Bardo:Basho Breaks Through

Every once in a while you meet an artist who is so unassuming that you would never imagine the genius lurking beneath. I played alongside one such artist, Bardo:Basho (Kirsten Thom,) a year ago in Seattle having not heard much of her music beforehand. When she began to play, the room went silent. Her unique style of drone techno took us by storm, and lulled us with it’s hypnotic sway. She currently performs live all over Seattle, Washington and the Pacific Northwest, and is looking forward to her first release this Spring, 2015. Enraptured by visions of far away lands via her mystical intonations, we are super excited to present this artist who, at the beginning of her professional career, is already so influential and inspiring. Please join us for her interview, and have a listen to the live set that she recorded exclusively for Femmecult.

Femmecult:

Please tell us a bit about your background, and where you live now?

Bardo:Basho:

I grew up in Portland, OR where I went to an all girls’ Catholic high school, and then lived in Tacoma for a while where I got a BA in music. I’ve lived in Seattle for the past two and a half years, where I organize a series of left field (mostly electronic) concerts with a friend of mine.

Femmecult:

How did you get into producing electronic music specifically? How long have you been working on composing songs?

Bardo:Basho:

I got into producing electronic music after making new friends at the college radio station KUPS. They exposed me to dance music by inviting me to Decibel Festival and a couple outdoor parties. I’ve been composing songs since before I can remember, mostly for piano, guitar and voice, up until some sets I saw at Decibel and Photosynthesis Festival inspired me to start making electronic music. I also had some great friends encouraging me, and helping me get started with music software.
How would you describe your music style in your own words? Drone and techno influenced singer songwriter music.

Femmecult:

You mentioned in an interview that you wanted to make techno when you first began, but it turned into something more experimental. Why do you think you more were drawn to your creating in this current style?

Bardo:Basho:

I found it really hard to incorporate my voice in interesting ways inside of a minimalistic, atonal aesthetic. Singing has always felt really expressive to me, and I felt like I couldn’t express myself without making vocals a focal point. Techno was also fairly new to me when I started producing, and I had a very defined formula in my head that proved limiting. I moved into a singer songwriter vibe pretty quickly, and I think that was a good way to start because it is similar to what I was already doing. Now that I’ve learned Ableton better and gotten my hands on some gear, I can make more abstract sounds that aren’t far removed from what I would call techno.

Femmecult:

Please talk about your music gear setup. What has enabled you to find your musical voice? What is your process for sound design?

Bardo:Basho:

My current setup is Ableton on my laptop, the Ableton Push, an interface (Apogee Duet) that I run a mic into, and my voice. Ableton enabled me from the get go and helped me develop an understanding of sound design, and the Push has allowed me to be much more improvisational with recording and performing. The interactivity of it makes it much more fun to use than just a computer keyboard, and its integration with the actual software made it really easy for me to adapt to. When working on a track, I usually start with a synth texture or by messing with a field recording, and then I’ll add rhythmic ideas, and improvise vocals where they are needed. I often pull from old ideas to rework them or re-contextualize them for a live setting.

Femmecult:

Tell us about your previous bands and your schooling in the musical arts.

Bardo:Basho:

I started playing piano in kindergarten and participated in choirs for many years. I majored in music in college with a focus in piano and composition. The program at University of Puget Sound taught me a lot about compositional frameworks like fugue and phasing for example, which I got to play around with. The music theory and music history basis that my classes provided me with comes in handy often when I write and especially when I improvise, and it also made me listen to music in a very analytical way. I’ve had to turn the analytical side off a little bit in order to for music appreciation and writing to be a transcendent and intuitive experience. I think sometimes the academic approach can miss the point of music, which is the way it sounds rather than how it was made. I have been in 2 bands, the first of which was a garage rock band, and the second of which was a funky prog band called Fang Chia (I played synth), which still exists without me and is killing it.

Femmecult:

Your voice is featured quite a bit in your work. What do you feel it adds to your sound? Have you had training in voice? Do you include lyrics or is it more vocalizing as pure instrumentation?

Bardo:Basho:

I like to use vocals as a textural idea like I would a synth. I really enjoy singing and harmonizing with myself using a looper. It’s very satisfying. On the album, the vocals are more of a focal point with lyrics and melodic structure, but lately I’ve been using vocals more to enrich the sound and make it more psychedelic. I sing words, but with the music I’ve been working on lately it’s more improvisational – I’ve found that it’s very therapeutic to say whatever is on the tip of my tongue and see where it leads. I had some voice training before and during college, most of which was in an all female choral setting.

Femmecult:

You feature a lot of harmonization with your voice. Can you talk about your process for creating that sound?

Bardo:Basho:

It’s pretty improvisational for the most part, but I tend to favor basing the harmony on an open fifth, like in Gregorian chant. I will loop an idea and then sing a harmony over it. I aim to create a haunting, psychedelic sound for the most part.

Femmecult:

What are some challenges you have faced, if any, in the creative process, and how have you overcome them?

Bardo:Basho:

Sometimes I will feel intimidated by the idea of writing, and that makes me avoid it. The best way for me to overcome that is to agree to play shows, so that I have to sit down and work on music. I like to create a different set for every show and a lot of new ideas come out of that. Another big challenge is that I get frustrated when an idea takes a while to take shape, which causes me to lean on ideas I’ve used many times before. One thing that helps me is to watch video tutorials to expose me to some tool in Ableton that I haven’t used before. This helps me change up the sound and explore new ideas.

Femmecult:

What are some things that influence you as an artist? Bands, art, philosophies, etc.?

Bardo:Basho:

I really love the immersive textures of noise music, particularly the artists Total Life and Je Suis Le Petit Chevalier. This has influenced the textures I create and pushed me to incorporate field recordings more. I also really like the evocative soundscapes of artists like Kate Bush, where the music really creates a sonic environment. I’m all about not committing oneself to ideology or belief, and I think that factors into my music. I don’t believe in any right aesthetic or approach or gear, it just needs to sound cool. Many live events and parties have been incredibly influential and inspiring.

Femmecult:

What can you say about the electronic music scene in Seattle, Washington? Has it had a part in shaping you as an artist, and if so, how?

Bardo:Basho:

Seattle has a lot of hardworking movers and shakers that make it a great place for music (secondnature, Decibel, MOTOR, Cairo, High & Tight). I am more aligned with the drone/experimental scene and the burgeoning techno and house nightlife. A number of shows/parties have helped shape me as an artist by showing me what music can do in a live setting. Margaret Dygas and Roman Flugel come to mind, or Raime and Ahnnu on the ambient tip. They created sounds that were completely new to me. Seattle is an incredibly supportive place and ideal for starting out as a musician. People are so open minded and encouraging. Places like Hollow Earth Radio provide a great community and space for playing out as a new artist, and a platform for discovering unknown artists making some really crazy sounds. Local artists like Cyanwave, Young Benoit, Fugal, Archivist, and Raica have also been inspiring, and very helpful with regards to learning about sound design.

Femmecult:

What’s on the horizon for you in 2015 and beyond?

Bardo:Basho:

My first ever release will come out on cassette/digital on March 13th via Elevator, with a show at Machine House Brewery. I am planning on a west coast tour soon after, but this is still in the works! I hope to delve more into collaborating with other producers, and I’ll continue to play around Seattle fairly regularly.

Bardo:Basho Online

https://soundcloud.com/bardobasho
https://www.facebook.com/bardobasho

Bardo:Basho Live for Femmecult

Femmecult-010-Bardo:Basho-liveset by Femmecult on Mixcloud