Note: There’s a journalistic feature that’s been lacking from our site since it came into existence: interviews. This mostly has to do with me being lazy, etc. I’m still working on my interviewing skills, so hopefully any awkwardness on my part won’t be too distracting. Since we’re all giddy with changes this summer, I decided there was no better time than the present to start digging around for interesting folks to interview, and I think we hit a goldmine with our first guest, the absolutely excellent electronic artist and self-proclaimed “beat swagstress” Dot. You can buy her most recent release on Alpha Pup Records,
Evolve or Dissolve, on Amazon, iTunes, Spotify, or wherever else such fine digital sundries are sold
First off, how are you?
I’m doing really well, thanks for asking!
Let’s start with a bit of background. How did you first get involved in music?
I started taking piano lessons when I was about 5 years old, then began singing in choirs and taking voice lessons in middle school. When I reached high school, I started playing a bit of guitar and drums on the side, and eventually went to college to study classical voice but ended up switching to music composition.
Your bio on the Alpha Pup records website mentions that you’re from Olympia, Washington. Most of my knowledge of Olympia’s music scene has to do with riot grrl and grunge. Although you probably were pretty young when that scene hit its peak, do you think that it had any impact on you growing up, or later on in your music?
Definitely! Even though the grunge era was a bit before my time, a lot of that music really resonated with me and is such an important part of the culture and vibe in the Pacific Northwest. I’ve always been a Nirvana fan — my dad actually used to teach at Aberdeen High School while Kurt Cobain was a student there!
How has your classical/operatic background influenced the music you create as an electronic artist?
My classical background has given me a great foundation in music theory and provided some solid framework for me to work from, but I’m constantly seeking ways to push those boundaries and make brand new discoveries. Some of my favorite modern musicians have no formal training, yet they can create incredible works of art because they are so in-tune with their own individual musicality.
Do you have any intentions of returning to your “roots” and producing a record that is more traditionally classical?
I’m not sure that I would want to create an entire record in that style, because the composers of those eras have already exhausted those structures and formulas. However, I think it’s important to learn about music history and the lineage of great composers/musicians that have come before us in order to understand the trajectory of music thus far (and to have a vision for the future). That being said, I would LOVE to write for (and record) full orchestras in new and unconventional ways.
The Alpha Pup site mentions that you were in a class taught by Steve Nalepa. How did he influence you?
Nalepa has been a wonderful mentor and made a huge impact on my music career — he was the first one to introduce me to music production, and I can’t thank him enough for all of the knowledge and guidance he has given me thus far.
How did you first get involved with Alpha Pup, Low End Theory, and the Los Angeles beat scene, and how has that impacted your recordings?
I actually interned at Alpha Pup during my sophomore year of college, and began going to Low End Theory nearly every week from that point on. I’m continually inspired by so many of the artists and resident DJ’s who play there, and the energy at those shows is unlike any other that I’ve experienced.
What part has the rap/hip-hop aspect of that scene played in your development as an artist?
I think that rap and hip-hop get overlooked far too often in the “classical” world. It’s great if the melodic content of a piece can move you emotionally, but I think it’s just as powerful if music can move you physically. Some of the simplest beats have inspired incredible poetry and dance. Plus, it has motivated me to step it up and make some heavier beats — why should the boys have all the fun?
Tell me a little bit about how your newest release, Evolve or Dissolve, came about.
I’ve been dealing with some big changes and transitions at this point in my life, so working on this album was a way for me to cope with a lot of the fear and anxiety I was feeling at the time. The album is about accepting change as a positive force in life instead of trying to resist it.
In addition to obvious sonic influences like Nosaj Thing and James Blake, you list Tim Burton and Salvador Dali as influences. Do you think visual art plays a big part in the music you create?
Visual art and film are definitely a big part of my creative process. I love making purely instrumental music because of the power it has to convey images or narratives without using any words or concrete references. Everyone has their own unique interpretations of the exact same piece based on their past experiences in life. Since no two people hear music exactly the same, it’s a fun experiment for me to create a beat with a specific reference in mind and then hear others’ feedback on what they associate those sounds with.
What are some other artists you admire and draw inspiration from, electronic or otherwise?
I really look up to Brian Eno, Clams Casino, Flying Lotus, James Blake, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, Nosaj Thing, Radiohead, Sonnymoon, and Can, to name a few.
What do you hope to achieve with your music?
Besides collaborating with more instrumentalists and singers, one of my ultimate goals is to break into film composition. I’d also love to start working on some large-scale art installations that incorporate music and visual art. This album is only the beginning — I’ve barely scratched the surface of what I have to share, and I still have so much more learning and growing to do as an artist.
What have you been listening to/reading/watching lately?
Lately I’ve been listening to XXYYXX and Bosnian Rainbows, reading Sleeping, Dreaming, and Dying: An Exploration of Consciousness with the Dalai Lama, and watching the latest season of Arrested Development.
Any future releases on the horizon that you can tell us about?
None that are finished just yet, but I’m definitely going to put out another body of work (or two) before the end of the year. I’m also working on another music video with some incredibly talented filmmakers that I can’t wait to share with you all!
Anything else you would like to add or share?