August 5 in Moscow at Strelka will feature Canadian singer Jesse Lanza, who has released a great new album "Oh No" this spring. Jesse is a retired music teacher who was born and still lives in the small Canadian town of Hamilton, where, as she herself says, “ten people would come to her concert”, although she has long been on big tours in Europe and America.
As a child, Jesse loved listening to Missy Elliott and Ciara along with rhythm and blues and boogie woogie; at a later age, she was inspired by the juke legends DJ Rashad and DJ Spinn. Jesse now composes equally seductive and uncompromising songs with Jeremy Greenspan of the Junior Boys duo, which he publishes on one of the most important progressive electronic labels Hyperdub. We spoke to Lanza about her musical career, the principles, the latest album and the plants that she's gotten really into lately.
You have a cat named Stewie. Where do you leave it when you go on tour?
I live with Jeremy, and if he is not at home either, my mother comes to feed the cats. Yes, I have another cat! His name is Woods!
Do Woods and Stewie get along well?
No. That is, most often it is normal, but in general they are very different, they do not like each other and sometimes fight.
You grew up in a musical family - your parents sang in a hippie rock band, whereas you loved listening to R'n'B. Have you had any confrontation with them about this?
No, my parents are very open minded and in general they are great people. It's not that they didn't like the music I listen to … I think they didn't care.
Do you play synthesizers from your father's collection?
Yes, on his Polymoog. I used his Yamaha DX7 for a while, but now it is broken. Dad also has a mixing console - my dream is to fix it. There it is necessary to change the electronics inside the case, but hands do not reach it, and it is expensive, so while it is gathering dust in the box.
You once said that music has been a means of escaping reality for you since childhood. Why didn't you write and release anything until 2013?
I was composing! It's just that no one heard it, because my songs were monstrous! I wrote music when I was a teenager, but I didn't really like them myself. When we started working with Jeremy, I felt that we were doing something worthwhile and that other people might like it. But before that, I worked for a very long time without good results.
If I'm not mistaken, was Kode9 (the boss of the important electronic label Hyperdub) discovered you?
Yes, Jeremy and I had already made music together, but nobody was interested in it. Jeremy played some songs to Kode9, and suddenly he asked: "Can you record a whole album with the same decent material?"
What songs were they?
"Strange Emotion", "Keep Moving" … What else … Sorry - they really don't get along very well. So it seems they are not in the room. In general, I don't remember the rest of the songs, but these two were definitely there, and Kode9 really liked them.
You studied jazz at the university. Does a modern musician need a specialized education?
Music education is really a very strange thing. But I'm glad I got it because it helped me understand how other musicians do what they do. I learned how to build chord and drum progressions. It also became easier for me to copy other people's music - I think it's important, because when you listen to someone and try to imitate him, it helps you compose your own.
You once said that for someone who tends to worry too much, music is one of the worst career options. Why?
Because this career is unpredictable. You never know where the money will come from.One day it seems that everything is super cool - you receive a letter: "Apple Music wants to buy your songs for a million dollars!" And you think - wow, I will have so much money! And an hour later they write to you: "No, they decided to choose another group." And it's the same with concerts and other commercial offers. You can only rejoice when something really happened. And you never know if it will actually happen, or at the last moment everything will break off.
In many interviews, journalists ask you about your excessive nervousness, anxiety. Do you really worry that much?
You can say that I decided to advertise this spiritual quality. I think everyone suffers to some extent from anxiety, excessive anxiety or depression. I've been dealing with this all my life - and it seems to me that other people are all the same.
And you want to translate this anxiety into music?
No! Just the opposite! I do not want! Music is my attempt at dealing with anxiety. I don't want to write music that makes people feel like shit.
You also said that you often get hung up on the same things. Can you say that this is why one of the main components of your music is the continuously repeating beat?
Certainly. All the songs that Jeremy and I write are based on looped samples. We listen to something over and over, and then I come in with vocals - so yeah, that's it.
You once gave an Ableton workshop for girls from 14 to 16 years old. Why did you decide to participate in this?
My friend Christie called me. We wanted the girls to feel comfortable, not like at school. There were very few of them, they had never worked at Ableton before, and it was very cool - I would like to do something like this again.
Has this influenced your local scene in any way?
I think those girls are still too young. Hamilton is a rather funny city: for some reason there is a very developed noise scene, but electronics and pop music are not at all held in high esteem. There are practically no clubs in the city - and those that exist are too macho, cruel … Nothing good. About twenty years ago, rave culture was developed here, but it no longer exists.
And yet you continue to live in Hamilton, and you like it there. By the way, did your becoming a musician in any way affect your relationships with relatives and friends?
Absolutely not. People are interested to know how my trip went, but in general, no one really cares. If I played a concert in Hamilton, about ten people would come to it. They like Garth Brooks more here - do you know who he is? Everyone loves rock, country. There are those who are fond of electronics, but I also like living here because it is a very detached place from everything else, unlike New York. I like to escape from places where people are immersed in the electronic scene.
How long have you worked as a teacher and why did you stop?
Five or six years. I thought it was interesting for me, but Hyperdub released my album, I started going to concerts, and it so happened that there was no more time left for teaching.
Do you remember the first time you met Jeremy?
I have a vivid memory of seeing him in a bar ten years ago. I knew about him before, because my friend's older brother also plays in the Junior Boys. I listened to Junior Boys when I was in school. After all, they are also from Hamilton - and even then they made electronics and went on tour, that is, they were a famous group at the international level. We saw Jeremy several times when I was a teenager, but we only started working on music five years ago.
Do you often quarrel when working together?
No. I do not like quarreling with people, and in general we are very comfortable. First we work one by one, and then when something like a song forms, we get together in Jeremy's studio - he has a lot more equipment. But we are not the kind of people who like to jam together. I don't really like jamming.
A few years ago it annoyed you that people thought you were just singing and not writing music yourself. Has the situation changed now?
Yes, thanks to concerts, DJ sets, people began to take me seriously. But they can be understood, because there are a lot of new musicians, and often they disappear as soon as they appear. So many are not taken into account until they show themselves for a long time.
Do you feel discriminated against as a woman?
No, everyone is very nice to me and treats me normally, there were no excesses. But still - when you go on tour, it's very strange to see that the music industry is almost entirely male. Men are everywhere: look at the festival lineups - most of those who play and work for them are men!
What is the current state of your home? I read an interview where you talked about a mushroom that suddenly sprouted in the bathroom
Did I really talk about this in an interview? Oh … I wish I hadn't. But now everything is fine. That is, there is no mushroom in the bathroom. But several plants died while I was away. We need to buy new ones. But in general, everything is fine at home. It's beautiful here. Not too sunny, not too hot.
Do you have any favorite indoor plants?
Succulents. Little fat woman … Cleoma, which has been standing for three years. This plant is difficult to kill. Lately I've been constantly surrounding myself with tropical plants. I'm sure the air quality in our home is slowly killing us. It sounds crazy, but plants have changed a lot in my life.
What was the main difference for you as a musician in writing the second album compared to the debut one?
I felt more comfortable, more confident. We decided to do a more pop album. At the same time, I listened to the Yellow Magic Orchestra and other musicians associated with them a lot. So I knew what I wanted, and Jeremy knew too. When we did the first album, it was more of a trial and error. But now we were much more concentrated. I immediately knew that I wanted to name the album "Oh No" and felt more confident as a vocalist. It was simpler. Well, I didn't care if it was successful or not - I just wanted to finish it.
What do you like about Yellow Magic Orchestra?
Oh, this is a brilliant group. Their influence can be heard in a variety of genres, while they themselves are not like anyone else. Disco, techno, synthpop … Doing like them is very difficult.
When you write lyrics, you try not to think about them especially. And yet - how did the line “I say it to your face but it doesn’t mean a thing” from “VV Violence” appear?
We finished the album, sent it to Hyperdub, they said that everything is almost fine, but there is still a little more work to be done. I thought we were done! I was very hurt, my ego was hurt. I was angry with everyone, although I knew in my heart that they were most likely right. All day I was in a bad mood, I felt rejected. The song is about that.
Another song, "Vivica" is the name of the heroine from the TV series "Colombo". How did you hear about this show? We have it in the 90s was shown by the largest TV channel
Truth? That is, Peter Falk is a celebrity in Russia ?! This is Jeremy's find. Other films with Peter Falk are great too - "Woman Under the Influence", for example. I do not like modern high-quality television - it seems to me that people look like reptiles on it. I like the picture of the 70s better.
You once said that you strive to be an outsider from pop music. Is this still the case?
Perhaps I would like to be more inside the industry, because then we would have a lot more money. Jeremy and I really like musicians like The Dream, who can write Rihanna the song “Umbrella” and at the same time do solo work. We would also like to be able to do this, but so far it has not worked. For some reason, when we try to write a song for someone else, it always ends up on my album.
Photos: The Windish Agency, Jessy Lanza / Instagram