Name: Janice Iche
Occupation: Producer, songwriter, vocalist
Nationality: Kenyan
Current release: Janice Iche is one of the artists included on the thrilling compilation release Place: Nairobi curated by KMRU, released September 24th via Music and Activism / Air Texture.
Recommendations: Book: Dear Senthuran by Akwaeke Emezi; Album: Mood Valiant by Hiatus Kaiyote

If you enjoyed this interview with Janice Iche and would like to find out more about her work, follow her on Instagram, bandcamp, and Soundcloud.

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 started writing music at a really young age, probably 7 years old. I’m still a baby producer, only one year now since I first looked at a DAW! Though I have been singing since about 4 years old and writing since I was 7.

My early influences were music on the local radio. I was inspired by the art of music and simply wanted to partake. It felt magical to me how I didn’t feel alone when I listened to music (alone in my bedroom) and I wanted to learn how to do the same.

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 am definitely here right now as a producer. I am truly learning how to say what I am trying to say through music. I am watching my voice expand and grow and it leads the way for me.

As a vocalist though, I feel that my production is yet to catch up but I know it will. Only a matter of time and patience, this is probably the most important thing I’m learning.

How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?

Someone else could probably tell you this about me better than I could, it’s totally subconscious. Because I strive to be true to my heart, everything that comes from and of me reflects who I am.

What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?

Patience. I was totally impatient and I’m just transcending this now. I’ve learnt my lesson after releasing mixes I didn’t approve of myself.

Also, just navigating the industry as a survivor of sexual assault from the same industry … is difficult. This particular challenge seems to just be beginning for me because the music industry is cut-throat and I’m not certain it is actually getting better. It’s very selective and as it seems like things are becoming more inclusive in some areas, in other areas, the environment is still completely unsafe. Prioritizing my safety (especially after I have already faced the worst of the industry) is very important to me, even if it means saying no to and letting go of some “opportunities”.

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 started off producing on just the computer keyboard but have since purchased a MIDI controller that has taken production to the next step for me. I find my flow is better and quicker and I appreciate that.

I try to keep the equipment I use on a minimum because my art doesn’t really focus on the medium it comes across though, it is mostly about the message and however I can put it across, I do.

Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?

Not yet.

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 and appreciate seeing things from other people’s perspectives. In this way, when I collaborate with another artist, I go into the interaction willing, open and ready to learn about them and how they do their work, figure out the points at which we think alike and the places we don’t and find a way to incorporate it all in the work.

I strive to understand the person I am collaborating with and the benefits and effects of this go beyond the music. Lots of video calls sharing ideas and finding a middle ground from which to execute from.

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?

(laughs) I have a loose fixed schedule. I’m not comfortable sharing myself in this way at the moment but … I can’t seem to find a separation between my music(-making process) and my daily life. Especially now that I am working on my debut album, it is all I can afford to think about right now.

I do however take my rest and downtime very VERY seriously. I find that it is during this time that I can communicate best with myself and so my ideas can come through more eloquently and effortlessly. My rest is probably the most important part of my process and daily routine.

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?

It would have to be a live performance art piece I did in 2019. The album I’m working on right now also feels like a breakthrough piece of work though this is yet to come.

The live performance I did was… a means to communicate to those around me how important it is to see each other as we are and for who we truly are, to put simply.

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?

I need peace and quiet to be able to work. Peace within and around me, if this is lacking, creating is almost impossible for me. So (laughs) to achieve this means a lot of enforcing boundaries and also isolating myself but this is only because I do not have people in my life who understand me and the work I do, so isolation becomes a necessity.

My strategy is long-term, I cannot get into a creative state suddenly or impromptu. It takes a while (weeks, months) to ease myself into the creative state but once I’m in it, I’m in it. Keeping myself in it also becomes easier by simply showing up everyday and every moment I feel called to.

Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?

I am surely one to know, the music industry almost killed me. Yet here I still am. I ask myself everyday what I’m doing here and the answer remains the same – music was there for me before anything else or anyone else ever was. I choose to dedicate my life to music because of the power and influence it has had over me my whole life. The companionship that music gives me is unmatched and unwavering.

I desire to heal myself through my own music like I have been healed by the music of others. I imagine it is even more powerful to be healed by your own sounds, and it is. And it has healed me and continues to. I know to myself, if I just keep making music, I will always be okay.

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?

It should be respected that certain cultures and symbols belong to only a specific group of people. This is where authenticity comes in, art has to come from a genuine place of truth. Otherwise, you are lying to yourself and trying to lie to others too.

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?

Music videos! How yes, you could have the full story with just the track but add visuals to it and there’s a whole lot more to the story you wouldn’t else have known about.

It reinforces the idea that everything is connected. That there is always depth to explore.

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?

My approach to being an artist is purely about authentic expression. I recognize myself as a being that needs to express and if I’m going to put my energy into this, it has to be true to me. It has to feel safe for me, I have to make it safe for me. And safety for me means genuinity. Honesty. That’s what it’s about for me.

What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?

Depth. The layers that life is about. That we will never truly see the end because there is none.

Just like when you release a track out there, it takes a life of its own and is no longer about you. Even if it is. Layers and depth.