“It ‘s a mashed-up, cryptic world of ghost -cities , dead ideologies, imagined futures, ancient rituals, childhood dreams and wounded creatures.” These ones were the words Gazelle Twin, androgynous and masked identity of Elizabeth Walling, used to describe her great debut release “The Entire City“. In spite of the amount of references to literature, art, science fiction, nature and even videogames, she doesn’t eclipse her artisti personality behind them, but she manages to build a very interesting and seducing one. Many reviewers used the word “masterpiece” when referring to her multidisciplinary release and after you approach to her art, you’ll easily understand they were not puffing it out! “The Entire City” comes out on her co-run label Anti-Ghost Moon Ray Records.
Chain D.L.K.: Hi Elizabeth. First of all, how are you?
Gazelle Twin: Hello, I am fine, thank you for asking. How are you?
Chain D.L.K.: Fine, thanks. Even if a little bit sunburned at the moment, I’m pretty good at the moment, thanks. I won’t lose words to make you compliments for your recent release “The Entire City”…you’ve deservedly received many ones yet! So what’s the worst compliment you received? And the best criticism?
Gazelle Twin: I tend to disregard reviews which make comparisons to other artists or genres on a superficial level, or which just seem rushed or badly written. The reviews I appreciate show that the writer really lived with the music and gave it time. I like to know that they listened closely, acknowledged the source of my influences and recognised the effort involved in making the work – whether or not they liked the end result. For me it’s not always about the best or the worst. There were some very well-written and considered negative comments about the album, some of which I agreed with and which I respect. It’s important to open up to constructive criticism, but it’s never easy.
Chain D.L.K.: Even BBC gave in to temptation of hasty comparisons or analogies with Fever Ray or Bjork. Am I the only one to believe about your uniqueness?
Gazelle Twin: I understand why some reviewers do this and I don’t deny the strong influence of The Knife, Fever Ray and Bjork. Bjork is clearly a prime influence over Karin Dreijer Andersson, but that rarely gets mentioned much – or perhaps it did in the early days of The Knife? I’m not sure. Anyway, female artists always get this kind of treatment. In many ways, it is a compliment to be held in the same regard as these artists – as long as it’s not just dismissing me as a copycat of them. I think it’s clear that I have other things going on with my music; a classical background, and my voice is very different too. My aesthetic is always changing, so what you have seen so far from The Entire City will transform for the next album and will continue to for as long as Gazelle Twin remains a project which is interesting and broad enough to explore.
Chain D.L.K.: When interviewers speak with musicians, it’s quite common they ask about the beginning…well, I’d like to act in a disrespectful way…what about your end?
Gazelle Twin: I really love your question. It’s important to think of this.
The ideal end would be that I achieved all I could and wanted to without any limits, without compromise. I would reach a position where there was no more creative territory to explore with Gazelle Twin.
The worst end would be that I would have to give it all up prematurely because of a lack of money to support the work, or from a severe abhorrence of the music industry! It can be a fickle, competitive place with very few trustworthy people, so it’s challenging for someone like me – operating almost completely alone and without much business knowledge.
Chain D.L.K.: One customary question at least…what about the name Gazelle Twin?
Gazelle Twin: It was just an anagram of my real name, with a few letters missing. Not that interesting. But I liked the image of twin gazelles and I eventually discovered there was a connection with Solomon’s Song (old testament) which refers to a woman’s breasts as ‘twin fauns of a gazelle grazing among the lilies’.
Chain D.L.K.: You come from lovely Brighton! I remember most people there considered the fire of the Old Pier and maybe the building of the new one as an apocalyptic event, but I remember a scene which was even more apocalyptic. A nice Chinese gay guy I shared a pair of beers some moments before, engaged in the brave defence of his noodles against the attack of three hungry seagulls. Is there some possibilities coexistence with those seagulls turn pacific?
Gazelle Twin:Yes, I moved here to study almost ten years ago. We can coexist with the seagulls, but as you pointed out they can be very aggressive when hungry or defending the nests they make in our rooftops, but I worry more for the eventual imbalance of the ecosystem rather than a few stolen lunches. They will eat anything. Imagine their digestive systems and the future evolution of the food chain… here you have birds eating discarded, cooked red meat and other poultry, plus all the preservatives we put in our food. It can’t be good.
Chain D.L.K.: Well, sorry for digression…some of your tracks are really cinematic…any source for inspiration from that branch of art?
Gazelle Twin: Yes, film influences me very heavily. Listening to many film soundtrack was what prompted me to study composition. I am still hugely influenced by various films of the 1980s; the decade in which I ‘grew up’. I watched things like Alien, Aliens, Space Odyssey, Terminator, Predator etc repeatedly (I still do). Their visuals and narratives influenced me as much as their soundtracks did.
I was ecstatic when Ridley Scott’s agency / 20th Century Fox contacted me and asked to use an excerpt of ‘Bell Tower’ from my album in a short film for Prometheus. It still hasn’t been released in full, there are just short clips so far, but I think it will be on the DVD in October. I hope I can get involved in more things like that in future. That’s really where I would like to be focussing my attention.
Chain D.L.K.: I got really astonished by the way you interpret lyrics (or maybe different citizens…) throughout vocal intonations…it’s like you deeply feel your words…beyond technical aspect, could you tell us something about the work behind such an impressive result?
Gazelle Twin: Thank you. Well, it’s a method which is very hard to describe or to recreate. It’s a deeply private and personal experience. I need a lot of privacy when I am recording, to allow the sounds to emerge naturally and unhindered by someone else’s ears. There is also a degree of creativity needed when I listen back and try to connect the words to actually form some sort of logical prose. It’s always surprising when the lyrics come together and deliver a message I could not have seen any other way.
Chain D.L.K.: My compliments for your website, as well…I particularly enjoyed the graphical mask for the player…how did it come?
Gazelle Twin: Thank you. I wanted to have an interesting physical representation of the digital album to make it more interesting and tactile. I commissioned a company called Champagne Valentine in Amsterdam to create something for me using my videos and images. It was different to my original idea, which was to create an open world for the user to explore freely whilst listening, but I loved the end result and it will be there forever, blinking into eternity.
Chain D.L.K.: A collection of remixes has been recently published…what’s your favorite one?
Gazelle Twin: Truthfully I really like bits of each them. One which impressed me most on a technical and imaginative level was ‘Nest’ by Flint Kids, who are super talented. For its simplicity, the Foxx remix of ‘Changelings’ is beautiful and gentle. Bernholz also created a very special mix of ‘Bell Tower’ which was totally different from the original and I really like that in remixes – to be surprised and hear opportunities through someone else’s ears.
Chain D.L.K.:You remixed John Foxx, who remixed “Changelings” as well…what about this musical/artistical liaison?
Gazelle Twin: John is a lovely man. His aesthetic is very strong, defined and timeless. It’s been great to collaborate with him recently. We share lots of similar areas of interest in art and literature which we both explore in our musical work and also in other projects such as writing, or visual art. It’s so interesting to talk to him about some of our shared influences from choral and religious music. hopefully we’ll do more in future.
Chain D.L.K.: I hope to see you perform somewhere (possibly in Brighton or surroundings)…any relevant forthcoming date?
Gazelle Twin: A few live performances may crop up, but I have no plans for a tour or anything like that. I wanted to take a break whilst I finish my next album. Hopefully I’ll be back to Europe to perform next year. One of my highlights of 2011 was performing at the Berghain in Berlin for the first time. I was invited back, so I would love to take them up on that when I am ready.
Chain D.L.K.:What about inspiration behind “Men Like Gods”?
Gazelle Twin: ‘Men Like Gods’ is about old civilisations; the use of costume, ritual and belief to secure an identity in the world and to basically survive in this unknown universe. The song title came from the HG Wells novel of the same name. The rest was influenced by some video footage I found, featuring a strange pagan festival in Sardinia. I travelled there to experience and film the event first hand, which was the most bizarre and unsettling thing I have ever experienced. When I returned I was able to finish the song and accompanying video. It was amazing to be able to experience it first hand like that.
Chain D.L.K.:I’ve seen a clip of “Obelisk” made by some fan by chance which associated that track to some sketches from Alejandro Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain…do you think such an association hits the nail on the head?
Gazelle Twin: There are certainly elements which are in tune, yes. The ritual and the monolith, but at the time of writing I hadn’t seen the film, in fact I still haven’t in full yet, only clips. ‘Obelisk’ is about history, memorials, rituals and how civilisation past and present seem to willingly give themselves up to intangible beliefs and create these immense structures which act as monolithic focal points for all kinds of issues; memory, trauma, fear, belief, sacrifice, birth etc. I am very fascinated by these sorts of things. I would say they most of my songs on this record are about survival and fear taking physical form in one way or another.
Chain D.L.K.:Have you ever tried to embody someone listening to your song? Could it be a possible source for inspiration for your art?
Gazelle Twin: I’m not sure I fully understand the question, but it’s an interesting idea. I hope it doesn’t sound too dismissive, but I do not think of the listener much when I am writing, or the viewer when I am making something visual. I go into a different place when I make work, so to approach it differently, or from someone else’s perspective would be too alien for me. But yes, it could be interesting in spite of that.