Interview: KISSEY talks Stockholm, Meditation and More

Stockholm based KISSEY embodies the word creator in every sense of the word. She seamlessly moves between the worlds of fashion and music, putting out material as a singer, producer, DJ, artist, performer and muse. Her music style is similarly varied, drawing from the darker side of electronica, while wandering into the realms neo-soul and hip hop. Released this summer, her latest EP, Unplug The Delusional Monkey displays KISSEY’s knack for experimentation and a journey into more irreverent lyrical territory. We caught up with the artist to learn more about her process, hometown and how she deals with the stress of our increasingly chaotic world.

Unplug The Delusional Monkey is out now on Fool’s Gold Records and don’t miss KISSEY’s upcoming shows

What atmosphere were you wanting to capture on your new record, Unplug The Delusional Monkey?
I wanted to capture different perspectives of seeing life, to speak about information and communication from particular human points of view. When we were recording and creating the record we were very focused on staying open and allowing it to play out in whatever atmosphere that it would gravitate towards naturally. The dimension that I personally exist in when I write allows for everything to be possible and happen at the same time, so I find it’s easiest to reference nature and urban environments to convey this realty to others. I felt as if we wanted the drums and baselines to feel as if a big elephant was walking down the street, or that this same elephant put its big grey foot in the room you were sitting in — big, loud and inevitable. The melodies were the animals and flowers that the elephant was carrying on its back — floral, light, colorful, characteristic, delicate but still very noticeable.

There are occasional thunderstorms, mosquitos, butterflies, rain, sun beams, fluttering snowflakes, heat from a fire and lava, and machinery being thrown around left and right. The instruments and sounds around this scene were used to help color what was happening in the moods and lyrical content.

How did your writing environment inspire these images?
The environment I am in definitely does have something to do with the form of creation that comes out. Obviously, I do create in the studio, but I have a simple travel setup that I tend to prefer to work from since I like being mobile and always positioning myself in new environments to create. I always carry a notepad and pen, because I find it’s much more important to get the ideas down on something rather than being in a particular environment. When it comes to compiling and producing the songs themselves, I prefer to be in environments and studios that feel like “home” to me. I don’t like a lot of people around —  less is better at the moment.

You’ve collaborated with a lot of artists, who did you work with on Unplug The Delusional Monkey, and why did you want to work with them?
I decided with A-trak to have Sean C & Lv lead the production on this record. A-trak recommended Sean because he felt he would be a good mentor for me. The project really needed a 3rd puzzle piece with a different kind of knowledge which also was open and not set in their ways, because this was about trying to explore a different way of approaching creation, and I felt Sean C & Lv carried this with them whenever we would work together. While I was writing and growing this project, the main focus on my end was that I wanted to create music of particular quality and I wanted to go through the process that it required to accomplish what I felt in my gut. Approaching the process that way had assisted me to feel in love and one with the music that ended up on the EP. Anyone else that digs the music is such a bonus to me because I know everyone involved contributed the best that they could to make it happen at that precise moment.

You’re quoted as saying “two meditations a day keeps the BS away.” When did you start getting into meditation and how has it impacted you?
I have mediated in different forms throughout my life unknowingly; walking, sports, writing music, performing — all of those are “mind and body work”, but I actively started my journey of consciously meditating as a form when it was recommended to me by my parents’ neighbor. He is a life and success coach in Sweden that worked actively with turning athletes and performers of different kinds around to assist them in accomplishing what they desire and set out to do. He took me on as a pro bono-client one day after I was in conversation with my parents where I had expressed that “I feel as if I see a bunch of clouds and I KNOW there is sunshine behind them, but I don’t know how to get the clouds out of the way.” As soon as I said that, my mother thought that I might have out-grown her knowledge in this particular realm, and that I should speak to this man about it. He started by seeing me one time every 6 months. We had conversations where he introduced me to learning about how to observe oneself and really hear the words that I chose to speak. He was very patient and emphasized the importance of me doing the work myself to understand how to integrate it.

One day he gave me a book: “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle. It took me 1 year to read it for the first time but it did teach me to understand meditation and presence work from another perspective. Nowadays I practice actively twice a day in addition to also working on living in that same space all hours of the day, to enhance my life and creativity. It’s important to remember that the word meditation only stands for “mind work” and what you are doing is that you are learning how to drive and use the highway lanes in your body, brain, mind and spirit. But, if one does meditation in a form that is not beneficial to them, they are actually making the highway lanes deeper and more stubborn. It becomes harder to switch out of those patterns, so it’s important to be open and find the form that actually works and allows you and nobody else to have total control of your consciousness. I had to go through some searching to find the ways that work best for me.

What are 3 must visit places in Stockholm and why?
The nature in Stockholm is impeccable, the whole city construct is built on 14 islands if I recall it correctly, so I recommend to walk around and simply take it all in. If you are in Stockholm this time of year and it’s your first visit I would definitely go and see the Archipelago which lays outside of Stockholm and is an easy boat ride away. I would walk up to Monteliusvägen on Södermalm to see the whole skyline of the city.

In what ways have you grown or changed since moving from Stockholm to New York City?
I think that the way I perceive the world has changed a lot. I actually went deeper on the meditation journey after I arrived in NY because I didn’t have the same go-to patterns on how to center myself, and meditating was something that was an easy thing to “start up” because it doesn’t cost anything. That in it’s turn led me to see and confront a lot of different things and patterns inside and outside of myself, and question who I really am. Going to new countries and being in environments that you have not lived in before is a great way to grow and build your intuition. It’s really forced me to be present and question myself; why I do certain things in a certain way? How can I communicate in a way that I can be understood in this new culture? What is their culture and how come they do things differently than I have seen before? Are they doing things differently than where I grew up?

What’s your favorite NY space to visit when seeking inspiration?
Seeing the sunset over the east river is a new favorite. I also love Central Park and the forest in Washington Heights. I go to the libraries a lot and simply grab a book — any book, from a shelf and read random chapters in it while resetting. One of the things I enjoy the most in between writing and recording session is to experience all the different flavors of NY while walking around. I stroll around a lot in different neighborhoods to feel the environment and people-watch. I do this to feel out where the general energy in the world is at; what is happening at that very moment. I find that this is the most beneficial thing for me to be in tune with when working in the studio or performing.

What has the mentorship program with Smirnoff Sound Collective been like so far?
I really enjoy it and it’s been eye opening; a great learning experience. The fun part has been to interact with and meet the different people and artists that have been involved, exchanging knowledge about how to navigate the business of music. Some of them I knew since before the collective, some people I had never heard about but learned what their thing is. It’s rare that one gets a minute to sit down and connect on another level with other artists in music I feel, because everyone is often busy creating in their setup or moving on tour.

photo by: courtesy of the artist; Background: Arild/Flickr