An Interview with Lief Hall

Canadian-born Lief Hall shares the source of her hypnotic visuals and robotic dreams, and her newfound love of Berlin. Supporting bands such as Grimes, The Belle Game and Hannah Georgia, Lief Hall has certainly been busy since her earlier performances back at home in Vancouver. Having graduated in 2005 from the Emily Carr University in Animation and Integrated Media, with a focus in 3D computer animation and installation, Hall has shown her work at such galleries as The Western Front, Or Gallery, Truck Gallery and Vancouver Art Gallery.

Lief visual still

Hypnotic visuals and robotic dreams!

Hall’s musical projects explore a diversity of genres including no-wave, electronic, noise, new music and extended voice, we got a chance to speak to her about the recent release of her EP and some of her previous projects.

KALTBLUT: Your Transform EP has just been released, how did you find working on it?

Lief: Working on the Transform EP has been really wonderful. The EP took just over a year, but having the time and space to develop things and explore writing, composing and production as a solo artist was really rewarding. In the past I have often been hindered by deadlines, which can be useful, but since I was exploring this new direction in my work as a solo artist it was great to have the time to really develop my ideas.

KALTBLUT: Your video for ‘Glass Machine’ is utterly hypnotic, did you find yourself spacing out when you had to edit it?

Lief: Haha, I definitely enter into some altered states of consciousness when I am editing that’s for sure. Its something between being in a state of hypnosis and hyper focus. I tend to spend the first half of the editing process playing around and experimenting with the footage, and the second half working in a very precise and organized way with an attention to speed. Oddly it is when things get really organized and efficient that I tend to get into a bit of a trance. I feel a bit like a robot during this process, mechanically repeating actions and staring into virtual space. Then when I finally shut my eyes at night I dream robot dreams of strobing light mandalas. Its actually quite wonderful, haha.

KALTBLUT: What made you decide to move away from your projects like MYTHS and Glaciers?

Lief: With Glaciers one of our band members left the city to go and live with his partner in Regina and to buy a beautiful home together there. Glaciers was a very casual project that consisted of dinner and wine on the studio rooftop as much as it did of playing music, so it was not unexpected for one of us to wander away with a lover for new destinations.

MYTHS was more of a committed project though, which was a bigger decision to leave at the time. One of the reasons I felt it was the right time for me personally was because I really wanted to live in a new city and travel more, but also there was a desire we both had to explore our own directions in music and art. Its always a tricky decision to make to leave a project but I think it really comes down to what inspires you as an artist and making sure to stay true to that and to always follow that vision. So it is for that reason that we both felt it was a good time to go in our own directions. I still have a lot of love for MYTHS and really value the connection that I share with Quinne, both as a friend and collaborator, and I imagine there is a good chance we will work together again one day. And actually the same is true with Rob and Jeff from Glaciers. Perhaps one day when we are really old we can meet and play strange music for our grandchildren.

KALTBLUT: What inspired you to create your very first project?

Lief: My first musical project was Kiku-Haux, which was a band that began by accident. At the time I was making video and animation soundtracks with a friend of mine and had a bunch of instruments in my room just sort of laying about. My roommate James and I were hanging out one evening and started picking up instruments and playing around, just having fun joking around and seeing how bizarre we could be. But at some point it occurred to us that it was actually pretty good and we thought we should probably play some shows. Me and James were basically best friends at the time and we were also part of a drawing collective called ‘The Lions’ and so we were already really comfortable collaborating with one another. We made drawings and fake advertisements for the band and I made animations which we projected during shows. It was very multi media, super bizarre and really fun! We only ever really played shows in art galleries until our last show, which is where I met the members of my second band Mutators.

KALTBLUT: Did the music genre of your generation help influence this?

Lief: Kiku-Haux was more based on creating characters, pictures and narratives out of sound, because we both were drawing so much before the band began we were used to thinking about our creative practice in this way. I think I have approached music primarily as an artist first and a musician secondly for the majority of my practice, and in my earliest work there is a definite distance from any conventional musical references.

It is actually in my more recent projects that I have started to recognize certain influences emerging within my work, which I think happens now more that my attention is drawn to musical form, composition and harmony. In the song Glass Machine for example the vocal harmonies really remind me a the R&B harmonies I was listening to throughout high school. But in general I feel like there is such an array of influences of different genres, places and time periods that I would not really connect it to any one particular generation, beyond that I am of a generation that now has access to such a variety of influences through the internet.

KALTBLUT: Your personal bio shows you’re very talented, from designing costumes to creating your own choreography to animation, do you have a favourite role?

LIEF- NME picLief: Thank you. Yes, my practice is very multi-media orientated, and I really enjoy working in many different creative forms and exploring the connection between these things. I would say first and foremost that song writing is the the thing which is the centre of my practice and is my primary inspiration. I love writing lyrics, creating harmonies and producing music but I also spend a lot of time dancing and dreaming up ideas for performance, stories, and visual landscapes. I am also really interested in research and exploring psychology, mythology, feminism, philosophy and technology among other things and this is an absolutely essential part of my creative process.

I have also done a lot of work in the past fabricating costumes and sets and working as a technician for my audio and video installations, and it has been an essential part of my learning and has allowed me to experiment and discover things I would not have otherwise been able to discover. These elements of the practice though are things which I feel really open to collaborating on in the future for larger scale performance projects because I have come to realize that it can be a bit overwhelming at times to do every part, haha, so its great to have a team to work with when on these things when possible.

KALTBLUT: Tell us about Passage O ///

Lief: Passage O/// is a audio visual installation that I made for the New Forms Festival in Vancouver and it is a site specific work that was constructed in a very long and narrow hallway. I transformed the space using multiple projections and an installation made with sheer layers of fabric which created very soft patterns and shapes within the passage. I was thinking at the time about Joseph Campbell’s notion of the hero’s journey, which is a narrative which recurs within world religions and mythologies throughout history. I wanted to create a space which would embody the point of transition or the shift in consciousness that the hero undertakes in this journey. Often when I create these kind of installations there are a lot of ideas and reference points that I explore, but they are meant in the end to be experiential works, not so much about understanding it conceptually so much as to being present within the space.

KALTBLUT: What made you decide to move to Berlin?

Lief: I came to Berlin because I wanted to live in a cultural centre in Europe where I could afford to live as a full time artist. I had never been to Berlin before I moved here, but I had heard great things from a number of my friends who already lived here. Since I have been living here though I have really come to love this city and my initial reasons for moving here really pale in comparison to the actual experience of being here. I guess its one thing to say logically that you want to be in a cultural centre and another to be surrounded by some of the most incredible, art, music and critical discourse happening in the world. Its a source of constant inspiration, and I am very grateful to live in such an amazing city.

KALTBLUT: Do you think the music scene is much different here than in Canada?

Lief: This is a difficult question because I feel like any answer I could give would be very subjective, but I see some cross overs as well as some extreme differences in the music scene here and in Canada as I have experienced it. For one thing because this is such an international city I see a lot of bands come through from home, and actually a lot of my friends bands play in Berlin. There is a lot of great music coming out of Canada right now, especially with the Arbutus records bands from Montreal, and a lot of the no wave punk bands in Vancouver among other things. When these bands play here there is definitely an audience for it, and I hear a lot of my friends bands played on the local radio here as well. But in general the scene here is way more centred around electronic music than anywhere I have been in Canada, and the sound is much darker, harder and more experimental. The night life here is also a totally different experience with parties lasting sometimes three days straight, whereas in Vancouver bars all close very early and underground venues get shut down constantly.

KALTBLUT: How did you find touring in November?

Lief: The tour was amazing!  It was my first tour as a solo artist and was a total dream come true since I have been wanting to tour in Europe for a number of years. I did the tour mostly by train and it was very romantic with long journeys gazing out at the Italian countryside, making beats on my laptop. It was so good!

Also there is this amazing thing about touring in Italy (which I am hoping catches on throughout the rest of the world!) which is that every show comes with a beautiful home cooked meal. Many of the venues actually have restaurants attached to them and professional chefs who work for them, but even when the promoter ends up cooking for you at their home it is always the freshest organic ingredients and the most delicious food. I would also always get leftovers to take on the train for lunch, so it sort of felt like I was staying with my close friends or super cultured relatives the whole trip. It was also wonderful to have a chance to spend time with so many really lovely people there. People in Italy really put on shows for the love of music and the community and you can feel that when you are there.

KALTBLUT: What are you most excited for in 2015?

Lief: I am really excited for 2015! Last year was all about moving and working in the studio non stop and this year feels like a year of adventure and sharing the work I have been doing. I am going to be working on the final mixes of my next album in the coming months and I am planning on doing some adventuring into nature as a source of inspiration as well. I would like for one thing, to go and explore the ‘Eisriesenwelt’ ice caves in Austria and in general to travel and experience natural landscapes which overwhelm me.

TRANSFORM EP – Available now on Bandcamp and Soundcloud!