steering clear of the mainstream
since 2001

june 2010

20 questions
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fursaxa's tara burke

Active for much of this young millennium, Tara Burke's Fursaxa project has produced an impressive stream of releases out on many influential record labels. With records issued by Important, ATP, Acid Mothers Temple, Ecstatic Peace!, as well as several self-released projects, Burke has solidified her place as one of the most reliable members of today's "freak-folk" scene - for lack of a better term. In this edition of 20 Questions, I grilled her on various aspects of her music, and we finally put to rest the significance of the name Fursaxa. Read on for the chilling details!

2002's self-titled album on Ecstatic Peace!


1. One of your first releases as Fursaxa was Mandrake, a 100-copy CDR release on the Acid Mothers Temple label. How did you become connected to the Acid Mothers Temple group?

I was playing a show in Chicago that my friend Steve Krakow set up with Fursaxa as an opener and various solo AMT members playing after me. I was talking to Kawabata after the show and he said he really liked my set and I should send him some recordings.

2. Considerably before your releases as Fursaxa, you were part of UN, which had two records come out on the Siltbreeze label in 1996. What's the story behind UN?

Well UN had been playing together for about a year before I started playing with them. I was playing farfisa with this local band at the time, and we opened for Alaistair Galbraith and Marcia was at the show. Afterwards, she asked if I wanted to come and play my farfisa with them at their warehouse sometime. The next thing I knew I was playing shows with them and all. I was not on those Siltbreeze recordings though. I did record with UN, but Siltbreeze decided not to release the album.

UN's debut 7", Transmissions, in 1996
(Burke hadn't joined the band until after this release)

3. You've had the pleasure of working with several pivotal labels on the underground music scene. What have your experiences been like? Do you intentionally seek a variety in terms of who puts out your releases?

Well basically it's always sort of happened that these labels have asked me to do a release with them, and they are labels I respect, so I have said yes. And I have no complaints about the labels I have worked with.

4. In what context do you envisage your music being listened to?

Either sitting in a cozy living room with dim lights, candles, and incense burning, or outdoors with headphones on.

5. Do you pay much attention to reviews of your releases?

Well I do read reviews about my releases, and it is always nice to hear people enjoy my music, or say good things about it. But there are always bad reviews as well, and everyone is obviously entitled to write how they feel about something. And with those I have made the realization that my music is definitely not for everyone, so I sort of take what they say with a grain of salt.


6. Entomology is a recurring theme in your releases. What about insects interests you?

I am generally interested in the natural world, and insects are just one of those things. But I especially have an interest in the winged creatures, and I think it would be great to be able to fly like them. I also am fascinated with the colors and patterns of insects, and I really envy the ones that get to hang out on flowers all day.

7. What is the significance behind the name "Fursaxa"?

Its what my phone number spelled out in a house I was living in in way back in the 90s....

8. What inspires the visual design of your releases?

Well I like making collages, and most of my album covers are collages of the many images that I have collected over the years. And when I am deciding on a cover, I usually listen to the release and see what sorts of mental images enter my head.

9. Most recently, your Anahita project (with Helena Espvall) put out "Matricaria" on Important Records. What are your thoughts on the new release? What can we expect?

I am very excited about it because I love doing collaborations with Helena. She is an amazing woman and musician, and we have fun! Basically we channel energy through crystals and then press record on the 4 track and see what happens. It is all very free and unrestrictive.

Anahita's Matricaria (released on Important in 2009)

10. Who is your favourite philosopher and why?

Well I was an anthropolgy major, so I must confess I don't know the philosophers that well. But Rudolf Steiner was a philosopher of sorts and I find his ideas pretty out there and quite interesting. I think he had some insightful ideas about education, and I thought at one point in my life about training to become a Waldorf teacher. I also have used Biodynamic herbal preparations to enhance the soil in my garden and try to plant by the cycles of the moon and nature, etc. So yes, I would say I have applied many of his ideas to my daily life.

11. What current music most impresses you?

Pretty much anything that comes from Finland.

12. Got any strange stories? Do tell.

I am not much of a storyteller, I prefer listening to them or reading about them.

13. Do you ever listen to your older releases? If so, how do you feel about them? If not, how come?

Yes I do listen to them. I was just listening to a bunch of my releases last week because I just recorded a new record and I wanted to see how it compared to my older releases. As a musician I feel it is necessary for me to listen to what I have done previously, so I can evaluate what I am currently doing, or to see what new directions I might want to take.

Night of the Indian Pipes, an early demo cassette

14. What's your ultimate on-the-cheap meal?

Pizza with extra garlic and onions.

15. How do you fit into the Philadelphia music scene? Do you have many local kindred spirits?

Well I moved about 2 hours away from the city almost 3 years ago. I still frequent Philly pretty often, and have just recorded a new record with Greg Weeks at Hexham Head. Locals Mary Lattimore and Helena Espvall also play on the record. I still have many wonderful friends in Philadelphia, and I guess it is still my home in a way, even if i don't reside there anymore.

16. Neo-psychedelia, acid-folk, free-folk, and on and on... are labels important for music?

Well some people think they are, I guess that's why they still exist. I really don't like them and if people ask me what kind of music I play, I usually briefly describe what I do instead of labeling it.

17. With regards to your recording process - how much of your music is planned, and how much is improvised? Do you pay much attention to detail or is the overall atmosphere most important?

Well its probably a little of both. I usually start with a vague plan and then take it from there. When recording on the 4 track I usually have an idea, or lay down a track or 2, and then listen back and usually get ideas for other tracks to lay.

18. From a technical standpoint, how do you record your music? Has this changed over the years?

It has almost always been recorded on a 4 track up until 6 months ago, when I started recording in Greg's studio. I still record on a 4 track, but I decided for my next release I want to do something different, and going from recording on a 4 track to recording in a studio has been a huge change for me. I was a bit difficult for me to do mainly because I feel most comfortable in my own home, but Greg was very patient with me, and let me take my time. All in all it took about 6-7 months, a few days here and there....

19. What is your favourite colour? Justify your selection.

I don't think I can really choose a favorite. I like all the colors as long as the hue is bright.

20. What does the future hold in store for Fursaxa, as well as your other projects?

Well hopefully the new record I recorded will be out sometime this year. I am also currently working on my 2nd Sylph release (my own label), which I am hoping to have done in a few months.

2008's Sobold Moon, on Tara's Sylph label

interview conducted by Michael Tau
March 2009
published: May 22, 2009



all content copyright 2009