How did you first get involved with synths and electronic sound?
I remember when I didn’t have any equipment; I was trying to make music on the computer over a decade ago. I struggled with it; I couldn’t find the motivation or connection to play around in Ableton solely to make all my music there. When you don’t have equipment or know what your instrument is, it’s a big world of confusion combined with learning and not knowing your sound yet. My core inspiration was early electronic music like Daphne Oram and Delia Derbyshire, so I watched and listened to everything they did and were a part of. This raw electricity and tape loops helped me navigate my next steps.
I visited a friend’s studio in London, and they had a setup of modular synths. It was my first time touching and witnessing the sound coming from these beautiful, lights flashing, and knob-twisting hand-sized machines; I was instantly curious and obsessed to learn more. I knew this is what I needed to design the sounds that had been looping in my head, so I saved up and put everything into buying my first modular setup, and it changed my life.
How would you describe the sounds you make today?
I have an experimental/ambient live show, using just my modular setup. It’s genre-escaping, intricate sound textures; I write a lot of spoken word pieces that get modulated into each performance. My sound design is connected to nature, thoughts, and the fantastical. I find it hard to describe my sound, but it’s unique and spontaneous. Every sound is completely designed from scratch and from an idea, which is my imagination.
Where do you find inspiration, what motivates you?
Random objects, aesthetics of certain things and times, fashion runways, films, words, poetry, and the world around me. I dip in and out of motivation because life is happening. The inspiration is always there; ideas are always flowing; it’s just that there are so many ideas and concepts in my head; it’s hard to focus. Sometimes, I’m recording a lot, and at other times, less. But at a point, I say, “Okay, it’s time to sit and think about this and start or finish what I’ve already started.” So I do that. It’s a now-or-never type of thing.
What’s been one of the most rewarding or satisfying moments of your journey so far?
My modular really took me places, and it still does. I feel very lucky to have found something that I can express my emotions and ideas through. Finishing an album is a kind of joy that is a mix of being proud of yourself and a relief yet satisfying—a burst of satisfaction. After I perform my show, some people write or talk to me, saying that they have never heard something like that before, and it has inspired them; they have this lingering afterglow. I guess when your music resonates with people.
And the most challenging?
That I have to pack down and then put my studio together again every time I perform and after. This, for me, is time-consuming, and you have to literally start again from the start every time, so I lose a little of what I was working on before. But I guess that incurs into starting something new.
Are there any machines in the MESS collection you’ve had your eye on but haven’t tried yet?
It will be my first time visiting MESS, so I’m really looking forward to playing with some synths. I have an urge to press keys and explore new tones. I’d like to make recordings of various machines then later feed that back into my modular.
If you could give yourself one piece of advice when you first started what would it be?
Push your own narrative fiercely.
Meet Rachel Lyn at Synth Cafe
Date: Saturday, Dec 7
Time: 10am – 12pm
Venue: MESS Studio