Name: Sky Deep /
Occupation: DJ, Producer, Live Performer
Current Release: Sacred on Reveller Records
Recommendations: I was gifted with this amazing book. “The Gilda Stories” a novel by Jewelle Gomez.
And speaking of sound beyond its current form ... check the “Silent Guide” album by Radio Citizen.
Website / Contact: If you enjoyed this interview with Sky Deep, find out more about her on her informative official website.
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 writing and producing music in the early 90s. I was heavily influenced by the musicians in my family like my cousin or father. The other influences come from far and wide because I truly like so many different genres of music. In HipHop it's Missy Elliot, Lauryn Hill, DaBrat, Andre3000, Ludacris, Busta Rhymes. In band based music, it was Rage Against the Machine, Parliament Funkadelic & old funk and soul that I'd hear from my parents. I also was drawn to songwriters like PJ Harvey and Alanis Morrisette. Nirvanna and Hole. I'm drawn to quirkiness, Fun and freedom. I'm also drawn to artists that put their whole personality into their sounds. This can show up in many different ways through sound and performance.
For most artists, originality is first 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? What is the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
It started with jokes at first. I was a lyricist first and foremost. I LOVE word play. I used to take songs that I liked and then I would completely change the words to match my own independent concept to make a comedic parody of it.Almost like a theatrical piece. I would do this with TV cartoon series themes or songs from famous musicals.
I also wrote my own melodies at home but the turning point for me that led me to recording in studios, was during a time when I was dating a seriously skilled rapper that I admired.One day I decided to write a rap ... just for fun. I didn't take it seriously at all. I just started playing with rhthym and words and injected my own silly spirit into it. Her producer heard me playing with it and found it interesting so he suggested that I come in for a session. That was the beginning and it actually feels super good to say I started right away with my own voice.
I'm mostly self taught in music with a few tutorials from people here and there, so I've only learned a few rules in music ... just enough to knowingly break them when desired.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
My main challenge has always been that I have a tough time adhering to one type of sound or genre. I always like to switch it up. This can be good but it can also be frustrating when people think they have me figured out and then realize … they don't.
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?
My first studios were actually what I like to call “studio situations” – I rarely owned gear of my own so I would always collaborate with producers OR barter my engineer support or promotional graphics services in exchange for using their studios. It was a pretty sweet deal actually, because it gave me good practice on quality gear. In the very beginning it was MPC2000 samplers, rack sound modules, various synth keyboards. The sound modules I remember most were the E-Mu Mo'Phatt and the Korg Triton Rack. We recorded sometimes on DAT tape machines. But then we moved into different DAWs like Digital Performer and ProTools.
Over time ... I evolved into my own basic home setups but then, when moving to Germany, I sold all my chunky gear and relied on my computer and controllers. Now I'm craving a hardware workflow, so I'm moving back in that direction looking at stand alone samplers and synths to use in combo with my guitar and effects module. Right now, I'm crazy about the Roland Boutique Se-02 and heavily leaning toward the MPC Live.
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?
I see technology in everything: color combos, frequency combos, food recipes, etc. I like to experience technology at first without expectation and hope for inspiration. If I'm inspired by a concept then I'll stop at nothing to learn how to work the parameteres to express myself. I believe humans excel at tool making on the most primal levels. If a machine is properly designed and well used, then it excels at giving us what we want.
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?
In my work I usually hear or imagine a sound in my head before I start creating. Many times I have a melody but haven't created the sound yet. I love that there are so many combinations and tweaks that can be worked to create my audio fantasies. But sometimes its fun to try something specific and then get surprised by a totally different outcome. Every composition seems to have many spin-offs. I find myself recording and resampling to save clips for later works. It's pretty cool how sometimes I think I'm running everything but then I'm blessed by the machine fairies.
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?
Some of the most fun tracks I've made in the past have been remote collaborations where I would send a partner a beat. They'd add a pad/synth and bass. And we'd pass it back and forth. Very exciting process.
I've also done it with scheduled meetups. There's a lot of rewards in those too.
But something I find the most challenging but also magical is live jams. No matter the genre or set up, it's aboslutely a BLAST. Recently I've had the chance to facilitate open jam rooms for both musician and live electronics. It's inspiring and relaxed. It reminds me that we are infinite beings with an everlasting spring of creativity. This especially shows when we aren't trying too hard and don't take ourselves too seriously.I still have a child inside of me. I really need to just PLAY. And it's really nice to have friends to play with. It re-ignites souls.