Interview with Ninoosh
Anya Trybala launched Synth Babe Records in early 2016, after some encouraging words from the likes of Jessica Hopper and Jen Cloher from Milk! Records. The label operates more like a collective of female artists and which aims to promote women worldwide who are doing interesting things with electronic music, rather than a traditional record label. Synth Babe Records is working on developing female electronic artists from both Europe and Australia. The first EP release from label founder Ninoosh, Town of Two Hundred is a collection of songs that have spanned across 10 years of music making. In this interview, Ninoosh discusses her forthcoming EP Town of Two Hundred, the evolution of Synth Babe Records, collaborating with Ok Sure, life in Sweden and much, much more!
Your forthcoming EP Town of Two Hundred will be released digitally on June 19th (also your father’s birthday) through Synth Babe Records, a label that you formed earlier this year. What influenced you to take the plunge and form your own label?
The idea was swimming around in my head for a while, especially after seeing the Milk! Records collective launch party at the Northcote Social Club a few years back – pretty inspiring, especially to see how much they’ve grown. I pitched my idea to Xelon Entertainment late last year as they were sponsoring five female electronic music professionals to attend the Electronic Music Conference (EMC) and I won a spot! So then I thought, okay yep, I should launch the label – and I also tweeted Jessica Hopper and she thought it was a ‘beautiful idea’. There is such an obvious gender disparity in the electronic music scene and just in the last year I’ve been exposed to some awesome female talent – so thought why not create a collective? I also like the idea of doing things my own way – like some of my favourite artists – Fever Rayand Björk – who started their own labels and released their music as they wanted – not influenced by what sells, just what feels. However, I’m still pretty green and have a lot to learn. I work with artists who have a pretty clear idea of who they are and what music they want to make – I just help facilitate certain aspects.
Town of Two Hundred is a collection of songs that have spanned across 10 years of music making. How do you go about collecting and collating your thoughts and ideas? Also, how has your approach to creating music matured or transformed over the past decade?
The oldest track on the EP is People in Speakers, which I wrote with my old band The Eventual Contenders just under 10 years ago – The opening lines “When I was a small child of three years, I thought that there were people living in my speakers” have stuck with me since writing the track and the song resurfaced when I was creating this EP – but then Fears of Life I wrote late last year. Ideas can come thick and fast, so I have to keep my mind in check – but have found lately that focusing on one thing at a time really helps. I think it’s important to be a big music sponge to develop taste and ideas – just see as many shows as possible! Lately I’ve been remixing, so the approach is completely different – not very linear like a traditional song, more random pieces put together until it starts sounding the way you want. Last week I was working on a Jean Michel Jarre remix for a competition and then switched to a Play School remix for the Unearthed competition – and am working on a remix for one of my new signings The Fleurs from Stockholm. Found a new hobby, it’s really fun.
Your debut single Palms and B-side Fears of Life was launched on March 30th – World Bipolar Day. Two years ago, you were diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder and have written an in depth blog post about your experiences, which is very informative and eye opening. In collaboration with Node, your label Synth Babe Records will be releasing a compilation of ‘all the rad babes in Melbourne making music with synths and bursts’. The proceeds from the Bandcamp page will go towards supporting services for domestic violence victims in VIC.’ How important is it for artists like yourself to engage their audiences in discussions about such heavy topics?
Writing about my experience was cathartic and I think it has helped other people – strangers have sent me their stories and acquaintances on Facebook have accessed treatment for their own issues after reading my experience. It’s a difficult system to navigate though!
The collaboration is shaping up to be pretty awesome – we are doing a more techno focused one through to a more mellow version from some local babes – with proceeds from Bandcamp going to local crisis service www.safesteps.org.au. – I also plan to release regular Babes of… compilations focusing on different parts of the world – showcasing different female producers and artists. The idea was pitched to me from Andre Jones from Node and we are working on compiling all the music together – we are still accepting submissions until June 30 – so submit your tracks to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Both my writing and my songs are pretty personal – but Football was written in 2012 and is more politically charged (I did listen to a lot of Pink Floyd and Midnight Oil as a kid, thanks dad!) – after seeing the Christmas Island boat tragedy where 50 asylum seekers lost their lives I sat at the piano and wrote the song pretty quickly – feels far more relevant now – it’s disgusting to see the massive decline of common decency in Australian politics and the complete disregard for human rights on so many levels – but amazing to see Julian Burnside publicly stand with the Greens – the only party I can support.
Palms was co-produced, recorded, mixed and mastered by Paul Lambert and Dave Cooper of the Sound Machine Studios in Dandenong, Melbourne. You also worked with Patrick Nicholas on the drums, Jess Keeffe on strings and Manny Sharrad on backing vocals. What was it like sharing a studio with these talented people?
Pat and I have known each other for about 15 years and I was like, do you want to play some drums on my EP? He is the Royston Vasie drummer, so a pretty different style was needed for the EP – stretched him a bit. Manny was the singer of one of my favourite early 00 bands, Infusion – I thought it would be fun to get him doing backing – he does the deep aaaum bits! Jess is an amazing cello player that I brought in at the very last minute. She is also working on solo music under the name Tarsier, which will be released through Synth Babe Records later this year.
The ghostly and psychedelic interplay of layers in Palms are sewn together to form a patchwork of intertwined sounds. Not that long ago, Ok Sure added her own twist to the track by producing a remix, even adding in some sitar by the sounds of it. How did the collaboration play out? Did you email ideas back and forth or sit back and wait to be surprised by the end result?
Ooh, ghostly! I like that. Ok Sure and I met and played a few shows last year and she really liked Palms – and I love her remixes. I emailed her the stems and she added her magic to it. Someone said it sounds like the next Bond theme – she has made it sound really dramatic and dark. She is a very talented lady and it was a really organic process – we just kept emailing the ideas back and forth until we were happy.
Earlier this year you took flight and moved from Melbourne to Sweden. Before moving to Europe, you held an EP launch and farewell at Brunswick Street Gallery. Have you performed live since then, or are you holding off until your performance at Pet Sounds Bar in Stockholm on June 19th?
That gig was really special – such a great space and I got pretty experimental. Since landing in Sweden I’ve been working on new material for my live show – plus I’m living in the countryside at the moment, so lots of fishing, riding my bike, picking flowers and fika (which is a coffee break in Swedish – a VERY important part of the day – the Swedes are crazy about cakes!) The seasonal changes here are stunning. It’s a great place to decompress. Moving to Malmö soon though and I’m working on booking weekend shows throughout Europe – Munich, Berlin, Marseilles, London and fingers crossed Iceland in the later part of the year and then maybe next year do a bigger European tour – who knows? I’m part of the Female:Pressure network – which is a global network of female producers – so there are opportunities popping up all the time through email threads.
You describe writing and performing music as a form of therapy. Are there certain times of the day or places where you write better?
I haven’t actually written lyrics in a long time – I think the EP took it out of me and I’m focusing on the production and the experimental side of things right now. It’s pretty unpredictable when a song comes along. I work late into the night a lot!
You’ve signed up with hitRECord (aka the production company headed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt that helps creators collaborate to make art and media of all forms). What do you hope to create/help out with through having joined the collective?
I have signed up but not taken any steps yet to connect. But I’m always keen to collaborate and see what people do to my music – I’m going to get started soon though.
As part of your 100 Samples Project, you’ve decided to challenge yourself to create A Sample A Day In May. What influenced you to take up this project?
It keeps me working and experimenting with all the different options in Ableton – and it’s awesome to create completely unique sounds from the mundane. My opening track on the EP Snow Crunch was the first song that came out of the samples – I’m planning to release them for other producers to use in their pieces every time I get to 25 samples. I’ve fallen a bit behind on my ‘sample a day’ idea – I think I’m going to keep it to every few days.
Julia Trybala (your sister) has created artwork for your music releases. Have you considered joining forces to create a multidisciplinary installation/interactive artwork?
She is very busy – finishing her last year of uni and making beautiful new works so I can’t see her finding the time right now. Hopefully in the future as her work is stunning and provocative.
Five fast questions for five fast responses:
- When was the last time you borrowed a book from a library? Last summer – five books from the Preston Library, including a Pink Floyd biography, which was really great – putting stories to all the records dad and I listened to when I was a kid.
- Were folk songs and dances ever part of your childhood? Polish nursery rhymes actually – it was my first language and I used to sing all these daggy songs at family events.
- Do you have a favourite type of rock or gem that you like to collect? I actually shipped a whole bag of rocks I’ve collected over the years when we moved to Sweden – from the beaches near Kilcunda to the Danish beaches – one in particular looks like a denim shade rock. Not sure why I’m drawn to rocks, they inspire me for some reason. It’s a bit weird.
- Which Eurovision act is your all-time favourite? The Russian dancing grandmothers. Probably as it reminded me of my own grandmothers!
- Have you started learning to play the cello yet? Nope! It’s on my long list though.
What is your biggest gripe about the music industry?
The blatant exploitation and control of female pop artists by the people at the top – related blog post here.
Could you describe what your current recording set-up looks like? Also, has the new desk been completed?
I have a launchpad, a microkorg, a korg drum machine, an evolution controller and my trumpet and acoustic guitar – which I plug into Ableton for strange effects. Hoping to get an Ableton Push 2 – and update my software – it’s pretty old. Yep. My partner Daniel took it upon himself to make it for me – awesome, custom-fit and very portable.
Lastly, what’s one piece of advice you’d give to your fourteen-year-old self?
See a psychiatrist to get an answer for all those wacky moods and paranoid thoughts! Nope, it’s not just ‘being a teenager’ – it’s something a little more serious.
This interview was first published on 20 May 2016 for Amnplify.