Composer and vocalist Hannah Elizabeth Cox (H) and multisensory artist David Yann Robert (D) pair up on their first release as Animated Matter. Their eight track debut interprets the Scandinavian, Scottish and Celtic myth of the Selkie: a tragedy of impossible land/sea romance between a man and a shapeshifting seal/woman.
1: We love water: floating, swimming and moving through it in all directions!
2: We met while both admiring an artist’s (Strangeloop’s) sketchbook filled with drawings of extraterrestrials.
3: Our music is inspired by animism, the belief system that consciousness permeates all forms of matter.
1. What is the biggest inspiration for your music?
H & D: Our inspiration for this project was to make music to fall asleep and dream to. The album is based on the Selkie, an oceanic shapeshifter in Celtic mythology. We take frequent visits to the nearby coastline drawing inspiration for the sonic textures, instrumentation, and general sound palette we use throughout the record. We’re attracted to the idea of the ocean as a symbolic representation of the subconscious, and our goal was to make music that moves the listener through the blurred boundaries of waking and dreaming.
2. How and when did you get into making music?
H: I have always been strongly drawn to music and came from musical parents. I began playing piano at the age of 5 and writing music at 7. I was really into solo classical piano and used to keep journals of poetry since I was really young. Eventually I combined these skills and tried to learn from the songwriting styles of female artists I admired from the 80s and 90s, such as Natalie Merchant and Sade.
D: My grandfather taught me piano for a few years when I was 8 but gave up on me because I was misbehaving too much. I got into making and playing ambient music with my best friend in San Francisco when I was 22. We went by C-LAB (Consciousness Lab Ambient Sound Research) and played a range of venues from rave chill out rooms to contemporary art museums. I remember once getting worried we killed our audience when I looked up from my synth and saw the entire venue lying motionless on the floor. I left the stage to check and luckily everyone was just asleep: I took that as the ultimate compliment.
3. What are 5 of your favourite albums of all time?
Slowdive – Pygmalion
Sade – Lovers Rock
Thom Yorke – The Eraser
Fiona Apple – Tidal
Burial – Untrue
With the Artists – Rhythm & Sound
Thursday Afternoon – Brian Eno
Tri Repetae – Autechre
Lovers Rock – Sade
O Mito – Joao Gilberto
4. What do you associate with Berlin?
H: When I visited Berlin I was compensated very well to play music and from that point I associated the place with being much more supportive of the arts than the US. I associate it with vibrant creativity, diversity, good food and connection with artists.
D: I associate Berlin with the freedom to be who you are, amazing music and sound system quality, Hard Wax and layers of parallel culture merging together.
5. What’s your favourite place in your town?
H: My local record stores and the Brazilian churrascaria! Anywhere that feels closer to nature.
D: The Vietnamese banh mi heaven and the rocky ocean coast just outside of town.
6. If there was no music in the world, what would you do instead?
H: So sad to imagine a world without music! I think I’d be a chef. I love creating meals, fresh juices, herbal elixirs — it gives me a similar joy to composing music. I’m also really interested in dreams and think I’d make a decent psychoanalyst.
D: I’d figure out how to get to another world with music.
7. What was the last record/music you bought?
H: Jaylib – Champion Sound
D: Nico Georis – Shirley Shirley Shirley!
8. Who would you most like to collaborate with?
H: Thom Yorke
D: Tetsu Inoue (again…but he mysteriously vanished)
9. What was your best gig (as performer or spectator)?
H: Tough to choose only one, but in general I feel I perform best in smaller venues. It is rewarding to see peoples’ responses up close. I can get into that automatic gamma wave “zone” in intimate settings. My favorite gig as a spectator was probably Depeche Mode. I’ve never seen anyone command a room like Dave Gahan.
D: As performer: my favorite gig was in a greenhouse at Andrew Krepes gallery in NYC with Tetsu Inoue for an audience of plants.
10. How important is technology to your creative process?
H: I’m a believer that you can make music with anything you have access to. If I have a massive studio with all the best software, how fortunate and wonderful. If I have only my body, I know I can still make something great. I appreciate that technology makes it possible to construct entire sonic universes, which is what we went for with this album. This project has definitely broadened my approach to composing and deepened my appreciation for the power of the studio as a whole instrument.
D: Without technology we wouldn’t be able to craft the tonalities and layers in our sound. I like to explore, learn and use advanced techniques in unexpected ways. Instead of letting the technology drive, we make decisions based on our feelings about the output (from a special sound computation rodent) and feed it all back in over and over again.
11. Do you have siblings and how do they feel about your career/art?
H: I have four siblings and they are all very supportive. My sister was our first preorder customer for the new record! I love my family.
D: I have a musically talented sister (who did better than I with grandpa’s piano lessons) and a brother who’s a culinary artist. They’re both really kind and supportive of what I do. Siblings are so important because they’re the closest relatives that are usually with you for the longest arcs of your life. I’m really lucky that they’ve always been there for me and helped me understand myself and where I come from. One day, I’d love to explore Brittany (where my family is from) with them to learn more about the interesting myths surrounding the island of Ouessant.
Photo © William Pearce Cox