SIP - SoundLAB Interview Project

Nikula, Meri

Meri Nikula
from Finland


Interview: 10 questions

1. When did you start making music, what is/was your motivation to do it?

I was always singing as a child. I was a dreamer kind of a kid, not really into running around but rather feeling stuff, having imaginary games that involved emotions more than action. Already then I was sensitive to sounds, enjoying things like the crunchy bite of winter boots walking on dry snow. Since then there has been an organic continuum of making sound, all my life.

2. Tell me something about your living environment and the musical education.

At this very moment I live in Tokyo, Japan. It is a very inspiring city for me and a great place to do stuff and reflect on who I am and what I do. But I also live in the Arctic part of Norway which has been my second home for the past couple of years. I guess I enjoy extremes! I got musical education since I was a little kid: choir singing, flute playing, classical music theory etc. It was often overly goal oriented practice, with army like discipline, killing a lot of the simple joy of creating a child should feel… It took me a long time to ‘recover’ and find the pure enjoyment of making sounds again. So after years of trying to find my way through music schools I finally quit conservatory and got into and art academy instead, which was big relief and propelled my music into limitless dimensions.

3.Is making music your profession? What is the context in which you practice music nowadays?

It is partially a profession. Things are pretty much in process – I have wanted to develop my creative ideas without the commercial pressure and I have taken my time on things. Also, when jumped from my music studies into an art academy, things got more complex in a juicy way! I make music as a vocalist but also as a physical performer and a visual artist using my body and videos in my performances. The voice is still mostly the core of my work, either as the sound track on a video or the key element of an installation. I have also composed music for dance performances and there are some collaborations in progress with people from various disciplines.

4. How do you compose or create music or sound? Have you certain principles, use certain styles etc?

For me the subtle elements, the color and tone of voice is essential to each composition, so I almost never compose by sitting behind the piano anymore, since it feels far too mechanical. I prefer to take the microphone, either with a little melodic idea in my head or no idea at all and start improvising. It is the sense of creation in each instant, the ‘birth’ of something that fascinates me in music & sound. And I think the best ideas flow and grow in this way, without analyzing but just going for and with it. I like to surprise myself. Very often I record voice in several layers, improvising on top of the previous tracks – sometimes remembering what comes, sometimes just reacting spontaneously to what I hear. The analytical part comes after the innovative burst, when I edit the material into some form or another. So the ‘final’ composition usually follows the unlimited creative flow.

5. Tell me something about the instruments, technical equipment or tools you use?

I like to keep it simple – voice, microphone (type depends on the situation, like whether I am in a studio or some random place or on stage), mixer and laptop with some sound editing program.

6. What are the chances of New Media for the music production in general
and you personally?

The chances? I’m not sure if I understand the question. Anyways, I think the broad concept of New Media is already an organic element of the ‘music world’. I think it is great how we can use internet to connect and communicate music & art. It opens countless doors that otherwise wouldn’t even have been found. One of my collaborations is working with GRM tools (with Diego Losa) – my voice is being modified with live electronics with which I interact and then again get interacted on in return. What is interesting for me are for example new interfaces for interacting with the musical elements in a live performance. Like when I perform solo with several of my voices, would be nice to be able to control them in ways that are more innovative than pushing a button or turning a knob. But… I need a collaborator to deal with the programming part. It is too big of a headache for me get into that.

7. How about producing and financing your musical productions?

I mostly have done it myself, so far… but this is changing, gradually.

8. Do you work individually as a musician/soundartist or in a group or collaborative? If you have experience in both, what is the difference, what do you prefer?

I think it can be really difficult to collaborate, as you must have a compatible vision of what you are aiming for, to begin with. In my experience this doesn’t happen all too often… but then again I guess I got ‘traumatized’ at the conservatory..! There was very little creativity in general, from my point of view. So I don’t often connect with musically trained musicians. I often love the way those with art background make music, as there is some raw edge and uncomplicated attitude in their playing. And some of my very favorite collaborators come from dance/choreography background. Body & voice has always felt like a very natural combination. So, if there is a shared vision, total openness & honesty and sense of equal level of creativity a collaboration can be an amazing ride!

9. Is there any group, composer, style or movement which has a lasting influence on making music?

There are many inspiring ones, often some randomly found, not famous at all. But as for someone I have a ‘lasting’ admiration for is Björk. Not just as a vocalist, but as someone who constantly goes for something unexplored without hesitation and keeps listening listening listening….. to herself and the all the possible universes. Her lyrics are often pretty spiritual in a clever way. And her ability to find interesting collaborators is just amazing.

10. What are your future plans or dreams as a soundartist or musician?

I want to fly on! There are many plans in the air. I want to keep on collaborating with inspiring musicians, composers, dancers and other creative people making my circles wider and wider. In a few years I also want to release some CD’s. It’s about time for me to get more active and establish myself more clearly as a sound artist!