Best of 2015: Stella Mozgawa: “I’m musically and creatively promiscuous”

Stella Mozgawa: “I’m musically and creatively promiscuous”

This year Warpaint’s Stella Mozgawa got behind the kit for everyone from Jamie xx to Kurt Vile. We look back on a manic 2015 with the in-demand drummer.

Stella Mozgawa likes to keep herself busy. In the three weeks that she recently spent in the UK, she performed with Jamie XX ahead of the Mercurys, played drums on the forthcoming Jagwar Ma record, did some production work with Eves The Behavior, a session with Stevie Parker, plus, intriguingly, some “fun but probably quite secret stuff towards the end”. As she makes her way through Gatwick airport, heading back to Los Angeles to continue work on the next Warpaint record, she is raring to go. “I’m feeling more and more inspired and more and more focused about what feels right” she enthuses.

Away from Warpaint, she has enjoyed being “musically and creatively promiscuous”. She’s collaborated with everyone from The xx’s wunderkind and long-time friend Jamie XX, to Kurt Vile, to Domino’s very own drum-bashing maestro, Georgia. Over the years, she has become more particular, “more adult” about who she collaborates with and less inclined to jump on something out of fear of no-one asking her again. “I played with a lot of different people prior to [Warpaint]… so I feel like I am still continuing that but being careful and considerate about not just my time but also doing things that don’t sap my energy, they contribute more energy or make me feel inspired. That is really important because I see a lot of people who do a lot of things but they’re exhausted because there is no focus to what they do.”

As opportunities to collaborate presumably flood in, the judging criteria is simple. “I kind of just decide whether they have integrity or not” she laughs. “I feel like it doesn’t really matter what kind of music someone’s making as long as they really believe in what they’re doing and I feel like they are doing it for a reason that I can relate to” she continues. “They’re all really different styles of music and different kinds of artists but they all have a common thread in that they all really believe in what they do.” She relishes what she can learn from collaborative experiences.

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“I feel like it doesn’t really matter what kind of music someone’s making as long as they really believe in what they’re doing.”

Stella Mozgawa

“There’s a lot of methods that I guess are so similar… but then the really interesting different ways that people do their thing. It’s like being shown a magic trick or something. It’s really exciting and the challenge is just always to maintain some sense of identity through all those different things and I think that is a really good challenge for me.”

The prestige that comes with being arguably one of the most in-demand drummers inthe world - held in high esteem not only by artists desperate to work with her but also by fans and critics alike - is clearly quite overwhelming for Stella. “I’m just beyond flattered. I still really, really love doing it and I know I’m going to love doing it for a long time” she gushes. “It’s really funny because sometimes I don’t even really feel like a drummer, I just feel like a musician that’s getting away with playing the drums if that makes sense! So it still has this really innocent quality to it.”

It’s perhaps even more an achievement considering she’s never officially studied drums or music? Stella laughs. “I mean a lot of my favourite drummers are just enthusiasts. I think that’s where it begins. It’s a really good place to start from!”

With Jenny Lee Lindberg readying up for the imminent release of her debut album as ‘jennylee’, Theresa Wayman working on solo material with Dan Carey and her new super-group BOSS, and Emily Kokal putting out music with the likes of Saul Williams and Paul Bergmann, Stella describes the time Warpaint have taken to focus on individual projects as “hugely important”. “Everyone’s really challenging themselves to go into those different, more intimate worlds” she says. “Just spending time alone, you make realisations and have revelations about your own mind that you can’t have when you are say in a relationship, or around your friends, or in a band. You just need that time to breathe and remember who you are. I think that being creative on your own or in different projects is a really good way to satisfy that urge.”

“I don’t even really feel like a drummer, I just feel like a musician that’s getting away with playing the drums!”

Stella Mozgawa

Stella also has “some grand plans” for her solo material which has been bubbling away for a few years in her “little studio at home”. Whilst some of it has morphed into remixes for other artists, she talks animatedly of her “at this point, electronic, instrumental stuff that will eventually find a home.”

However turning their attentions to other projects definitely isn’t a sign of division in camp Warpaint. Stella appears on two tracks on Jenny’s album ‘right on!’ “It was actually really natural because we always send tracks to each other” she explains. “At the beginning of the year her and I would go into the Warpaint space and just jam together and record. One of those songs actually became our last song which we put out which was ‘I’ll Start Believing’.” Out of these jam sessions also came the seed which grew into jennylee’s album track ‘riot’ . The other track she contributed to is ‘he fresh’.

“I actually had a foot injury from surfing at the beginning of the year and I couldn’t play drums for a few weeks” Stella recalls. “Luckily I didn’t have to go on tour or anything so it was just this wonderful experience of writing a lot more beats on the computer and one of those was that song and she said, “do you mind if I write something over it?” and she did and it’s just really, really beautiful.”

The band, who have been together for eleven years, regularly consult each other about their other projects. “I feel like we share a lot of stuff with each other” Stella admits. “Sometimes someone telling you that something’s really special is the thing that actually provokes you to finish working on it.”

As for the third Warpaint album, Stella says that “it’s very possible” that the album will surface in 2016. She believes that the on-again, off-again process that has been an inevitable result of their eager exploration of other creative outlets hasn’t necessarily been a hindrance. “It just helps us focus in the moment that we’re actually together and I think that’s a pretty beneficial thing. We’re working pretty consistently and with focus to finish it.”

As for what to expect from album number three, Stella reveals that “things are a little more dancey perhaps, a little higher on the BPM scale.” However it’s hardly surprising that, for a band so renowned for their experimental impulses, nothing is set in stone. “That’s just the kind of stuff that I think we are attracted to right now but who knows what’s going to come out?”

Photo: Emma Swann.