Interview With Victoria Shen, aka Evicshen

FLON: For readers who haven’t heard your music yet, How would you describe what you do? Where do you sounds come from, and what’s your overarching intention? Is it different for different projects?

VS: I primarily use patchable analog synthesizers which I have built myself (I break them from time to time so it’s important for me to know how to repair them), amplified objects for example a bandsaw blade, atypical acoustic instruments such as a bull whip, and invented instruments like the noise comb. The synthesizers are based on chaotic systems which means it’s easy to get complex and aperiodic sounds from them but difficult to ever perfectly reproduce. The sound is generally loud and abrasive but with a sensitivity to texture and structure. My performance style tends to be confrontational and often involves invasion of personal space.

I think conceptually I am taking a Modernist approach to music making. I’m trying to make music that gets away from any historical referent; a kind of music for music’s sake that’s not meant to transport you to any other place other than the here and now. I feel that noise, which is traditionally distinct from the “signal”, is the best idiom for achieving that goal because of its lack of embedded meaning. In this case the noise IS the signal. But noise presented without the right context is generally not compelling e.g. car hum. Because of this, I insert my body into the context as a point of engagement or poignancy. I try to make the relationship between the sound produced and the gesture producing it very direct, a kind of embodied sound. It is also important to me to reference and draw attention to the site in which the performance is happening to again emphasize the specificity of the present moment and place. Ultimately I am trying to make assaults against complacency. This approach is consistent across all my projects.

KUMAMOTO1 (1)

FLON: So there’s Evicshen, TRIM and then you do some visual art as well, right? Tell us about those and anything else your involved in.

VS: Yes! My first foray into performance was with the duo TRIM. Dana Cataldo (NYC) played drums and I synths. I taped contact microphones on all her drums and ran those through my synths to make the sound more cohesive. We’re currently on hiatus. I wanted to play some of the gigs Dana could not make and so Evicshen, which is a play on words of my name, became a solo moniker. I’ve also been lucky enough to collaborate amazing artists such as Makoto Kawabata, Doravideo, Jenny Graf, Charmaine Lee, and Forbes Graham. Upcoming collabs with T. Mikawa of the Incapacitants and Aaron Dilloway are soon to be released!

My background is in fine arts and initially doing printmaking in school but branching out into video and sound installation. I still enjoy playing with video using Max MSP/Jitter and do illustrations. I’ve been contributing illustrations to the game designers at Cave Evil somewhat regularly.

My recent miscellaneous art projects blend visual art and sound. Some projects include:

  • 3D scanned and printed Japanese Cicada earbuds that cling onto your ears and glow in stereo to whatever you’re listening to
  • Variations on DIY speakers
    • embroidered fabric speakers
    • snare drum converted into speaker
    • cassette tape converted into a speaker
    • speaker that is an image and the image a speaker
    • levitating speaker
  • Noise combs, combs cast with piezos embedded in the resin (doubles as an analog noise generator/hydrophone)
  • Cassette tapes cast out of pewter, they play!
  • Zero Player Piano (Conlon’s Game of Life) – A kinetic sound installation using motorized piano hammers to strike disembodied piano wires in a non-repeating composition
  • dB Meter Earrings and Voice activated choker – Wearable items that respond to the sound pressure level of your environment by flashing LED’s
  • Tape Glove, a glove tipped with tape heads that graze over a motorized spindle wrapped in audio tape

FLON: Cool! So, did experimenting with sound just follow from the art you were doing, or were you involved with music or otherwise sonic exploration apart from that?

VS: Generally, I was interested in weird/experimental music early on and I have an inability to keep my interests separate so it was only natural for my art and sound practice to converge.

More specifically, my first experience with synthesizers and electronics in general was through a workshop led by Jessica Rylan while I was in college. We were making audio filters and she thought my solder joints looked particularly nice so she hired me to work for her company Flower Electronics. Over the following years, I soldered and tested dozens maybe hundreds(?!) of synths/boards for Flower and graduated to PCB layout design. Working with those synths introduced me to this newfound freedom in sound, and I found myself patching and twiddling knobs hours at a time. Jessica also first introduced me to the local noise scene which was mind-blowing for me at that tender age but I didn’t start performing until much later when I was around 25.

FLON: What weird music were you listening to when you were younger, and how did you discover it

VS; I was listening to everything from IDM, breakcore, noise rock, hardcore, psychfolk, power violence, post-rock, post-punk, 60’s garage, and anything labelled “experimental” through different internet radio stations. I was on a few different forums and grabbed everything from a mix of limewire, Oink, waffles.fm, what.cd, and soulseek.

 FLON: Cool, so you have a brand new vinyl release with some innovative packaging, can you talk about what it is, does and maybe how it works?VS: Sure, the basic idea was to make a record that you could listen to through its own album art, so I figured out a way to make 2-dimensional speaker coils render an image, and that coil/image converts the LP jacket into a functioning speaker. I had been researching how to make planar speakers since 2018 but only late last year did I develop this image coil workflow.

LP composite

Conventional speakers use cylindrical coils that are attached to the back of a flexible cone or speaker membrane and positioned in front of a static magnet. When you drive a current through the coil, it also becomes a magnet with a polarity. If you drive an audio signal through the coil, because audio signals are AC (Alternating Current), the polarity of the coil fluctuates and thereby is attracted to and repulsed by the static magnet causing the cone/speaker membrane to vibrate. The process converts the electrical energy of the audio signal into mechanical energy, moving the particles in the air, creating the phenomenon that our ears translate into sound.

I’m using all the same parts of a conventional speaker but flattening the coil and cone and so it becomes one integrated plane. That fact that the coil is also a picture and the picture is a coil, elides the realms sound and image. To me, it functions also as a kind of readymade art object, taking a mundane everyday object and having it perform a function it was never meant to, making you relate to the object in an uncanny new way.

FLON: Very cool! It’s been really great talking to you. I hope you’ll keep us aware of any future releases, events or installations.

VS: I sure will. Thanks a lot!

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