Name: Kedr Livanskiy
Occupation: Singer, songwriter, producer
Current release: Kedr Livanskiy's new single "Your Turn" is out now. It is the latest precursor to her upcoming full-length Liminal Soul.
If you enjoyed this interview with Kedr Livanskiy and would like to find out more about her work, visit her on Facebook, Instagram, twitter and bandcamp.
Where does the impulse to create something come from for you? What role do often-quoted sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships, politics etc play?
The impulse comes from within and from the need to reflect the world and the feelings you get from it, your relationship with it and with music at a given stage of life. Which means, it's like keeping a personal diary. It is impossible to keep it all to yourself. I am changing, the world is changing, everything is moving and spinning. If you do not give everything that is in the head and in the heart as a form, then you can get lost in the senseless, formless chaos of every day.
So this is my impulse, this is it, so I don’t go crazy. And nourishing myself in creation - informational silence, nature, books, music, love and the absence of urgent meaningless tasks. Such a space can be easily organized by an effort of will.
For you to get started, do there need to be concrete ideas – or what some have called a visualisation of the finished work? What does the balance between planning and chance look like for you?
I am not a conceptual artist, rather a visionary artist. I start spontaneously by, in a relaxed mode, writing music, sketches, so as not to frighten off inspiration. But when a certain number of drafts are typed, I begin to feel some kind of common link connecting all these sketches. Then a strong image is born in my head, several images, from which I go, and to which I already bring all the works in the process of completing them and writing texts.
I seem to be walking through a labyrinth myself, and at the end everything is connected, by the time of mixing I can already formulate all the concepts that are present on the album. I see all the images in them brightly and colorfully.
But let's say now, when I'm working on new material, I have already given myself some limits in advance - all the music I write now is lower than 115 bpm, why not a concept? Look what will come of it, these are very unusual speeds for me. Sometimes, through working with a new form, you can come to a new content.
Is there a preparation phase for your process? Do you require your tools to be laid out in a particular way, for example, do you need to do or create early versions?
I try to create conditions for work, as I said above. Let's say I stop visiting social networks for a few weeks, I retire somewhere out of town - all these little life hacks are very good at preparing the ground for just sitting down and everything will start happening on its own, effortlessly and without obstacles.
That is, I need to create some SPECIAL space in order to start working. As if the course of ordinary everyday life does not allow creativity to unfold.
Do you have certain rituals to get you into the right mindset for creating? What role do certain foods or stimulants like coffee, lighting, scents, exercise or reading poetry play?
If there are books around, it's always good. If I already have the musical part of the track ready and I start writing the lyrics, at this moment there are 3 to 7 books around on the table for sure, and a bunch of notebooks.
I really like to do "traveling studios". My family has a house in the forest - it is very far from Moscow, when I bring my staff there for a couple of days, the music just flows without obstacles. In the city it is much more difficult for me to concentrate.
What do you start with? How difficult is that first line of text, the first note?
Everything is easy, if the right conditions are created, then it will not be difficult to start. If the conditions are not created, then you can not start for a month. It is a matter of discipline and order for me.
When do the lyrics enter the picture? Where do they come from? Do lyrics need to grow together with the music or can they emerge from a place of their own?
Mmmm for me it works like this: the music first evokes an image, the music tells me what the song will be about. If you listen carefully to the music, the text will come quickly.
Sometimes they are born at the same time, some kind of one musical pattern and a phrase immediately comes; it often happens that there is already music and one very precise text phrase, and the text does not want to come further.
I'll say this, though: It's always more difficult for me with lyrics than with music. The Russian language is very difficult, not melodic and stubborn as much as possible. Often I know the image and what it is about, but I cannot find the right words.
What makes lyrics good in your opinion? What are your own ambitions and challenges in this regard?
I do not fully think that my lyrics are good, I absolutely know that this is not my strongest side. I'm probably happy with only 40 percent of what I write. But I am developing.
I think that it is important in principle to read more fiction, and then it will be easier to compose. That is, so that the brain constantly works in this direction and at the right time gives the right combinations.
By the way, sometimes it’s just magic.
Once you started, how does the work gradually emerge?
I don't have a very good working method. I never finish the track right away, I don't immediately create a clear structure when I write, but I create dozens of bits and pieces and rough sketches that are born over a period of time, then I look at all this chaos that is growing and I understand that it's time to formalize it. But everything is so raw that it is very difficult to collect it all later.
Now I try to no longer make this mistake I made for many years: not to scatter my attention across several tracks at once, but focus on one. So I started working on it, not abandoning it, but immediately bringing it to a more or less sane form, and only then proceed to composing the next one.
Many writers have claimed that as soon as they enter into the process, certain aspects of the narrative are out of their hands. Do you like to keep strict control over the process or is there a sense of following things where they lead you?
It's rather that the processes leads me, at the beginning and in the middle, but the closer I am getting to the end of the work, the more power is in my hands and control is needed.
Often, while writing, new ideas and alternative roads will open themselves up, pulling and pushing the creator in a different direction. Does this happen to you, too, and how do you deal with it? What do you do with these ideas?
Of course, you need to control the process to the right extent, but I believe that you can not resist what comes out. Let's say you want to write a dungeon synth album in your dreams, but a deconstructed club music tune is coming out, then you probably don't need to write a dungeon synth puece.
Sometimes you write an album, and you realize that some tracks do not fit the framework of integrity and concept. Even if they are super cool, they should be postponed. Find a use for them some other time. It may work, though, if you end up doing a concept album and not just a set of hits like many people do today.
There are many descriptions of the creative state. How would you describe it for you personally? Is there an element of spirituality to what you do?
Yes! Certainly, if a special subtle state of mind is not born, then we can say that the session was meaningless. Although it doesn't need to be pointless! In some cases it may be useful for skills and technical skills, general development, practice and such. But when there is no magic in the moment, it’s more a craft than creativity.
Especially in the digital age, the writing and production process tends towards the infinite. What marks the end of the process? How do you finish a work?
Probably the mental state suggests the end. Usually I am so exhausted that I understand that I have really lost my mind and it's time to stop. Not doing the 110th version of mixing the same song.
Usually when I'm somewhere in the middle of the process - that is, the album is conceptually assembled, but not finished - I tell my label to set a date for the material. Then I kind of create a deadline for myself, because I know in advance that I will be stuck at the mixing stage, and that it will be pointless and endless.
When there is this deadline, it's easier for me to let go and finish. But when I start working on an album, I never set myself deadlines - it can only hurt.
What’s your take on the role and importance of production, including mixing and mastering for you personally? How involved do you get in this?
The mixing stage is the most painful for me, because I myself take part in this and can get stuck here for a very long time and get paranoid. At the stage of mastering, I’ve already let go of the situation. I just write my wishes and check with the result.
After finishing a piece or album and releasing something into the world, there can be a sense of emptiness. Can you relate to this – and how do you return to the state of creativity after experiencing it?
I can be in this state for a very long time - because I always continue to doubt very much what I have done, I can suffer for two or three months. But then in general it is important to continue and let it go, like the past. The best thing that will help in this matter is to irrevocably plunge into work on a new one.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you personally feel as though writing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn’t or wouldn’t in more tasks?
People are very different; you can write music as if you are mindlessly peeling potatoes, but you can brew coffee as if it were magic and the Lord himself guides you at this moment. What matters is what you put into the process. You can also make the cleaning process a real art, ritual and mystery.
Therefore put your soul into any business, and no matter what you do, you will increase goodness and beauty. After all, the process is more important than any result. Well, at least for me.