Article | Onlythebeat

Reflection of Sound and Space with Zyna Hel

Wednesday, June 11, 2014
Casie Millhouse

OTB: What in your life has influenced your music?

Zyna Hel: When I consider my life's experiences, I feel like they all feed in to my music in sometimes subconscious ways. I think that this happens to all creatives, but for me it's especially tangible in my lyrics. I led quite an odd childhood where we moved around a lot and I lived in different countries, this meant I was quite an introverted and insular child, I used to spend a lot of time just reading and playing alone, I think this reflects in my lyrics a lot as my songs are quite inward looking and draw on philosophical concepts more than any actual real-life experiences and events. I really admire confessional songwriters; it's something I'm not sure I could ever do. I went to a lot of raves/clubs as a teenager so I'm sure that's what influenced the electronic aspect!

OTB: When you started going to the raves/clubs do you feel there was a sense of community that your introversion might reject or would you classify it as magnetism, driving two opposite forces head-on?

Zyna Hel: I think that a lot of the more underground musical communities both understand and embrace introversion, I always felt a past of thing even if I wasn't the most socially active. It was more home for me than any kind of other social activity could ever have been.  Some of the most visionary creative movements have been born from communities that actively embrace and create a space for marginalised individuals; the ballroom scene in New York is a great example of that.

OTB: What do you feel has been a huge transition in your career so far?

Zyna Hel:  A really big transition for me was moving from playing in bands with others to doing a solo project. I used to sing in a psych folk band called Hush Arbors that was led by very talented songwriter and musician Keith Wood. I really loved it. We supported Sonic Youth once, and I'm a big SY fan.

OTB: Let's talk about your live show. Can you tell us more about what the origins are of your stage performance(s), make-up, and costume and how it came to be?

Zyna Hel:  I've always loved to dress up. I think that performance for me is like a ritual; all the elements are very much considered and have symbolic relevance. In a lot of indigenous rituals costumes and make up are used in a way that throws everyday reality in to disarray, it's used to symbolise and aid transitions from one state of being to another. For me a great performance is a liminal experience, it shakes the status quo. I studied ritual in performance at university.

OTB: I didn't know you could study things like that in university!

Zynahel:  Ahh, that's Brighton for ya! Zynahel

OTB: So looking at the space & time you are at one with your audience, what type of atmosphere do you look to create?

Zyna Hel:  I want to create an atmosphere of presence that's in line with the energy of my songs, predominantly. I think that there's only so far you can actually control the atmosphere of any given performance because there are so many variables that are out of my control. In that sense it's exciting. No matter what I do each performance is unique, you'll never have the exact same people all in one room again together. The audience contribute to every performance hugely.

OTB: How do you go about making your music engaging with the audience?

Zynahel:  I make music that I like, if others like it too then that's extra cool. In terms of live I do try to make it as interesting as I can with the budget I have for each performance. This Saturday I'm bringing a friend down from Scotland who's a brilliant VJ and has developed software that responds to my movements on stage. I am excited to take these visual ideas and develop them even further in the future. Again, not everyone is going to engage with the performance, that's why I feel as though it's important to do everything for yourself, then if no one is in to it at least you never compromised.

OTB: Looking ahead to the future with the music industry, what aspects to you feel most intrigued by?

Zynahel:  The music industry is shifting almost daily as is the way people engage with music, it's exciting but certain aspects of it are frightening. I'd like to see artists get more fairly compensated per play by streaming services, and sanctions for downloading made tougher like they have become in Japan. What people don't realise is that if the culture of not paying for music continues only artists backed by major labels will have enough money to make records, and it will mean a lot of more interesting stuff will never get made.

OTB: So what kind of interesting stuff do you have that's free?

Zyna Hel: You can download a mix of my song, Constellation Woman, on Soundcloud. I think that if an artist gives their song away that's completely cool because it's their choice. It's more the culture of devaluing music that I'm concerned about, it means that some of the more niche labels will become unsustainable.

OTB: What kind of aspects would you like to stay true to your music and which ways can you see yourself evolving?

Zyna Hel:  I think that as long as what I do stays in line with my vision I will feel creatively fulfilled, and ultimately that's what matters most to me. In terms of evolution, I'm working on my album at the moment and I was lucky enough to have Blanck Mass producing one track (Ben Power from Fuck Buttons) produce one song on it, he approached the song in a really interesting way and it brought out an intensity in the song itself that I couldn't have created myself in quite the same way. I think that working with others always shifts the way I see my music, I hope to do more collaborating in future.

Find more about Zyna Hel:

Facebook //Twitter // Soundcloud