Name: Wild Anima
Occupation: Sound Artist
Current Release: Alkhemy on Sacred Sea records.
Stephen Harrod Buhner's book “The secret teachings of plants: the intelligence of the heart in the direct perception of nature”
Echo Zoo by sound artist Mikronesia:
a sound art installation reconstructing the sound of extinct animals and their habitats, created with field recordings of living species of mammals, birds, reptiles and insects, these are digitally processed to re-create the sounds of their now-extinct relatives and recomposed into immersive audio experiences.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I properly started creating my own sounds when I was around 22 years old. At the time I was living in between Bristol, UK and in a farm near a small village called Nomansland in the Devonshire countryside.
I was very inspired by early experimental electronics of the French movement of musique concrète, I used to dive into a lot of unknown experimental pieces from this website called “ubu web”. I was also very influenced by the British electronica of projects like Plaid, Autechre or Boards of Canada. It's a big mix of influences, I was very inspired by unusual singers such as the Inca lyrical singer Yma Sumac or the CocoRosie sisters. They actually were such an inspiration to me in embodying my differences and expanding my poetical world.
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 relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
I think the will to be a musician was in me for a very long time, much before I started allowing myself to do it. So in a way, there was a very long incubation phase growing up which lead me to very quickly transcribing my creative flow.
I feel that the first times I started recording sounds, I already had my own imprint. What took a little longer was to come out of my “shell” let's say. I was extremely shy. I love your question about finding my own voice, it is so relevant to my path! Literally, as a singer I had to find my own voice and that only happened through singing and singing and singing until I came to a point when I deeply felt it, my voice came out, that was such a special moment. I think that actually my voice showed me the way to my heart. Which is the main focus of my musical work at the moment. I realised that the most important thing when I sing is to express the feeling from my heart, that bypasses any vocal techniques. Some singers will probably disagree here, but that is true for me. Whenever I am fully centred in my heart, my voice just follows that flow, I can just sing whatever tone of intensity that comes through, it is totally fluid. The technique somehow just builds itself with that.
I've always had a thing about copying, I've always seen it as cheating. Maybe that was not helpful in a way because it felt like an inner judge stopping me from trying things. But I think I like that because it really puts a boundary and a form of respect with the people you admire. It is one thing to be inspired and use some elements of a piece of art to celebrate and enhance its meaning and it is another to copy someone's style and ideas and apply them to your artistic world without honouring the distance between the path it took for them to express this in their own way and your impulsive wish to embody that in your art. It is a very delicate thing.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
My main challenge has always been my self limiting beliefs. Thinking I was not able or allowed to do what I wanted. I think the major shift for me was to realise that there isn't a certain model to create music, in fact I find that the less an artist follows those models the more interesting the music. That said, I am still working at applying this to what I do, exploring and expanding the possibilities of what I can come up with playing with sound. That is the main thing, whenever it becomes playful that is when the inner judge fades and the real creative mind can emerge for me.
I became aware of the concept of non linearity which was such an important thing to realise, especially as a live looping artist. Live looping has this capacity of building a totally different structure to music making. A lot like mantras create this cyclic vault and put your mind into this state where you dig deeper into the sound, unveiling the layers of the meaning of the words and vowels of the Sanskrit language. Over the years of practising music I've really learned how to tune into my subconscious mind, almost like channelling. I was using my heart's capacities before I learned about the electro-magnetic field that it produces. It is something that I've always felt, I like to say that I'm using my heart a little bit like a synthesizer. Tuning into its spectrum to set a certain type of frequency in the environment I'm in. This is definitely one of my tool's of music making and performing, just like my voice is also an instrument that I use to create sound.
It's a very intuitive thing though. I seem to describe it as something technical but it is much more subtle than just turning on a button to activate that. It is more about intention rather than technical action.
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?
Like a lot of music producers these days my first setup was a bedroom studio. I had a laptop, a tiny skype microphone, a nanokorg controller and a few toy Casio keyboards that I had been collecting from kids selling their toys at carboot sales. Around that time I lived in a farm in the Devonshire countryside in England where we had this barn that I liked to invade with my instruments. At that point I had bought my first TC Helicon looper and a Ukulele. When I felt the drive to play live shows my needs started changing totally. I slowly started to get more controllers to be able to use Ableton in a live setup and build a proper set of equipment that would allow me to express my sound.
When I started Wild Anima and began exploring the underground live scene in Berlin and central Europe I had a little mobile studio with a microkorg synthesizer. I had a lot of fun travelling around with these few pieces of gear, I even took them to India at some point where I stayed in the Himalayan foothills for a month learning about Tibetan Buddhist philosophy. After a while though I felt the need to have a dedicated studio space in Berlin where I could really work on the live show and practice on a better sound system rather than just headphones.
I would say that the template of my mobile studio is the basic set up that I need to create my sound, this includes some type of looper, a microphone, a field recorder, some type of sampler for beat making or a drum machine and a synth. These are the basics of my instrumental recipe.
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?
I use technology as an instrument to paint a certain feeling and vision. I like to explore what is has to offer in a way, rather than trying to make it produce what I want. It becomes more interesting to me, I am not very good at reproducing the standard production techniques. I am better at finding random outcomes from machines and softwares. I love the unpredictability of just trying out stuff without really knowing how it works to start with.
I think humans excel at emotional transmission and machines excel at generating and repeating patterns. I like the “accidents” that can happen from triggering the wrong pads or machines acting in a different way than what they were initially built for.
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?
That's very interesting, I know some musicians that consider their machines almost like band members. I think I've described a little bit of that aspect in the previous questions but I feel that the tools I use can invite me towards a certain mood of creative space and that is something I like to explore, different types of sonic mechanisms can lead you to make different kinds of sound.
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 really love collaborating with other artists, I find it really brings another dimension to your art. I love co-creating the most, it often involves stepping out of your own creative habits and embrace the group or person's vision with your own. I find that it allows new paths of discovery and inventiveness.
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 always start my day with a meditation ritual. I usually travel a lot so this allows me to find stability in my being and start my day connected and centred. Then depending on what I am doing in the current moment, I would dedicate my morning to write down some research I am doing or read books.
If I am in a music creation phase I would have been to the studio after the meditation or would do the meditation there and then spend most of the day in my studio, practising my live set or working on production and sound design while taking breaks and enjoying nature.
There are times when I have to focus more on the administrative side of my music and would spend more time on my computer writing tons of emails.
I have a certain type of fixed schedule but that is more of a frame for me to find stability, the frame can be adjusted depending on the current moment. Music impacts my life in a major way, because this is how I get to meet the amazing people that are part of my life, it allows me to express myself the way I truly feel and through that energy I get to connect with people that also have this will to experience life in that way. I have to say that sometimes music and life blend together and I like this, it adds a deeper feeling to both areas.