aurgasm interview posts

Aurgasm Live: Priscilla Ahn

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012 by Michelle

singer songwriter // folk

When we first featured Priscilla Ahn back in 2007, she only had a 5-track, independently released EP available. Since then, she got signed to Blue Note Records, released two full length albums and has had her music featured in a number of films and television shows. And last week, she and Charlie Wadhams released a free EP under the moniker Sweet Hearts. She’s been pretty busy! Priscilla was nice enough to take some time to talk with us about making When You Grow Up and played a couple tunes, which we’ve included below!

Priscilla Ahn – “Lost Cause” (Live)

It’s been a few years since your EP and A Good Day came out. For the new album, When You Grow Up, were these all brand new tracks, or were some of these tunes you had written a while back?

Yeah, there’s only one song off the record that I started writing back in the EP days, and that’s “Lost Cause”. Everything else has been written sort of from the last record until now. I named the album “When You Grow Up” because a lot of those were written in a growing period. I took a lot of time to do a lot of reflection and thinking, and I feel like a lot of the songs came out of that.

Can you talk a little about your songwriting process? You’ve got a lot of layers in your songs — vocals, guitar and harmonies. How do you start off?

Well I write the lyrics and the guitar parts at the same time, it sort of just flows together. I’ll make a demo of it, so I’ll record that part, and then — it might not even be harmonies I’m thinking of, it could be other instrument parts — I’ll just sing them, to add something to the demo. [laughs] But they usually end up just being crazy harmony parts. I’ve done a lot of co-writing on this record, and each process for that has been really different.

When you’re co-writing, do you go in with an idea, or is it more collaborative?

The one with Inara [George], that was completely collaborative. We just sort of came up with that together on the spot. The one with Charlie [Wadhams] — I was late [meeting him], so he started writing an idea he got, which was great! The one with Sia; the night before I was meeting with her, I remembered that she doesn’t play any instruments, and realized it was all gonna be on me for guitar. So I actually came up with all the chords and stuff for that song, and then she pretty much wrote all the lyrics, which was really cool. And all the other ones have sort of been collaborative ideas coming together.

The people you wrote with, they all have a number of musical projects they work on (both solo and as part of a band). Do you feel like they’re musical influences as well as being friends, and who are some of your other musical influences?

They’re totally musical influences, because I’m such a fan. You know, I’m their friend but also their fan. Which is awesome because I respect what they do and I trust their ideas. At the same time, it’s a comfortable working environment because we’re friends, so it’s real easy-going. Other musical influences, as of late, I’ve been listening to a lot of Beach House, especially when we were recording the record. Françoise Hardy was an influence. I was listening to a lot of her music when I wrote “Cry Baby” so it was sort of influenced by that. Who else has been an influence…

I mean, not just for this record either, but also–

In life?

Yeah. That’s such an enormous question, I know.

Well, Neil Young is one of my biggest heroes. Andrew Bird is really cool. Growing up I listened to a lot of Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Beatles. Radiohead was another big one. Pink Floyd.

Priscilla Ahn – “The Moon” (Live)

How did recording this album differ from your first album? I know you went over to England to record it with Ethan Johns, how did that impact the album?

It was really different, this whole recording experience was really different from my last recording experience. Ethan, he works really old school; we record to tape and he’s very organic. On the last record (A Good Day), I was so used to us doing two or three takes of a song, and we’d piece together the best parts in Pro Tools and then — oh we’re done! When [Ethan] started doing it, he had us play the same song all day, into the next day, and I would think, “This is taking forever!” But then I realized how genius it is, and what a big difference it makes, because it actually puts you into the song. Everyone who’s playing is also in the song, and you all listen to it together, and you find that magic take. And for a producer to have that kind of patience I think is really cool. It’s important to him.

And being in England, at first I was so stressed out because I wasn’t going to have all my musician friends around me, and I was not going to be at home, you know? So I was really freaking out about it. But once I got in there, it was much better for me. When I record in LA, I get really antsy in the studio, and I’m like, “I can’t wait to go home” and I’m not really focused. Whereas being there, what do I have to go back to? A hotel room by myself. Being in another country is also a deadline. I can’t stay there forever. I have a plane ticket for this day, so we have to finish. It was just really focused, and made time go by really fast, which was great. It was a really good experience for me to break out of my comfort zone, and try something new. And I ended up meeting some other really great musicians, like Sam Dixon, who played bass, who’s amazing. And Jeremy Stacey who played drums.

On the first album, you had someone play a saw, there was an autoharp — a lot of cool stuff. There were also a lot of interesting instruments on the new album, an omnichord, mellotron, celesta, marxophone. How did you start incorporating all those instruments in the recording process?

Well, for the first record, we just went in there and whatever was available. Luckily Joey [Waronker]’s studio had all this cool shit, and we were like, “Oh, let’s try this!” But for this album, I wanted it to be a little more thought out before we went in to record. For the sake of time, but also to have a sound for the album. I made a list of all the instruments that I really liked, which were a lot of those, and Ethan had a couple other things like a mellotron, and a really old pump organ. Each old instrument brings it’s own character and soul to the song, I think. For this album I gave it a little more thought, I mapped it out a little more. I went through each song and was like, “This one, I hear this, this, and this.”

Priscilla Ahn – “All You’ve Got To Do Is Fall In Love” (Live) [Benji Hughes cover]

The album includes a cover of Benji Hughes’ “Vibe So Hot”. What made you decide on a cover, what drew you to the song?

For this album, I wanted to do a more upbeat song, and I was listening to Benji’s album and I thought “Vibe So Hot” was so funny and fun.

When you were putting the record together, did you feel the need to include more upbeat songs to balance it out? I know a lot of the songs are slower tunes.

Yeah, I naturally just write slower songs and I wanted for there to be more movement in the album. With the first record, I had so much time to write all these songs, without thinking about it. Without worrying about, “I need this kind of song, that kind of song.” For these songs, they were all pretty new. I was definitely more conscious about it, in a stressful way.

Are there any songs or bands that have caught your attention recently? What music have you been excited about lately?

Well I love Cass McCombs. I’ve been listening to Little Dragon, but they’re a little more known. Oh, Blake Mills. He’s here in LA and his music is really cool, I have his Live in Shanghai EP and it’s so good!

Thanks Priscilla!

Priscilla’s recommendations:
Blake Mills – Cheers (demo) from Live from Shanghai EP

Get a free download of Blake Mills’ Live from Shanghai EP here.

+ Purchase/Visit

Aurgasm Interview: Efterklang

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010 by Julija

electronic // post-rock

Many of you might be already familiar with the Copenhagen-based electronic-post-rock collective Efterklang. Following last year’s release of Performing Parades, featuring the Danish National Chamber Orchestra, Efterklang are back with their third full-length studio album Magic Chairs (2010). While they are finishing their North American tour and heading to SXSW, I caught them at Seattle for a quick chat with Rasmus Stoldberg, one of their core members. But before the words, Efterklang made an exclusive gift to Aurgasm readers: a remix of Magic Chair’s opening track “Modern Drift”.

Efterklang – Modern Drift (Anders B Remix)

When you started playing music back in 2000 (10 years ago!) what were your expectations as a band? Did you think what it would be like if one day you become popular? How that matches with the way Efterklang is nowadays?

I think we had a lot of dreams in that direction, but mostly (and that’s what we still try to keep the focus on) we just concentrated on the music. All these years, what mattered most to us is the music we play and the albums we record. That’s the real motivation. When you succeed doing those things, that’s when you really feel good as a band. When you succeed in making the music you imagine you can do. That was the starting point. To be honest, it took me 6 years to realize that maybe I could actually make a living from music. I was doing it as a hobby and thinking to stop it some time, but now it’s a full time job, something we do every day. We do our best to maintain this reality so we can keep on doing it. Also, you need to find the balance, because once you start having those thoughts that you need to remain successful, you also start to lose focus on the most important thing — the music. So we’ve been trying to mostly focus on the music we want to make.

I thought to myself tonight, seeing this great gig and the queuing crowd after the show, that Efterklang is an example of a good management in 2010. You seem to be the manager of the band? Efterklant frequently updates their website, Facebook, Twitter, their photo journal on Flickr and more. How does the social media helps you to connect with your audience?

Yes, I’m the manager. I make sure we get the record deals that we want and such. The new record is released via 4AD (editor’s note: Efterklang has previously worked with Leaf and they also run their own label), a bigger label than we used to be on and this means that they actually have money to market Efterklang. That’s really nice, but at the same time our background is all about direct contact with people: going out and playing a lot of shows, getting people to sign up for the newsletter, trying to communicate with them on MySpace or Facebook, whenever we can find these people. When you’re a small band with no marketing budget, it’s really a nice way not only to communicate with the fans, but also make sure that all the people who like Efterklang know what is going on. It’s especially important when you’re on tour, maybe you go to play a show in Denver, Colorado and maybe a hundred people show up, and that is really nice. But it is really painful to think maybe there is actually two hundred and fifty people in Denver who like Efterklang, but didn’t hear about the show. It’s also tough to be on so many websites, but it is also fun! We do everything ourselves, we’re a big band, so everyone has a role. If you’re a singer-songwriter and you do everything on your own I understand it’s something you probably can’t spend so much time on. We took a drive from Chicago to Seattle and we were in the car for two and a half days and we had internet in the car, so it was fun to update on the way.

Do you maybe have any tips for bands and musicians how to use social media better? And, let’s face it, some fans download and pirate your music… Any tips how to survive as a band like that?

Well, it all comes down to the music. That’s the main thing that I care about. You can get on so many websites, and you can do all the right things or all the wrong things, but it all comes down to the music. So my best advice is to spend a lot of time on making good music. And then, if that’s working for you, there are a lot of things you can do. I think it’s a way of finding a balance between doing what you think is fun and what you feel you have time to do, and making sure it doesn’t become too much, because the important thing, naturally, is to write songs and play a lot of concerts. So the the most important is writing good songs and playing live.

Do you think live music is the future of the music industry? Now that record sales are declining…

Well, recorded music has existed for about a hundrend years, but live music has been around for thousands of years. It’s difficult. I try to figure out what is the right thing and I realize I’m not gonna come up with an answer. Hopefully someone will come up with a good method. Where I am from, I actually like record labels and I’m sad to see the way things are… We have our own label and we work with different labels, and what they do for our band is actually great. They invest a lot of time and money in our work. We work with different, special kind of labels — only with some good indie labels and I hope they will keep existing because they do really good things.

Let’s talk about Efterklang’s musical influences. Anything in particular you could name as your biggest influence and inspiration?

There are a lot of things, not a single one I can name. Over the last ten years, it’s been so many different things, we listened to a lot of German electronic music, and then we listened to music from Iceland. Maybe the biggest influence is a band called Einstürzende Neubauten. It still remains one of our key influences. What they do is completely different from what we do, but their ideas are incredible. It’s nice that you can be inspired by a band you would never sound like. It’s a hard question, because we’re deriving inspiration from so many different areas, from electronic music to Rock, and we mix different influences.

You’ve worked with so many talented people, musicians, video artists etc. You’ve done many collaborations and projects, including with the Danish National Chamber Orchestra. Is there anyone in the world you would love to collaborate with on a special project?

Old school Danish bands. We grew up with their music. They mean a lot to us, but they wouldn’t mean a lot to you. They sing in Danish. Old guys that have been around since the 60’s. And maybe Tom Waits would be fun.

We provide the readers of Aurgasm with great music they’ve probably not heard. Are there any tracks that you’ve been listening to recently that you’d recommend? What new music excites you at the moment?

I can help you with that! I’m excited about a new Danish band called the The Late Great Fitzcarraldos. It hasn’t been announced yet, but they’re going to support our tour in Denmark in April. They have a new record out in April or May.

Thank you so much!

Thank you, Julija.

Efterklang’s recommendation:

The Late Great Fitzcarraldos – My Temptation (Radio Edit) from My Temptation single (2010)
+ Purchase/Visit

Aurgasm Interview: Hanne Hukkelberg

Friday, February 29th, 2008 by Julija
With her charmingly eclectic compositions and whimsical songwriting skills, a graduate of Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo, now a Norwegian Grammy winner, Hanne Hukkelberg attracted our attention back in 2005. She was first featured on Aurgasm with her beautiful song “Ease”, and second time — for her powerful live version of the Pixies’ track “Break My Body”.

After gaining a reputation as a wonderful live performer, collecting positive reviews all over Europe, Hanne Hukkelberg is finally releasing her second, highly anticipated album Rykestrasse 68 in North America.

From crunching typewriters to bicycle spokes and other every day objects, you experiment quite a bit and use such unusual instruments. Would you tell us more about your recording process?

The recording process is something very different from the live performing to me. First I compose alone. Often a half year. Then I go in studio with my producer KÃ¥re Vestrheim for some months. Then I sort of translate this for a live session. But in studio I present my songs and my ideas for KÃ¥re and after that the two of us work with the material. Always in a different way with every song.

For six months you’ve lived in Berlin, Germany where you worked on your second album Rykestrasse 68. How was it? Would you share your impressions on how was it working far away from home?

It was great living in Berlin. Berlin is full of contrasts and inputs. But the most important is to just move away from my everyday life, to something else to reach thoughts and depths in my self I normally don’t have the time and pulse to get down to.

Your lyrics are wonderful. At times they seem to have certain ambiguous meanings. What are your inspirations?

In my creative processes, writing lyrics is the most difficult. But I just have to do it myself, because I have a need to express myself through text also. So I get very flattered when you think my lyrics are wonderful. My biggest inspirations are just what happens around me and thoughts I get out of it, books I read or stories others tell me.

Your version of The Pixies’ “Break My Body” is probably one of the most striking covers I’ve ever heard. Does this song have a special meaning to you? How did you come up with an idea covering The Pixies?

It was a pure coincidence that “Break My Body” became a cover. I was in my early days as an artist and I needed more songs. My stereo favourite was Pixies and Break My Body, so I brought it to my band, I told them to play it 3/4. And it became what it is today. It got its own life.

We would love to hear about your musical influences. Anything in particular you could name as your biggest influence and inspiration?

Radiohead, Wildbird & Peacedrums, Bob Marley, Nina Simone, Cornelis Vreeswijk , Stevie Wonder, J.S. Bach, Funeral, Chopin, Thurston Moore, Pixies, etc..

Your song “Searching” (from the debut album Little Things) was used as the soundtrack for Space NK’s TV and cinema advertising campaign. In the future, would you be interested in working on film scores? Do you have any upcoming collaborations and projects planned?

Absolutely. I am working right now with music for two short films. I like working and giving music to films.

We provide the readers of Aurgasm with great music they’ve probably not heard. Are there any tracks that you’ve been listening to recently that you’d recommend? What new music are you excited about at the moment?

Wildbirds & Peacedrums, my god, they are fantastic! But you need to hear them live…

Hanne’s recommended artists:
Wildbirds & Peacedrums – I Can’t Tell In His Eyes from Heartcore (2008)
Cornelis Vreeswijk – Polaren Per Är Kärlekskrank from Guldkorn Fran Master Cees Memoarer (1966)

Thank you so much, Hanne.

Thanks You Aurgasm!

Aurgasm Interview: Imogen Heap

Wednesday, October 19th, 2005 by Paul Irish
Most know her as the steamy voice behind Frou Frou, whose single “Let Go” raced up the bestseller lists with the debut of 2004’s Garden State. But Imogen Heap is a solo artist twisting together strands of classical, pop and electronica into an accessible but beguiling sound. Her new CD, Speak For Yourself, matches lush natural instrumentation against electronic pop creativity – an impressive record from an Essex, England-born girl. I had a chance to ask Miss Heap about her music and future. The interview below is laced with mp3s for your multimedia enjoyment.

Frou Frou’s “Let Go” is one of the most striking pieces of music used for a movie trailer. Many, many people were first exposed to you through the movie Garden State. How was Zach Braff exposed to your music? Ever meet him?

Funny you should ask as i met him for the first time last night at a gig I did at the El Ray in LA along with all the other guys on the Hotel Cafe tour. Totally unexpectedly walked right into the dressing room with about 20 mates while i was doing my hair. I saw him walk through the door and ran up to him like an old friend and gave him a massive hug. It was only then i realized i’d never met the guy before and that maybe that was a bit weird but he was totally cool and we were both saying how much of a fan we both were of each others work. I played Let Go that night for him. Cary Brothers is a mate of his (he’s was on the tour with us) and was also on the Garden State soundtrack. He told me the story of how it was the last song they needed to tie up the film. There were days to go and still nothing was sitting right. Everyone was frantically trying to find that song and then it was Zach girlfriend who came up with the idea of Let Go for that final scene. BIG thankyou to her!

Was Frou Frou meant to be a part-time thing between your own solo albums? Can we expect more music to be released from you and Guy Sigsworth?

Guy and I had never spoken of a second album. I think it was understood that i feel more comfortable as being a solo artist though he knows i love working with him. We’ve worked together on albums since i was 17! He produced my debut album’s first single “getting scared”. I was a huge fan of his first band Acacia. Their album Cradle is still one of my all time favorites. I’m sure we’ll work together in the future as we’ve always done in the past. I feel kinda selfish being in a band with him too as he’s such an amazing producer he needs to spread and share the Sigsworth love!

You signed with Almo Sounds as a teenager? Your first album there, i Megaphone, was a really strong debut. Comparisons are often drawn to Alanis Morrisette, Tori Amos, and Liz Phair – how do you see your earlier music now in retrospect?
Imogen Heap – Come Here Boy from i Megaphone (1998)

I very rarely listen to i Megaphone but i love it when i do. It reminds me of me as a teenager. It’s just like looking at old photos except i’m not embarrassed of them. People change a lot between the ages of 17 and 27 and it’s no different with music. I’ve learned a ton in that time in working with all the different bands from Urban Species, to Jeff Beck, to Frou Frou. I think lyrically is where i see the biggest step up from my debut. I think the music of i Megaphone is still very fresh and exciting. I don’t feel like it dates. I hope that this new album will never sound dated either. Vocally i am much happier with the way i sing now. I feel it’s more honest. Sometimes i listen to i Meg and hear me put on these voices. A kind of cod-american accent. I don’t like it when i did that looking back but i didn’t hear it at the time.

The anthemic a capella single “Hide and Seek” features your versatile voice both natural and manipulated, creating a really unique sound. Walk me through how the track was created.
Imogen Heap – Hide And Seek from Speak For Yourself (2005)

It was a sweet how that song happened. I had had a really bad “day at the office” as my shiny new computer blew up on me. Real puff of smoke and sparks material. i was about to leave the studio defeated which is always a bad thing. Those days can spiral into weeks and it’s important to try to do at least one thing in a day you’re happy with. Out of the corner of my eye i spotted my harmonizer (a little box that you hook up to a keyboard via midi so you can play in the notes you want your voice to transpose to in real time). I hadn’t yet written anything with this piece of gear but had always wanted to do an a cappella on this album. I powered it up and connected my microphone into the box and recorded the output to my minidisk. The first thing i sung/played and four minutes later was and is the melody and harmony of the final version. Lyrically it wasn’t all there apart from “Where are we, what the hell is going on?” and some random lines but i had the idea of Hide and Seek a while beforehand. It was like magic. Just as i struck the last chord a train went by outside the window and you can hear this in the final version. There was something so special about this version i was gutted it had no lyrics really to speak of but every breath and chord of the demo i copied as best i could to get everything from that 2am moment onto the record. I love this song as it feels as if it’s not mine because it took so little time to finish as others take weeks, months! Feels like a gift.

It’s incredible to me that you have both a blog and a flickr account – I read you even found the photographer for your liner notes on flickr! How does the blog and such help you connect with fans?

i started up my blog originally for helping me get things done in the studio when making the album. Going at it alone meant there was nobody there keeping me in check. I would spend 2 weeks on something that was slowing me down when i should have left it and come back to the problem at a later date when i was clear headed. The blog was set up so as i could write my thoughts of the day at the studio and keep a track of myself. You can go by a day and not get anything done and not feel too bad about it but if you feel someone’s watching you somehow these things don’t happen so often. It really helped me to focus and i started to set myself goals for the next day. Seeing a problem written down definitely helps to open up the solution just by seeing it written down. It seems like less of a big deal. It was fun then when the guys on the board started to talk about what i was up to. I’d get all sorts in my email from thanks, to suggestions to encouragement. When i was really stuck with the lyrics to Daylight Robbery i took it to the babble board. Set up a poll and asked the guys to choose one of three lyrical directions. I gave them a few days and once through i wrote the song with that theme in mind. I finished the song in no time after that because it wasn’t just for me now I was doing it for all of them too. I’ve had so much fun on the road meeting a lot of the ibabblers. Putting faces to avatars and screen names. It really is a cool community on there and they’re a really creative bunch.

I like that you use your blog as a way to keep yourself on track rather than a way to procrastinate.
Are you going to be doing vocals on any upcoming projects?

I’ve been doing all sorts since the record. Vocals for a band called Blue October, Temposhark also a remix for them which will be out in January, J peter Schwalm, a song for the movie “Just like heaven”, “spooky”. I’ve also been dabbling in production and have got something REALLY exciting coming up in the next couple of weeks that i can’t talk about because you never know what may happen…but if all goes to plan it’s going to be HUGE!!!

I provide the readers of my site with great music they’ve probably not heard.. are there any tracks that you’ve been listening to recently that you’d recommend?

Avril’s new album (not the Lavigne variety) “Member’s only” is one of my faves right now. Also into this Danish rock/electronic band Carpark North “All things to all people”. I’ve just come off of a tour and there was a guy touring with us called Jim Bianco who I really liked too. His album out now is “Handsome Devil”.

Imogen’s Picks:
Avril – Urban Serenade from Member’s Only (2004)
Carpark North – Human from All Things to All People (2005)
Jim Bianco – Handsome Devil (Reprise) from Handsome Devil (2004)

Thank you kindly, Imogen. :)

My pleasure!! xxx