How did you first get involved with synths and electronic sound?
I was working with music/sound from my late teens but got serious about creating and performing in my early 20’s. My approach was very analogue, working mostly with objects, turntables, internal mixer feedback, contact microphones and acoustic sounds. I didn’t work with synths early on, but occasionally I would get a chance to tinker around with old keyboards and other gear that friends had. Over the years I’ve had more opportunities to work with classic synths while working in certain studios and about 7 years ago Oren Ambarchi & I got invited to work at EMS in Stockholm for a 2-week residency. This was my first opportunity to spend some time with the Buchla and Serge synthesizers. I enjoyed the tactility and sound nature of the Buchla. The possibilities of sound were immense but I didn’t really feel a natural kinship with working in this way. We ended up using them more as processors for recorded or live sounds that we were making rather than sound generators themselves.
At the end of 2019 I worked at MESS for the first time with my collaborator James Rushford, while working on our album Sylva Sylvarum (our project name is Ora Clementi). I started exploring other synthesizers and keyboards at MESS that were a little more ‘user friendly’, such as the Korg PS-3200 and the Mellotron. I realized how many other wonderful tools were on site, and what a rare opportunity it was to access and work with them! This made me want to work here again as soon as I could.
How would you describe the sounds you make today?
My work is very much about texture, imperfection and the ambiguity of sound. I use acoustic sounds, close mic’ing, field-recording, my body/voice, electronics and traditional instruments. Whatever is needed for a project/piece.
Where do you find inspiration, what motivates you?
I find inspiration from nature and the not so natural urban sounds around me. I often incorporate sounds that exist in my home, neighborhood, places I visit etc. I like the surprises in these sounds – the unexpected behavior and patterns that emerge, especially within insect, bird and amphibian worlds, but even in plumbing, electrical hums and other sounds that we often tune out. I like the flawed and irregular nature of these types of sounds and it influences the way that I compose. I like to think of these things or use these sounds directly in a way that might bring a familiarity into a piece, but alters it, or weaves it with other sounds in a way that allows it to become something else.
I’m also very influenced by personal memories and the surreal way that sound can affect us during different stages of engagement or consciousness. I’m motivated to listen and to create work that lures the audience/listener into the work and opens their ears up to hearing things differently. I hope that they will enter the work themselves and have their own unique experience of it.
What’s been one of the most rewarding or satisfying moments of your journey so far?
When I can feel that my artistic intentions are translating to listeners.
I am also so grateful to be part of such an incredible community of artists spread all over the world. To have become friends and collaborators with artists whose work has been so important/formative to me and to have regular exchange and inspiration from artists in my field is something I really treasure. As someone who always dreamt of travelling when I was young, It’s also an incredible gift to have the opportunity to travel to share my work all over the world.
And the most challenging?
Starting something new… !
It’s exciting but it’s always daunting. Where to begin? How will the piece manifest… where will it come from? with what? etc. The unknown is always a little overwhelming, but also exciting.
Also, to be honest, survival(!).
Do you have a current ‘go to’ set up at MESS? Any favourite machines or combos that you’re currently digging?
I’ve been trying something different each time that I come into MESS, but i have gone back to spend more time with a few instruments in particular. Very much not a synthesizer instrument – the Rhodes – is one I can’t seem to get enough of. I’ve always loved its sound and it’s been a pleasure to play with it. I’ve also used the Prophet VS a few times as it’s a lot of fun. A combination of nostalgia and just wonderfully diverse and wacky sounds to play with. In my solo work I don’t use a lot of melodic elements but in my duos with James & Oren it can go more in this territory sometimes which opens up more possibilities for these instruments.
Some of the drum machines and small synth pedals have been great to construct textural sounds as well.
Are there any machines in the MESS collection you’ve had your eye on but haven’t tried yet?
I was really looking forward to working with the Fairlight when we were here, but it’s unfortunately out for the summer. No idea what we would have done with it, but we’re big fans of many artists who worked with it when it first came on the scene so it would have been great to try out. Next time!
If you could give yourself one piece of advice when you first started what would it be?
“Don’t get too caught up in self-analysis & put yourself out there more”.
I have been an avid music listener and collector for years and was already very knowledgeable about experimental music before I started working with sound seriously. I worked in shops, did radio shows and was quite obsessive about music, but when it came to performing and recording my work I was quite inhibited for the first several years. I always felt strong in my artistic ideas, but I would shoot myself in the foot a lot when it came to putting myself out there all the time.
In the end it’s all part of your practice though, there’s no rush, it was just my process.