Name: Catharina Jaunviksna aka Badlands
Occupation: Producer, composer, sound designer
Current Release: The new Badlands album Call to Love is out November 18th 2022 via Catharina's own label RITE.
1. The Latvian painting artist Brigita Ektermane let me license her amazing paintings off her series “Signs of Power” for this release. Check her out. The album cover is called “Sign 146”. I bought the original off her, it’s hanging in my studio
2. My friend Damien Lynch’s aka Diamond Daggers new single “Being Jolene” ft Cormorant Tree Oh, incl. really cool B-side. Released on his label Remote Town, check it out on Bandcamp.
If you enjoyed this interview with Badlands and would like to stay up to date with her music, visit her official website. She is also on Instagram, and Soundcloud.
When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I was always into music. Music is probably the most direct channel into one’s heart and mind. There’s no time to think or interpret, it's just injected into you.
I’ve played the piano and guitar since I was a kid, like self taught. And had band projects but didn’t like to depend on others. So my personal breakpoint was when I started to make electronic music on my own, in my late teens, and mix organic instruments into that.
There was this music teacher in secondary school who taught me midi and how to sample with an AKAI floppy disc sampler, very dated but I thought it was neat. And how to use Cubase and stuff. He’d let me borrow a portable 8-track over the weekends too, he was really cool.
That’s the first time I ever felt like I was actually on to something.
When I listen to music, I see shapes, objects and colours. What happens in your body when you're listening and how does it influence your approach to creativity?
I feel and fantasize when I hear music, I don’t see much. And sometimes it sparks ideas.
Hence my approach to creativity is to just roll with it, just do and feel, don’t think. Let it come to you, and recognize it as it shows up. I can be an overthinker in so many other aspects of my life, so it's nice to have a sanctuary in sound and music. That’s where I’m free.
It's like channeling something, I can’t describe it.
How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?
Super dull answer, but the biggest challenge was always money. And being a female producer and sound designer in a male dominated business, obviously. But like when I was younger, I couldn’t afford to buy gear or anything like that, no matter how much I was working. And the breakthrough when I started to make that bit extra sometimes, so that I could treat myself to something that would work inspiring. Never underestimate that.
But it taught me that you have to work with whatever you've got, even if it’s just a broken tape machine. I think that’s why I chose the production and sound design path.. Like, there’s always a way to make things sound good, or get your message across. If you keep on trying and experimenting.
Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.
I don't know, it’s too abstract. But it’s pretty easy to tell when identity is put on, not genuine. Like when something looks and sounds amazing, beautifully produced and packaged, but lacks core.
And then there's the other side, when something is all heart but has neglected the space inbetween. There’s a lot of hard work behind a diamond in the rough, too.
That’s the fun and horrible part of the creative process, trying to find that balance. And that's what speaks to me as a listener as well.
What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?
Authenticity and intuition. I believe good art almost always sparks from an impulse, I don’t believe in conceptual art from the get-go. You can’t order or schedule a feeling, message or a creative flow.
To take it to an extreme, it’s like these AI-tracks that people are talking about these days, music made by robots. Being a pragmatic I should be pro that stuff, like who cares how it was made if it does the job right? But I think it's an Orwellian nightmare, a musical newspeak.
How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?
I make music that I’d want to listen to, I don’t have an audience in mind as I’m creating. That’s the last thing on my mind. But when it’s time for release I don’t hope to impress, but I hope to seduce. In that sense perfection is boring, anybody can make something perfect.
So, I guess I’m about originality and innovation, since you’re asking. But I’ve never thought of it like that.
Over the course of your development, what have been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?
Mixing is my main instrument and tool, but I write alot on piano. Like even my club tracks, I think I’d be able to play them all low-key like that. But I don’t write in a conventional way, I rather sculpt songs.
When I get an idea, I often work it out on the piano or sing in voice memos, and bring it into my studio, start building a beat. Then I use analog synths and machinery, organic instrumentation, bass, guitar with plenty of fx, sampling, field recordings and vocals in my work. I work in Pro Tools and slave a couple of other apps too, like Ableton and then plenty of plugins too obviously.
My setup changes, but I don’t think I’ll ever sell my Polysix or Juno 106. I like to invest in old stuff. But honestly, I’m not that attached to gear. You always find a way with the ideas if you give them time and effort.
[Read our feature on the Juno 106]
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.
My morning routine isn’t exciting, it's just coffee and family business. Then I go to the studio, work on whatever projects I’m working on. It can be mixes or remixes, music or sound designs for a film or a play, and sometimes I make documentaries too, both as a storyteller and sound designer.
I pitch stories and sell them to public radio, from idea to finished product. If I get stuck I change to something else, I usually have parallel projects going and I’m happy to procrastinate if I get a flow going with something I really shouldn't be working on.
And I always forget to eat. Pretty much every day, I realize at 3pm that I forgot to eat. Again.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that's particularly dear to you, please?
I’d go with my new album, Call to Love.
I was very inspired by 90s dance music, warehouse dub and triphop this time around. So I tried to imagine what Badlandsy love songs would sound like through crappy reverbs bouncing off broken tiles outside a warehouse rave at 6 in the morning. Funny enough, it was Radiohead's "Burn the Witch" that inspired me to mix classic chopped-up cello into this mess.
Then I invited my studio neighbor Felisia Westberg (who's normally a bass player and tours with Ane Brun) to play the cello hooks. And that's how the sound was born. The sound has been crucial in getting my message across; what is beautiful and vulnerable emerges in what’s broken and imperfect and letting yourself lose control.
Listening can be both a solitary and a communal activity. Likewise, creating music can be private or collaborative. Can you talk about your preferences in this regard and how these constellations influence creative results?
I always work alone, I get paid in solitude. But when the album is maybe 90% finished, I often invite another person to contribute, like in this case Felisia Westberg. And I'm so grateful she did.
On the last album Djinn it was Mattias Jeppsson and his self-made guitar pedals. It’s like I sample that other person, I chop up the recordings, tweak and pitch and play around with them to fit the puzzle. That last piece of influence from outside is very inspiring and brings energy to the finish of the mixes.
And when Badlands plays live, I often play with a band consisting of 2 or 3 people. But it’s the creative process I’m all about, like working alone in the studio.
How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?
Music in society is a glue, a language, a code, a drug, in some ways a power. And being a creative person is not a choice, it’s an itch you can’t control.
My music is intuitive, so it’s hard to say how it relates to the world. It differs from time to time. I’m very introspective and up in my head about my work.
Art can be a way of dealing with the big topics in life: Life, loss, death, love, pain, and many more. In which way and on which occasions has music – both your own or that of others - contributed to your understanding of these questions?
I’m channeling pretty much everything through music, so it has meant everything to me.
I always felt grateful to have a passion. I couldn’t do without one, and I don’t understand how other people can either. Like, what do you do with all that stuff? The thoughts, the feelings.
But maybe I’ve grown a wee bit cold that way too. That I make use of my feelings as some kind of currency, instead of acting upon them. The new album is alot about that, actually.
How do you see the connection between music and science and what can these two fields reveal about each other?
To me science is about explaining and music is about expressing. They’re both investigating I guess, but I’ve never really thought about a connection there.
The term science is so broad too, it could literally mean anything.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you feel as though writing or performing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
Of course it's inherently different. With the creative process you’re literally manifesting something concrete out of empty air, it hurts and you doubt yourself along the way, but still feel like you have to go through with it. You create something where there was nothing.
Making a great cup of coffee isn't abstract, you make a cup of coffee where there was coffee beans and water. It tastes great, but it's not an expression and you’re not taking a personal risk.
Music is vibration in the air, captured by our ear drums. From your perspective as a creator and listener, do you have an explanation how it able to transmit such diverse and potentially deep messages?
No, that’s why music is magic. Maybe I’d be able to anatomise it, but I don’t want to.
I get that question pretty often actually, like is there a trick? And honestly, I don’t know. It just works.