interview: The Analog Girl
Mei Wong, The Analog Girl, comes from Singapore and makes music with her laptop, as well as singing. In the summer of 04 she will be performing in London and Paris.
What started you off as the The Analog Girl?
A renewed interest in vintage synths and a manic love for the recording industry - in all sense of the word. As a kid, the only toy which kept my interest was the good old cassette tape recorder. I would spend hours singing into it, playing into it, and then re-assembling my tracks by bouncing the recorded parts from one tape deck to another. This experiment has somehow turned into a lifetime passion with my work as The Analog Girl, except I use the laptop to do all that splicing and looping now.
When you started off did you have any heroes/heroines?
When I first started off in the early nineties, I was listening to a lot of female-fronted bands like Belly, Hole and Elastica. I admired their spirit and talent.
Have they changed now?
Yes, my influences have evolved through the years. Portishead's "Dummy" was kind of the turning point for me, as it encapsulated the music that was in my head but had yet to get out. In recent times, I love everything from The Rapture, to Goldfrapp, to Norah Jones.
In your music there seem to be two strands to me -- one is quite "out there" (enough to get someone to mention Yoko Ono's name) and the other is more sugar-coated. Do you agree with this or do you see it a different way?
It's exactly like what you say - and the reason as to why there are two sides to my music (and perhaps more to come on the next album) is because I get bored just writing one specific type of music. So I like to try new and different things - everything from dance rock, to electro punk, to trip hop, and noise pop. I also have 2 extreme views on music: One is that it should spark a new trend; the other is that it should still be accessible to the masses, otherwise, it doesn't serve a purpose.
What software and hardware do you use to put your things together? In a live situation is there any improvisation?
I started off working with a hardware-based studio - Korg T3, Planet Phatt, Yamaha multi-track sequencer - the works. When I started to travel more, I needed a mobile studio because I cannot live a day without working on a new track! Songwriting has become sort of an addiction to me. So I began to explore the possibilities of building an entire studio within my laptop. And that's when I discovered software synths. Lucky for me, there was a boom of software synths modeled after vintage analogue synthesizers. There is something about the sound of these machines that excites me, and triggers an emotion.
Today, I run a virtual studio, namely Ableton Live and Propellerhead Reason, on my laptop. In a live situation, I will improvise with loop manipulation in Ableton Live, and fire up samples on my Yamaha SU200 beat box. I also enjoy distorting the effects I use on my vocals live.
Making a show with this sort of music is quite difficult sometimes but singing, as you do, gives visual interest and lift. Do you have difficulties doing the two things at once?
It is indeed a challenging endeavour, so clever preparation and a lot of rehearsal time needs to be put in to perfect the show. This involves sectioning the tracks for improvisation, for live vocals, for live sampling, and not forgetting live dancing... yeah!
Do you have many opportunities to gig in Singapore? What is the electronic music scene like there?
There are a lot more opportunities to perform in Singapore now, simply because there is a growing audience and media exposure for local music. The electronic musicians ourselves also get together to build the scene by organising music festivals like The Tesseract, Baybeats at The Esplanade, and Enroute - just to name a few. Some of these festivals also invite international acts like Funkstorung to play. It's wild.
You played in Japan -- how did that go for you?
It was a blast! I played in an art gallery cafe adorned with punk-styled stuffed toys from Keiko Miyata. The venue is called Soso Cafe and it has seen the likes of Asa-Chang and Junray perform there, so it was very exciting for me. To compliment the Dangerous Pop Exhibition theme of the night, I had some outrageously gorgeous makeup and styling done on me, which made it an even more smashing event! You can check it out at www.shift.jp.org/084/dangerouspop
And Paris coming up this summer. Could you give us more details for that?
The date is August 1 2004 at the Cirque Electrique. It's going to be an event like no other: Trapeze artist Stella Cash will be performing to my live electro set! Come join the circus party, everybody!! For more info, log onto www.analog-girl.net and www.cirque-electrique.com
The London date is August 15th, at the Spitz.
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