Anna Meredith: ‘I Like Things That Are OTT And Irreverent’

Martyn Young talks to the crazed composer turned exciting electronic inventor.

If there’s one essential truism about making music then perhaps it’s the importance of taking risks. The best artists are aware of this. They thrive off challenging themselves and their music. Scottish born and London based musician Anna Meredith is someone who encapsulates how taking risks and pushing yourself can reap huge creative rewards.

Meredith has already achieved a great deal in her career as a classical musician and composer. She’s previously acted as composer in residence for the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and she’s had her work performed as part of the BBC Proms series. Meredith’s latest challenge, however, is something quite different. Last year’s debut EP ‘Black Prince Fury’ and this year’s follow up ‘Jet Black Raider’ are brilliant inventive, outlandish and bewitching pieces of electronica far removed from her classical background. It’s a sound that promises to take Meredith to a completely new audience.

In conversation, Anna is a world away from the clichéd, studious and overwrought composer you might expect to encounter. “When I got into music as a teenager I wasn’t really writing, I was very much a player,” she explains of her beginnings. “I played drums and clarinet. I’ve always enjoyed being quite hands on with the music I do. With a lot of classical music, in a way you’re not so hands on. I do some workshop stuff but the majority of work that I do is me in my room writing music that you then finish and hand over to somebody else to perform. That can sometimes be the end of your involvement. I think the move into electronic music came from a desire to be more hands on and involved. Also, I’ve always written quite loud and bombastic orchestral stuff but I was finding I was wanting even more volume and even more power in it. I was trying to look for ways to get more.’

There’s a clear, unwavering sense of the theatrical and the playful in Meredith’s music. Both her EPs revel in their bombastic, chopped-and-screwed nature. “I love having a visual side to the stuff I’ve done,” she says. “A lot of the classical stuff I’ve done I’ve worked with my sister, Eleanor, who has done the artwork for the EPs. For quite a lot of my gigs in the past she’s done drawings or live animations. We’ve even got a track called ‘Lemon Tits’.

“I like things that are OTT and irreverent. I suppose I enjoy experiences that come to you, kind of punch-drunk stuff. Where you’re going to a show and it’s not just passive sitting there watching or listening… I’d be well up for doing humungous shows with lions, pits, flames and dragons!” That’s something any punter would pay to see.

This ultra-playful approach is a constant on ‘Jet Black Raider’. There’s an unabashed feeling to a track like her cover of Erasure’s ‘A Little Respect’. “I feel irreverence is a nice way to deal with stuff,” she says. “It comes from a genuine place. When we play that song live there’s lots of toys, we have a whole bunch of children’s primary school instruments, and we’re whacking dinosaurs. I think there’s definitely a place for playfulness. Taking yourself too seriously is a bit of a crime.”

While it’s early days in Anna Meredith’s transition from acclaimed classical composer to progressive electronic pop maestro it’s a transition that she finds hugely exciting. “I’ve had my classical stuff played in big venues and now I’m playing really little venues. I do like a challenge, I like pushing myself. I don’t ever feel too thrown by it. There’s definitely been moments though when I’ve gone ‘Oh my god, what am I doing?’ Fortunately, when I’m doing the gigs or getting lovely emails from people saying how much they like it that makes it all worthwhile. Fortunately, the doubting side of it is overbalanced by the positive ‘who knows where this could go’ side.”

Who knows where this could go is apt description for where Anna Meredith now finds herself in her career. The only thing that’s certain is that whatever she does in the future promises to exciting, all-thrills and occasionally batshit crazy.

Anna Meredith plays Dalston’s Tipsy Bar in London, 28th August 2013.

Stream the ‘Jet Black Raider’ and ‘Black Prince Fury’ EPs in full here.

Read the full interview in the new edition of DIY Weekly, available from iTunes now.

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