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“When most of us do what is accused of “trying to outrun yourself”, what we are actually doing is trying to find a place where the spaces are ones that match your character more, and allow you to grow into the person you are – or need to be.”

June 29, 2011

Entertainment, Interviews

DarkMedia Interviews Jordan Reyne:

Jordan Reyne is, in the true meaning of the phrase, contrary to popular belief.  It’s not just a redhead thing; it’s the day-to-day life of this singular musician.  Already with 5 albums to her credit, Reyne is a pioneer on new sonic turf.  With a sound that has been described as the soundtrack to steampunk, her blend of industrial-tinged dark folk is a meeting of genres best imagined as a cross between Dead Can Dance, Nine Inch Nails, and Alanis Morisette.  Her unusual approach to music pairs the rhythms of steam-based technology and machinery with folk instruments and vocal styles, crossing technology with history to tell the dark stories of characters real and imagined.  As evidenced by her 3 nominations for the “Tui” Music Award in her native New Zealand and her performance on the soundtrack of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films, she is a serious artist who puts an immense amount of time and effort into her work, yet balances that effort with a playful and brash brava. (via http://www.jordanreyne.com)

Your sound is really original. Who, or what, are your inspirations?

I have a thing for “found sounds” – it means I like to find odd noises out in the world that seem almost musical (like factory noises and bits of metal clunking on one another, or even rains screeching round corners) and try and make them really musical. Aside from that, I love folklore and poetry so, more and more, I try and make songs that read like short stories – dark ones, like the brothers Grimm with plenty of bloodlust and death in them.

Can you describe “Steampunk” for those who aren’t familiar with this strange & stimulating genre of music?

In terms of music, the jury is still out on what steampunk music would be.  In terms of literature, it’s the projection of victorian-era technology into the furture: so a world where steam tech took over and then made radical advances. My music is set in the Industrial Revolution a lot of the time, with the sounds of factories, steam, and iron and so on, which is probably why it’s been adopted by the steampunk crowd. There is a lot of alternative history in steampunk literature too, so I’m guessing my most recent CDs
cross over a lot there – I take the lives of real people and make tales a lot more dramatic, bloodthirsty and heroic out of the facts there are to be found, though I dont actually put them into an alternative future as such.

Why did you change your name from “Dr. Kevorkian & the Suicide Machine”?

At the time my first album came out, there was a bit of a plague going on. Almost any musician going under their own name was a “singer songwriter”. Essentially that became more than just a description of the musician but also the genre they played, at the time, and for me, as a female musician
whose main instrument was also guitar, a lot of people kept assuming that I wrote music of that style. It wasn’t though – there were machines and experimental things going on, so when the bought the record expecting singer songwriter, they got a rather unpleasant surprise. The album “the Ironman” was even more dark and machiney than the first, so I didnt want to risk being pegged as that again – I wanted a dark name that gave some real idea of what the music sounded like. Really too, I was in an anti-pop frame of mind at the time, so when a bassist I worked with suggested the name as a joke, I just ended up using it because it was a kind of slap in the face of a name. I was a big supporter of Jack Kevorkian in actual fact, and at the time, he had been jailed and essentially silenced so it seemed like a good way to get to talk about some of the issues that surrounded him at the time. In the end, the only people prepared to really talk about things like the right to die were the darkwave scene, who really took to the album. Most other groups shy away from such themes, particularly in New Zealand, where talking about darkness is very much frowned upon. To this day I get hate mail from people about the name, though reading it nearly always reveals some kind of rabid Catholic dogmatism and can be quite funny. I thought about publishing them to my blog for a while.

How did you get involved in the New Zealand music scene?

In a way I never did. The visible part of the NZ music scene – the one supported by radio, stores, magazine and so on, is very very mainstream, because it sort of has to be. We don’t really have the population to support fringe interests, so the radio / magazines/ TV etc. will always back the
ones with mass appeal in order to get the biggest numbers posible in what is a very small market. Despite that, there is a very strong underground scene which acts as a haven really to all the goth, metal, punk, industrial, darkwave, avant garde and noise bands. It’s based around the live gigs that the scene itself organizes – the gothic balls, Circadian Rhythms, and other fringe groups that set up events. That was where I found my home, and where I met some of the most interesting bands I have ever come across. Unfortunately it’s a scene to small to make a living from, but I am so grateful it existed and exists, because it gave artists with new ideas a real place to flourish and try different things.

What artists would you like to record & tour with?

I’d love to tour with Steeleye Span or Seize the Day here in the UK. They are both folk bands actually but specialise in telling dark witchy little tales with creepy harmonies in them and lots of drama. I love them both. In the US (and I know they come to Europe too) it would be Wovenhand – sort of dark alt-country, aka evil cowboy music, though I am guessing David Eugene Edwards would not be happy with me using “evil cowboy music” as a description seeing as he actually is religious!

For recording, I would love to record with Zane Lowe again, or with Massive Attack. I have collaborated with a few trip hop bands in the past and it’s a wonderful experience.

Can you tell us a little about what goes on at The New Zealand Annual
Goth Ball? Did you ever think of bringing one here to the United States?

The NZ Goth Balls were organized by a group that rose up within the scene itself. I think their main aim was really to nurture the scene for dark-end music in New Zealand rather than exporting the music. They were more about fostering a good environment at home, cos the mainstream in NZ really fails at that terribly. Certainly too they succeeded and there was a really healthy scene in NZ right up until I left and it seems to be still going strong.

Do you think that you will inspire others, both male & female, to make this type of music more popular in America?

I hope so 🙂 There is a lot of fantastic experimental music coming out of America anyway, which is just wonderful. I think you guys have the population base to support that. If you have several million people in one town, that is the size of our whole country in one place. Suddenly, experimental music with 1% appeal, still appeals to maybe 30,000 people in one town. It’s a whole lot more likely that it can grow and work there.

How did you feel about being on the “Lord Of The Rings” soundtrack? What was that experience like?

It was a great experience. It was a scene for Theodred’s funeral, and the visuals had been done with maybe 6 women carrying a coffin. We all had to pick a person to lipsynch to, and were given the parts to sing by the scene organizers who I knew from a show we had done together. It was all done in Peter Jackson’s cinema he had built, which had these wonderful and hilarious figurines carved into the walls and seats. It was a sort of plush, humourous, old style cinema.

Like so many scenes though, it was edited to the point where the only part remaining was the very start of the song we had sung – with a note by the leading mourner, and just an image of a wilting flower. The rest is on the editing room floor!

What keeps you from making what society says is a mainstream album?
(Please note that we admire you for not conforming to society.)

You mean, aside from the fact that I wouldn’t want to listen to it afterwards? Hehe. In my old age I have actually learned to appreciate, and even like, a good pop song, but on the whole I gravitate to things with a bit more substance. In the end I doubt I am even capable of writing a pop song, cos it just isn’t how I tick. The likelihood that in the throes of inspiration, in that moment where everything just starts to come together as if on its own, I would be hit by a flash in which a word like “baby” or “ooh, yeah” drops into my head as the perfect thing to say, is around zero, and will hopefully remain so!

How did Susannah Hawes (first female pioneer in New Zealand) inspire you?

Susannah Hawes struck me as an incredibly brave and staunch woman – but more than that, an articulate one. She left a middle class background in England on a one way trip to a country she knew little about. When she got there, she wrote about the desolation she saw, and how it was all she could do to sit on a tree stump and weep. You really felt the desperation in her words, but yet she carried on, through all that harshness and touch-and-go survival on remorseless land. I have always admired people who are brave enough to say what they feel – especially in New Zealand where it really isnt ok to say anything that isn’t happy clappy. If she hadn’t described it as she did we would have had far less of an idea of what they went through in Karamea, and far less idea too of the sort of quietly heroic thing it was to just get on and persisit with that life she had landed in, which she did until her mid eighties.

What was the first instrument you played and why did you choose it over the others?

Possibly my shouting developed into something slightly more melodic before I started banging on bits of steel and iron and old sticks and the like. My poor mum has vivid memories of being worken up at 4 in the morning to my new rendition of “Rupert the Bear”. Apparently its being in tune was little consolation. When I moved on to banging rocks, sticks and old bits of metal together my parents broke down and sent me to get guitar lessons in an effort to make life more bearable.

Who or what was the inspiration for the first song you ever wrote?

I can’t take credit for Rupert the Bear 😉 There were a few rambling trail ones after that, apparently, that I made up as I went along in the car on family trips, and which consisted of, “oh and there is a house, and a tree and that sheep has got caught in the fence” and so on.. I guess that means it was the countryside that inspired me first of all.

“Passenger” touches home because we all travel, whether metaphorically or literally, to find the meaning of a lot of things. What does the song mean to you?

It was about letting go really – about leaving myself to the mercy of chance, luck and chaos. It was one of those experiences where I had to just let what was happening, happen, instead of resisting it, even though I knew it was possibly a ridiculous idea. Probably all of us have that experience where we just sort of find ourselves doing something we know is crazy, or not well thought through, but we have to suspend judgement on it and just leap. It was a leap of faith that ended in a massive crash, but that is what life sometimes sends.

The other side of “Passenger” is about trying to outrun yourself. After the experience Passenger comes out of, I thought perhaps you couldn’t do that – that no matter where you were, your own baggage or darkness would come find you after the initial period of excitement wore off. By now I am more of the opinion that different places / cultures / people leave different sorts of spaces, even while offering different sorts of restrictions too. It’s a matter of finding a place with the spaces you need to become who you are. When most of us do what is accused of “trying to outrun yourself”, what we are actually doing is trying to find a place where the spaces are ones that match your character more, and allow you to grow into the person you are – or need to be.

Your lyrics help the listener paint a picture in their minds of what the song is about. Is that the intent behind your music and how do you feel if the picture they paint isn’t what you envisioned it to be?

A hard question as I have no way of knowing what people do see in their minds when they listen. What I hope for is to be more like a catalyst. We all have different experiences to draw on when we paint such images in our minds listening to music. When I write music I offer up a framework where the real content can only ever be down to who is listening, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Music leaves a sort of space where film, for example, may not be able to, and that is also part of its charm.

We’d love for you to give us three words to describe your music, and describe what those words mean to you.

Earthy – made from the stuff of our environment, be that factories and steel sounds, or plundered folk tales. It is about people coming to terms with the world/ society they are part of.

Raw – there is a lot of the hard stuff and grit of being human in my songs. The darkness and death in the tales themselves can wax a bit Grimms’ fairytale, and this partially comes down to there being enough songs about parties and pizza that I am folowing my own desire to hear things about how people really feel, and trying to make things into a ripping good yarn.

Melodic – really I just love vocal melody and harmony, so for all the clangs and bangs that come in, I will always try and have something of beauty within the harsher elements. For me melody is what carries you through the rugged elements and pulls you into a character’s head in a song. Metaphorically I probably think that is how life is – life itself being the beautiful thing / thread that guides us through the harshness of the world.

______________________________________________

Jordan Reyne is a Featured Member of DarkMediaCity.  You can also find her at http://www.jordanreyne.com/

Many thanks to our contributing music interviewers, Annie & Kelly.

(All interviews are the exclusive property of DarkMedia, and may not be reproduced or shared without permission, excepting links to the interview.)

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