An experimental 35mm photographer, monosynth player for beloved band Black Moth Super Rainbow, and now solo musician, the Seven Fields of Aphelion showcases venerable talents of one woman. Now with a solo album on the way (Periphery, coming out February 16), she’s posed to create waves in the music community as a wholly unique musician who deserves to be given attention. She was also kind enough to reply to my ridiculous interview questions.
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Before the interview, please let me say that this is my first interview for The 405, so please keep that in mind. When did you decide to make a solo album? Some of these songs were started as long as five years ago and I’ve worked on them slowly since. I didn’t go about writing this because I had decided to make an album. These songs existed and would have existed regardless of whether anyone other than me ever heard them. I wrote these songs without really having a purpose or audience or date or goal in mind, and then I felt like I needed to let them go. Like secrets that keep you from moving forward – I needed to get these off my chest to move on. Do you think that your time in Black Moth has shaped your own sound? How? Absolutely. BMSR introduced me to the realm of old, analog synths. I really didn’t know what was out there – up until I started playing with BMSR, I was only familiar with acoustic keyboard instruments and I could never find a newer, digital synth that I enjoyed. So finding those old instruments really helped me to discover something I was looking for. I think BMSR also helped me to realize that imperfections have their charm. Everything doesn’t have to be glossy and seamless.
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What’s your favorite synthesizer? Effect box? My favorite synth so far is the Sequential Circuits Prophet 5. Except I hold my breath every time I turn it on because it’s always broken in a different way. Sometimes a few keys don’t work, sometimes none of the keys work except a few of them, sometimes the sounds won’t load, sometimes it won’t turn on at all … but when it decides to work, it really breathes. Delay is definitely my most used effect – I used to use an Electro-Harmonix Memory Man most of the time, but I recently came across the delay I think I’ve been looking for. I’m going to keep that one a secret for now until I get to know it a little better. How do you think your own photography and art-based eye influences your music? How closely intertwined are the two for you? I think my philosophy and process behind taking photos and writing music is similar. It’s not about me. It’s almost an exercise in the knowledge of not knowing. The art of making yourself invisible. I’m aware that as an individual, I have a limited vision and if I try to impose that vision on my subjects or sounds, the result will be limited as well. I try to let the subject use its own voice – you can’t speak for things. When you try to speak for something or impose your vision on a subject, that’s your ego speaking and that’s not a true voice. You have to be silent sometimes to understand. So I rarely come at a photo or a song with something already in mind. I never have a melody in my head. Instead, I try to shut off my head. I don’t say ‘I want this to sound like…’ or ‘I want this to look like…’ I’ve found that to be a very limiting approach. When you think like that, you’re making yourself into a solid wall - the light can’t shine through that. But when you make yourself invisible, when you shut off the ‘you’ voice, you’re going to let the light through – you’re going to let the breeze in. It’s not about you. Would it be fair to use to term “Eno-esque” to describe your music, or do you have a preferred shorthand? I’m curious to see what words and phrases and comparisons people are going to come up with to describe this music, and I like that one. I think there’s a folk element in some of the songs though that isn’t conveyed through that term, but I can definitely live with it.
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Who would you most like to collaborate with on a song? Of course I would like to bring Tori Amos back to the dark side. Pardon me for not asking more about the album, but I think that personable questions such as these are just nice to ask and read. Do you agree? I prefer to talk about pretty much anything other than music. so, yes. In three words, sum up your sound. Tween thrash soul. What is the future of The Seven Fields of Aphelion? The songs will continue to be written, but whether anyone else will hear them, I’m not sure. There are some things that go to the grave and we’ll just have to see when the time comes whether they want to stay close or whether they need to be set free. You’ll definitely be seeing more photos – all the time. And I’ll be on the road playing as part of Tobacco’s touring band this spring. How do you hope to be received by critics? Ideally, I would want critics to separate my music from my role in BMSR. This is completely different – BMSR comes from Tobacco’s brain. Don’t compare this to a BMSR album, because it isn’t one. And don’t judge it based on how you expect it to sound or how you would like it to sound. I’m always annoyed when critics say ‘I would have’ or ‘she should have done it this way’ – you can’t bring your own agenda to the table like that. If you’re going to do that, you might as well just write your own music. If you would do it differently, I don’t care – just go do it for yourself the ‘right’ way then. What is your favorite word in the English language? Spatula. That was an easy one.
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For more information on The Seven Fields of Aphelion, check out her official website at www.thesevenfieldsofaphelion.com. Also look for pre-order information about Periphery at www.graveface.com.