_________________________________________________________________ || | | ||| | ||| | | ||| | ||| | | ||| | ||| | | ||| | ||| | | || ||_|_|_|||_|_|||_|_|_|||_|_|||_|_|_|||_|_|||_|_|_|||_|_|||_|_|_|| | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |_|_|_|_|_|_|_|_|_|_|_|_|_|_|_|_|_|_|_|_|_|_|_|_|_|_|_|_|_|_|_|_| Siick Ascii art by Dan and Prue. MESS legends 2023.

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Tiffany Alwis

Artist in Residence – 2023

Tiffany Alwis is a pianist, DJ and producer living in Melbourne, millions of miles away from her hometown of London she still feels the imprint of the rich culture of dance/electronic music she grew up with. Her live act is built with tough breaks and bass to meet the immediacy of a high-spirited dancefloor and contrasts with emotional arc of rich sonic textures, lovingly and deliberately tweaked after years working with synthesizers.

How did you first get involved with synths and electronic sound?

Around 1994 when I was about 12, my older brother started bringing home this thing called ‘house music’. He said I wouldn’t like it! I made a plan (which turned into a ritual) of sneaking into his room when he went out, to work my way through his very concise and alphabetised (!) CD collection. I found not just house music but Detroit techno, Portishead, The Chemical Brothers, Orbital and loads more. I ate it all up. Everyone was using machines to say something different, there was energy in there and I knew it was for me.

I started DJing and making tracks with Cubase but defaulted to playing in bands for quite a while, starting again around 2009 with Logic and a Roland Juno Alpha. The bands I was playing in became more and more electronic in nature and were often unsure how to replicate their heavily produced tracks accurately in a live setting, so I accidently taught myself subtractive synthesis by reverse engineering each song and recreating each sound within with the equipment I had.

How would you describe the sounds you make today?

Certain realms always sneak their way in – sub-bass and bleepy arpeggios mostly. To avoid repeating myself too much now, when grouping sounds together I push myself to start with something harsher, and less agreeable, the challenge being that I move out of my comfort zone yet still arrive at something pleasing and new.

Where do you find inspiration, what motivates you?

The amazing thing about music is that it contains the possibility for both private and collective engagement. It’s equally meaningful, yet distinct, an album that accompanies you home on the night bus while you think your thoughts also galvanizes a few thousand people dancing in a field somewhere else.
While in my own music-making process I keep that benchmark in mind. As I make decisions I hope that this particular track *could* be meaningful to other folks, people I’ll never meet, in both those introverted and extroverted zones.

What’s been one of the most rewarding or satisfying moments of your journey so far?

Now probably, because this is the furthest I’ve come with it and I’m really eager to see how far I can go as an artist and producer. In turn, the work I’ve done so far, that MESS gave me the courage to make, served as a portfolio to apply for the Producer and Engineer course led at Abbey Road Studios back in London, which I’ll be starting May ’24.

And the most challenging?

 Finishing things!  Earlier this year I realised, all the excellent squelchy noises I’d collected from various synths at MESS were sitting on my computer as sketches and hadn’t taken full form. I wasn’t quite sure what to do next.
I realised that I’m especially moved by music that has structure, the effectiveness of pop music has always fascinated me and structure cuts the fat, silently driving home the message of the song. So I spent a good while exploring that in terms of stand-alone tracks and also the overall energy arcs of a set, which incidently drove me deeper into my software and away from the MESS collection for a time. However, getting ready for Residents Reveal I feel much clearer about that and am eager to engage with the collection in much more direct way moving forward.

Do you have a current ‘go to’ set up at MESS? Any favourite machines or combos that you’re currently digging?

I’ve enjoyed playing with Roland drum machines, especially the 909. I honestly never thought I’d ever see one in person let alone be allowed to play with it. The sounds in the Waldorf Quantum are so rich and cinematic, I go back to it often.

Are there any machines in the MESS collection you’ve had your eye on but haven’t tried yet?

My New Year’s Resolution is to turn up and exercise patience in blocks of time with the modular synths! I’ll possibly start with the Mad Chiller Eurorack.

If you could give yourself one piece of advice when you first started what would it be?

The advice I’d give to younger me is the advice I give myself today and every day: just turn up and turn it on.

Connect with Tiffany

Tiffany Alwis performs at MESS Residents’ Reveal

Date: Thursday, Dec 7
Time: Doors at 7pm
Venue: Miscellania