CHIASM | ZILLO MAGAZINE | NOVEMBER 2008
1. What's it like to be (in) Chiasm in 2008 - and what is the biggest difference if you compare it to, say, 2005?
I appreciate your curiosity:) As a solo artist, this is the equivalent of asking, how is Emileigh different in 2008 than she was in 2005? I'm three years older:) Three years of new experiences, joys and pains. Three more years of mistakes and successes, lessons learned. I'm still a solo artist, I haven't kicked myself out of the band yet. :)
2. A few years back you explained that you chose the album title "Relapse" because you wanted your 2nd album be true to your roots. Does "Reform" imply a search for a new direction then?
The title "Reform" was never intended as a reflection of change in the music I'm creating, but rather a reflection of my life for the past three years. There's been a lot of changes. I live in Michigan, the hardest hit state in the U.S. by the current recession, and have had a few life changes as a result, not including the personal ones. The songs on the album are about adapting to change, learning to survive in a world turned upside down around me. The music keeps me sane, it is my stability. So to imply that the music has changed is completely wrong in my opinion. Everything else has changed. The music is the
3. You obviously take your time between releases - do you generally consider this to be a blessing (in artistic terms) or a curse (as far as the business side is concerned)?
It's absolutely a blessing! It would be so easy to press "go" on an arpeggiator and kick out a new album every month, but I've chosen not to do that. Some artists, especially the live show driven ones, feel the need to constantly present new product to the fans because they're bored of the last album before the next one comes out. I want my songs to have longevity, and they do. People are still finding me from a song in a video game on an album released in 2001 and think it's a brand new song. When you put your entire self into your music, you can create something beautiful and real, and that's what this is all about, not kicking noise from a computer for product.
4. In your music you seem to mix subtlety and
energy, which is quite a rare mix, I guess. Is that something that comes just very easy and naturally to you these days or does it take a lot of work to get there?
I do enjoy contrast in music and because I take my time in writing it, I can approach it from a variety of moods. Some are more solemn, some completely high-strung. And that's just what I live with, so certainly it comes out when I'm writing. It does take lots of work to make it feel cohesive in the end, but it's the same process as battling conflicting thoughts to form a decision. Only in music, you don't have to stick with one mood, you can have both telling a story at the same time. Which to me, is impressive, and a more accurate description of what I'm feeling.
5. Especially considering the long periods between albums: When it comes to making a new record – do you have the whole thing mapped out in your head before you even
start? How much of it comes together more or less spontaneously during the actual recording phase?
The most difficult part organizationally for me is narrowing down the tracks to focus on. I usually start off with a journal just packed full of song ideas I've accumulated, some over the past ten years, some more recent. Some I've started actual music for, some are embedded in my head and a real challenge to extract. The programming comes next, and the way I choose the sounds and how they work together can completely change the dynamics of the song. I love "happy accidents" and try to incorporate them as much as possible. Then I put the vocals on, and how they fit with the music often causes me to go back and recreate the entire structure of the song and add new lyrics where they emerge. So the flexibility of a home studio is something I depend on completely.. I don't know how artists just "write on
the road", then record everything somewhere in one shot and call it done, that's completely awkward and mind-blowing for me to fathom. So, spontaneous, yes. But recorded spontaneity. And then reworked a few billion times. :)
6. Is there anything in particular that inspires changes in your music in general (events in your life, people you've met or maybe just new records you listened to or new equipment you bought?)
Absolutely life events. I'd say the tracks "Soulprint" and "A Section of Time" on Reform were the most heart-wrenching to write, but I had to do them in order to create an accurate depiction of what I was going through. And I think that all the songs on the album reflect on each other in that way as well. I suppose I'm an album purist.. Songs are intended to be heard in combination with the others on the album, in the order released, in order to get the big picture in the waythe
artist intended. Otherwise it's like a hurricane, they're just floating individually, swept away in chaos. Sometimes conversations with people help me to recognize I need to write about something I'm feeling. And sometimes just writing randomly brings out subjects I didn't realize i needed to address. So writing music has certainly helped me and is an integral part of my life.
7. How technology driven are you? Do you always look for the newest gear?
Well, I am a gear-head, physical gear, that is. I purchased most of what I needed for a home studio, all in hardware form, back in 1997-8 and continue to use it. What drives me is finding new and creative ways to approach it. Most of what you can do with new music software, you can accomplish in the "real world" as well, so I've actually learned a few tricks by reading up on new technology there. It's been entertaining when people write me asking
what software I use, and I have to reply "none", and they are completely confused. But that's ok. I am finally going to give a stab at Reason 4 for my next album.. I'm impressed by the flexibility it creates in the tools presented, so it should be an interesting learning experience. I've always believed it's not what you have, but what you do with it.
8. For a lot of artists these days the "getting there" during the writing and recording process sometimes seem to be more important than the finished record. How about you?
I am about the process. I wouldn't be spending so much time on this if I didn't enjoy it, and at this point it really is part of me. Maybe I'm selfish by putting it this way, but the process is about me. The product is for the fans.
9. I suppose the mastering process is the only stage of the whole production process where you brought in some outside help. Was that a
bare necessity (as in: you couldn’t do it yourself) or did you actually look for a second opinion at that point in the process, especially since it was a fellow musician and producer rather than “just” a mastering engineer?
I'm really a do-it yourself-er. I've just always done it this way, and would do it the same way even if I weren't on a record label. It's always a good idea to have your CD professionally mastered. COP just decided to advertise who did it this time, I'm not even sure who mastered the last two. Once I send them my completed album on CD as I would be happy releasing, it's completely out of my hands what they do with it. In my opinion, with the right knowledge, people could make the same changes by adjusting their car stereo.
10. Maybe I’m wrong, but on the new album you seem to draw your inspiration from an even wider range of influences. Do you just
feel (even) more confident as a musician and producer now so that you decided you were ready to try out more things or do you just care less about what people might say about your albums?
I'm an artist that creates original work and I take that title seriously. If I wanted to be a cover band, I'd be taking requests at the corner bar for four hours a night, and that's not me. "Sounds like" bands have sprung up everywhere, and to me, it's nothing less than plagarism. We learn in college to take our influences from a variety of sources and then use our intellect to create our OWN opinions, something new. A new perspective. And that's what my music is, my own ideas, my own life experiences, developed through my own perceptions of the music I've enjoyed hearing. And I'm a rather diverse person, so I would find it completely limiting to restrict myself to one type of music on an album. I also would find it
boring to listen to, personally. Perhaps I have found more confidence in the fans that have reassured me they appreciate what I do and where I'm coming from. But I'm pleased to know I'm not alone.
11. I am well aware that the Detroit area has produced a wide range of different music over the decades, yet it seems to be quite a good source of inspiration especially for the type of music you make. True or am I just imagining that?
I would have to say that the environment in Detroit is great for electronic musicians because there are many, and I certainly support local acts as well as I can, and enjoy doing so. I can't say that most of the music I listen to comes from Detroit.. maybe those artists were influenced by Detroit musicians, but in reverse I'd say the same thing about Germany and industrial music. Probably more of my inspiration has come from there.
12. Would you be willing
and able to name either a) five records that have been in one way or another influential when it came to making “Reform” or b) five records that you think are underrated. (if you could describe in a few words why you picked them, that would be great!)
Skinny Puppy- Mythmaker- I heard a demo at a club my brother was DJing at, and was completely blown away by the new direction it felt they were undertaking. The way they chop and shift sound to make original beats is nothing short of amazing to me. It's fresh and delicious.
Project Pitchfork- Kaskade - I listened to this album constantly while taking walks in the forest to clear my head. The lyrics, like all PP albums, are incredibly insightful and thought-provoking.
NIN- the downward spiral - I finally went to one of his shows recently, and was traumatized by the amount of product for sale. The visuals were great, the sound was great, but it felt cold,
robotic, lifeless. Even listening to his new material there are constant references to the past, where he felt more like a real artist. It saddens me and acts as a constant reminder to make my music for the right reasons.
Brian Wilson- "Smile" - I watched a documentary on him and was completely inspired by his life struggles for originality and his determination. I listen to his album often in the studio and am always enlightened and impressed.
Bjork - "Debut" - This is one I still go back to. The sound is so full and images of forest creatures dance in my head. It makes me remember a time when the future felt expansive and bright.
13. Any “famous last words”? Anything that should be mentioned that’s important and that I completely missed out on due to the short time I had to prepare this interview?
I think you asked the right questions. Thank you for finding