Name: Laughing Ears
Current release: Laughing Ears's Losing Track EP is out via Hemlock on June 25th 2021.
Painting: The Garden of Earthly Delights
The Garden of Earthly Delights in the Museo del Prado in Madrid, c. 1495–1505, attributed to Bosch. Bosch’s painting full of imagination and fantasy.
Book: <Codex Seraphinianus>
First published in 1981, is also fascinating. Its hand-drawn, colored-pencil illustrations of bizarre and fantastical stuff are abstract but interesting. I recommend these two because they gave me the same kind of feelings.
If you enjoyed this interview with Laughing Ears and would like to find out more about her work, visit her profiles on Instagram, Soundcloud and bandcamp.
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 vocal training at a very young age for several years. This made me more interested in music, even just sounds. Growing up, I listened to a lot of Jay Chow. My journey into electronic music started with hip hop from the Stone's Throw label and Warp records, before I began digging deeper and deeper. So before I set out with my own music, there was a process of multi-genre discovery. It is a reflection of my work as hybrid. For me, electronic music is the direct way to represent myself.
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?
In the beginning, most of my tracks were some sort of pure expression. They were never released and are still sitting somewhere on my hard disk drive. Back then, I'd just learned how to use a DAW to complete something on my own with no restrictions or limitations. Sometimes it's about a painting, a movie, or even trivial things that happened in my life.
Then step by step, I gained more skills and a deeper understanding of melody, rhythm, and sound design. All this finally helped me define my music the way I wanted it to, to share the full view of my varied musical taste across genres. It allows me to be creative and know no boundaries, free to express myself in this frequency world.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
Music always links to emotion, memories, mental energy … So I think most of them reflect the fluctuations inside of me, the impact after the trauma … I embrace them all.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
In the beginning, I think the only thing I did not lack was creativity. It was the time when I started to dive into music headlong and I found there was so much more and yet more to be discovered and learned.
Now, my main challenge is that I need to find more spare time to explore my sound territory due to my full-time job.
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 was a bedroom producer in the beginning so basically, I didn't have any hardware. Today, I have a studio and I also work there as a game sound designer. I use Ableton Live and ProTools, and I have a pair of monitors, a sound card, and a midi keyboard. The quality of my speakers and the sound card has improved. Technology is a tool and it just gives me more freedom in my imagination.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
I have to say that a software DAW and plug-ins are crucial for me because without them I wouldn't know where to start. They give me huge convenience.
For me, music-making is more about an overall tone and creativity. I'm not so much approaching it from a technological angle.
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?
One of the reasons that I started to make electronic music, is that I can literally accomplish one track all by myself. When you create, you should ideally be alone and concentrate.
That said, collaborations can be really fun. I’ll think about collaborations with other musicians in the future. There are different types of collaboration. It’s hard to connect with a group of people. One-on-one is good, but a group of people is too much information and confusion. I think I’m sensitive to energies.
Another way to collaborate is remixing. We can reserve both ideas from two artists in a unique way, I love that.
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?
Normally I'll start with a cup of coffee in the morning in my studio, and do some creative work when I have a clear and reset brain. Then it's working time for about 8 hours as a sound designer.
I prefer to keep my work and my own production separated because if I'm working on a specific game, that means I have to consider a lot more factors from the original game concept, not only my own preference.
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?
The very first event in Uptown Shanghai might be the special one for me - that's the first time I played my own work in public.
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?
From my point of view, the more you play with your gear or sound generators on whatever platform, the more creative you are. It's just that you have to set yourself free and dig into it. It's like a trigger which naturally leads you to other ideas.
I think the reason I started with music, art and making sounds was really because I am very inspired by sounds – experimenting with them and transforming them with my own hands. For me, it is about the process and that magical moment of transforming something into something else. It makes me go to another place, which is a very fertile ground for new ideas. So, every sound has the potential of turning into something else.
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?
Music always links to emotions, memories, mental energy. It's beyond time and space, it's universal. Music is a big driving force in a whole process, a source of energy and inspiration. You can see images or structures automatically behind the music, especially electronic music. In this fascinating way, I can describe the things I saw, the fluctuations inside of me, the impact after the trauma, It's healing me and carries my memories.
Every person who listens to your music will have a different understanding of it, based on different thoughts, emotions and music tastes.
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 suppose it's all about feelings - we create and build on the things which resonate with us. The artists and cultures that have influenced me will always be there and be a part of myself.
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?
Hearing always links to visual imagination and nostalgia. I even remember the sound of my mom's footsteps, every person walks in their unique way, it's a certain kind of rhythm between every step. I remember the sound of pigeon whistles high up in the sky. They'll always bring me back to my hometown in the North.
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 showing others the world as I observe it, my personal perspective.
My music has always centred around personal experiences and memories. It's a form of expression and authenticity for me, and a way to break down boundaries.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
Music and rhythm are much older than words, sound is a primary form of communication. Life and death is philosophy, it’s so abstract, music and sound art are as well. Nobody can tell you exactly what that sounds or music means to someone else. It carries a lot more than languages, it can take you to your deeper memories or fantasies.
Music is our language forwards and backwards in time in that sense.