Richard Hobbs interviews Elenor Rayner
|1. Can we start with an insight into the life of the Sobriquet project?
Over the last couple of years I've set up a pretty good studio. I record a lot and have released 3 CDs under the Sobriquet name and dozens of tracks on compilation albums. I write many different styles of music but I just do whatever is right for the track and then work out later where it's going to fit in. I think I'm very fortunate to be able to release and perform both in the industrial scene and the dance scene. I've even done a performance of each in the same night on different sides of the city. It satisfies both sides of my creativity and both are equally important to me. I play live a lot and I also make videos, so every day there's always plenty of things to work on.
2. Now, a look at your past; you have also become known from working with various other projects within the Alternative scene over the years.
I've played in a couple of bands, first off with Soulscraper and then Snog. I also do collaborations. Because I'm constantly releasing stuff and touring, a lot of people know my music and I get to work with some excellent musicians and producers.
3. July is your debut full-length album as Sobriquet, released in March this year, and the second release in Ground Under Productions catalogue. What appealed to you about signing to a record label still in the early stages of starting out?
It's important to have an understanding with the people you're involved with. I'd heard good things about Ground Under Productions and we established a good working relationship. Other bands I know on big labels often seem to get told what they can and can't do, whereas I like to maintain my independence and do whatever I feel is most suitable. One thing that won me over was when Jarod from GUP told me there was a line in the song "July" which gave him goosebumps, and it was the line that I personally think is the rawest emotion on the album, so I felt we were on the same wavelength.
4. A few record labels are now releasing compilations promoting female only acts from the industrial scene (notably Venusa XX which you appeared on). What was it like starting out as a female solo project and producing music within what was then, a very male dominated scene, how did you find general responses were regarding this?
Australia is still very male dominated. I know there are other female producers overseas but here there are still only a couple of us. The best thing about being one of the few is that females in particular really like my music! I get heaps of emails and girls at gigs saying they love my music and so that is very satisfying. The other good thing is that it gives me a unique sound. Instead of being a singer trying to put an interpretation on someone else's music, I write it all myself and I think that gives a song a purer emotion. And to be honest, it's also great that so many guys really get into my music and come and talk to me too!
5. Is the song Sarah based around a real experience you had with a friend in trouble?
Yes. All my songs are about real people, which can be problematic sometimes because circumstances change but the song remains the same. I'm pleased to say that particular story has had a happy ending!
But once a song is written, to me it ceases to be about the person it was written about because it takes on a life of its own. I know people who can't listen to certain songs because they remind them of things in their past, but that doesn't happen to me, it's the emotion in the song that touches me, not the memory it conjures up. That's what makes music such a powerful form of communication. Other people can feel the emotion in it and identify with it in their own lives without knowing what happened in the songwriter's life for them to write it.
6. Dreams Burn Down features for a second time on the album, in the form of a Harmonic 33 remix. This is the second time of recent I have noticed a Harmonic 33 remix featured on an album (Psyburbias We can't lose track also). Are Harmonic 33 a big name in Australia, how did you come to use them?
Harmonic 33 are very underground and are respected amongst those in the know. "Dreams Burn Down" was recorded at Karmic Hit studios, which is the studio of Steve Kilby (from The Church). Harmonic 33 have long had respect for Steve Kilby (as do a lot of musicians in Australia) and contacted me asking if they could remix the track. I like what they did with it, but interestingly enough, I've just recorded another version of it with just piano and vocal. It's a beautiful song which means a lot to me and I wanted to strip it back to just the raw emotion.
7. What thoughts spring to mind to influence the song Not Everything I Believe Is True?
When I was young I came into contact with many philosophies and religions and moralities and there were so many that it seemed like it would take a lifetime to work out which ones were right. So I decided the "real" truth is much bigger than any of us can ever hope to understand so the best you can do is just work out what sits comfortably with you and go with that. Hence, not everything I believe is true, but because I believe it, it's true for me. Does that make sense?
8. The album features two upbeat instrumental tracks Some Elation and Skyline. Did these originally start out with the intention of being used in this way?
"Skyline" is a collaboration with DJ Toupee, a friend of mine who is always throwing CDs at me and exposing me to new music and I've always liked her taste so we decided to produce a track together. She plays all the percussive bits because I think everyone's got different internal rhythms so hers would make the track sound different to the rest of the album. It was released on a couple of other compilations: Cognition III (Clan Analogue) and Melbourne Techno Floor. I like the fact that it's got so much of that phat bass in it and felt that the album needed some of that to cover the whole sonic spectrum.
"Some Elation I like because it has a happy kind of groove but quite dark melodies and sounds. I like the complexity of the emotions in it, that's why I called it "Some Elation".
9. How do you organise the reproduction of your music for a live show?
With great difficulty! My songs are written first and foremost for recording purposes. I pour 100% emotion into them and I want them to mean something to people for a long time so a lot of work goes into the production of them. Then once they sound exactly right, I have to virtually re-write them to make them work in a live situation. To me, a recording is like writing a letter, which you know people will keep and treasure and you can say quite complex things in it, whereas a live show is like a conversation in a crowded pub! You have to get your point across and be able to express the emotions genuinely but you have to use words that are not subject to ambiguity. So I strip out a lot of the fiddly bits and just concentrate on streamlined beats and melodies and let the vocal carry a lot of the emotional content.
It's very important to me that the songs are played 100% live. I can't stand using recordings or sequencers in a live situation as most of the interest to me in playing live is connecting with the crowd. If I can see them getting into a song, it inspires me and I can improvise. If I was running a sequencer or a recording, I would be stuck with the same version of the song every night.
Live, I use a sampler with all the songs that I need in the internal memory so I can play the song however I like and I play with Cat Attard who is a classical and jazz pianist. She plays a lot of the melodies which frees me up to concentrate more on singing and when she improvises, that can inspire me vocally too.
10. Can you recite for us a favourite piece of your lyrics?
'Ignorance, the original sin' from Eve is one of my favourite lines. Eve was the first track I ever produced.
11. What have been the best and worse pieces of career advice given to you so far?
People tell me stuff all the time. Pound System were over here last week and told me to put new strings on my guitar! The best advice I got was to ask questions. I used to be too scared to ask technical stuff but now if I want to know how something works, I ask. The worst career move I made was to work with a guy who ended up stealing one of my songs and releasing it under his own name.
12. Would you like to make any comments?
Yeah. Anyone who likes my music please e-mail me as it's nice to have a chat sometime!