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Artist Jordan Reyne talks about music and Cubase

Gothic folk musician Jordan Reyne is originally from New Zealand where she worked on several notable New Zealand electronic music projects. Reyne has released six full-length albums and meanwhile has moved to the UK, where she is further pursuing her passion for music. In real life Reyne'll soon be on tour through the UK while also performing quite regularly in Second Life.

When did you discover your love for song writing?
By the time I was about six I had already tortured my parents with my penchant for singing and writing songs for a year or so. I would make them up on road trips mainly, to avoid playing “I spy with my little eye” which bored the hell out of me. Mostly the songs were just as bad though — about whatever passed by the window of the car. Given that that was mostly just trees and sheep, it is no wonder it drove my parents a little nuts, but that was the time I discovered I loved writing songs. It was more or less “I spy” with a melody, and some really obvious objects but I had fun.

What do you consider your musical influences, and how do these reflect on your music?
Weirdly, one of my biggest “musical” influences has always been storytelling. Any music with that as an element to it has appealed a lot over the years — old traditional folk songs, prog rock concept albums (War of the Worlds, The Wall, and Klaatu's Hope) along with anything with a sense of character arcs, story or drama to it. In the end it means I have some pretty desperate tastes. On the one side, very old traditional folk music that tells tales of peoples lives and odd events. On the other side, I like industrial music, prog rock, shoegaze, grunge and metal. I'm also drawn to organic sounds — field recordings or found sound, like machine noises from factories, or whatever fits for the settings of whichever characters I write about. They often have a tone, dron, or rhythm to them which I work a song around. It makes my music a bit hard to describe: bloodthirsty celtic industrial is really the most accurate I can come up with, but it doesn't make much sense until you hear it!

What projects have you been working on recently?
Right now I've got a bit of a split going on. One of the upcoming albums is organic-found sounds, acoustic loops, and a sort of acoustic shoegaze built element to it (because of the looping and building or harmony it entails). Again, it's a retelling of old legends in a more urban modern context. The other is an out and out industrial album in the very electronic sense — the kind of industrial that is called that because of mechanized delivery rather than the sounds of machines that appear on the other albums. It's more like Project Pitchfork, Wumpscut or VNV Nation than anything else I've done before, as I have been really inspired by them of late. In the past though, I've worked with trip-hop, dub, and goth bands as guest vocalist/lyricist as well, which has been wonderful. Something interesting I've noticed in the last decade of music is that bands seemed forced to stick with a certain style — to remain a post rock band, or a black metal band, for the whole of their careers, and it can be very restricting. From a marketing perspective it makes sense, I know, but I have always enjoyed being able to jump into different modes of music making, which is why I'm doing two very different projects at once right now.

You also perform on virtual stages in Second Life. For us non-believers, how does one of your cyber gigs look like?
Oddly enough, it looks a lot like a gig in the “real” world, only viewed on a computer screen and with graphics that are obviously synthetic — the sort of thing where, if it were a film, you'd say "that looks so CGI". All the attendees have a virtual body (avatar) too, so you see an actual crowd when you perform. They can dance and cheer and so on too. The venues look like venues from the outside world as well — there are reconstructions of the Sydney Opera house, for example, and Irish bars that really exist in Limerick, as well as some wonderfully impossible places like the insides of airships and industrial revolution era factories. As a performer, you also have an avatar, so you get a sort of disembodied perspective of yourself. The sound itself is much like a real gig, only compressed and delivered in MP3-type quality. It is channelled into a venue from your live performance via your computer at home, so it also sounds like a regular gig in that if you screw up, you have to start again (or pretend it was intended that way [smiles]. One of the cooler differences is that when people “talk” you can see all of what they are saying in the chat field, so you can interact in a more intimate way. There is no wondering about what someone said in the back row just because you can't hear them. It gives you a real sense of community and closeness.

You’ve visited Steinberg a couple of times here in Hamburg. Do you have anything nice to say about us?
Haha, how could I NOT? I've made some great friends with the people I've met at Steinberg. Even before being involved on a professional level, I found you guys to be full of character, fun and great ideas. I'd been using Cubase for years before I got to meet some of the staff, completely randomly at a gig, and it was a true pleasure. Those are the best kinds of people to work with — people have that balance between professionalism and personality; whose work you respect (i.e. the excellent products) and who you can get on with as friends and human beings. I am honored and stoked to be part of the team of artists you work with.

Thanks, Jordan, we can only return the compliments. So, your entire productions are made in Cubase?
Cubase has always been the central sequencer and hub for all my music. I have had other plug-ins over the years, but I've written six out of six albums using Cubase as the central and key element — of course the first albums were on much older versions, but even then I remember getting my first copy in the mail in New Zealand, after my band had split and I suddenly needed to try and do everything myself. I read the manual cover to cover and remember thinking “it can do EVERYTHING”. It did actually revolutionize my approach to music because I wasn't restricted to the instruments I was able to play (which is actually only vocals, guitar, bad piano, and torturously bad viola). Most importantly, it enabled me to experiment with sequencing the found sounds and machine noises I had wanted to incorporate for ages.

What Cubase features do you enjoy using most of all?
At the moment it's Note Expression in Cubase 6. I love the fact that you can visually edit all the automation on a note independently — I use a lot of strings and it offers you so much scope and control that it is truly the difference between an orchestra sounding played or programmed. I also love that you can get HALion to save and load expression maps you have set up previously. It's now one of those things I wonder how I got by without before (in that way you wonder how you got by with those cellphones you thought were awesome at the time, but where you had to press each button twice or three times before you got the letter you needed – once you have a touchscreen one, or one with a key for each letter, you will never go back! Note Expression is like that for me now!).

What are your plans for the rest of 2012? Are there any tour dates you care to share with us?
I'm on tour again in the UK in late September. There are some festival dates too including DV8 in York [a big alternative music festival this weekend]. So far this year Wave Gothic Treffen has been a huge highlight — we sold out of CDs and are getting enquiries from Germany as well as the UK now, so there should be a German tour with a few dates in Holland and France late this year or early next.

Visit Jordan Reyne at