Interview - Ekca Liena

Ever since hearing the reissue of 'Slow Music for Rapid Eye Movement' on Dead Pilot Records a little while ago, I've wanted to interview Daniel, who is Ekca Liena, to find out what makes him tick. The album, although difficult to paraphrase into genres/sounds, incorporates elements of ambient, electronic, psychedelic in a blend that is reminiscent of the sounds of Brian Eno, Tim Hecker, Fennesz or Boards of Canada perhaps. Yet somehow that doesn't come close. The best thing to do of course is to listen to 'Slow Music...' yourself, I can guarantee you won't be disappointed.

The reissue included a bonus CD of remixes from such names as Clem Leek, Aidan Baker, Pupilar, Duncan Harrison, Kixotek and Nick Hudson - providing new perspectives to the original. We asked Dan how these came about, and he tells us about his approach to music, studio setup and his upcoming albums.

Hi Daniel, can you tell us the story behind how you came to produce the type of music you do?

Hi there... I can give it a go. It's kind of difficult to say to be honest. Somehow, from listening to plenty of music from the harshest to the most serene, messing around on incredibly bad software and trying to play piano as a teenager, I've come to do this. Or at least I try to. I'm just trying to express myself. Where others sing and paint I'm using my textures and music to portray my thoughts. Various 'mind-expanding' activities have also added their influence I would say...

I'm into the idea that artists of all kinds can find themselves creating their works with very little idea of where they're actually heading in terms of evolution of style. As if you're kind of not fully in control of where you're going and then realise 'oh, THIS is what I'm doing'. I suppose I'm always trying to elicit an emotional response or transport myself and the listener, provide a sonic framework for escapism or to slow people down - it is far more romantic and organic to seek magic in as many parts of life as you can and this is almost impossible when we rush and worry our way through it. Capturing the musical counterpart to various emotional and psychological states is a wonderful and beautiful thing.

Can you explain your moniker, is it a play/anagram of your real name?

In short, yes. There was a day I remember distinctly where drone music just seemed to leap out of the kind of material I was making, still a completely unreleased artist at the time, and I felt the need to come by a name that suited it. I listened through the music I had made whilst doing some spine realigning techniques and shortly after I was surprised to be thinking about a moniker for what I was doing. I wanted it to be me, but detatched somehow. An anagram seemed about right. The parts are reversed bits of my name, with a slight alteration purely for aesthetic reasons.

How do you approach making a track, do you have an idea first, or are they created out of experimentation?

It varies really. Some tracks have come from me sitting down with a guitar or piano with no intention of creating a new track, but absent minded fiddling turns up some short riffs or tunes that end up being the basis for complete songs. Others come from pure improvisation that I have recorded ('Missing Weeks' and 'We Are Dying Flames', for example, are almost entirely that - an off the cuff jam with myself that happens to make the cut). Often an idea or melody will appear in my head and I'll have to try to remember it or record it onto whatever device happens to be nearby for later expansion. These ideas invariably go through a lot of development and the results are the tracks that make it onto albums. This in itself can influence the process too actually - I prefer albums to exist as entire pieces of work as well as individual tracks, and often the tracks will be altered depending on what will go alongside them on the album.

What sort of studio setup do you have, are there any key bits of software and hardware that you use frequently?

I've always used the same electric guitar and a typical pedal set-up of looping, echo and distortion is key to many tracks. Other than this there are a few software instruments that I use quite a lot and whatever analogue synth I happen to have at the time (they come and go, normally depending on how much money I have / need). I suppose this is the main selection of instruments, and of course everything is arranged in a sequencer. Non-musical sound has come to feature a lot, often heavily processed, and vocal sounds and sequenced or played percussion have made their way into the mix as well. Though they rarely appear on finished tracks, an acoustic guitar and piano have been the starting points for quite a few songs, mainly because they are closest to hand if a melody needs to make the jump from an idea in my head to something I can play and hear back.

You are also one part of noise band Plurals, does this influence the sound of your solo work at all?

It's difficult to say. It could be said that the basic sound of them both share certain aspects - noise, drone and atmosphere most notably. I'm not to sure which influences which. Perhaps it's a two way thing. I feel we've come along to a more defined 'Plurals' sound recently. What this is I'm not sure, but it feels good. I love playing as part of Plurals - there's currently no Ekca Liena live set up. We were friends before band members and that we can come together and get noisy and celestial is wizard.

Can you tell us a little about how you approached 'Slow Music for Rapid Eye Movement', was there any idea/concept that inspired the music?

I don't always like to say that THIS album is about THIS in such definite terms, though it may seem that way. Yes, it's true that listening to music whilst drifting to sleep was a big influence on Slow Music - it's something I do every night as an almost ritual part of going to sleep. There's a certain way of hearing sound that occurs then that is subtly different from other times, and I wanted to make music that suited it. But it's still fairly vague. This album can be an album about sleep, dreaming, love, loneliness, melancholy, nature, exhilaration... anything the listener wants really. All these things have gone into it and it's up to the listener to pick out what they want.

For the album reissue on Dead Pilot Records recently, a number of artists remixed tracks from the album, how did these come about, and what did you think of their interpretations?

I wanted to get a selection of artists that would make for a diverse and interesting remix album. Clem was a very welcome suggestion from Dan that runs Dead Pilot and his, although quite a surprise for me, is excellent. The other artists were my choices. Duncan is a friend of many years and forms a fifth of Plurals, so it was great that he agreed to do it. I asked Aidan to do his fearing he would be too busy but he kindly accepted and  Kixotek and Pupilar (Kevin Ingham, who remastered everything) have been supporting my music for a couple of years now and I love their own productions. Much of what they make is very different to mine but shares some flavour that I was keen to explore in asking them to remix a track. Nick is a friend I met down here in Brighton who shares some crucial opinions on music and sound in general and his cover versions of 'Reverse Erasing' are wondeful expansions on the original. I love all of the remixes. There is such contrast, which is exactly what I wanted.

There are a couple of mentions online that you have two new albums out this year entitled 'Graduals' and 'Gravity and Grace'? Can you tell us about these, and what we can expect to hear?

Graduals was the album the name Ekca Liena was coined for several years ago, as described above. The first finished version of this was actually made before anything else was released but it never saw the light of day as the rest of my discography dominated my priorities once I became slightly established. Now these songs deserve a release and getting them finished is what I'm working on. It's based around four long-form tracks, quite slow moving and droning in places but much more than a single evolving chorded texture. It will be mastered by Jannick Schou and released on Dead Pilot.

Gravity and Grace is actually a working title at the moment (it is the name of the album's current last track). It's quite dark and somehow more earth-bound than other releases, and I've made use of plenty of glitches and malfunctions to create these noisy textures and electronic freakouts. To me it seems weirdly exotic, kind of trippy and aggressive in places. Generally no less melodious though. Both of these albums are very close to being finished.

'Slow Music for Rapid Eye Movement' is available from Dead Pilot Records

Ekca Liena - Fire Emerging From Mist (Remix by Aidan Baker) by Dead Pilot records

*Photo Credit: Sarah Wasley

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