EA: You have worked with some very notable artists and producers including T.RAUMSCHMIERE, Paul Castle, and Andy Chatterley of The Droyds (ex Psychic TV), Mark Moore aka S’Express, and Punx Soundcheck. Can you tell me a little bit about your personal musical history and how you came to work with such respected personalities?
GS: I have always been musical. Since I can remember, I did my grades and techniques as a kid but classical music wasn’t for me really, not back then – the music on the radio was really what did it for me growing up. I first engaged with “dance music” in the early 90’s – I heard Papua New Guinea by FSOL and I was blown away. I knew it was BIG and that sound was going to stay. It was around then I rang up my top ten UK records’ labels and tried to see if I could sing with someone. Back then I saw 4 labels and tried out with 2.
That was when I first sang on electronic music in the studio proper. It was amazing. I have written a lot of songs. During that time the world of making music has changed a lot, so much so sometimes, it has been hard to keep up with it’s evolution. When I started recording music 23 years ago they still used 2 inch tape, you would have to get it perfect or drop in, totally perfect. Then came a-dat and soundscape, and before we knew it we could edit vocals digitally and put guitars next to a drum loop and it all sounded fantastic! Things are very different now…that’s the norm – and how gorgeous is that? Everyone has a chance at being perfect and brilliant – there’s no excuse … now it’s down to character and ideas. That’s the real challenge.
I have been really lucky, to have crossed paths with such talent, but I have fallen prey to the usual pitfalls too, I have made some classic mistakes along the way. Being an artist isn’t for the faint hearted, it plays with your dreams. Somehow for me, it has been at that those points, when I have thought I can’t do it anymore, it all takes too much and gives too little in return that someone, or something wonderful simply appears and leads me onto my next big thing. I met a couple of the people you mentioned above at those times. Sometimes I have approached an artist I really admire myself – see if they would like to collaborate, or I have been contacted by them, their label, whoever – usually its largely a part of time and place. I work to one rule really, and that’s never to make music with someone whose work i do not like. It has stood me well I feel and allowed me to release some very high quality recordings over the years. Music i still like. Really I just count my blessings for all I have learned from each person I have collaborated with so far.
EA: Back in the early 2000’s you used to record as Louise De Fraine why the change to GeneSerene?
GS: It wasn’t really intentional but it somehow changed everything. In the early 00’s I had a new collection of songs having recently split from a long term writing partnership. I wanted to perform the songs and I needed separation, as it was a very different sound to what I had been doing before. For a laugh I wrote a character, Gene Serene into “Wicked” a track I was writing with Billy Borez and Barry Ashworth at the time… It rhymed with silver screen – It was pretty tongue in cheek. I remember giving my first performance as Gene Serene and getting several bookings afterwards, and then it rolled on from there on for the last decade, my husband calls me Genie!
EA: You were right up in the thick of the Electroclash movement. What are your reflections on that time period?
GS: Music was exciting then and I remember there being a real buzz. The first real moment for me live, was a Fischerspooner launch party in a long tunnel – all I could see was their hair, but everyone was excited, something was happening, there were songs in dance music, I really liked that. Looking back it was a whirlwind for me; I met people who felt like family, People finally seemed to get my music, and me, which was special for sure.
EA: There have been some people on various social networks recently declaring a rebirth of electro clash. Do you think this will ever happen and why?
GS: i think rather than it dying a lot of its qualities have been imported into the mainstream. It really was a “scene” and I would be interested in how this reincarnation would take manifest. “Electro-Clash” was coined I believe by Larry Tee, and it was born in New York City. What was happening in London, and other European cities started to make a family of artists, people who would inspire each other, entertain and write some great songs – i feel a lot of it sits at the underbelly, unrecognized in popular music, but the roots go way back, back to the 70’s and 80’s. It was a phenomenon for sure. I hope and pray for the world to keep inspiring and daring one another, there were so many great artists that emerged through that scene at that time.
EA: Your song “All Over You” was used in the indie film Four Eyed Monsters, which I sadly have not seen yet. Have you had any other music in films or done any scoring work?
GS: I have only just really started to compose music again myself with this last project. It’s something I would love to do, all my family have worked in film. Fine art/television – I feel a strong affinity to cinema.
EA: Do you feel more of an emotional connection to one type of sound, specifically electronic over live instrumentation? Is there a certain style of electronic or live music you feel most connected to?
GS: No. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that, I certainly feel a connection to composed music, written with love, intention and meaning. I love electronic music, I have released dance records since 98 and so club culture has been a massive part of my life too. I grew up in great times for live music the late seventies – punk, new wave – I discovered Cardiacs very early on in life, I was about 14 the first time I saw them play The Whole Wide World Window live, it blew my mind and set the bar for live music experience very high. I enjoyed seeing bands like Pink Floyd and The Damned, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Colorblind James Experience, The Buzzcocks, Depeche Mode, The Ramones and the Butthole Surfers – I loved the sub pop releases in the early nineties like Mudhoney, Rev Horton Heat, the list is endless of the bands I loved in the 80’s and 90’s really…
I never really went in for Folk or Britpop, everyone loves Helplessly Hoping but I found the likes of Joni and Blur a little needy and emotional so round 92 I really turned my taste around and started getting into dance 12 inches and mixing, the first record I ordered on import was Accident In Paradise – Sven Vaith, Plank 01 was also one of my first amazing dance tunes. I suppose what I am saying is the sound that really does it for me is both together, live and synthesized instruments can make some beautiful places.
EA: You are about to release your new album, The Polaris Experience. What can we expect from the new album?
GS: Yes, this summer I will release the album. It’s a concept album, telling of 2 people escaping the earth forever. Its a journey and written to be listened to from beginning to end. Live it lends to cinemas, theatres and unusual settings. The majority of tracks are more downtempo than my previous releases, yet big, bold and beautiful. I am very happy with how it has turned out – even if it has taken so long, it’s been worth it, it’s finished.
EA: You posted a picture of one of your songs in the works on Facebook, what programs have you been using? How has your use of technology changed over the time you’ve been writing music?
GS: That was a particularly beautiful spectroscope used for visualizing sound in a mastering software i have forgotten the name of. There are tools you can really see what’s going on, a spectroscope forms a visual landscape allowing you to watch your music and catch things you may miss audibly with your eyes. I wrote the songs using a sample library Bob had created. After we decided to work with one another he sent me a file of loops he’d made, all different vibes, keys and speeds, some synth, drums and bass for me to work some musical ideas around. I used an Alesis midi controller keyboard and first recorded my vocals at home using a condenser mic – I then sent my ideas over to Bob who imported the project file into Pro-Tools and worked his magic. Bob designs and builds synth modules – his Penfold unit was used a lot on our album.
He also used a modified Alesis HR16 drum machine, that’s also on his page.
Bob’s quite the engineer, on several levels & truly a good guy. Our sound grew pretty organically and It was quite magical really – over months and months songs and stories began to develop, it became a conceptual piece.
EA: It’s very cool you have a remix by producer Fil OK of We’re in the Water (ex-Atomizer) on the new single for “Don’t Let Go,” from The Polaris Experience. Have you known Fil previously? Did you ever experience the classic Nag Nag Nag night that he, Johnny Slut and JoJo De Freq used to do first hand?
GS: I love Fil OK. We have shared some great times together. I went to some of the Nag Nag Nag parties and they were definitely wild! I think we first shared a bill in Bournemouth (or Liverpool) it was then we really hit it off and we were both already working a lot out in Berlin, so we saw each other a fair bit when I lived out there. He is a fantastic DJ and producer. He was my resident DJ for my Drop the Bomb parties, such an inspiring artist I have seen him get better and better. He’s very open-minded musically and draws from a really wide selection of influences – it makes his work really outstanding. He has introduced me to so much music I would never have heard. His mix is special.
EA: You have a track on The Polaris Experience called “The Singularity.” What’s the story behind that track?
GS: The Singularity in the Album is that moment the earth is toxic, the war is over – the intelligent machines are in control, it’s all about escaping with your life, with the one you love. Kurtzweil’s “Singularity”, Mars One, the Hadron Collider, Fukushima effect, HAARP, it goes on and on and it’s all pointing towards one thing – the need for off world escape. The singularity is not far from what I see currently happening here in the world really. Sure, It’s allegorical in many ways, telling the age-old story of a man and a woman. But living through these fast and dangerous times. Existing on a toxic planet and offered the opportunity to leave. My Grandfather, Terence Fisher directed Hammer Horror films and I grew up with those stories of tortured souls. Frankenstein created a monster, a poor tortured creature – that’s what we’re currently doing to earth with scientific experiments on our environment, energy and so on. I am sure in a hundred years we will see our attempts at AI to be incredibly crude, just as Frankenstein’s monster was simply body parts sewn together. The singularity is a fascinating concept, and can have so many meanings.
EA: Do you fear the possibility of a singularity in the technology takeover sense?
GS: All things considered I think I am probably a futurist, this scientific and technological revolution has been going on since the wheel and Aristotle, like – forever. As scientists advance in our age, I have experienced the benefits personally. My daughter has a metabolic disorder, MCADD. It’s genetic and can be diagnosed by testing for a gene in our DNA. Having that knowledge has probably saved her life, and so I am also beholden to the positives not just the negatives of our times and I subsequently do not fear the technological singularity as such. I feel I have a healthy interest in these things, and to me it’s not a just theory but “faction” and inevitability. In a “takeover” sense would it really be much different to the corrupt systems and warfare we are currently experiencing? I don’t know, I am exploring all these things in the album.
The Polaris Experience will be released this July.
EA: Thank you Gene for taking time out of your busy recording schedule to speak with us at NVR MND. It was a pleasure hearing your insights.