interview: Melnyk and Sara Berg

Melnyk's first album Silence is out as we speak. We chat to Melnyk and also to Sara Berg, who does some vocals on the album, about all kinds of things, including wide open spaces covered with snow.

Mstation: It's a long, long way from the prairies of Canada to the bustle of London and you've not been very complimentary about your hometown. Is there anything at all you miss about "there"?

Melnyk: Apart from obviously missing my family, I cant describe how fantastic the mountains and blue sky are back home. Its hard for people to understand here just how rubbish the music scene was in my part of Canada - unless youre into frat boy rock.

You studied electroacoustic composition at the University of Alberta. What did you bring from that to what you're recording now?

I have an annoyingly strong grasp of harmony and melody - which is both a blessing and a curse. My studies focussed on minimialism and you can find some good examples of that in dance music - taking one concept and developing it over time. But I think my training is there to always push me to make my art better and stronger each time.

What was the school there like?

Its actually a really good music school - one of the best in Canada - and my composition prof was brilliant. But it is very classically focussed, and electronic music was only just beginning to be taught when i was there.

Are there ways in which what you've been doing is a rejection of those studies and that life?

I've always loved dance & pop music so I knew I'd find my way back somehow. I definately use everything I learned in my studies but you need to liberate yourself from the academic world - it knows nothing of pop culture and generally shuts out contemporary influences. When i was studying I was still djing and consuming that scene and i brought a lot of those sounds into my "classical" writing as well.

How would you describe what you're doing now?

"Silence" is a collection of modern electronic pop music.

Do you have a favorite track from your new album?

That's a bit like a parent picking a favourite child!? I think Fabulous is definately one of the strongest tracks - I love collaborating with Sara Berg, and this is definately our love child. Rush Common is the first track I wrote that made it onto the album and to this day I still find it stands out and makes me smile. But what's your favourite?

Hey, they're all like adopted children -- how could we say?!

You're out on the Swedish label Gaymonkey Records. Is this a gay-only roster? Or is it a Swedish name that didn't travel well? I suppose the point is that in your publicity material you talk about reaching a wide audience and the name of this label could put wide swathes of people off and it's the music that counts, right?

Gaymonkey is just a name - but it's becoming clear to us that some people find it controversial, which I dont really understand. There was a discussion board on the web from the States that had hundreds of posts debating why the label was called Gaymonkey. Can people really still have a problem with the word "gay"? Or do they object to monkeys that much!?

I think my music can reach a wide audience because the songwriting isnt just geared towards clubbers ears. Club culture has always prided itself about letting everyone into the community and if that is true then there is no room for homophobia.

What's coming up?

We obviously havent booked tour dates in the Bible Belt - yet .... but I'm looking forward to touring next year and playing live - which I love to do. The fun is just beginning...

I was struck that both you and Melnyk have this background from wide-open, sometimes freezing places. Do you think there's any special kind of soul or sensitivity that comes from the places themselves?

Sara Berg: I do indeed. Nature, or the lack of it, and how people around you interact with their environment is a fundamental part of who you become. And I do believe melnyk and I share a certain musical sensitivity because of our backgrounds. We even have this joke between us about "the isolation of our youth" which is a short way to explain something from way back when without going into all the gruesome details. In short, the place I grew up still lives in me and is affecting how I make music.

Do you think, when singing to an electronic background, that there are special techniques required? Some people, for example, are intimidated into going over the top with FX.

I do think thereĞs a difference in singing in a electronic environment and a classic rock setting, but IĞm not sure what it is. For me it is totally liberating to be on the electronic side of things. I feel much more free to play around with the voice. But at the same time, the vocals on my next album is gonna be very down to earth and have almost no effects at all. I found that a much more interesting challenge this time. And then the contrast between the clean voice and wierd sounds becomes very obvious in an exciting way.

You're a Cure fan I see - what was your favorite album of theirs?

Disintegration. It saved my life and opened my eyes.

Thanks very much.

Note: We'll be talking to Sara Berg again next year when a new project of hers will be ready for release.

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