Space Mirrors | Interview | “International Sci-Fi Space Rock collective”
This international space / prog rock project was born in 2002. Space Mirrors’ first album ‘The Darker Side of Art’ (2004) was recorded by a duet of Alisa Coral and Michael Blackman. Back then Michael performed guitar as Alisa did the rest, including vocals, bass, synths, drums and programming.
Alisa performs a lion share of parts in Space Mirrors’ new album ‘The Obscure Side of Art’ (2022). It’s the band’s seventh album, and as another rule – it was recorded with new musicians as it seems Alisa’s “Hawkwind-style space rock” unites people all over the world. If you haven’t heard Space Mirrors before, then this interview is a good chance to get to know them.
Are you still excited with the release of ‘The Obscure Side of Art’? Or does this nightmare happening right now obscure the event?
Alisa Coral: Could be better, but all right. Of course, I’m still excited. It’s the first Space Mirrors album in seven years. I put a lot of effort and energy in it during two years of recording, re-recording and revamping the initial idea until it took the final form. And surely its release was obscured by the events. How can it be otherwise? It was rather symbolic that the release date was the same when it started. But what did I expect from giving such a title to the album?
Did you find a way to get Space Mirrors’ CDs finally?
They didn’t want to allow my share of CDs to get to me. The biggest mistake was to write in declaration the name of the band as we understand now. I found out there is really a file on Space Mirrors in their system. But after a couple of thorough interrogations about my band everything was agreed. I only had to gather a pack of papers. And I did. But at the last minute it was changed by another person at customs, and I didn’t get the CDs. They were sent back to our publisher in Germany. I don’t know exactly why: just a bad mood of this custom officer because of all the events or he got the order from someone else. I didn’t receive my own CDs. I haven’t seen them yet. I figured out how to get them to people who were waiting for the new album. And our publisher sent my share to my friends in the US and UK. Big thanks to him.
From which countries do you usually get the most intensive feedback?
I know some Space Mirrors CDs were sold in Russia but mainly it’s piracy. So, I can’t really say because I usually focus on how many we sell in certain regions. Sometimes I get email messages from Russian fans. There’s some interest, that’s for sure. Most feedback I get is from the USA and UK. Probably ‘cause we play more Hawkwind-style space rock.
Let’s try to speak about music. The new album’s title correlates with the title of your debut ‘The Darker Side of Art’. It looks now like the end of a cycle, what was your intention behind this name?
Oh yes, let’s go back to music. Yes, it’s the cycle. The end or not I don’t know but certainly a new chapter. I had to finish the Dark Jedi story, for example. In a satirical manner, if you saw the cover art for the song. If the first album was more like a dark space rock ritual, the new one explores philosophical aspects, inner and outer space, the essence of music as an art. This is what inspired me. But this album is without words. It’s completely instrumental. It’s spacey and psychedelic, even kosmische sometimes. Obscure… But it has some dark goth feeling, I was told. More personal maybe than previous albums and more of a solo effort like the first one.
Honestly, I didn’t watch the band’s progress for awhile, what caused such a long break between ‘Stella Polaris’ (2015) and ‘The Obscure Side of Art’ (2022)?
After I almost died in 2015 from myocarditis, I felt I needed some change. So, I concentrated on my book series “The Elements of Passion and Power” which I edit now for publication. And my work as a PR specialist. I also participated in other musical projects as a guest (Spaceseed, Dark Sun) but stopped doing any of my own music until December 2018 when I started to play with ideas for ‘The Obscure Side Of Art’. In March 2019 I took part in the North American Space Ritual festival where I joined Spaceseed and Moohawks with Nik Turner and Alan Davey of Hawkwind fame. The festival was held in Austin, Texas. You probably won’t believe it, but it was really cold in Austin at the end of March.
And there are 18 years between ‘The Darker Side of Art and The Obscure Side of Art’ albums. What are some milestones? Would you like me to list all the Space Mirrors albums which were in between?
‘The Cosmic Horror’ trilogy, for sure. But about it later. ‘The Memories of the Future’ was a very popular album among fans and gained us some initial following as a space rock band with heavy influences. Then it was ‘Majestic-12: A Hidden Presence’. Album telling about main world conspiracies. It was made like a satire but as we can see now some of it may be true! Haha…
It sounds like you had a plan for each of Space Mirrors’ releases. What’s about ‘The Obscure Side of Art’? What’s the main idea behind this album?
The main plan was to record a sequel to ‘The Darker Side Of Art’ but with fresh ideas and approach. I wanted to do that for a very long time and I thought it’s a good way to return to recording Space Mirrors. Each track of the new album was inspired by a different story. From philosophy to space explorations and Star Wars satire. There is an illustration created especially for each track by Kevin M Sommers explaining my inspiration. Our long-time collaborator and graphics designer. By the way, he wrote some of the lyrics for ‘Stella Polaris’ songs. It took some time but Kevin created very special art for this release. I wish it was also released on vinyl. All the pictures would look great.
By the way, what are “main world conspiracies” besides Disney’s outrage upon the Star Wars series?
Ahh, this question is related to the ‘Majestic-12’ album, I guess. The whole concept of it was to tell about the New World Order and global world government through the songs about famous strange events, Alien conspiracies and cover-ups. Space rock music always dealt with such themes and it was fun to record the album. Do you really want me to start talking about real world conspiracies here? I think not… Not in the current political climate.
You do collaborate with a lot of different musicians including Nik Turner himself. How easy is it to collaborate with different people each time?
Not only recorded with Nik Turner but shared the stage with him when performing for Moonhawks at NASR 2019. It was difficult in the very beginning 20 years ago when the internet was so slow, we had to send recorded tracks on CDRs to each other by post. Then it was much easier. Once I figured out the formula of what I want from other musicians and how to explain it to them. And when the internet became faster, I could check the recording and ask what to re-record or change. Regarding the personal aspect it was always rather easy. For me it’s not difficult to collaborate with different people. It’s the technical aspect which can cause problems usually.
Were there musicians who refused to collaborate with Space Mirrors?
Yes, there were a couple of musicians who refused for reasons which I won’t disclose here. They wouldn’t like me to talk about it. But we are still very good friends which means a lot. And yes, there were those who wanted to collaborate themselves and even became the permanent members of the band later.
How many ideas do you accept from other members?
I send the demos and they record them. Then I get their recordings and I re-record mine. And so on. Yes, usually I’m open to the ideas and some songs are written together with other musicians or by them. With the ‘The Cosmic Horror’ trilogy I gave the ideas of a song and some of the musicians or lyricists composed music and lyrics. The highlight of such collaboration was our album ‘Stella Polaris’.
How did you work with other band’s members this time as it took so long to finish ‘The Obscure Side of Art’? Did your companions have enough patience to wait until the very final stage of recording?
The same. Usually, it’s me who awaits the recordings from other musicians because they need time to record, of course. Then I get them, mix, et cetera. The album could be released in 2020 but Covid changed the plans. One known record label wasn’t able to release it. And for good. I changed the concept, added new songs, re-recorded some and shelved a couple for the next release. Some of the parts were recorded during the lockdown. Also, Kevin got additional time to work on the artwork.
A lot of your songs are based on stories written by H. P. Lovecraft, what was your first encounter with H.P.?
Actually, it’s the whole ‘Cosmic Horror’ trilogy which is based on Lovecraft stories. And some tracks on EP’s. I’ve heard about Lovecraft a long time ago of course. But the first time I was given his book was in mid-00’s by Dr. Blackfyre. He wrote many of the lyrics on ‘Stella Polaris’ and co-wrote music to ‘Celephaïs’. Since reading my first stories of Lovecraft I’ve read all his works in Russian and then in English. And then the idea of Cosmic Horror albums appeared.
There are three nominal cycles in Lovecraft’s legacy: Cthulhu Mythos, Dream Cycle and Macabre Stories or whatever… It seems you didn’t follow this concept in your trilogy, so can we say that each album is a collection of different stories which were interesting for you in a certain period?
Yes. Following the cycles would be too restricting for the creative process.
Lovecraft’s stories are known for their specific atmosphere and recognizable turns. How do you work with his twisted images when you write Lovecraftian songs?
Ahh, this is not an easy question. When I wrote music to the Lovecraft story, I knew this music would be especially for this or that story. So, everything was composed following the concept. I pictured the whole song in my mind and wrote down the music ideas on paper. Then tried them on keyboards, bass or guitar. I tried to express the images through music. Some people say it worked.
Can you remember the most difficult story you worked through with Space Mirrors? A twist in the plot which was hard to transfer with your music?
The most difficult and complex one for me to transfer was ‘The Shadow Out of Time’. I wrote the epic song called ‘Times Unknown’ (from ‘The Other Gods’ album) based on it. And I spent something like… a year doing this. Of course, I also worked on other stuff at the same time, but it was the longest I worked on one composition.
There are a lot of bands who are / were influenced by Lovecraft – Metallica and Mekong Delta have songs based on his stories just as Paul Roland and Bretus do. What’s your favorite musical interpretation of Lovecraftian horrors? Besides Space Mirrors of course.
I really like how Rage did that on their album ‘Black in Mind’. Also, Nocturnus, Therion, Bal-Sagoth to name a few…
Why did you choose to make Psi Corps your side project? Even its ‘Tekeli-li: A Soundtrack to the Adventures of A.G.Pym’ album fits well with the Lovecraftian aspect of Space Mirrors.
Psi Corps had the concept of “a soundtrack to a book”. It was more experimental musically. For example, most of the Adventures was recorded live in studio in just a couple of takes. Then Michael Blackman added his guitar to it in a few takes. He was really good at this psychedelic jam type of recordings. So, while there was a concept it was more of a floating free music concept. I never do this in Space Mirrors. Poe’s stories could fit really well with Space Mirrors. But Psi Corps was a different kind of approach.
Did you complete your journey with Psi Corps? Don’t you have any unreleased material for the project?
No, no unreleased material. I had a concept based on Poe poems but it still remains only a concept.
Alisa, I know it’s impossible to plan anything nowadays, and yet what are your artistic plans for the rest of 2022? That’s the last question for today. Thank you for the interview and I hope we’ll have a chance to discuss your next album sooner or later.
I have a solo album finished. It has a special guest though. It’s under the name Alisa Coral’s Neutron Star and called ‘Virgo SC’. I’m not sure how or when it will be released for obvious reasons. Also, I work on the next Space Mirrors album. Thank you and I hope you do too!