Artist and publisher Alex Mustakov dropped by Cuddlevania for a live recording of 'Evenings with Cuddleman' to talk about to chat about his new project MoodWar, play songs from Max Easton's "Tempered" journal, discuss his relationships with longtime friend and colleague Ivana Rnjak and the identity of the mysterious Frank Lord. Audio excerpts from the interview will be included with Episode 8 of the podcast but you can listen to to the full chat with tunes over at our MIXLR channel. Below is a playlist of bands featured in 'Tempered' plus a verbal history of MoodWar thus far, as told by Alex to me over some pasta and dark ales.
On the name/identity of MoodWar
I suppose at the current time [it is a publishing company], but that doesn’t mean it will strictly be books or printed matter. I think it’s a pretty good starting point because it’s very easy for people to get things - whether that’s visually or the written word - it’s easy to get those things out there. I think putting out records and things like that, there are certain barriers to entry and certain costs… those kinds of things I don’t quite know about yet, but print and words and images seemed like the right way to start.
MoodWar is just a combination of words that seemed to make sense with the approach I wanted to take to things. I guess the kind of things that I’m putting out at the moment are very personal examinations, very personal writings. It’s honest… perhaps too brutally honest, but that’s not actually a bad thing... that’s actually very good. It’s part of that whole truth-telling thing that I am wanting to do. I think conflict is a really critical thing in the way that it shapes people. It’s not always good and it’s not always pleasant, but examining conflict and finding truth from that is the underlying thing. I don’t know where [the name] MoodWar came from exactly, but it seems to fit that ethos.
On ‘Tempered’ and Sydney
I suppose it’s a journal that has a number of different writers and a lot of photography… It kinda came from a conversation that Max Easton (‘Tempered’ editor) and I had last year; he was wanting to write about some of these bands that I don’t think a greater group of the population has ever heard of, but they all fit into… I mean, a lot of them are from Sydney, and it’s things that maybe a lot of Melbourne people might not have seen these people play yet. I think very few of them have come here.
Decisions, consequences, the conflict of what you have to go through really filters into who you are as a person and the kinds of things you make, whether it’s writing, music, whatever… and it’s fairly obvious news that Sydney has had many venues closures and lockouts and restrictions and so on… and almost this kind of herding together of people… it’s very hard to describe… The tone of how a place is always good for some people and bad for others, and I think maybe the desperation or being forced to play certain places has made the community a lot tighter, made the music a hell-of-a-lot more interesting than it used to be.
It’s kinda like that desperation is like fuel or food and I think wonderful things have come out of it. The pressures upon them.. the lockouts and the lack of venues and things like that… it’s not like there’s nowhere [to play]; it’s just different. That place has changed a lot since even when I lived there. Whether [‘Tempered’ being is a snapshot of that particular time and place] was a conscious intention or not, that has what been produced in that particular journal.
On the 'Tempered’ Audience/Community
What was great was when we were putting the whole thing together, so many people supported this; they did the whole pre-order thing, and it helped us get this going and out into everybody’s hands much faster than we originally thought it was go. The main thing is that people in community who like this stuff have supported us really strongly, and the response has been incredible. I’m still pinching myself going ‘Woah, how did that get out there so fast?’. [They’re being shipped] everywhere… most cities in Australia; a few to Perth, a bunch in Sydney (because I suppose that’s where a lot of this material came from - people in that community), but also all over the world… A bunch went to America, to really unusual places; people in Ohio, Nebraska, wherever… which was a really cool surprise. I think a few even went up to Denmark and Sweden; I’m not sure how they heard about it, but I’m stoked.
On ‘Seventy-Seven Tales From Urban Psychosis’ by Frank Lord
We met through a mutual friend, but technically speaking, Frank Lord doesn’t exist; he isn’t an actual person. It’s not me - this isn’t some kind of elaborate trick where it’s me writing poetry. It’s quite confronting. I think many of the pieces are quite unorthodox. The main thing that I love about it… Frank Lord is just a very interesting person.. and like the other things I’m trying to put out there, ‘Seventy-Seven Tales…’ is very-much married to the environment it comes from. It’s primarily about parts of Melbourne - specifically North Melbourne - specially the #57 tram, if anyone’s ever caught that, the words and real life really do match up. It is a self-examination, and it’s very confronting work. I have it on good authority that everything in that book is true. It’s pretty unsettling stuff, but I think it’s very important to tell your personal truths in whatever way you wish to do it - long-form, short form, poetry… I think personal work is more interesting.
On Ivana Rnjak and ‘South West’
Ivana puts me to shame with the amount of work she’s published herself. She’s been going at it for 10+ years. That’s how we actually met; we met in Sydney, way back in the day. I’d seen some things she’d put out and we had mutual friends at the pub, and I was like “Oh! That’s the person who puts Teeth out!” (Which is really wonderful zine she did way back then). We’ve just been mates ever since; she moved down here, and eventually I did. Ivana’s just got a really wonderful command of words, and again, that drawing from personal experience is the most present thing in her writing. The main theme the comes through in all of her work is that sense of identity or that sense of loss; "Who am I? Am I an Australian? Or am I from where my family heritage is from?" - which is the former Yugoslavia - and having to leave the country in the middle of a civil war, relocating half-way across the world and settling in Western Sydney, which had many people of other European backgrounds.
A lot of her writing comes back to the question of “What’s my origin point?”; included in that is “How am I changing?”, “What is my identity?”… SouthWest is one short piece and one longer piece about her day-to-day life - her community and her friends, especially at the pivotal age of being a teenager. Adolescence coupled with an identity crisis or a question of identity is… I guess a kind of volatile thing to have in your head, constantly asking these questions of yourself.
The way that she handles it and the way she uses her words to get that story out is really incredible. ‘South West’ is just the beginning… I’ve been annoying her relentlessly to write much more on that topic (laughs)… but I think it’s a really great way to introduce people to it, because I think it’s a conversation that many people probably have. I haven’t seen many examples of people formalising this or sharing it. No matter what your background is from… Australia is a very diverse country.
On Ivana’s ‘It’s Always 420’
(laughs) As the name probably indicates, it’s dumb shit that we’ve all said when we are stoned. It’s years of documentation - iPhone Notes apps and scraps of paper, napkins and receipts, from a variety of people that Ivana’s known through her life.
We made that specially to take to that zine fair [Other Worlds Zine Fair 2016] because… you go to an independent publishing festival and you know something about weed is going to be a crowd pleaser. (laughs) It seemed like a slam dunk and people really enjoyed it. The main thing is in this kind of environment, when you go [to those events], you don’t want to be just the boring person with the really serious books. You’ve got to add a little bit of humour in there.
Simon: Well, I guess you’re just examining different portions of yourself and that’s as much a part of you as say, the very serious identity questions… and that helps shape that identity as well…
Live Episode Playlist - Evenings With Cuddleman - Thursday June 30
- Cliff Martinez - First Sleep
- Pharoah Sanders - The Creator Has A Master Plan
- Amon Düül II - Soap Shop Rock
- Arthur Brown - Fanfare/Fire Poem
- The Fall - New Face In Hell
- Eddy Current Suppression Ring - Having A Hard Time
- Life Without Buildings - PS Exclusive
- Cool Sounds - Shake
- Television - Days
- MoodWar Introduction
- Bitchratch - Spit The Dummy
- Tim & The Boys - Two Cowboys
- Rule of Thirds - Mouthful
- The Friendsters - Revenge Is The Best Revenge
- Diät - Toonie
- Dry Finish - String Me Along
- Two Steps On The Water - Thunderstorm For One
- The Native Cats - Pane E Acqua
- Low Life - No Ambition
- Boredoms - (circle)