Interview with Anika by Violet Valen for buddysocietyblog.com. Photo via Crack Mag.
Can you describe the experience of creating an album in only 12 days in a single room all at the same time without overdubs? How did that affect the music?
The short time we had kept it raw and ensured it wasn’t over-produced. We made mistakes and you can hear this in the final cd but sometimes mistakes have been the most creative things people have ever done. Why restrict creativity by enclosing it in a case of perceived perfection? We wanted to go back to the old way of recording music where you’d walk into a studio in the morning, lay down a track and walk out with it under your arm at the end of the day. None of this incessant sound booth single track re-taking.
I heard you’re a DJ too. Is the music you spin anything like the music you make?
I dj quite an eclectic mix that spans across the decades and genres and i think this range of influences is apparent in the music.
This album is your debut. How long have you been making music before this one? Was the music you made before meeting Beak similar to what you’re making with them?
I’ve been writing lyrics since i was about 14. I’m more of a writer really. The small poem-like anecdotes were a way of me unwinding my mind. I think far too much about things and it can get a bit crowded up there. I started to teach myself guitar a few years ago to help tease the words out and put some kind of structure to it.
The main thing is i don’t think about what i am writing at all. Normally it’s just a process of furiously trying to write down the thoughts trying to escape my mind before they run away. The minute i ‘try’ to write a song, is the minute i have a mind blank and the tumbleweed starts. All the songs i wrote up until beak>, i wrote for myself and not for an audience. It’s funny really. I think if you’re too self aware when you write, it jeopardises creativity.
The main thing is, get down the raw emotion and then look back at it when you’re feeling a little more sane, to put the technical touches to it.
My music taste is heavily influenced by my brother. He was a drum and bass DJ and heavily into Stones Throw Hip Hop and so taught me to mix funk and hiphop at the age of 12. He also used to put together stuff on cubase and i used to think of lyrics to go with them. Unconsciously i have always worked to that kind of timing.
For this reason, i had many failed attempts trying to fit my lyrics to a traditional rock set up. There wasn’t enough space for my lyrics. They would be drowned out by some South Wales rock guitar drone. It was a nice surprise when things just worked with Beak>. We understood what the other person was trying to do. The nice thing with the band is that every part is given it’s own space. Nothing imposes on the other.
Your first live shows with the band have been really big ones (like ATP in France). Is it a lot of pressure to do such big shows right off the bat? Describe the experience.
This is the reason i changed my name by taking out one letter. It may seem insignificant but it means that the project is distanced from me. If people hate it, i don’t have to take it personally and this takes a lot of pressure off. It’s an artistic experiment that is meant to provoke. I go on as the arrogant aloof (possibly german) part of myself that is often overshadowed by the shy Brit. I actually find soundcheck harder because it is me in my normal clothes going up. It’s a healthy form of split personality i’d say….
I also tend to completely zone out when i’m on stage and go off somewhere else.
Most of the artists you’ve done covers of are considered legends these days. Did you give it much thought as you were making the songs or was it a more casual thing?
I looked at the words more than the person behind them. The way they sounded and the way they could be re-worked. The Dylan one is brilliantly written in that it could be applied to any conflict. It is also very intelligent in that it digs a little deeper into politics than your average U2 war song. It talks about those who lurk in the background of war and those who sit in the cosy confines of their mansions pushing the pieces on the chess board. It does not do the lazy thing of blaming the soldiers themselves. I admire anyone brave enough to go out and fight in such a conflict. Jimi Hendrix used to always make this differentiation too. I think it is important to.
With the lesser known ones, they were chosen perhaps more due to the original performer. Many of these were fronted by a sweet 60s blond girl and it was nice to create this juxtaposition of the sweet original next to the our dark, stalker interpretation.
The youtube comments on “Yang Yang” are all over the place, from people saying it’s weird to others saying it’s the best new thing they’ve heard in their life. Was the response to the song and the video what you expected?
This project was never meant to please everyone. It’s controversial in nature and with the smooth you get the rough. I think the fact that it provoked people is always positive. If people just said “yeah that’s nice” i think i’d be a little disappointed. It’s better that some people love it and some people hate it to everyone being indifferent.
Having worked as a promoter for the last 2 years, i got sick of no one taking risks. Many times i’d put on some great bands who were a little different and no-one would come. Then the next week i’d put on a boring folk person, who’d been in the press all week and the place would sell out. The agents had stopped taking risks, the labels had stopped taking risks, the gig-going public had stopped taking risks and therefore i, as the promoter, could not afford to either. For this reason i wanted to make something that people wouldn’t be able to classify or understand right away. It might baffle them a little and hopefully shake them into remembering that you don’t always have to colour inside the lines. Otherwise i wouldn’t have bothered taking a year out of politics.
People find it hard to accept something if they can’t understand it. That’s why it’s so nice to be accepted by ST because it shows they want to consistently push their boundaries and keep things fresh, and in doing so challenge their fanbase.
Favorite singers/bands? Anyone you’d like to collaborate with?
I think it would be very interesting to do something with Yoko Ono. If she will have me that is….