Metal Mother

Photography by Siouxzen Kang

“I don’t like fluffy music,” says Tara Tati, the woman who records as Metal Mother. “I like music with a dark, elemental core. That’s why I chose Metal Mother as the name for my project. It’s not a reference to heavy metal, although I love that kind of music; it’s about the mother that lives in the heart of the Earth. There’s a Chinese myth about the Metal Mother who holds the world together with her precious metals—gold, silver, platinum. It’s an organic name that evokes the ferocity and strength of Mother Earth. Precious metals are the elements that keep the world intact.”

The music Tati makes as Metal Mother is as dense as the Earth’s core, full of beautiful, eerie, unfamiliar sounds. Tribal drum loops pulse like the beating of a gigantic melancholy heart, an acoustic piano sprinkles teasing notes that twinkle like far off stars and guitars play wailing sustained tones that blend with the processed sounds of trumpet. This creates a timeless expansive atmosphere wherein Tati’s multi-layered vocals phase in and out like the sounds of spirits being channeled from another dimension.

“Music puts us in touch with worlds that are beyond what most humans can see or consciously comprehend. I believe there are things going on around us that affect our lives, even if we don’t perceive them directly. I want to tap into the unknown source in myself that is somehow aware of these alternate realties. I think that’s what art always attempts to do, even if not on a conscious level. I want to ask the big questions. How did we come to be here? What confluence of culture and events has made it possible for me to be talking to you at this moment in time? This is the future, but it’s hella gray and it looks like the Earth is going down. I want to make music that restores hope and creates beauty.”

Tati’s musical journey started in Occidental, California, a town she says that exists in the middle of nowhere. “My brother is a DJ, so I always listened to the latest records. There was always music filling the house. When I heard David Byrne and the Talking Heads, it made me realize music can be unpredictable and quirky, but I didn’t start learning piano until I was 23. I took a few piano lessons from a girlfriend when I was a little girl, but I never thought music was something I could do. I was living in the woods with a lot of time on my hands, so I started learning piano and writing songs. I didn’t think I’d ever play them in front of anyone, but my friends told me they were unique, so I tried performing. I knew people who did circus and vaudeville performances. I learned ragtime and gypsy music and did shows dressed in theatrical costumes. After I went through a crazy breakup and a few close friends passed, I turned to music for healing and therapy. It helped me deal with unfathomable emotions. The music got more somber and serious.”

After moving to Oakland, Tati began working on the tracks that became Bonfire Diaries, her first album as Metal Mother. “It took three years to finish,” she says. “I learned how to produce as I went along and got into that dreamy ambient vibe. There are so many instruments layered into the mix, you can’t perceive them all. It creates new sounds when you can’t hear everything plainly. I also like vocals that are hard to understand. I wanted late night music that invites you to make up your own stories, imagine your own lyrics. I wanted songs that could shine a light on some of the harder shit we go though.”

“The earth and its people are in need of healing right now,” Tati concludes. “Japan is having the worst disaster that has ever happened to a country. They won’t be able to clean it up for thousands of years. I’m not religious, but I do pray and send positive wishes to the places and people that need it. Some people say the more you fight the machine, the more power you give it, but I believe we have a responsibility to dismantle those dysfunctional systems and take care of each other and the land. If we can manage some of the small catastrophes in our own lives, maybe we can prevent the big ones from happening.”

– J. Poet

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