skip to Main Content

AQAXA: “I’m looking into ways of opening my process of collecting and exploring sonic memories”

Very little trace can be found online about AQAXA’s persona. A few snapshots, some lines here and there, and one EP. The German artist’s debut release, the ‘Corporeal EP. Conceived during the COVID pandemic, the artist seeks to present itself as something that is, and isn’t. A duality, stemming from the same well, diverging only under the prism of our individual interpretations.

‘Corporeal’ EP, his debut on Punch Up Records, feels complex and intricate, yet warm and intimate. As they intersect in an ethereal realm, it’s a communion between man and AI, created out of fragmented memories. A crystal-clear labyrinth, where reflections of what once was get lost, only to be replicated over and over again until all original meaning is gone. Resignified.

Today, we catch up with the elusive artist AQAXA in a bid to better understand the workings of his inner self, talk about expression in the digital age, the release of the ‘Corporeal EP’, and more.

Electronic Groove: Hi AQAXA! It’s a pleasure to have you here with us. How are you doing? What is the general situation like in Berlin at the moment?

AQAXA: Hi, my pleasure, and thank you for the lovely review of ‘Corporeal EP’, I enjoyed reading it. Things in Berlin are fine, although it feels like we’re in some sort of eerie transitional state. Places are carefully reopening their outdoor areas, next week there are even three DJ nights where you can get a vaccine shot for free without an appointment or even an ID, which is a bit surreal. It’s sunny outside and it almost feels like the long COVID winter was just a bad dream. On the other hand, numbers are low now but they’ve been going up again recently, so it’s not entirely over yet.

Electronic Groove: Your profile is shrouded by a veil o mystery, one can say. How did you first get started? What were your first interactions with music like?

AQAXA: I got started by hitting the lower notes of an old upright piano at my grandparent’s place. I think I was 4 or something like that. I’ve always had a preference for the lower octaves apparently, I liked how the whole thing vibrated when I hit the keys as hard as I could.

 

Electronic Groove: How did that translate into electronic music? Was there a special track or record that changed the picture for you?

AQAXA: I guess that innocent attraction towards how an upright piano vibrated was an early indicator of my interest in music as a visceral experience, something that you feel with and through your whole body. For a teenager playing electric guitar, Radiohead’s ‘Kid A’ was the gateway drug to the catalogs of labels like Warp, Mego (RIP Peter Rehberg btw ), Rephlex, Mille Plateaux, or Sähkö. At some point, my body got hit by the concrete sculptures of the sound of bands like Pan Sonic and Autechre, and shortly after I discovered the work of experimental musicians and researchers such as Laetitia Sonami and Michel Waisvisz, who were building their own instruments to use their bodies in performance in unique ways. I was hooked.

Electronic Groove: What is AQAXA to you? What does it mean?

AQAXA: AQAXA is some kind of spinoff personality that was born out of the need to get out of my own self and try to look at the person I was at the time from the outside. I like to say that AQAXA and that person are like two long-lost siblings [laughs]. It helped me through a difficult period, so I think it worked.

“I guess that innocent attraction towards how an upright piano vibrated was an early indicator of my interest in music as a visceral experience, something that you feel
with and through your whole body”

Electronic Groove: Congratulations on the release of ‘Corporeal’ EP! This is your first release, right? What is the inspiration behind this one?

AQAXA: Yes, ‘Corporeal EP’ is my first release as AQAXA. It’s out on Punch Up Records, a UK label run by two guys that actually care about music, which is really not an obvious thing these days. The inspiration behind this one was how moving your body to a rhythm can trigger memories and take you somewhere else. In the third track of the EP, ‘Knee-jerk Drifter’, I pushed this idea further by collecting lots of voice messages I had received in the previous two years and the audio of a bunch of videos I took while traveling. These audio memories formed a big pool of samples that I explored using an AI algorithm and body motion sensors: here is an example of what it looks like.

Electronic Groove: Does every piece of music you make have a story behind it? What are you looking to convey through it?

AQAXA: Sometimes it’s actually the other way around, I start with abstract sounds and then some kind of narrative emerges after. With the ‘Corporeal EP’, I was particularly interested in building my own narratives from non-linear explorations of that archive of sonic memories I built from audio messages, etc. Of course, just a small part of those sounds made it to the final version of the tracks, but it was that exploration process that got me there. It was very rewarding and helped me figure out where I wanted to go with other aspects of the tracks, such as chord progressions, arrangement, among others. I like the idea that life is not a linear accumulation of events: you go back and forth through your memories to make sense of your present and find a way into your future.

Electronic Groove: And now it will be receiving a physical release! And quite a unique one. Could you explain the format to us? What motivated this particular choice?

AQAXA:  Glad you asked. The label and I had been looking into a way to release the ‘Corporeal EP’ physically that made sense for us in this era of commodified music where the value of a recording is dictated by streaming platforms. It was also important for me to find something that worked with the overall concept of the EP, that of memory and its digital fragmentation. So we decided to experiment and make a limited edition SD card release, containing high-quality files of the tracks of the EP and much more. Particularly, each memory card is unique because it contains a different fragment of one of the personal memories I sampled in the track ‘Knee-jerk Drifter’. The source video, which I filmed while traveling, is 26 seconds long, so each of the 26 memory cards contains one second of it. To experiment further, the memory has also been minted as an NFT on the Ethereum blockchain. Each card is hand-numbered and housed in a signed, custom 3-panel digipak. The SD also contains the ProRes version of the Xennial Sehnsucht video by Tim Grabham, and additional artwork and digital liner notes. Ultimately, we wanted to produce an object that is worth owning and holding in your hands while you listen to the music. And we are pretty happy with the result. You can find it on my Bandcamp.

Electronic Groove: How interconnected are music and imagery to you?

AQAXA: Quite much, music and imagery can sometimes merge and mutate into something else. Music can alter the perception of imagery and vice-versa. Collaborating with Tim Grabham for the video of ‘Xennial Sehnsucht’ was a very good experience. In the video, he was able to convey the themes of memory and exploration central to the EP. The hands appearing in the video are a reference to the moments when I would suddenly feel more conscious about the trajectories drawn by my hands moving in front of me while dancing in a club, grabbing and drawing sounds, ideas, memories, and images.

“Imagine hearing in one of my tracks a fragment of an audio message a good friend of yours sent you five years ago,
blended together with the sonic memories of
a bunch of other people”

Electronic Groove: What’s in store for AQAXA in the upcoming months? What new milestones can fans look forwards to?

AQAXA: I’m looking into ways of opening my process of collecting and exploring sonic memories to other people. Imagine hearing in one of my tracks a fragment of an audio message a good friend of yours sent you five years ago, blended together with the sonic memories of a bunch of other people.

Electronic Groove: Thank you for sitting down with us! We wish you all the best!

AQAXA: Thank you for having me, take care.

AQAXA’s ‘Corporeal EP’ is out now. Purchase your copy here.

Follow AQAXA:  Soundcloud | Instagram | Facebook 

Back To Top