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Mystic Ruler Interviews Martin Rev and Divine Enfant

On 4/15, the legendary Martin Rev will be performing at Elsewhere with his collaborator of nearly a decade, artist and video projectionist Divine Enfant.

Rev’s yin to Alan Vega’s yang yielded Suicide – a band that needs no introduction. Embodying the spirit of the New York underground of the early 70s was never their intention, but they have continued to garner respect and influence countless troves of musicians spanning a variety of genres to this day.

This spring night in Brooklyn could be the dawning of a new audio apocalypse — or simply mark the point when Oakley’s stock starts to soar again.

Nick Stevens (Mystic Ruler) had the chance to bounce a few questions off the duo to see if he could help to wrap our heads around their sound and vision.

Hi Martin and Divine Enfant, thanks for taking a moment with me. You began your collaboration with Divine Enfant’s photograph for the cover of Stigmata in 2009. A powerful image of you Martin as a Christ-like figure in a metallically futuristic revolving door. In context with the bombastic modern classical compositions contained on the record it’s quite the blast of contrasts. Can you both comment on how that image came about and led to your current work together?

Martin Rev: DE suggested the picture as we passed that particular and unique location. I immediately knew it was the cover of Stigmata although she did not yet know about the record. DE’s interest in film then led us to try various performance simulated settings with some of my solo tracks.

Divine Enfant: Everything [about our collaboration] has arrived naturally by accident and continues to evolve. It’s a beautiful mystery.

It sounds like a cosmic event brought you together.

DE: We both lost a loved one within a few days from one another and life connected us totally by surprise. Again – it’s a mystery.

Rev, speaking of mysteries, your recent album Demolition 9 spans some broad ground – from playful ambient pieces, to 50s rock & roll, and even 80s hair rock. Whether it be serene boys’ choir passages, or just all out harsh noise walls — there seems to be no genre that is taboo to you.

Your approach, Martin, to keyboard playing is pretty physical, you aren’t exactly running through scales. I read in Kris Need’s book that percussionist Tony Williams befriended you and that you were studying jazz.

MR: We [Tony and I] basically became friends with occasional playing as well. He would sometimes ask me to play a new song he was working on. My approach in introducing myself to him was to ask him for keyboard lessons. 

Do you feel that period informs any of your music nowadays? Even conceptually? In the way free jazz was about breaking down the conventions in jazz music you’ve been known for, not so subtly, breaking with convention too.

MR: Every music studied and experienced deeply informs what comes through in a person’s expressive choices. Jazz for sure is one of my many past and ongoing musical experiences.

You are performing more and more often as a duo now. DE, your visuals provide an integral context and backdrop for the sonic turns that Rev’s music takes. I’ve witnessed stark color contrasts and erratic patterns of primary color. I’ve seen you projecting pre-recorded and altered images of Martin onto himself while he performs. From where is your source of inspiration coming?

DE: As a visual artist, I love painting, and the simple power of colors. My fascination with the magic of light immersion, performance, and dance began with my attending raves when I was younger. One time in dense fog a huge tunnel of light was being projected giving the appearance of being suspended in the mist. Within the blacklight partygoers were dancing silhouettes — it felt that time ceased to exist and the past and future coincided. It takes your body and mind. I think the artistic process goes through hands, feet, heart. When we look at Pollock painting, he uses both his physical and mental energy.

Jackson Pollock said about his own work that he wants to express his feelings rather than illustrate them, and technique is just a means of arriving at a statement. Does that resonate with you and your work with Martin?

DE: Yes! Martin has this same true authenticity with a unique creative spirit for his musical research. The video projections search to accompany visually the pulse, the freedom that his music and personality inspire in me so.

DE: To keep the energies in balance is a true art. The day, the night — nothing is more than another. [Here is a work by Rebecca Horn an artist whose work I appreciate.]

Such a simple and powerful piece, especially with the understanding of the fiberglass illness she overcame, the finger gloves letting her touch and feel from a distance — not totally unlike your projections.

DE: For a performer, the body is a language in itself. The video- projections are also created to play with the presence of Martin on stage and his body. They’re continually playing with the varied appearances and the energy that he releases. They work as a second skin.

Finally, what would be your dream co-headline as Martin Rev with VJ Divine Enfant and where would the show be?

MR: My dreams are simply the realities of the shows we do and have done. The adventure is in seeing where they lead on their own.

We all look forward to many more great shows from you – and especially this one. Thank you both for your time.

Catch Martin Rev with Divine Enfant on April 15 in Brooklyn at Elsewhere. They will also be performing in Dallas, TX at the Nasher Sculpture Center in April and May, as well as Detroit at El Club in May, and Chicago at The Empty Bottle on June 1.

Interview by Nick Stevens (Mystic Ruler)

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