Live In Another World: Skeleten & Jennifer Loveless in conversation
Jennifer has recently remixed a single by Skeleten which first emerged in 2020.
It’s always interesting when two artists are forced together in a means of surprising collaboration. Be this in the collaborative nature of a studio project or a post release remix it’s fascinating to observe the variance in approach to sound design and musicality.
Skeleten is a producer based in Sydney of Eora origin, he has recently released material via Astral People Recordings channeling melodic influences into far flung dance leaning escapades which intrigue and delight. A relatively fresh faced artist he draws upon a sense of self reflection within his music and attempts to channel intimate, otherworldly experiences through his sounds.
Jennifer Loveless is a widely acclaimed producer – originating from Canada she is now based in Narrm and has become one of the most innovative and exciting faces in underground music in Australia having received acclaim for her recent EP on Butter Sessions by the likes of Marcel Dettmann, Jayda G, Ela Minus and more.
She was recently invited to remix a single of Skeleten’s – a track called ‘Live In Another World’ which she describes as “an endless mover.”
We invited the pair to reflect on the result and talk sensibilities in the studio and beyond.
Skeleten answers Jennifer Loveless:
Who or what are your earliest influences?
I was trying to reach all the way back and think about the first memories of music affecting me as a child, and I remembered this series of CDs that the ABC put out just called Zzzero, One, Two etc…
Looking them up it seems like Zzzero came out the year I was born and that’s the one I can remember most vividly. It has all these really simple versions of pop songs like Golden Slumbers and Forever Young, gospel tracks like Grandma’s Hands and Motherless Child plus these really intimate lullabies from around the world including Maranoa Lullaby (which I never realised but is an indigenous lullaby from southwest QLD that had a bit of a moment in children’s music around this time). I can just remember these songs felt like they had an almost eerie power, like a really beautiful mystery. Where did these things come from and how do they make you feel so different?
It’s actually still quite an experience listening through now that I found it on youtube, being transported back to real innocence for a second and almost being able to remember what it felt like! I never really thought about this kind of music as an influence before. I would always think of the first music I started to listen to as a young teen, but that’s so tangled in growing up and finding identity and it feels like my actual connection to music was formed much earlier through the kind of simple, beautiful melodies in those songs. I actually feel like essentially I’m still gravitating towards music that gives me that same feeling of power and mystery.
You were/are in a duo called Fishing, and your solo project is Skeleten. How do you find the two work styles? Do you prefer working by yourself or with another?
Making music with friends is absolutely my favourite thing to do in life, but I find that it occupies quite a different place in my mind than when I’m working on music alone. I think I often struggle not to focus on what other people in the room are thinking, and so the whole Skeleten project kinda came from engaging fully with a more relaxed, meditative mode of creating and listening alone, allowing myself to be completely free to follow whatever thread my brain heard with no pressure. It feels great and seems to produce things that keep that feeling for me when I listen back, like free from expectation or self-examination I’m able to reach for things that are more genuine reflections of myself.
I think it’s taken this long to understand what helps my brain tune in and obviously working on Fishing and working collaboratively was how I got to this point. It’s interesting, now that I feel more clear on what feels good by myself I’m starting to be able to access that more making music with friends too! The feeling of accessing that free, unencumbered energy when working with others is something that I’m experiencing more regularly and that’s really exciting to me. Feeling a jam turn into Skeleten music is such a lovely realisation.
Being a producer, you orchestrate everything in a song. I’d like to know what instrument do you most identify with and why?
I’ve been through a lot of thoughts on this one over the years, and I do think it changes and will continue to change. That said, the last few years I definitely feel like it’s been the Bass era for me. I started using bass guitar on some early Skele songs and it has really stuck as an important feeling in a lot of what I do. Generally I think Bass has this unique role as a bridge between rhythm and harmony which is such a powerful position. It’s out there completely changing the groove of a beat as well as the harmonic world of a chord progression. If we’re talking about the vibe of a song, so often we’re kinda talking about the bass right?
With bass guitar in particular, I think what makes it so appealing for me is how it brings such a human dimension to the centre of a track. The physicality of it really permeates a texture, like the way you pluck the strings, the length of the notes, little slides and mutes. There’s such a wild palette of sound that can inform and play with every other part in a song while always feeling understated and personal. I think that’s what makes it such a joy to play, you can really get deep in the simplicity. Big vibe on the bass.
What was the foundation for Live in another world? Melody, percussion, other? And do you usually know how you want the song to sound before you start making?
I remember the process for Live in Another World actually started exactly the same way the song starts. I was very into that hectic cowbell sound on a drum machine I had and wanted to hear it at different pitches so I put it in a sampler and played around and I’m pretty sure the main loop that carries through the song was just what I played. If you seperate the part out it’s actually really whack in terms of tuning, but doesn’t seem to matter? That tends to be the way I approach making music in general, playing around with an appealing sound until I hear something in it and just following on from there.
It’s very very rare that I’ll start with any intention, I think because if I’m aiming for something then there’s always that spectre of evaluation which defs is not my favourite headspace. I think it’s very hard to look at a blank page and form a complete vision. I work a lot better with some kernel idea, however basic, being able to turn it around and play with it and then slowly I can start to hear in that process what a song might sound like and what it feels like.
Writer’s block. Do you experience it? What do you do when it comes?
I think, since I’ve let myself sink into the kinda process I mentioned above, I don’t run into it as much as I used to. I always remember hearing a friend’s DJ philosophy which was simply ’listen to the song playing and then just put on what you wanna hear next’ and I’ve always thought that’s such a nice way to approach music in general. Just listening to the music then listening to your brain without trying to control too much. The thing is sometimes your brain doesn’t say anything and in those situations, if I just can’t hear anything, I usually take it as a good sign that this is not resonating with me right now and so just put it away. Often next time you open it back up your brain has changed and suddenly there’s all this stuff there ready to happen. I feel like for me at least making music is more about sticking the antenna up and seeing if you can connect to something, rather than this active process of willing your thoughts into reality, and it’s nice cos if it’s not happening today it might happen tomorrow.
One area where I do run into a more traditional ‘writer’s block’ is when I’m trying to finish lyrics. I guess there’s something about written language that lends itself to blocking up, maybe because meaning is so much more tightly codified in lyrics than in the rest of music. I’m still working on how to figure this one out but I feel like it’s always about trying to forget about the specifics of what’s there already, and just let myself exist in the feeling of the song. Always the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
How do you know when a song is “finished”?
I do a lot of listening back to songs, when they’re in demo format, like just walking around with it in headphones and letting my mind do its thing. It’s so hard to say exactly what the goal is in this but I suspect it has something to do with trying to hear the edges of the finished song. I reckon it must be kinda like a magic eye, where it’s just all of these dots or discreet parts all put together and you keep coming back and staring at it in different ways and from different angles until the outline starts to appear and then the song can reveal itself out of the noise. I always feel like a kooky faith healer trying to talk about this stuff but I think there’s definitely mystery involved in discovering “the song” in the music which is why it’s such a fun process.
It’s still hard to say what criteria needs to be fulfilled in this process but I think it’s something about being able to recognise a distinct and sustained feeling in the song. Like if I listen and I’m not thinking about the different elements, if I am just responding emotionally, that’s usually it! There’s definitely been times when I’ve agonised over the details in a song for ages after it should have been called finished and I think in doing that it often starts to look less like the thing that you felt originally, so these days when a song feels like it sticks I basically just call it finished and let it be what it is.
If you could collaborate with anyone who would it be?
Trying to think big here, the first person that comes to mind is Sade. Imagine that. I feel like her voice is just this all powerful tool for healing, and her presence is so intimate and welcoming, it would be pretty hard not to make something beautiful. I do think personal connections are really important for collaborations, and I might be going out on a limb here but I reckon Sade would vibe. Just thinking about “Why Can’t We Live Together” the attitude is right.
“I think it’s very hard to look at a blank page and form a complete vision. I work a lot better with some kernel idea.”
Jennifer Loveless answers Skeleten:
I feel like your remix for Live in Another World really speaks to your experience as a dj. How does playing to dance floors effect your approach to your own productions?
Yeah, I don’t think about it consciously but it must do. When I’m writing dance music, I’m constantly thinking about my own personal experiences, times I really noticed or appreciated a track and trying to recreate that with the material at hand.
How do you feel when you make music?
Usually incredibly sad or incredibly happy.
What do you think is shared between people in your scene?
A love of coming together and wanting to see people shine. I appreciate the sheer number of people that have a love for dance music – to me that means that they’re down to live for the moment and that kind of mentality isn’t always the easiest to find.
What’s your relationship to music technology and equipment?
Relatively new I guess, I grew up a classically trained pianist, and I taught myself to use electronic gear. In that way, it’s quite funny that I find myself doing things manually quite often cause it’s quicker for me to play a pattern with my hands than trying to figure out how to sequence it or otherwise.
Talking about your BSR EP you mentioned thinking a lot about water and freedom. Could you talk more about how these ideas connect to your music?
I’m not sure if it’s lockdown speaking, but lately all i want to write is extroverted light hearted and slightly horny music.
You mentioned that In making your Live in another world remix you were reminded of one of your favourite songs by Matthew Herbert. Can you tell me more about this track and what makes it special to you?
Yeah, I shared that it reminds me of Middle by Matthew Herbert, one of my all time favourite songs. I’m not sure how to explain it but it reminds me of an amalgamation of all my musical influences in one song. It feels free and like that hour just before the sun dips.
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