One of the most striking things about your performance is the narrative overtones. it’s like watching a creation myth acted out! What is the story you are telling, if any? does it change with new song?
TUSK: It’s a story which comes to light, which reveals itself every time we perform it. It’s as though we ourselves only ever grasp at pages of some kind of mythic text, the story of which includes animal-human metamorphosis, oppression, gender-fluidity, scavenging, the struggle for survival and interpersonal relations. And sex. The two characters we play are these kind of multi-gendered human-hyena hybrids who inhabit the nexus-point between these two species, expressing these characteristics that unite us.
It being that movement and your bodies are a heavy focal point, what does gesture mean to you guys, or is there a broader commentary on bodies, being of the body, going on?
MAD KATE: One of the types of dance that we are inspired by is butoh, which asks us to listen to the essential element of our bodies–water–and see what any given impulse will manifest in physical action. We try to remain in the body and see what the body tells us in the context of live performance. This has been important to us throughout all of our artistic processes–seeing what the signals inside the body will bring. This is also important in a larger political context. How do we understand ourselves as we experience the world from inside the body we inhabit? How to play with and subvert this even as we inhabit it?
How did your band form? From what well did you both spring, who where you as individuals, who are you together?
TUSK: As individuals, I am TUSK a producer, Kate is Mad Kate, writer and performance artist. We as a band, as performers, are united in our utopian dreaming of another world. We find cynicism an understandable, but pointless escape from responsibility. We are queer-bodied, we share a body, a consciousness, we believe that all human beings do.We met when one member stalked the other to a sex club in Berlin where the other was giving a performance, synth pop for leather daddies.
We promised the universe that we would collaborate and we were given the opportunity to close out the world for two weeks. We travelled deep into the Czech wilderness to do this, to a rickety, windy old mansion in the middle of nowhere called “The Divo Institute”. We spent the first night plugging all the holes where the winter crept inside, then we built a flyer and slept on a rug piled with blankets, holding each other tight.
Then the next two weeks were a productive haze of red wine brought from the TESCO down the hill from the Czech wilderness, various local stimulants, artistic dares like walking through the town in pink wigs and cat masks, stream of consciousness lyric writing, musical experimentation, sampling of materials found in the mansion.
At the end of two weeks we had our album, or at least, the bones of it. It took us the next six months to finish the album, in which time one member of our project had a near death experience and the urgency of implanting our universal consciousness through music became even greater.
Actually you guys have done other types of performance art, so why HYENAZ now? do past modes of performance ever figure in to your current project?
MAD KATE: I think that we are constantly evolving, finding new questions that interest us, to pursue musically and artistically. I’ve never done a project just like this before. HYENAZ came at the right time–I wanted to do something that walked the thin line between really beautiful music and compelling performance, where I could compose, write, sing and perform in total collaboration with the other person, a project that carries political weight but whose texts arrive more from abstraction rather than directly handed to the audience. We were able to bring each of our own skills to the project to both empower each other and learn from each other.
What are some major reference points musical, ideological, methodological?
Chicana feminist writers, eg Cherrie Moraga, Brian Eno, Michel Foucault, Fever Ray, Leigh Bowery, Kathy Acker, Chaos Magic, Maria Von Trotta, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Everyday queer/sex positive activists and artists, Akira, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Kazuo Ohno, Virginia Woolf, David Bowie, Klaus Nomi, punks and misfits, (a possible misreading of) Cornelius Castoriadis, Kurt Vonnegut, Wendy Carlos, Salman Rushdie, Jean Genet, Akira Kurosawa, Jorge Louis Borges, Luis Buñuel