I'll acknowledge that Akua Grant is arguably better known to the world of dance music as Lady Blacktronika; an alias under which she peddles sample-based deep house in the traditional sense. It is under the guise of Femanyst, though, that she exorcises the darkness in all of us, a darkness which for her manifests in the form of the most punishing, guttural techno. She sits down Copenhagen’s SØS Gunver Ryberg; the stuntwoman turned musician whose desolate, devastating noise and techno led her to achieve widespread recognition when she was commissioned as the composer for the hit 2017 indie game INSIDE, by Playdead.
We have here two artists who reached the same artistic destination in spite of their starkly different backgrounds. Following Femanyst's release on Noise Manifesto and ahead of SØS', they sat down with each other to discuss everything from the multifaceted world of touring and the pain and reward that comes with it, to challenges closer to home like workflow and using music as a form of therapeutic release.
SØS Interviews Femanyst.
How do you divide your time between DJing and being in the studio? Do the studio and the club feed back into each other?
I started as a producer and it was my first passion before DJing. I still spend the vast majority of my musically focused time producing and thinking about track production. The other portion goes to track selection and track editing, which often leads me back to the production grind when I find tracks that inspire me to create new music. In that sense, I’d say they definitely feedback off each other. Tracks I choose to play out becomes tracks that inspire new directions in production and vice versa.
Could you please tell about your new release and how you produced it or your thoughts behind it?
Post-Traumatic Rave Disorder is a labour in love guided lovingly with the support & guidance of Paula Temple. The EP was inspired by my love for old-school techno and rave music. Bat Shit was one of my very first attempts at techno production with a modern sound, that I liked. That was two years ago. From there I steadily found my new direction. PTRD though is the end result of a lot of trial and error trying to figure out exactly what my new voice/direction will sound like. It is a hard-won cathartic release.
What are your feelings about touring?
A wise Torontonian taxi driver once told me, “To travel is like trying to hold fire in the hand.” It’s hard. In the end, though, it is worth it and so rewarding.
What are your thoughts on the sound you created for this EP compared with your previous releases?
I’m utterly satisfied. I can say I have never worked and fretted over a release like this one, and the hard work paid off. When it was finally completed, after mastering and all ready to be released I was so relieved. A weight had been taken off my shoulders and I became so happy. The effort and the pain of it all were all worth it.
What is your main inspiration when you produce?
Sound and emotion quite literally. I’m also inspired by going out and hearing a really inspiring set that makes me dance my ass off.
In your production process do you have a specific way of working?
Not really. I’m really not regimented I just like to go with the flow.
Could you say something about your relationship with gear?
I don’t really have any relationship to gear as I’ve never had any.
Where is your studio and do you produce in one place or anywhere you go?
All I have is my laptop and my speakers and that’s what I used to produce.
Whats your dreams for your music?
I hope to leave a lasting impression on music history. I hope that one day all my handwork, love and dedication will be remembered as important.
Femanyst Interviews SØS.
How long have you been producing electronic music and how did you get your start?
I was working as a performer in the performing arts and didn’t feel truly satisfied. Something was missing until I discovered I could create my own dimensions with a computer and later on machines. I was taking voice training lessons in a studio and I saw how one could create in this way. Then after some years in 2005 I took the step into buying a computer and interface. As a child trying to learn instruments, I had always lost my interest but suddenly I could spend hours learning myself to create in various programs.
What lead you to this genre of 'noise', or something more accurate?
I was not really introduced or had an interest in technology. My focus was with the performing arts. When I discovered sound art and this way of creating art it became my entry point. It was not about how good you play an instrument. Sound art connected in many ways with my background. At that time I knew nothing about electronic music and through the years as I heard more and my expression developed into also being in these new territories. I’m influenced by everyday sounds in the city and nature merged with sounds from other dimensions.
You make amazing sound pieces filled with a lot of emotion and power. What have been some of your greatest challenges and do such life challenges or difficulties figure into your sound?
Life is reflected in my creations. I have and have had lots of things happening. I lost my mother to cancer last year. It happened all in 3 weeks. A complete chok. Now I’m in a new life state with both parents having past away. I reflect intensely about life and have always done anyway. In sound and music, I seek to express the essence of existence. Transformation, transcendence and being present in the now are very important to me.
Where do you get most of your inspiration from in order to create a piece?
From life experiences, sounds, nature, other artists, other art forms.
What are some of your favourite genres/styles of music outside of your own main genre/style?
Shamanistic Korean Music, Classical, Sound Art, Avant Garde, Gamelan, Jazz….
I’m very sorry you had to experience the loss of your parents. That must be awful. I can only imagine. I often find that my music becomes my refuge and the best place for me to work through painful emotions, even through tears. Do you find this to be the same for you?
I’m very grateful to have music in my life and for sure it’s a beautiful way to transform all kinds of feelings, experiences and let life meaningful again. I don’t think so concrete about what experiences I’m transforming unless it’s really really heavy. I work with energies and enter a state of flow in the studio and try to keep my mind and thoughts away.
I think the connection between my creations and my own life experiences happens much later - sometimes years after. It’s easier when I have a distance to the time and the actual creation.
Do you enjoy working with other artists on collaborative efforts or do you prefer to work solo? Who have been some artists you’ve worked with?
I very much enjoy collaborating with artists from other artistic fields as we all have our own expression and expertise. When those expressions meet up it creates something bigger. It’s very inspiring for me to have the artistic process with different collaborators. It always feeds back to my process and development as an artist. I work a lot with the ephemeral expression of music through installations, concerts, site-specific multichannel pieces etc. too. I consider these to be releases too, just in another format which exists for a shorter amount of time. It’s a condition I find very fascinating but I have also reached a point where I felt 'normal releasing' was important as a next step.
I have worked with artists from various fields video games, film, theatre, performance, dance, art, set design, literature.
Where do you see your musical direction heading in the future?
That’s a really good question. I keep my expression very open and only define myself as creating within experimental electronic music and sound art. It’s important for me to create freely and not get locked into a very specific expression. I have lots of ideas for projects and music to create. I take it step by step.
Have you done any dance floor oriented music productions before or do you envision that for you if not?
I’m really not aware if I have done it or I’m doing it. I create from energies and the music can go anywhere. It’s incredible to be playing in settings like festivals, clubs, venues, events where there is made an effort on a great sound system. It’s important for my music also to be amplified as it get’s another physicality.
Can you speak a bit on your new Noise Manifesto release, what it means to you, and what you would like your listeners to understand about it?
The release consists of different material from different times and projects. Paula curated this selection from a folder I had sent her. I was very happy to hear her selection and the new context and connection that happened between the tracks. I feel the release SOLFALD is a journey on its own. Some tracks are created for live performances and other like ‘Another State_Eurydike’ and ‘Dead Space_Eurydike’ are excerpts of compositions from an AR art installation/music theatre/real-life game production. The opening track, ‘Kredsløb,’ was created from sounds of the electromagnetic fields in the Opera House of Copenhagen - something I also work within my live performances at the moment. I amplify and process electromagnetic fields of the machines I’m using on stage. ‘Dispersion’, ‘Op Ad Dybet’ and ‘Lazayak’ are created from live performances. This release represents many different periods of my life and creations. I will let the listeners do their own exploration and understanding of it.
What are your favourite tools to make music with? What are your essential elements for your live sets?
My favourites right now are modulars. It’s a dangerous path to go down. I'm still in the beginning. For live use, it’s been very essential for me to have a good mixer. I have done lots of live mixing and processing with effects of sounds from the computer. Now I’m in the middle of changing my set up so I think the mixer will still be there but my focus will be more on some machines. Can’t say which direction as I’m trying different things out at the moment.
'Post-Traumatic Rave Syndrome' by Femanyst is out now on Paula Temple's Noise Manifesto. Stream HERE. 'SOLFALD' by SØS Gunver Ryberg is also released on Noise Manifesto on June 29th. Stream lead single Kredsløb HERE.