Astrud Steehouder is a musician, performer and producer specialising in atmospheric electronic and acoustic composition. She works predominantly with synthesisers, electronics, vocals and guitar both in the project Paper Dollhouse with Nina Bosnic and in other performance, soundtrack and library work. She features on the new MICROCORPS record XMIT and frequently performs and records with Daniel O’Sullivan and features on his recent forthcoming album for KPM, Fourth Density.
“Claiming The Sapphire To Liquid Return” is a 14 track archival compilation to seal in the Paper Dollhouse project uncovering rare and unreleased work, while “Swans” originally released on The Outer Church compilation in 2013 has been released as a single on Bandcamp. These are the final releases of the project. There will be more to come in other musical formations via other projects in the future.
1. I’ve been listening to a lot of french radio in the hope that my understanding of the language will return
2. I saw Alice Cooper in the street before work once on Carnaby Street, he really looks exactly the same even at 8.30 in the morning.
3. I played Anne Frank in a play when I was a teenager.
1. What is the biggest inspiration for your music?
Atmosphere, the endless creativity and determination of other musicians and artists and everyone that lives without cynicism, my friends’ records, films, synths, heavy grey skies, the rain, riffs, metallic sound and dark reverb, tornado footage, NASA footage, pop videos, TV shows, black tulips, Alexander McQueen, this week Wayne Crichlow’s portraits and street photography and Patti Smith M Train, in general – goths, make up.
2. How and when did you get into making music?
I haven’t had a really traditional route in, it’s happened in phases of playing music in different spaces. When I was 5 I had a violin loaned via an inner london school system, I played for several years. I would look forward to going to people’s houses and being allowed to play the piano on my own rather than play outside. I had piano lessons for a short while but I was more interested in composition, the mood and chords played in silence. I recorded pop songs on and off. I’d rework soundtracks and TV themes in my head and try to replay them on the piano by ear. I got my first proper Yamaha keyboard at 14. I’ve sung on and off throughout my life. I started playing guitar later on and played in a band, then moved to more folk and abstract electronic styles. I love writing pop and drone. I think it’s good to unlearn styles as you go so you don’t get stuck.
3. What are 5 of your favourite albums of all time?
Black Sabbath – Sabotage
Maryanne Amacher – Sound Characters 2 (Making Sonic Spaces)
Eliane Radigue – Adnos I-III
Depeche Mode – Black Celebration
Depeche Mode – Violator
4. What do you associate with Berlin?
Joseph Beuys, playing house shows, my Parka in the snow, Hansa, coffee, donuts, dark beer, photobooths, Atonal, Club Mate.
5. What’s your favourite place in your town?
I like walking around Soho and feel at home in north London. It’s such a layered city. I love hidden, secret things, galleries, pubs in old buildings, the roads with all their history, the views onto the Thames from The Strand and Rotherhithe.
6. If there was no music in the world, what would you do instead?
Paint, walk, read more, watch endless films, spend more time in nature and the city. Learn to code maybe. Travel a lot.
7. What was the last record/music you bought?
Bandcamp – some tracks by JWords, Jim Haynes, Dax Pierson, Dvrra that I played on a recent radio show.
8. Who would you most like to collaborate with?
I’d like to work with fashion in some way or dance production, film-makers and writers. It’s nice to have a different types of creative energy to work with, avant garde theatre. Installation work. Maybe some holistic programme or app of sorts, a sci-fi botanical AR garden maybe. It would be cool for the music to have a functional element. I’ve always wanted to create music for ice rinks.
9. What was your best gig (as performer or spectator)?
All the experiences I’ve had playing shows, every single show has been different and enriching. I have loved playing with Nina and travelling to Berlin, Paris, Ireland, wonderful experiences, talking, drinking coffee, considering visual depiction of stage sets with projections, petals, tonality. Playing with Daniel O’Sullivan and with ensembles has been great, being part of that and the incredible musicianship I’ve been part of, learning the autoharp and all the distinct vocal harmonies he’s created. Supporting Carl Craig at The Barbican with Asher (Levitas) was insane really, great to see the visuals on that stage. I’ve been to so many shows I can’t remember! Wolf Eyes at New River Studios and Universal Eyes shows at Cafe Oto were really good, Chris and Cosey at Heaven was really fun, Sunn0)) and Electric Wizard at Roundhouse, Diamanda Galas and Kratfwerk at Queen Elizabeth Hall. There were some industrial shows in Selfridges which were unexpectedly memorable, being given headphones for the soundproofed rooms via the kitchen and homeware section just gave it that special something. I actually bought a coffee bean grinder then went to see Keiji Haino which somehow felt like the right thing to do.
10. How important is technology to your creative process?
In order to realise the sound I want pretty essential but ultimately elusive, you need to put the air back in. I love the full range of production styles, actually I can get quite deep inside it. I’ve been listening to a lot of 90s pop r&b recently. But if you have a great song, that’s what carries it. It depends what you’re making but in general I’m a fan of sonics generated by various production methods where you can’t separate the stylistic production from the work itself. Even where there’s a clear song in there. I Feel Love is a good example of that. It’s impossible to separate that out. Impossible to translate that into a separate song.
11. Do you have siblings and how do they feel about your career/art?
Yes, I’m a twin, and they are into it.
Photo © Pamela Steehouder