Name: Anna Prior
Occupation: Drummer, songwriter, singer, DJ
Current release: Anna Prior's “Thank You For Nothing” is out on Beat Palace via DMY. It includes a remix by Moullinex. [Read our Moullinex interview]
Recommendations: Book: Intimations by Zadie Smith; Music: The Close/Le Réveil by Josef Salvat
If you enjoyed this interview with Anna Prior and would like to know more, visit her on Instagram, and Facebook.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I began writing and producing music for myself quite recently. As recent as 2020 - which may come as a surprise to anyone following my career thus far.
I’ve always been influenced by my friends, many of whom are already established solo artists and producers themselves. I was always curious throughout the years, asking questions and trying to understand their processes from afar and by spending many a year being a sounding board for their own ideas.
My musician friends come from different musical disciplines, but it’s my pop producer friends that I find the most intriguing. Writing that perfect pop song is an incredible art that I would love to master.
For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
I’m still discovering who I am as an artist. I have an idea of where I want to be and who my influences are, but I’m still developing a sound that I feel is 100% myself. I’m intrigued to explore many sides of myself, musically speaking. I don’t wish to be bound to only one genre and one musical personality, I imagine myself under many different guises over the course of my career.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity? What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
I have to try to forget who I am when I’m writing music. I’m not a hugely confident person in my personal life and I wouldn’t like that lack of confidence to get in the way of the music I make. As an artist new to the song writing game, I found it hard to decipher if what I had written was good enough and being quite a shy person, I struggled to find the confidence to share what I had written.
Lyric writing is an art that doesn’t come so easily to me, so a lot of my demos are instrumentals, that I add lyrics and melody to at a much later date.
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
I’m still very music figuring this out! I only use a two octave midi keyboard that was gifted to me by a friend in London.
I’m quite an impatient person, creatively speaking and I don’t like to spend too much time on one thing. So my demos can be rather crude and harsh, but I’m lucky to work with people that can see the potential and understand my vision for a song.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
Around 2002/2003, I spent a couple of years studying Music Technology. Those years were quite profound in terms of technological advances. Things changed so quickly; tapes, mini discs, even computer programs and the way people consuming music were changing quite rapidly.
Coming from a drumming background, the idea of using computers to make music didn’t make sense in my head. It’s only now that I’ve fully embraced the ease and convenience of making music solely with a computer.
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?
I love collaborating. In fact, I always insist on it. I’ve been in bands for so many years that I don’t find it fulfilling to make music completely alone. I require a shared energy with another human, it makes the process so much more enlightening and creative.
I have been working with a producer from France called Povoa on my latest solo release - we send ideas back and forth to each other and it brings me joy to know I’m collaborating and creating with another human.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
I try not to have a routine as much as possible. I feel it really turns off my creativity. I’m a horribly disorganised person, so you would think a routine would help me concentrate better, but in fact, it does the opposite!
I’m quite spontaneous with my creative outputs, which can often lead to weeks without creating music, but creating something else else artistic which in no way feeds into my creativity as a musician. It’s something I’m working on getting better at actually!
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
I would say it would be recording and writing my first solo single during the great lockdown of 2020 …! It was released in July 2021 via my own record label Beat Palace Records. I had very modest expectations about how it would be received and I was over the moon with the press it garnered - not least the Guardian article that was writing about it.
I’ve been 1/5 of Metronomy for over 10 years, so to receive such praise for a solo effort, I was very proud of myself.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
For me, it’s about the environment. Where I’m currently living, it’s so hard to find peace. The city is filled with noise from construction, dogs, cars. I find it hard to concentrate on something if I don’t have absolute silence. There are some rare days, where I feel such an urge to create that nothing will stop me, and there are days where I just cannot concentrate and end up procrastinating, hard!
If I want to write words or lyrics and the noise of the city is bogging me down, the best strategy I’ve found is to listen to white noise on my headphones. This way I can truly feel alone and my concentration is heightened.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
I believe that if it doesn’t belong to you, you shouldn’t use it and I do think it’s important for artists to use their platforms on social media etc to fight for the causes they believe in, socially and politically speaking.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?
I hope I’m understanding the question properly when I answer this. The most obvious answer for me is the relationship between smell and memory - memory not really being a sense, but smell can be incredibly evocative of past experiences - memories of ex partners and the comfort of a blanket someone held as a child.
I’m wildly intrigued by an article I read about the way people recovering from a stroke use the power of song and melody to learn how to speak again. And that can also explain why I have an encyclopaedic knowledge of song lyrics, but I could not tell you when I ate for lunch yesterday.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
I’m often quite afraid of taking myself too seriously. I want it to be fun and be a form of escape. I can so easily get bogged down by the weight of the things I read in the news. I have the utmost respect for artists who include politics in their work.
For me, I use it as an escape from those things. That’s not to say that I am not politically active, because I am and I forever have been and will be. But I think it’s important to escape the real world, even if it’s only for the three minutes and forty seconds of a pop song.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
Music has that clever way of hitting nerves, making the hair on our arms stand up and can create atmospheres between life and death. The chord progressions of some music can either build you up or make you come crashing down to earth with a bang.
I’m a huge fan of movie soundtracks and there are many examples that have the ability to completely crush me to my core and then in the same piece, lift me up in ways that no drug or embrace from a loved one could ever do.