Name: Belia Winnewisser
Occupation: Producer, songwriter, vocalist, sound artist
Current Release: Belia Winnewisser's new album SODA is out on Präsens Editionen.
Recommendations: Loraine James’s new album Reflection (Hyperdub, 2021); All the paintings by Cara Lien
If you enjoyed this interview with Belia Winnewisser, stay up to date on her work on Facebook and Soundcloud.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
It all started when I was 19. I wanted to be in a band since I was 13, but I always felt too insecure and I didn’t have access to gear. In my late teenage years, I then got a computer which had a version of garage band, so I finally started to record (and later on, I was part of several bands as well).
Back then, The Chameleons were a big influence but also a lot of different indie and wave projects I was listening to.
Starting to produce my own music gave me an energy I had never felt or experienced before. So I knew I had to keep doing this.
For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
On the one hand, I was involved in the indie, wave, and pop-scene in Lucerne where I grew up. On the other hand, I started to study Music and Media Arts in Bern. Over time, the two worlds started to bleed into each other.
Through all these years, I have been trying to combine the accessible with the abstract — and after my studies, I think I have found a balanced way to handle both worlds in my own music.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
I don`t know.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
I always felt I needed to make decisions about the genre and the field I was trying to position myself in. Every now and then, I still ponder on how people could tell me that the way I sing is too poppy, the synths are too 80s, the beginning of a piece too experimental, or its end too clubby.
I felt insecure most of the time, but somehow my opinion towards my own music changed … I think this was the most challenging thing: to finally be independent and not to overthink everything all the time. A person once said to me that what I’m doing is not good enough, neither for myself nor for anyone else. This really hurt — but it also gave enormous power to really don’t care anymore and just follow my instincts.
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
I still have some physical gear in my studio, but over time, I reduced my equipment more and more. Nowadays, I almost only use my computer. The programs I use evolve every now and then, so there is always something new to learn. I love synths, but I’m not that kind of nerd. It sounds very boring, but I just like sitting in front of my computer all day long.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
Well, it is a question of choices and as a musician you have to use some gear. I reduced my workspace to almost nothing. Still, there is always the question of what do I really need? And I really need good speakers, headphones, and a microphone. That’s all. This reduction helped me a lot to focus on the music itself.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
I have almost always worked in collaborations and/or band projects at the beginning of my career. This was important on many levels. Nowadays, it’s the other way around. But it’s still very important for me to collaborate with other artists.
I find it interesting to send files back-and-forth, working on stuff like a ping-pong game—or the very classical way to just meet and jam.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
Even though I am a chaotic person, routine is really important to me. I’m getting up at 8 o’clock in the morning, followed by drinking coffee and sitting on the couch until I’m getting bored. After that I’m heading to the studio.
First, I eat something nice followed by scheduling my day. Then, I’m working until my creativity is gone. The actual working hours change from day to day.
I can’t separate my musical work and my live. It’s intertwined every day and all the time. I couldn’t change that aspect so far and this is not always easy.
But if I have a good day, I really do have a good day. If it’s a bad one, I guess I just have to accept it and go for a walk or so.
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
I didn’t have such a thing like a breakthrough show, although I do have a lot of good memories of live concerts I have played so far. However, there is one special concert I will never forget and that is particularly special to me: my show at the Rhizom Festival 2019 in Zürich, Rote Fabrik. People were eager for my show and they let themselves go during the concert. No bad vibes; I enjoyed myself and hardly ever felt so good being on stage. This special thing happened that I can’t find any words for. Maybe it’s pure freedom …
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
Healing is a strong word. Maybe I would use pleasing or helping as a word for a possible function of music. Healing, for me, happens over a period of time and the phases can shift within that time. Music can be a part of healing and help shortening phases of suffering.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
Yes, there is a thin line — so it’s important that we educate ourselves and be mindful when it comes to culture and art.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?
A teacher once told me that acting intuitively means all your senses work with the same intensity. This made a lot of sense to me because something must happen to your body and mind to be intuitive. It’s not like “press this button and off you go.” Intuition needs refinement.
To come to this stage, you need to observe. Observing leads us to be able to overlap our senses. And through this, you may be able to use them and act with them intuitively.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
Making music is a purpose in itself. Still, I can’t isolate my music from myself: my inspiration comes from every corner of my life and everything that happens around me.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
Music can express the unfiltered export of emotions.