Thursday, April 4, 2013

Exorcism Number Nine: Marissa Paternoster

Hey! Its been almost a month since I last posted and for that I am SORRY. 

Today we have Ms. Marissa Paternoster: the singer and guitarist of Screaming Females and Noun fame...and also one of my favorite people. She is incredibly intelligent and naturally talented but also a super hard worker. Like...SUPER hard. Everything she creates is uniquely her own and instantly recognizable as hers. She is one of the only guitar players whose solos seem thoughtful and not fancy for the sake of being fancy. I could go on and on like a total psycho, or I guess you could just read this interview. ENJOY <3

from the "Awesome Girls in Bands" blog

What made you want to play the guitar?
I never really wanted to play the guitar.  I wanted to play the drums.  But I didn't have any, and my dad had a guitar.  He's a good guitar player, and I was sitting in my bedroom, listening to Nirvana, (of course) and my Dad said, "I can teach you how to play this".  So he did, and that was that.

How did your playing evolve over the years?
I don't really know.  Now that I'm older and I've spent a lot of time playing with other people, I think a lot more about rhythm and space.  I used to try to consume every sonic minute with guitar noodling, but now I'm a little more sensible...I think.

What guitar players inspire you and is there anyone in particular that you think shaped your playing?
I guess Billy Corgan is my number one, but I really like a lot of players...Joey Santiago from the Pixies, Carrie Brownstein from Sleater-Kinney, Billy Zoom from X, and Viv from the Slits.  I could go on and on! 

Your lyrics are surreal but not unrealistic, if that makes sense...what goes into your lyric writing process?
Lyrics usually pop up in my head out of the blue.  Sometimes I arrange words because they sound good in whatever order, and sometimes I intentionally draw a theme.  Aside from the meaning of the words themselves, positioning them, cadence, and pacing are the most important elements of lyric writing (for me).  Now that I'm a little older and less scared to let people know what I think and feel, my lyrics have become a lot less abstract.   

How conscious of your singing style are you and how, if at all, has it changed over the years?
I used to be really, really shy about singing.  I thought I was terrible at it but I couldn't find anyone else to do it, so I reluctantly did.  When I first met Jarrett from Screaming Females, Mike and I went to a barbeque at his house in New Brunswick and Jarrett gave me a guitar and asked me to sing a Noun song he liked, which was sweet, and I really wanted him to be in a band with me so I did it, but I felt like my head was going to explode because I was so incredibly nervous and I had never sang out loud all by myself with a guitar before in front of other people.  I used to have a lot less control over my voice.  Eventually I learned how to scream proper, and I think through practice I've been able to access a lower octave range I didn't know I had.  I really enjoy singing now.   

Talk about Courtney Love and Hole.
Jesus.  God, ok.  Well, where can I even start?  Hole is one of my favorite bands.  I like "Live Through This" way more than "Nevermind."  I like "Live Through This" more than I like a lot of things.  I know that Courtney isn't the most terrific role model, but when I was fifteen I was pretty certain that I wanted to be her, maybe sans heroin, but I love how bat-shit crazy and fierce she is.  Before I knew about riot grrrl, all I knew was Hole, and in fact, Hole probably guided me towards Bikini Kill.  Hole was awesome, cathartic, really powerful stuff for a teenage girl.  Courtney is a totally effective character, even if she is a train wreck, and she has killer pipes.  Not to mention that her band ripped, and their influences taught me a lot about punk - Young Marble Giants, Beat Happening, The Germs, etc. 

Talk about Edith Piaf.
You're killing me!!!!!!  I LOVE HER!!!!  What can I say?!  I think she's the greatest singer that has ever graced the earth, I listen to her all the time.  I have no idea what she's saying or singing, but her voice makes me weep.  The story of her life is so brilliantly bittersweet.  She had tenacity, grace, and talent.  She is my new Courtney Love.  I think I want to be Edith Piaf, sans morphine.  Sometimes I think some sort of supernatural force pushed Edith off of the planet early in her life because she was too much for the cosmos to handle.  

Your art and music are really connected in my opinion. Talk about what goes into the art that you make and whether or not that connection feels conscious or on purpose. Do you feel like you give art and music equal time or have you had to put one or the other on a back burner from time to time?
I love to make art, but it's a lonesome pastime.  My visual art is deeply personal, although a lot of it is off the cuff.  Making music is a bit more satisfying for me, 'cause I get to make things with other people.  Sometimes I find that other twenty-somethings who are interested in music find visual art sort of inaccessible, or difficult to understand.  I mean, sometimes I feel that way too.  My music and my visual art are all sourced from the same place so it must be true that the two are intrinsically intertwined.  I think I give both mediums an equal amount of attention.   

How has your family life and childhood affected your art and music?
Well, my family is very beautiful and very small.  For their sake and for my own, I don't really spit the details of my childhood out into the interwebs.  Everyone has a tough time growing up, and I think my childhood shaped me in ways that my family would have never expected.  They give me a lot of attention and a lot of patience.  I am very grateful to have them.

I have a theory that the most compelling artists/musicians are the ones who could not survive without making art/music. As in like, if it feels like a hobby to the artist it is less important to the artist's audience and the art itself suffers. What are your thoughts on my (very dramatic and serious) theory?
I feel the same way.  Edith Piaf is one of those characters, she was born to perform.  She said she would die if she couldn't sing.  She forced doctors to shoot her up with morphine so she could get on the stage. And she collapsed from exhaustion and sickness on several occasions.  She essentially killed herself so she could get out onto the stage.  She needed that love, the love from the audience and the love of music.  That's how she saw herself.  Without her art, she was fragmented.  It makes a lot of sense to me.     

Have you ever seen any ghosts?

YES.  Yes, I have.  Jarrett mentioned this ghost in his interview with you, but I totally saw it.  My friend Alex moved into a haunted house in New Brunswick, and for the first week of the June he refused to sleep in his room.  He crashed at my ex-girlfriend's house.  He insisted that there was paranormal activity and he absolutely could NOT sleep in that house.  Eventually he forced himself back into his room, and grew used to the ghost.  Alex said the ghost would turn the toaster on all the time and drop drinking glasses.  One day we were hanging out in a crawl space in his attic and someone thought it'd be totally funny to summon the ghost.  I forget what Alex decided to name the ghost, but he began to call out his name and all of a sudden a bunch of boxes near the back of the attic came crashing to the ground and we all saw a little blip of white light pass through the room.  I nearly wet myself.  Totally true, I believe in ghosts.       

Thanks Marissa. <3

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