Closer to Coil than Cold Meat Industries, Sam An (aka – Lana Del Rabies) is cultivating a static buzz in the dark experimental and industrial noise scenes. Her work is like some logical conclusion of Trent Reznor’s experimental Ghosts project – sonically moving to another level of pain and despair – and complete.
Her most recent release Shadow World, on LA’s anarchic Deathbombarc Records (home to clipping. and the Death Grips), is her best work yet and one of my top five albums for 2018. Unlike some noise acts that drone into 10 minutes of static or fill catalogs of obscure cassette labels with unnecessary angst (to almost self parody), Sam knows how to package the bitterness – into digestible bite-size tracks. This is what makes Shadow World amazing – it demonstrates a mastery of sonic structure – nothing is wasted or misused. It is what it is – then it Is over – no icing necessary.
In a world of angsty artists manipulating live electronics and often carefully posing their nihilism, Lana Del Rabies is authentic – her angst and sorrow are channeled and genuine. Her Instagram feed reflects an artist’s life full of blurred dark figures, never ending nights in smoky shaded venues, Mexican performance art she participated in, and the hauntings of an artist living in shadow, at the edge of the desert.
Hypnos Audio caught up with Lana Del Rabies in late October 2018.
HA: What keeps your creativity going and where (and how) do you find inspiration to produce music?
LDR: I think I find myself inspired by the things that provoke me to go inward and find out what I really believe in. I could say that making music is just catharsis for the intense things I feel and experience- angst, sadness, outrage, loss- but catharsis is transformative, and because it is transformative, I find that once I’ve moved through it and made something from it, I have a better understanding of who I am and what I stand for. Opportunities for catharsis and growth are never ending, so I am in a sense always inspired. I think I’ve been consistent with music as my outlet the last few years because it’s the one medium I’ve felt the most visceral connection to. I also have never felt any pressure to overthink the process of creating- I come from an art background, so making music from a space of pure experimentation was liberating.
HA: Could you describe your creative process of starting a new musical project, either tracks or a release?
LDR: I think the initial point of creating for me goes back to the desire for catharsis. I usually beginning writing by creating “palettes” of sound- basically sets saved electronically, made with recorded elements from sources as diverse as my own voice, to actual instruments, to synthesizers to field recordings. I also use electronic software elements as well. I’ll just compulsively create these initial “palettes” for awhile, until I’ve accumulated enough to where I feel like I’ve fully experimented enough with combinations of sounds. Then I start actually composing, then the main vocals and lyrics come. Sometimes I’ll also try out new tracks in my live sets, before they’re even recorded, just to get a better feel for what I’m trying to express with the final product.
LDR: In terms of a musical project- for me the name Lana Del Rabies was fitting for a specific body of work I started years ago making noisy experimental tracks that sampled the voices of very feminine singers like Lana Del Rey. The project has now grown to embody a more angsty side of myself and my sound, without necessarily sticking to the origin point of where that name came from. I honestly don’t see myself keeping this name long term, because I see myself integrating a more diverse sound to my work in the near future. I’d rather go by a name that makes sense for that body of work when it happens.
HA: You seem to be performing a lot recently (and in some interesting venues from what I have seen) – is this a big part of your project?
LDR: Performing has been a large part of what makes this project and my work satisfying for me. I was sort of a late bloomer with music, I wasn’t doing this as a kid or a teenager or even during college. But I had always wanted to, it just always felt like a missed opportunity until I was exposed to electronic producing/composing. I did a lot of collaborative projects before I finally branched out as a solo artist with this project. Being a solo artist gave me the space to really come into my own as a performer. I think I found myself in a position of people being very drawn to what I was doing while I was still sort of figuring it out, so my development as a live performer has also been very public. I think there was sort of a “sink or swim” approach I took to being an inexperienced performer- I responded to the nervousness that came with being in front of an audience by getting more raw and confrontational. In that regard, I’m also inspired a lot by musicians who are very physical and confrontational, so it made sense to embody that.
HA: Where do you see this project going?
LDR: I actually see this project evolving in the way that I mentioned before- I believe that the new material I’ve started to work on won’t necessarily be “Lana Del Rabies” or marketed in that way. But I also don’t see it being extremely different from what I’ve been doing either, more of an extension. I think after I reach that point, I’d like to present that body of work to the world, and hopefully more opportunities to perform and create will come from that.
HA: In addition to this project, are you currently working on any other artistic projects, or in other mediums?
LDR: This year has been particularly busy in a variety of ways, so I have not really had a chance to work on much that isn’t music related. I have done some collaborative shows this year with different artists, musician and otherwise, as a composer or a vocalist. It’s fun to be in situations where I get to step away from fully being LDR and get to be lost in someone else’s vision.
LDR: One medium I would really like to get back to is video. I used to be a pretty active video artist and I was really drawn to experimental film for awhile. It’s just a difficult medium to take to the next level in terms of opportunity. I do miss it.
HA: What/who is currently inspiring you at the moment?
LDR: Apocalyptic visions. Fantasies of a planet that destroys itself and restores itself from mankind. Ancient mythologies and belief systems. The amazing female, femme, LGBTQ and people of color artists in underground music who are making the most groundbreaking work in those scenes right now. People who doubt me. People who are actually good in this world, who inspire me from actually falling into complete nihilism. Though lately I’ve been extremely intrigued by exploring what nihilism means from purely a female/femme framework.
HA: If you could give advice to an artist on the creative process, what would it be?
LDR: Don’t try to be anything, especially for anyone. Let people doubt you. Liberate yourself from expectations. It’s perfectly fine to have refined concepts, but don’t overthink the process. It’s ok to not always be productive or for everything to not be your best. It’s ok to suck, as long as you’re brave and self aware and trying. Nothing with this work is a linear path or guaranteed, but if you’re doing this for the right reasons, you’ll find where you need to be.