to. I don’t like owning things or keeping or collecting so I feel that the art must also go away and out of my possession. BUT it’s mostly for money when the work is not part of a series. I usually sell when I’m desperate.

As for the idea of a gallery show- I would love nothing more. I have not been invited and I don’t know anything about the art world. My Granny used to live down the street from an art gallery that showed all of these really dark works. They had many original Giger, Beksinski and Yerka works. I would visit often and spend hours there. One day I decided to take slides of my paintings over to the man who ran the gallery and ask him for two things:
1- a job. I wanted to work there in whatever capacity they might need. I would have swept the floors for free if they would have me.
2- advice… I wanted to show them my work and and get an honest opinion and some guidance about how I could get to show my work someday. I think I was 17 years old.

I was declined a job and left feeling fairly rejected. I went to a few more galleries in Los Angeles, just ASKING for some guidance and I was dismissed across the board. I was also turned away from a school for artists called LACSA here in LA when I was about 12. Time after time my work failed to connect with people and was just not good. This has always effected me and it was until just recently that I have been Ok with calling myself an artist. So – I would be happy to do a show and have many works that can only really exist together but hesitate to enter a world that does not willingly include. I ended up really feeling that the gallery would was exclusive- it excluded me as an artist but I came to believe that it is actually designed to exclude most people from its conversation.
Museums are not free- this bothers me. I could really go on about this for hours.

Photo by Nick Fancher_2.jpg Marriages, photographed by Nick Fancher

 “It was until just recently that I have been OK with calling myself an artist.”


HH: All three videos of singles by The Nocturnes; „Aokigahara“, „Love“ and „The Road“ are quite different, but they have an underlying hypnotic mood, images in a loop, and a somewhat eerie landscape. Are these elements that you intentionally try to convey in both images and music or is the making of the music a completely separate process from making the video?

ERR: These works were all tied to the meanings of the songs in one way or another with AOKIGAHARA being the most literal and LOVE being the most absurd, taking very dark lyrics but showing a very silly affair between a faceless Joan of arc and a giant Frankenberry. I am visually drawn to those themes and I like repetition as a tool. Each time you show the same thing or loop and visual, it nonetheless continues to change- it becomes abstract and stops being a tool to convey meaning.

I am actually excited by the new video work I am doing to accompany the follow-up record to my Electric Guitar One (an collection of improve ambient pieces).

HH: I would like to know what films have inspired you or just literally bored you to death! This is not a typical „top 10 movies according to…“, but more like a timeline of movies you’ve seen over the years and have related to and kept relating to. If you remember when did you watch them and if there’s a story around each work, we’d love to hear it!

Feel free to make a mindmap, a list, or just tell a tale.

ERR:

  • Bill Viola (any of his work but the “ascension” pieces (video))
  • the Grandmother (short film)
  • twin peaks: fire walk with me
  • Spirited Away (animated film)
  • Gandahr (animated film)
  • In the realms of the unreal (doc about artsit Henry Darger)
  • The Ring (American version, film)
  • 2001 (this must be on everyone’s list)
  • Withnail and I

THANK YOU EMMA!

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Kinofrau

Hanin aka Kinofrau: 27 and counting, Ph.D in Film Theory & Art History in progress, from the Middle-(B)east, a specter that haunts Europe, equal-opportunity offender.

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