Paradox Obscur say:
We are not fond of writing in a digital environment
Usually, we write music first
We like the voice to be very natural
Singing is a liberating experience
Kriistal Ann and Toxic Razor are Parodox Obscur, a duo from Athens, Greece.
Let’s discover their music world in this exclusive interview for The Electronic Corner
Sir Joe: In your Instagram profile, you define yourselves as creators of extravaganza electronica. Who came out with that definition and what do you mean by that?
SJ: Actually, I did find one extravaganza about you, in the sense that you’re one of the very few guests of this podcast I have interviewed, or I will ever interview, for which it doesn’t make sense to ask: “Do you use Logic, Pro Tools or maybe Ableton”, because you don’t have a computer in your studio, you still record using a console.
What is the advantage of this approach?
TR: I like the way bands in the 70s, 80s and 90s were playing.
Whether it was electronic or rock band, two, three or four people were playing instruments. This is the approach I use when writing music for Paradox Obscure … it is like jamming.
I like to work with hardware instruments, drums machines, synthesizers, sequencers.
I’m not so much fond of writing in a digital environment because I like to have control over physical stuff, I like to touch knobs, play chords or program drum machines in a live environment.
I find writing music using a computer sterile, and you miss the spirit of people jamming.
Of course, for other people composing in a computer works. But in our case, I think we are more comfortable working with hardware gear.
SJ: So, the fact that it took you 18 months to record your latest full album, ‘Morphogenesis’, has nothing to do with this kind of approach, right?
TR: No. I think it was the longest period it took to reach the final result, unlike our previous albums.
For example, our first album was recorded in less than a month, but with Morphogenesis we wanted to work on the tunes, the melodies, the vocals in all details and try some things that we hadn’t tried before in mixing.
Then there was also the production of the videos, and we spent many months in the studio doing the mix for Anna’s voice.
It was the first time that we mixed vocals in a studio because we wanted to use a different approach, and I think in the end it worked very well.
SJ: I agree. Now, I’m totally fascinated by the video for one song of this album, ‘Animal Reactor’. Where did you get all those Chinese, I assume by the name, dancers?
Kriistal Ann: Well, usually I’m the one taking care of the visuals of the band, and I dig in internet for video makers who can fit in our aesthetic and can give our songs something very special that makes it blend with the video.
So, in the previous summer I was searching a lot and I was very disappointed because I couldn’t find anybody, but suddenly, after many months, I found a very nice videographer from Taiwan.
Because he had many big projects, at first I was shy to contact him, but finally I wrote him about us, and that we had a song for which we would like him to make a video.
His answer was very positive and very enthusiastic, so we got together and he proposed some ideas.
I described to him what I would like to achieve and I think he did a great job with it. We are very proud of this video.
SJ: Yeah, you should be!
Let’s talk about the lyrics. I know that for Paradox Obscur you sing in English, French, German, did I miss any other language?
KA: Sometimes in Greek.
SJ: Okay, good. I would like to ask: Is it the mood of the song and the music that makes you choose which language to use, or is it the opposite, meaning that you write the lyrics first, and then you write music to fit with the language of the lyrics?
SJ: Are you totally interchangeable or does each of you have a specific role for song composition, recording, mixing and mastering? How do you share “studio duties”?
TR: Usually, we don’t have a specific role.
For example, Anna is able to write lyrics and/or a bass line, lead melodies, and the same goes for myself.
We also work together on vocal melodies and we decide together about the music parts, the instruments, the sound of each instrument, the mixing, the effects, and so on.
I think it’s a balanced situation.
SJ: Kriistal Ann, your voice is very strong and powerful, and of course the main reason is that you’re an amazing vocalist, because if you don’t start from a strong base, there is nothing you can do to turn an average singer or an average performance into something amazing.
Despite popular belief, in fact, if you can’t sing, nothing will make you sing well.
Having said that, we all know that the voice that we hear in a record or live is never 100% natural. So, would you mind sharing with us the typical effect chain that you use for vocals, like compression, reverb, or any other effects you use?
KA: Actually, we like the voice to be very natural, so we don’t use many effects on it. We usually use a bit of reverb and some compression to improve dynamics, but nothing else.
I always liked to sing, but I never thought I could do it for my music and in public. For this, I have to thank Kostas (Toxic Razor), because he is the one who introduced me to this.
I feel great when I sing, because I can express my feelings and everything I have inside.
It’s a liberating experience.
TR: This also goes for the instruments.
We don’t want so much editing on the sound of the instruments or on the vocals. We prefer to keep it simple, without many effects on the voice, also because the timbre of Anna’s voice doesn’t need lots of things to have her voice glow in a mix, and shine.
I must say I’m very lucky to work with a vocalist like Anna, also because she can handle many styles of music, and this makes it much easier for me to try different things with the music.
SJ: What you’ve just said fits with something I read somewhere, that the studio albums of Paradox Obscur are sort of live albums as well, because they are pure and raw.
TR: Yes, I like to have a raw element in our music, and I would like to add something related to this.
We have recorded an album completely live in the studio. All songs are one take only.
We have not released it yet because we were very busy with other things and there was no time to focus on it. However, we have the recording, and one day we will put it out so that people can hear what we can do in a completely live setup, with all the synths and the drum machines fired up.
(Now I invite you to watch the following video, starting at 20:30. It’s a treat you don’t want to miss, believe me).