Soft Metals is a multi-disciplinary electronic duo from Portland , Oregon now residing in Los Angeles, California. Its members Ian Hicks and Patricia Hall were brought together through a common love of 1970s and 80s synthesizer music and began writing and recording songs together in the spring of 2009. Inspiration came to them by way of experimental electronic sounds, film soundtracks, early industrial music, minimal synth, house, techno, synth pop, krautrock, psychedelic rock, and shoegaze. Ian and Patricia share songwriting duties and compose the music together before writing lyrics and adding vocals. Their songs are built from moody, improvised sessions together using exclusively electronic instruments. The meaning of the raw music they make is explored and interpreted afterwards with lyrical themes ranging from life experience, films, literature, history, science, love, conflict, and death. Soft Metals prefer to express themselves freely rather than adhere to a particular genre. This freedom gives them a diverse sound somewhere between dance music, austere synthetic pop, and experimental electronic composition.
Ian is finishing up a master’s degree this year
This is our first tour through Europe
We love Europe and will be sad when we have to return to the US
What is the biggest inspiration for your music?
Patricia: I love synthesizer music. I used to DJ a lot, but started getting bored with it. I met Ian and we began working together in his studio. Once I got my hand s on classic electronic instruments like the TR-808, Juno 60, Pro One, etc and heard the sketches Ian had made on his own…there was no turning back. I was so inspired by the sounds and rhythms we were making. Ian has a lot of cool effects for vocals. It made it easier for me for me to come out of my shell as a vocalist.
How and when did you get into making music?
Ian: I’m not sure exactly when I became interested in recording and producing music but it was either early high school our late middle school. I first started just with two one track tape recorders, attempting to bounce between them. The sound quality would really degrade after about 4 bounces. It was fun but I quickly started using the family computer to layer recordings as the sound quality was better. This lead to me discovering tracker software programs like impulse tracker and scream tracker. after making a few tracks in these programs I was hooked on producing electronic music. Using the computer was fun but since I had been taking piano lessons since I was very young, I felt like more tangible control was needed. This lead me to begin collecting synths.
What are your 5 favourite albums of all time?
it’s impossible to pick all time favorites as different music resonates in different ways during your life time but when we first started working together we bonded over the following albums:
Manuel Göttsching – e2e4
John Hassell and Brian Eno – Fourth World Vol 1: Possible Musics
Liaisons Dangereues / s/t
Chris and Cosey / Songs of Love and Lust
Deux / Decadence
What do you associate with Berlin?
Patricia: Techno, artists, parties that never end
Ian: Techno, Bowie, artistic expression
What’s your favourite place in your town?
Patricia: I love to take trips out to the Mojave desert or Big Sur to clear my head of the psychic static of the city.
Ian: the Malibu coast or Mount Analog
If there was no music in the world, what would you do instead?
Patricia: fiction writer
Ian: probably charcoal drawing for artistic expression
What was the last record you bought?
Patricia: Pye Corner Audio – Black Mills Tapes Vol. 4
Ian: Voices from the Lake – Velo di Maya
Who would you most like to collaborate with?
Sean McBride of Martial Canterell, Xeno and Oakland er
What was your best gig (as performer or spectator)?
Patricia: As of this date, May 7th, Budapest, Madrid, Zagreb and Milan have been my favorite shows of this tour. Each show has been really cool in one way or another though.
How important is technology to your creative process?
Ian: essential, I find so much inspiration from both old and new technology. Learning
how to use new gear or software is almost the best part for me.
Do you have siblings and are they proud or jealous of you?
Patricia: I think they were a little jealous at first, but now I think they are proud and more inspired to follow their dreams.
Ian: I’m pretty sure my sister is proud of me, maybe jealous of some of the traveling but she’s done her fair share too.
Soft Metals – Psychic Driving
Soft Metals – Always live on KEXP
Soft Metals – When I Look Into Your Eyes
Suzy Poling | suzypoling.com
| Interview with Soft Metals by Digital in Berlin