A close follower of Wilted Woman's work, Shuf recently described her debut 12" EP Diary of a Woman as displaying a unique and 'masterful command of sonic hardware.' This quality feels essential to Wilted Woman as an artist, whose long line of cassette releases and widely revered live performances exhibit an experimental and distinctly free approach to creating electronic music. Born in New York, and now residing in Berlin, Wilted Woman's influences span as wide as her travels, with Diary of a Woman incorporating elements of noise, techno, acid and 8-bit in an impressive amalgam of analogue sounds. In light of its release, we caught up with the up-and-coming producer to discuss the workings of her live act and the recent transition from cassette to vinyl releases.
Our team at Shuf are big fans of your new EP Diary of a Woman. Can you tell us a bit about the different sounds which influenced you on the record?
I work in a modular synthesizer shop and spend a lot of time hearing weird blips and drones just as my everyday surroundings. I also like to switch different sound-making tools in and out from my setup, so whenever I can I like to trade for a new piece of gear, spend some time trying to get as many new sounds as possible out of it, then make some recordings and pass it on to its next home. Even if you just make one really cool sound on your friend’s synth one day, that can inspire you to push the boundaries of the tools you already have or just use them in completely “wrong” ways.
Why did you decide to include material from your live sets in the EP?
There actually aren’t any live recordings on this record. Jaeger, Somehow, and Warmer are all songs that came out of live sets and evolved into what you hear on the recordings from playing them over and over in different places and contexts. I recorded the versions on the EP at home one day after a tour last spring.
Were these tracks improvised? To what extent are your live performances normally improvisational?
Tick and Trudeau are both improvised to the extent that I hadn’t really come up with a structure for either of them before recording. When I first started playing out with this project, I would just record some sounds and loops onto tapes before a show then show up with a four track and a synth and jam it out live. Showing up totally unaware of what will happen was a little too nerve-wracking for me though so I started to spend a lot more time preparing different patterns, sounds, and patches in advance—but how they come together and apart is still always a mystery until it happens.
What is it that you find so attractive about playing live?
The best thing about playing live is being able to see so many other crazy performances. Whenever I go on tour, I’m usually way more excited about all the acts I’m playing with than my own set. You also meet so many interesting and really cool people while you’re traveling around playing music. Especially with noise and weird electronic music, it’s so exciting to meet other people doing similar stuff to you in places you had no idea had those sort of scenes.
Your first records were released on cassette. Why did you initially choose this format for your musical output? And why now the change?
Cassettes are cheap and quick to make and if you’re moving around a lot or living in a tiny room, a tape player is much more practical to have than a turntable. Also, anyone can make tapes. If you want to publish your music on cassette, you just buy some tapes, dub your music on to them, and make a nice cover.
I would be pretty happy to just keep releasing tapes forever but it’s interesting to see how vinyl releases are taken more seriously… because they’re more DJ-friendly? Also, a couple of the tracks on the EP have been released in different forms on tapes previously, so maybe it’s interesting to think of tapes, this cheap and easy medium, as the way of making sketches for your big fancy 12” painting.
How did you first get into making electronic music? When did you discover your love for analogue gear?
I got into making electronic music through not being able to play multiple acoustic instruments at once. I couldn’t play guitar and bass at the same time and I didn’t really want the guitar to sound like a guitar anyways—but then someone gave me a CD with Reason on it! I didn’t stick with it for very long because my computer would crash a lot but it kind of showed me what sort of physical tools would be helpful for doing the same sort of thing.
I like using the computer for making sounds sometimes, like I’m still a heavy Max user, but I never really got the hang of using a computer as a performance tool. I don’t like only being able to click one thing at once and I hate looking at music on timelines. I think I just prefer music-making as a physical process than a visual one.
Do you have a favourite piece of hardware?
Really boring but I am very dependent on a little USB to 5-pin MIDI adapter I made a few years ago to use cheap laptop controllers with random other stuff. You can buy them premade but they’re stupidly expensive for such a simple little thing you can make with an Arduino.
What were your early musical influences? Have they changed much over time?
Bands like Television, Depeche Mode, and Sonic Youth were what first made me want to be a musician when I was really young. When I started going out to shows though, seeing New England noise stuff like Black Dice, Lightning Bolt, and Fat Worm of Error was more what helped me realize you can make music however you want to and with whatever tools you can find. The last big music breakthrough was discovering classic Detroit techno and Kodwo Eshun’s essential text More Brilliant Than the Sun when I was 19, and understanding how crazy and conceptual dance music can be.
Why did you choose to move from the States to Berlin? Does Berlin’s city environment shape your sound or creative processes?
I had never been to Berlin before but I spoke German and I knew it was cheap here. I liked it so I stayed. I don’t think being here affects me creatively though. I live a pretty normal, semi-reclusive life when I’m not playing gigs and stay really far away from club culture.
Can you tell us a bit about the label She Rocks! Why did you choose this imprint for your first 12” release?
She Rocks! is James K’s label. James is a close friend and musician I really admire so I was very down when she asked me if I wanted to do this release. I’m excited to see what happens next with the label!
What do you have coming up in the near future? Are there any particular live shows you are looking forward to, or any plans for upcoming releases?
Not sure when this will be published but I’m going on tour this week with DJ ShlucHT and Bridget Feral around the East Coast of the US. They’re two of my favorite performers so I’m really looking forward to seeing them play every day for a week. There may be some more releases coming this year, but we’ll have to wait and see.
Diary of a Woman was released 28th April on She Rocks!
Words: Georgia Tobin