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15 Questions with Zan Lyons

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I recently featured ‘Underdrome’ on Music.co.uk , an audio-visual spectacular taking place in London in a few weeks time. One of the people involved in the project is Zan Lyons, a violinist/electronic musician who is also a professional film artist. Here he answers our ’15 Questions’ to give us all a better insight into his world.

1 – What is your artist name, and why did you choose it? 

Zan Lyons is my real name, my parents gave it to me:)

2 – What stage are you at in your career at the moment? 

I’m currently making a DVD album. It’ll be 9 songs with a film for each track and heavy synchronization between the images and sound. It’s still in development so I don’t want to say too much, but it has a visual narrative that runs throughout the album’s duration. You’ll be able to watch it end-to-end or as individual ‘songs’

3 – What is your music background? Tell us your story! 

I’ve been making music since I was in my teens. I was really inspired by 91-93 rave which I still consider to be the last relevant British movement. The abrasive beats, the raw energy!

I’m a string player; I play the violin, viola and cello. I combined this with my love of industrial sounds and beats and began playing shows. Before long I started getting press interest and in 2000 I released an album called Desolate.
This is really only the beginning of the story. I was sort of expected to build on the momentum of Desolate and release a follow up record.I started doing this but got bored with the process. When I started making music it was the excitement of challenging myself that I really enjoyed. I liked things to be fresh; I was always jaded by bands releasing records on a 1-3 year clockwork timeline and here I was doing the same thing.In 2004 I had an album finished but scrapped the entire thing…

I’d been making super-8 visuals for my shows for about a year at this point and my skills were naturally developing. It reached a point where I was creating micro-short films. This in turn was driving my sonic ideas which would then feed back in to what I was doing visually. I made my first proper short a year later: an abstract film called Girl Seeming to Disappear. It was a real turning point. Suddenly I found myself in a place where the music and the visuals where inseparable and I’d taken both to the next level. I sent Girl Seeming to Disappear off to a few festivals not expecting anything and ended up with screenings at Raindance, onedotzero, Cannes and a few others. This is pretty much the template of how I work now: audio/visually!

4 – How do you describe your music to people? 

Audio visual orchestral hardcore!

5 – What do you think about people downloading music online? 

I think it’s great. For too long, labels have been able to get away with throwing music out there in plastic jewel cases with poor artwork. We are seeing more attention being paid to this side of things as a result. There’s a lot of talk about the music industry being dead. I think we need to start viewing this positively. There’s never been a better time to think creatively and change the paradigm.

6 – What dream tour would you love to be on, with any past or present bands? 

Jean Michele Jarre and Slayer!

7 – What have been the biggest obstacles for you, to get your music heard? 

I don’t find it difficult getting my music heard as there are so many avenues these days what with Myspace and You Tube etc. Anyone who makes anything really can have a voice.

8 – What is the best freebie you have ever been given?  A violin from my friend’s loft.

9 – Everyone has a song that annoyingly sticks in their head, what is yours
at the moment?
 

Robyn – With Every Heartbeat:)

10 – Who are you tipping for the top, music wise? 

The only recent band who excites me is an Australian Trio called HTRK. Very 80’s drum-machine dirge-rock. Imagine Suicide remixing The Cure. I have yet to see them live but I’ve heard very, very good things! On the film-front it has to be M Dot Strange. He’s a one man director and 3D animator who’s really pushing boundaries of budget and imagination.

11 – What do you do with your free time?  

I really like cycling. It still has the same magic it did when I was 10. Such a liberating form of transport too. Every time I get on my bike I feel like Eliot at the end of E.T.!

12 – Have you discovered any interesting music related sites online? 

Only tech stuff like Music Radar and Harmony Central, both of which are really good music sites.Some film sites that deserve a mention are Monkeypeaches which is dedicated to new Chinese releases, and Wong Kar Wai.net a site dedicated to the man himself.

13 – Which comes first, the music or the films? 

Zan Lyons Film Still
Zan Lyons Film Still

I’m constantly making music, as well as shooting stuff, so it tends to be an organic process rather than a set one. Sometimes a visual idea will trigger a sound and vice-versa. How it then develops is different every time

14 – Tell us about your next gigs and why we should be there! 

On May 22-24 I am performing in Underdrome at the Roundhouse which will be my second collaboration with the mighty Darren Johnston, choreographer.  You can find out more about it from http://www.roundhouse.org.uk/whats-on/productions/underdrome-2957 I’d say book early because we’re only on for those 3 nights!  I’ll be doing live 5.1 sound-design using specifically created material as well as remixed works from Warp records.  On July 11th I’ll be playing a full Audio/Visual + Strings show at the Briton loop festival. It’s now in it’s 3rd and has a killer lineup!

15 – Interview questions can be quite dull, so what do you really want to be
to talking about now?
 

The exciting place technology has reached!I can remember when I started making music there were no laptops with infinite plug-ins and audio tracks. I personally had a sampler with 12 seconds of recording time and nothing else. Technological advancements have made it easier and cheaper for people to make music, and now the same has happened with film. Film takes a completely different level of dedication and work ethic than music because every aspect is so technically precise, but I’m able to create my films from start to finish by myself with nothing more than a laptop, a £400 DV camera and some lights I made myself for £40.I think we’re going to start to see more and more people working independently, and creating new and exciting work that otherwise wouldn’t exist. These truly are revolutionary times.

 

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