Thursday 25 September 2014

"A Moment with a Muse" - Marc Gaffney talks with Uta Plotkin (Witch Mountain)

It is not often you hear something so angelic and guttural at the same time that your auditory system is left scratching its head.  Some people are given a gift, what people do with said gift is what separates the good from the great. Think of early Heart, Joni Mitchell, Etta James and Rickie Lee Jones, all combined into a tantalizing voice.

We are conversing about a voice that can be characterized as a muse. It totally brings you in and has its way with you. While having its way with you, you are left wanting more and more.  There are few times in life when such a perfect voice radiates from such a stunning beauty. That voice and beauty belongs to Uta Plotkin, singer of Witch Mountain.

I was able to meet the members of Witch Mountain last Friday in Boston as they played at the ‘Middle East’. Each member was totally real and very comfortable, in what can be at times a hectic element. They were supremely down to earth and really refreshing to be around. For a band with such hype surrounding them, they acted like they could be the guy you get coffee with or share a nice puff after a hard day.  Simply put they were the salt of the earth. For that I applaud Witch Mountain.

So sit back, grab a brew.  It don’t cost nothing and enjoy my incredibly friendly and wonderful chat with Uta Plotkin.

Gaff- Hi Uta, thanks so much for taking the time and speaking with me.

Uta- No, thank you, not a problem at all.

Gaff- So after listening to the new album, the vocals are seriously off the fucking hook

Uta –Thanks a lot

Gaff- Would you mind bringing us through the writing process

Uta- I was living in New Orleans last winter and Rob, our guitarist would send me music.  Then I would take some time to listen to it and put words and melodies to it.  In some cases I’d record vocals over Rob’s demo and send it back to him.  Rob and I seem to have a really strong connection in writing.

Gaff- While listening to the album, there is some heartfelt, emotional lyrics that are present; can you talk about that with us?

Uta- Sure! I was writing what I was going through and I wanted the lyrics to reflect that honestly and to really relate what was going on at that time.

Gaff- How is it now singing these songs live

Uta- I really enjoy singing them live.  I think I’m getting to know my voice better as time goes on, so these songs fit my voice well.

Gaff- Are you someone that truly vibes off the crowd when delivering these vocals

Uta- I’m always giving what I got, but when the crowd is sending lots of energy your way, there’s no way to not reflect that energy back.

Gaff- How many shows or how long are you on the road for

Uta- We’re doing 31 shows in 34 days.

Gaff – What’s the farthest you all are going?

Uta- We’re doing a circle clockwise around the whole country: Oakland, LA, San Diego across the desert, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, we’re coming up through the south now, then doing the east coast and Canada

Gaff- Where are you hitting on the east coast?

Uta- North Carolina, Maryland, Pennsylvania, NY, Boston, and then Montreal.

Gaff- Who is currently on the tour with you all

Uta- Hedersleben and Nik Turners Hawkwind.

Gaff- How were the Boston shows?

Uta- Great! In the past we played with Second Grave and Elder at Great Scott. Gaff-Elder is great

Gaff- When I first heard the Witch Mountain album, Aaron from The Sludgelord asked if I would do an interview, I said fuck yes. The vocals automatically grabbed me, so it’s my pleasure to chat. So you have the tour, do you mind if I ask what is going on after the tour?

Uta-  I’m planning on doing a solo album but I’m gonna give myself some time off to focus on other things. I’ll move onto my friend’s farm in Oregon City where I’ll have a lot of space to make music and take time for myself.

Gaff- Do you know what genre, do you have in your mind a specific sound you want to record?

Uta- We’ll see what comes out.  I’m just gonna sit down and see what happens.

Gaff- Are you someone that sits down to write or only writes when it hits you?

Uta- Both, I do both.

Gaff- Is writing something that comes pretty easy to you?

Uta- Um, I mean, on one hand it’s easy, maybe getting started is the hard part, but once I’m in there, it just comes out.  It can be challenging but I think that’s what brings me so much satisfaction.

Gaff- You had mentioned before that a lot of your writing is therapeutic.  However, can it be all over the place, depending on what you are thinking about?

Uta- I enjoy writing about a lot of different things.  Like ‘Lanky Rae’, that was a fun story telling exercise where I needed to rhyme every single line with ‘Rae’.  I’ll do things like that and then I’ll do songs like’ Never Know’ which is emotional and about something really real.

Gaff- Do you find it hard, because it is so inside and so emotional. Is it hard to say, ‘Hey, do I wanna let people into my life’?

Uta- I’m really a private person so I definitely had concerns as to if I was giving too much away. It’s hard at times to strike a balance between, you know, really expressing myself and keeping my privacy intact.

Gaff- It can be brutal, you can teeter at it but it’s tough letting everyone into your day to day

Uta- It definitely creeps me out a little bit.  Gaff- It’s a fine line from making great art and losing your goddam mind

Gaff- How long were you in Witch Mountain for?

Uta- 5 years
Gaff- How much touring have you done during that time?

Uta- 3 full US tours, 2 Euro tours and a handful of west coast tours

Gaff- Are you someone that enjoys touring

Uta- Hmm, it’s hard for me. I have noticed that when I journal during a tour it’s really an emotional roller coaster for me. It’s probably not my ideal thing to do, but the experiences are really invaluable and getting to see places I have never seen before is exciting.  I’ve learned a lot about myself and about music and those are really important things that come from touring.  Gaff-especially spending 7 hours thinking about yourself in a van, that can creep up on you.

Gaff- On this tour, are most of the songs from this album or are you splitting them up

Uta- We will change things up, like last night we played ‘Never Know’ and ‘The Shape Truth Takes’.

Gaff- Do you enjoy changing things up?

Uta- I’m relieved we’re playing mostly new stuff on this tour, the last tour in Europe we were mostly playing stuff from ‘Cauldron’ and it was really wearing on me.

Gaff- You ever throw in any covers for a different view?

Uta- None on this tour, but last year we did a Danzig song and a Candlemass song.  A few years back we did ‘Goodbye yellow brick road’!  And we recorded a cover for this album that is only coming out in Europe.

Gaff- Can I ask what it is?

Uta- ‘Don’t look around’ by Mountain

Gaff- How did you like singing that?

Uta- It was fun

Gaff- When you pick covers are you thinking about songs that people would not equate with the band or just shit that you like?

Uta- Usually Nate picks songs he thinks will fit us well and that he likes.

Gaff- How did’ Goodbye yellow brick road’ go over?

Uta- The audience was half and half on that one. (laughs)

Gaff- So, obviously the album and tour is going well. You don’t have to answer this but was it tough having to go to the guys and say ‘Hey, I have to do something else’?

Uta- Yeah it was really hard, I thought about it for a long time. I wasn’t feeling satisfied.  I was unhappy and I needed to figure out what to do next. Months of deliberation, so yeah, it was hard.

Gaff- Do you feel better singing these songs knowing that there is a light when this is done, that you are going to go and do your own gig at the farm?

Uta- I feel 100 percent better, everything is out in the open. The guys have been super cool about it. The fans have been super cool, things have been moving along. It’s likely that we’ll get together again in the future and play, not sure how much but maybe have some reunion shows. I was feeling like these 3 albums were a good amount of music and now is a good stopping point for me and time for me to move on and get back in touch with my own personal creativity.

Gaff- Being in a band is harder than being married

Uta- Yeah it’s like being married to 3 people at once…but I’ve never been married so I don’t actually know…

Gaff- How was Hoverfest?

Uta- It was great.

Gaff- Mike from YOB said that it also was a great time?

Uta- It went so well, all the bands know each other and it’s a good solid scene. I was actually there at Hovercraft when you were interviewing Nial; I work there once or twice a week.  Gaff- He is a super nice guy; he has been great to me and really hooked me up

Gaff- So you have a few weeks left?

Uta- Yeah, our last show is in Portland.

Gaff- So after the last show, will you be hanging or beating feet out of there?

Uta- I’m moving to the farm as soon as we get back, its only 30 minute drive from downtown Portland.

Gaff- Have u started writing yet

Uta- Bits and pieces, but I haven’t sat down.

Gaff- Will you be playing guitar and viola on this?

Uta- It’s difficult to do the 3 instruments at once, I do that in Aranya.   But yeah, if I’m writing my own album, every instrument I can play will be on it.

Gaff- To wrap it up, where do you see yourself in a year from now?

Uta- I’ve not gotten that far ahead.  I let my heart guide me and right now just knowing where I’m starting is good enough.

Gaff-For the last shows you are gonna pull out anything special?

Uta- Maybe

Gaff- Any songs that you would like to sing at the last shows that maybe you have not in a little while?

Uta- Well I mean, I would love it if we could do the whole album, that would be my request.

Gaff- Could you play the whole album?

Uta- We couldn’t do the title track but we put it on over the PA in Austin.

Gaff- How did that go over?

Uta- I don’t know! (laughs) I was backstage.

Gaff- I think that genre is going to be missing something. I mean that best vocalist in this genre is you. The biggest thing when I heard it, the vocals were so strong. There are vocalists I like and vocalist that are spectacular, I would put you in the spectacular category, the power and tonality in your voice, and I hope you keep singing. I would love to hear you doing different genres of music, especially like Joni Mitchell

Uta- Thank you for the encouragement; it’s kinda scary going off and doing my own thing.  Gaff- You never know what is around the corner, but keep singing, as you have a huge fucking voice.

Gaff- Is there anything you wanna add about the tour or this last album?

Uta- I wanna say it’s been a real pleasure writing with Rob, we work really well with each other and he’s good at what he does, maybe we’ll work together again.

Gaff- Anything else?

Uta- I’ll be putting things on Facebook and Twitter as they develop.

Gaff- I really want to thank Uta for taking the time from her busy road schedule and getting real with me regarding what the future holds for her.  I will predict it is a rather sunny future in her realm, no matter what she plans on doing.  If you have not obtained the new Witch Mountain album, do yourself a favor and pick that sum bitch up. You will not be disappointed.

Enjoy yourselves

Words by: Gaff