Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Q&A: 15 Questions With Jihae

Hypnotic, melodic, edgy, poetic, New York based songstress Jihae is currently in the studio working on her new record, Fire Burning Rain. The record is scheduled for release in July. But, I had the opportunity to send some questions over to her and the following is the results of my query.

(QNYC) - How would you describe your sound to those who may be unfamiliar with your work?

(Jihae) - Electro-Rock with a dash of avant garde, pop and punk in a singer/songwriter spirit.

(QNYC) - You're currently working on your upcoming record, Fire Burning Rain. What can we expect from this record? How will it differ from your previous works?

(Jihae) - Every time I make an album I try to deliver something new. My Heart is an Elephant is an eclectic album and Elvis is Still Alive is more of a rock album with some songs that are a bit more experimental. Fire Burning Rain is a cleaner or more balanced marriage between both pop rock and experimental.

(QNYC) - I understand you're releasing Fire Burning Rain on your own label, Septem Records. Have there been any challenges being both the artist and the boss?

(Jihae) - Being the artist and boss sounds like an oxymoron but in reality every artist should be in charge of their career even with a great team around. Challenges are endless, limited time and budget being the number one factor but limitations can bring forth creativity and I’ve helped to keep the label running so I’m ok with the challenges for the time being.

(QNYC) - When you went into the studio for this record, did you have a solid notion of what you wanted or did things take shape as you went along?

(Jihae) - I usually have a clear idea once the song is written but I have lot of fun experimenting with overdubs in the studio with my producer. There were a couple songs that took drastic changes. My Love was 3 different songs in melody and lyrics before it became My Love.

Tuilerie was a happy accident in the studio. It’s the last song I wrote for this album this past April at my friend’s place in Paris. My guitarist sent some guitar files he recorded at his place. It was noisy so my producer and I were going to ask him to redo it in the studio. But I realized I could use the noise and we ended up creating a very intimate atmosphere by exposing all the background white noise available on each track of the song.

(QNYC) - Who is producing the record?

(Jihae) - I’m co-producing it with Jean-Luc Sinclair. He is quite a brilliant Jewish Algerian from Paris. He studied under Bernard La Badie and learned to play Bach on organ at age 10. He is a professor of music at NYU and Touro, owns a music label and is also a composer. He found me on MySpace after hearing my first album. We’ve been working together ever since.

(QNYC) - Fire Burning Rain is an interesting title. How did that title come about?

(Jihae) - I once heard someone say, “Fighting for peace is like fucking for virginity”. I’ve always been an advocate for nonviolence, for peace, but, Ghandi didn’t live in our time and I wonder if it’s still possible to treat the type of violence around today with nonviolence.

Fire Burning Rain represents two opposing elements that cannot balance each other out. The rain instead of subsiding the fire makes the fire burn even stronger. The title is sort of a meditation on the severe imbalance of our current state of affairs.

(QNYC) - There's a fantastic promo photo of you standing against a painting of fire. Was that shot inspired by the album title?

(Jihae) - No that was shot over a year ago before I came up with the title. My friend has a brilliant collection of art at his home I wanted to do portraits with. So I asked photographer Joseph Rothstein to come and we did a series of portraits that ended up in Trace Magazine on their review of Elvis is Still Alive.

(QNYC) - New York is filled with inspiration, how has recording here influenced your songwriting?

(Jihae) - I consider NY home and all my recordings were done here except for the few songs I co-wrote with David Steele in London. There’s so much access to great art in NY, which is a haven for anyone who enjoys food for thought. NY is also almost as culturally and socially diverse as the rest of the world. Living here gives me a constant reminder that 5/6 of the world exists in a struggle for basic survival.

(QNYC) - What's the least likely thing you've gained inspiration from?

(Jihae) - The economic crash. I wrote a song called ‘Jujulee’ about an imaginary Jewish princess who moves to NYC to make it big on Wall St. at the cusp of the economic crash.

(QNYC) - Is there a particular song on your upcoming album that you're excited for fans to hear?

(Jihae) - My songs are like my babies. I hope they all get heard. I’m curious however, to see how people respond to my interpretations of other artists work. There is an Annette Peacock cover of ‘Succubus’ which is the next single and a Kraftwerk cover of ‘Das Model’.

(QNYC) - I've been enjoying the single "My Love." We've seen the behind the scenes video of it, when will we get a chance to see the actual video?

(Jihae) - Making of My Love is a video recording of the day I recorded vocals for My Love which, coincided with a film project ‘7001 Nights’ I’m shooting with a video artist Michel Auder and dp Frederic Fasano. The music video is separate and in the works and should be released at some point next month.

(QNYC) - While we're on the subject, I've watched your previous videos which are visually stunning. And, your website is artistically appealing. Visuals seem to be a big part of your work. How big of a role does visual art play in your music? Do you think about how a song might be visually interpreted when you're in the writing and recording process?

(Jihae) - Thank you. It’s exciting to be able to take an expression and have another take on the same expression though a different medium. This process if done right, renders more depths to the initial work. Writing is quite a visual process but the aural-visual focus is separated. The aural part usually gets satisfied first.

At times visuals do pop up in the studio and develop but I’ve never written a song to fulfill a video concept. The Black Pearl video was shot as a short film project when the song was at its basic structure.

(QNYC) - You're a multi-media artist who works with other artists and directors. In addition to your upcoming album, are there any other projects we can look forward to?

(Jihae) - I’m always working on video art pieces of my own when I can find time but there are a few extracurricular activities I was involved with in the past year.

I’m in a sci-fi film as a performer in ‘2B’ directed by Richard Kroehling which recently had the festival run and about to go to distribution.

Roots of Life is video/book project Rajan Mehta shot which I contributed Black Pearl instrumental for the video piece. ‘Roots of Life’ launched in Japan just a few days ago.

70001 Nights is an on going film production I’m co-directing with Michel Auder which is currently at a hiatus until the album is complete.

Street artist/painter Michael De Feo and I are collaborating on the Fire Burning Rain album cover and a series of portraits for exhibition in Spring.

(QNYC) - When you get a chance to relax and listen to other artists, who do you listen to?

(Jihae) - I like Brian Eno and Erik Satie for relaxation, Beirut, and my friends the Brazillian Girls. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of classical and old Persian music on the radio.

(QNYC) - In parting, is there anything you'd like to say to your fans?

(Jihae) - Stop popping pills please!

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My sincere thanks to Jihae for taking the time to answer my questions.