In January 2022, I released my fifth studio album, “Hus.” It felt okay, but not particularly great, despite all the work I had put into it. I was taken aback by my own lack of enthusiasm at the time, but I wasn’t particularly surprised either.
Three years had passed since I started a side project, which began with a writer’s block. I had become tired of myself and felt trapped in my own image. A question sneaked up on me. Did I actually like my own music? Or, more specifically: would I listen to it if it were made by someone else? No, probably not. The answer surprised me.
My story starts with my Mexican parents. They eloped from Mexico City then had me in Los Angeles. Their early gift to me was a stand-up piano for kids. According to my mom, I spent most of my time on it, writing songs and playing them over and over. When I was a teenager, I was the frontwoman in a punk/indie cover band, then played in a few post-rock bands. I became obsessed with the label Thrill Jockey, and moved to Chicago because they were based there. My sister was my biggest champion—she accompanied me on the long drive. Even though she slept most of the time in the passenger seat, her love and support meant the world to me.
Since the 1960s, Finland has had a rich tradition of instrumental rock, jazz, and fusion led by world-class musicians and groups. This tradition possesses unique stillness and melancholy, characteristic of the Finnish mindscape. Influences from folk music can often be heard, where the most delicately composed minor chords tell stories of beauty and joy rather than sadness.
Luova Records continues this tradition by releasing the second album of my band, Maa ilmasta. The title of the album is Kaunis kesäkaupunki, ’beautiful summer city’. The name is humoristic in a very Finnish, ironic way. More than a genuine description of a specific city, the statement can be used as a cheap compliment for essentially any Finnish city—even the less outstanding ones.
The story behind “Fake Artists”, although still recent, dates back to mid 2019 where I was invited to go to one of those hipster parties in an abandoned loft called “Solar dos Abacaxis”, something that the artistic bourgeoisie loves to turn into a stage for events (kind of like a reference to the Berlin experience, but which is already dated by the clichéd pedantry of this same privileged/intellectual bubble).
I remember when I first started the OctoMusic project; I was still playing in my previous band back in 2017-2018. I was kind of tired of playing in that four-piece format, and I just felt we weren’t moving the whole thing forward, so that was the perfect time for me to start working on my own thing. I began releasing different singles and working with a couple of other musicians. When you do everything by yourself, it is very challenging as you have to establish your own deadlines and you have nobody to share the workload with, like when you are in a band, but it’s also very comforting as you can produce your music with much more depth.
Want to know how I became good at making music? I just forgot I sucked at it.
I have a selective memory. Depending on how I feel, things either seem rather gloomy or much more thrilling looking back. However, a feeling I remember experiencing well throughout my upbringing is one of not being good enough. I always tried different things, which made me insightful in many respects but simultaneously mediocre in those very things. I’ve always struggled to do one thing. That always made me feel indecisive and ill-disciplined – two qualities you don’t want as a male where I’m from.
Well, my dad died when I was really young, so most of my life has just been my mother and me. As much as I’d hate to admit it, she significantly influenced my perception of the world and myself in it. Accepting this brought about the meaning behind my latest project: “Stasis,” a collection of songs made at home during points of recovery after wild trips far from home (2021-2022).
Def Robot was formed in 2019 when David Hancox and I, Paul Taylor, reconnected after 20 years.
I was the singer and David was the bassist in 90’s Manchester U.K. grunge/rock/indie band Kerosene, who were signed to Dead Dead Good and then Sire records. We released an album “Arrythmia” along with various singles and toured the U.K., Europe and the USA supporting such bands as Green Day, The Flaming Lips, and Terrorvision amongst others.
I have just released my first solo album. It is called Mox Nox, a sundial motto that means ‘night, shortly’, and the theme running through the record is the passing of time, particularly the transition from day to night. Rather than writing songs specifically for the album, I looked through my songbook for things I had already written that fit this theme, and one of them (now called The Broken Song) jumped out at me as being a bit of a curiosity.
I’ve always been a night owl. I can be absolutely exhausted at 10pm, but by 11 my head will be racing with ideas. The Broken Song began its life during a nocturnal writing session, and its original lyrics made direct reference to being up all night. The song was clearly relevant – but it was also an underdog, half-written and still wearing its working title. I hadn’t thought about it in years.
Looking over the lyrics, I remembered that I had always liked the verses but struggled to come up with a chorus. I’ve never been too worried about following a verse-chorus structure, but I knew this song needed more, and I knew that it was stuck. The breakthrough came when I deleted my crappy excuse for a chorus and looked at the lyrics that were left. Quite suddenly, I saw that the song I had thought was about a particular event in my life was about something else entirely.
Diving At Dawn has always been a frustrating stop-start affair for me. I’ve never been able to be genuinely productive and build momentum with it because I find working alone so tricky. As part of a band or production team, I’m pretty efficient, but when the responsibility falls solely upon my shoulders, I become a procrastinating perfectionist of epic proportions. The lack of productivity in my solo work has caused me a fair bit of anxiety over the years, but I’ve always been busy enough with other projects to distract myself. However, in 2022 my anxiety levels went through the roof. Unfortunately, age, experience, budget constraints, and technology have all conspired against me, thus turning Diving At Dawn into a genuine one-person band.