Interview: Chagall

Chagall is a London-based, Dutch electronic music producer, songwriter and vocalist who has been using the gestural gloves interface since early 2015. Her performances are a physical manifestation of her electronic music productions, using the movement of her body to directly render the music live to audiences. Having recently completed a short residency with Music Hackspace, we caught up to discuss her residency, productions, inspirations and her recent showcase at London’s Rich Mix. 


So to start off, do you want to explain what you’ve been doing as part of your residency with Music Hackspace?

During my Music Hackspace residency I worked on the development of my new live show called ‘Calibration’. The performance incorporates songwriting, electronic music, gloves, reactive visuals, choreography & lights so I worked with a team of artists from various fields to bring all these elements together. My motivation for this project was that I had spent about a year and a half programming the gloves as my main controller for playing my tunes and by the time I felt like I figured everything out technically, I was really homesick to the core of my artistic expression: music! So during the R&D we really put the meaning of the songs centre stage again while using the technology as well as all the other elements to augment them. It’s been really exciting and I think we have very successfully created a new way of performing electronic music in which technology, sound, songwriting, visual art & movement come together in fluently.


In June we came to your Calibration Showcase at Rich Mix in East London. Could you explain the premise of the night? How do you think it went? To me it seemed really successful, especially given it was the night of an unexpected general election.

The Rich Mix night was really to show ‘Calibration’ to audiences in my hometown for the first time and to present the result of the R&D. I think it went really well, I was on a pink fluffy cloud all the way through it. I hadn’t expected so many people to show up, especially on election night. In hindsight I think people enjoyed the distraction while waiting for the result and that tension made for a very special vibe in the room. I felt like people were pretty emotional. But maybe that was just me… And my parents haha! They were sobbing all the way through it on the front row.

How did you get involved with Gloves? And what’s your role working with them as an organisation?

I met team members Kelly Snook and Adam Stark in 2014 when they did a gloves workshop as part of Reverb Festival at the Roundhouse. I was so impressed with how the technology had progressed since I saw them on the internet, so I wrote to them offering to help out with anything if they needed a “hand”. Lucky for me they did! So I assisted in the very first production run of gloves and then stuck around. I now do UX on the software and do a lot of the project management together with Adam.


Something that stood out on the night was the flexibility and mobility of Gloves, which you just wouldn’t get with other instruments or controllers. Is that the case? And is that the main benefit for you?

Yes, you’re right. The gloves system allows you to create your own personal sound-gesture relationships, that can vary per song and even per part of a song. So the same movements can have different controls at different times, and equally you can control the same effects with different movements. Sometimes people ask me if that isn’t very confusing and how do I remember how to move, but that’s the beauty of it: if it’s hard to remember, then you can just change the mappings in a way that suits you better. It’s absolutely brilliant and in fact it has made performing electronic music the most personal way I’ve ever played music before, because of those sound-gesture relationships that are unique to me.

Another thing that stood out was how many pop bangers you’re written. Can you name a few key influences?

Haha! Thank you. I do really believe that avantgarde pop music is highly underestimated. Sometimes it seems like you can only use technology to perform abstract & dance music, but hopefully new and more performative controllers like the gloves will persuade more pop musicians to get into tech too. Influences? There’s so many… I guess Björk is a massive one, not only her music but her whole career and way of thinking about art. But my influences are quite broad really, from newer stuff like James Blake, Tirzah, Son Lux, but also Nina Simone, Joni Mitchell, Radiohead etc… I also really love African music and listen to a lot of classical too.


What’ve you got planned for the rest of the year? Any plans for an EP/Album?

I am definitely going to be releasing something this year and I’m going on tour in October/November. The next few months I want to really spend some more time writing & producing new stuff too for a super exciting (but still secret) project in 2018! Stay tuned…


For more from Chagall, check out her website, Facebook and Twitter.

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