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Amelia Arsenic is a musician and fashion designer born in Sydney but now travelling the world. The sounds of Amelia Arsenic are described as an infectious injection of high-energy beats infused with feminine allure. Her music as a genesis of fresh electronic sounds drawing from hip hop, electro and industrial music.

Amelia Arsenic plays the Melbourne Synth Festival main stage at 1.30pm on Sunday November 25. Ahead of her appearance this weekend, we had a chat to Amelia about her music world

Do you recall the first time you heard an electronic music track that really caught your attention?
The first track I remember being super blown away by was ‘Smack My Bitch Up’ by the Prodigy. It was just so wild, punk and badass—I was instantly hooked!

‘Tormentor’ from my favourite Skinny Puppy album Two Dark Park was the other track that changed my whole taste in music. The dark vocals and heavy sound design made me realise that synths could be a impactful as guitars, so that made me start listening to industrial music and wanting to make it myself.

Also, a friend gave me a copy of Downward Spiral by Nine Inch Nails at youth group one year when I was a teenager (I had quite a religious upbringing believe it or not) and I remember listening to it for the first time and just being completely immersed and kind of scared by the pretty violent sound design. The use of foley for percussion and sampling got me interested in Trent Reznor’s process and I loved his intense aggression contrasted with melodic song progression.

What were some of the music artists or albums that inspired you through your teens?
Hands down my favourite band was Sonic Youth, I was completely enamoured with Kim Gordon because of her spoken word style and she’s just so fierce. The DIY nature of the band was also inspirational as they made zines and art alongside their albums, so that definitely influenced my creative approach too.

Being a typical alternative goth kid I loved the Deftones, Marilyn Manson, Hole and Smashing Pumpkins (and still do).

What was the first piece of music gear that you acquired?
First ever thing I bought with my pocket money was an acoustic guitar to learn on and then a beginners Ibanez bass because I wanted to be like Kim Gordon and Kim Deal. My first synth was a Yamaha DX7 which I used when I was in a Cure covers band in high school and I remember playing ‘A Forest’ quite a few times with that synth, but have still never quite figured out how to make my own patches on it.

When I started making music with my first band Angelspit, we had a lot of classic synths on hand like the Roland SH101, Sequential Circuits Prophet 5 and a Roland Jupiter 8, which all sounded glorious as you can imagine. Though keeping the Prophet 5 in tune was a nightmare when it started heating up and it required so much maintenance—but it did actually sound best when it was breaking down.

Tell us about the gear you work with now to create your music
I’m an Ableton Live girl mainly now because it’s convenient to just work on music on my laptop, especially when travelling. My favourite soft synths are Serum and Native Instruments Massive for some extra wubs and anything from Izotope.

I used to be more into modulars, particularly my Doepfer Eurorack, but now that computer processing power has caught up and you can play 100 tracks without it skipping, I’m happy to do most in Live.

At the moment I usually use inbuilt Ableton synths to get my ideas down quickly, put the vocal arrangement in and then redo the synths at the end. There is nothing more heartbreaking than discarding a bleepy bloopy modular synth sequence that took all day to patch and then have to delete it because it doesn’t fit in with the vocal arrangement.

Having said that I’m really into the Novation Circuit Mono Station at the moment which has a groovebox which you can mess about with, but also has a gnarly sounding semi modular built in with an overdrive filter that’s pretty nasty.

I also write with my partners in crime Pete Crane and Ben Lee Bulig from Melbourne based industrial band Shiv-r — they have so much gear it’s ridiculous. Our most used gear in Pete’s studio include the mighty Sherman Filterbank, the Moog Little Phatty, Access Virus Snow and the Nord Lead. For vocals we’re always using the Universal Audio Solo 610 Preamp that just makes everything sound warm and like a million dollars, with the Blue Baby Bottle microphone.

When I’m writing with my Glitch Mode Recordings family in Chicago with Sean Payne from the Cyanotic band fame, we just pretty much use Ableton, Omnisphere and sample packs from everywhere. Sean’s very much into sampling from films like any good industrial kid and he’s a real science fiction film aficionado.

Pic by Hyder Images

What’s on the gear wish list?
The main thing I’ve been lusting after has been making a single portable Eurorack modular to take live, to create some bubbling textures underneath and in between tracks. I’ve travelled with a large modular before and they are difficult to fly with so want to make a carryon one. (You can guarantee that the TSA will bust your road case open and cut all your patch cables in two because it must look quite suspect when x-rayed!)

So your girl here is dreaming of the following…

Tip-top Audio Mantis Case
Tip-Top Trigger Riot
Noise Engineering Manis Iteritas
Intellijel Metropolis
Mutable Instrument’s braids
Mutable Instrument’s Clouds
Make Noise Pressure Points
Erica Synths Fusion VCO

Synths / Keyboards:
Dave Smith Prophet X
Make Noise O-Coast
Arturia Minibrute 2S

ZVEX Fuzz Factory
Red Panda Tensor
Meris Ottobit Jr
Malekko Heavy Industry Chaos

When creating your music, are you think visual and design at same time? Do they go hand in hand?
Most definitely, I actually can’t separate the two. Sometimes I get a visual in my head for a movie scene or something that I want to compose an imaginary song around or get inspired by a setting or texture. I’ve often thought, “I want to make a banging track that’s playing in that Blade Runner futuristic science fiction nightclub.”

The integration of art and music is really important to me. I’m a bit of a control freak and want everything to be cohesive, so I design all of the artwork, merch and posters, while art directing all of my photoshoots. I’m an unashamed typography and font nutter.

Nine Inch Nails had the legendary designer David Carson work on some of their most iconic albums and the artwork just enhances how special the albums are. I remember cherishing my Fragile double gatefold vinyl so much when it came out!

Making music videos is one of the fun parts of making music, so I’m stoked to have worked with Sydney based director Oliver Heath on my last few. Our last video for my single ‘To Love is to Destroy’ was super fun to make. It started out with Oliver asking if he could scan my face for an experimental video portrait and if I could draw eyes on my eyelids so I wouldn’t be blinded by the scanner. Then I drew some creepy anime eyes over the top and the rest of the video happened pretty organically from there.

What has been your most memorable gig to date?
Playing the M’era Luna festival in Hildesheim Germany with my first band Angelspit was a dream come true and I had to keep pinching myself knowing I was on the bill with my teen idols Placebo, Skinny Puppy and the Sisters of Mercy.

Top tip: If you ever play a festival with a catwalk that goes into the audience, always accept the wireless microphone. When I was traipsing down the M’era Luna catwalk I embarrassingly got stuck halfway down because my mic lead was too short and had to shimmy back like a knob. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

How has the American tour been going?
It’s been a whirlwind amazing time, especially the Halloween run of dates because punters really go all out with their costumes. I made my band dress up as sharks and I wore a Pamela Anderson swimsuit for our NYC show – we were called ‘Baewatch’

My current band are my family now after being on the road since June. Jordan and Dan come from Cincinnati and the first time I saw them play with their industrial project RELIC I knew I needed to collaborate with them!

Industrial music is having a real moment with so many artists slaying at the moment, like KANGA, 3TEETH, Youth Code among many from LA.

What can we expect from your appearance at the MELBOURNE SYNTH FESTIVAL?
Industrial beats mayhem, noise, obnoxious subs…. hair flips and head banging.

What projects are you currently working on?
Just finished a new Amelia Arsenic EP written with Pete Crane from Shiv-r, a thrashy DNB thing with Seattle’s finest Rabbit Junk and in the middle of writing mid tempo dance project with Jordan Davis from RELIC.

What artists are inspiring you at the moment?
Weirdly enough I pretty much have been listening to hip hop and trap, so I’m obsessed with Brockhampton, Danny Brown, Vince Staples, Death Grips, Flatbush Zombies, Boots and Run the Jewels.

On my last DJ tour I played stuff only between 85bpm -110bpm so I’ve been vibing Louisahhh, Aglory, CABLE, FATHER, Bvrmes, Moris Blak, Boys Noize, Darkk Matter, REZZ and any Marilyn Manson remix I can find on soundcloud.

What would be your dream collaboration?
I would die if I could do a tune with the Prodigy. All life goals from then on would be cancelled.

If money was no issue, what would an Amelia Arsenic show look like?
Definitely tour around with a video wall, lots of costumes and dancers. I grew up watching Madonna and MJ concerts so it’d be fun to do that with industrial music.

What are you most proud of so far in your music career?
Probably my next EP, but my Queen of Risk release was a big victory considering I had taken a big break from music prior to its release. I’m always humbled to hear from fans who are touched by my music and I am the luckiest girl in the world to be able to make music for them.

What do you have planned for 2019?
Tour of Europe with Aesthetic Perfection and Priest in April and a full US tour at the end of the year. Hopefully fit in some writing in between to give my liver some time to recover.


Upcoming 2018 dates:

Evelyn Hotel – MELBOURNE, AU – 22/11
Melbourne Music Week, Melbourne Synth Festival – MELBOURNE, AU – 24-25/11
Freda’s – SYDNEY, AU, 30/11
Flamin’ Galah – BRISBANE, AU – 1/12
Incursion NYE (DJ set) – SYDNEY, AU – 31/12

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