Sonic Seducer July 2005
In how far is the name Chiasm meaningful to your project? Does it both refer to your professional scientific background and the fact that your music combines elements of different styles of music as Electro, TripHop grooves and Heavenly voices?
The name is very meaningful to me, chosen while I was studying neurobiology in grad school in Detroit. My project was scientifically named after the optic chiasm in the brain, a group of neurons in the shape of an X, responsible for our ability to have continuous and peripheral vision. The word “chiasm” is also used in reference to a point of crossing over in chromosomal meiosis, as well as a literary term for words put together in this crossover formation. I also found a more personal meaning in the name, choosing it for my project at a time I felt I was emotionally crossing over to a new life path while incorporating my past as well. It was never intended as a reference to a merging of styles, but I can see how that might also be applicable.
„Relapse” is an album that contains contradictory things. The instrumentation has got a technical feel to it and sometimes leaves a very strict impression, while your vocals and lyrics constantly bring in the ‘human’ part. The lyrics sometimes also have a special twist in them, for example those of the song “Chosen fate” whose title combines contradictory ideas. Does Chiasm in a certain way illustrate the coexistence of science and emotion?
My inspiration for writing music often comes from internal struggles, whether they be emotional or scientific. Often times I find the best way to express these in a song is to cover all perspectives using multiple approaches, as a way of painting the contradictions within myself. Balancing a very technical aspect of my life, such as science is often met head-on with a more heart-filled approach while trying to reach conclusions on things. Especially in Chosen Fate, a track written with the ethics of genetic engineering in mind, there are more than two sides to its story, perhaps that will never find an answer in black or white. So yes, I am trying to convey a message that there may never be clear answer to any one situation, and I’m pleased the music reflects the conflicts I’m trying to exhibit.
In how far does the lyrical content of your music reflect your personality? Are the subjects you talk about in your songs personal experiences or comments on and reflections of your environment? Do you like to express things in a kind of scientific way like as titles and lyrics like “Embryonic”, “Incision” or “X-ray” seem to suggest?
Everything about Chiasm really is an expression of myself, often times that I’m not completely aware of when I begin writing. It’s like a form of therapy to me to release what I’m feeling in the form of music. And it’s all inspired by my feelings and experiences, whether they be personal or more work related. I do try to allow for open interpretations in some of my lyrics, because I find others can then more easily apply the songs to their own lives, and it’s unusual that my listeners are also scientists (although there are a few of you out there!). I suppose I choose scientific titles for my songs because I find them easier to define that way, it’s almost like labeling a tube with its contents.
Is there also a deeper meaning behind the album title “Relapse”? Does it refer to a standstill or repetition of human behavior? Or is it just the scientific/electronic way of saying “Oops, I did it again?” ?
The name “Relapse” was selected for the album title to show it’s continuation from the album, “Disorder”, and I do believe that behavior can be cyclical, repeating in waves as we are drawn back to our natural states. There was a lot of flashback and familiarity to working on “Disorder” while “Relapse” was being created.
Dark electronic music that is close to TripHop is often quickly pigeonholed and connected with artist names like Björk or Collide. Do you feel happy with these comparisons, or do you think you don’t have so much in common with these artists after all? Are there any artists you are consciously referring to in your music?
Well, I’m flattered by the comparison because I think both are amazing artists, and I enjoy their work very much, but honestly, I don’t see a lot of similarity to them. My impression is that when their names are mentioned, a sort of vocal reference is being sought that would be familiar to a larger audience, perhaps as a bridge between them, because I don’t hear a lot of similarity between Bjork and Collide either, and I’m not trying to sound like anyone but myself. I listen to a wide variety of music, and if while writing I find a track sounds too much like something I’ve heard, I scrap it. In fact, I think what I listened to the most outside of the studio while working on “Relapse” was “Disorder”. But I also enjoy listening to groups such as E. Neubauten, Kraftwerk, and Project Pitchfork, throw in a little Tom Waits and Ice Cube and things can get interesting.
In many of your songs movie samples appear. In how far do they illustrate or contribute to the meaning of the lyrics? Can you name any of the movies that you used portions of in the making of “Relapse”? After contributing the song “Isolated” to the computer game “Vampire - The Masquerade: Bloodlines”, would you also like to write music for a movie soundtrack?
I usually keep movies on in the studio while working, just as background noise, and samples of dialogue tend to jump out at me as if they already belong in a song. I have hours and hours of bits and pieces that spark some emotion in me, often times inspiring me to write a track around them. Other times while writing lyrics a scene from a movie will jump in my head and I’ll go searching for it. Most clips I’ve taken samples from are science fiction, quite a bit from Star Trek episodes, the samples in the beginning of “Phobic” are from the movie “A.I”, some from “Delay” are in “Dark City”. And sure, I’d love to write for a movie soundtrack!
Although your music is electronic and rhythm-orientated, it is not what one would expect to be played on a dancefloor in the first place. Do you think your music would lose depth and attitude if you used more dance elements in it? When you look at the remixes of “Surrender” by Threat Level 5 and “Rewind” by Zentriert Ins Antlitz (a band from my rather boring German hometown, by the way J), how much do they retain of their original feel? Do you prefer to leave it to others to make your music fit for the dancefloor, or would you like to go into that direction yourself in the future?
Now that I have a few albums under my belt, I'm starting to feel a little more comfortable in my element, and confident that I could write some club friendly music without sacrificing the integrity of my style, so I think you can expect to hear some of that from me in the near future. I think ZIA did an awesome job with the remix of “Rewind”, on top of it being an amazing 9.5 minutes long, they used my harmonizing backing vocals as the main vocals of the track, completely changing its feel and bringing out the sensitivity of the lyrics..I was literally crying when I first heard it, so the “Floating Tears” name is highly appropriate! I think TL5 maintained more of the original elements of “Surrender”, which follows the style of remixing he did for the “Divided We Fall” album we released in 2003, and it’s really cool for me to hear the more organic sounds like the piano mixed in with harsher dance beats.
As you write and produce all of your songs yourself, do you think there is a danger of revolving too much around yourself and get stuck in a rut one day? Or do common projects with bands like Threat Level 5 provide enough inspiration for you to evolve further?
I really don’t see a danger of running out of material to write about, because I keep pretty busy outside of creating music, so I’m often inspired with new ideas. I’m usually busy with a few different projects at a time, whether it be a remix, an indie film soundtrack, or some other creative collaboration. I’m also in the good company of other electronic musicians in Detroit, so ideas and opportunities to experiment are always about. Music is like art to me, so it does take time for the right mindset to emerge, and I enjoy having some room to stretch. But I’m always eager to experiment with different projects and approaches, and there’s plenty to keep me evolving.
Your label COP Int’l is both based in the US and in Germany. Do these circumstances hold the opportunity that you might come to Germany soon to play live shows with Chiasm? How important is playing live for you, and how do you visually realize Chiasm as a one-woman project on stage?
Well, sure! I've never been overseas, but it's something I'd like to do, so I'll keep my fingers crossed. I do enjoy playing live very much! I usually have a bassist and guitarist join me on stage, and I also have some stage video that I’ve put together over the years, mostly images of lab work, my pets, past shows, anything that feels personal to me and helps to convey what I’m feeling through my music. Always a fun time!