Unwoman is a San Fransisco-based cellist and multi-talent that have been active since 2001, releasing a wide array of about seven albums and one EP. Her real name is Erica Mulkey and she also frequently plays and visits goth, steampunk and science fiction-events. With praise from Amanda Palmer (Dresden Dolls) and collaborations with various acts such as Voltaire, Abney Park, Rasputina, Jill Tracy and many more – she’s gotten a wide range of perspective, influence and musicianship. Nowadays she also performs solo with the drummer Felix Mcnee as Heavy Sugar Duo. Besides that, she also does guest appearances in other bands. I got the opportunity to ask Erica about her collaborations, how she depicts the “dark cabaret”-genre and what’s in store for the future of Unwoman – and much, much more.
You’ve worked with many known acts within the dark cabaret-scene, if you’d get to choose one ultimate collaboration that you haven’t done yet, what and who would it be with?
– It would be pretty sweet to play with Amanda Palmer. I have seen her live many times but never met her, though we’ve communicated online.
I think it’s pretty cool that you’ve self-produced four full-length albums, could you tell me what goes into that process?
– Writing songs, recording material, polishing mixes (I could talk for days about how I actually produce songs but I suspect this isn’t the right place for that), package design, having material mastered, and communicating with pressing plants. I’ve actually self-produced six full-length albums if you count my remix album Unremembered and my covers album Uncovered – seven if you count Infinitesimal, my very first album which was unreleased until Feb 20, 2012.
Does it give you more artistic freedom if you self-release it?
– I have complete freedom and from what I gather I would not if I were beholden to a label, so yes, of course.
What do you think about the genre dark cabaret in general?
– It’s interesting in its communication style –- it brings back the tradition of songwriters speaking directly to the audience rather than being overwhelmed by intricate musical trickery, yet it’s open to visual glamour and seduction that coffeehouse singer-songwriters don’t generally employ. (For the record I don’t consider myself dark cabaret; my recorded music is too electronic.)
How many projects do you have going at the same time right now, as we speak?
– It depends how you count things. I have my documentary project, which I hope to have to press in March, I have this first album rerelease (Feb 20) for which I scanned a lot of old original lyrics notes, I have my next album (to come out Summer 2012) for which I have 13 songs written… I always have little collaborations happening here and there, too.
What do you think about Siouxsie and the Banshees, more than them influencing you musically?
– Oh yes, they were very influential. I think it was extremely important that post-punk/goth music had a strong female voice and Siouxsie was wonderful for that. I love all of their albums but my favorite may be Juju.
I’ve lately heard something that reminded me a lot about Siouxsie, her name is Zola Jesus, have you heard her music?
– Yes! In fact, her song “Night” is an important one between myself and my boyfriend, as we have to spend a lot of time apart because of my touring schedule. One time at Death Guild (San Francisco goth club, where he does lights and live visuals) we danced to “Night” – not touching, – but our eyes locked through the entire song.
It seems like you have quite dedicated fans, how do you feel about them?
– I seriously love them. They are smart, loyal, forgiving, and supportive, and I do my best to give back what they give me.
Amanda Palmer seems to help you a lot, have you collaborated with her in any shape or form, or do you want to?
– She has helped me a lot – but it was all in one day, when she found my ustream and tweeted about me, and got me at least a hundred new dedicated fans. I know I could double sales of any of my albums if she tweeted about those, but I don’t want to bother her. (Heh, I answered the 2nd question already) I have never actually met her – the last three times she’s performed in San Francisco I’ve had a gig out of town.
Where would you say that you’ve found inspiration for your aesthetics?
– Visual aesthetics: silent films, art nouveau paintings, steampunks, street goths on Telegraph Ave in Berkeley, Victorian dolls, post-apocalyptic fashion tumblrs, witches, burlesque performers, tribal fusion bellydancers…
Have you also drawn influences from Lene Lovich and Toyah?
– Not consciously.
You seem to have quite a lot going at the same time, does it ever become tiresome for you?
– I wouldn’t say tiresome, because my life is thrilling and beautiful, but it can be overwhelming. I had recently been saying yes to everything that came my way, and getting lots of people inquiring about shows, and saying yes to all of those, but I think I need to slow that down for a bit so I can make sure my head is above water and I’m not letting too many things fall through the cracks. The main difficulty is rapidly shifting gears between traveling for shows vs being at home editing music or video. I absolutely love both of those things but I need balancing skills that I haven’t fully developed yet – I’ve only been a full-time musician for two years now.
What do you believe that the future holds for you, and will you be releasing something new this year?
– Lots of convention appearances (steampunk, scifi, goth, etc) in the US. I will be releasing my next original album this Summer. Based on what’s been happening over the last two years, my fanbase will continue to grow slowly and steadily; I’ll never be a household name but I’m able to support myself and live by my own rules, so that’s just fine with me.
Will you be touring in Sweden someday or have you done that already?
– I hope someday to have a big enough fanbase globally to justify it, but right now I don’t think I could make it work. I played in the UK a year ago and the shows themselves were really fun, but being in a foreign country, even one where I spoke the language, where I didn’t have any close friends, was really difficult for me – I’ve only just recently gotten comfortable touring in the US and it makes the most sense to focus on playing here.
What would be your last words of wisdom to your Swedish fans?
– I recently expressed this to a young fellow musician but it really applies to every creative person: You will never get permission to rock to your fullest awesomeness. Do it anyway.
Here’s Unwoman covering the song “Hurt” by Nine Inch Nails:
You can find her here:
Official Homepage: http://unwoman.com/