Berlin-based electronic artist Emika recently opened at the sold-out Amon Tobin concert at Congress Theater, Chicago on October 21st, 2011. Her performance was darkly seductive, yet delicately atmospheric, as she explored bass-heavy textures of electronic sound along with her voice and synthesizer. Although her set ended somewhat abruptly, she included many songs from her self-titled album, Emika, released in Oct 2011 by Ninja Tune label. Below is Emika’s interview with WMXM’s DJ Maxwell Stern …
Where are you from and where are you based these days?
Czech Republic/England, I’ve lived in Berlin for 4 years.
What instruments/equipment do you play / use ?
Voice, piano, digital sequencers, MAX/MSP, Waldorf Synths, Korg Electribes, computers, some analog synths.
Your sound has been described as “trip-hop”, “electronica”, “dubstep”, and “pop”, as well as “post-dubstep” and “post-triphop”. Are elements of your sound based on these styles? / How would you describe your music?
Sure, I use synthesis, the art of tragedy, voice, song arrangements, grooves and bass lines. The music I make is called Subvox.
How did you become involved in the music you play now? / Who are your greatest influences?
Rachmaninov. Chopin. Shostakovich. Maria Callas. Marcel Dettmann. Mala. Pinch. Mahler. Berghain
What’s it been like working with Ninja Tune label? And how much creative control do you have over your own music?
I have creative control as I am the composer and performer of my music. I have worked with Ninja for over three years now and we are like family. We take good care of each other and have a lot of trust and respect flowing between us.
What has been the biggest challenge for you so far as an artist?
Existing in a world of ‘producers’ and boring dance music.
You tend to utilize heavy silence and heavy bass in your music, with sharp, ghostly vocals. It seems as if this has been your approach with your newest self-titled album. Can you tell me what image your songs (for instance “Professional Loving” or “Double Edge”) are trying to convey or discuss your songwriting process?
Professional Loving is about an observation of the music technology industry I worked in for several years in Germany. Every one working together happily, and expressing love for the work and business, but this to me, seemed like a very unique form of love which is very different from love I know outside of office hours. That song has a hollow distorted sound and vibe. The lyrics are a delicate illustration on top of the music which embodies how I felt sometimes in a professional German world.
Double Edge, is about the fights between ignorance and bliss, justice and peace, jealousy and revenge, being hurt and being freed.
The Long Goodbye, is about all the great people I have met, and was never given the opportunity to become close to. Life unfolds, and life takes away. Some people you meet, and the relationship becomes about saying goodbye, rather then becoming close friends.
Pretend is about having a one night stand.
What have you been working on since your latest album release (other than touring)?
Developing the art of singing, making love to my voice every day, I am 25, and I am finally very comfortable in my skin and can there fore reach new places with my body as my instrument.
Have you been working with any other notable electronic artists?
That’s top secret
Do you have any other interests or talents you would like to share? What do you like to do away from music?
I don’t do anything away from music. I go record shopping, clubbing, dancing. I drink a lot of coffee and sit in nice bars in Berlin while writing lyrics, and there is a couple of places I can play piano out of hours. I hang out a lot in the city, Berlin is one big living room.
Do you have any advice, tips, or “behind-the-scene” information for young, aspiring electronic artists?
Think about composing and what is means to be a composer. F**k production. F**k the radio, F**k pop music.
Composition, story telling, giving energy to the art community within electronic music, that’s key. Everything else is not worth bothering with, unless you want to be a model or a star. The world needs more musicians and more art and more attention to details.
Take your time. Make something unique, bring something special to the clubs, if you make something that sounds like something else, throw it away.
Make music for the people, not for yourself, give, give, give. Being an artist is about giving.
Making music is like having a conversation, you want to say the same thing every day? or do you want to discuss something fresh?