Madeleine Bloom in interview – Madeleine plays live online tomorrow night (Sunday 18th) at 8pm – don’t miss it! Q&A afterwards!
Madeleine’s new EP Patchwork is available through her bandcamp page (see bottom)
IB: How would you explain your music to a deaf person?
I actually think it’s pretty impossible to give a good explanation about what music sounds like to someone who’s been deaf for all their lives. They can only feel the vibrations of the beats and bass. Just yesterday I read an article about a guy who could hear music for the first time in his life thanks to new hearing aids and suddenly understand what music can mean to you.
Let’s try anyway… I’m always trying to convey feelings in my songs. Not just in the lyrics, but also in the music. Like soundtracks to different emotional states, may it be euphoria, sadness or heartbrokenness. For this I use a variety of instruments, field recordings and lots of vocals. Quite often my music is very intricate with lots of layers, so it can sound quite orchestral. Each song has its own array of sounds and instruments to fit the mood rather than a genre.
IB: What questions are you most often asked in interviews?
‘How would you describe your own music?’ seems to be a rather popular one.
IB: What is your vision for your music, if you have one?
My main goal in music is to touch the listener’s emotions just like my favourite artists did for me with their songs. I’d love to score music for films. I’ve done that a little already, but only for shorts. Work with an orchestra. Collaborate. Other than that, there’s no real plan or vision. Just follow the music and see where it takes me. I’d love to be able to make music full time. There’s still so much to learn and try out, one lifetime seems not enough.
IB: How did the idea for the remix album come about? How did you find the remixers, and how did the collaborations go?
At first, some people asked if they could get the stems for songs of mine to remix. So I thought there’s always more that don’t dare to ask and simply started the Minutia Remix Project and shared the idea on all social media platforms. Anyone interested could contact me and get the vocal or all stems of their chosen song off my album. Also artwork contributions could be entered via Flickr. There were no rules how they should approach the remixes or artworks at all. I sent the stems and they could simply go for it, use their own inspiration to create something new. Not everyone who attempted a remix finished it in the end, but most did and the results are absolutely fantastic. In fact, the whole project exceeded my expectations by far and I will probably do something similar again.
IB: You’ve been a part of the Berlin music scene for a good while now, how do you find the live scene – do you feel that Berlin does enough to encourage independent pop music?
It’s easy enough to book gigs, especially if you plan ahead. On the other hand, it’s almost impossible to earn money by playing in Berlin. There are a lot of clubs and cafés that want to offer live music, but don’t really care about the musicians. Those only want to attract more customers that way. I guess it partly has to do with the market being replete. A lot of musicians I know like having their home base in Berlin, but rather look for concerts elsewhere. Of course there are great bookers, clubs etc. that are real music fans and offer good concert opportunities for both the audience and the artists. Although not enough in my opinion.
IB: With which other bands/artists would you like to go on tour or to play together with?
The first ones that come to mind are Patrick Watson and Tim Exile. They’re not only lovely folks, but have this fantastic improvisational approach to live performances that makes it so fun to experience. I’d like to be part of that on the other side as well, on stage.
IB: How do you write your songs?
For me, lyrics are the toughest. I’ve had several occasions in the past, where I got completely stuck and neither lyrics nor music would move forward because I only had parts written. So I’m trying to have them done before I start with the music. I don’t like crowbaring them in. Lyrics always come from a personal place, even though I often try to keep them open for everyone’s own interpretation.
These days I’m using the old fashioned approach of first getting the song written before I start recording and arranging. On Minutia there are a few songs that had the chorus rewritten several times before I was happy with them. Quite tedious and even frustrating. So now I generally start on one instrument to work out the skeleton of the song and the vocal melody or with vocals only. Most of the time, I already have at least some of the music in my head.
Once I’ve got the skeleton down I start with the arrangement, adding more instruments, sound design with field recordings and vocals. Nowadays mostly real instruments as my boyfriend and I together have quite a good collection. I love the physicality, tactile feel and resonance of real instruments. It’s much more fun and feels more creative to me than sitting in front of a computer and only adding sounds via MIDI keyboards. Writing songs is partly ideas and partly happy sound accidents that inspire me.
IB: Are there differences between audiences in Berlin and elsewhere?
They tend to be more enthusiastic, especially in smaller towns. I’m not saying Berliners can’t be enthusiastic, but there are so many live shows to choose from on any given night and that’s simply not the case in small towns. In Berlin there’s also this culture of wanting everything for free that I haven’t experienced elsewhere. Outside of Berlin I’m from Berlin and it means something, in Berlin it appears to be cooler if you’re from New York, Australia or anywhere that’s more exotic and foreign.
IB: Which band/artist would you like to interview if you could?
To be honest, I’d rather have real chats than conducting interviews. Let the conversation flow naturally instead having to follow the question and answer game. I’d love to chat with Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood from Radiohead, Björk, Matthew Herbert, Brian Eno, Kate Bush or Peter Gabriel. There are quite a few musicians and producers I was lucky enough to have interesting conversations with so far. If it had been in interview situations I wouldn’t have gotten such personal answers. There is a difference between what you share with the world compared to in a private conversation.
IB: What is music to you?
Music has always been around as long as I can remember. Even when I was a baby, my parents played me music over headphones because they realised it was soothing and enjoyable to me. At first it was something that could make me feel something very specific, get me into a certain mood or mirror my own emotions. When I started learning to play the guitar from the age of six it gradually became more. Writing songs helps me express things that are hard to explain, even process them. Music for me has become something as essential as breathing or food. I guess, you could call it food for the soul, although that does sound quite cheesy, doesn’t it?
IB: Tell us something about your new release and when we can see you play live?
On November 12th my new EP called ‘Patchwork‘ was made available as a digital release from my Bandcamp page (http://madeleinebloom.bandcamp.com/). The five songs are quite homogeneous and instantly seemed to form a body of work. I’ve used a lot more real instruments this time like array mbira, vibraphone, glass harp. They sound warmer, more acoustic with electronic elements, yet still distinctly like me.
I’m successively releasing ‘making of’ videos for the songs included on the EP. Two are already online, so you can get a pretty good impression of what they sound like:
An online release concert is planned for the 18th November. Apart from that I won’t be booking any new shows myself until next spring. If someone wants to invite me to play though, I wouldn’t decline. I just can’t do everything at once and I’m still writing and recording more new songs for my next full album due out in spring. If everything works out the way I’d like, I will go on a European tour after that.
Interview by Noel Maurice