Ellie Jones makes ethereal and lush electronic music under the name of Kintsuku. Based in Manchester she has played several of my EMOM nights and also has a track included on the EMOM compilation double CD released last year. I recently caught up with her to find out more about her current work and plans for the future.
Okay then Ellie, before we get underway tell us a little bit about yourself?
At the moment I’m based in Manchester. I moved here a couple of years ago after living in Leeds for university.
It was always my dream as a little girl to “be a singer”… I was writing and recording songs throughout primary school, with the help of my dad and his home recording gear. Into my teens I picked up an acoustic guitar and taught myself basic chords till I was ready to start doing my own home recordings, with a USB mic. I was doing mainly simple acoustic covers and back then my influences were artists like Paramore, Bon Iver and City and Colour.
So at some point you moved from acoustic to electronic music, why was that?
I think for a long time the idea of making electronic music felt very alien to me. I wasn’t listening to anything in that genre and didn’t know much about that world. I was listening to very guitar and vocal driven music – rock, indie, acoustic etc.
I carried on writing and recording acoustic style tunes but experimenting a bit more with guitar processing and some basic in-box effects – it sort of felt like my ears were getting hungry for a more developed sound, but I didn’t quite know how to achieve it – which is when I started to reach out online for people to collaborate with. I posted an ad and had a response from a guy named Ian – he really digged my voice and chilled style and we ended up making a few tunes together under the Pseudonym ‘Axiia’. Ian was big into his music production so we worked in a fashion where he’d send over a track and I’d write the vocals or I’d send my acoustic style ideas and he’d develop them electronically. I was so impressed and excited by the way he was developing the ideas that I couldn’t help but be inquisitive and keen to learn what he was doing behind the scenes. I suggested during our collaboration that I have a little dabble in some of the production, and turns out I absolutely loved the process and heard a whole new world of opportunities open up. Ian made the electronic world feel a little less daunting and that anything I wanted to learn was attainable. That’s when it really started to snowball and I just started writing and experimenting with my ideas inside of Logic.
Now tell me why Kintsuku came into being, and who are your influences?
I started taking this solo venture more seriously about a year ago and wanted to release my new stuff digitally. Choosing an alias was difficult, I didn’t really like the process. But I stumbled across the word ‘Kintsukuroi’ which is the name for a Japanese art form. It has a beautiful meaning and really resonated with me, and it stuck for a while. Turns out it’s not the easiest word to spell, pronounce or remember! So I went for a snappier abbreviation.
My biggest influence was probably Grimes (Claire Boucher). I love her tunes and song writing style, and when I learnt she produced and engineered it all herself, it really spurred me on to continue teaching myself and improve. I love her attitude towards music and how she encourages other women to believe in their abilities.
Burial was also one of the first electronic artists I started listening to and definitely feel like he’s influenced the way I develop the percussion in my tracks.
What are your views on getting more women involved in electronic music?
It’d be great if more women were getting involved in electronic music, even better if the women who already are involved start to be recognised for their work. I get so excited when I discover or hear a new female electronic artist. It’d be cool to focus more heavily on teaching children about fairness and equality at school – integrating it specifically into lessons such as music or sport. Having open and engaging discussions with young people that challenge stereotypes could leave positive lasting impressions on their future beliefs.
Thanks Ellie, now can you tell me a little bit more about your music making process please. What technology do you use?
I produce mostly in Logic as it’s what I’ve been using for longest, but find Ableton cleaner and snappier for things like building drum loops and finalising song structures. They all end up in Ableton when I’m preparing them for live performances. I use an M-Audio Code 49 keyboard which has proven to be a real handy first time purchase as its pretty compact. I have a couple of Launchpads that I mainly use in live performance, but they’re also really good for improvising ideas and developing song structures. I record and mess around a lot with my vocals and guitar too.
Can you tell us what you are currently working on and what you have planned for the future?
At the moment I’m working on the second iteration of my live set – my first few gigs were really a bit of an experiment but since then I’ve learnt so much and feel ready to develop and refine the performance. I’m hoping if I continue to improve on this I can start playing some bigger shows, that’s the dream! I’ve also just released a new single titled ‘Amaryllis’, and I plan to continue to release my music online to spread the word as much as possible.
I saw that you linked a release to mental health fund raising too. Can you tell me more about that please and the reasons behind it?
Sure. Mental Health Awareness Week was approaching as I was working on the single release. I really wanted to do something in aid of it so I thought I’d tie the two together. I’ve struggled with mental health issues since my teens, and have witnessed family and friends suffer through problems of their own. I think it’s important to spread a positive message about being open about mental health, and encouraging the removal of the stigma that surrounds it. I find making music more cathartic and healing than anything else – the majority of the time my lyrics reflect on and express painful or difficult life experiences, so I guess the two things tie in pretty well.
I think you’re right everyone needs to be more open about mental health, perhaps things are improving, but there is always more that can be done. Finally, do you have any gigs coming up that readers might catch you at, and where we can listen to your music?
I’m playing in Manchester on the 14th of July at The Peer Hat, Sheffield the 20th of July at the Cremorne, and I’m back again in Manchester at The Bread Shed on the 27th of September. Most of my music is up on my Soundcloud, under ‘kintsukumusic’. I’ve just joined Spotify too with my latest single, and all future releases will be on there too.
Thanks Ellie and I look forward to seeing you play in July.
All photos by Ashley Karrell