Born and bred in Malaysia, Suiko Takahara of The Venopian Solitude is one of 70 emerging music-makers from around the world who have been invited to be part of the Red Bull Music Academy 2016.
The Venopian Solitude’s Suiko Takahara is the first Malaysian musician to receive the invitation to join Red Bull Music Academy 2016. The experimental songwriter, whose first brush with music making was when she created custom ringtones on mobile phones as a child, walks us through the road she’s been on to getting to the prestigious RBMA.
Congrats on making it to RBMA this year! This was your second attempt applying, how different was your approach this time?
The first time, I wrote the answers to the questions for three hours straight. I completed it within a day, and was the first to submit. This time around, I took my time because I was busy with other projects and practices. I only submitted the form on the final day. In my mind, I was like, “You’ll never get it anyway, so the least you can do is at least learn more about yourself in each question and have fun learning about your developments”. Both times, I had to sit back and rethink my stance in life, which was both challenging yet exhilarating.
How are you prepping yourself for your RBMA stint in Montreal this September?
I’m focusing on other gigs and projects, and commencing on a collaboration with No Noise Percussion and completing the demos for the second album. I would like to distract myself as much as possible, so that I don’t get too intimidated by the other participants. I did go through their works to familiarize myself with their styles. I also take note of the things I can learn from everyone, and how I can attempt at colliding their sounds with mine if and when a collaboration were to happen during RBMA.
You’re known for using a variety of instruments to make music. Tell us about some of your more unconventional experimentations.
I’ve drummed on my father’s laptop and used a rute to hit a piece of paper that was partially taped on the wall. I even experimented with a bottle, quarter-filled with water as part of the percussion ensemble, alongside tissue boxes, pillows, plastic bags and closet doors. Despite being introduced to the Digital Audio Workstation, I will still probably use all kinds of instruments, spam the sh*t out of the layers with effects, and tweak the parameters like there’s no tomorrow. Either that, or try out traditional instruments from other cultures around the world.
You’ve written close to 200 songs in a span of seven years. What inspires you to write?
By simply being a hormonal female person, really. Most of the songs throughout the earlier years were written while I was depressed, or during the monthly hormonal time when emotional sensory is amplified. Whenever I get extremely emotional about an article or a Facebook status, or even when watching the trickling rain, I would end up writing songs and melodies. Even today, I look back at some of my work and think, “There’s no way I could have come up with that”.
Last December, you released an EP, titled Kereta Merah (“Red Car”) Are there plans for a follow-up?
Indeed there is! Kereta Merah is a warm up for the next full-length album, which revolves around the song “Pelacur Muzik” (“Music Whore”). After completing the EP, I was slowly trying to figure out ways to write a backstory based on that track, which is about an artiste who slowly loses her dignity as fame and riches eat her soul alive. I managed to conjure an idea of a concept album revolving around this key person, who started out as an innocent, naïve songstress, but slowly turns into this soulless monster who abandons everyone as she climbs to the peak of her career. As much as I want to go into more detail, I don’t want to jinx it.
The RMBA course will cover almost every facet of music making. Which aspect are you most looking forward to?
Mixing, or in general, production. Lately, I have this craze of trying to paint every sound in every corner of the sonic atmosphere I want to represent in each song, but I would encounter the difficulty of tweaking each sound to sit snugly in each angle or corner while complementing each other. In my current work, tens of layers end up mushed into one hue, and that’s not savory at all.
How would you describe Malaysia’s music scene to fellow RBMA musicians who come from all over the world?
Our music scene is small, but steadily growing towards finding its own colors and flavors. In 2013, the singer-songwriter style of acoustic guitar-playing was still prominent. Now, I see musicians who emerged during that time expanding their sounds; performing with accompanying band members, incorporating synths and electronic beats, and slowly straying from the norm of the typical indie rock drum-strum patterns. The best I can do is to offer a listen of the sounds this pocket of the world can offer, just to give the other RBMA peeps a different palette from the conventional modern sounds we have become accustomed to.