Interview + Playlist: Huxley Anne Brings Intense Emotions Into Her Experimental Album, 'Ilium' - Magnetic Magazine

Interview + Playlist: Huxley Anne Brings Intense Emotions Into Her Experimental Album, 'Ilium'

'Ilium' is out today.
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Los Angeles-based producer Huxley Anne has released her LP today, Ilium, via Alpha Pup Records affiliate, Dome of Doom. Inspired by Cy Twombly’s 1960's painting “Ilium (One Morning Ten Years Later)," during an artistically stagnant time in her life. At that moment, she explained- "and in one sublime instant I was overcome with raw emotion, tears bleeding from my eyes with joy and pain and beauty and melancholy and death and desire and the truest feeling I’d been searching for the past five years. I could feel emotion again and the intensity was overwhelming."

Through the painting, Ilium has brought forth Huxley Anne's best work to date, and inspired by all her creativity, we sat down with the incredible artist to learn more about her artistic process and human nature. 

The experience leading up to your creative rebirth is unique to say the least. Can you give us a detailed view of the moment you encountered the painting that sent you back into creative propulsion and what each moment felt like through the day?

Flesh, blood, and love. I was working on the record, and a random acquaintance gave me a call to see if I wanted to go to The Broad. Museums are very sacred spaces, and I was at an impasse with the record so I figured looking at massive art would work wonders. I’d wandered through about half of the museum when I stumbled into the Cy Twombly room--a total surprise to me. I spent thirty minutes enraptured by “The Rose.” He’d written a poem on the painting that was barely decipherable.

infinitely at ease

despite so many risks

with no variation

of her visual nature

the blooming Rose

is the omen of her

immeasurable

endurance

I couldn’t shake the menacing overtones radiating from the inclusion of the word “omen” when referring to the rose’s endurance. Omens are black and dark. Endurance is strength and light. It was so peculiar I couldn’t look away for a very long time. Finally, turning around, I came face to face with “Ilium (One Morning Ten Years Later).” The power and significance of what I felt in that moment is beyond most emotion I’ve ever felt. I’ve come to believe when one isn’t busy constructing cathedrals of their feelings, when living in indifference, numb to darkness, the emotional negligence acts as a portal to other states of being--nirvana, zen, heaven, paradise, enlightenment--we have many words for these different states of being. That’s the closest I can come to describing what it felt like to understand the purity of his piece, to feel the core of the human condition. It was love and death in the same reverential gasp. I left the museum throat chalk full of emotional intensity, and returned to my studio, threw out the majority of the work I’d done on the album, and began writing with almost religious fervor for the next three weeks. It was all so new again, interacting with each musical idea with a touch of magic.

Ilium as an LP title that leads the mind to a lot of different definitions and meanings. Do you find multiple meanings in your music where you can take the personalized perception to opposite spectrums or do the tracks have a more singular sense of meaning? How much of this record translates to how others live through emotional turmoil and that bounce back into creative relaunch?

The title is a nod to the duality of the human condition—laughter & tears, pain & joy, birth & death, light & dark. The definition of the word ilium is the largest part of the hip bone, but it also is a poetic term for the city of Troy. I like to think of my music like that—-the process of writing being the physical experience, my bones against the contours of space, the purest expression of that living sound. It would be too explicit to write music from only the physical standpoint, so I blur those contours with a conceptual focus, coloring in the lines with poetry and philosophy, and shading the sound design with hidden references. Writing music is my way of supplying the deficiencies in life itself. When faced with emotional turmoil, I believe many human beings experience a creative urge, a desire to create a world that is safe from that turmoil, one they know and trust. Without the struggles, without the black sounds, without facing the darker sides of the soul, we cannot adequately express the full range of human emotion. The narrative would be too one-sided--only happy endings.

What's the aspect of the album that gets pushed back in the mind but surfaces when you really think deeply about the recording you made?

I think about the length of the songs. I was writing from such an isolated perspective, home alone for weeks, doing nothing but writing day in and day out, I enjoyed the meditative length of them. However, the first time I heard one on a radio premiere, I was like “woah girl, you don’t need to write a novel in one track.” I’m excited to stand back from my next record, to work on it for a longer time period with more reflection so I can ensure the necessity of each music idea in the larger narrative.

What aspects sticks out the most when you think of Ilium?

Experiencing the true, poetic escape from this world. The escape has ended, and the whole experience burned my blood to powdered dust that has scattered in the winds of catharsis. I feel lighter and more able to take risks when writing music, and I’ve regained a true connection to human emotion. I needed to step outside of reality to find that.

What type of experiences, emotionally, do you find most common when you are at a very accelerated level of creativity and the recording output matches?

I’m usually facing something too difficult to process when I feel most creative. Seeking refuge. I feel the same acceleration when I have a strong idea that strikes an emotional chord--either a concept or a story or a thought or a feeling--that I want to explore through music. In either one of these situations, it feels like the music takes control of what I’m doing and pushes my creativity. I’m never truly aware it’s happening until it’s over.

Art and conceptual purpose resonate very deeply with your release. How did that path shape out from the desired or intended effects set out from the jump and what actually occurred once you started to tackle the weight of how this album was birthed?

I started the album with 1000 ideas that were disconnected from a theme, but connected by a need to create a conceptual piece, a finished story. I was feeling estranged from so many aspects of modern life--thinking social media is dead, we’ve shipwrecked humanity on the shores of entertainment, man is slave to a technology of distractions that leaves him a powerless slave to concrete anxiety. The beginning of the American Exodus under Dictator Trump. Thoughts so chaotic and dark I wasn’t even aware of the impact they were having on me, I was just floating in the black water of reality, trying to create my own world, my own ship to protect me from the universal pessimism. When I saw Cy’s painting at the museum, the human condition of joys and sorrows became real to me in an explosive instant. I was no longer numb to the vox populi, I felt them with such intensity I had to completely rework the entire album, and throw out most of the songs I’d originally slated for the record. The music was revealing an essence to me, telling me “This is where we are going, you’re ready.” I delved deep into my imagination, reaching an ancient theme where I imagined mythical beings to walk amongst humans, exploring the roots of the human condition versus the mythical. It became a story of battle, of war, and of victory. I don’t want to say too much on the specifics of my narrative, because part of the reason I write music is so people can discover their own narratives within the music too.

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What are some of the most beautiful connections you've made while on the path of Ilium (in context of ideas, people, places, etc)?

The connection to faith. Music has this way of guiding you, to experiences and emotions the mind alone could never reach--but to get there you need to have faith that the plot will reveal itself. I discovered the concept of el duende--which means having soul, a heightened state of emotive experience that propels the creation of meaningful art. I was already deep in the work of battling this spirit before I discovered what the word was for what I had been experiencing--but that’s the mysticism of music at work. To have faith in the unknown, your work as a valid form of research, and the strength of music philosophically was the main connection I took away from writing the record. Of course, this journey led me to working with some outstanding musicians who embrace this same philosophy.

What you have you learned from the music industry that has embedded itself into your way of thinking from day to day?

Work with your friends, and let things happen organically. The music industry is a colossal machine. Holding on to your truth is your only power against it. Expressing oneself with authenticity is the only route I know of to happiness, and having a strong community, no matter how small, to trust and work within strengthens that endeavor.

What does your studio look like and how do you find comfort in a recording space?

My studio is my living room. The gear fills the dining room table, tucked in a little nook. An open archway into the space where my piano lives, my records, CD collection. I don’t believe in televisions, but I do use a projector to watch film. It’s very open and casual, and never too clean. When I’m in a recording studio, I always take my shoes off. I feel more natural writing music barefoot.

What are some of your favorite books, films and non musical items bought, traded for or received in the last few years?

I read often, it’s therapy for the imagination. I discovered Anaïs Nin recently, and am beginning to think she’s the wisest woman that ever walked the earth. All of her novels, but especially her diary publications, have stunned me. Last summer I went through a whole western phase--reading Dead Man’s Walk and the Lonesome Dove novels by Larry McMurty. In Search of Duende by Federico del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús García Lorca is like my pocket philosopher’s guide, I bring it almost everywhere. He deals with the resurrection of ancient forms in music, and in mythology, and every time I open it I discover something. Films, too: The Lobster, Delta of Venus, El Topo, Arrival, Train to Busan. Last thing is Gonjasufi’s Callus--it’s a record from 2015, but I treat it like a sacred manuscript. 

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