Making music allowed me to focus on creation instead of deep mourning
As a designer, I have different tools to work with
I would have loved to add a children’s choir, but I didn’t get the permission
For me, it’s an honour and also fun to remix other artists’ music
In this episode of The Electronic Corner, we meet musician and designer Ultra to explore her creative journey in music production and the emotional influences behind her work. Photo 2 and 4 by Jenny Bewer.
Sir Joe: I was moved when on your website I read your description of why and how the project Ultra was formed, that is as a consequence of the unexpected loss of your brother.
Can you tell us more about the healing power of music and how music helped you specifically to overcome this tragic loss?
Ultra: It was in 2019. I found myself lost and mourning about my brother’s death in 2016.
Somehow, the noises I was creating during those hours, like playing a deep sound with the cello, made the grief come out of my body. It became something tangible. This process let me focus on creation instead of deep mourning.
It’s not an overcome, but I could somehow channel the pain to something constructive.
SJ: Nowadays do you still need to enter in a specific state of mind to make a song, or by now it is just a matter of starting to play around with your tools until something interesting comes out?
Ultra: Now, music production for me is just another way to be creative. As a designer, I have different tools to work with, and whatever mood I have, I can implement it in the music.
Right now, for example, I’m working on new songs, and they’re highly inspired by my 10 month old baby girl.
For one song, for example, I sampled my daughter’s rattle and created a whole song around it.
SJ: Is balancing the gloomy and dark atmosphere of your music with the danceable and rhythmic elements a challenge for you, or does it just come natural?
Ultra: Actually, it came natural already at the beginning. Also, usually I prefer working intuitively, instead of using excessive technicalities or starting with elaborate concepts.
SJ: So, you follow your instinct, basically. Now, how did your collaboration with Stahlschlag start, and how did you put together the song ‘Doomed’?
Ultra: At the time, Stahlschlag was looking for musicians to collaborate with, and I already did a remix for him in the past.
So, Sebastian from Stahlschlag sent me the stems he had already available, and I added my sounds and voice to it. We both liked the result so much that we started to brainstorm a little bit about a video.
In general, I like to also do videos. There’s a lot of editing work, but it’s always fun. And luckily, we live less than 2 hours away from each other, so it was easy to meet up and shoot the video.
Now we are also thinking about performing the song together live in March. If you follow our social media, we will announce it at some point.
SJ: So, you edit your videos yourself, don’t you?
SJ: Blanc Noir, at least in the Carol of the Bells version, sees the introduction of a melodic element, which is something unusual for your project.
I’m totally fascinated by this version, so I would like to know more about it. Which tempo is it in, for example, and how did you get the idea of adding bells in that version?
Ultra: Yes, that song is an exception to my usual way of making music, because there is a concept behind it.
I took my song Blanc Noir, which is the 1st song I’ve ever created for Ultra, and this version is reminiscent of the Christmas song ‘Carol of the Bells’.
It comes at 126 bpm and to me it seemed just natural to add bells to it, as it fits the Christmas song concept in general, and also this specific carol.
I must say I would have loved to add a children’s choir as well, but I didn’t get the permission for it. So, it’s just the bells.
SJ: And how how did you introduce them? How did you decide the timing for the bells?
Ultra: This is a bit difficult to explain. When I had the project open, I was listening to it and somehow I just felt there should be a bell at a certain point, and then somewhere else it should be a bit more deconstructed.
SJ: So, once again, you followed your instinct more than a concept.
I mean, initially there was a concept, but then, eventually, to put all things together, you reversed back following your instinct. Is it correct?
Ultra: Yeah. Somehow, it is always going back to instinct.
SJ: I love it when artists give the possibility to their fans to remix their tracks, so please tell us more about the remix compilation you are planning to release in future.
For example, is it still possible to submit entries?
Ultra: Yes, it is. I just set the deadline to the 30th December, so there’s still a little bit of time.
I had this plan in my mind for quite some time. I myself have participated in some remix compilations in the past. For me, it’s an honour and also fun to remix other artists’ music, adding my own character to it without losing the original idea, you know?
After releasing my 2nd album, ‘Zwei’, I decided it was the right time for doing this call for remixes. It’s a very special experience for me to see others creativity around my music.
I already received a lot of beautiful remixes, I must say, and I’m looking forward to release the compilation at the beginning of 2024.
SJ: So, what should people do in order to give their contribution?
Ultra: They can just write me a message, via Instagram or email or Facebook and they can decide about the song they want to remix, or I decide for them, if they prefer.
Then, I send them the stems, and they can play around.
SJ: You make your music with a basic setup: computer, a microphone and a midi keyboard.
Which DAW are you using? Which synths and effects plug ins do you use most?
Ultra: In general, I prefer simple equipment, as you said. I started with GarageBand, since it’s not complicated to get a nice result. At that time, I just needed to get an output, out of this.
Then, it was just natural to switch to Logic Pro. Later, I will give you a little insight into how I work with it and the program itself. It has an overwhelming range of plug ins and synths, and what I do is just playing with them until I get a sound I like.
SJ: You will play live in Reykjavik next year, on the 27th of January.
How did that opportunity come up, and how do you recreate your songs when you play live?
Ultra: I was chatting with an artist colleague about our projects and ideas, and it turned out that we both have a special connection to Iceland.
He’s connected through the music scene there, and I am connected through my brother. So, Colin came up with the idea to give a concert together.
For me, this is a very special opportunity, because of my brother. After his death, we traveled to Iceland and scattered his ashes there, and years later, I played in that place the song I made for him during the mourning phase.
I think I will also perform that song live, in Reykjavik in January.
In general, when I play live, I have the songs I have prepared in the computer and I manipulate them during the show.
I also add my voice, which is processed by pedals. I have an echo and a bus for it, and I also have a special track for additional sounds.
This runs through my Zen Delay synthesizer, and it also acts like a bridge between the songs.
(Now I invite you to watch the following video, starting at 12:57. Ultra is going to show us how she manipulates sounds inside Logic Pro DAW).
We say thanks to Ultra for the nice interview and wish her good luck for all her future projects.
Don’t forget to visit her official website