An artists, for whom I am willing to travel anywhere around Europe. That’s a status which American singer and a guitarist Emma Ruth Rundle has for me a couple of years now. She didn’t come to Czech Republic since October 2018, so I decided to travel to Vienna for her show on the 14th of October 2019 in Arena Wien. Her music combines dark country rock, taste for melancholy and an unique voice. In our interview we spoke not only about the secrets of her sound, but also covered her musical roots, experiments with music journalism and her role as a curator for Dutch festival Roadburn. As a soundtrack, I gladly recommend her last album On Dark Horses, which is for me an album of 2018.
Thank you for finding time. Extremely appreciated. I have great memories on Prague, but first of all, tell us how the show in Portugal was?
Oh, it was amazing. I was a little a bit nervous to play a solo set in the middle of a full band tour, but it went really well and the audience was very respectful. I really love André, Amplifest promoter, who brought me already three times to Portugal. He treats all the artists really well. Lots of friends, so it was fun.
I am really looking forward to Roadburn 2020, where you will be a curator of some of the bands. I checked Cloud Rat, Hide and other great bands. But how did you pick those bands? What criteria did you have?
I wanted to curate bands that I think are bringing something emotionally heavy for me. Hide was at the top of my list. I have seen them play several times since their first album came out. I am also a big fan of Heather Gabel’s visual artwork. Everything that band is doing is really pushing things in a way I hadn’t experienced before. Have you seen them live?
I saw many footages and it’s sort of insane.
Yeah, it’s very intensive. I really believe they deserve to be at Roadburn. It’s their time.
A Glimpse Of The Other Side
Another band that you recently promoted was Mizmor, with whom you did an interview for Metal Hammer. When did you start with this journalism thing?
That’s also very organic story, because we are friends in a real life, so I think it is really important in our community to support each other. Dave from Mizmor and guys from Metal Hammer thought it would be a great idea to have two friends, in a discussion as artists together, instead of having a journalist, interviewing him about his record. That sort provides a different depth and a different approach than a standard interview. I went there, took the photos and everything. It was really great, in-depth experience. What came out as the interview was a conversation, which we had over four days and a lot of it is not even in there. And the new record is very intense.
Mizmor: “My impression is that suicide is an escape and it is the most ultimately selfish act that one can commit.” (Metal Hammer Interview)
What were some of the lessons and experiences that you learned from the other side of the interview?
You mean asking the question?
Yeah, yeah. I always learn a lot. When somebody did an interview with me, whether it was with starting journalists or for a local newspaper in my hometown, it was a different experience when somebody was asking me about the things that I do.
Right. Yeah. Well I was really nervous about it actually. He asked me to do it and I was worried, what would come out, would not do his music justice. I was really nervous about it actually. He had asked me to do it and I felt a pressure to make question that would not be just a standard questions anyone would ask. I ended up more as a conversation and I believe that worked.
Mizmor: For me I’ve decided that there is not an ultimate meaning to life. But it is certainly enriched if you can find things that have meaning to you. (Metal Hammer Interview)
As this interview will also come out in Czech gear oriented magazine Muzikus, I would like to ask you, if you could mention some items you rely on in the studio or on a tour.
Okay, well our setup is two bass cabs, one on either side. We rent all our gear from High Holidays and we love them very much. They gave us great gear on this tour. My standard amp setup is always a Jazz Chorus. Because I think that it represents with the most clarity my guitars, because I’m so dropped tune so low. If I have to tour a solo tour, and I can only take one amp, I’ll prefer the Jazz Chorus. But I would ideally have two amps including Jazz Chorus and then a smaller combo tube amp that just breaks up a little more because the Jazz Chorus doesn’t break up. It’s just kind of sterile. So it provides the tonal clarity and then there’s some color from the other amp. And my Jazz Chorus is always on my left.
What about the guitars?
The guitars… Well, I have a set of guitars here and I have a set at home. My preferred guitar is SG. The SG that I’m playing now, I got when I worked at a music store in LA. A younger person came in and I think he wanted to get a new cell phone or something. So he sold us this guitar for like $400 with the case. It’s the guitar I’ve been playing since the Red Sparrows and Marriages. It’s very inexpensive basic SG but it’s my favorite guitar. At home I also have white Guild T-Bird ST. That sort of like takes the place of the SG.
And the guitar that you used for Electric Guitar One album? It was a really unique experience.
Okay, that guitar was actually a traveler guitar. The little ones with no headstock. It has active pickups, so you can just put a battery in there and plug into headphones through a small jack. It also has a distortion switch. So the story of that album was I was on tour with Red Sparrows and we had two sprinter vans. And most of the band was in the other van and I kind of had the back of one of the vans for myself. So I was just kind of like listening with headphones and playing this little traveler guitar and looking out the window. It was my first time touring in Europe. And I was really feeling like sort of in my own world and very inspired by the landscapes, as they were passing by. I just plugged the guitar into a computer in the back seat, put on my headphones and made the album in the van on a tour. Yeah, I don’t know that I could do that again. (Laugh)
This brings me to your overall sound. It has a unique mixture of rock melancholy and a dark country. Where does it come from? What sort of music let say your parents were listening to?
Well, I would really call our music something like grunge rock. But I think that there is definitely an Americana aspect to it, especially in the songs like You Don’t Have To Cry. I love Emmylou Harris and I got introduced to that world of music because of working at a folk music store McCave’s in LA.
It’s been there for sixty years and it was a center of folk music in the 60’s and 70’s live concerts there. So I would work during the week, including the weekend and work all the concerts. I saw a lot of music like this. My parents are both musicians, but I grew up listening to rock and roll and the first music I ever heard was probably Depeche Mode. Let say my mom likes all kinds of music. My dad also likes, you know, he’s like, here’s Jimi Hendrix little kid and go to town. But he also loves jazz. Neither of them really listened to country or folk music. So that all really came from the music store.
Thank you for mentioning You Don’t Have To Cry. Very strong video and a very strong story. It speaks a lot to me, as every country sort of the deals with the struggles of homosexuality in their own way. Personally, I lived in Serbia where it’s really homophobic. Now, I live in Czech Republic and my roommate, she she’s a lesbian and I have a couple of gay friends. And thanks to these friendships, I also learned some of the struggles of this community. Was your friendship with Blake the primary motivation to make this video?
I wrote the song for Blake. We are both very happy that we’re able to finally make this happen. Without getting too much into it, you know. That’s a person I really love a lot. There was a lot of fear within that community. It was expressed to me by my friend and so that’s kind of where the song came from. It was supposed to be empowering and comforting. It’s really a love song for my friend Blake. And so us getting to make that video, was just I don’t know, special. He’s also an amazing artists and it’s just another example of how important it is to me that the artists and people support each other, take care of each other and express kindness and love. And I think that’s important.
Coming towards the end, I would also like to thank you, as your music means a lot to me. Some people may consider it depressive, but in my case, I find a comfort in melancholic music. It sort of creates a safe environment to deal with new challenges or finding epiphanies in the past. Do you have a similar setup?
I think there was a time in my life where I looked for that in music. Especially when I was younger. But now I really I listen to heavy music. I guess like the main things I would listen to would be sort of more metal. I listen to ambient music and then I really love music from Iran. Those are my three things that I kind of go to.
A Touch Of World Music
I can understand the spectrum. Let say lately I love an amazing Belgian black metal band Wiegedood. It’s just so intense. Next to it I also love depressive Balkan music, where you need a gallon of red wine. But from where does this appreciation of Iranian music comes from? Was there some beautiful travel, where you fell in love with the environment?
No, I never went there. Actually the first two boyfriends I had, their parents had come from Iran. (Laugh) And I think I kind of got introduced to the music and had a taste of the culture, which stuck with me. And then I guess a few years ago, I went to see Yo-Yo Ma & the Silk Road Ensemble documentary with some friends and this man who plays as part of the Ensemble, Kayhan Kalhor, I really fell in love with him and through listening to his music that kind of has taken me on a whole discovering more different composers and artists from Iran.