Three questions with musician, producer and song-writer Kelly Lee Owens. Her new album Inner Song was just released this past month.
Synth History: Who (or what) are your biggest influences?
Kelly: That's weirdly a hard question to answer, I worked in record stores for 10 years so soaked up so many sounds and inspirations and it changes all the time, but I suppose Bjork, in the sense of her mixing dance and electronic music with pop culture in the way that she has and also her micro-beat building production on Vespertine - that influenced my first album.
I record a lot of everyday sounds myself and drop them all over the place into tracks. Another influence sonically would be Arthur Russell - with his non-conventional use of the cello, his experimental sounds and his sub-aqueous sonic world.
Synth History: Do you use synthesizers differently in the studio versus on stage? (are there different types, differences in improvisation, etc?)
Kelly: The live performances vary from the records as I use totally different synths!
In the studio it's mainly the Korg Mono/Poly - James Greenwood's, my collaborator, Roland 808, Roland SH-101 and a Doepfer Dark Time sequencer.
Live so far it's been a couple of Arturia Microbrute synths, a Roland JP-08, a midi keyboard which my vocals run through and a couple of other bits. I've just bought the Korg Monologue so we'll see how that shapes up. I remember being inspired by The Knife and how they almost created brand new albums live & I try to do that the best I can.
As a one-woman band I'm always adding new arpeggios on top of the original patterns and tweaking things live as I go, as well as manipulating my voice live too - it's a lot of fun!
Synth History: How do you know when a song is done?
Kelly: When I can listen through without changing anything - I'm very much interested in the minutiae, detailed automation and micro-nudges.
After the idea itself has been allowed to flow and form, the micro-production is (for me) what allows the idea to be honoured in the best way it possibly can be - which is all it's ever about right?
References: Synth History Exclusive, photo via Sarah Louise Stedeford, SH-101 magazine scan via Retro Synth Ads.