An interview with Ela OrleansEla Orleans - and yes, that is her real name - is a Polish born Glasgow based artist. We first became aware of Ela through the tireless promotion of her work by the staff at Glasgow's finest record store Monorail.
Ela Orleans has had a nomadic existence. Born in Auschwitz, Poland she has lived in New York, where she worked with numerous artists and previously lived in Glasgow where she was part of the collage-pop group Hassle Hound. She moved to Warsaw in 2000 where, as I just discovered, she worked with Marcus Schmickler. In 2004 she moved to New York where she performed with various noise artists and studied under acclaimed songwriter and composer David Shire. Ela Orleans returned to Glasgow in 2011.
A prolific collaborator Ela Orleans has featured on split albums with Dirty Beaches, US Girls and Slim Twig and collaborated with Liam Stefani's Skitter, most recently on the experimental industrial sounds of De Flechéttes and with Devon Loch on Sleep Scale. In 2014 her remix of new age pioneer Laraaji appeared on Warp.
Tumult In Clouds, our introduction to her work, revealed Ela Orleans to be a singular presence and musical visionary. Casting her soft-sung plaintive tones over keyboards and guitars; its sample-driven songs draw on Motown, French Pop, psych music and soundtracks. But it is her uncanny ability to craft something darker and much more widescreen that made Tumult In Clouds so special. With passages of electronic textures and orchestral flourishes, Ela Orleans channels a timeless haunting presence resulting in the deserved and descriptive appellation of her music: ghost-pop.
Tumult In Clouds was awarded the inaugural Dead Albatross Music Prize, an alternative to the Mercury Music award, in 2013, beating other contenders such as Broadcast, Factory Floor, My Bloody Valentine and Andy Stott.
A limited CD compilation, Movies For Ears, released on her own Parental Guidance label presents tracks from her initial cassette albums High Moon, Low Sun; NEO-PI-R and early vinyl albums Lost, Mars In Heaven alongside tracks from her split albums Double Feature and Statement. Movies For Ears almost chronologically documents her sonic voyage from her first tentative solo recordings in 2008 and amply illustrates the blossoming of her musical style and vision culminating in the haunting ghost-pop of tracks from 2012's Tumult In Clouds.
Ela's work spans both the music and art worlds. She has undertaken commissions to score and perform live soundtracks to silent films including Carl Theodor Dreyer's supernatural horror film Vampyr and Frank Borzage's romantic drama Lucky Star. Ela has also established an on-going relationship with Swedish filmmaker Maja Borg. In 2012, She soundtracked We The Others which was showcased as part of the Glasgow Counterflows festival and at Tate Britain in London. In 2014, She undertook a month long residency at EMS Elektronmusikstudion, the Swedish centre for electroacoustic music and sound-art, to compose the sounds and score for Maja Borg's MAN. Ela has also been commissioned by the Polish Foundation Witryna to score her first opera, Tower, written and directed by Polish multimedia artist Karolina Bregula. Tower premiered in Warsaw and was subsequently performed at the Venice Biennale of Architecture 2014.
In 2015 the Howie B produced Upper Hell raised the profile of Ela Orleans. This year saw the release of Circles of Upper and Lower Hell on Night School Records, which delivers Ela's full unexpurgated vision, curtailed on the Howie B produced Upper Hell. While we adored the streamlined grooves of Upper Hell, its release created all sorts of "music business" and legal nonsense for Ela Orleans.
Like Tumult In Clouds, Circles of Upper and Lower Hell finds inspiration in the romantic poets (including occultist, magician and poet Aleister Crowley) but the personal turmoil and despair that infuses Circles of Upper and Lower Hell draws upon the writing of Dante. Sweeping from ghost-pop songs via atmospheric interludes to cinematic orchestration Circles of Upper and Lower Hell is more accomplished, performed with a pathos and lightness of touch which makes the work of Ela Orleans so utterly engaging.
A supremely talented and versatile performer, we've come to become friends with Ela.
This year she will embark on a PhD in Music but will continue to record and be involved in numerous projects. We distracted Ela from her long list of projects long enough to ask her a whole bunch of questions about her music, her art projects involving soundtracks and opera and much more besides. We predict great things for Ela Orleans so we're overjoyed to present this interview with one of the busiest and loveliest of artists. If you haven't yet heard her work I urge you to seek out Tumult In Clouds and her latest album on Night School Records, Circles of Upper and Lower Hell. You won't be sorry.
The first time I saw you perform live was at a Monorail Record Store Day event a few years ago. From behind the counter, Stephen Pastel has been quietly turning customers on to your work. And now another staff member Michael Kasparis is releasing the vinyl edition of Circles Of Upper And Lower Hell on his Night School Records label. How important has Monorail Music been to you?
That was the most difficult show. I had bronchitis and a fever. I struggled with breathing and felt like I am going to collapse. Normally I would just call the whole thing off, but I would rather die than disappoint Monorail. So yes, Monorail is very important to me. They have been like my family and my lonely heart club. It was actually Russell Elder who pulled out my record Lost and championed it in the shop. I call him my "music dealer"; every time I am in the shop he manages to introduce me or point out in the direction of the record I have to hear and own. Stephen really pushed Tumult In Clouds and he gave it a lot of good press. But more importantly, he just became my great friend and mentor. He recognises the struggle I have been going through due to my inability to ask for help or being capable of caring about my business. His words of wisdom saved me a few times from going insane. As per Michael Kasparis, he was the first person who ever wrote a review of my music. It was in 2009 when Lost LP arrived at Rough Trade, where he used to work. It was the first UK review I've read. I have a lot to thank him for. I am very happy that he moved back to Glasgow and him putting out my record makes a lot of sense to me. He is genuine, respectful and just a lovely human.
Last year you released the Movies For Ears compilation, with tracks selected from your back catalog. This was released on your own Parental Guidance label. As a means of an introduction, could you tell us about this release and how do you think your music has evolved from these tracks taken from your earlier albums?
I always felt like I needed to have some sort of "best of" album so without much elaboration I could just present myself in a simple way. There has been a plan for this record to be released properly on Geographic, but I will have to first replace "problematic" samples and make new versions of the songs without destroying their character, so the record could be easily published. It's on my rather long "to do" list.
Circles Of Upper And Lower Hell follows on from Upper Hell, which was produced by Howie B. Howie B is something of a mainstream producer, how did you team up with Howie B?
I was introduced to him through a mutual friend. Later he offered me a deal, which turned out to be a hoax. The record company doesn't even exist in registry. Until today I haven't received one single artist copy. It was a joke. Not very funny, though.
How did the experience of working with an outside producer affect your working? Were you satisfied with the results? Control is important to you, so is it something you would do again?
I recorded the whole thing myself in my studio and he then picked a few tracks he liked and changed the sound of layers which I arranged using midi instruments. He didn't write or record a single note. Because MIDI is a set of commands that create sound, MIDI sequences can be manipulated in ways that prerecorded audio cannot. It is possible to change the instrumentation or tempo of a MIDI arrangement, so, for example, the piano lines were replaced by bass, etc. I will definitely never work with HB Recordings again. I am sure the feeling is mutual as I do not fit their business model which expired, and thank God for that, in the 90s, when an artist was the last person to benefit from his or her work. Two lawyers confirmed that the contract, I signed is a laughing stock and wouldn't stand in any UK court, so I was relieved to find out, I could walk away and release my material in the form I intended at the start. I am quite confident I won't make the same mistake again. And it's not about control but about staying sane.
Circles Of Upper And Lower Hell features versions of the tracks that featured on Upper Hell but was Upper Hell excerpted from the recordings or did you decide to return and complete the cycle of recordings. If so did you view it as being incomplete?
These are original tracks before they got "produced" or as someone described it "remixed". I was confident that my project would not fit on a single LP and from the start I was sure that there was no other way but release it as a double. The information was acknowledged and later ignored. There was no time, especially since I had to spend long hours every day, waiting in the lobby for the producer to show up.
One of the main influences on Circles Of Upper And Lower Hell was Dante's Inferno, what attracted you to Dante's Inferno?
The beauty of the language, its universal meaning and fascinating picture of doom. At the time of working on it, I was dealing with depression and I tried to find sense in suffering. Inferno had helped me to realise that what I am going through is a journey with the end somewhere. I translated that voyage into the language of music. I concentrated on the movement of Virgil through hell, I adapted his perception and I felt it made the healing process meaningful and beautiful despite horror and despair I was dealing with at the time. To me, this poem is about depression. For someone like me who grew up on catholic teachings, the picture of hell and descent into it will be forever engraved in my psyche. Dante sees chronic depressives as sinners, not as victims and this is often how I perceive myself. The circles of upper hell are about self-loathing lower hell is about self-destruction and I was contemplating both states. I needed 'Ghosts and Whispers' to explain it a little, but since the whole eerie part of it was erased in the Upper Hell version, it came out like a cheery pop song, but if you read the lyrics, it's all about wanting to end it all and getting miraculously distracted from the idea.
A lot of your work is based on poetry and literary influences, do you find it easier to compose to other works? What draws you to these writings and what do they reflect for you? How much of your work is autobiographical?
I am more and more happy to write my own lyrics and the next record will be lyrically more creative. It is a very slow process to write to the music for me and I am always afraid I won't be able to put senses together.
I think my problem was coming from the fact that I wasn't reading as much as I should. Now I do and I agree with the theory that writing is reading. I will still be exploiting literature, but I think I will write more of my own lyrics now. Great writers are fantastic psychologists, so considering my life-long struggle with depression it makes perfect sense that I escape into a literary world quite often. I don't see a struggle as something impossible to cope with. It's all just a journey and my work is a bunch of more or less vague postcards from it. Is it all about me? Maybe it is.
You've featured works from WB Yeats and Aleister Crowley, does occultism play a role in your work?
I am only guessing that my choices are more intuitional than intellectual. I am drawn to symbolism or the literal tradition. The occultists include in their canon Plato, Blake, and Dante. Some can argue that the poetry of Yeats and occultism were kept by him separate. I am attracted to mysticism or visionary tradition. I grew up surrounded by holy pictures and crosses, slept next to the old piano and very loud XIX century pendulum clock. I enjoyed church going and solitary prayers a lot. I found religion both oppressive and fascinating. And even though I am not religious anymore, I love listening to psalms and masses. My creative process is meditative so the poetry rich in symbols expands imagination and helps to exercise it. As a foreigner, I read and translate local symbols as more profound and universal. They are slightly more attractive and exotic to me.
Circles Of Upper And Lower Hell features Stephen and Katrina of The Pastels. They've long been supporters of your work but why did you decide to work with them?
We have been talking about doing something together for a while. I really love how their voices create musical dialogue right at the beginning of the record. I could hear it right from the beginning of writing the song. I am working with vocal harmonies and there is no much room for voice contest. I wanted to create male and female "dialogue of forces", but I wanted them to sound serene and peaceful. I think Stephen's and Katrina's voices have those qualities. As friends, they have been always wonderfully sweet to me and there is nothing more pleasant than working with people you love. I truly hope we can do something else together soon. It's been a bit hectic time for them and me but there is something else on the horizon.
The Monorail edition of Upper Hell came with an accompanying disc of mixes that inspired Upper Hell. What was included and how did they inspire Upper Hell?
You made me go back to this and realise, it should really be thrown to the Circles Of Upper And Lower Hell as the mix inspired the original, whole thing and makes much more sense in connection with the original, double LP version. There is a lot of different sound ranging from Bernard Herrmann to Art Ensemble of Chicago on it. I have been listening to a lot of Jazz and soundtrack but since I won The Dead Albatross Music Prize, I became a jury member so I listened to a lot of new music, reissues; probably more than I could digest. When I work on the record I like it to sound like a mixtape - something you give to your best friend or most loved person. So I am always interested in different dynamics. I was looking for ways of expression with piano, hence Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou or David Shire's piano pieces in the mix. Every single song on that CD helped a lot with the instrumentation, and also BPM. It also helped me to build the sound which would be lush but not overcrowded with instruments, so Eden Ahbez or Badalamenti came handy. There are grooves in Muslimgauze, which I find almost addictive. My main search in music is always related to immersion, and music which allows me to completely drift away and bury myself in sound is the kind I want to make because that's the sort I want to hear.
Ela Orleans songs vary between vocal lead songs, rhythmic and electronic pieces and cinematic instrumentals. Do you have an idea on what direction a track is going to take? And how do you know when a song is complete? How do you compose and record?
I usually let myself be led by instinct. I treat the vocal as an instrument, so for me, it is a bit like a piano. Sometimes I hum melodies into the phone (if the idea comes all of a sudden on the street) and then recreate it and play it at home on the piano. I often make up language, something I started as a kid when I didn't know any foreign language but I was pretty good at imitating it. I still do it, and that unrestricted verbal fantasy allows me to experiment with rhythm and melody of the vocal lead. Trying to fit proper lyrics is a tricky part.The story comes first, then music illustrates it and if I can find lyrics which can fit, then I do, but I am as attached to instrumental tracks as I am to songs.
Your music is filled with a haunted and vintage feel, what draws you to those atmospheres? Do you feel an affinity with the works of Ghost Box label and their house bands The Focus Group and The Advisory Circle. And Circles Of Upper And Lower Hell has been mastered by Jon Brooks of The Advisory Circle too, how did that come about?
I love all the things you mentioned, but I wouldn't call myself an expert of any trend in music. I listen to a lot of different records and I have quite strong, often physical, reaction to music. I became friends with Jon Brooks through the social network. I loved his work but I felt less intimidated by his reputation as soon a I realised that he is a cat person. We also are quite crazy about our coffee. He understands the sound of the modular synthesiser and archival sound more than anyone I know of. I felt confident he would treat my material with care and rather than compressing the hell out of it, he will add sparkle and fortify the sound. He is a wonderful communicator and very fast and professional. I hope to work with him again in the future.
Your work has been described as lo-fi, a term that we've been guilty of using in comparing the polished sheen of Upper Hell to your previous work, but you're not comfortable with your work being described as lo-fi, are you?
I don't think it is lo-fi. And it is not a matter of me just being pedantic. When we think about great avant-garde cinematographers such as Peter Tscherkassky, Bruce Conner or Jim McBride, who operate on the vintage aesthetic, we don't try to assume that their work contains technical flaws. We interpret their technique as the certain style. My work is and always has been heavily edited. And it is often edited to the point of losing crispness and clarity. But it is never recorded in a primitive way. I have always followed the rules. I was told many times that the wave forms of my recorded files are perfect so I really don't know where the lo-fi is coming from.
Your music has the appellation "Movies For Ears" but you've recently been providing soundtracks to silent films such as Lucky Star and Vampyr. Could you tell us about these? These were commissions so I wonder does that mean you have to take a different approach to how you would approach composing an album track?
Both commissions were given to me in the spirit of artistic freedom and trust in my style. Both were "ordered" for festivals: Glasgow Film Festival and Glasgow International. Both very popular and well attended. Vampyr was the film I chose from the curator's selection, but Lucky Star was already a part of the Sound and Vision program. I was very happy to work on both. It felt as if the music was writing itself. At some point, I remember typing a message to my friend while I was tapping piano keyboard with my left hand. It was not an easy job but thoroughly satisfying and kind of miraculous.
Upper Hell marked a difficult time in your life but Lucky Star was surprising in that it was a film based on romantic love. It was much more optimistic and lighter in tone than how I think of your work, did it present any difficulties?
I recently was introduced to someone who then reacted "so this is the person who makes such a sad music? I didn't think you would be funny." I had some idea my music is melancholic but I thought it's also quite dynamic and positive. Lucky Star is quite a tragic love story and the happy end comes as a surprise as everything is pretty much set for a movie to fail. The cinematography and acting are breathtaking. I absolutely loved every single scene in this movie. Apparently, a few people had trouble dealing with its sadness. It was pretty amazing to see a few grown up men in tears. It was a total success. And I think I will be able to show it in the UK a few more times this year. Interestingly, the movies by Frank Borzage influenced Guy Maddin, who is possibly my favourite living director.
Visuals seem to be important to you. Your live shows feature projected visuals. Could you tell us about these? Do you have a background in the visual arts?
Yes I have, I graduated from College of Art in Bielsko-Biala in Poland and wanted to continue as a graphic designer and painter at the Polish Academy in Krakow, but I was snatched by Drama School in Warsaw; But I ended up in Glasgow, where art and music were (and still are) inseparable. I started making videos for myself in 2010. I usually take the video of the video watched over internet and the manipulate it, cut it heavily, use a lot of mirror effects and experiment with motion and and contrast. Again it's all made with a digital camera and edited on the computer. It's a very long and mundane process, but I like it.
Are there any films or directors that have exerted a strong influence on you? Similarly with regards to film soundtracks, are there any soundtracks that mean a lot to you? And if you were given free rein to score a movie (real or imagined), what would you choose and why?
Le Samouraï by Jean-Pierre Melville with music by Francois de Roubaix, Berlin Alexanderplatz by Rainer Werner Fassbinder with music by Peer Raben, Teorema by Passolini with music by Ennio Morricone. Recently I was blown away by the phenomenal score by Mica Levi made for Under the Skin by Jonathan Glazer.
I would love to score Rohmer's My Night at Maud's. I also wanted to make a comic book on the base of it. It's such a wonderful movie, where philosophy and picture play an equal role. I wish I could work with Tarkovsky. But there is someone who is alive and I am desperate to get his attention - it is Guy Maddin. The sound and music for his recent film The Forbidden Room blew my mind. The movie is funny, beautiful and pretentious. His creative power: vision and cinematography made me unable to move from the chair five minutes after the closing credits.
I didn't know that you'd studied under David Shire (composer of The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three and The Conversation) when did that happen?
He was the mentor of my final assignment I worked on during the mentorship program organised by Broadcast Music Inc in New York. My work was criticised by my supervisor, who made a few crushing criticisms and in the end told me that I am sitting in the box. I felt as if someone had just accused me of having little imagination. David Shire then said that he likes my box and advised that I never attempt to please my musician friends. I thought it was badass of him to say that in the front of the big group of men (I was the only woman) and I loved him for dismissing someone else's opinion and pretty much telling me to do as I please and stick to my guns. I studied some of his scores and his work is one of the most inspiring.
In 2014 as part of the Counterflows festival you performed a live soundtrack to the Swedish artist and filmmaker Maja Borg's We The Others. How did the collaboration with Maja Borg come about? What did that involve?
I met Maja through my other Swedish filmmaker friend - Marie Liden (with whom I had a short lived, dance project Black Tract). Maja is a hardcore feminist and at the time when I was homeless and distressed she told me that I have to keep working and gave me the key to her studio. So during my transition, I kept my work regardless of living conditions, which was a very constructive way of dealing with stress. We had a brief plan to work together but around that period of time, Dazed and Confused commissioned her to make the short movie so she finished made a powerful short story about children and people with Down Syndrome and their important role in society. She asked me to do the soundtrack to it and that was one of my favourite working experiences with the director. Counterflows later commissioned the piece to be performed at the festival and it was also performed at Tate Britain.
It's an ongoing collaboration, isn't it as you spent a month-long residency at EMS in Stockholm? That must have been special, what can you tell us about your experience of working there?
Yes, I went to EMS (Elektronmusikstudion) in Stockholm to concentrate on the next project I worked on with Maja. It was another short movie called MAN, about the role of gender written by society and expectations to play according to it. It was again partially commissioned by Counterflows festival. The film was recently premiered at the Edinburgh Film Festival. The month in Stockholm was very challenging as there was a huge amount of knowledge to be absorbed in a very short time. The amount of work and preparation, experimentation, and reading I've done was intense and the experience invaluable. During that time I started to research the theory of musical language and familiarise myself with the Buchla and Serge synthesizers and explore the possibilities of Waves, Izotope, Ircam and GRM plugins. I recorded hours of music and I am currently attempting to catalogue it. A number of the sound files are enormous. The whole experience felt a little bit like an out-of-body experience. I slept two hours a day, drank insane amounts of coffee and hardly left the hermetic high-tech studio. I have an open invitation to come back. People in EMS are fantastic and they were the first who encouraged me to continue my musical research in a more academic way.
And of course there was also Tower, an opera you composed for the Polish Foundation - Witryna This was your first opera, wasn't? How did you find composing it? Will a recording ever see the light of day?
Again, it was huge challenge and honour. Karolina Bregula is a rising star of Polish art and her vision is immaculate. We discussed moods going through entire piece, but I didn't get much musical advice from her. She wrote quite hard to score lyrics, but once I got into its groove, it went like a storm. I had never written for opera singers so I had to prepare for it. You were at the time the most helpful by putting me in touch with Othon, who very kindly shared his knowledge about operatic voice, range, and provided me with generous feedback. I was quite worried about my delivery of the score. I was terrified of opera singers, but they were extremely helpful, sweet and understanding. I would work with opera singers any time. Their professionalism was astonishing. The film was just premiered a few days ago at the 27th International Film Festival (FID) in Marseille. Hopefully, it will be presented to a wider audience.
You're such a versatile artist and composer, and before we discuss your previous album Tumult In Clouds, can I ask you about your dance project TRACT. How did that arise and how does it differ to your work as Ela Orleans?
Ela Orleans is my real name and I fell into the trap of it. Or I thought I did. I guess TRACT came as an escape from defining me through my gender and personal biography. It is my other moniker under which I am and will be working on more experimental textures, the songs will not be permitted and possibly it will bring collaborations to it. I have had two shows so far as TRACT. I supported Polish band Ksiezyc at the University Chapel in November and did the score to the edit of Jack Smith's movie Flaming Creatures which I performed at the Art School during International AIDS Day. There will be another show announced soon.
We loved and championed your previous album Tumult In Clouds which was awarded the inaugural Dead Albatross Music Prize in 2013, how did that feel? What has been the impact of winning the award?
Huge for self-esteem and developing friendships with like-minded musical freaks. Paul Ackroyd became one of my best friends and the amount of music I discovered thanks to him is insane. It may sound naive but it worked better for me than the monetary prize would. The record was all mine, and nobody else could take credit for it. I impressed a lot of geeks and probably contributed to a much-needed desexualisation of music. I received a sound support for anything I was going to do from now on. For an artist, that's the best thing which can happen. All I always wanted is to make music that people with great and versatile taste would love. Dead Albatross made me feel as I arrived where I always wanted to be - the world of music nerds.
Tumult In Clouds featured a lot of spoken poetry and sampled voices, yet Upper Hell and Circles Of Upper And Lower Hell doesn't, why? And why did you select the title Tumult In Clouds which was taken from a poem by WB Yeats?
There is a lot of practical problems with songs which contain recognisable samples. Unless there is a big label behind licensing and paying for them, I can get into grim battle with men in suits, which put in misery a couple of people I know. So I'd rather just make the grooves myself. Also at this point, I can make them myself. I still get inspired and copy things, except this time the chances that anybody can recognise where I got my samples from is very, very slim.
As per the title Tumult In Clouds - WB Yeats's poem pictured the grim portrait of war, but I found its battlefield to be a universal backdrop to my personal mayhem.
There was also a number of collage based tracks using material from Francoise Hardy, Frank Wilson and others. Could you tell us about the tracks and how they came about?
While I was working on that album, Low Recordings approached me and invited me to participate in their project to release covers of songs by Francoise Hardy. The record never came out, my guess is that FH's agency made it probably very difficult, but I decided to include the song on my record since it fitted the mood perfectly. I was going through a ton of Motown, Northern Soul singles. I then adopted some grooves from my favourite ones. 'Do I Love You (Indeed, I Do)' by Frank Wilson was one of them. But there was a few more obvious ones and a lot of spoken word, by Tennessee Williams, Richard Burton or Jacques Derrida.
We've already mentioned the Dead Albatross music award you received for Tumult In Clouds but you've also received plaudits from David Lynch, Ian Rankin, and Thurston Moore. How do you respond to these celebrity endorsements? What does positive reaction to your work mean to you?
There is more, haha. I am thrilled of course. It's great food for the ego. But I appreciate anybody who buys my records and finds my music precious. I remember being over the moon when I heard this crust punk guy saying that my album Lost was his favourite album of all time, I was so happy when I got an order from Siberia. I love my fans and I treat them pretty equally. And because my pressings are quite limited, every single person who buys my record is very precious. Compliments are great, everybody likes them but for me, the best feeling is when people come to my show and shut up for forty minutes and consider it to be a quality time. Celebrities are cool, but I treat them like people and they prefer that. If I become friends with any of them, and sometimes I do, then that's what they are to me - friends. And in the "Book of Ela", friends have the highest status regardless of their popularity.
You were a member of Hassle Hound and, aside from the film commissions and work with Maja Borg, you've worked with others including Skitter and Devon Loch. What appealed to you about these collaborations? If given the opportunity who would be your ideal collaborator?
Those two are my dear friends. I owe Liam (Stefani aka Skitter) a lot of credit for my music career. He helped and supported me throughout years and he is the pillar of a friend. I am very lucky to have him in my life. He also happens to have fantastic, very open musical taste and although he expresses himself mainly through noise, his record collection is amazingly versatile. We are both stubborn and we discuss art and politics over a coffee every week.
I met Richard (Devon Loch) a couple of years ago and we became fast friends. His musical knowledge, taste and good manners make him a perfect collaborator. We developed a language which would make anybody from outside worry about our mental state. We also both love our food, so once the work is over, we enjoy our calorie intake.
My ideal collaborator is someone who is low maintenance, has great style and showers. I guess that same characteristic I would put in a "soul mates" ad. If I was to ever compose one.
You've had quite a nomadic existence from growing up in Auschwitz, Poland with spells living in New York and Glasgow. What role do location and the environment have on you or does the process of creation come from within?
I am not sure if it does or not. I always travelled to find home. I feel I found it in Glasgow, but perhaps I will have to leave again if Brexit becomes a force turning against my interest. I am not afraid of changing place, but I am getting a bit tired of constant resettlement. It's more the case of whether the place where I live is good for my creativity and for my mental health or not. I found sources of both here - Monorail and Arlington Baths are my microcosms, add Glasgow Film Theatre and couple of groceries and I am all set. I really do not need more. If I find a better life opportunity in Paris or LA or Tokyo, I will gladly go there. But will it change my music? I believe my music will change (as it has been) because I learn as I age and absorb. It's possible that travelling made me resistant to the sort of ageing where one becomes complacent and resigned, and falls into mindless routine. Perhaps the fact, that I had to start my life over and over again rejuvenates my brain. It is hard to make a theory without scientific proof, though.
You have a strong work ethic, what is the impetus to remain busy and what drives you to constantly create and evolve?
I hardly ever stop thinking about what I hear. I can sit in an empty room and listen to silence and it will sound, and it will be loud. I developed this somehow supernormal condition after my concussion. It's not exactly classic Musical Ear Syndrome but very close. I was worried for years that I am just mad, but then I read Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks which calmed me (and my mom) down and now I treat it like nature's favour.
My condition after concussion forced me to give up music school, but later I discovered that there are other things to music than playing sleek sonatas. Being able to work with the sound, rhythm, and melody, building songs and records is just fascinating. Working on music makes me very happy and creativity is for me the fundamental reason to be alive.
We've covered a lot but is there anything else that we should know about you?
There are a few major although less glamorous triumphs, which I will mention in order to debunk my mysterious sadness. I recently became addicted to swimming. I am still getting lessons from my new friend Ania, who used to represent Poland in synchronised swimming. She totally unblocked my fear of water, which always fascinated but also scared the hell out of me. I swim every day for an hour. I am also becoming obsessed with the bicycle, which I built myself. Also, I stopped smoking (two years now) and started to draw and paint again. In the eyes of some, I may be going through a midlife crisis. If that's what it is, bring it on!
I'm loathe to ask you but where to next? And any closing comments you'd like to make?
I am sitting on a huge amount of material and I keep working all the time. I just finished two remixes - one for James Grant, who produced a dance record. I am very happy with the result, but I will wait for him to give more details about it. I also did a remix for Shopping (FatCat Records). I am currently collaborating with Miles Joseph on his Master Thesis in Photography in Glasgow School of Art. Also, I got accepted to do a PhD in Music at the University of Glasgow. I am very proud of it and over the next three years I will be expanding my subject: Apparition - The language of the archaic and decadent in the contemporary audiovisual experience. If all goes well I will be finishing my study at the near-centenary of visual music, twenty years of which have brought affordable and accessible methods of creating audiovisual material. The internet and means of production and distribution contributed greatly to where I am situated as an artist now and I am ready to commence an academic research based on my practice. There will be records coming in the meantime. That's for sure.
Ela Orleans on Facebook - Ela Orleans Facebook page
Ela Orleans on soundcloud - featuring selections from Ela Orleans' albums and soundtracks
Ela Orleans - official website with purchase links for releases and downloads
Ela Orleans on Vimeo - featuring a selection of videos