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UTR Interview Relay: Kraus Chats With Old Chips (Amamelia)

UTR Interview Relay: Kraus Chats With Old Chips (Amamelia)

Pat Kraus / Thursday 16th July, 2020 11:22AM

Kicking off our bold new four-part UTR Interview Relay series of artist-driven interviews, Tāmaki Makaurau DIY legend Pat Kraus caught up with Old Chips, the experimental solo project of Amelia Berry (aka Amamelia). Enjoy their conversation below and keep your eyes peeled for the next instalment in a fortnight's time – where Amelia Berry will interview a yet-to-be-revealed Aotearoa artist, and pass the interview baton onwards!

95bFM Top 10 host Amelia Berry has many musical endeavours: DJ-ing as one third of Princess Worm Baby; as well as the jungle-pop of Amamelia; pop-punk band Baby Teeth; and synth duo Fimo. More recently she has been performing as Old Chips, a solo synth project blending lush analogue synths with cheaper, Casio toy-keyboard sounds. More abstract than her other work, Old Chips is a heady, uplifting, and euphoric ambient dream-world, weaving together pulsing rhythmic drones with fragmented melodies that slip in and out of consciousness. Ahead of next Friday's performance together at Tāmaki Makaurau's Audio Foundation, Pat Kraus wanted to know more…

Kraus - A Golden Brain Album Release w/ Old Chips
Friday 24th July - Audio Foundation, Auckland (all ages)

Tickets available HERE via UTR

Pat Kraus: Tell me about Old Chips. How would you describe the project?

Old Chips: I usually describe Old Chips as improvisational ambient music but I'm not sure that really gets the vibe across. Maybe something like "music for imaginary science fiction"? How does that sound?

Sounds wonderful to me -- you should score a sci-fi movie for real! Would you be down to do soundtrack work if it came along?

Yeah I would love to do that! I heard this story about John Carpenter where he would score his films by like sitting on his exercycle in his living room, playing the rough cut and just jamming along on a little keyboard. That is truly the dream.

Old Chips is a relatively recent development in your career, is that right? How long have you been doing it? Have you played many shows?

I've been doing Old Chips for a couple of years now. It actually started because somebody had a radio live-to-air slot to fill, they said "it's in a couple of months, you can do whatever you like, I just need a name" so I decided to take a chance. After that people started asking me to play shows as Old Chips, and there have been a handful of gigs since then. I love doing Old Chips gigs, it's almost like a holiday from the other kinds of music I play. Very meditative.

Yeah I imagine it being a big open playground for you sonically, with time and space to move around. That's certainly how I experience it as a listener. I'm so impressed with your range as a musician, stylistically. Are there other musical projects or styles that you would like to explore?

Oh thank you! For me, the fantasy is to do kind of 60's baroque pop majesty, that would be my dream. But hiring a string section is just expensive I guess. There are a few things like that where the logistics just get in the way.

It reminds me somehow of those American hypnagogic zoners, or a little of Belgian freaky synth stuff like DSR Lines. Are there any particular reference points for you for this kind of music? Or is it more a case of just vibing with the machines?

I used to do a late night radio show called Amelia's Secret and a lot of my reference points come from the kind of records I was digging out for that - Wendy Carlos, Mort Garson, Daphne Oram, odd ambient and field recording type stuff, New Zealand avant-garde music like Besser & Prosser, Ross Harris, Gillian Whitehead. I think there's this idea about music that's more abstract or atonal that it's very serious, but I think a lot of my touchstones for Old Chips have a kind of odd humour to them, I really love that moment where beautiful and silly intersect.

That's one of the things that I love about Laurie Spiegel's music. She was making this abstract synth drone music, writing her own computer programs even, but was consciously kicking against the hyper-serious, abstract serialist paradigm of her time. Being able to balance those aspects makes for richer work eh?

Oh 100%. There's something so special about just hitting that point. I got really obsessed with Robert Ashley for a while, I think his television opera Perfect Lives and really a lot of music that came out on his Lovely Music label plays in that space in such a beautiful way.

What are your plans for Old Chips? Will we see a record at some point?

So far I've only released live recordings. Partly because my idea for Old Chips is that it's performance based, and each performance is different. But I have been thinking more about doing a, y'know, Studio Album. I guess I just have to get my head around what that would mean for the kind of music I make.

Well I for one would love to hear a studio version of this music! I feel like there is a lack of non-beat-based electronic music in NZ at the moment. Which is surprising given that everyone has synths now, and ambient music maybe has a wider appeal than ever before.

It's interesting isn't it??? I know I found it really scary starting off, like I didn't want to be the cliche ambient musician. I'm still a little scared of that to be honest. But yeah, I'm hoping that whoever it is that's driving the price of vintage synths through the roof is working on a really cool album right now.

Apparently those people are all dentists, which is probably a dangerous profession these days -- working close to peoples’ breath. So yeah maybe they are getting some quality studio time.

What’s cool for you in the Auckland scene these days? Wanna mention any bands that you're psyched about?

Oh there is so much exciting stuff happening at the moment. I won't try and give you an exhaustive list cause I'll get anxious about leaving people out but I will say I think everything Noa Records has put out recently has been really exciting, really fantastic.

You can catch Old Chips and Kraus at the Audio Foundation on Friday 24th July, tickets available right here via UTR.


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Kraus - A Golden Brain Album Release w/ Old Chips
Fri 24th Jul 8:00pm
Audio Foundation, Auckland