... to speak with her about her amazing and extraordinary music, the Berlin scene and her view on the social situation in Israel.
AVIVA-Berlin: You were born in Moscow and then you moved to Tel Aviv at the age of 4 with your family. What was your experience in both cities? Did you have already family living in Tel Aviv?
Mary Ocher: Yes, I was very young when we moved to Tel Aviv. It was just a few months before the Soviet Union completely disappeared. At that time we finally got the permission to leave the country. We had very limited options. My parents decided to go to Israel because my aunt on my father┬┤s side was already living there. My parents didn┬┤t really know what to expect there but they took all their things and went there.
At the beginning it was difficult for me. I didn┬┤t speak Hebrew and one of the first experiences I remember was that the teacher in the kindergarden put me and all other immigrant children in the corner and everyone else in the middle.
It took me two years to be able to speak Hebrew. In primary school my Hebrew wasn┬┤t perfect but at that point I could understand everything and express myself well.
AVIVA-Berlin: At the age of twenty you left Israel for Berlin.
Mary Ocher: In Israel it can be tough for someone who doesn┬┤t support the government, who unties nationalism and didn┬┤t go to the army. I didn┬┤t finish high school so in Israel I wasn┬┤t able to fit in anywhere in the society. That meant for me I wasn┬┤t able to find a job or afford paying rent for an apartment. I just felt there is no future for me. I only knew I really wanted to do something with music. But nobody I knew could make a living with music there. In Berlin there are more possibilities for that.
AVIVA-Berlin: So how do you like living in Berlin?
Mary Ocher: It┬┤s very easy to live here in a bubble outside of the mainstream culture, and that┬┤s very interesting for me. I don┬┤t feel like I have to compete with something which is more popular because there is an audience for what I do. I get a lot of support from people who sometimes become friends afterwards. There is no need to compete among us, we┬┤re just working together. I think there are a lot of people who came here to experiment with something new.
Another advantage is that there aren┬┤t difficult economic conditions for living. Berlin is a very good place for strange experiments.
AVIVA-Berlin: Your album "War Songs" sounds very powerful and energetic. Could you tell me a bit more about your lyrics? What topics are you dealing with in the songs?
Mary Ocher: Some of the main topics are about myself being confronted with nationalism and all sorts of repression. I just wrote it from a very frustrated point of view. I felt very upset about a lot of things which are so obvious but there are so many people who don┬┤t question them. One topic of the songs is suffering during the military service. There are lines about certain myths which are part of everyday life in Israel.
As I was living there I had a lot of verbal arguments. At the age between 18 and 20, people would permanently ask me why I didn┬┤t go to the army.
And they asked how I would imagine changing the structures which I don┬┤t like. But I couldn┬┤t. That┬┤s why I left. I just couldn┬┤t picture being able to change the structures I don┬┤t like from the inside. I felt there wouldn┬┤t be much support.
AVIVA-Berlin: But in Israel there have been demonstrations and activist events against the social situation and to draw attention to the problem of housing shortage recently.
Mary Ocher: I am really glad that there is finally a struggle and that all different social levels are doing protest actions together which are not about the Palestinian conflict. For the first time it┬┤s something different that affects everyone, no matter how rich one is. Even my parents realise that it┬┤s about them as well. It┬┤s about everyone: The poor, the middleclass and the rich. But there is a lot to be done. In Berlin, for example, it is easy to afford things for basic needs. In Israel it┬┤s the opposite: There is a minimum wage of about four euros an hour. The rent is more than twice as in Berlin. The supermarkets are very expensive as well. So people have to spend much of what they earn for their basic needs. Young people can┬┤t afford lots of other things because of that. If they are planning to travel to Europe they have to save nearly a year to be able to buy a flight ticket.
AVIVA-Berlin: You are doing a lot of other artistic projects. Which projects have you done recently?
Mary Ocher: At the moment I┬┤m working on a mockumentary, a fictional documentary, which I┬┤ll hopefully finish in the next months. We┬┤re still shooting it so I don┬┤t know yet what the editing will be like. It┬┤s about a 70s avantgarde movement. Almost entirely improvised, there is no script. There are just a few characters and a frame of a story.
AVIVA-Berlin: Your music has got an experimental element in it. How do you create your sound?
Mary Ocher: On my previous albums the songs were very much written without improvisation. After recording the songs I went to a studio to arrange them, put on some effects and so on, but the songs and their lyrics were more or less finished before. The album I┬┤ve just finished has got a lot more improvisation. There is an ambient track which I divided into three tracks. All together it was a totally different approach. I improvised with the lyrics as well and tried a lot of various instruments. We used organs, some percussion instruments and a new synthesizer. I needed to teach myself to play this way which I haven┬┤t done before. It was an amazing work process; I was really tied in to how it sounds.
AVIVA-Berlin: Your producer King Khan, describes your music as "a mix of Kate Bush, Kim Fowley and Buffy Sainte-Marie". Do you agree with that?
Mary Ocher: If anyone see these influences in my music it┬┤s a big compliment for me and it also shows that we have good taste.
AVIVA-Berlin: Which artists would you say influence you? What sort of music do you listen to?
Mary Ocher: Oh, I am listening a lot to music myself, to Sixties Garage, Beat and Soul, Weird Electronic, Beat Disco, No Wave.
I don┬┤t like most of the new things, but I try to find more interesting new things.
AVIVA-Berlin: How are you going to present your songs at the Popkomm? How will you arrange the performances? Are you going to be accompanied by a band?
Mary Ocher: I just started recently working together with a drummer.
At the Popkomm I┬┤ll play two showcases. During the daytime at the main fair on the former airport Tempelhof it┬┤ll be just me and a guitar. In the evening at the showcase at the Gr├╝ner Salon the drummer will take part with me on the piano and with the guitar.
AVIVA-Berlin: Thank you very much for the interview; we wish you much success and fun in Berlin!
More informations at the website of Mary Ocher:
Read also our review to "War songs".