Interview: The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa

Jan P. Muchow and Kateřina Winterová discuss Watching Black, the cult electronica duo's newest album

Originally a guitar group, now an electronica duo, The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa's atmospheric music has earned them a passionate cult following in the Czech Republic and beyond.

Following the release of their sixth studio album, Watching Black, multi-instrumentalist Jan P. Muchow and vocalist Kateřina Winterová took some time to discuss the new record with Prague TV's Kryštof Benca:

Kryštof Benca: You've just released your new album, Watching Black. How was the release party?

Jan P. Muchow: The album launch was a success. When you have a sold-out Akropolis listening and reacting to your music, it's very nice.

KB: How long did it take you to put the whole thing together? Did you ever feel like you weren't going to be able to finish it?

JPM: It's been four years since we released the Slowthinking album. But we spent a long time supporting that album, so the whole Watching Black work took about two years. I couldn't think of one moment when we thought we wouldn't finish it.

KB: Do you remember any positive or negative reactions to the album, which made you happy or got you down?

JPM: Every reaction that shows that the person really listened to your album is very pleasant. On the other hand, there are ones that are extremely unpleasant, because you have the legitimate suspicion that that person didn't even listen to your record.

KB: Compared to Slowthinking, the new album sounds less scattered, less soul-lacerating, and perhaps I want to say kind of balanced! Does it reflect your musical progress or your personal temper?

JPM: Slowthinking was introverted. Watching Black, on the other hand, is "interested in its surroundings." This, I think, makes the record more communicative. Also, we used more acoustic instruments, therefore the album sounds more digestible. But I'm surprised you found the record less lacerating. Personally, I find it much darker then Slowthinking.

KB: I'm completely crazy about the album, and I think your fans are too, but most people will probably regard it as "experimental intellectual crap." Don't you regret sometimes that the average person doesn't care about quality music?

JPM: Thanks. I think we still belong to the happier group of artists, who are met with at least some comprehension. There are some who aren't understood throughout their entire life. And many that aren't after they die either.

KP: I went to Prague recently and tuned into Radio 1, where the hit parade was on, and your single was number one, which pleased me a lot. Does this make you happy or don't you care?

JPM: It makes us happy, of course. We don't make music with the idea of people voting for us in some hit parade, but it's very nice to hear that they actually do. If the song is worth enough to someone for them to send an SMS or an email, it probably really touched them.

KB: While listening to the album I couldn't help thinking of Björk or Lamb -- mainly because of Katka's vocals, which dip deep into your heart and have levels that take your breath away. In my opinion, you sang at a near-perfect level, where your singing could express just about anything. Do you think you could go even further in the future?

JPM: Touching listeners' emotions is the most important part of singing. For us, it's not important if everything is technically perfect on our recordings -- it's the internal aspect. And that's the main criterion with singing as well. We don't care about Professor Klezla's opinion, only if listening to our album gives someone goose bumps. [Eduard Klezla, a music professor and singing coach, is one of the judges on Česko hledá Superstar, the Czech version of Pop Idol.]

KB: What does an average day look like in the life of Jan P. Muchow?

JPM: It depends what I'm working on, but generally straight after breakfast I go into the studio and work until evening. I don't know how to work for only a couple of hours. I'd rather work long hours for a couple of days, then have one or two days free afterwards. Lots of people want to meet at around 2pm, and that's the worst time -- it destroys your day completely, and most of the time you could sort it out by phone or by email.

KB: Katka: You're not a full-time singer, you're also a theatre actress. What do you get the most out of? Acting in the theatre or singing with the band?

Kateřina Winterová: My son.

KB: Jan: Do you go to see Katka at the theatre sometimes? How do you spend your free time? And how would you like to spend it?

JPM: I attend some of Katka's performances, of course, but not all of them. At the same time, Katka hasn't heard all the music I've written for films or for theatre. It's not so important that we know everything about each other and see each other every day -- only to make good records and write good songs.

In my free time, I'd love to spend more time playing sports -- I'm very lazy.

KB: What are your plans now? Can we look forward to a new album?

JPM: We'd like to make videos for the current album, and I hope that the next record will come out in the next four years again... :-)

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• Watching Black is out now on EMI Czech Republic

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