Who was your first crush?
I had a thing for Dash X from ‘Eerie, Indiana’ when I was young.
What would you be if you weren’t a musician?
I wanted to be an astronaut when I was a child. I got a telescope when I was about eight, which was some sort of military thing. They sell little NASA spacesuit costumes at the Science Museum which are cool. When I was really young I wanted to be a composer. I had violin lessons but I just wanted to make stuff up.
What did you listen to when you were growing up? Who did you first see live?
I was named after Astrud Gilberto (my mum was into jazz and my dad was into pop and easy listening) so I listened to her and Kylie Minogue and Michael Jackson as a child. Then I started buying loads of 7″ singles when I was about ten. Crossover pop-rave stuff like The Shamen and Opus III. I had a Take That and a Tori Amos phase, then when I was about thirteen or fourteen I got into a lot of indie, pre-Britpop stuff like Supergrass, who I loved. The first gig I went to was Menswear I think. I was involved in the whole glitter/fanzine thing and especially loved all the Chemikal Underground stuff at the time. I used to tape stuff off of the John Peel show and The Evening Session on Radio 1, and there were a lot of compilation tapes flying around. I got more into Damaged Goods stuff and garage, Kraftwerk, Pixies – all sorts. I later got more into ’60s psych but always loved more electronic stuff. The past year or so I’ve been listening to more electronic music than bands really.
Tell us about your favourite instrument.
My giant Yamaha keyboard. It’s massive. I spent a lot of time in my room at university recording instrumentals onto a dictaphone with that thing. My friends would go out, come back about 3am and I’d be sitting there with headphones on, still playing the keyboard. Actually I’ve started doing that again, but now it’s on the kitchen table. It’s my past, present and future.
Do you have an instrument you’d still like to learn? What’s stopping you?
I’m not very good at learning instruments properly. Like I said, I used to play the violin but I didn’t practise very much. One day my teacher got so angry with me he snapped my bow in half. I’m more interested in learning more about production and beginning to get my head around recording and software at the moment.
Who would be your dream collaboration?
I recently did a collaboration with Old Apparatus, which is featured on an Electronic Explorations mix here. I think it came out really nicely.
I’m excited about some upcoming collaborations in the near future. More records, music, more learning. I enjoy working with people that are inspiring and dedicated to their craft. It’s good to share ideas, and the results can often be surprising and lead you in interesting, unpredictable directions. It would be interesting to have a go at writing really slickly produced pop music – I love clever hooks. This seems at odds with what I’m doing but I’ve always harboured this desire.
How important is image to your music, on a personal level?
I’m pretty obsessed with the idea of coloured smoke and mirrors. I’ve looked at some of the flares you can get but they go on for hours, which could be detrimental to singing, and probably sight, in an enclosed space. It would look cool though.
What are your biggest obstacles as a musician?
At the moment it’s trying to translate some of the things I’ve recorded into a live capacity, working out how to use new pedals and stuff. Learning how to add many layers of reverb and delay without feedback is a challenge. It’s difficult when you record multi-tracks or add effects then try to play them again live, especially harmonies or extra instrumentation. Also, I would say my personal levels of distraction; I have a tendency to get bored of something as soon as I’ve done it and want to move on to the next thing. Or leave the room as soon as I start watching a film, and so on and so forth. It’s really annoying for everyone I know.
Have you ever had any bizarre comparisons to other musicians? How do you feel about that?
I think I sound like a gnarly version of Enya. I feel alright about it.
Imagine you were making a concept album. Tell us about it.
I really do think Starlight Express is an amazing album. So something like that, but darker. A musical, essentially, involving ice skates instead. And no words. I might actually do this.
I’ve been hearing about this Julia Holter album, Tragedy, which sounds amazing. I need to listen to that soon.
What is your most loved item of clothing and why is it so treasured?
My Parka. It’s about four sizes too big and looks ridiculous. The usual comment is “It looks like a tent”, which is fair enough because I have slept in it several times.
What’s the first material possession you would rescue in a fire?
My keyboard. And my Mac. A cliché, but it was expensive.
Name the last good book you read and tell us how it affected you.
I haven’t found a book I’ve got truly into in a little while. I have a tendency to read books annoyingly slowly. There’s a stack of books I want to read: Hideous Gnosis, about black metal theory; Susan Sontag essays; Maya Deren’s The Living Gods Of Haiti. She was a filmmaker, dancer, choreographer and writer who was commissioned by the Guggenheim to make a film about Haitian voodoo, which resulted in her being received as some form of high priestess by the Haitian community because she had such a commanding presence.
I really want to read Children Of The Abyss by Jack london, which my uncle told me about. It concerns the abject poverty in Whitechapel and Aldgate he faced when he arrived in London. I’m convinced this part of London has this odd quality about it, something it seems to be haunted by. Some sort of psychogeographical thing. I got this amazing book of photos in a bookshop in New York called A Road Divided by Todd Hido, which is beautiful monographs of landscapes and tracks through snow and rain, through windscreens and misted lenses. It’s painterly, evocative and stark. You’re waiting for something to happen in each picture.
What’s the best thing you’ve ever seen on YouTube?
When I’m on my own I tend to watch footage of tornadoes quite a lot. I’ve been enjoying watching videos of cute dogs recently.
What are your views on feminism?
I’ve been brought up with a very feminist ethic. My mum has always had skilled manual jobs in traditionally male environments so the idea that gender should prohibit you from doing anything you want to has been something of a nonentity to me, but simultaneously I was similarly aware of the discrimination that it can entail.
When I was growing up many of the gigs I went to were informed by the riot grrrl scene and its politics, which further galvanised the ideals and feminist ethics that I had been brought up with. I am highly supportive of events, publications and records that focus attention on talented women, but all too often it can fall into being a theme in itself, which can be reductive. I guess you could say that by perpetuating all-female shows, for example, also perpetuates the gender division when really you could ignore such politics and get on with it.
But often women can feel intimidated by their perception that men know more about technology and guitars, for example, so it’s great if you can also have a woman sharing her knowledge and experience as well as a male counterpart. I think female role models are important in that they inspire you and provide a sense that what you want to do is possible regardless of gender. I think certain areas of music are evening up, but there’s a long way to go with electronic music I’d say.
Which women have most inspired you?
Countless female artists and musicians, as well as many of my friends and family: Patti Smith, Kim Deal, Francesca Woodman, Tacita Dean…I’m particularly interested in female early electronic pioneers like Delia Derbyshire and Eliane Radigue. I love the artwork on her records.
Describe your vision of the afterlife.
There is a Korean film called ‘After Life’ which portrays the concept in a sweet, evocative way.
Are major labels doomed? If yes, is this a good thing?
I think it’s brilliant that lots of small indies are putting out brilliant records with beautiful artwork that has nothing to do with the templates followed by major labels. Sites like Boomkat, which is like a musical sweetshop, are so much more interesting than mainstream indie stuff. Also, I don’t think it’s just to do with major labels or the music industry specifically, it’s more the general collapse of many pre-existing ways of doing things: the knock-on effects of the global financial crisis, cuts across the board – everything has been shaken up where people have been able to see between the cracks, and often into the gaping abyss. When this happens you lose trust in the old systems and formulas so you think, okay, why don’t we try this instead? I think in terms of creative pursuits, it’s brilliant people are seeing restrictions and demarcations dissolve. I think the rules are being rewritten in many ways.
What gives music its worth?
It’s fun to make, it’s inspiring to hear amazing stuff that others are making, and it can help you deal with other stuff.
What was the best thing before sliced bread?
How are you most likely to die?
I’m pretty sure I’m going to get struck by ball lightning.
Do you have a tattoo?
Yes, I have a feather tattoo on my left arm. It’s a Rayographs band tattoo (the band I sing and play guitar in). The other two members have them also.
What’s in your pockets right now?
Headphones, Oyster card, keys, brick phone. My Parka can fit a bottle of wine in the pocket – pretty amazing.
Rayographs, ‘Space Of The Halls’