Friday, September 16, 2011

SOUND CHECK: Anika INTERVIEW

Fake Plastic's very own Fr. Jones shoots the breeze with Anika about her self-titled debut, challenging perceptions, Moogfest, and complete un-selfawareness.


FR: I’ve heard that you never expected Anika to become as popular as it has- at first, even questioning whether or not to actually release it. I find this interesting because it defies exposure- which is practically the opposite of why most musicians record albums in the first place. What motivated you to lay down these tracks?

ANIKA: I think the answer to this is that there are too many musicians making music for the wrong reasons. I don't think you should make music because you want to be famous. Often whilst in the process of creating something, you don't quite know the answer as to why you are. It is often only in hindsight and when you are distanced from something that you are able to join the dots and appreciate why or even how. I still struggle with the how. At the time i was even a little annoyed to be grabbed and prevented from pursuing my path as Political Journalist. I had just moved back to Berlin and started a job as the UK Higher Education correspondent. I enjoyed my life there and so the idea of exchanging it for an impoverished life in Bristol was less than appealing. The reason i made the record was because i was frustrated with the play-it-safe attitude of the British general public. I hated the fact that "politics" was such an unpopular word amongst the young and educated and even more so amongst musicians.

"Keep calm and carry on" was the British slogan, revived from WW2 days. The music scene, which i personally think should provide a platform for social and political frustration was dominated by easy listening, inoffensive indie, carved out by musicians, often reluctant to release darker, riskier music in fear of it being ignored.

I never wanted to front a band particularly but now i've found it's actually really a special thing to be and that it gives me a rare platform to voice my views or at least challenge what people perceive as normal. I don't think it is my place to tell people WHAT they should think, merely that they should think and question.


FR: When did you realize for the first time that the album was going to be successful?

ANIKA: Is it? I'm more thinking about how i want to build upon this one and develop it.


FR: Are you planning on a follow-up LP?

ANIKA: Yes. It's nice making such a raw record, that wasn't recorded in a self-aware way because there is so much room for it to develop. At the same time, the prospect of making a self-aware record for the first time is somewhat daunting…


FR: The production of Anika is appropriately polarizing. Can you tell us a little more about what that experience was like?

ANIKA: Train to Bristol from Cardiff. Picked up by unknown bearded man. Tea. Come on let's go. Walk into studio with stacks of crumpled paper, 3 strange men come into room. Play. Leave room. Make tea. Forget about the whole thing. Reminded 4 months later when mail requesting artwork approval turns up in inbox. Left confused. Find way to stage. Sing.


FR: Anika feels intensely personal. Would you consider yourself a writer first and a musician second? Or vice versa? And what role does your journalism background play in this?

ANIKA: It is very personal. People think that the record and performance are quite cold but this is by no means the case. It is very personal. I used to always say writer first but slowly the boundaries are being blurred. I have had to assume the role of musician more over the past year and have had to adjust priorites and such. I think there are equal parts musician and writer for definite. The mind and the heart perhaps. I just neglected the musician side for quite some time.


FR: I don’t feel the comparisons to the Velvet Underground, while apt, give your sound enough credit. Where do you feel these comparisons come from? And who were your true influences when recording?

ANIKA: Comparisons come from our need to understand things. I think it's flattering that people make this comparison but it was by no means a reference point during the making of the record. My influences come from strong female acts such as Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Janis Joplin and such, combined with 60s lyrics and dark poetry like Tennyson, Plath, Lawrence. I love to read and tis is where my influences come from. I think there is more to what we do than Nico.


FR: How do you approach playing this material live? Has the positive response to Anika changed this approach?

ANIKA: I can't see people about an hour before because this is when i slowly let the heart take over the mind. Many have been in the firing line during this process. Best avoided. I try to get myself into the state i was when we recorded it. Completely un-selfaware. This is why I don't interact with the audience. If they wanted that kind of show, see something else...


FR: You are participating in 2011’s Moogfest in Asheville, North Carolina this October with many, many, many other talented artists. How do you feel about this? Is there a specific Moogfest act you are most excited to see?

ANIKA: Yes it should be good. I didn't actually realize the sheer scale of the event until slowly more and more people said, "oh yeah we're playing that too!". I'll definitely try and see some Tangerine Dream i think.


FR: Music is made available in a variety of ways. Vinyl, CDs, digital downloads, even cassettes are beginning to make a comeback. Is there any particular medium you feel is the best way to listen to music?

ANIKA: Not really no. I think it's a personal thing. I personally really enjoy playing vinyl. It's probably purely nostalgic. There's just something about the smell of vinyl and the excitement of finding certain vinyl or stumbling across a rare 7" in the most random place. It's just a form of collecting really.


FR: The industry itself has gone, for lack of a better word, sideways in the past decade- from Napster’s initial file sharing to YouTube to iPods to MySpace to Spotify. In order for the art form to survive, music has been forced to adapt to become more than just an artist with songs. Do you feel like this is a logical progression of the medium? Or does music need to be saved? Where do you think the next decade will take this evolution?

ANIKA: Music has always evolved and adapted to changing needs or demands. It will save itself. The idea of 'saving it' just means keeping it at the place it is now or striving for a nostalgic ideal of the glory years. One should never rest on their laurels. It's always been around in one form or another and i think if people make music for the right reasons, then the form of it doesn't matter so much. Obviously musicians have to survive but if there's a will, there's a way. Hopefully the consumer becomes a little more open minded but i think that is bound to happen at some point.


FR: Any advice to up-and-coming artists struggling to make it in the music industry?

ANIKA: If you want to be famous, be a bloody tv presenter. Don't make a record. This girl once approached me and asked me how i got to front a band and what process i went through to do it. Well, i did it by accident and because i had something to say. I actually felt quite uncomfortable with the idea. I think the challenges make it interesting. Otherwise i would have married a rich man and put my feet up. Spent my days riding horses.




Anika will be performing at Moogfest in Asheville, North Carolina on the weekend of October 28-30. For more information, visit www.moogfest.com.

- Fr. Jones
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