In the producer-dominated climate of electronic music, the work of vocalists is often undervalued and downplayed. Authorship of the songs remains in the hands of the producer, and lyrical identity remains largely unaccredited, the vocalist merely a cameo. With talented singers like Anneka currently making a name for themselves, this is a balance that needs to be re-addressed.
Anneka has blessed tracks from a varied array of producers with her vocal talents, including Milanese, Vex’d, Starkey and Blue Daisy. Fitting just as comfortably amidst the harsh mechanics of Milanese as the astral RnB of Starkey, Anneka exhibits both a unique versatility to her voice and a strong lyrical identity. Her distinctive and stunning voice is otherworldly yet strong, ethereal yet clear – an emotive human counterpoint to the electronic productions within which her voice exists.
With a solo EP currently in the works, and more and more producers clamouring to work with her, it seemed like a good time to catch up with her. She was kind enough to answer some of my questions and shed some light on her creative processes and forthcoming projects. Read the interview below…
For those of you that produce, she recently gave away an acapella through her soundcloud via Fact, for producers to play around with. Get on it!
Hi Anneka! For the uninitiated, can you please introduce yourself?
I’m a vocalist/musician currently based in Brighton. I’ve had the pleasure of collaborating with producers such as Vex’d, Ital Tek, Starkey, Blue Daisy and Milanese.
At what point did you start getting drawn towards electronic music as a vehicle to sing on?
As soon as I became properly aware of it really. Like with a lot of people I guess, it started with getting into the likes of Aphex, Boards of Canada, Autechre and so on. Bjork really inspired me too.
Had you sung in bands or done singer/songwriter stuff before?
I picked up the guitar when I was 15 and played bass/sang in a grungey/Mars Volta-ish band for about 4 years when I was a teen. Whilst at uni I occasionally did some acoustic gigs (guitar/autoharp), often accompanied by a friend on violin.
How much lyrical freedom do you have when working with producers?
Complete freedom so far! If they send me something with a working title it sometimes inspires the theme of the lyrics.
Do you have much contact with the producers during the process of adding your vocals?
It varies each time to be honest. Sometimes the track gets passed back and forth a few times in between numerous emails. Other times it’s all done pretty quickly. I like it when ideas and opinions are communicated in both directions, it’s really important that it becomes something we’re both happy with.
How do you tend to write when you receive a track? Do you have any process by which the creative process starts?
I can usually tell from the first listen to a track if it’s something I think I can work well with. If words and images start flooding into my head straight away it’s usually a good sign. From then on I just develop any initial ideas. The less I remember the process, the more naturally it came to be I guess!
Do you do much composing and songwriting yourself? Do you ever feel like you would like more creative freedom in that respect?
I’m always writing my own stuff but very little of it ever gets finished! I’m writing an EP at the moment which Ital Tek is helping to produce with me. Hoping to get some nice remixes once it’s done too.
The solo clips on your myspace display a sparser and more experimental tendency. Is this a truer representation of your artistic personality?
Not intentionally, but I always used to write in a very linear way. The music I played around with when I was 16 on a drum machine, guitar and Cakewalk was probably the weirdest I’ve ever written. Now I tend to write with more hooks and direction. My myspace profile is very out of date, it shows how rarely I finish my own music. That’s why I’m determined to finish this EP!
Do you see the human element as important to electronic music?
I don’t think everything suits vocals, but I do love electronic music that is swung or with live recordings/samples and analogue equipment.
Producers always get asked about influences and how they perceive their sound, but less so with singers. Are their any vocalists that you draw inspiration from, either lyrically or stylistically?
It’s difficult to say what directly influences you. I listen to a lot of Thom Yorke, Billie Holiday, Fever Ray, Stevie Wonder, Grizzly Bear, all sorts!
Do you get the chance to perform live much? And do you see that as an important part of what you do?
I haven’t done in a while, and am really itching to get out and perform live. I’m trying to sort out how I’m going to use Live 8, an AKAI LPD, vocals and live instruments all together. At the moment I’m looking forward to singing on sets by Ital Tek and Starkey in Athens this month!
You recently had an EP released with Blue Daisy on Black Acre. Have you got any new projects or releases in the pipeline for the coming months?
I’ve done some vocals on the next Starkey EP called ‘Space Traitor Vol. 1’, which will be out on December 6th (Civil Music). There are also a couple of artists from Ninja Tune and Planet Mu who I’m in the process of sorting some vocals out for. Over winter I’ll be working hard on my EP and live setup.
Are there any producers with whom you would particularly like to work?
I guess it depends on each track and project as to what would fit. But lately, producer wise, I’ve been loving Darkstar, James Blake, Mount Kimbie, Ikonika…so much good music about at the moment.
-STARKEY ‘SPACE TRAITOR VOL. 1’ FEATURING ANNEKA IS OUT ON CIVIL MUSIC ON 6th DECEMBER