By BRUCE DENNILL
What is your first and most important goal as a musician – to tell a story (literally via lyrics or metaphorically via music); to inspire an emotion; to lift a mood; to get people moving? Perhaps it’s something else, or a mixture of these?
I definitely think it’s a mixture of these. With emotion, I always aim to have a balance between bright – happy or energetic – parts and dark – melancholic or slow – parts in every song I make. The gap is more apparent in some songs than others, of course. I also want each of my songs to be “danceable”, which I consider quite important for my goal to perform live in the near future. From the story perspective, Ghost In The Machine has been by far my most lyrically robust song. I’m quite proud of the rhyming structure that still tells a very coherent story, as I wrote it more than a decade ago when I was still in high school, before taking a long break from music. My earlier songs focused less on lyrics and more on the instrumental side, while I have been balancing those two sides more equally after releasing my song NBT.
Does your style reflect that of the artists you love or respect most?
As a relatively new musician, I’m still coming into my own and honing my skills. Over my past six songs, I’ve been redefining my signature sound, which has already changed substantially since my first release Money In My Tummy in January 2020. I can definitely sense the inspiration from all of my key influences, for example the dark tones of Crystal Castles, the ethereal melodies of Björk or the aggressiveness of Die Antwoord.
Do you write music, and if so, what sort of mix is involved in terms of discipline and inspiration?
I write all of my own music, only creating original melodies using virtual instruments. It’s always fun creating new music, as I don’t know any music theory. I’ll likely keep it that way as, after being an avid music listener for over two decades, it’s quite easy for me to tell when notes don’t seem like they’re in the right key, even though I can’t list the different keys off the top of my head. I also like the improvised aspect, as there is less pressure during the creative process. And, of course, when you are improvising, you never know what you’ll discover. This makes every song fun, like playing a slot machine until I get the right mix of sounds that I think work well enough together to move into the lyrical stage.
Name an artist or band who is, in your view, criminally underrated, and explain what it is about them or their sound that excites you?
I definitely think an underrated musician, and one that I have personally worked with three times now, is Camoragi. Not only can she sing in a range of vocal styles, from clean high notes to more aggressive Latin rock style, but she can do it in two different languages – English and Spanish! She also creates her own instrumentals, and has a similar dark electronic style to me. Her structure for naming tracks is also deliberate and creative. Take for example her recent EP, titled April 25. Each track is named after a date, and the music tells a story of great meaning to Camoragi for each of those dates. Really cool stuff – I recommend checking out her music!
How do you keep up or improve your skill levels? Is it all about practice, or are there other factors that help you to get better at and understand more about your craft?
I have definitely been improving with each new release, both in terms of overall objective qualities, such as mixing, bass versus high levels and so on, and also subjectively in terms of creating a sound that is unique while being attractive to more mainstream listeners than what I had originally intended with my first few songs. YouTube is great for learning different mixing techniques or clever ways to use certain sound effects, but different people have different methods. It’s important to not just stick with one method just because I saw it in one tutorial, so I am always challenging ideas and trying to find alternative or complementary ways of doing the same thing.
What is the story behind Digital Memories – the genesis of the song, the people involved, the muse behind its creation?
Digital Memories features two tracks. The title track, with cyberpunk-style rap vocals, tells a two-sided story of breaking up in a modern age where one cannot escape their past due to relentless reminders on social media. In a sense, it is about escaping from the ties of technology. The second track, called Happy Ending, is meant to add a more positive outlook after the more intense Digital Memories. Triumphant synths are combined with beautiful singing to accomplish this. Following a similar theme as all of my songs, the goal with Digital Memories was to create something unique, danceable, and fun, yet with a darker message to balance things out. With each of my songs, I hope to put listeners into an almost dream-like state, where they become entranced by what they’re listening to. The title track is dominated by Rielle’s rap vocals, while I do some singing and spoken word stuff during the chorus. Happy Ending features vocals by Camoragi.