Tony Dale: Kyogle Dreaming. An Interview with Michael Donnelly


At a subterranean level below the much-hyped press darlings of the “freak-folk” - God, I hate that label - movement, is a network of genuinely intriguing noise-makers that are the true carriers of the flag raised by the hippie-tribal-psychedelic folk movement of the late 60s. Whether it be the fragile experiments on Jeweled Antler, the kaleidoscopic fragmenting of the apartment folk scene started by Tower Recordings, the myriad of projects of Foxglove and Digitalis, or the dynamically interchanging Finnish free music scene centred on Fonal Records, these are collectives not content to pastiche hippie folk or be quirkily bohemian. Rather the nodes in this network draw in influences as far-ranging as free jazz, noise, industrial and found sound, as well as the high quality home-brew technology of the CD-R format, to create a new topography of the underground. Add the allure of limited editions with hand-made packaging, and the use of the Internet as a means of distribution, and you have an immersive, addictive playground for artists and fans alike. Two of the more fascinating (and least-hyped) collectives are the United Bible Studies crew out of Ireland (see the recent Deep Water profile), and the group of artists orbiting around Michael Donnelly’s “Musicyourmindwillloveyou” imprint, based in the Australian country town of Kyogle, which nestles in rain-forest country near the border between the states of New South Wales and Queensland.

Several acts fired up the underground immediately: the psychedelic free folk mantras of Brothers of the Occult Sisterhood and the astral-rock of Terracid both found enthusiastic cult audiences. But these are just two of many faces of the MYMWLY collective. The fried art-damage of Ffehro, 6majik9 and Soarwhole, the electronic indigenous sounds of Nada Baba, and the damaged singer-songwriter discursions of Snowfoxx are all just as worthy of exploration to push out the boundaries of the MYMWLY map. The members also collaborate with like minds elsewhere, further fogging the negative. And their commitment to sound art is manifest in the superb “Sound Surrounds Us” series of compilations. The label also releases CD-Rs at a frightening rate – it really isn’t possible to nail them down in any discographical sense because any published discography is rapidly overtaken by the next batch of releases. This article serves as a brief introduction to the label, with an attempt work-in-progress discography at the end.

DW: Like the folks at Jeweled Antler, Foxglove/Digitalis Industries, Deserted Village, and those crazy Finns, you seem to have a multi-faceted collectivist involvement with music - running a label, being involved with many musical projects on the label (and for others), as well as hand-making CD-R artefacts and running the business side of things. How did it all evolve, and in what order? At what point did you decide MYMWLY needed to exist?

Michael Donnelly: We have always operated as a loose collective, going back almost 20 years. Following numerous failed attempts to get our music out there via the regular avenues we resorted to a home grown approach, inspired by the likes of Jeweled Antler, Acid Mothers Temple, et al. So in late 2004 we got a few of our recordings together and launched the label. Nothing was really planned or expected, just another experiment.

One of your main collaborators is Ian McIntyre (Ffehro, Soar Whole, Sore Hole, graphics, recording, et al). What is his role at the MYMWLY label?

Ian is Majik brother, spiritual ally, art-terrorist, co-instigator and political advisor.

If you could articulate a statement-of-intent for MYMWLY what would it be?

Man…it goes deep…ultimately we want to fuck with reality…musically we seek a breach of the walls between worlds…collectively, as a label I guess we aim to spread this sonic vision to as many willing, uninitiated ears as possible.

What are the upsides to being part of a collective, and are there any downsides?

Many minds are better than one…but adversely, many minds mean multiple points of divergence, and this can lead to violent outbursts and man-handling.

Do you view MYMWLY as a stand-alone entity, or part of a complex - a network of like-minded underground labels around the world?

We share certain ideals I guess…with other labels, but essentially we stand-alone.

What got you into music personally, and what are your earliest memories of music and influences?

I think I just wanted to get laid…rock and roll!!! But at some point things shifted, music became a way of attaining a certain state, mindlessness. My earliest memories of music are Rodger Whitaker, Nana Mouskouri, Hank Williams and Abba. I think my influences were more in the line of states of consciousness…like being sick with bronchitis when I was 10, I got real dizzy and hallucinated, like a waking dream…the sense of dislocation this produced interested me and I see a lot of that same effect in the music I make.

In terms of the Kyogle based collective (as opposed to releases on MYMWLY from elsewhere), was there an originating project from which others evolved?

The Klan - that was our first band…60s covers and Butthole Surfers worship. That evolved into Soarwhole, which devolved into Ffehro, Snowfoxx, Terracid and so on.

How is the typical MYMWLY recording made?

We get our heads right and hit ‘record’.

How much does “Set and Setting” influence the label and its music? That is, how Kyogle and its surrounds affect your mindset and thus the process of composition and recording?

This has a huge effect; I think it’s inevitable, especially with improvised music, to be heavily influenced by your immediate surroundings. We do most of our recordings at two locations. Either here in Kyogle where I have a bare bones studio set up, or in Toowoomba, where there are even more primitive facilities. The vibe here in Kyogle is very laid back…nice views of the rainforest, time seems unimportant. The neighbors are far away etc…while in Toowoomba it's more of a siege mentality…locking ourselves away deep in the heart of suburbia. Most of the 6majik9 stuff was done this way, while projects like BOTOS and Snowfoxx were done here in Kyogle.

How did the “You Will Love Your Music Mind” compilation come about, and how did you select what was to go on it? It's a very Acid Mothers Temple sounding title - were Kawakawa and his myriad projects an influence?

That was our attempt at introducing our varied projects. I wouldn’t say we were consciously influenced by Kawabata on this particular endeavor, but he is certainly a big influence on me personally.

How do you select overseas and non-Kyogle-based releases for the label? How did you hook up with Brad Rose?

I got to know Brad via Mats Gustafsson. I had sent to him some of our first releases and he passed them on to Brad, and Brad got in touch with me soon after. As far as what I select for the label. I either ask artists I like to contribute, or they approach me. I’m not really trying to foster any particular genre or style, as long as it’s honest.

Is there any interaction between MYMWLY and Kindling?

Not on a label-to-label level.

There would seem to be a good degree of similarity between what is coming out of the Finnish underground and what MYMWLY are doing – I’m thinking bands like Kemialliset Ystävät, Avarus and Keijo. But thus far this scene is not represented on MYMWLY (at least I don’t think so). Is there any reason in particular for this? Is it more fun doing stuff from scenes that are less hyped, like the Norwegian underground (as represented by your recent Bjerga/Iversen release)?

Keijo contributed to the “Charms Cut from Our Trees” compilation, as well as a track on one of the “Sound Surrounds Us” comps. But ya, that’s about the extent of our Finnish connection. There’s no real reason for this, I dig that shit immensely though, Dr Kettu, Circle, Avarus etc…it’s all good.

The early releases on the label set a pattern for what was to follow. I’d like to get you to say a few words about some of the artists in involved these. I'll start with Ffehro, since the second release on the label was by them. What can you tell me about this project?

Ffehro is Ian and myself under severe, self-induced derangement in pursuit of dada disco and bound by telekinetic primate coercion.

Terracid is obviously a big part of MYMWLY, and a major factor in bringing the label to international attention. I think Terracid is just you? A project to allow you to vent of psychedelic steam?

Yeah… Just me, sometimes with a little help from various mymwly entities and friends. It’s my self-centered auto-improvisational homage to krautrock.

Probably the biggest splash worldwide was made by the Brothers of the Occult Sisterhood, a duo you formed with your sister Kristina. Why do you think this project has resonated so strongly with folks? What is the importance of a well-chosen name? Does it feel weird have an actual production CD out (“Goodbye” on Digitalis)?

I haven’t a clue as to why BOTOS has done what it has, other than that the music came from a very honest place…those first few recordings and releases represent some of the purest music I have had the good fortune of being involved with. I think most of that is due to my sister’s sincerity and humbleness. The name is funny; I hope people get the joke.
Having a ‘real’ CD out is cool, and Digitalis is one of my favorite labels, so yeah… sweet.

Can you talk a little about the intent of the series of compilations you call “Sound Surrounds Us”?

I think time is essential in achieving a genuine state of void, thus long form experiments yield deep spaces…and this deep space I see as a common ground for all travelers in genuine cosmic/trance music/life…thus by arranging these works by different artists within the context of a compilation I hope the illustrate the resonance we all share.

Nada probably speaks most directly to an indigenous Australian tradition. How did this project arise?

James Barrett (Nada Baba): My first didge was sent to by a friend (Bernadette) who was living in Doomagee in the Gulf country. It was made by five women and painted by a man, Mindurlunni. I got it in 1995. I was living in Redfern then. I did some work for Aboriginal artists, Gulf of Carpentaria and western Cape York, helping put on art shows (two of them) in Sydney 1995-96. That was my first meeting with tribal people. When I started traveling I played in the streets to survive. In 1998 I lived off it when squatting houses in Amsterdam. In Amsterdam I spent three days with Alan Dargin, one of the greatest didgeridoo players alive today. I have also met and taken inspiration from Charlie McMahon. I have also played in Barcelona, Paris, Berlin, Stockholm and London. I am not aboriginal. I respect their traditions and believe that until the governing systems in Australia give them their rightful place at the table there will always be problems with identity and direction in Australia.

There isn't much conventionally song-based on the label, but Snowfoxx comes closest I guess. The “Plays the Lost Resort” is both beautiful and alarming - what can you tell me about this project and its history?

Snowfoxx: Snowfoxx’s influences are far too numerous to mention, However the Spence/Barrett/Buckley axis of doomed singer-songwriters loom large...

Who are the mysterious 6majik9?

That’s as many of us that can stand being in the same place at the same time, and when we all get together things usually get weird, so we try and make sure that somebody is recording everything just so if we need to we can go back and make sure what we thought was happening was indeed what was happening… so far this hasn’t been the case, though we are getting close.

One of my favorite releases on the label is the Alligator Crystal Moth CD-R “Solis”. How did it come about, and how easy was it to collaborate over distance when your focus is usually as a member of a collective?

Soon after meeting Brad online we decided to give the postal collaboration thing a try. This process isn’t all that different to the way I had worked previously on projects with Ian and other collective members…where we will all begin a recording and then work on it in smaller groups or even individually until a rich, creamy texture is achieved.

MYMWLY releases stuff at a prodigious rate, or has done so far. Do you plan to keep this rate up, and what sort of things do you have in the pipeline for upcoming release?

Ya…as long as we can all operate our equipment we will keep pumping it out. 6majik9 have a few new things in the works, cdrs for Imvated and Ruralfaune, BOTOS has a CD coming out on Rootstrata soon, as well as an LP on Studentsofdecay and a tape release on American Grizzly, and there’s some talk of a release on Important Records in the near future as well. Terracid has a new CD-R planned for Foxglove and a 3” on Root don Lonnie for cash. There’s a new Snowfoxx in the oven, and numerous collaborations and compilation appearances by all of us coming soon.

BOTOS recently played the sixth Terrastock festival in Providence, RI, and across the US I assume caught up with a lot of folks that you had only corresponded with previously. How did that go?

That was an awesome experience. T6 was mind-blowing, and it was pretty cool to finally meet a lot of people I had been in correspondence with over the last year or so.

Did you record with anyone over there in the US?

Ya…I did a session with Brad Rose in Tulsa as Alligator Crystal Moth, also a session with Brad, Eden Rose and Nathan as Ajilvsga and a session in Austin as Cat Rider with Vanessa Rosetto. Ian and Joss did a session with the boys from Heavy Winged in New York, and Ian also did a session with Keenan Lawler in Louisville. Hopefully all this will be released soon.

Any final thoughts for the Deep Water readership?

Noise is god.