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Call & Response: Mekele

Posted by Theo / November 28, 2013

20131128-Mekele.jpgMekele, a Montreal native now based in Toronto, returns home for a show with Jacques Greene and Wy Wy celebrating the end of the Rad Hourani: Seamless exhibition at the PHI Centre. He took some time out of his schedule to talk with Midnight Poutine about healing frequencies, video shoots and This Mortal Coil. You can check out Mekele's ethereal synthetic soundscapes and experimental dream pop here and buy it here. Oh, and head over to the PHI Centre this Friday, November 29th for the show.

Midnight Poutine: How has the move to Toronto been? What kind of music have you been exposed to there?

Mekele: Toronto is great. I've been exploring since I got here, admiring the skyscrapers downtown and visiting the different cultural neighbourhoods. Unfortunately, I haven't been to many shows. 

MP: You have a new full-length album coming out called Monolith; what can people who are familiar with your EP expect?

M: Well... it will definitely be similar, but perhaps more personal. I've been using a lot of samples that I've created and it is more of an introduction of who I am as a person. Nocturne, the EP, was my mask, Monolith is my thoughts.

MP: How do you approach songwriting? What are you striving to create?

M: I have been doing a bunch of research on frequency healing and meditation, so when it comes to writing I try to incorporate those ideas. What I admire most about the power of sound is that it can alter your state and allow your mind to travel to wherever it wants to be. I think of my songwriting as creating soundscapes for dreams.

MP: Has your approach changed over the past few years?

M: When I started writing music, the lyrics were so literal. My compositions revealed more than I intended and it made them really hard to share with people. I now tend to write based on instinct and focus more on the textures I want to use to express myself rather than words. 

MP: Are you writing in keys or with frequencies that are meant to facilitate healing? How has this research affected your aesthetic?

M: Through research I've learned that every chakra has a unique frequency and every frequency has a note. For example the root chakra is connected to C. Using these notes in certain ways can help stimulate areas in the body that need healing. As a result, I find my music has become down tempo. I also use an open writing structure and this creates a relaxing experience.

MP: You mention that you're creating new samples for your music. What kinds of things have you've been sampling? How are you using them?

M: I've been recording primitive sounds using glass harps, humming and overtone singing. Since I'm mostly using computers and synths for my compositions, it's important for me to capture these textures to create a balance between natural and synthetic.

MP: What can people expect from your show with Jacques Greene?

M: It's amazing to be sharing the stage with someone I truly admire as a person and musician, so I'm already anticipating really good energy. I think I'm going to keep my set simple and perform a lot of new material from Monolith and a few different interpretations from my Nocturne tracks. 

MP: What do you enjoy most about performing live? What's been the greatest struggle?

M: I love the communication between myself and the audience and creating an atmosphere. The struggle is that not every venue has the same set up, so you never know what to expect and it's always a surprise when you get to a sound check and you see that the entrance is part of the stage or something. I guess it's about accepting that not every show is going to go the way you might have planned.

MP: What kind of atmosphere do you hope to create with your live shows? Has it gotten easier with more experience?

M: A place that feels timeless, I guess. The more I play shows, the less I pay attention to time. I am a lot more relaxed about going through a setlist than I was when I started.

MP: You've worked with designer Rad Hourani and artist Melissa Matos in the past. How did these relationships come about? How does the collaborative process benefit your work?

M: Melissa Matos is part of a group of soul mates I've collected in life, so working with her is always a pleasure and I learn so much. She also introduced me to Rad Hourani, whom I've been working with for about four years now. The benefit is that I get to work with extremely passionate people who inspire something close to perfection.

MP: A little while ago, you released a video for the track Heaven that Melissa directed. For those that haven't seen you live, it's really an introduction to your androgynous and somewhat alien musical persona. What is your connection to this character? What does it represent?

M: It represents honesty. It was uncomfortable to be hairless and naked in a cold setting, but that's what I look like when everything is removed and that is who I wanted to show.

MP: What was it like shooting that video?

M: Cathartic. It was very demanding, but the co-director, Ariel Methot, who was filming the video put himself through crazy situations trying to get the right angles for the scenes. His persistence and his bravery kept me going. 

MP: What's the best band you've seen live this year?

M: Coco Rosie.

MP: Favourite album that was released before you were born?

M: This Mortal Coil - It'll End In Tears

MP: If you could steal someone's singing voice for a day, whose would you chose, why would you chose it, and what would you sing?

M: Elizabeth Fraser from Cocteau Twins because there is something magical about her voice. I would sing her version of "Song To The Siren" repeatedly.

MP: What's your go to Karaoke song?

M: I hate karaoke, but if I had to choose I'd go with Crying by Roy Orbison or Let's Dance by David Bowie.

MP: What music always makes you dance?

M: R&B, Dance Hall, Techno.

MP: Finally, what did you do on your 16th birthday?

M: I went to an industrial/metal bar called the Buzz, drank copious amounts of alcohol and K.O'd in a corner.


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