Louder Than War catch up with the mercurial Margot Pauline, aka the artist known as I.E., to chat about her latest album, her future plans & everything in between. I.E. is one of the latest artists to be released on a favourite label of ours, the fabulous Deathbomb Arc (one time home to Death Grips & Julia Holter), who’ve yet to put out a duff release. Fact. And Most Importantly doesn’t buck that trend.
Long time readers of Louder Than War will know we’ve been fans of the label Deathbomb Arc for some time. They’ve been putting out some of the most interesting, varied &, yeah, ‘cutting edge’ music around for ages now & have pioneered ‘ahead of their time’ new ways of introducing their music to people while always keeping an approachable & indisputably DIY feel to everything they do. Essentially run by one man (Brian) and his cat (Leroy) (or vice versa) – who we interviewed two years ago (HERE), whenever Brian says he’s got a new artist for us to check out we tend to do just that. After all, Deathbomb Arc were the first people to introduce the world to Death Grips, Julia Holter, Black Pus & Brian’s (ex) band Foot Village.
One of the latest artist to be released on Deathbomb is I.E., a one woman phenomenon who’s been been tearing up the LA ‘scene’ for some time now. Billed as playing music which “exists somewhere between bedroom K-Pop star, chola rave queen with a computer programming job, and outcast from the mall punk scene” we think she’s going to be big – and that it’s def time she broke free of LA’s fetters & embarked on a course of world domination. The closest comparison we can come up with is a dark, somewhat fucked up version of MIA – and as we’ve embedded a stream of her latest release, Most Importantly (which you can pick up for free from her Bandcamp page) at the head of the interview you can judge that for yourselves as you read the interview.
Read (and listen) on…
Louder Than War: Hi. First off, love the album, can you tell us in your in own words what you consider your “sound” to be? How would you describe your music & the music on Most Importantly?
Thanks so much it means a lot to have people listening. Yeah, in my mind my music is like a hybrid of european dance style music and gangster rap. HAHA. It’s kind of crazy but those are the two genres that I related to the most growing up. I grew up in a poor neighborhood run by gangs, and was raised by a teen mom but she and my other family members are very artistic, love music and taught me about the rest of the world and encouraged me to try listening to new sounds despite being somewhat stuck in a place where the arts weren’t as encouraged. I was lucky. So one of the first records I found in my grandma’s house was a Kraftwerk single, a 45 rpm of “Telephone” and it blew my mind. I think I was 10. All around me people were listening to Dr. Dre, and oldies which I also love. Somehow those two different worlds kind of melded in my head. But I am also influenced by other genres of music too. I can honestly say that I enjoy artists and tracks from every genre that I’ve listened to and that’s a lot. I’m lucky to have grown up with a musical family. The things you hear definitely influence your life.
Louder Than War: How long have you been making music now? Has your music always sounded the same or has it changed over the years much? I’m guessing your lyrics have! (Warning – lyrics question at no. 7 so perhaps don’t wax too lyrical about them here!)
I’ve been recording and composing tracks since I was 15 when I got my first computer. Before that I was just teaching myself how to play the piano whereever I would see one, like at my grandma’s house. She had an old one with all these broken keys on it & I would look at books at the library and just teach myself how to play and read basic notes.
My music has evolved a lot since I had no knowledge of how to read and write music when I first started this project. I would play something I liked the sounds of, practice it and then record it, but I never really knew exactly what I was playing, I played by ear. I was self-motivated after I did a couple of tours to really learn everything about music. I saw how it could take me places I’ve never been before and most of the musicians I met inspired me to keep going and If I ever wanted to work with other people I wanted to be able to communicate with them. I took Music Theory and a lot of recording and mixing classes at the city college and totally immersed myself and I don’t regret it! It’s probably the best thing I ever did for myself.
Louder Than War: Have you always worked as a solo artist? If people come to you & suggest a collaboration (now you’re all famous like) would you be up for it?
I’ve always wanted to work other people. Getting out of my comfort zone and experiencing new things is why I like creating sounds and performing. I was in a few bands before I.E. and I loved it, but when you’re solo you can touch base on thoughts and emotions that are so close to you and drive them the way you really want. In a band it’s not as personal since you have to all agree on the ethos of the tracks and the albums, that’s really hard. It’s actually a lot of work to be in a band or group and I respect people who are able to make it work it’s like another family. I was just ready to get all these things off my chest and I couldn’t stick around for other people at the time to help me or anything like that it was just about me expressing myself about things only I knew about. I actually am collaborating with some amazing people now and it feels good because now that I have my album out I can take the focus off myself and connect with other artists and that’s really cool to do. I get tired of me. I’m tired of me right now in fact. HAHA.
Louder Than War: You must be pleased how well Most Importantly’s been received, has it come as a surprise or were you always convinced one day people would wake up to how wonderful your music is?
Man, I’m just glad it’s finally out and yeah it feels good to have people listening. Everytime someone tells me they enjoy my music it is surprising. I’m not thinking about if people are going to be listening when I’m writing sometimes so when they do it’s like oh yeah! And it’s cool. Performance is a whole other thing though I do anticipate people appreciating my performances of the music because they’ve paid their hard earned money and came all the way out to let it all go, you know, get it outta their minds if you will. So, I do keep that in mind sometimes, how would I perform this? You know. I guess with being in the studio you have to hear the same track over and over so you forget too that it’s fresh to everyone except you. So it feels nice when someone really likes a track since in a sense you become deaf to it after listening so much.
Louder Than War: I’ve heard talk of an “LA scene” & that you’re part of it, do you agree & how would you describe the scene?
I can’t think of any one scene because we are all so scattered doing different things even non-music, but yeah there is a large community of people, I can’t even count how many, that all support each other in some way and help to keep underground music alive. I would describe it more like there’s a whole group of like thousands of people that play in bands, rap, sing, perform and then it breaks down into all these little subgroups and once in a great while we all come together for something or at least a good amount of us and it’s really amazing.
If we try to pinpoint scenes it gets crazy because there are so many tight knit groups of musicians all scattered about and we all love each other and we all bump heads with each other sometimes because we’re all are trying to survive out here and it’s rough. All in all I think the music community in Los Angeles is the best because of it being so large and diverse with so many different genres and different kinds of people. Also, because of its ability to sometimes bring all those differences into one place and be really cool about it.
I think I’ve run into more specific music scenes in smaller towns for sure but in LA there’s just so much going on musically that it’s hard to say it’s one scene or another, it’s just this kind of massive entity that sometimes can unravel and then ball back up again – it’s like the pulsating heart of a musical beast.
Wait, I don’t know really know what I’m talking about I guess, I don’t really feel a part of a scene because when I’m not playing or seeing a friend play I’m just hanging out with my bunnies and my cat. LOL. Maybe that’s why. No, sometimes I go to a bbq or something. I try not to be exclusive, but I know it could probably just end up happening sometimes on accident for whatever reason. For the most part I hope to include everyone in whatever musical adventure I’m going on even if you just like to listen. Come along with me guys, you’re cool and yeah you’re cool too. The secret to becoming part of a scene is to not become part of a scene. Just hang out with your pet or by yourself is my advice on scenes.
Louder Than War: Short one: how do you create your music?
My writing process…Well, I hear things in my head, melodies and sounds and words and then I just put it together and mostly I think I’m mimicking things I’ve heard, it’s like a tape recorder in there and it’s all scrambled up like that weird butterfly dude from last unicorn (see trailer below) I really relate to that a lot. Especially at home I’m just randomly saying things all the time, It’s annoying for me but I guess other people enjoy it, like my girlfriend I think she might be the only one actually. Haha.
For recreating that outside of my head I’ll use FL Studio most of the time, a lot of different soft synths I’ve accumulated over the years and I have a field recorder and boom mic I use for sound effects. I have a lot of midi going on here. I have a korg drum machine and monotron, I also have an old orgatron I soldered a ¼ inch input to. It’s really cool and has this very basic triangle wave sound. I was into circuit bending for a while and have little weird instruments I’ve modded. I’ll sample thing sometimes. Depends on what kind of style of music I’m making but I’ll usually try to start off laying down some midi notes of a bassline or melody I have in my head and go from there. The last album Jonathan and I were recording everything into Logic Pro.
Louder Than War: Can you tell us a bit about your lyrics. How important are they to you? I’ve got to be honest I’m not really a lyric kind of guy, I tend to just switch off to the “meaning” behind the words & just consider the voice as another instrument (it’s a defence mechanism I honed years ago when bands whose music I liked had offensive lyrics that I totally disagreed with) but I hear most of your lyrics! They’re quite dark at times yeah? And funny! And quite what todays “new men” who like to cry “misandry, misandry” at every opportunity will make of the lyrics to “Party in the 909” I dread to think! (HAHA!) What are you trying to say about life in America for a young woman at the moment with your lyrics & what other messages are you trying to get across? Are they meant to err more on the side of “dark” or more on the side of “funny” or is it in the ear of the behearer? (Sorry, that’s a helluva long question).
My lyrics are very important to me only because I never had time for a diary and my music, especially this project is my diary. Now that I’m an adult I have more time to sit down and recall and recite my life that I never really had time to sit and think about because it was a day to day struggle. I wish I could say otherwise and not make my family feel bad because I love them and hold them dear to my heart. They did all that they could for me and have been supportive, but honestly my life was pretty rough and I’ve suffered through a lot of really sad experiences and never had time to really deal with it because I had to survive it. To shed a little light, I’ve been held up at gunpoint, have seen someone get shot 5 ft. in front me, my grandma’s house was shot up when I was a baby living with her and one of my cousins was shot and killed by the police. I only met him when I was a small child but it still devastates my family to this day. It’s like the Wild West here still. I’ve been through a lot of negative experiences, some I can’t even share, but I don’t feel too bad about it because I have a way to express myself. I had to find sanctuary in music and writing lyrics or else I might not even be here today. I think that music is like a prescription drug for mental illness, at least mine. My songs, my lyrics, It’s just experiences I’ve had or things I’ve seen and I’m just reciting them. There’s no judgment it’s just like a mirrored image of something that took place or something I’ve heard someone say or have felt.
But I’m not really trying to get any messages out, just things off my chest really, and I try to do it in the most light-hearted way so I can myself laugh and feel better about these thoughts and feelings. Or I just initially think they’re funny lol. The older I get the more I share so it’s possible on the next album my “messages” or expressions will be clearer. The only message I think I really am trying to send is more physical. I’m a woman, I’m gay and I’m Latina and I’m out here making music on my own with the best of them. The help I’ve received along the way has been from really genuine, nice people that insisted that I work with them. I’m fortunate because I don’t have a lot of money or access to the best studio gear so having someone push to get me in there and make my music sound the way they hear it was really amazing and I feel really lucky. I guess if I am sending any messages out I would want it to be that women can do anything by themselves if they really want to, it’s more important to be honest and happy with yourself than to please others, and lastly be happy where you are even if it is the shittiest place on earth, because anywhere else you go will seem so magical.
Louder Than War: I hear a lot of Crystal Castles in your sound as well as ballsy pop stars like MIA say but your vocals have the flow of a rap artist a lot of the time too which I love! Knowing I was doing this I’ve kind of avoided reading reviews of Most Importantly but have people been making comparisons about your music much & how do you feel when people compare you to other bands / artists?
People have said it sounded like Crystal Castles before, I’ve heard a couple of songs by them before and from what I gather it’s electronic and ambient. We did use some bell sounds from a sound bank that Enya supposedly used so maybe that’s why. I don’t mind being compared to other artists because most of the time I haven’t heard of them yet so it’s an opportunity to learn more about different music, or if I have heard of the artists it’s flattering because they’re really talented usually or at least respected at what they do. Whatever people have to say about it is usually good. I have so far been able to escape any real negative criticisms or maybe I’m just blocking it out haha.
Louder Than War: Have you been reading reviews of Most Importantly yourself? If so, generally speaking do you feel people have “got” you & what you’re music’s about?
I have! My label makes sure I know when I get some press so I can let fans know in case they wanna check it out which is really cool. Most reviews have “got” the album. Some people are dead on and are amazing at describing it way better than me! For the most part I think it’s clear. Also anyone who is passionate about electronic music will go batshit about the production and would totally understand where I’m coming from. I got to work with one of the genius’ of the craft. I was fortunate to meet Jonathan Snipes and grew to find out he is electronic music. He’s brilliant.
Louder Than War: If you were going to recommend one song for people to listen to off Most Importantly which would it be & why?
You Think You’re Cool (above) – I recommend this because everyone needs to be reminded that they are not that cool. If you remember that then you won’t act like so much of an asshole to other people. Everyone is equally as cool and if you don’t think that way then someone needs to remind you. Also it’s made using soundblaster 16 sounds like from old windows 95 games which was my first true love as a child. Duke Nukem 3D, Doom, Quake, I can go on but all these games used these computerized sample based sounds. They are the antithesis of a cool sound to most. It’s funny because composers for these games used them as though they were cool (which they were and are still). So there would be these really chuggy riffs and even lead solos of these funny computerized sounds so rock ‘n’ roll and you felt so bad ass just blasting aliens away to these sounds that are almost the opposite of what electronic musicians try to go for today. I mean I love them, Jonathan loves them but analog synth enthusiasts usually do not take kindly to computerized sounds so to make a whole track using them and then on top of it sing ‘you’re not that cool’ is just … I don’t even know. It’s really funny to me. Also Kyle Mabson (who is famous for being in the most outrageous bands and DJ’ing pop music at really indie rock shows in LA) is dropping some hype man samples on that one but like the trucker version of hype man it’s so funny and weird but I really love that one.
Louder Than War: What kind of music do you listen to mostly? Do you have a favorite genre (I probably shouldn’t ask that of an artist on a label whose strapline is “Genres Unknown since 1998” should I? Some tips would be good anyway – which bands should we be looking out for? Who do you feel should be breaking out of LA or America next?
Haha. Well, to unwind I listen to a lot of trance or classical music preferably viennese style or baroque. I am into those harpsichords plucking around so wildly helps with the ticks. I am big on soundtracks to films and video games. I really love the World of Warcraft original soundtrack and I am highly influenced by it as well as other games like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Most of the time after recording and listening to lyrics all day or while I’m plugging away at a more tech related project I can’t handle music that is too wordy so during those moments I listen to more instrumentals. Buuuut I do love lyrics and other times I can really get into some more poetic tracks, I fell in love with the Kendrick Lamar album “good kid, m.A.A.d city” it’s definitely driving hip-hop into a new direction and 2Chainz is really impressing me lyrically also. I’m a Britney Spears fan as well as other pop divas (go ahead and rip at me, it happens all of the time, but they are like entertainment martyrs to me and they have voices of angels however satanic they might seem to bible thumping america lol.) With time, each one of them is accepted more by independent musicians. I just wish it was before they end up od’ing on drugs or having mental breakdowns. I wrote a whole article about it in my zine TotallyMag! I like to refer to this as the new witch hunts. Female artists in America have to go through a lot of criticism and are paraded around a lot until they reach a breaking point and then society finally sees them as artists and real life people finally giving them a bit of break, but I think it’s very unnecessary. America loves a good witch trial though don’t they?
I like comedy albums also; I have a favorite, Martin Lawrence’s Funk It. I am into the idea of any new females entering the spotlight. I want to hear more ladies always! I like Crazy Band, a punk band of all females and one male. They are L.A. based. They’re punk and they have an amazing video (above) of two of the girls riding skateboards on the 101fwy. I love any female who takes risks musically. Females are really great at writing. I also like a lot of bands and projects that just don’t have any other place than an obscure club in L.A. and they might play once or twice and you have to catch them while you can like fucking Pokemons. I think most of the music I fall in love with out here is so weird that there is no way it can break out, you just have to enjoy it while you can, those few times those artists get together and play you have to just soak it all up before it’s over.
Louder Than War: What does the immediate future hold for you know? Are you going to be carrying on with your own stuff? I believe you’re going to be part of True Neutral Crew right? Maybe tell us a bit about them?
TrueNeutralCrew started off as Monsanto, just an idea Brian Miller of Deathbomb Arc Records approached me with. He basically said “I love your music and I want to make music with you” and his idea was a little murky at first, he said he wanted to play drums and he wanted the energy of the compositions to revolve around the idea of Monsanto being this kind of secret dark force on our planet which it is its everywhere whether you care or not. So I started making really dark epic compositions and putting them together to narrate this idea. He made suggestions of making it sound like something like Brad Fiedel or Basil Poledouris would compose and I was all about it! I love sci-fi and fantasy so much. I play Warhammer and World of Warcraft Warcraft and I’m really passionate about music history as it ties in very closely to actual historical events like wars and times of depression. Just like art I suppose. It makes sense that just like painters; musicians have influenced our society with their commentary on social issues. So anyways, blah blah I was way excited and started working right away, then he was like “I’ve been sharing this idea with other musicians and rappers, and they’re interested in working with us” he wanted to make it sort of like a collective and then eventually it turned into a crew and we have these features from other artists and I think it’s brilliant because there’s not really a crew out there that features artists from so many different musical scopes but it’s funny how we are all parallel to each other even though our styles range so greatly. I am excited to see where it goes from here and I enjoyed working with everyone so much. (Check out the trailer below or buy / dl for free here).
I want to do an I.E. tour but I haven’t really done this nationally or internationally, just on the west coast, so I will have to put in some work to lay out a good plan. Hopefully that can happen relatively soon. I am also starting a new album working with different friends for I.E. and I’m starting to work on some more tech projects, like a secret game app I will announce when we have developed more. I also have been working with my girlfriend on video and blog projects and hopefully we will start a podcast soon. Just us two talking about the things we enjoy and bringing in some special guests, my girlfriend and I like listening to podcasts like Professor Blastoff and we’re inspired to start up our own again. I love the idea of doing something new sound wise and my girlfriend really enjoys writing and experimenting with telecommunication I realize which is cool. She is really talented also. Oh you can check out our blog which I hope to update very soon. prettycoolland.com it’s a fangirl site to say the least. =)
Louder Than War: What are your live shows like? Do you enjoy playing live & have you any plans of a UK tour? You really should tag along with the clipping. guys when they come over you know!
I would love to tour the UK for sure! My uncle is from Birmingham, England in fact, and I have visited once when I was little, I absolutely love it. I miss HP sauce curry sauce n chips. YUM! I think I’m one of few Americans who really enjoys the cuisine, I think maybe even more than some British natives I always hear jokes, but it’s nostalgic for me, feels cozy! I haven’t been to the other countries in the UK yet so I definitely would like to go
Finally, thanks for doing this. If you’ve got anything you’d like to add this would be your opportunity to do so! If you haven’t that’s cool!
You are so welcome, Thanks again It’s an honor to be interviewed by you. Much love to Louder Than War. Peace.