An Interview with Venus Ex Machina

for Rewire Festival 2024
photos by Sade English

Letting Venus Ex Machina’s ominous post-industrial music fill the corners of our office, I can’t help but fantasize of both nightclubs and cinematic epics from eras yet-to-come. After all, the composer envisioned her latest album, Doxa, as “a place where listeners are free to traverse the expanse of their own minds, forging connections between worlds both real and imagined.” Ahead of her performance for Rewire Festival 2024 in April, we had a chat with Venus about storytelling, perfumes and blurring zeitgeists. 

Hi Venus! How have you been lately?

Thank you for asking! I have been immersed in a whirlwind of inspiration, putting the finishing touches to my third album, and perilously fanning the bacchanalian fires of spring.

You’re into “maths, music and machines (and meaning)”. How do those elements find one another in your work?

The convergence of those elements is about the interconnectedness of all knowledge. Mathematics implicitly provides the underlying structure upon which I build my musical compositions, while machines are the tools through which I make my ideas tangible. But, it is in the pursuit of meaning where these elements truly find their raison d’être. Together, they transcend mere technicality, resonating with the deeper truths, quotidian and mystical, that unite us all.

Are there any interesting works of art that have stuck with you recently on these fronts?

I enjoyed reading the graphic novel Artificial: A Love Story by Amy Kurzweil which is a hypertextual peek behind the veil of singularity theory and its all-too-human machinations.

You’ve stated before that the common thread in all of your performances is that you are a storyteller. Can you tell us something about that aspect in your upcoming live performance for Rewire next month?

Absolutely. Storytelling is the heartbeat of my performances, and for Rewire, I’m excited to take the audience deeper into my world. Imagine each utterance and every grain of sound as a drop in an ebbing ocean of emotions, experiences, and dreams. My upcoming performance will blend the familiar with the unexpected, inviting listeners to immerse themselves in a story that speaks directly to the unconscious mind. It’s about fostering connection through collective experience.

You have previously said you’ve been dabbling in perfume as well. Can you tell us something more about that?

Crafting fragrances has been a passion project of mine for the last few years. From selecting ingredients to experimenting with signature combinations, every step is a tantalizing bath of sensory exploration. What fascinates me most is the ability of fragrance to evoke memories, stir emotions, and transport us to distant places. It’s like composing music for the nose. So, whether it’s the fresh zest of citrus or the warm embrace of spices, I am constantly inspired by the endless possibilities that perfume offers to engage the senses and elevate the everyday into the extraordinary.

Additionally, I will be co-hosting an event in November, where scent and music will converge in a multi-sensory experience. At this event, in collaboration with my friend, Isla Greenwood, we will create a space where scent intertwines with sound to evoke deep emotional connections and transport attendees to ephemeral realms of sensation and memory. Through this fusion of art forms, we aim to engage the senses in a way that transcends traditional boundaries, inviting participants on a journey of discovery and introspection. More details to be announced soon.

In your interview with The Wire, it is noted that you use the Venus Ex Machina moniker as a vehicle for “instrument and circuit building, audio programming, workshop leading, performing and composing”. What has been the latest focus for Venus Ex Machina?

In the realm of Venus Ex Machina, the latest focus has been the weaving of sonic adventure and traditional musical storytelling, to craft music that resonates with my world in its present state.

And what’s on the horizon?

Well, let’s just say that you get out of the machine what you put into the machine.

The prime focus, or goal, of your work seems to be connection. Can you recall a special moment when you’ve felt you’ve reached that goal?

One particularly memorable moment is when I was performing at Berlin Atonal. As I played, I noticed the audience gradually becoming immersed in the music, their reactions shifting from passive listeners to active participants. In that shared space and time, surrounded by the energy of the crowd, I felt a profound sense of connection, as if the music had woven a thread that bound us all together in that moment.

Musically, your latest album, Doxa, seems to override the often-made distinction of archaism and futurism. Thematically, I hear a lot about mysticism and technology. In doing so, to me, the music escapes the notion of ‘a zeitgeist’ and I start forging a whole universe in my head. In what ‘world’ or ‘time’ or ‘context’ do you see your music existing?

Looking back at Doxa, I was navigating a labyrinth of futuristic machinery and ancient chants, conjuring a world outside the confines of Meridian time, where past, present, and future blur into an ever-expanding symphony of the imagination. A place where listeners are free to traverse the expanse of their own minds, forging connections between worlds both real and imagined.

If you have the time, who are you excited to check out on Rewire yourself?

With such a scintillating lineup, I almost don’t know where to look. There’s an abundance of acts I am itching to experience. From the throbbing grooves of Tadleeh to the canonical and boundary-pushing beats of JLin and Florence To, no shortage of adventures await. And let’s not forget about Neon Dance, whose performance of Last and First Men promises to be a highlight of the festival. Honestly, if time allows, I’ll be hopping between stages, soaking in every moment of stimulation Rewire has to offer.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Absolutely! I’d like to extend a sincere thank you to everyone for taking the time to engage in this conversation. It’s been a pleasure sharing insights into my creative pursuits, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to connect with each of you. Here’s to continued exploration and discovery!

See you next month!

Venus Ex Machina will perform on Rewire Festival on Friday, April 5th, at 00.15 in Concordia CC. Get more information here and purchase your tickets here. Listen to Venus Ex Machina’s latest album Doxa here, released by AD 93 in 2022.