Alt-pop + hip-hop
A multitude of samples that are transmuted into other sounds, such as gunshots turned into drum snare splashes, go into alt-pop singer Em-Haley Walker's music.
Better known by her stage name Theia, the Christchurch artist describes her approach to music making as experimental, industrial and boundary-pushing in terms of production.
Theia and hip-hop artist Vayne perform at Smash Palace next week. They formed the double act shortly after joining forces to record Creep —– a bilingual, bass-heavy banger with sampled New Zealand police sirens, flames and lighters — that delivers a cutting message to sexual predators.
The two artists will perform their own sets back-to-back and will join each other on stage to perform Creep.
“Technically, I make experimental, alt music and Vayne makes hip-hop but there are elements of both in our music,” says Walker.
“My music is quite industrial so that works well with hip-hop. I push boundaries in terms of production and enjoy experimenting.”
Walker's edgy, beaty, song 99% Angel shares something of the nursery rhyme-style chant rhythm of Toni Basil's Mickey.
But with the heavily treated sounds of breaking glass, sirens, gunshots and even a motorbike, Walker's production has a darker, cooler edge and is packed with speaker-destroying beats.
The song is the title track to Walker's upcoming mix-tape, the first body of work she has produced since leaving Warner Music NZ.
“The mix-tapes talk about gender disparity in the music business and the treatment I got in the industry,” she says.
“I don't go out of my way to be political but I confront what pisses me off or gives me a strong feeling. It is about calling out inequality when you see it.
“For some songs I have received more hate mail than others. In Creep we call out sex predators and say unsavoury things to them.
“If it makes you feel uncomfortable it may be about you. I would rather people have strong opinions, good or bad, about my music. My job is to be contentious.”
Less contentious though is her very melodic, lilting song, Te Kaiwhakaora O Te Ao, in te reo Maori and accompanied in part by a smooth jinga-jik guitar style.
“I wrote it with no guitar and in a capella but I wanted typical Maori strumming guitar in it so I got a mate to play it and guided him on the pattern. I spent two hours getting the producer playing guitar to get used to it.”
Fluent in te reo Maori, Walker also has a reo Maori project called Te Kaahu under way.
“When I'm writing for that project I'm using te reo and writing in my native tongue. It's so emotive, soft, gentle and beautiful.
“My purpose in writing in te reo is because of the influence of my kuia and other nannies. I'm proud and inspired by them and show the vulnerability and softness of some of our music and the way we write a different narrative from the angry Maori trope.
“If you look at it from an outside perspective you might think both projects are completely different. One is experimental, out there and hyper-layered and industrial compared to the organic, old school, doo-woppy sound but I don't see them as different.”
In Greek mythology, Theia is the Titaness of sight and the goddess who endowed gold, silver and gems with their brilliance and intrinsic value. Theia is also a hypothesised ancient planet in the early solar system that, according to the giant-impact hypothesis, collided with the early Earth around 4.5 billion years ago. Some of the ejected debris is thought to have gathered to form the Moon.
Theia x Vayne, supported by DJ Monoga, Smash Palace, Saturday, May 29, 8.30pm. Tickets from undertheradar.co.nz