Friday, February 4, 2011

20 Questions with Religious to Damn's Zohra Atash

Glass Prayer has been simmering on my stereo. On it, Religious to Damn traverse howling landscapes and oneiric territories; there’s noise, water, and meat in these songs, and so much movement. At times, it seems singer/songwriter Zohra Atash almost forces reviewers to write in verse. I’ve been a victim, and from recent write-ups that smolder with the blackened glow her songs inspire, I’m definitely not the only one. So in honor of Glass Prayer's official release next Tuesday on M’Lady’s, I’ve asked Zohra to write her own verses for us in answer to my new Proustian questionnaire. Enjoy.


Hell is: Other people. This is quoted a lot as a joke, but I remember when I first read the surrounding stuff, I really related to it. It's more about being trapped in this dialog box where we're forced to judge ourselves with the tools other people give us. That's hellish.

New York City is: My home, and I love this city. We've had people say things like, "Your music doesn't sound like you're from New York. It sounds other-worldy." The music I make is about escapism, and I incorporate a lot of influences. I also travel quite a lot. I just find the whole notion of 'you have to live in a converted barn by the sea to write about elemental, mystical stuff,' as silly.

My latest record: Is a work I'm proud of.

Favorite vice: Worrying

Favorite virtue: Enough respect for my loved ones not to romanticize my vices.

My onstage aesthetic: Black lace, things that jingle and sparkle, and a short skirt.

Analogue or Digital: False dichotomy.

Hot or Cold: Hot across the board (except for "wave").

Best NYC venue to play: Wierd at Home Sweet Home.

Favorite NYC bar: Motor City anytime Zack Lipez or Jonathan Toubin are DJing, and Friday nights with Anna Copa Cabanna go-go dancing.

A rumor about my band: I'm not sure it's a rumor, but maybe an annoying misconception. There seems to be this idea that because our music has been referred to as "gypsy" that we make actual gypsy music or that because gypsies are exotic and I'm Afghan, that the music is supposed to sound exotic or super eastern. But I grew up in America and I like a lot of British and American music. Some people think of gypsy garb as having coins and shiny things on it and sometimes I wear things like that. But Bob Dylan wrote gypsy songs, and Fleetwood Mac wrote the song "Gypsy" and it's all a mood, really. If I identify with it at all, it's in the sense that it's just music about a wild, wandering heart.

Pre-show ritual: Half an hour of meditation.

Post-show ritual: Josh and I discussing the show at length.

Favorite philosopher: Can I combine Rumi and Schopenhauer into one, pessimistic, passionate, music-adoring entity?

Favorite monster: Sirens.

Dead muse: Oum Kalthoum.

Living Muse: Josh Strawn - he keeps me focused and tells it to me like it is. We share a musical brain. And Daniel Lanois.

By Day: Collecting inspiration.

By Night: Creating.

My musical motto: Be dynamic, colorful, and know when to minimize and maximize.

Religious to Damn "Drifter" Music Video from Jason Akira Somma on Vimeo.

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