Eel Burn aka Wilted Woman is a musician and composer currently residing between Berlin, Germany and Providence, Rhode Island. She makes rhythmic electronic music with elements reaching from Berliner Schule to industrial and musique concrète. Her recordings and performances are based around a diversely entangled web of modulating, mutant melodies, full of stuttering syncopations bouncing in polyrhythmic, spatially aware patterns. Wilted Woman has appeared on releases from Birdfriend, Stenze Quo, More Records, MMODEMM and opensignal, with a 7” on New York’s Primitive Languages coming in early 2016. We had the pleasure to chat with this creative lady before her visit in Stockholm for the Sound of Stockholm festival. If you have missed the show (you should have been there though!), now you can even listen to her set which was recorded during her performance in Fylkingen… and if that would not be enough, as a bonus she even prepared a guest mix for us!
There’s quite a high sense of humor in your music and attitude generally. How does someone end up with choosing Wilted Woman as their artist name?
People ask me about the name all the time and to be honest I don’t actually remember where it came from! When I started this project a few years ago I cycled through a bunch of alliterative/rhyme-y names and I guess that was just the one that finally stuck.
Originally you’re from the US but ended up in Berlin. What’s the story behind your journey?
I was living in Providence (Rhode Island) for a while but had started to feel kind of restless. I studied German in college so it seemed somehow logical to me to pack up and move to this country I’d never been to before. After a few months of utter confusion, I slowly found a community of like-minded people in my neighborhood and scattered across Northern Europe. However, I still feel very connected to the “scene” or whatever you want to call it back in the northeast of the US, so at the moment I’m trying to figure out a way to float back and forth between the two.
What would you emphasize as the biggest difference between these two places? And what is that you think is exactly the same, no matter where you are?
This is a bit of an oversimplification, but what I’ve noticed in moving back and forth is that in the US, people have a much higher tolerance for how much public and private space is regulated by outside forces. On the other hand, supermarkets are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week — something I miss very much on cold Sunday nights in Berlin.
What is your first memory involving sounds?
Hm, I have no idea. I started studying violin at a really young age, like 4 years old I think, which helped me discover a lot of insane classical music early on that I became really excited about. At the same time, I had a really masochistic relationship to violin – I was really stubborn and would outright refuse to do things like hold my bow correctly or stand with my feet apart. This created some sort of rift between the music I loved and loved to play and this process of Playing Correctly and adhering to the orthodoxy of playing classical instruments. For better or worse, this is a theme that’s stuck with me since then, this idea of doing things wrong for no reason…
Are you stubborn when it comes to other things in life as well?
Ha! Yes, I suppose, to some extent.
How do you feel about classical instruments these days? Could you imagine returning to them one day?
I do still play violin, though I haven’t really thought about performing with it or using it for recordings. Now it’s more of a hobby, I guess.
Could you tell us a bit about your early influences? How did it all start, how did you become interested in music and what made you start experimenting with sounds?
When I was a kid, I had a micro-cassette recorder that I would use to record violin and piano tones and assemble into what I guess was baby cut-up stuff. I also had a staff notebook from the music school that I would try and write pop songs into, but I realized early on that it wasn’t the most natural-feeling way for me to write music. At some point, my younger brother got a guitar so that also got incorporated into the experiments.
Then when I was a little bit older, I became friends with this boy who was really into electroclash, which somehow that brought me to the all-ages scene in New York (where I grew up) that was really thriving around the mid-2000s. That’s how I got into 8-bit, noise, performative chaos and the idea that music-making is accessible to everyone. I started cutting up my recordings in Audacity and another friend gave me a cracked version of Reason which I found endlessly confusing and ditched pretty quickly for playing machines I could physically interact with but I guess that’s the origins of how I got to where I’m at now.
How are your experiences with performing live? Do you always feel comfortable with having an audience?
I really like performing live. I think it’s a pretty integral part of this project. Maybe I never grew out of the recital-oriented mentality where you learn a piece then present it in a performance. I’m also more comfortable as an improviser than a multi-track recording type person so something about the flexibility of a piece living more in a live context than in the static state of a recording is appealing to me.
What was your strangest performing experience so far?
The strangest in recent memory wasn’t as Wilted Woman but in a noise band called 365 Bad Boyz a few years ago. I’m not sure if I can do the experience justice, but basically after 3 punk bands played in a sweaty basement, we took the “stage” chanting our own name with the theme song from the show Cops playing slowed down in the background. The plan was just for us to each swing chains around for a few minutes or something, but almost immediately one of the band members went renegade, knocked out all the light bulbs in the room and flipped over every possible bottle-covered surface. The power went out, he demanded a broom to start cleaning, and that was that.
How’s your relationship with synthesizers and gear? You are using quite a broad spectrum of tools.
Gear is suuuch a funny topic. Coming from a noise background, for a while my idea of the perfect set up was having as many shitty effect pedals as possible and a bunch of tape players. While I am still fond of this rig and still kind of perform with that, it’s basically through returning to computer music that I got into gear. A few years ago, I started playing around with MaxMSP and realized that because I didn’t understand synthesis in general, it was impossible to use, so I started reading tons of books and manuals on synthesis and electronic music history… so that’s how I got into synthesizers. Also, going to tons of shows or going on tour and seeing what people who make music you like are using to do it… basically, I am pretty staunchly of the “gear is just a tool” camp while also being someone who saves up for a year to buy some stupid drum machine. Some things work better for certain tasks than others but at the same time you can make music with literally anything!
If someone would walk up to you and say… pick any music making tool that you’d like to have and it’d be yours instantly without having to save up for a year, what would that be?
Well I have a fantasy of recording sounds from the Large Hadron Collider…
What do you do when not playing around with sounds?
I’m writing my bachelors thesis on the social function of sound in the last century right now, so I guess sound is pretty big in most aspects of my day… I also work various jobs (everything from babysitter to film projectionist), play around with circuit-bending, bike around with my friends, drink tons of coffee, etc.
What is your favourite album cover?
Ouf, that’s a hard one! In terms of all-time favorite, maaaybe Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret? A lot of my friends design album covers that I really love, too, like Johann Kauth (who also plays in the band Laser Poodle) makes really amazing album art, and Mickey Zacchilli, who has this label called Price Tapes and made insane covers for all the tapes.. there’s a lot of good stuff out there.
GUEST MIX by WILTED WOMAN
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