Of the many bands I saw at Cold Waves in September, one that left a particularly lasting impression was KANGA. With her new album released in the past week, I thought it a good time to catch up with her on e-mail to discuss that, her live performance and a few other things.
amodelofcontrol.com: Kanga, hello. I’d not come across you until you were announced for Cold Waves (and other festivals) this year. How did the project come about – I understand you’ve previously worked on soundtrack/film score work?
KANGA: I’ve always been interested in experimental music, so I started taking electronic music production classes pretty early on. I didn’t really feel comfortable putting music out until I felt like I could adequately express myself on a technical and creative level, so after some good professional experiences I decided to start working on a personal album in 2015.
amodelofcontrol.com: I’m fascinated by the description of the project on Facebook: “Heavy Pop.
Industrial but not.” Was this a conscious effort to avoid pigeonholing, or were you genuinely not sure where you “fitted in” musically?
KANGA: It’s hard to put myself in a genre because on the one hand I am afraid of pigeonholing myself but on the other hand I understand the need to describe yourself in terms that other people can understand. I guess a lot of what I try to do is break stigmas surrounding certain topics, and one of those stigmas that I am trying to break is the belief that pop music automatically denigrates art in itself. I like writing hooks and catchy melody is but I don’t think that that has to take away from any sort of deeper meaning or experiments in expression.
amodelofcontrol.com: Your show at Cold Waves appeared well-received from the amount of people talking about the set afterward. How was the festival for you? Any particular bands that you really liked seeing?
KANGA: Cold Waves was amazing. It was a dream come true to share the stage with so many legends like Pig, Cubanate, Revolting Cocks, Clock DVA, and all the other amazing bands that are breathing life into the scene. I think the most memorable moment for me was seeing all of the crowd surfers on Saturday. It really felt like we had entered a time machine that took us back to a more lively and engaging time. It was very cathartic.
amodelofcontrol.com: Having listened to your album a lot since I picked it up at Cold Waves, there seems to be an awful lot of the album relating to power and vulnerabilty dynamics in relationships. Is this personal experience talking, or more of a general thing?
KANGA: It’s definitely both. I think that being a human in itself is intrinsically a power struggle between you, your interpersonal relationships, and the world. But I also like to explore my own personal experiences in my music partly because it’s therapeutic for me but also because I’m curious as to how relatable those experiences are to other people.
amodelofcontrol.com: Are you more comfortable with writing about these kind of issues, say, than politics or the outside world? It has struck me recently that many musicians no longer wish to mention politics in their songs, for one reason or another.
KANGA: I think that there are a lot of political undertones in my music and a lot of other people’s music, I just think that it’s maybe more disguised or subconscious. I don’t think you literally have to say fuck the government in order for that message to be carried out in your work. I actually think it’s more interesting when I listen to a song and it takes me a while to figure out what it’s about.
amodelofcontrol.com: The album has an extraordinary density to the mix at points – not unlike the stylings of Nine Inch Nails in the early-90s, to my ears. Was Trent Reznor’s work a touchstone in your own musical development in the past?
KANGA: Absolutely. He is definitely influenced me a lot. For me he represents the perfect balance between pop music and experimental sounds. I like that most of his work seems very timeless and uncompromising, and I think that is pretty much what I am trying to do at the end of the day.
amodelofcontrol.com: What other bands or artists either got you into music, or inspired you to write your own music?
KANGA: I was an absolutely huge skinny puppy fan girl in my earlier years. Luckily my fanaticism as a whole has died down quite a bit since then, but they definitely had a huge impact especially at the beginning when I was really exploring the concept of music before actually getting into song writing and composing.
amodelofcontrol.com: Your live sound struck me as notably different to the recorded material, although that might just be the sound mix (the guitars were much more audible, or at least further forward in the mix). Was this expediency, or simply that it sounded better? (I liked both, by the way!)
KANGA: I think that the live shows are really important for me as a way to relinquish some control over the music. When I’m composing, often times it’s a very self contained process and I’m a complete introvert when doing it. But when I’m performing live it has to become a group effort where I need to allow others to step in and do the things that I can’t do and allow it to become something that’s much bigger than myself. In that way I think it’s important for the live show to have a different feel to it than the album, or at least present itself as being more expanded and less self contained.
amodelofcontrol.com: As a woman in a male-dominated scene, have you found you are treated any differently, and are things improving if so? [Note: I and another blog (rockstardinosaurpirateprincess.com) have been collating women’s experiences at gigs/clubs, both as performers and gig/club-goers, and the results so far have not exactly been positive for our “scene”. Hopefully the full post will be available next week]
KANGA: This is a funny question because every interview for any woman in the arts in general touches upon this, so it’s definitely imperative to address it. But that being said I also like to make it known that to be defined primarily by your gender before your artistic objective is the most discriminative thing you can do to an artist – in my opinion. There are obvious pitfalls… The fact that you don’t always know the intentions behind someone’s interest in you, that sometimes it doesn’t feel safe to travel alone, and the obvious temptation to “sell your sex” for an easy 15 minutes, especially when it feels like nothing else is working. But I just kind of figure that this is something that myself and others will inevitably have to deal with and the only way to progress is to navigate the industry with as much dignity and integrity as possible.