Suzi Analogue drops an exclusive new track and talks about her process and getting to know your gear.
Suzi Analogue is a tireless producer and songwriter from New York City. She’s taught music production classes at Yale and even in Uganda as a cultural diplomat. In 2014, her “CHILLS + THRILLS” was named Best Cassette Of 2014 by FACT and even caught Marc Jacob’s ear.
Her crafty approach to analog synths blends well with a sharp artistic vision and original visual universe. She doesn’t believe in genres either: “They’re not a real thing. But I understand the human need to create categories. I, myself, bend genres.” This has been the spirit behind her ZONEZ mixtapes, now at their third volume. What’s a ZONE? “The ultimate point in which what you see, hear, and feel connect all at once.”
ZONEZ is a series of releases that encompass not only Suzi Analogue’s music, but also videos and visual art. It’s her way of sharing with the world her extraordinary audiovisual talent in a fresh new way.
We had chat with the producer about her approach to audio and visual creation, her take on choosing gear, her philosophy for releasing music and more.
Listen to Mojo below, her new LANDR-mastered track from ZONEZ V.3 streaming exclusively on our blog.
You’re currently unveiling your new project ZONEZ V.3, track by track. Today you’re releasing ‘Mojo,’ an exclusive new track and visual, right here on the LANDR blog. Tell us about the track and how you made it.
Today’s track is Mojo. It’s inspired by magic power. The vibe was also inspired by a traditional Cuban sauce called mojo. I originally started with chopping the synth I played and adding hip-hop drums. But then I thought to switch the rhythm to double time to capture what it sounds like to access “magic power.” The last thing I added were the vocoded vocals I sampled of myself talking about the power of mojo.
You’ve previously described the ZONEZ series as an ‘Audio Visual Moodboard.’ Are you taking the same approach this time around?
This time around, ZONEZ is still a moodboard. I am continuing to make audiovisual collections using my original music. The moods of this ZONEZ are inspired a lot by growth, nature and community in general. The vision is more clear.
We’re currently seeing non-traditional approaches to the album. Drake’s ‘playlist’ for More Life or Beyoncé’s film for Lemonade come to mind. How does ZONEZ fit in the current technological and cultural moment in terms of album release formats?
I’ve always tried taking extra steps to make my projects special. I grew up knowing that feeling of going to buy a hot new tape or CD in the record shop and having a strong connection to it.
Usually, I release music on a physical format, most commonly on cassette so that I can break the wall of what is digital and give music that you can hold. However, times have changed from running to the record shops on release dates every week. Now artists have to innovate different ways to give listeners something they can feel is fresh—that’s just simply a hip-hop tradition…presenting tite ideas in a fresh way.
Now artists have to innovate different ways to give listeners something they can feel is fresh—that’s just simply a hip-hop tradition…presenting tite ideas in a fresh way.
With ZONEZ, I am creating moments that you connect with—not just with your auditory senses, but your visual senses too and share more insight about the music itself. ZONEZ is about bringing special moments to life.
How does the interplay between visuals and music happen in your creative process?
ZONEZ is a moodboard of real concepts that are present in my life at the time that I am composing the music. Creatively, I was tired of going to the lab and trying to make instrumentals that had super general themes like…”this is a turn up song, so let me just make a turn up song”.
My songwriter side challenged me to go deeper with my process of even making instrumentals. So basically I would go out into the world, literally just live my life and whenever a moment struck and lingered with me, I chose to make a song and visual about that moment.
For months while I’m creating ZONEZ, I keep a little notebook with me everywhere I go and write down titles of phrases that represent the mood of those strong moments. Visually, this time around I collaborated with an emerging visual artist Souldreamin that took my visions into account and helped me present them in a way that translated on camera—it was a wonderful process.
You’re currently working on projects from what you described as a ‘feminine worldview.’ What does that worldview entail for you?
Historically and up until very recently, most recorded visuals—especially film—in our world has been directed from a male perspective, especially imagery of women. My feminine worldview is a part of acknowledging that there is no one standard for how women can exist in this world.
My feminine worldview is a part of acknowledging that there is no one standard for how women can exist in this world.
In my worldview we can visualize a world where there is room for women to take up space, feel 1000% comfortable, truly safe, uncompromised, feel that we don’t have to perform our femininity just because it is expected of us to, that we don’t have to fit inside a box built for us by someone else, and truly feel like we can grow into whatever we wish to be—that is what I hope for my ‘ZONEZ’ to express to the world.
On a similar topic, I read that you were reciting improvised feminist manifestos on cassette tapes as young girl. How did you discover feminism and how has that informed your approach to music and performance to this day?
I won’t lie, I never really heard of the word “feminism” until US History class in high school. In hindsight, I suppose I was raised by a feminist-leaning mother who really wanted to raise a daughter who felt free to make her own decisions in a crazy world. She was raised in a time where women had to work so hard to earn any kind of independence from tradition at all.
So with her guidance and care, I was able to feel empowered even from a young age because she kept it real with me and didn’t sugar coat what my strength could be. My mother always challenged me to come to a full understanding about where I stood on something. I never felt that I was “less than” because of my gender because she went that hard with me.
I remember once when I was maybe 12, I wrote some weird “love” song called “Black And Blues” and I thought it was so tite. My mom came to me and said: “hey, you need to rethink this song and rethink what it really means.” I was just mimicking other R&B songs that followed the idea of a woman submitting herself. She knew that if I was able to critically think about what I was truly saying in my lyrics, I could take a more empowered approach to the music.
She wanted me to be critical about my art and what I was really saying to the world. That is something that sticks with me up until this day.
You’ve played shows as part of DISCWOMAN events. What is the importance of such an international collective of female electronic artists? What impact did it have on you as a creator?
Coming up as a young artist, I listened to a lot of electronic music from the IDM era that inspires me still. But the unfortunate fact is that rarely ever did a woman composer get celebrated from that era of electronic music.
Now, we as women are coming together more and identifying with a culture of music more visibly—versus before being rendered invisible. And this is so important to do NOW, so that girls of the future never have to live in the shadows for wanting to do more than what is traditionally expected of them in music.
DISCWOMAN understands the work that needs to be done to accomplish this, and the crew is helping us all to unify, step up and actualize it.
In your name ‘Suzi Analogue’, there’s a statement about your use of analog gear. What is your approach to choosing and using music technology?
More than just gear, the idea of Analogue is a nod to honoring the methods of recording that came before me and the scientists that actually took the time to figure it out so that I can do what I do today.
With music technology, I’m not just a gearhead. I really take my time to feel out what each musical tool is good for in the moment, whether it be a patch synth, FX pedal, modular synth or whatever. I go through each thing and get a feel for its limitations, what it has to offer and what sounds I can explore from it—so that when I do sit down, I know where to go to get a particular sound or feeling when I’m mapping out a track. The more you take the time to get to know the sounds that come out of the electronic instruments, the better you can create with them.
The more you take the time to get to know the sounds that come out of the electronic instruments, the better you can create with them.
You used LANDR to master ZONEZ V.3—how does LANDR fit in your process and how do you find it?
LANDR has been super helpful for the way that I work. I create tracks at a quick pace and often have the need to get the song ready to go right then and there—so that I don’t get caught up with it.
I definitely have used LANDR in many ways, like checking song mixes in order to see what instrument is too loud or too quiet, or what could be bumped up or taken down a bit. I have also used it to master raw sounds I’ve sampled so when I go to mix, I don’t have to compress them—they are balanced and come alive. LANDR has helped me get more control in my composition process that I wished for so long. Finally.
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