Name: Vina Konda
Current Release: Vina Konda's Osseus Labyrinth is out now on Comic Sans.
Recommendations: Donna Haraway – le Manifeste Cyborg; Jack Goldstein, Untitled 1979, Oil on masonite, 227,4 x 327,5 cm. (89.5 x 128.9 in.)
If you enjoyed this interview with Vina Konda and would like to find out more, visit him on Facebook, Instagram and Souncloud.
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?
It’s a little complicated to give a proper answer. I think the two biggest influences in my past have been T.N.P.S. and Animal Collective. I was around 18 when I first listened to these bands and I remember what a shock it had been. I think it was the mix between several genres, and the freedom with which they mixed influences from around the world. It meant something like ‘you have the possibility to take anything you want and crossbreed it with any influence’ since we’re living in an overconnected age and we’ve been recording everything, especially images and sounds, for over a century.
Oh and I think I started playing music because of my father-in-law, who showed to me some metal and hard rock vinyls, like most kids in the early 00s. Which is to me what Simon Reynolds describes in Retromania: I was and I am totally a part of the ‘Nostalgic Construction’. At no point did I consider getting myself a guitar and instead started to learn for free on the Internet.
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?
As we know, the Internet has really changed the game. I remember when I started to listen to some bands on Myspace ten years ago. I would just listen to some things like the first productions by Grizzly Bear and Yeasayer (respectively Southern Point and Thrigtrope in the early 2010s.)
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
As a part of the Palin Gen. Society it’s really important for us to keep anonymity. But what I can share with you is that Vina Konda is like an avatar, I think I play with the anonymity imposed on me. It’s like the relationship between a puppet and its puppeteer in fact or like a video game. My reality as a scientist is way too ordered, Vina Konda might be what is left from some sort of dream I have.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
At first, all of us just wanted to copy. But over time we asked ourselves how and why we were listening to some music today that we had kept away from our iTunes libraries for a while. I think I’m in this strange period where I am re-exploring my past and looking back on my identity's constructions. (Thanks Internet …)
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 instrument?
Where I am now, there are no music stores, not even UPS or Amazon … So when I left Europe ten years ago I had only a cabin case with me, and still only work with a trackpad on my computer today. Sometimes I ask friends to records some instruments or vocals and send them to me. I’m definitely a program trainer for what it’s worth, sadistic and beautiful at the same time.
I spend a lot of my time looking for samples on the Internet, and without them I would only play for volcanoes and rocks here and there ... I don’t really know if I should have a Zoom, you can have every sound you want today. It’s weird but we are still recording so many things to not say all.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
Books. Because they contain the first idea of recording.
And the computer because it contains the idea that everybody can make everything (which is totally false). I think a laptop is the most powerful weapon of liberalism and offers the possibility to be “creative everywhere”. I totally fell in this trap, so I decided recently to only have a fixed PC so that when I leave my flat I can have a break from work. I think the laptop allowed me to practice intense and condensed learning, and it actually made me “work everywhere” rather than being creative. Thanks to that I was able to really increase my skills during two years. For now I’m a little more relaxed and I try to give more time to my music.
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?
Talking is essential! I always need to have several feedbacks on my music. Every advice is good advice, on whatever you are doing or listening to. I’m not saying you need to ask everyone you know and obviously you don’t have to listen to everyone, but if some people are important to you then you should even ask them for bad feedback. Criticism always contains a good point, it is funny how bad critics are sometimes better than good ones and in fact they synthetize what’s best in a bad talk. If you change your mindset you can read in between the lines. I think bad critics are essential to growing up and gain maturity.
I think I prefer working as a producer and inviting some people to collaborate, the band experience from years ago traumatized me. Groups are often lead by only one person who composes, the band makes the music. Working as a producer is a great thing, I can work at my own pace. There are no musicians around me these days anyhow.
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?
My job as a scientist provides me with a lot of free time to work on my music since it depends on the seasons; so I turn this natural constraint to my advantage and make the most out of these long breaks.
At the beginning of a music day, I would typically read some interviews, listen to some songs and drink coffee. It’s a really important moment to me, I often get my ideas in the morning and develop them through the day. I really need time to refresh a morning idea. I also make music late in the night sometimes, but after evening I’m tortured by daytime demons.
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?
There is a lot to be said. Every year brings a new personality with it. But these past few years I think Loft (aka Aya), Sophie, Metrist, First Epoque, Design Default and Slowglide have been especially important to me.
I could probably tell you a strange story: recently I had a strange experience with a perfume which reminded me of my former father-in-law, and which threw me right back to my childhood and adolescence. It got me starting to ask myself how my own constructions as a person has led me to this point in life, and after that I had some metaphysical thoughts about my choices and the self-control I had brought to my life. I think today doesn’t exist for real, but only in my mind.
So I began to re-listen to some grunge and nu metal from the early 2000s, and to explore the old ways of my personal mind construction, so today I’m trying to blend these weird influences with what I’m currently doing. It’s like bringing two spots on the same page together by bending the paper.
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?
Staying curious! Listening to several kinds of music is really important to me. I use my working time for listening to and finding some new music. After this phase, it is often good to go back to my own music because it enables me to deconstruct problems or to rethink some ideas out of context.
Listening to the sounds around me is really essential and this can take many aspects. I love to use constraints in a positive way. For example, when an ad comes up on some streaming platform, I take the time to analyze it and ask myself how it can be a way to make music.
I think working as much as possible is a good way to create a form of expression. I’m totally against the Romantic idea of the lonely, isolated artist, who is very talented and whose creating process has to be painful. Pain is expressed for a community, genre, or movement. If you want to make something good, the only way is to work, work, work, and then work some more, and not micro-dosing some LSD or waiting to be in pain.
There are states of individualism in creation, and the purpose of art is not to express one’s own pain through one’s spectrum, but rather to try to share something with a community. And if you share something that has never been seen before, then you might just hit a nerve. “Make mistakes, miss again, miss better.”
We are so poor and so insignificant that finding something new requires a full-time dedication, which, hopefully, might lead to something good. True art is somewhere between chance and passion.
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 often say: “I love my problems ‘cause without them I’d probably do nothing.” For me, the act of making music is the actual point. Making music heals you from something metaphysical, obviously.
“Art makes life bearable, certainly, like a metaphysical consolation, of course, but art also makes it possible to affirm and increase life.”
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 have a wonderful example of this : Philip Glass - heroes (aphex twin remix). I really think that making music, or broadly speaking, making art, is about manipulating strong signs. Whatever the signs you choose, if you write good poetry, it's the only thing that counts. It’s like cooking; you can take some recipe and improvise with another one. Collage is the most powerful way to make music I think, but I have yet to find the right things to put together. Maybe later in my career, we’ll see …
I don’t want to do a trial of intent but it’s true that sometimes (and we have many examples so far) some transposed versions are really problematic. If we take "New York - U.S.A." by Serge Gainsbourg, for example, which is literally a copy of Babatunde Olatunj’s Akwowo. But we must not forget that music will always be reappropriation (and not a copy!). Each movement in history has been stolen by another ethnicity or cultural history. And sometimes really interesting things can be created! I really trust the way of mixing several influences and cultures. But maybe today there is a contradiction with post modernism, because we keep blending several genres and we have an eye on the problematic of our ethnicity’s history, which is good, but I think we must continue to «copy/paste» music if we have a feeling or an instinct when we are making it.
But what we are witnessing today is that every movement is so blended. It’s as if the genres had blended themselves faster than ever. Like a ”short ride in a fast machine”
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?
Everything is interconnected so I think everything influences everything; if you’re particularly mindful, you’ll really feel there are things between yourself and any particle in universe, as if we were some negative space within the world, a bit like the relation between a mold and a casting.
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?
Being or wanting to be an artist is already a political choice. Don’t really want to explain myself.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
That’s peculiar to abstraction. Doing arts is a metaphysical way. That reminds me of a quote by Victor Hugo : “Music is songs which are thinking”.