A collaboration between former Sky Cries Mary vocalist Anisa Romero and ‘sound scuplter’ Jeff Greinke, Hana originally formed in 1997 to create music for a performance art piece. Now they are back with a new CD, “Omen,” that shows definite progression for them as band. The haunting vocals and intricate sound textures can still be found in Hana’s music, but the new material is much more song-oriented. It’s more easily accessible, while still keeping an experimental. Chaos Control asked Greinke about the project via email; here’s what he had to say.
Chaos Control: How did you come to work with Anisa Romero? Had you been familiar with Sky Cries Mary previously?
Jeff Greinke:Anisa had been invited to sing for a multimedia performance and was looking to create a bigger sound than what she could do alone with her voice. Her husband Roderick (of Sky Cries Mary) suggested she recruit me to enhance her vocalizations and create ethereal backdrops for her to work within.
I had been familiar with SCM since the beginning.
Chaos Control: Can you describe the performance piece you initially worked on with her?
Jeff Greinke: It was the most bizarre piece I had ever been part of. It took place in an indoor horse arena involving several Andalusian horses, Spanish dancers, elaborate costuming and sets, flamenco music, complex lighting, and my prerecorded soundtrack with Anisa singing live. This was presented in a rather rural community, the audience comprised primarily of horse lovers. Seeing those incredibly beautiful horses moving in syncopation to our music was truly amazing.
Chaos Control: How would you compare the resulting debut album to the music you’d initially done for that performance?
Jeff Greinke: We composed two of the works (“Lizard Opera” and “Horse Dance”) for that performance, so the album really is an extension of the music we composed for that show.
Chaos Control: Did you see it as a continuing collaboration from the start, or was it reactions to the first album that prompted you to do a follow-up?
Jeff Greinke: Anisa and I hit it off immediately. We knew we would continue as soon as we began working together. I think we were both primed to explore new avenues. For Anisa, it was an opportunity to really experiment with her voice and allow it to be a much more prominent feature of the music than it was for SCM. In fact our first composition, the center – piece for the multimedia piece I spoke of, revolved entirely around her vocalizations – layered, transposed, and manipulated. For me, it was very exciting just to be able to work with such a lovely voice, and then, with our second album “Omen,” to realize my growing interest in making a more song-oriented, almost “pop” style of music.
Chaos Control: Were there any particular ways your approach differed in making “Omen,” to either the first Hana album or your other projects?
Jeff Greinke: Our first record was made entirely from a studio perspective, meticulously layering tracks onto my 8-track, and letting the pieces develop and evolve in that way. This was a familiar approach for me having applied this method for most of my solo work.
After that album came out we began doing gigs. Having composed the first record as we did, most of those pieces presented a considerable challenge to play live. Additionally, some of those works simply aren’t meant to be performed. None the less, our early shows proved successful, so we began creating pieces that were more suitable for a live setting, primarily clubs. This lent itself wonderfully toward my interest in composing song-oriented, groove based music. So ‘Omen’ was made from the opposite direction, by creating works that could be performed live to begin with, and then taking them into the studio to make the record.
Chaos Control: Are there any plans for future live performances of the Hana material?
Jeff Greinke: We’ve been performing quite frequently locally and plan to continue, however much less for the next year. Anisa is pursuing a graduate degree in fine art at NYU beginning this fall, so it’s going to be more difficult to collaborate for a while. However, it’s likely we’ll be doing Hana gigs in New York.
Chaos Control: To what extent has the evolution of musical technology over the years affected your approach to music?
Jeff Greinke: It’s a lot easier now to make “good-sounding” records. I’ve always operated on a small-budget, so I was fairly late in working with digital recording. I now have the low-budget version of Pro-Tools. The editing power and clarity is amazing relative to what I had been working with. Although my approach to composing music is very similar in terms of layering, building pieces in a vertical way, I had much less control prior to going digital. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, in fact it eliminated the inherent danger with digital recording, i.e. the potential to work all the life out of a piece. I tend to work well with limitations. My studio is still very modest, so I’m not overwhelmed with possibilities. It feels to me like a good balance.
Chaos Control: What type of studio set-up do you currently use?
Jeff Greinke: In addition to Pro-tools LE, I have an Ensoniq ASR 10 sampler which I’ve been using for about 10 years, a Nord Lead 2 synthesizer, and a few months ago I purchased a Kurzweil 2600 keyboard. I’ve also got a Pro-1 analog synth, my first keyboard synth module I picked up in the early 80’s. It was the only synth I used for many years. I still use it occasionally. It’s all over my last solo record ‘Ride.’ Otherwise, I’ve got a couple of multi-effects processors, some long-delay pedals, and use trombone, guitar and a few noise making instruments.
Chaos Control: Do you tend to start off by finding interesting sounds and then seeing where experimenting with them leads, or do you usually have an idea of how a song/texture should sound and then seek out appropriate sounds to use?
Jeff Greinke: The former of the two approaches is the way I generally compose. It’s either by creating an interesting bed of sounds to work off of, or perhaps a groove that feels and sounds good. Or it might be a little melodic figure repeating.
In recent years I’ve been asked to contribute more to other artist’s work, pieces that have already been sketched out. I’ve enjoyed this opportunity. It relieves me of the burden of having to generate something from scratch, which is the case as a solo artist or primary writer for my two groups. It’s difficult to keep finding new and fresh ways to begin. Collaborating with others in this way has afforded me space and time away from my solo process.
Chaos Control: What’s in the immediate future for you?
Jeff Greinke: I’m getting close to finishing my next solo album. It’s been a couple of years since I released ‘Ride.’ I’m continuing to write for Hana, and I’d like to rejuvenate my LAND project, which has been quiet since the release of our last album, ‘Road Movies,’ earlier this year.