Born in Russia, raised in Israel and now based in Berlin, Mary Ocher is a passionate and uncompromising artist. With an eclectic style, she takes inspiration from everything including traditional folk to experimental synth-pop, 60s psych rock to ambient and ethereal explorations in sound. Blimey.
Successfully nailing all creative disciplines, practising as a musician, artist, writer, poet and filmmaker, Mary has toured over 20 countries with her politically charged album The West Against The People and its follow up, Faust Studio Sessions.
Independent label, Hello Thor, has invited Mary to the Chameleon as part of a short UK tour. We caught up with her to talk music, politics, the perils of being a so-called “DIY artist”
You’ve played in Nottingham a couple of times before. What do you think of the place?
Nottingham has a lovely underground scene and the folks at JT Soar and Forever Records are awfully kind. It seems that there is a tight community with lots of support, which is quite rare.
At the show on 6 March will you be performing on your own or with a band?
This tour will be solo, then we'll be heading off with the two drummers (Mary Ocher + Your Government) to North America in May.
You’ve been named as an inspiration to DIY musicians and artists everywhere, publishing poetry, directing music videos, making documentaries, organising festivals, creating art installations…the list could go on. What is your secret?
Haha. Thank you. The term DIY always gives me a tinge of discomfort. I don't work entirely on my own and it's often suggested that I must take credit for everyone's contribution - photographers, PR people, musicians, labels, editors, camera people...there is no grand management team, which perhaps can run smooth mainstream enterprises, but there is a never-ending battle for legitimacy.
When it comes down to it, the term DIY can be used to discredit you, to belittle you and to offer to pay you less. I'm very happy to be in complete control over my work, that's really the only way I could ever imagine to be doing it, but it's a never-ending battle. You must keep on looking for back doors. Tenaciousness is the only key. I don't think there are any real shortcuts, unless you want to play dirty.
What projects are you involved with at the moment, and what do you have planned for the future? Is there a follow up to The West Against The People in development?
After the tour of the UK and Ireland I'll be heading right to Northern Italy with the team to record what will hopefully be the next album (and perhaps a bit more). We'll see how it goes. Italy seems like a magical place, but we haven't met the people running it yet and I tend to be rather ambitious with the quantity of pieces vs amount of time.
Right afterwards there will be US/Canada dates with the band - it's the first time we're heading there with the big show. In September, if all goes well, there will also be tour dates in Australia, Asia and New Zealand.
What is your favourite song to perform and why?
There are a few. I like The Endlessness, as it's very mellow and smooth, and usually performed early in the set. The Sound of War seems to set the general tone lyrically, and Thunderbird, perhaps because it reminds me of pieces by other people I like.
The Nottingham show is two days before International Women’s Day and you are playing on a bill with two other awesome female artists from Nottingham, Yumah and Daphnellc. Do you have any advice for women in the music/arts industry?
Don't take the bullshit, don't listen to the assholes, just do your thing.
How would you describe your music?
Others would probably do a better job describing it. I'd usually tell people I've just met that it requires a little bit of previous knowledge of underground music to appreciate it...but perhaps all you need is a bit of an open mind. Either way, that’s probably not a great business pitch, is it?
What music have you been listening to lately?
Dorothy Ashby, Delia Derbyshire, Lena Platonos, Midori Takada, Gokcen Kaynatan, James Holden and The Animal Spirits.
Your song Arms was remixed ten times and profits go to a Berlin-based organisation directly assisting war asylum seekers. Do you feel a responsibility, as an artist, to have a social and political impact?
I grew up in a place where politics were everywhere and everything. I remember what xenophobia and prosecution feel like; being called names, picked on, harassed, teased and beaten. It becomes part of you and you start recognising these patterns around you as an adult. Some people seem to never learn the right lessons though.
What does music mean to you?
Perhaps the myths glamourizing the misfits and underdogs of popular culture draw you in first. Then they give you a firm sense of self and a gift of a place within society that otherwise you may have never been granted. But there is also so much to discover and enjoy without a context, it's just your little private secret.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
It's best to regret something you have done than something you haven't.
Mary Ocher, supported by Yumah and Daphnellc, will perform at The Chameleon on Wednesday 6 March 2019. Physical tickets are available at Forever Records.