Prickle EP Released Plus Interview
Below is a copy of a recent interview Mira Calix did with Lisa from catascopic.com:
From a record shop clerk to a fashion stylist to a record label employee, Chantal Passamonte aka Mira Calix has drawn upon her knowledge of electronic music plus a bit of sybase training to create a world of intimate vocals mixed with experimental electronics, spattered with skittering beats and naturalistic undertones.
What sets her apart from the folder full of digital artists is a sickness -an "Afrique du Mal" (also a song from the first full length, One On One). Roughly translated, it's a homesickness for Africa - a yearning for the wide open spaces so plentiful in her hometown. This condition causes the sufferer to create compositions full of sounds, samples and mixes that flourish closely and quietly between the strange and the familiar. Drawing upon organic subject matter, Mira Calix has garnered comparisons to both recognizable electronic artists such as Aphex Twin and cult-like artists such as Stina Nordenstam.
With the Prickle EP due out soon and many collaborations ready to be unleashed Mira Calix keeps creating and inspiring.
Lisa - How do you feel about the use of the “alter ego of Aphex Twin” comparison?
Mira - It's funny cuz in France I had a lot of “the female Apex twin” or something. and I was going, “I’m much more polite than Richard, you can't compare me to him”. I suppose on one level you take it as a compliment in the sense that I really like his music but it's always weird being compared to someone else. I’m sure every artists goes, “but I’m an individual!". It's nice when you’re compared to someone you like and respect, it’s weird when you are compared to someone who you don’t like musically or when you have never even heard of them.
Lisa - A better comparison I think would be Stina Nordenstam.
Mira - yeah, I really love her stuff.
Lisa - She used to be compared to Rickie Lee Jones alot....
Mira - What I really like about her stuff is that it's all recorded really close, especially her vocals. You can actually hear all her breath and it sounds really intimate, you kind of know that they're in this room and it's not really a studio and they're writing these tracks. I think I’ve got all her albums.
L - I love the covers album, that was amazing.
M - I really like the prince cover - and the Leonard Cohen - like a bird on a wire.
L - She had been approached to do a lot of session vocals - have you ever been approached or thought of doing something like that?
M - (feigning anger) no, I haven't. no, I don't think of myself as a vocalist at all. which probably sounds contrary, but I’m not a singer. but I like to use my voice. I tend to use it a lot, like on the album, there's only one track where there's no voice used. I use my voice a lot to make other sounds that people don't necessarily know are vocals. I’m doing some work with Mark Clifford (Seefeel). we've been writing some tracks together and on those I suppose, they're all vocals and all recognizably vocals with lyrics and you can hear his voice and stuff. but I’ve never really done guest vocals - I’d probably kill myself laughing. I’d feel very strange.
L - As far as collaborations and compilations, do you think of that as different than working on a full length album?
M - Yeah, the main collaboration I’ve been working on is obviously with mark which we've been working on for about the last two years because we don't live in the same place. so we tend to do it a few days at a time - sort of once in a blue moon. it's very different just by simply having someone else in the studio for me cos I’m always on my own. I really like it cos I tend to come back from those sessions quite charged up. then I really want to work on my own. I like working with other people, I think it's something that I definitely - I mean I worked with Jimi tenor, so it's really good working with friends, and just having a good time. and it's nice to have someone there to go and have a cup of coffee with and a fag (which for you is a cigarette) (laughter). I enjoy sharing, because when you work with someone you share the whole thing, it's not just down to you. but on the other hand, I couldn't do it all the time. so it works for me to sort of do both. even though none of that stuff has been released, the actual process of doing it has been really good for me.
L - Out of the two collaborations you mentioned, how are they different - who is the most fun to work with?
M - It's hard to say...mark's great fun, and Jimi as well - and it was completely different because he works without a computer so everything was sequenced live, so that was really great because it was so different for me. So they've both been fun...
L - So the Jimi Tenor collaboration has not been released either?
M - No, we did that years ago, actually. I don't know if it will ever come out...it was about four or five years ago in Panasonic's studio, so - it's very noisy music but very happy, up-tempo party tunes. the stuff with mark is going to come out though, because it will be on his own label. That will see the light of day, probably this year. the stuff with Mark has loads more guitar in it [than either of her previous releases]. although the guitars are pretty abstract, it's not poppy- it's probably quite what you'd expect if you stuck us two together, if that makes sense - it's not like Seefeel at all, cos the vocals aren't at all like Sarah’s and it's not as dubby, but it's all guitar based. so it's definitely in the organic field... yeah, I’d say so - moody music.
L - Speaking of remixes - the Andrea Parker remix on the EP is excellent. her tendency to put the thick, almost dubby bass sound underneath everything - kind of sneaking it in - really works with that track, I like it.
M - I absolutely love that mix.
L - Did you know Andrea Parker before?
M - Yeah, I know her really well. it was a mates thing. She did it as a friend, which is great, and I really love the mix, so it's really nice to have her on my record.
L - The Extreme Music From Women compilation - were you approached by friends about it, or how were you approached about that?
M - A friend of mine is a friend of William Bennett's (of Whitehouse). And basically I sent him some stuff since I knew about extreme music from Africa and the Japanese one as well. This friend of mine suggested I send some music and I did. William was actually brilliant and so supportive and enthusiastic. I think, comparatively, my music, in that world is quite normal which made a change for me- it wasn't that extreme - sort of quietly extreme. he was really so open and he really loved the track. It was a nice surprise.
L - What are your thoughts on isolating music from women by dedicating a compilation to women in the vein of previously regional-minded subject matter?
M - I don’t' think women should be called out particularly because obviously we're not gonna get anywhere if you keep focusing on that. but on the other hand I think because this is a series, and such an odd series, and because I like the person I was dealing with and I was happy to be in that situation...although I don't necessarily like to be in that situation all the time, if that makes sense.
L - You don't want to be pigeonholed as, this is a woman doing electronic music...
M - Exactly. This may be the way I perceived it and other people might not, but because of the people involved, because of him (William) in particular, I certainly didn't feel exploited in any way.
L - Are you aware of any other extremes, in the series?
M - I think because it was a series so they'll probably be some extreme music from men ..or something at some point…. But I think I have sort of normal problems with being stuck in a woman only box - it's such a complicated answer....because it's just...what do you do, you know?
L - Have you heard of a website called pinknoises.com? it's a resource for women in electronic music, based out of New York. It touches on that issue while heralding the concept of a community...
M - Oh, ok, there's a list that I’m on that's set up by a Swiss (female) DJ that's just women musicians and producers and it sort of crosses from house to techno to trance and everything - it's just a mailing list. It's just people going, “I’ve got a new record out or gear questions, or sometimes its just about what people are doing” - their tour dates and, you know it's a loose community and you can contribute or not contribute...it's really nice and relaxed. I think the nicest thing about it is that it's not genre based - it doesn't really matter what kind of music. It's basically just trying to be a support system. That kind of thing to me is quite cool. I think often maybe women don't go into VST user's groups or whatever it is because it tends to be very male dominated and it might feel a bit weird. So I think having a resource thing for women is quite positive. But, of course, if you stay away from men completely, that's not really practical!! it’s a tricky one..
L - Yeah, there's so many facets of it.
M - There's a lot of grey in between...
We go on talking about working in record stores, about her time at Ambient Soho, being women clerks, sharing and recommending music to others - and the differences between the more polite British customers and the American ones...we then come back to the subject of Mira's new EP..
L - Are you going with the same naturalistic or pastoral song titles on the Prickle ep?
M - I'll tell you what the track titles are, cos i don't know if they're pastoral...There's Miliaria - like Malaria but with an extra 'i'. It means 'prickly heat' - it's the technical name basically, and the second track is called Giggle and Hide. The third track is called Lalaela, and the last track is called What Are You Afraid Of? So there are two slightly pastoral and two, I suppose quite normal. There's four songs, but to me they're basically worked as one piece of music. It was a big debate whether to separate them or keep them as one piece, but to me I listen to them, I listen to all of them at once. I didn't really want to separate them...
Interview by Lisa Garrett from www.catascopic.com