‘This month: Leslie Keffer, a native to Ohio, spoke with us from her country setting about her music creation, her career in noise-related sound, and moving from small venues to larger festivals, including being an opener for Sonic Youth. – Now she uses the genre ‘microhouse and insectno‘ to explain what she does musically after her 10 year rest from the music scene. With new insight, she is releasing once more. It was an honor to speak to her.‘
Today I have with me, experimental artist – Leslie Keffer.
Hello Leslie, how are you today?
Leslie Keffer: I’m good. I am just making some AI art on the computer.
It’s interesting what one can do with AI to make art, how is that helping you as an artist?
LK: I really enjoy making AI art. Once you do it enough you know what prompt words do, what styles and you can start to create the images in your head. I will spend hours and days perfecting an image until what is in my mind forms through the AI. I have been making art showing the inside of the body. I am striving to show people how beautiful the inside of the body is. Most people seem to be grossed out or offended by it, which I don’t understand, because inside the body is where the miracle of life happens, the magic and the electricity. I find it so gorgeous and captivating.
How did you get into music first-hand?
LK: My first memory of music is being 3 or 4 and watching MTV for the first time. It was brand new back then and played music all day and night and I was just fascinated by it. I think the music they played on MTV in the 80s really got me into it. I was obsessed with Madonna as long as I can remember!
Many girls were in those days, as I recall, but like yourself, I was just as young during the 80s, and to embrace the 80’s, I had a Michael Jackson zipper jacket at the age of 6.
LK: Hahaha that’s cool!
Yeah imagine a little kid walking around with a Michael Jackson zipper jacket, laughs. Listening now to Inosculation – it moves me, it has a freeness to it, water-like. – What influenced you to write this new album?
LK: I would say nature and our woods. I go there and get moved and come back and write. I am also inspired by the body – by how it looks and feels inside and out. Trees inosculate when they grow together. I wrote the song about when humans inosculate psychically and emotionally with each other. I romanticized it in the song.
A story of nature en electronica, much like something the Orb may have done during their beginning. – You’ve been on hiatus for about 10 years, but you’re coming back into the music scene, how does that feel and where do you hope it takes you?
LK: I had to take a much needed break from all of the touring, booking shows, and writing music when I was living in Nashville. I was worn out and not creating to my fullest potential. I moved back to Ohio where I am from to regroup. I did a lot of healing in my body and soul. I learned Kundalini Yoga and delved deep into mediation. Through all this I found my way back to expressing myself creatively and started working on music and art again.
And is the process of making new music, even possibly more melodic music, serving you well?
LK: I’ve always wanted to be able to create structured songs as well. It’s not that I don’t enjoy playing noise anymore. I just found myself naturally writing these microhouse songs, and I didn’t even know what it was until someone told me. I just love making beats. Currently it’s more of a challenge for me to write songs like this so it’s a lot of fun experimenting with something new and growing into something else.
Since we’ve been discussing your music, what started your music journey?
LK: I started playing acoustic guitar when I was in 6th grade in bell choir at church. Then in college I played in bands. Right after college – I just started playing noise music when I lived out in the country and it just became my way of life. I started meeting other people who played it online and I set up a tour through them and hit the road by myself. After that, I became friends with them and played shows with them for the next 15 years.
In small houses and settings?
LK: A lot of them were house or warehouse shows and dive bars. Then I got to play some cool venues, especially when I was playing in Laundry Room Squelchers based out of Miami, FL. I toured with them for over 10 years.
I understand it brought you some media attention, especially through the indie scene with VICE, and Pitchfork.
LK: I knew some folks who wrote for magazines and I got really lucky and they liked what I was doing and wrote about me. I didn’t know all of them so it was really cool when reviews would come out. I always felt so honored!
That must have been pretty amazing then, and you opened for Sonic Youth?
LK: When I was starting out I got an email from Carlos who booked ‘No Fun Fest’ in New York City which at the time was one of the biggest festivals for noise and avant-garde music. He told me Thurston had heard my tapes and wanted to collaborate with me. I thought it was a joke, but it was real and we became friends so I got to open for Sonic Youth a few times and did live shows with both Kim and Thurston.
Would they do another round with you again these days?
LK: Oh I don’t know about that! I always would do it if they wanted to.
Hearing your album: I really like the beat on ‘Internal’ btw
Since we’re on the subject, you’ve just released a new album, the one with the girl on the front cover with earth-like things, fungus and so forth on her body. Would like to talk about it? Its story is fascinating.
LK: Its about a girl who has to go underground and hibernate because she becomes too overwhelmed with energy from other people and American culture. She goes there to recharge and store up inspirational energy. She emerges from the ground and re-enters the world during a global pandemic. She stays in the woods to survive and in the process becomes one with nature.
For your creative process, you’re using an all hardware setup, is that right?
LK: Yes, I use (2) Korg Kaossilator Pros, a Korg Volca Beats, and a Korg micro synth.
That seems just right for this type of music. Especially for the bug-like sounds.
LK: I am obsessed with bug sounds. I probably over do it. I call my music “Insectno” when people ask what genre I am because I literally don’t know what genre I am anymore.
And you should, since it’s who you are. Identity is very important to an artist. It’s good to share this in common with you, each artist doing their own sound, it’s freeing.
LK: Yes your music doesn’t sound like anything I’ve heard
Thank you, I appreciate that, musicians can put themselves into a bubble sometimes, but I think personally that’s a good thing.
LK: I definitely go into a bubble. I go into my makeshift studio and will spend hours in there and think it’s been 30 minutes.
Time can really take you away when you’re in the zone, as I call it
LK: I call it catching the Spirit
That’s nice, as I believe in a place called the Cone of Silence, it’s a place, I’ve found, it’s mysterious and like a rabbit hole. This of course deals with music creation. – Is there a lay-down process in DAW, EQ’ing, mixing and so forth after the music is done. Do you sequence in recording?
LK: I play it all live as I record it. Its always just one track. I don’t have the patience to multi-track and overdub. Rat Bastard masters a lot of them.
That’s seriously impressive, considering It’s all well mixed first try. Are you using a mixing board, and record it to DAW?
LK: I use a mixer with the EQs straight up. Then I run it into my computer and record it in Audacity. I just try my best to have the levels correct when I go to record.
What artists, would you say, influence your music creation?
LK: I am really into Kate Bush and a lot of pop music, but the last few years I have been listening to a lot of techno like Tommy Four Seven, Adam X, and Drum Cell. I like creepy industrial sounding music.
Would you say it has fueled the type of music you are making now, or are you taking your own route?
LK: I think my intention every time I make a beat is to make a techno beat, but I can’t figure it out and my beats end up being something else entirely.
How did you find your way back to music scene?
LK: I just was ready to be expressive again. I really want to share myself with the world and connect with people even though I sometimes have to hideout from time to time to regroup.
What do you think about the current music scene, its culture, is it different now, or harder to get your music heard?
LK: It may be a little harder for me because I am not on Facebook. I was off social media for 5 years and just got back on Twitter and Instagram to share my music and art with my friends again. I think the music scene that I know is still thriving if not more so!
It appears to be, now with more platforms, but the music will play through the noise and be heard.
LK: I believe that.
Since you’re a new artist with us, what you do think about #WEATNU in general?
LK: I think it is an awesome label with really unique music I had never heard before and didn’t know about. I love that you can get support from a label and still own your music and release what you want when you want. There seems to be a lot of support between the artists as well.
It appears we are running out of questions, do you have more to add?
It’s coming, I can feel it! Waiting for the next phrase.
LK: I just messaged my friend and asked him what he would ask me about my music if he could ask one question maybe he’ll come up with a good one.
That’s a good idea, you picked a life-line here on “Who Wants To Be A Musician” …
LK: My friend wrote back and asked 3 of the questions you already asked me! The one you didn’t ask was – ‘What did you think about making music while you weren’t creating, did you find other things to do?’
Ah: so – What did you think about making music while you weren’t creating, did you find other things to do?
LK: I missed making music, yet I didn’t make time for it. It was a reminder of the life I left behind in Nashville and I had to sort myself out and recharge so I couldn’t let feelings of longing for the past in. So I hiked all the time. It was my muse. I just saved up all that inspiration from the forest until now and it just flows free right out of me. I don’t get those negative feelings anymore about creating.
PTSD can do that as well, you just don’t want to make anything, but you find something to make you happy for the time, video games are a great help in this case.
LK: I am actually in music therapy for PTSD and the songs I’ve been releasing are part of the way I work things out in my mind. It’s very therapeutic and healing for me. A lot of my music and art is about my experience with trauma and healing.
WEATNU Records is now going to open its label up to even more music, with the sub-label coming Transmission Nova.
LK: That is the word on the street. I think it’s an awesome opportunity for the Indie Rock/Shoegaze and Post-punk bands, including artists who want to be on a label and still be in control of their music.
Do you think Indie rock artists would benefit from it?
LK: I definitely do. It’s hard getting out there, because there is so much more access to music now. You would think it would be the opposite, but personally I get overwhelmed by all the options and probably miss out on a lot of great music.
Where do you see WEATNU Records going in the future and do you think it has helped artists during its 7 year stay?
LK: I hope WEATNU continues to grow and keeps finding unique artists to put out.
Thank you, we hope it continues to serve the community of artists for years to come, in all its options to them. You’ll be bringing to the New Year, new music on WEATNU Records, is that right?
LK: Yes, the plan is to have something in February or March. I hope to make something new and exciting for myself and everyone else.
Very cool, we hope to hear something new and creative from you soon.
Just one more thing: What movie in your mind sparks a memory that you are most fond of?
LK: “The Sound of Music” It reminds me of growing up and my Grandparents and getting to stay up late and eat popcorn. I love most of the songs. And it’s kind of bizarre that it’s my favorite, because I really don’t like musicals at all. But I do love the Sound of Music.
It’s one of my fav films too, and those songs are very memorable.
Thank you Leslie for doing this interview today – I wish you well with your journey and career in music for all time.
LK: Thank you! It was fun.
#WEATNU Digital Magazine – Dec 2021Buy direct: Diaphragm by Leslie Keffer