Tutor Interview: Kayla Painter

22 March, 2018

Aside from being the Course Leader of the BA (Hons) Songwriting degree at BIMM Bristol, Kayla Painter is an artist and performer who specialises in minimalist electronic music accompanied by immersive digital visuals. Recently, she received avid support from the likes of BBC 6 Radio’s resident tastemaker Mary Anne Hobbs and Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood recordings.

In the coming months, Kayla will release a string of highly anticipated new singles, accompanied by brand new videos. We took the opportunity to quiz Kayla on her process, her taste for sci-fi aesthetics and her recent connection with Delia Derbyshire, who blazed a trail for female audio designers in the Radiophonic Workshop during the 1960s.

Kayla’s music is perhaps best described as left-field instrumental electronica. Her sonic palette consists of subtly complex rhythms, organic found-sounds and ambient drones, the sum of which form a sleek tapestry of futuristic minimalism. Instead of lyrical content, the narrative within her creations stems from melodies and drum programming, which she performs live using a laptop and Ableton Push unit. 

With such a non-traditional approach to the creative process, we were interested to find out what sort of influences (both musical and otherwise) have been most instrumental to Kayla’s artistic development. 

“I was brought up listening to a lot of classic rock and pop, as well as some experimental stuff. My Dad is a huge music fan, so I’ve always been educated by his love of music. In terms of current contemporary influences I would have to say, Holly Herndon, Katie Gately and Autechre. I also draw influence from music which probably sounds quite different to my stuff, like Jon Hopkins, Julianna Barwick and Kaitlin Aurelia Smith.

Visually speaking, I’m inspired by artists such as Ryoji Ikeda, but also a lot of films. Science fiction has a big impact on the visual work I do with my collaborator (who creates all the visuals himself). For example, I’m a big fan of the Alien Films, and more recently, Arrival. Keeping up to date with developments in technology is important too. For example Virtual Reality, Projection Mapping and immersive installations are all things I try to keep up with.”

Kayla’s latest single ‘In the Witch Elm’ features sounds which have been sourced directly from the archive of renowned audio designer, Delia Derbyshire, whose original work with the Radiophonic Workshop in the ’60’s, saw her laying the foundations for future electronic artists. Kayla explains how she first got involved with Delia’s materials. 

“I was given the opportunity through one of the lecturers at BIMM, Cliff Jones, to work with Delia Derbyshire sounds to create a track. These sounds came from make up reels which were found in her attic by her partner Clive, after her death. I was really grateful for this opportunity, given that she was a pioneer in electronic music, I feel she paved the way for female experimental sound designers in years to come.” 

Derbyshire was awarded a posthumous honourary PhD at the end of last year in recognition of her contributions to the art, and Mary Anne Hobbs premiered ‘In The Witch Elm’ on her recommends show on BBC6 Music – a fitting stamp of approval to help continue Delia’s legacy.

Looking ahead to the remainder of 2018, Kayla has two single releases coming up in May, followed by an EP release later in the Summer. This will be her most substantial release in several years, and will no-doubt benefit from her newfound support from Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood Recordings. Release updates can be found via her official website.

Aside from her solo work, Kayla has also been playing host to a series of Sound Surgery masterclasses in Bristol, which are in association with the city’s underground music community hub, Multi-Track. Anyone with an interest in music production, electronic music and industry goings on, should get themselves along to Rough-Trade for a unique opportunity to see Kayla interviewing some key players in the underground electronic scene.

The next masterclass is with artist Jus Now on March 29, and following that the last one in this series is with Om Unit on April 19.


Image by Ed Bidgood.

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