LAUREN SARAH HAYES INTERVIEWED
Lauren, we’d love to hear your story and how you got to where you are today both personally and as an artist.
I learned how to perform in my late teens and early 20s by playing many, many shows in Scotland. I never stuck with a single genre for more than a few years, and I loved getting immersed in different roles and characters that I imagined around what I was playing at the time. Around 2005, a friend of mine moved away, leaving me with a load of music hardware to play around with. There was an old AKAI S1000 sampler, a Lexicon reverb/delay unit, a 16-bit ADAT recorder, an Alesis sampler, and a laptop with an RME audio interface. I still love RME! I moved out of the city to an old farmhouse with some friends and started making experimental tracks and putting them on Myspace.
While I listen to many kinds of music, I think that period grew out of a response to spending the previous few years religiously going to drum n’ bass and techno clubs, listening to dark dub, and wanting to find a more playful way of making music. Not that what I was making was danceable, but I was fascinated by the sounds of electronic music and the deeply physical response I would have to it. After that I decided to formally study digital sound, learning how to code my own software in order to transform and manipulate sound, and build my own instruments using sensors and controllers.
We’d love to hear more about your art. What do you do you do and why and what do you hope others will take away from your work?
I play live electronic music. I work with a hybrid analogue/digital instrument that I’ve been evolving for over ten years which is made of drum machines, analogue synths, bespoke music software, voice processors, and some other controllers. People sometimes assume that I’m a DJ, but I’m a terrible DJ. The main focus of my work is the live situation itself. I’m interested in relationships between sounds, people, and spaces. I explore this through building and using new technologies which enable me to sculpt sound live on stage but also allow me to create instruments that throw me the unexpected and push back, sort of like having another performer on stage. Most of my performance work is improvisational, and I enjoy the risk that this brings with it. I also get to play with different collaborators including musicians (often in large groups) and dancers. That said, I’ve released several albums although I’m still not entirely comfortable with that finalized format.
I also love playing in unusual spaces. I gave four sold-out solo performances at Scotland’s audio-visual festival, Sonica, where I played in a masonic mausoleum, famous for once holding the world record for the longest echo of any man-made structure. Locally, I performed several sets with music playing above and under the water at the ARTEL festival in Phoenix, where the audience was in the pool, and I collaborated with another artist on a large-scale site-specific sound installation that responded to the movement of plants and environmental phenomena in Clark Park Community Garden in Tempe.
An intrinsic part of my work is combining haptic technology with sound. This means that I use different types of vibration motors, actuators, and tactile bass transducer speakers to compose music that can be not only heard but also felt throughout the entire body. Sometimes this takes the form of a live concert, a piece of furniture, or a wearable item.
We’re coming up for 150 years of recorded music, and I’m excited and curious about how our experiences of listening to and sharing music will change over the next few decades, as haptics become more ubiquitous.
What do you think it takes to be successful as an artist?
Success is simply about recognizing the joyous moments within your artistic trajectory. Looking back, these might have been when one of my old bands supported some American headliners, but were also when we had the whole room erupting in dancing and chaos in a small town in Scotland. For me, success is about not limiting what you do based on what people expect music to be, and then getting to share that with audiences. Someone recently told me that I should be concerned because there are lots of younger women in electronic music who are up and coming. Well, I really hope there are because I also teach electronic music, and I’d be doing a terrible job if there weren’t. Success will be when we can move away from this bizarre competitive model of music making. I’ve made music with my friends, children, the elderly, at major festivals, in universities, with people with sensory impairments and learning difficulties, and with groups of strangers. How can I not feel successful?
Do you have any events or exhibitions coming up? Where would one go to see more of your work? How can people support you and your artwork?
I’m just back from playing a wonderful event in Athens, GA put on by Moogfest, who I performed with back at their festival in May. There were lots of other musicians who were also working with new performance technologies and inventions, all exploring the relationship between human and machine: http://humanandthemachine.moogfest.com/
I post regular updates about my next shows and workshops on the live section of my website: laurensarahhayes.com
You can listen to my latest album on the pan y rosas discos label: http://www.panyrosasdiscos.net/2016/09/pan-y-rosas-release-manipulation-by-lauren-sarah-hayes/ and check out my links below for videos and my other albums.
Interview by VoyagePhoenix, 27 November 2018