Name: Kush K
Members: Pascal Eugster, Paul Amereller, Nicola Habegger, Catia Lanfranchi
Interviewee: Catia Lanfranchi
Occupation: Explorative songwriters
Current Release: Lotophagi on bandcamp
To find truth and inspiration: I Ching. I got introduced to it two times the same day by two different friends!
Right now I’m listening a lot to “Never Rarely Sometimes Always”, an original motion picture soundtrack by Julia Holter.
If you enjoyed this interview with Kush Kl, visit their bandcamp page or facebook profile for more information and updates.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What what is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started with accompanying classical piano pieces, with my voice, and forming songs out of that. I was thirteen and that was my sanctuary.
I grew up in a non-music-listening surrounding, and without Internet, so I only had access to classical music and the piano. I was always attracted to rough and dirty music, and this type of life.
I didn’t meet the people nor find the right channels till I was 16 or 17, and moved to a bigger city. That’s when I started playing in different folk and rock bands. Before that, finding artists and genres that I liked was super random. Searching mainstream record stores was never satisfying, but I did find Joan Jett, which led me to Sonic Youth, Patti Smith, synth and lo-fi music.
For most artists, originality is first 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? What is the the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
My voice was always there! I had a strong vision and it stayed pretty much the same. I always knew what I liked and heard inside, I just couldn’t perform it yet. I had no control over it, and maybe I was too loud and screamy.
There was a period, when I attended art college – to study voice – when I went a little bit off-track. Most people liked it the most when I sang in a sweet, high and gentle voice. I cut the noise part in me and could fully break out of that, when we recorded our latest album Lotophagi.
I was always curious about sounds, how artists arrange, compose and create dynamic arcs. I tried to check out how others do their thing, but I never could replicate anything that I found interesting - it always turned out completely different! (laughter) Just now I’ve learned how to listen objectively, which is something cool to use, sometimes.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
The perception changed. From this vantage point, I’d say the lyrics. But back then, I remember that I thought it’s hard to perform and compose the songs I like without a huge arrangement and without a band. Synths aren’t enough. I played differently without a band and couldn’t get the rhythmic feeling the way I wanted it.
Of course, there was also the technical learning curve, which led me to figuring out that I love analog gear over digital. Or a mix of both. Anyhow, the most important thing was learning to find out how I learn in the best/most pleasant way. It needs to start with doing something inspiring, and making music from scratch, even if you have no idea what you’re doing.
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?
In my room, or the cellar, I had a little mixer, a mic, a Roland and a piano.Over the years, I bought a prophet 08 and an Eko vintage organ, some pedals …
For our latest record, I made some songs only with a Casio and recorded it with a pretty cheap mic.The important gear didn’t change much. I like the prophet and the organ. The instruments aren’t in good shape, and I was always worried that they weren't going to make it to the next concert.
With time, I learned that it doesn’t matter too much which instrument I play. This freed me from any dependencies.
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?
Each sound needs to have a story to feel memorable. Using tape and amps expresses our emotions, or the feeling of the song most accurately.
There’s an extra satisfaction you get out of analog instruments, recording techniques and effects that have an acoustic instrumental character (even if they’re electrified or amplified - or especially then). This approach lets us channel the current inside us and allows us to connect with the moment. But we also know artists who create that same feeling with a computer.
What’s going on live, on stage, definitely got more diverse for us, and created many new ways of expression. We are curious about innovations and our hearing definitely constantly improves. It doesn’t matter what your thing is, you should come up with things that resonate with you, that you know to be true.
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?
I went through a lot of software and production tools. But not until I started to record all the synths and samples using mics and amps, did I feel satisfied with my production. I can still get lost in a reverb for hours.
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?
A steady inter-change of ideas, an exchange regarding the current state of the process, projects with other musicians or with artists from other disciplines – this inspires us and gives us new perspectives.
Along the way you meet a lot people with whom you can experiment with, and among them there are also ones you have a deep and direct connection with. They speak the same language, open new doors and inspire you.
Like Domi Chansorn, with whom we started an open feedback and sound process, and suddenly we recorded and produced most of the record in his studio G5, in Zurich. We were able to come together in a state of deep focus, connection and a free spirit. We have a similar and complementary understanding of music, rituals and work flow. It was essential to work with him on Lotophagi, he’s such an exceptional musician and producer! It was so good to have his feel, his instinct and knowledge, it gave us an inside/outside perspective.
With Zooey Agro, a good friend and amazing musician living in Berlin, I have this super nice co-working space going. We share experiences and the stuff we’re working on, either in person or over the Internet.
Apart from our band Kush K, there’s a bunch of great musicians around us. We come together for a single concert or for a few days in the studio, to create with a fresh and innovative feeling and focus.
Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? 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?
Nothing’s fixed, especially now, but I’m trying to establish a morning routine for myself – working with my breath and my body. I’m also trying to make music before I start the office work. My reality at the moment is that there's a lot of time being spent in front of my computer, and then I ride my bike to my studio for 40 minutes, and then I start playing. To get a pure focus and to connect deeper with my creativity curve, I block out one or two weeks and leave the city.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece or album that's particularly dear to you, please? Where did the ideas come from, how were they transformed in your mind, what did you start with and how do you refine these beginnings into the finished work of art?
In the last months, it usually started with a text that I wrote and refined with music. Mostly it’s one take, there has to be a spark in the sound and in the lyrics. I know exactly how to get there. In this quarantine, for the first time I had a chance to observe my creativity curve, play with my moods and challenge myself. After three days of being super inspired, there always comes a low, which I try to fool myself out of by going out for a walk or practicing piano.
I was always used to this “no output day”, but in at night, when I’d smoke my last cigarette, I would have a strong, sudden epiphany, and I could instantly play it as a fully structured and arranged song, with words and everything put together. This was amazing!
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?
No limits. The ability to select your inputs. The infrastructure, design, space in and with which I live.
How is playing live and writing music in the studio connected? What do you achieve and draw from each experience personally? How do you see the relationship between improvisation and composition in this regard?
With the band we record live. When it feels right, and the memory is on point for every sound, it feels more accurate in regards to how we feel a song. We do that in the studio and while playing live. In the studio it’s often softer than live. If I have a clear idea about arrangements and the instruments involved, it’s cool to compose, being able to note and record it. I love the mix between well arranged layers, movements and free improvisation.
For us improvisation enables us to have a stronger connection with each other, and allows us to put more emotion in a song. You play in the order of your daily mood, which gives an enormous and unique focus.
How do you see the relationship between the 'sound' aspects of music and the 'composition' aspects? How do you work with sound and timbre to meet certain production ideas and in which way can certain sounds already take on compositional qualities?
Sometimes you discover a sound on an instrument and this stimulates a feeling or gives you this spark, which I was talking about. Right now, I’m into words, they have the same effect on me. If the lyrics are on point it’s easy to sing every word with full meaning. After that, it’s easy aligning sounds with them, the people you’re playing with understand exactly what’s it’s all about. Sounds are very important, but that doesn’t mean they have to be fancy. It’s more about inspiration, if the sounds are there and everything sounds good – for example the piano reflects my voice and supports it equally – I’ll take more risks and I can perform with the right focus. Like when you’re telling a story, your voice and expression normally adapts to the content and surrounding.
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? What happens to sound at its outermost borders?
For a very long time, I’ve been thinking about tunings, sounds and words stimulating emotions; or physical reactions, like how certain words let us relax when we hear them, and how specific frequencies affect our state of mind and body parts. I was drawn to these processes subconsciously, it felt honest and meaningful. When I got more aware of what I was doing, I started to understand how many parameters have an influence on us, in making music and hearing music.
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?
To create an inspiring surrounding and live with a conscious perception, that’s the key to making art.
It is remarkable, in a way, that we have arrived in the 21st century with the basic concept of music still intact. Do you have a vision of music, an idea of what music could be beyond its current form?
It’s cool to see how we miss concerts during this quarantine. When someone’s playing piano in our house, we all go and listen. There’s this new found appreciation for it. I have a strong feeling that the music market and the industry are more open to original, alternative music again.