Singaporean artist The Analog Girl, also known as Mei Wong, is no stranger to the international music scene. Having already headlined some of the world’s most prestigious festivals and venues, such as The Knitting Factory in New York and The Worldtronics Festival in Berlin, she has been wildly compared to the likes of Bjork and Yoko Ono. Fortunately, we were able to catch her in action as she made a special appearance at the ThreeA Toys Beijing Gathering, a three-day art-meets-toy exhibition held in the capital’s trendy Sanlitun district.
Equipped with her Macbook Pro, neon-glowing Percussa cubes and a blinking, tetris-like Tenori-on LED screen, her live composing skills were mesmerizing as she bounced from one gadget to the next, tapping away on a computerized keyboard and occasionally sliding her fingers across her iPad. She truly was a digital wonder woman of the electronic kind.
As she progressed through her 6-song set, I was particularly impressed by her ability to create this elaborate emotive soundscape through which I was transported to a dreamy electronic wonderland. Being an avid fan of pretty much anything electronic myself, I was drawn to her broody rhythms and haunting vocals. After mingling with several champagne-guzzling, art-loving folks, I had a short chat with the Analog Girl. Here’s the interview:
LYBZ: When did you first discover your love for composing music?
AG: My home since I was a kid has always been filled with music. Records from ABBA, The Beatles and The Osmonds would be playing, and we would also tune in to music variety TV shows like Solid Gold every week. But singing along to my favorite songs at the back of the car wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to create my own world through the songs that I write.
LYBZ: As a young girl, what was your earliest musical inspiration?
AG: I guess it would have to be The Beatles, Elvis and Olivia Newton-John. Maybe even classical works from composers like Bartok ‘cos I was trained in classical piano from the age of 5.
LYBZ: I read that you recorded your first melody on a cassette tape at the tender age of 7. Have you always been quite experimental with technology as a means of creating music?
AG: As a kid, I would overdub layers of instruments and vocals using a 2-deck cassette tape recorder to produce complete songs and make full albums from them. I guess I do experiment out of my need to improvise with what I have on hand.
LYBZ: Your music is mainly digitally composed. So why ‘Analog’ Girl? Is there a back-story behind that?
AG: ‘Analog’ actually refers to the mentality that I take when composing my songs. I never intended to be an electronic musician. I have always wanted to be in a rock band so having my songs done digitally seemed the way to go since I am a one-woman band who can only play keyboards. I write most of my earlier songs with a four-piece band in mind – drums, bass, piano and guitar, using synthesized versions of these instruments. Now, as I expand my repertoire and embrace electronic music more, ‘Analog’ could also refer to the virtual analog synths that I use in my music.
LYBZ: You’ve performed all over the world. Which has been your most memorable gig so far? And why?
AG: So far it would be Worldtronics Festival 2009 in my favorite city, Berlin in Germany. I love the audience and I have a deep infatuation with the city.
LYBZ: Take us through your creative process as you’re about to produce a track. Do you usually start with making a beat, layering it then adding the vocals? Does the composing and songwriting come hand-in-hand or are they quite separate processes?
AG: I usually start with a sound or instrument that moves me and I write and record a melody with that. After which, it just flows and gets built on with the layering of beats and vocal. I write and record at the same time so it’s a subconscious process half the time and the first take is usually the take you hear on the record.
LYBZ: You’ve already performed at some of the world’s major cities and grown to become one of Asia’s most original musical acts, what’s left on your things-to-do list?
AG: Continue to perform as often and in as many cities as I can. Write more albums and just keep doing what I am doing ‘cos I love it!
LYBZ: Your EP ‘Sometime Next Galaxy’ was mastered by Mandy Purnell, who also worked with iconic artists such as Depeche Mode, Sigur Ros and Feist. How did that collaboration come about?
AG: I was shopping for an engineer to master the EP to take the sound further and I came across Mandy Parnell in many of my favorite artists’ works so I decided to hook up with her.
LYBZ: And last question, if you could collaborate with any artist or producer, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
AG: I would love to have Beck produce a record for The Analog Girl because I enjoy his style and he has great musical depth and diversity – that will be my dream collaboration.
The Analog Girl recently released a brand new EP of 2 songs called the A/B EP as an app exclusive for the iPhone/iPod Touch, under Re<ords by Delaware (Japan). This app costs US$1.99 and is available worldwide on the iTunes App Store. She is currently in the process of producing a new album due to drop at the end of 2010.