She, the Muse

9 November 2017 text Nikola Shahpazov
They often call her "David Lynch's muse". With good reason. Christa Bell would steal anyone's heart even if he hadn't directed the Lost Highway and Mulholland Dr., but her creative relationship with Lynch is something special. We had listened to her voice long before it came out in the new episodes of Twin Peaks, but her debut album, We Dissolve, finally took over us. Its exciting that we will hear it live at Sofia Live Club on November 17th, and even more so - that before that, Christa manages to answer some important questions about music, cinema, funerals and, of course, David, as she calls him.

All too often you’re associated first and foremost with the music and movies of David Lynch. Is that a blessing or does it get tiresome in a while?
After 17 years of working together, it has only ever felt like an absolute blessing to be associated with him. This is a testimony to his character as much as his art.

How different is David Lynch – the music artist from David Lynch – the director?

David is so singularly David in every medium. Music and film go so intimately together for him since the beginning. All of his art seems to come from the same bottomless well of creativity.

You’ve been collaborating with Lynch constantly since 1999. How much has his persona influenced your style and artistic approach?
We’ve worked together consistently for many years now and it’s safe to say he’s had a significant impact on many aspects of my life as an artist and maybe even my personality in general. First and foremost, seeing the benefit of Transcendental Meditation in his life caused me to desire that benefit for myself, and this has been a gift beyond measure. The positive effects of this mental tool reverberate through all parts of my life. As an artist, David’s influence is undeniable, but not overwhelming. The Lynch spice is definitely present in my artistic offerings, but it doesn’t overwhelm the dish. Ok now I am making myself hungry.

You’ve mentioned elsewhere that you do practice transcendental meditation. How does it affect you as an artist?
TM helps to calm the mind from the constant chatter so the ideas have an opportunity to come to you. Sometimes I visualize the ideas hanging out there in a cosmic place, chit chatting together until they get the bat signal that the vessel intended to host the idea is in the perfect reception mode, then the ideas rush off to dive into the consciousness of the recipient, leaving their pleasant conversation with another idea abruptly. TM helps bring about that reception mode readily. I don’t know how it calms the mind the way it does, but it just does. Consistently, remarkably, so the ideas can come.

We know that We Dissolve contains some pretty old track as well as a few pretty recent ones. Didn’t that make it harder to pack them together into a cohesive entity?
This has been the case for all the records I have publicly released. The span of time between the birth of songs can be as much as 20 years on a single album. But that does not necessarily affect cohesion in a body of work. In my experience at least. I believe that songs have their own destinies, their own individual trajectories and timelines.

What makes We Dissolve new and different from This Train and Somewhere in the Nowhere?
The production style is different. And the arrangements on We Dissolve are generally more accessible as the songs follow more of an established structure. My music with David rarely adhered to pop song format. But the essences are similar. Darkness, melancholy, cosmic musings delivered with sensuality, ethereal confidence and femininity. The music I make with David is more of a soundtrack to a dream, and We Dissolve is still dreamy but a bit more driving and grounded.

We understand that the Dissolve in the album title does have a direct connection to a certain cemetery and the way you view funerary tradition. Please elaborate on that.
Yes. Thank you for asking about it! I inherited a natural burial cemetery business from my father, Arthur Darling Zucht, called Countryside Memorial Park. It’s located outside of my hometown of San Antonio, Texas. At our cemetery we don’t allow bodies to be embalmed or concrete grave liners or any type of coffin that isn’t 100% biodegradable and earth friendly. We place a body in the earth and if you would like to become a tree or wildflowers or a succulent you can have seeds planted on top of your resting place. It’s pretty amazing. My father was at the crest of the wave on this one. It took me awhile to understand how incredible it was to own this business and share with people that an alternative to contemporary burial was available and much more affordable and sustainable. Now I am an advocate for green burial, home funeral and the death positive movement in general.

What’s the Chrysta Bell live experience like?
It’s high drama. Full on. Kinda creepy and pretty sexy I guess. I love to be onstage and it’s terrifying at the same time. But the opportunity to connect with an audience is something I take seriously and do my best to give all I’ve got to give.

To quote Lynch: “The first time I saw her perform, I thought she was like an alien. The most beautiful alien ever.” Is it often you get reactions like that after a gig?
Where do you go from there? I love the idea of coming from outer space or another dimension to give you this show. If you can disappear a bit into the performance and maybe enjoy not understanding exactly what is going on and be calmed as well as stimulated and intrigued from the experienced, I feel I have done my job.

You say that Lynch approaching you for a role in Twin Peaks was a surprise. How long did it take for you to say yes?

It took a few minutes of David assuring me I could handle it before I said yes.

Did you ever doubt you were going to cope with the role?

Considering it was my first real acting job yes I had trepidation, but not self doubt. Knowing that David believed I could do it gave me great confidence. I felt protected. But I knew it would take all I had to keep my head on straight and deliver. I was nervous, excited, somewhat terrified, but not doubtful.

Tammy has quite the style, the moves, the presence. Was that something you struggled hard to achieve or did those moves come naturally?
I memorized her lines, I put on her outfit, I stepped into the world of Twin Peaks and did my best to be totally serious about the work and still playful. Tammy was not a struggle. I was challenged and anxious going into it, but I thrive on that to some degree and I welcomed the shove out of my comfort zone. The moves as you call them were by far the easiest part as that was just Chrysta Bell playing Tammy. The moves just happened.

Twin Peaks’ fans were analyzing (maybe overanalyzing) every scene and aspect of Twin Peaks: The Return. Did you do the same? Or do you think the series shouldn’t be analyzed but rather – dreamed?

I think analyzing Twin Peaks in general is a fruitless, maddening and fantastically stimulating. I highly recommend and discourage at the same time.

Now that you’ve seen the final production of the Twin Peaks episodes was there something you found particularly surprising?

I was surprised, delighted and dumbfounded but most of all, I was mentally and spiritually expanded by the show. It’s just remarkable how it turns you inside out.

As a fan of the original series, how different did you find The Return?
Do you see it as one of Lynch’s best works ever?
I see it as the culmination of all of his artistic endeavors, his successful artistic experiments, his esoteric studies, and his essence as an artist and a person. It is the exquisite collusion of David’s artistic callings, harmonious, dissident and solitary, presented in a most alluring and vexing way. It is true Art from a consummate Artist.


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