Name: Vicky Mettler aka Kee Avil
Occupation: Producer, composer, improviser, songwriter, guitarist
Current Release: Kee Avil's Crease is out via Constellation
Recommendations: I would recommend the work of Chiharu Shiota and Univrs by Alva Noto.
If you enjoyed this interview with Kee Avil, visit her official website. She is also on Instagram, Facebook, and bandcamp.
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?
I started writing for Kee Avil in 2016 - before then I was mostly improvising, as a guitarist.
What drew me to improvisation was the freedom to experiment with sounds, techniques and the acceptance of failure. Eventually, I discovered that I would often seek a certain sound. Kee Avil was an attempt to explore this sound through songwriting.
Some early KA influences include Marc Ribot, PJ Harvey, Jenny Hval, This Heat, Juana Molina.
Some people experience intense emotion when listening to music, others see colours or shapes. What is your own listening experience like and how, do you think, does it influence your approach to music?
I think it’s visceral. As I’m listening, I don’t question the music, or try to understand it. In the same way, I don’t really question the music that I write - often there is no concept behind it - it just has to feel like something.
How would you describe your development as an artist from your earliest beginnings towards finding your own voice and up until your current interests - what helped you on your path, what were challenges and, creatively speaking, 'breakthrough works'?
The biggest challenge to me is usually to start. What helped me was that I had no expectations.
I think the songs on my first EP were important, in the sense that it was the first time I attempted to write songs, and to record / produce my own music. On Crease, "Okra Ooze" was the first song written and its production style and direction shaped the entire album.
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 think I like exploring and being surprised by new things - so I guess that can speak for itself.
What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?
My approach is to not to question the initial ideas, to move quickly through them and focus on sculpting. That control and accidents complement each other, but intent is the final step that makes it one or the other.
In his book Retromania, Simon Reynolds describes a tendency to preferably seek for inspiration in the past. How would you describe your own views on topics like originality, innovation and exploration in music – are they of interest to you, desirable, even attainable at all? What would your ideal of a “music of the future” sound like?
Inspiration for me comes from everywhere, past, present, future, including what has only happened in my head. I like being surprised by music, I like writing something that, to me, resembles something else, and then changing it so that it doesn’t. I like making choices that are the exact opposite of what my instinct says.
In a way, I seek this form of surprise in other music as well, whether obvious or in the details. I would like that in the future, music could be physically touched, like holding a pen.
Starting from your first studio/first instrument, what motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years? Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
When I started playing live as Kee Avil, I had a few loopers, and a bunch of pedals - their purpose was to recreate the recordings live. Everything was a tool with a role to play. The guitar has always been really creative for me, it can generate so many strange sounds.The computer is probably what shaped my songwriting the most.
Speaking about the relationship with her tools, Suzanne Ciani emphasised that part of what influences creative results is what an instrument gives to you and part of it is what you give to it. Would you say that this resonates with you?
I think that’s accurate, there is definitely an exchange there.
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?)
Organized chaos with lots of procrastination peppered in. Music and other aspects of my life feed each other subconsciously - when I work on music, I eliminate as many other things as I can.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece or album that's particularly dear to you, please?
Each song on Crease was written and almost entirely produced before moving on to the next one. Sometimes that was figured out quickly, but often I had to discover what type of setting the song lives in - each a microcosm of an idea or feeling. So I just had to spend a lot of time with each, not necessarily even working on the song, but just living my life with the song in mind.
There’s a way to become a sort of sponge during this creation phase, where everything around seems to somehow become connected to the song.
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, using examples from your work and experience, how these constellations influence the results?
The initial creation phase is solitary and private for me. I don’t usually show the work until the song or idea is fleshed out enough that I have a good idea of what I want or think it should be. Then, the collaboration starts and is indispensable.
The album wouldn’t sound or be what it is without the creativity and knowledge of Zach Scholes. Collaboration is a real balancing act, and when established, it makes the work better.
How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society (and possibly beyond it)?
It relates to the world because it comes from it. For me, it’s about collecting those instances of the world that touch me and using them as the pieces of my own little puzzle game.
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 in which occasions has music contributed to your own understanding of these questions, do you feel?
I will let the music speak for itself for this one.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you personally feel as though writing 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?
What I express through music is not necessarily due to the medium, but just that I’ve honed that medium as a creative tool, using chance, intent, accidents, and just a general sense of awareness of what’s going on around me during these mundane tasks and periods. I think the same ideas could also be expressed in many other ways.
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?
I have no explanation, but it’s pretty amazing, isn’t it?