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The brainchild of Kansas-born, Brooklyn-residing singer-cellist Melora Creager, Rasputina is like an Edward Gorey wet dream come to life: a captivating combination of chamber music, doomy goth-metal textures, corsets lifted from a Victorian boudoir and loads of twisted black humor. An in-demand session cellist who's worked with the likes of Nirvana, Bob Mould, Belle & Sebastian, Marilyn Manson and the Goo Goo Dolls, Creager founded the all-female outfit in 1992. She spoke with us recently about playing the cello in middle school and filled us in on Rasputina's current lineup, which features cellist Zoë Keating and drummer Jonathan TeBeest, the group's first-ever male member.
Westword: Did you get picked on a lot as a kid for playing the cello?
Melora Creager:Yeah, I was a geek and a misfit, and I actually quit playing cello in eighth grade because I really wanted to fit in. I grew up in a real hick place, and I remember screaming fights in the street. Like one time, the school orchestra played "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" at an assembly, and some boy made fun of me on the way home and was spitting on me. I ran home crying, like, "I quit!!" But I picked it up again once I got to art school.
Do you find that there's a crossover between the classical music world and the Rasputina world?
Not really. The classical music world is really off on its own and doesn't hear or care about us, and I think they're pretty snotty. Like even when you go to an instrument store to buy a bow or something and explain what you do, they turn up their nose at you. It's laughable! They think you're not a real player; it's like you're a screwy goof-off.
Seems like you've been the one on speed dial whenever some rock band needs a cellist.
Yeah, and it's super competitive, because there's not that many people who do it. Even within the group, we've had really competitive situations over outside jobs. One time I was supposed to get a job with Fred Schneider from the B-52s, and he was told my name wrong, so he couldn't find so-and-so from Rasputina, and he hired another girl in the band. I was like, ŒHey, that was my job!' So that was a big fight.
Did she quit?
No, there wasn't a quit over that one. But we went through a rough period where people were changing a lot. Often people think it's such a great project that it's about to get big, and they're gonna be there when it gets big, but it just doesn't go like that, and then they get disillusioned.
Has being pegged a "gothic cello-rock" band been a blessing or a curse?
Originally, it got us lots of attention because of the cellos and the costumes and it being three women, but also sometimes people will think it's a gimmick and write us off. But it's not really gimmicky -- we really do play the cello seriously, and we care about the music. So it goes back and forth.
Why was Rasputina all female at first?
I think to have it be just girls -- that was all part of the aesthetic. I thought it would look amazing and go with the vibe.
When did you decide it would be okay to have a guy in the band?
When Jonathan started wearing pigtails.