Sasha Scott Q&A

Photograph by Raphaël Neal

Welcome to Magazine Sixty, Sasha. Your work encompasses an impressive array of contemporary and classical sounds. Who inspired you to fuse the world of electronic sound together with more traditional instrumentation? And can you describe what you have learnt about how the two styles interact and feed off each other?

Hello Magazine Sixty, thank you so much for having me and for your kind words. I started learning contemporary music composition when I was 10 years old at The Purcell School with a composer called Simon Speare. When I was about 16, I became obsessed with exploring electronic music. When I first started to explore that scene, I was really inspired by artists such as Shiva Feshareki, Massive Attack and Aphex Twin. I’ve always been fascinated by the way Shiva samples her own pieces with more traditional instrumentation into huge electronic soundscapes on her turntables. I really love this concept of recycling and flipping your own instrumental music to create new electronic sounds and tracks. It especially helps me when I’m in a position of where I’ve written a piece and I decide after I really don’t like it; I can then use all that audio to play with and sample to create something completely new.

Personally, I try to not treat writing for traditional instrumentation vs creating music with electronic sounds as being different styles. I like to treat the two approaches as more of different sound palettes instead of styles, otherwise I think there’s a danger of creating music that’s expected in the general stereotypes of each medium.

Listening to your debut EP: Spiral and its deep intensity, how would you describe the way your music reflects the world around you? I was also wondering about your thoughts on how instrumentation works on its own terms without the use of words?

I’ve been working on this EP for a very long time, and every time I was making the music, I really wanted to create a different world that someone could be transported to. Writing music has always been the only time where I’m not thinking of anything that’s happening in the world around me, and I like thinking of the music as an escape from real life and having the ability to just immerse yourself in a strange new world and pause reality for the duration of a track.

I’ve always loved improvising, whether that was on violin, keyboard or playing around with creating new sounds on my laptop. I’ve always felt that improvisation on any instrument is as much your own voice as it is when you sing. I’ve never actually wrote a track with words, but it’s something I’d be intrigued to explore in the future.

Sasha Scott · Spiral

The artwork to Spiral is particularly striking. Tell us about it and how you see it representing the accompanying music?

When I finished this EP, I knew immediately that I wanted Julia Soboleva to create the artwork. She’s one of my favourite artists and I’d been following her work for years. I really relate to her as an artist too. I read in an interview of hers that when she creates her art, people often perceive it as being very dark and scary at times, yet it feels really intimate and personal to her, and I feel exactly the same way about this EP and my music in general at the moment. We chatted, and I told her that I wanted the artwork to feel other-worldly, hypnotic, and electric. I sent her the music, and I completely trusted her vision and let her run with what she personally felt represented the music. I really loved what she created and how it feels like a kind of supernatural snapshot from a strange planet.

Looking back what are your feelings on winning the BBC Young Composer Competition? And more generally how the BBC supports new artists?

When I won the BBC Young Composer Competition I was really shocked. I’d previously entered around 5 times and I felt like it was so out of reach. In my previous submissions I always had a feeling in the back of my mind of having to submit something purely instrumental and ‘contemporary-classical’ sounding to fit in. Then when the deadline was around the corner for 2019, the only piece I had ready was my first electronic track Humans May Not Apply, which I had created mostly out of sampling myself playing lots of glisses on my violin. I entered it but thought that this cannot be what they’re looking for. When the results came, it was almost a confirmation to me to just trust your gut, write the music you want to write, and don’t be conformed to any style of writing, and it definitely taught me to never write music you think people are expecting to hear.

I also think that the BBC are fantastic with supporting new artists through the many schemes and radio shows they do and they have been incredibly supportive of me over the recent years.

Sasha Scott · Humans May Not Apply

Do you feel enough attention is given to more creative/ radical forms of music? How do you see life as being an artist in ten years’ time (in terms of income and the ability to play live etc)?

I definitely feel like there is not enough attention given to this kind of music. However I’d much rather write music I feel like and not think about conforming to a specific genre, than write music that clearly fits into a box, even if that means receiving more attention or streams/listeners.

It’s very fair to say that life as an artist now, or in ten years time is extremely terrifying as it’s becoming much harder and less possible to sustain, especially with the downfall of support towards the industry, but I wouldn’t and couldn’t imagine pursuing anything else. At the moment I’m still a student studying composition for an undergraduate degree, and my ultimate goal is to be able to create and perform music for a living when I finish my course. It’s very scary and hard to imagine doing that with any kind of secure income, but I don’t want that to put me off. There’s so much uncertainty in the music world right now and who knows what will happen in ten years’ time, but I’m determined to try.

Sasha Scott · Lucid – for String Quintet / Live at Kings Place November 2020

Tell us about your involvement with the Britten Pears Young Artist programme?

The BPYA programme was one of the best musical experiences I’ve ever had. I was one of six composers on the scheme, and we all stayed together in Aldeburgh for a 10 day course in November 2022. We all had the opportunity to try out whatever sounds or music we wanted with a large chamber ensemble made up of extremely talented and exciting instrumental players every day of the course. It was so freeing to be able to try out anything we wanted, and have that time to try and create sounds we hadn’t heard before, and I’d never had that time or chance to explore that with musicians. The environment was probably the most supportive and encouraging one I’ve ever been in; I would definitely recommend it to anyone wanting to write for acoustic instruments in a chamber ensemble.

How have you found the process of self-releasing your own music? Has anyone given you a great piece of advice?

Honestly, it is a completely new world to me. I’ve wanted to release music for a long time, but I was truly terrified of putting music out into the world. It can be quite a self-doubting process, as nagging thoughts come up like will I regret this? Will I still stand by this in a month, or even years? But I think it’s really important to trust your gut as an artist, and for the first time I feel like this EP represents the musician I am currently and what I’m aiming to create. The best advice I’ve had is from my great friend and extraordinary electronic artist ‘GRANDAD’, who encouraged me to not be scared to send your music to musicians you love and who really inspire you, and to also make sure you’re writing the music for yourself first and foremost.

Tell us about your favourite instrument to play and how you came to own it?

My favourite instrument to play is the violin. I can’t actually remember a time where it wasn’t a part of my life, as I started playing it at 4 years old; it was the start of my whole musical journey. I was completely obsessed with the cello, because my older brother played it and I remember loving to hear him practise at our home in Wembley, but my mum thought there would’ve been too much sibling rivalry there, so my parents got me a very tiny violin which I’m extremely grateful for. I still play today and love playing in orchestras and also recording myself at home to sample for my music.

Sasha Scott – Spiral EP is released on February 24, 2023.

Photograph by Roberto Romito
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