Name: Alev Lenz
Current Release: ‘3’ on SA Recordings
Recommendations: All about Love by bell hooks / Cunt by Inga Musico
Website/Contact: Learn more about Alev Lenz at her website www.alevlenz.com
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What is it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I vividly remember the first time I wrote lyrics to existing music. It was the instrumental side of Ariel (Disney) and I must have been around 8 and I wrote some lyrics which I wanted to send to Michael Jackson because I thought my song was so strong. And then because I thought it was so strong, I decided to keep it for myself :D !
I think it has always been the storytelling for me. The way you can reach someone through music. And how universal a singular experience can become through music.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
I think I mainly copied the “urge” to make music– I loved Chopin’s romantic urges and how it translated into his pieces; how he named them after women that were meaningful in his life. MJ is problematic, but as a young fan I really believed he was in it to change the world and I wanted that too. To create in order to change. So, in a sense I don’t think I ever tried to copy a style but I emulated the passion, the necessity for creation, that I could hear in other people’s work.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
Trusting myself. What is finished or good enough is up to you. You’re the artist and being the artist means bringing your subjective choices to the table. I would sweetly try to place my ideas on the table, now I place them in the middle. Possibly with a bang!
What was your first studio like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
My first studio was someone else’s. It was a growing process with each album. My very first album I wrote all on the piano, had the notation and had played it live and then went into the studio to assemble it then and there. The second one I started on the piano but moved into Logic to assemble it with drums and created a structure in the computer.
I guess that was my first studio! A little interface, a couple of mics, my piano and a desktop computer. When I moved to London, I moved my little studio in a room to The Premises Studios in Hackney which was a wonderful time. I had a full studio next door I could rent when I needed different mics or a soundproof room but had my little room to write and do pre-production. I moved from Logic to Pro Tools as I love editing my own stuff and it saved me time and money to not have the engineer do it. The last step to my studio set up was when I moved into a soundproof room with a high ceiling, my piano and now a better interface and a pre-amp. Perfect for vocals and piano.
A couple of better mics, but really not that much more. A good sounding room and a good chain is what I have now and what I used to create my third album which is coming out end of September. I wrote the music with just my voice and voice notes on my phone and then arranged it on the computer but very quickly moved away from the computer.
How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
Humans excel at making choices. Machines can serve us, but it is a very fine line to not serve the machine. To not use technology because it wants to be used and used in the way the makers want you to. Propel your creativity with it. The boundaries on our time while using technology are different for everyone. It is a whole different topic to elaborate on.
Production tools, from instruments to complex software environments, contribute to the compositional process. How does this manifest itself in your work? Can you describe the co-authorship between yourself and your tools?
That’s a lovely question! I think the co-authorship between me and my tools depends on the tools. If we talk about the piano as a tool, I always think the piano ask me questions. It stares back at you and you can then dive into the ocean of its sounds and fish for the magic that is waiting to be discovered in there. Software to me is more a toy than a tool. It helps me when I am stuck, gives me stuff to play with that acts as a vehicle to get from one point to the other. To assemble the song, but not necessarily be a vital part of it.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
Everything is a collaboration, even a dinner with a friend that instilled new life in you. My preferred way of collaborating is becoming friends I guess! Exchanging ideas and experiences in person is my happy place. And when it comes to actually working together I really like technology there. File sharing has made it really simple to get work done, to add ideas to someone else’s idea and marry the two.