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 like any form of collaboration really, be it talking about ideas, sharing files, or lending each other gear that could inspire the other person. But my preferred way would be jamming, as you can interact in that very moment with the other person. A certain vibe and energy evolves during this process, which plays a vital part in the music creation process itself.
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?
I don’t have a daily routine so far, I always enjoyed having several different jobs at the same time with a working schedule that changes every week. At the moment I’m working as a composer for the local radio station in Munich, as an author for the Keyboards and Sound & Recording magazines and I also produce music in a Duo called Lucid Grain and solo as Panic Girl. During the day I usually work at my day jobs and in the evenings I concentrate more on my own projects like Panic Girl and Lucid Grain albums or live sets, but that also depends on the deadlines I have to meet.
And no, I don’t try to separate my life from my music. In my experience they’re interwoven and can’t be separated anyways.
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?
As Panic Girl I usually write music that reflects my current state of mind. My songs are very personal and intimate, and every single note or sound is exactly as I want it to be and what feels best in that very moment without compromising.
With my latest album Cake On Jupiter, which just came out on Modularfield Records, I wanted to make a very dreamy, warm and meaningful album, one that could be the soundtrack to many new wonderful memories to be made. One that you could listen to in the morning, while waking up and drinking a coffee or tea on the porch, or while hiking in the mountains and enjoying the view, while doing yoga or while commuting just to sweeten the time in between.
The ideas often came from experimenting with my modular synthesizer until I found a sound that caught my ear and then I just took it from there. Some tracks were inspired by Moebius and his amazing comics. All the colours and shapes already transformed into sound in my head, I just needed to get them out into the sonic world. Some were inspired by personal daydreams like travelling to Japan, or having cake in a coffee shop on Jupiter.
The journey from an initial idea and sound to a finished track is different every time. But it’s always a deep dive into that very feeling, a conversation with my instruments and somehow a meditation as well, where I let the music take over and guide me through the song.
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 try to be creative on a daily basis at best. When I was about 20 years old I forced myself to make music every day, even if I wasn’t in the mood at all. There is always something to do like cleaning a mix, adding effects, editing vocals, sorting samples. While doing that, the more creative side of me, sleepy at first, usually wakes up and wants to participate after all. This daily routine of making music is still very important to me, as it keeps me in the flow and lets me enter the creative state of mind more easily.
While working on a track it’s usually a certain sound or melody that really catches and touches me more deeply. That’s when I get into a somehow meditative state of mind, when I forget everything around me and am totally absorbed in the music. In that state it’s more like a subconscious interaction between me, the sounds, melodies, instruments and technology, it’s not me making conscious decisions any more. That’s one of the things that I enjoy most about making music and why I still love it after all these years.
Distractions are certainly if I’m not familiar enough with a piece of equipment, so that I have to stop from time to time to research how a certain functionality works. Or of course daily life distractions like email, phone calls, internet and so on.
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?
I enjoy taking the songs that I produced in the studio on stage, to see how people react to them, what energy they create and to connect with the audience in front of me. I try to set up everything so I can enjoy myself on stage and have fun, with some safety nets in case something doesn’t work, but also with lots of room to improvise.
Improvisation is also very important in the studio while composing, it’s like testing different versions of a melody, patterns or sounds to see what variations are possible and how they interact with the other elements of the song. It’s essential to get the most out of the creative process.
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?
Sound and composition are interwoven and very interdependent in my songs. Certain sounds are limited in their tonal range in which they sound good, though good may mean something totally different to you than to me, of course. But especially with traditional instruments there are limitations on what they are physically capable of pitch and timbre wise. With synthesized sounds you’re more free in that matter, but still have certain limitations.
In my music universe, sound comes definitively first, it's the main inspiration for the song to be, for the melodies still to be written and for any other sound, that will accompany that first sound.
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?
Visual stimuli often transfer themselves into sounds in my head. Not only colours, but also shapes and forms. It’s actually pretty simple, dark colours correspond to lower frequencies while brighter colours translate into higher frequencies. Lines symbolize string-like instruments and sounds, while pointy shapes correspond to more granular sounds and so on. I suppose all the senses are linked to each other, but to what extent and in what manner is different with every person I guess.
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?
Music for me is meditation. It frees me from the boundaries of everyday life, opens me up for new experiences, it keeps me curious and engaged. Music is also a place to heal, to connect with myself and other beings, to get inspired. Personally I don’t like to mix social or political issues with it, it just wouldn’t feel right.
Though I think it can be really important. Massive Attack, one of my all time favourite bands for example is highly political and that’s one of the reasons I adore them. But that’s not for me, everyone has to decide for themselves if it fits their art and character.
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?
I’d love to see music evolve from physically touching and playing an instrument to thinking of a sound and an interface then translating that thought into actual sound waves. How amazing would that be? Musicians finally could record and listen to what they literally had in mind. There are some brainwave to computer interfaces already on the market, but they are way to crude at the moment to really interpret any complex thoughts as far as I know.