MUSIC: Veda Hille - Do you HE[A]R what I hear?
Coming off a successful run of her critically acclaimed debut musical, Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata, Veda Hille is anxious to get back to basics. For the longtime East Van musician that means reuniting with her band, and kicking off Vancouver New Music’s HE[A]R series, billed as “sound events for the active listener.” Each weekly show, beginning Mar. 8 and wrapping up Mar. 22, will run the gamut of contemporary music, from electronic and indie to experimental and avant-garde. Hille spoke with WE last week about playing on International Women’s Day, creating her own arts centre, funding cuts and eking out a viable living as a musician in Vancouver.
Why did you want to be involved in HE[A]R?
I’ll do anything Georgio [Magnanensi, VNM’s artistic director] asks. He’s been such an incredible collaborator, friend and presence in my musical life. Whatever he wants, I will do and it always works out well.
He’s reinvented a lot of your older material and encouraged you to branch out as well.
I like also that he’s way out there in the musical world, but he still loves song and melody. That’s something that I always aspire to: the composers that I like the best, even if they go to crazy, faraway places, they still retain a love of beauty and melody. Georgio has that quality of insanity plus sweetness. (Laughs)
You’re playing on International Women’s Day with a host of other amazing women.
I’ve always loved Elizabeth Fischer’s work. She’s a very strong artist and always surprises. I don’t actually know Skeena Reece, so the only way I get out to see anyone these days is if someone puts me on the bill, so I appreciate meeting some new people. And I love the Waldorf, too. And Soressa and Janine, they’re doing really cool stuff, some really great electronica. It should be a pretty fascinating night, plus they make excellent cocktails.
Are there musical frontiers you’ve yet to broach?
I have been thinking about making a pure electronica album. That’s mostly my husband’s prodding. Something like David Bowie’s Low or Brian Eno. I’ve been working with JCDC, the recording team, and they’re ready good at that kind of manipulated MIDI sound. Other than that, I think I’ve become really clear that I’m not interested in doing scores for films or anything like that. I used to try and do everything and now I’ve narrowed it down. I’m really just interested in writing songs. I continue to be fascinated by the way words and music intersect. I’ve realized that’s just what I’m going to concentrate on and that will do me for the rest of my life. In some ways it feels good to clarify that that’s what I do. And I’ll write songs for anything — if it’s interesting.
That’s the caveat.
Yeah, I’ve been lucky that I’ve been able to say yes to just the things that are interesting. And something seems to happen that once you’ve done some interesting things, you get offered other interesting things. Or, maybe I’m just a slut. Who knows? (Laughs)
Vancouver has a reputation as a city where it’s hard to live on your art, so it’s inspiring for a lot of people to see that if you’re willing to experiment and try new things, there’s a path you can make for yourself.
It’s true. I also could not have done it without arts funding though. Most of which I get from the federal level, not the provincial. One of the reasons that it’s so hard in B.C. is that our arts funding is atrocious. I’m lucky that I’ve been able to access funds from the Canada Council and the Department of Foreign Affairs, ‘cause I wouldn’t have been able to do all my wild experimentation without that support. That said, I’ve also thought about moving many times, but I do keep being interested in this part of the world. I think I’ll always make forays into other cities, but similar to admitting I just wanna write songs, I do just wanna live here, so I will work hard to make sure that keeps happening.
So do I, hopefully! (Laughs) Hopefully someone hears this and gives me a house. Actually, I don’t want a house. I want a space. This has been one thing that’s very frustrating to me lately: I have this idea for a space that’s a rehearsal space for a number of music groups, and a tiny music school where I can teach creative music to three-and four-year-olds, and where Ivan [E. Coyote] can do writing workshops, and where we can do tiny shows for 30 people. I’ve been looking around and just the cost of real estate here is implausible. That’s what I want someone to give: the space to do that kind of thing.
That sounds amazing.
And I’m not just begging here. I’m working on it. But that’s the thing that’s so sad about living here: you can’t just have the idea and start it up like you could in Halifax or seemingly in Portland. I just feel like now is the point for the city to eke out spaces for the arts because it just makes things better for everyone. I know not everyone believes that, but I certainly do.
The Vancouver New Music series HE[A]R kicks off Mar. 8 with Veda Hille, Skeena Reece, Elizabeth Fischer and more at the Waldorf Hotel, 7:30pm, and continues Mar. 15 (Kaija Saariaho) and Mar. 22 (The Lappetites). Full schedule and performer lineup: NewMusic.org. $15-$20 or series pass $50 from BrownPaperTickets.com.