Natalya Wren describes her music as a "wild, multi-coloured supercell of psychedelic electronica with industrial, house, classical, and trip-hop influences." This is only the tip of the creative iceberg. Mission, Kansas, resident Wren is a multi-faceted musician, composer and 2D/3D artist who weaves aspects of all her creative work into whatever she produces. In addition to her regular duties as singer of sacred and religious music, she performs industrial music as Natalya Kiløhertz, and composes everything from ambient and techno to house and trip-hip. Supercell, indeed. Natalya addresses of all her various projects and more in our interview with her, in addition to sharing samples of her music. We're honored to have Natalya on Listen Local.
Introduce yourself. Where do you live and work? What does a typical day look like for you?
My name is Natalya Wren, and I'm a freelance musician and 2D/3D artist. I currently live with family in Mission, KS as I continue to build up my network. I'm usually rehearsing with one group or another at least 2-3 nights a week; weekends are busiest for me, as that's when I have my regular gigs. I play piano and sing at Spirit of Hope MCC in Westport on Sunday mornings, and I sing alto in the Schola Cantorum choir at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception downtown. Aside from these gigs, I also play weddings and other events - anything for which one might need a singer, pianist, and/or violinist - and I'm working on making quite a lot of knit items and other visual-art projects so I can reopen my Etsy shop in August!
You’re involved so many different music-related projects – from opera productions and classical to industrial, soul and sacred music. And you are an established performer as well. How do you maintain a creative focus with everything you do?
I feel like my strong passion for the arts is what keeps the focus going for me. If I'm not actively and regularly involved in several creative projects at once, I start getting depressed and anxious. Music isn't just therapeutic - it's fuel for me. It's the currency with which my well-being works. And I just love so many different genres that it's impossible to choose just one. It's an outlet for me to explore as many manifestations of the art as I can.
Describe your creative process with songwriting and composition. What tools do you use? How does collaboration with other artists figure into this process?
For my electronic music, I've been using FL Studio [formerly known as FruityLoops] since the summer of 2007. Often, I'll sit at my electronic keyboard and improvise for 20 minutes at a stretch, either with my ZOOM H2 mic recording it or with a MIDI cable hooking my keyboard up to the laptop, and then I'll listen to the improv and grab ideas from it to work with. Sometimes music just starts streaming through my head all at once, fully-composed, and I'll have to write it down before I forget it. This is almost always something that happens when I'm alone and uninterrupted - it's the best time for me to really be able to hear my own thoughts.
Collaborative composition is an entirely different process for me. I'll be listening to other people while we're jamming and I'll play off of what they have to offer, and I'll find that I'll start writing in a totally different style than what I'm used to. I think that overall, I do prefer to compose by myself, but I think it's great to be able to collaborate. It keeps me from getting stuck in one style and having all my music sound the same. I don't want to be effectively writing the same piece over and over, and surrounding myself with other artists helps this quite a lot.
How do you break through creative blocks?
What really helps the most is simply to listen to new music. It can be hard for me to take in new material because of how deeply it affects me, but I find that it's absolutely vital. It's one reason I throw myself into so many projects - it keeps me from stagnating artistically.
What advice do you have for younger composers?
It might sound kind of cliché, but don't try to emulate anyone else. Everyone has influences, of course, but if you're constantly trying to write specifically in the style of someone else, you'll never figure out what YOUR music sounds like. Don't waste that opportunity to discover who you are as an artist - you're a human being who is just as valuable as any famous person out there! The same goes for people who are in school for music composition. Your professors are just there to throw out ideas for you to work with, not to tell you how to write. Let yourself be receptive to these ideas so you can add more tools to your toolkit, but still remember to take everything they tell you with a grain of salt - it's your art, nobody else's.
Who or what inspires you?
I'm inspired by lots of things. So far as other musicians go - Trent Reznor, Zoog Von Rock [of Angelspit], Steven Wilson, Nivek Ogre [of Skinny Puppy], Frank Zappa, Joni Mitchell, Amy Lee, and Sufjan Stevens come to mind as some of my greatest influences with regards to production, composition, and performance. I'm also inspired by things as simple as random sounds I hear or images I see - I've been able to improv for 20 minutes on piano just from hearing a tornado siren drill or seeing a picture of multi-coloured clouds in the sky above Norway. In some instances, it doesn't even take any outside influence - music will just start playing in my head randomly, and I'll have to play it. It really comes from everywhere.
The Highly-Sensitive Person, by Dr. Elaine Aron
The Downward Spiral - Nine Inch Nails
In Absentia - Porcupine Tree
Angelspit by Krankhaus
Enjoy Your Rabbit - Sufjan Stevens
Apostrophe (') - Frank Zappa