Emerging musician, New Age Noise Collective member and Information + Cultural Exchange intern, Alyssa Yang sat down with artist, musician and returning New Age Noise mentor, Rainbow Chan to chat breaking down internal barriers, owning your cultural heritage and some small self care tips.
AY: What’s your favourite colour and how would you describe it to someone who’s blind?
RC: I’ve always loved blue (Sailor Mercury was my favourite.) I would describe blue as somehow being a container of distance.
When you first started creating music, how did you come about to find the right resources?
Back then, I feel like I had much less access to production technologies, social media, and internet tutorial sites. There are pros and cons about this. I guess instead of browsing what other people were doing, I spent a lot of time experimenting on my own. I started with very basic equipment (a guitar, loop pedal, and keys) and tried to write with only those limited options. But that meant I had to get creative with pushing the function of each instrument. E.g. instead of seeing the piano as pitch-oriented, I tried to explore how it could become percussive through extended techniques like putting objects on the strings.
What would some advice be to someone who’s starting out to create music and feels barriers or can’t find the right opportunities?
It takes time, so patience is key! The truth is, you’re going to get rejected when you’re starting out. But don’t let that deter you – get feedback, see how you can improve and keep in touch with bookers, media people, etc. It’s also important to build networks yourself and make your own opportunities. Put on your own gigs, share resources and equipment, collaborate with friends, support each other go to live shows.
Of course, it’s also crucial that you keep honing your technical skills as an artist.
What’s your favourite “bad” or ”tacky” 90’s look?
Middle-parted mushroom bowl cut (see Aaron Kwok, Leonardo Dicaprio)
I know that your culture is a big part of your music-making practice, and growing up as a second-generation immigrant in Australia was really difficult for me personally. What would your advice be to someone who’s struggling to come to terms with their identity? We have two sides telling us on one hand “you’re Australian.” but there’s also another side denying us and telling us “you’re Chinese.” How did you come to terms with your cultural identity/identities?
It’s such a big topic to tackle, and it feels like heaps of pressure to be a role model or ambassador for your culture. But it’s not all on you! I came to terms with my identity by understanding that while I felt Othered in the past, this was my way of reclaiming my narrative. Looking at culture and gender in my practice became a form of agency for me. But also, it’s totally not necessarily to make your works about being a POC or culturally diverse person. You already embody and live that experience, so just know that anything you make is an important step for visibility.
I know you’re a very busy person, so what do you like to do in your downtime?
Swimming and cooking!
What’s been your most memorable moment so far this year (besides sitting here with me at this interview)?
Hehe. Releasing my album “Pillar” independently has been huge. I’m super proud of this record and the reception has been lovely. It’s been very humbling.
What do you do when you get a creative block?
Do something non-creative. Go for a walk, exercise, read a book, immerse yourself in nature. Sounds so cliché but it works for me! Nothing like taking the pressure off yourself to make things all the time.
Interview by Alyssa Yang.
Image: (L) Alyssa Yang, self portrait 2019. (R) Rainbow Chan by Hyun Lee 2019