The Low Down:
Mary Ocher (vocals, guitar, keys)
Born in Russia, raised in Israel and currently residing in Berlin, Mary Ocher immersed herself in the worlds of art and music from a very young age. “Ever since I was a child I’ve been obsessed with art: first with drawing then with words and singing. At 11 I used to write songs and record them on little tape-recorders that I’d carry around with me on school trips. I started toying around with guitar and keyboards around the age of 14. Going from audition to audition (I had my first at 5)… not being able to overcome a terrible stage fright. It took me years to feel comfortable on stage and just not give a damn whether they like you or not… just make them react somehow”.
Bold and outspoken, it seems that Mary certainly did overcome her initial fears about performance. She describes her own sound as “biting and very, very raw,” and on her website, Mary claims that her only plans for the future are for “WORLD DOMINATION”. It’s clear that Ocher has big ambitions and an even bigger sense of her artistic vision. Not content with just making music, Mary also makes “film, visual art, documentaries, music videos, art installations and poetry”.
On her influences, Ocher simply states that, “there are too many to name. I have to admit they are mostly men”. Placing Ocher’s sound is hard to do given that she is so unique but we hear elements of PJ Harvey, The Velvet Underground and Kate Bush, with a sprinkling of Bowie thrown in for good measure. From delicate piano and synths, to 60s-inspired riffs and Eastern rhythms – glorious melodies and a brilliantly idiosyncratic voice fill Mary’s album Eden, which came out earlier this year on Buback. I, human, a remix EP, has also been released, with a stunning performance video to accompany the title track, which you can watch below.
So, has Mary has faced many challenges as a woman in a male-dominated industry? Mary affirms, “It never ends. I wish we were living in a world where I could be an artist. Period. Not a female artist. It became very obvious from an early age that being female is going to be my mark of cain until I die, and I accepted the challenge.” Placing her experiences within the historical context of the struggles other female writers and artists have faced, and continue to face today, Mary says, “Just like Virginia Woolf described in A Room of One’s Own – there’s a special place reserved for female writers – they are not just good writers, they are women writers first and foremost, good or not. That was published in 1929. Similar ideas were repeated in 1949 by Simone de Beauvoir in The Second Sex, in which she blamed the women themselves as well as the men for causing the damage, the lack of acceptance into the higher circles. Today there are certainly less reasons for women to be any less of a man in any field, let alone, the creative. We have the same access to information, we can support ourselves independently of men and we are not expected to sacrifice our work and all of our time for the sake of family and children (even though it is still encouraged in many places) – we can achieve no less and without becoming any less ‘female’.”
Delving further into issues of art and gender, when asked whether the former should transcend the latter, Ocher asserts that, “gender should be abolished altogether – the amorphous character of gender should be recognized. But many, if not the majority, of first world men feel rather comfortable the way things are, unwilling to admit there are still certain privileges and discrimination. Unfortunately, they haven’t yet come to the conclusion that if they’d let women into their ‘male’ worlds – they could benefit from it no less. We as a society could be more free to choose our identity, free to choose how we want to live. I’d like to think we are making small steps in that direction.” Amen to that.