Mueran Humanos

Carmen Burguess and Tomás Nochteff, aka Mueran Humanos, take on this month’s round of quick-fire questions

photo: Cristina del Barco

Hello Carmen, hello Tomás. Where are you right now and what can you see?

Carmen: “I am in Buenos Aires. I can see photos of my relatives, and there’s one of me as a child emerging from the sea like a little monster looking for someone to eat. A terrifying creature.”

Tomás: “I am in my kitchen. I can see the snow-covered roofs of Neukölln, Berlin, through the window.”

We’re big fans, but have always wondered about your name. It translates as “Die Humans” – not a very friendly message, is it?

Tomás: “It’s just a little black humour, a bit of science fiction, a bit demented preacher, maybe mystical if you are of that disposition. I am puzzled when people think it is some sort of serious statement. Really? If I wanted to kill people, I wouldn’t be in a band… would I?”

It sounds way better in Spanish than English, doesn’t it?

Tomás: “When we started, I wasn’t thinking that people outside the Spanish-speaking world would listen, so I didn’t ask myself how it sounded in English. But nobody can pronounce it! People say ‘Hermanos’, I cringe every time I hear that. Well, too late to change it now.”

You’re based in Berlin, what prompted the move from Latin America?

Tomás: “We moved separately for personal reasons – adventure mostly. I lived in London and Barcelona and we landed together in Berlin, and then we started the band. Back in 2008, Berlin was a very artist-friendly city with low rents and a big, accessible music and arts scene. Nowadays, being way more expensive and trendy, it’s less so.”

The new release ‘Reemplazante’ is only your fourth album. Good things come to those who wait, eh?

Tomás: “I know! Every time we finish a record I say, ‘OK, we have all these leftover songs, let’s do another album in six months’, but it never happens. We will only release something if it’s good enough, artistically. We’ve discarded entire albums before and started again because we weren’t 100 per cent happy.”

Carmen: “It’s not as if there are people glued to the walls of our houses with their mouths open and drooling, waiting for a new album from us. Oh wait! I take that back, I found one of those zombies, I will throw them a musical bone!”

Tell us about the Shark keyboard you used to compose the new album’s songs 

Carmen: “One morning, I woke up with an inexplicable hunch and started looking for instruments on Kleinanzeigen, the platform used by most musicians in Berlin. I found an advert for an almost toy-like keyboard, so I decided to go and look, and several strange things happened on the mission.

“I found the building where the keyboard was, and it was number 13. Inside there was a lift, doors wide open with a glow of golden light that I found paranormally bright. Then a young, bare-chested man appeared with the uncased keyboard under his arm. It was grey like a shark, and I held out €20. That changed my life forever!”

There was also a toy amp that you found in the street?

Tomás: “Carmen started writing songs on that keyboard and the sound wasn’t too loud on its built-in speakers, so I couldn’t play bass on my big Ampeg amp. We found this little toy amp on the street years ago when we moved here. It sounds cool, so that’s how we wrote all the songs. Having fewer options helps you to focus. Then we moved to our rehearsal space and ‘translated’ the music to our usual instruments.” 

Love the track ‘Cadenas De La Infancia’, which has a real Joy Division feel. How important was that UK post-punk/new wave scene to your own music?

Tomás: “It was the first music I chose to listen to myself. When I was about 12, I felt drawn to punks. I liked how they looked. I tried to get what I thought were punk records. I got PiL’s ‘Live In Tokyo’ followed by ‘My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts’ by Eno and Byrne. Those two records made sense to me. I thought, ‘This sounds like spiky hair and anarchy’. 

“When I finally listened to a ‘proper’ punk record I found them too much like music my parents would like. So I kept looking for the weirder stuff, then at some point I got ‘Closer’ by Joy Division and it blew my head off. That record definitely inspired me to start a band. I never wanted to emulate them, but they’re part of me in a sense, so it shows sometimes.”

Music journalists do like a comparison. Our Reviews Ed says you’re the Latin American Chris & Cosey. Do you see the parallels between your work?

Carmen: “Sure, I love them. Thank you.”

Tomás: “I don’t mind being compared to them, it is honourable. Other people say we remind them of The Cramps. We love The Cramps. First time Carmen came round to my house she brought a Cramps book and a CD by The Fall. I thought, ‘This is it’.”

Who else do you get compared to?

Tomás: “Suicide, usually. Martin Rev likes Mueran Humanos – I am very proud of that. He said, ‘When I see these two and their wonderful music, I see my people’. It’s on YouTube, look it up. We’re told all the time that our music is a mix of this and that, but we don’t mix genres on purpose. I would worry if everybody compared us to the same thing over and over. Luckily, it doesn’t happen.”

‘Reemplazante’ is released by Sterbt Menschen

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