Last year, we profiled trans-disciplinary artist Ilima Considine about “Don’t Stop,” the debut from her musical project Ilima Considine and The Sexbots. Considine is back with her third Sexbots album, “Junk Sick,” so we followed up with another email interview.
Could you elaborate on the title “Junk Sick” and themes behind the songs?
This album is basically a series of love letters to the man who left me right after the [last] album was completed. The first several months we were together, we were constantly breaking up. When this happened, I was so upset that I would start vomitting. Junk sick is a term for the vomitting that accompanies heroin withdrawal. I was hanging out with an ex-junkie photographer in St. John’s and he said to me, “When I don’t drink, I feel junk sick. What does that mean?” Obviously, it meant he was a huge alcoholic. I had never heard the phrase before, but I immediately knew what it meant and I thought, “That’s how J– makes me feel.”
Who did you collaborate with musically for this album? Did the composition/recording process differ from previous albums in any specific ways?
I worked with DJ Ceez, Qmulus, and Stereospread. I used the same sound engineer as on Love Hotel, PE Strickland, but I recorded most of the tracks at home and then went to him for mixing and mastering. I wouldn’t say that the compositional process was especially different, but how I felt during it was different. I felt like I was eviscerating myself and then presenting the results as beautiful music. I tried to record in studio with PE Strickland, but I felt that it sounded too performative, and I wanted it to sound more personal- to one person, rather than an audience. I rerecorded everything at home, went back, and… we had one last mixing session that ended after midnight the night before I got on an early, early plane with both my kids to go to my brother’s wedding in Hawaii. I told Prince we were going to keep going until it was done and we did, but afterwards, he told me to stop torturing him, and from now on, just do my own mixing and just come to him for mastering. This isn’t as bad as it sounds, I had lost faith in myself as a producer, and he was telling me that I was good enough, and that it was easier for me to just do it than to try to explain mystical sonic qualities to him. It was exactly what I needed to hear.
In terms of the sounds used, there does seem to be more of an 80’s influence on “Junk Sick” – could you comment on that? Was there a conscious effort to utilize elements from that era (things like old synth sounds) without actually sounding ‘retro’?
No, I think it’s more like- we’re all within a few years of each other in age and children of the 80’s, and the ways that we remember our childhood, are sometimes different from the way that things actually were. For instance, I exactly remembered a doorknob in the house I grew up in, but I remembered it being rather high up. And there was a great emotional dissonance when I went back and saw it from the height of an adult. I think that it goes back to the way we remember the theory of songs that we heard many years ago, and may not have listened to them specifically. Kind of the way that stories change through oral history- when not referencing an exact recording repeatedly, our memory changes slightly. It has to do with the way that those memories were filtered through other musical experiences that we’ve collectively had over the years.
You’ve made videos for all the tracks on the album – could you describe for approach to them? For example, did you plan of all them from the start to create a cohesive ‘video album’? Or do approach them completely track by track? How long do you tend to spend making each one?
I approach them completely separately from each other. Half the time, video making is inspired, concept-driven, and then slapped in the face with a dose of reality. Other times, it’s like making dinner- I see what I have lying around the house and who’s available to hang out on a given day and go with that. Any time there’s a resource, such as a videographer with awesome gear who wants to try working together, I’ll throw together a shoot as quickly as possible to take advantage of it. It takes 1-3 days to shoot and edit a video, depending on the complexity. This can be spread over longer time… for example, we shoot, I catch a cold, and then realize I don’t know how to convert the footage into something Final Cut Pro can deal with… but without the periods of real life interspersed, I think it’s about 1-3 days of work (8-30 hours) put into each one. Sometimes it’s as simple as, hey, I came back from New Orleans with a pint of glitter, and I once saw this girl at a kink night who was covered in it, head to toe. I wonder if we can try that at home… and I am still finding glitter under my bed. That trick doesn’t work with craft glitter.
Do you consider how your work might be perceived by audiences who are introduced to it through your live shows vs just hearing the music/seeing the music videos? What, if anything, do you feel people are missing out on if they don’t have the chance to see you perform live?
I think there’s a lot missed out, energy wise, by not seeing a live show- at least in my own experience of going to shows. There are elements that can not be captured in recordings in any medium. If a band can’t sell it live, it’s not going to work. One thing that I have tried to do in my videos, is acknowledge the dichotomy in my work- between the freaky art pop goddess and the fact that I’m totally the single mom next door, albeit one with terrible, terrible fashion sense- and to present both sides at once, thus giving them something that they can’t get from the stage show. I make a point of not wearing makeup in videos and filming in my real environment, in places I know and inhabit in real life. I love Lady Gaga as a visual artist, but she has so many followers who get caught up in some of the side details. I think natural women are sexy. I wear makeup but I will never wear fake eyelashes, or corsets, or Spanx, or any of that. (The one time I wore a corset in a video was as a feminist commentary on how sexual accoutrements infantilize women.) I hardly ever wear heels because I need to feel the ground beneath me when I’m dancing. As a teenager in Southern California, I was told I was too short, too fat, too ethnic- whatever. I was afraid to participate in the music scene because I didn’t think I fit the part. Now I realize that the swagger of embracing whatever you are, fearlessly(or you know, being able to fake it well), is hot.
How did it work out using Kickstarter to fund the album?
I learned a lot. Mainly about my own fears and insecurities about presenting my work and asking other people to help. It was such an emotional roller coaster, and basically a full time job. I was drained, and got really sick travelling and working long hours, but every time I felt way down low, I thought of the obligation I had- not so much for the money, but for the trust that was put in me. For people believing in the music. I couldn’t let those people down. I may have to do this on the next album, and I will do it ten times better with all I learned the first time.
In terms of the promotional and business side of things, what would you say some of the big things are that you’ve learned since starting this project?
Get festivals to sign contracts. No more unlicensed festivals (this is a big thing in Oregon, and they get shut down all the time). Book holiday shows 3-4 months out. And, yikes… in previous bands, I spent like 95% time on music and 5% business side. That ratio is way different now. I realized that no one’s going to walk up and sign me out of nowhere, success is often more about push than talent, and I believe in the music I do. I believe that it’s worth the push, and I had to get that whole “I’m an artiste, I don’t have to promote” mindset out of myself as self-sabotaging, and say- the work is worth it, therefore I will learn how to promote and do it. I’m also extremely shy and tend to stay at home working on art projects, so this has been fighting against my natural tendencies. It’s paid off, but I miss the years when every day, after dinner, we’d play for 3-4 hours.
Keep smiling. Practice talking about your band until you get good at it. Leave the house once in awhile. This isn’t a business thing, but keep safe people around you. I get so nervous before shows that I get frantic and can’t eat, and then I get lightheaded and get drunk off half a drink. I try to keep certain safe people around me and they all know to yell at me until I eat something. I am a hot mess when I have low blood sugar.
Are you planning on doing any national (or international?) touring to promote this album?
Yes, I will be going to Japan in February and again in April. I will be attacking the US in portions at a time. I have a rule never to be away from the children for more than 2 weeks, so I will be doing it piece by piece. Dying to do Europe but looking for help booking this. I always feel like I am making major faux pas when I use Google translate. The easiest way to track my shows is probably www.ilimaconsidine.com or stalk me on Facebook- I’m under my real name, Ilima Considine. Also, if you want to help get The Sexbots tour Europe, (I know Germany is dying for us!) please write me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
I’m my own label and my own management company. You won’t be talking to some tormented intern or under-secretary- everything is through me. I’m not doing this to get laid or get rich or to be cool- I’m trying to tell stories that help people understand themselves and see their lives differently. I’m trying to make the kind of music that changes people’s lives.