Name: Hekla Magnúsdóttir
Occupation: Musician / Thereminist /Improviser
Current Release: Á on Phantom Limb
Recommendation: Airplane and spaceship (Dj Flugvél og geimskip): Hjari veraldar (Edge of the universe) /Sigrún: Anneal me.
Website / Contact: If you enjoyed this interview with Hekla, visit her website at www.heklaheklahekla.com
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What is it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started making music as a teenager and my biggest influences at the time were the Backstreet Boys. I wrote really cheesy lyrics about love. As a teenager, I had a pop obsession and I don't really know what drew me to it. Perhaps because it’s fun without taking itself too seriously.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
I was a theremin session-player and spent a lot of time collaborating with people from all over, that was a great learning experience. What really helped me grow though, was going to study composition at Iceland's University of the Arts. It was there that I was challenged and found the courage to create music on my own.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
Becoming a better player with time certainly changed my perspective and my approach. Before, I was more confined in my playing and that led to experimenting with pedals and plug-ins. I still love trying to find new sounds but now it's also combined with melodic parts as well.
What was your first studio like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
It was just my laptop, my theremin and a soundcard in the beginning. Over the years, I have been handed down more effects pedals and they have helped shape my sound. I haven't invested in a mountain of equipment and perhaps that’s a good thing. I think it can be good to have a limited amount of options and then see what you can do with them. Now I have my own mini-studio at home but currently the most important gear to me is my theremin and my looping pedals.
How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
It’s important who it is that plays the machine, we all make the machines sound differently I think. But mostly, it’s about what you do with the technology you have, which is far more important than having the fanciest equipment. Software and machines can take you to new places and inspire you to do something new. I like to just see where my equipment takes me without overthinking it too much.
Production tools, from instruments to complex software environments, contribute to the compositional process. How does this manifest itself in your work? Can you describe the co- authorship between yourself and your tools?
I record improvisations and then I process the recordings in Logic. I love adding and adding effects and changing sounds into something completely new. I can lose hours fiddling with a tiny sound and sometimes the tools take over but it is up to you in the end to choose the right textures and make it into something.
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 love collaborating, I really enjoy jumping into very different styles with different people. Sometimes you can get stuck in your own head. Having new perspectives and input can take things somewhere totally different than what you had in mind. It is also just so nice to have some company to play music with and not just sit alone at the computer for hours.