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Telling Bristol's stories through sound - Alexi King

Alexi King always has something exciting in the works and after countless conversations in person, we thought it was high time that we shout about those projects here and discover where all that inspiration comes from.

In our chat with Alexi we talk about the imminent debut of her new podcast, Sonic Seasoning, her exploration of the soundscape of Bristol's Eastville Park Lake and how her busy schedule gives her the creative freedom she needs. 


Could you tell us a little about your journey into music production, how you first got into making music and what led to where you are now?

LexxiI have been singing since I was a young, mic-grabbing toddler. My mum was a busker for years and my brother plays the piano so I was raised in a musical household. At age 15 I was struggling with mainstream education and ended up leaving to be home educated a year before my GCSE’s.

My mum fully supported my desire to learn more about music production and she managed to scrape together the cash to buy me an iMac with Logic 9 Express and then I started experimenting!

At age 16, I fell in love with the dub scene in Bristol and began trying to make dub tunes at home. I was fortunate enough to be mentored in the studio by one of the scenes veteran producers, Ras Muffet (Roots Injection). He patiently shared with me his music production knowledge and taught me how to mix dub live on an analogue desk with outboard FX units. I now use these same dub mixing techniques in my work now across different genres.

At what point did you realise going back into education was the next step for you?

I actually went to dBs college in Bristol (when it was at Temple Meads) and completed the music performance BTEC. I then began working in the hospitality industry and managed a community cafe for 18 months. Working a full-time job and not having time or energy to make music was the driving force behind my decision to go to university.

I briefly attended Bath Spa University studying Commercial Music and after 6 months I left as I realised I wanted to be in the studio more than performing. I met some incredible musicians and I feel grateful for the experience because it helped me realise what I wanted. I wanted to be exploring the studio and getting into the technicalities of production, so I applied to study at dBs on the Electronic Music Production course!

It's now been three years since you made that decision and you’re working on two really interesting projects for your final year, the first of which is a new podcast called Sonic Seasoning. What’s the premise behind the show?

Sonic Seasoning is a podcast that explores topics of food culture through storytelling and soundscape composition. Each episode will be an insight into a different food-related topic with an amalgamation of interviews and facts, bound together with playful editing of field recordings. A four track EP will be released alongside the podcast. Each track on the EP will include field recordings from the podcast that have been reimagined within the production.

I want to explore interesting food related topics as well as the soundscapes associated with each locality. I am interested in the tiny sonic details that help build a connection between someone and an experience. It has been interesting reflecting on this during lockdown as I find myself missing the loud bustle of my local cafe but also appreciating the quiet.

Sonic Seasoning

When did you first hit upon the idea to go one step further than a regular podcast?

At first, I didn’t know whether to focus the podcast on sound/music or food culture. Then during the innovation module on my course, we were introduced to soundscape practices like sound walking and soundscape composition and this opened my eyes up to a new world.

As the world evolves and technology changes, the soundscape around us is forever changing. Sounds like the electric car might phase out the roar of a diesel engine, induction hobs might replace gas buttons on cookers and new sounds that will become cherished in peoples memories will evolve. These sounds might be totally mundane to some and evoke precious memories for others.

What has been the reaction from the people you’ve approached and interviewed so far?

The response to the project so far has been very positive. Although, I think that some people find it strange that I want to record them stirring a bowl of coleslaw or frying some chips!

Your second project is in a similar vein, but focuses on the sounds of Bristol’s Eastville Park. Can you tell us a little more about what you’re doing and the inspiration behind it?

Alexi King - Field recording
I was introduced to acoustic ecology and soundscape studies by my lecturer Emmanuel. I created a soundscape composition of Eastville Park Lake as a sketch for my innovation portfolio which was made up of field recordings and casual conversations with users of the park.

After chatting with 10 people, I realised the significance of the space and how valued it is by so many people. This prompted me to carry out a soundscape study.

 

I’m carrying out a practice based research project which explores the soundscape experience of the users of Eastville Park Lake through field recording, interviews and sound walking. The aim of the project initially was to understand what sounds create a positive environment for the users.

I have been down at the lake gathering field recordings with an array of microphones including some from dBs. I have been using two ambisonic microphones (Soundfield sps 200 and AMBEO Vr) alongside hydrophones and a shotgun mic. I also led soundwalks with groups of locals where we walked for half an hour in silence and then interviewed them about the experience.

The nature of practice-based research allows the focus of the project to change as the topic is explored. As the research evolved, the soundwalking practice became a central focus. The participants all responded extremely positively to the soundwalks and said how they felt more connected to the park environment. This evolution has culminated in the following three areas that I wanted to focus on:

  1. What are the perceived positive sonic attributes of Eastville Park Lake and the surrounding woodland?

  2. Could soundwalking be used as a tool for engaging locals with Eastville Park Lake?

  3. Can the study participants identify any changes to the soundscape during the Covid-19 lockdown?

Alexi King - Listening in Eastville Park

As this is a practice-based project, the research is presented through a practical element and 5000 words (instead of 10,000). I am currently creating a 15-minute soundscape composition. The composition was supposed to be mixed in 8.1 using the spatial audio lab at dBs but due to the Covid-19 situation, it will be mixed in stereo at home.

What do you hope these projects might lead to after dBs Music?

Who knows.. I am going to continue the podcast beyond the fulfilment of the module and hope to explore different countries and food cultures. I may have to adapt my concept though as social distancing might be going on for a while!

I’d love to work with creatives from other disciplines like visual media or sculptors to collaborate on installations that explore important social, political and environmental topics.

Outside of soundscape work, you’re also involved in several musical projects as Alexi King, Lexxi and Bliss Zion. What do each of these monikers mean to you with regards to how you express yourself creatively?

By having three artist profiles, I feel creatively free. As someone that enjoys having lots of projects on the go, having three creative outlets means I can switch things up regularly and express myself in many different ways.

Alexi King is my ‘real’ name and I use it for expressing myself as a songwriter and producer through electronica music inspired by neo-soul, ambient and bass music.

LEXXI is my DJ profile that I launched around the same time I founded Peachin’ in 2018. I play a very eclectic mix including 90's R&B and HipHop, Dancehall, Afrobeat’s, Garage, Funky House and Latin inspired dance music.

Bliss Zion is my alias strictly for dub music and it is also the first profile I created when I was 16.

Alexi King (Featured Image)

In addition to all that, you’re a co-founder and resident at Peachin’ Bristol, which sees you performing live and on Noods Radio, and you’re also a tutor for Saffron Records. How do you manage your time and stay on top of everything?

I am someone that enjoys juggling different projects and collaborating with others. I really enjoy the portfolio career style of working and like to keep busy with different projects. Occasionally the pressure builds up and I retreat to my bed to watch a few seasons of Friends, eat takeaways and cry!

However, most of the time I manage it well by regularly checking in with myself to make sure that I’m not taking too much on and trying to keep on top of basic needs like eating well and exercising. They say that when you are doing things you love, it doesn’t feel like work - I find this to be true!

What has been the most valuable thing you’ve gained from studying at dBs?

Lexi by Viva in studioBy having these three years dedicated to learning and exploring music production, I have discovered and fallen in love with so many techniques and practices.

I feel much more confident within myself as an artist. I often shied away from production before uni and saw myself as a vocalist and DJ more than a producer.

I think that this was rooted in a systematic sexist instinct, as all of my friends making tunes were guys and the girls would sing, this was reflected in the music I was listening too as well.

As more womxn are carving out their space in the industry, especially within the studio environment, it is comforting to be technically confident. I feel ready to leave dBs with plenty of tools and tricks in my box!

What’s next in the pipeline for you?

I am launching my podcast Sonic Seasoning on Thursday 14th May and my accompanying EP will be released in June at the end of the podcast season.

Myself and the two ladies I run Peachin' with have been offered a residency on SWU FM and we will hopefully be hosting another boat party in August.

I did have some exciting festival bookings in the pipeline but they have all fallen through now because of the pandemic. Hopefully we’ll all get to dance somewhere this summer… I miss dancing!

Finally, what advice has proved invaluable for your development as an artist?

A friend once suggested I strip back all the ideas I had built up about my musical identity and pretend I’m sitting down in the studio for the first time. This has been very useful, time and time again, to get fresh ideas out and not get stuck in terms of production.

Where can people find out more about you and your music?

You can follow what I'm doing on my website and Instagram (links below). You can also check out my recent DJ mix (90s party vibes) ​on Mixcloud and all the Peachin' shows we've done on Noods Radio

FIND OUT MORE
www.alexikingmusic.com
Instagram
Sonic Seasoning


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