In The Spotlight: Kira Kira!
June 17, 2012 at 1:32pm
Composer and self-confessed 'audio-visual prankster' Kira Kira is in the IMX hot-seat, we are pleased to say. A founding member of Kitchen Motors, a label and collective based on experiments in music, creative collaboration and the fusing of art forms, we thought it was high time to shine the Spotlight on this creative maverick and quiz her on her brand new third album 'Feathermagnetik' (described as a "majestic micro/macrocosm" no less) and how she fell for 'Grandma Lo-Fi'! Onwards...
Kira Kira - how are you and what are you up to today?
I'm in a good mood. I am drinking a cup of delicious tea with lot's of honey in an airport in Berlin en route to Tokyo where I'll be celebrating the release of my new album playing a couple of concerts with my good friends Eirikur Orri and Borgar Magnason.
Tell us about your new album 'Feathermagnetik', what inspired it?
Feathermagnetik came out of a total catharsis. I wanted to throw away everything but the pure, tender core of things and work from there. It's a very exhilarating feeling to shed skin like that -To let go of everything that isn't essential, both physically and spiritually and dance around in your bones for a little while, embracing the notion that you don't have to know where to go all the time. Then after a while, from this place of clarity the music came to me very organically. I'm attracted to people who are fragile and strong at the same time and I was interested in capturing this in music. At first the focus was very much on a certain kind of glowing, gut wrenching power where the music has a real physical effect. Then while collaborating with my friend Graham Keegan last summer I recorded a very meditative piece which proved to be the missing element in the record. As a result I turned the entire mood and focus of the record around. So, the first pieces I created are the most aggressive beasts that come out towards the end, then came the fragile, delicate ones that open the record and finally the meditative one -An embrace of an old electric organ, trumpet and lapsteel that became a kind of a center nerve that links all the vibes in there.
So you could say that the people I've crossed paths and join forces with in one way or the other during the creation of this record were all great inspiration.
How was the process of making the album?
Each piece sprang from a very private space. I'd create sounds and weave them together until I started imagining someone's presence in there. So I'd invite this person to step in and record with me. Twelve different musicians recorded with me for Feathermagnetik, but each session was done one-on-one in people's respective living rooms, studios, garages or my friend's barn. So the music feels very intimate to me, despite the quantity of people playing it.
Another interesting thing to me is that since I recorded each and every one of them individually and in between every recording session I would work on the tracks, interweaving stuff, throwing bits and pieces around, none of them had the same music in their ears while recording.
Then in the end, when I felt like I'd reached my limits, I did something I've never done before, which is to let someone else into the producing and mixing. I've been working with Finnish percussionist Samuli Kosminen for about 5 or 6 years now and we've become very close friends. He has developed a near telepathic sensitivity to what my music needs and has a unique knack for being incredibly spot on when suggesting twists and turns. So we did a full, intensive week of final touches in his studio on the island of Suomenlinna towards the end which took some of the pieces to new heights and depths that were very satisfying.
We really love your multi-dimensional work - what has been your favorite project to work on over the years, and why?
It's a bit tough picking favourites. Right now my collaboration with all the musicians that worked with me on Feathermagnetik are at the top of my heart, especially Samuli and trumpeteer Eirikur Orri Olafsson. But I also have to say that the release of my first feature film, 'Grandma Lo-fi' that I created with my friends Orri Jónsson and Ingibjörg Birgisdóttir has been a very rewarding experience lately. Even though it is quite possibly the most challenging piece I've ever made, it's also one that I'm most happy about. Then finally I can't help mentioning a little diamond of a dance creation that was the result of my joining forces with visual artist Birta Guðjónsdóttir and dancer/choreographer Margrét Sara Guðjónsdóttir. It was called Glow. One of my favorite moments in there was when we had drops of real fire fall through a blacked out theater from the ceiling to the stage floor. I still can't believe we got away with that.
You are of course a founding member of the aforementioned Kitchen Motors. Tell us a bit about that, if you please.
Kitchen Motors was a wonderful playground for musical pranskterism which existed for about 7 years or so. Together with Hilmar Jensson and Jóhann Jóhannsson
I felt like Reykjavík needed a platform for experimental music, so we started by igniting unlikely collaborations between musicians and setting up concerts in an old cat shelter. Fortunately this was all recorded by a friend that worked for the national radio and somehow our little idea escalated into a full blown musical force that toured the world with an eclectic array of kindred spirits and released a few wild records.
Kira Kira sprang from this creative environment of playful collaboration, nonchalant risk taking and a go-for-it spirit. KM went into hibernation a long time ago when all three of us threw ourselves into other projects, but its ethos will always be my guiding light through whatever I do.
Your film Grandma Lo-Fi has been warmly received, we love the concept! How did you go about doing this? And what was your favorite moment?
Like most people who come into contact with Sigridur Nielsdottir's (Grandma Lo-fi) music; Orri, Inga and I totally fell for its irresistible charm. Then we just threw ourselves wholeheartedly into making a movie about her.
One of my favourite moments is definitely when Sigridur demonstrates how to make fire sounds by squeezing a ball of aluminum paper. And of course when she records her pigeon coos and listens with us as they go in and out of sync with her casio beats.
We gather you are launching Feathermagnetik in July in Berlin, and we know that the visuals will be spectacular - can you reveal to us what to expect?
I invited a few artists and film makers to create films for most of the songs on the album which will then be released with the vinyl under download code. I was completely blown away by the animation that artist Sara Gunnarsdóttir created for a song called Cutthroat Roundabout and so I asked her to make the live visuals. It's been sheer joy working with her and I'm very pleased with the outcome. I debuted an early version in Mexico the other night and people were asking afterwards if there was some way they could buy the visuals. I think you can't get a sweeter compliment than this, when people like your work so much they want to take it home with them.
Plus you have been playing in Tokyo - had you played there before, and if so, what do you love best about it?
I've played in Tokyo twice. First I was in the good company of 18 Kitchen Motors pranksters but the last time I went it was for the album release concert for my second album, Our Map to the Monster Olympics. Eirikur Orri and Samuli played with me there as well as guitarist Petur Hallgrimsson and Alex Somers who played vibraphone and piano and Magnús Helgason who mixed live visuals shot on 16 mm and Super-8. That concert is one of my all time favorite live experiences for so many reasons.
It was one of these nights when all is right in the world, we were all smoothly tuned into each other's nervous systems and the music just felt perfect. I remember us all drawing pictures on t-shirts backstage and having such a good time with the whole thing. The audience was also beautiful, they were totally with us, listening attentively but also giving unusually loud love back in between songs. There was nothing timid about their reaction to the music, which came as a pleasant surprise to me, because I've been in so many concerts in Japan where the audience feels very reserved.
So the bar is pretty damn high for these concerts I'm about to play but I'm also aware that the music I'm playing now is a different animal and I am too.