Cristiana Ilie is probably first a visual artist, but that makes her moves into audio all the more interesting – experiments with synths and noise make her an act you really need to check out.
Most of the Alternative Sounds CDs artists are quite rock / punky, but Cristiana Ilie is of a different breed. We thought it would be cool to hear from a more experimental perspective on the project.
Her early work was visual, using video and projectors, but there was more required to bring a full hit to the experience. So, the audio came later. We’re glad it did.
She was a stand out from the Alternative Sounds compilations because she was so different. With a nod towards the industrial noise making of the likes of LONESAW, even though she’s never heard of that band, there are clear similarities. This one was a no brainer and one we were keen to dig a bit deeper.
P3dro: Where are you and what are you doing?
Cristiana: OK. I’m at home in my room. I’m good, it’s been a quiet year in terms of events, but I’ve been recording a few things that I’m planning, maybe, to release next year. I haven’t released a lot this year. But I have been working on audio and video files. So, yeah, that’s been this year, really.
P3dro: Just tell us a bit about you and your background.
Cristiana: I started as a visual artist. I used to organise exhibitions with my paintings and prints, videos – I used to work a lot with projections. I always wanted to create an immersive environment for the viewers, so I just started to add bits of sound tracks to the exhibitions.
And then one day I just planned this live performance at the Class Room Gallery in Coventry. I decided to have this live projection and live sound. That was my first live performance.
It was quite noisy. Harsh noise. And then I decided to do more live performances with the sound and the noise of the project being more of an event, rather than just being in the background. So, I decided to record audio, and now I’m doing both.
P3dro: Are you doing that on your own, or in collaboration with other people?
Cristiana: Mainly on my own, but sometimes I have collaborations as well. The live gigs I’ve been doing have just been on my own. I get the video projection ready and all the audio is live.
P3dro: What kind of equipment are you using for your music? It’s quite electronic and effects driven.
Cristiana: At the beginning, I started by recording loads of harsh, kind of machinery sounds and then contrasting them with nice, subtle piano notes. I started with that, but then I wanted to create my own harsh noise from everyday objects. So, I’m just using synths, pedals and playing a lot with feedback.
P3dro: How did you get involved with Alternative Sounds?
Cristiana: I had been asked to participate in this compilation CD of local artists, so I sent one of my tracks. I’d had a few gigs previously that they had attended, where I was doing my type of sound. They were interested.
P3dro: You have [the track] ‘Second Room‘ on the Alternative Sounds compilation, but we have been digging around on the web and we can’t find much more of your work. Is there any more?
Cristiana: I have a few videos on YouTube from previous exhibitions with sound and projections – the kind of thing I’m working on and putting together to create an audio visual experience. Depending on the space, I have the projection and the live sound. I don’t have too much audio, but I’m planning to upload more.
P3dro: You say you started off as a visual artist and then started adding sound. Do you view one as more important than the other, or is it now a more complete package?
Cristiana: When I use them together, yeah, I feel like they have the same importance to the overall experience. I’m still working sometimes only with sound and sometimes only with video, but I do prefer to have them together, so that’s why I release the videos, rather than just adding the sound. I’ve been concentrating on live events – not necessarily as an exhibition or a gig, but more of a live experience.
I think that’s quite good because it draws people with different interests, from visual art or music. It brings creative people together.
P3dro: So, you’re appealing to a different crowd?
Cristiana: Yeah, I think so. I think there are more events now that combine the two. Different kinds of creative arts. It seems to happen more now and I think that’s good.
P3dro: How difficult is it for you to put on a gig? There must be a hell of a lot of work involved getting both the visuals and the sound sorted.
Cristiana: Yeah, I usually start by working on the projections and then putting together a live set for the audio. It depends on the space, I guess. The last one I had was in the basement of a gallery. I’m usually thinking of the type of set I want to have. I want every gig to be a bit different, so it depends if I want to have a noisy one, or a bit droney and I’ll create a video for that specific gig.
I like each [gig] to be a one off experience.
P3dro: You’ve had gigs in galleries and the like. Are you searching out non traditional music venues?
Cristiana: Yeah, usually it’s places where I have exhibited before and who are familiar with my work. [Often] I’ll get contacted by people for a gig or an electronic night. I usually just talk to people about ideas and then make things happen.
P3dro: How easy, or difficult, is it for you to replicate what you have recorded into a live setting?
Cristiana: Well, I’m using synths that are quite unpredictable. I like to just react to them during the live performance. I’ll have a bit of a structure and an idea, but, again, it depends on the event or the performance – some are a bit of improv – and I’ll respond to the projection and the type of sounds I create.
P3dro: You say you’ve been recording some music over the last few months. How has lockdown been for you?
Cristiana: Not many events! But I’m just trying to see the positive. It was a good time to get things together and to release more things. To take the time to record and to experiment with different things at home. To experiment with different ways of creating videos inside the house. The same with the sounds.
P3dro: How do the neighbours feel about that?
Cristiana: Ha! I think they’re OK. I usually use headphones, so it goes straight to my brain.
P3dro: What’s next from you?
Cristiana: I have another audio file that I’ll release, probably in January. It’s on the last editing stage. It’s about a 20 minute video with sound and is a short story about finding nothing.
P3dro: Any plans for any more shows?
Cristiana: Yeah, but I guess we’ll just have to see what the situation looks like. I may do some more live recordings from home.
P3dro: Recommend a band or an album you think we should be listening to right now.
Cristiana: Something I listen to every year around Christmas is John Zorn’s ‘A Dreamer’s Christmas‘. It’s nice. It’s just a good Christmas album.