Glass talks to the extraordinary orchestral-electronic musician Anna Meredith

WHEN you hear Anna Meredith’s music, it becomes apparent that you’ve not heard anything like it before.  A wild combination of orchestral noise and electronic sounds make her music dangerous yet enjoyably eccentric. Meredith’s history as a classical composer explains a lot, as the music is cleverly crafted into organised chaos. Familiarity becomes a thing of the past as suddenly the sound you recognise as a trombone slowly morphs into the heaviest bass you’ve heard. No description comes close to the enormous sound that Anna Meredith brings.

Glass spoke to Meredith before her set at Latitude festival to find out more about what it’s like playing with a new band.


Anna Meredith 2Anna Meredith. Photograph: Mark Kean

You’ve played Field Day and Glastonbury which are two important festivals in the calendar. How were they?
Really good but pretty different I suppose. With Field Day you can almost tell yourself that you’re rocking up and then driving home afterwards but there’s so many logistics that I hadn’t appreciated when doing this many gigs like getting gear and flying musicians over because they don’t live in London. Our cellist lives Copenhagen so we had to fly him and his cello over so, this is quite a lot of faff each time but yeah, it’s really good crowds and there’s a great response.

We’ve played at lots of different times. Both gigs were during the day but Glastonbury was a humongous stage whereas Field Day was small. It rained a lot so it was suddenly packed and it was really nice there actually.

Your music in general is quite intense. Do you think new listeners might struggle to get into it?
I think if you don’t shut yourself off and feel like “Oh it’s not going to be for me” because I have a classical background or because there are no vocals. If you let those things become problems then you might struggle to get into it but I didn’t write the music to be abstract or alienating.

I want it to be something that people enjoy with a good energy and shape to it. If you just go with it, it’s all designed to be fun. For new listeners I would say try not to worry about what it is and try to listen to it for what it is.


Anna Meredith. Photograph: Mark KeanAnna Meredith: Photograph: Kate Bones

You had a classical upbringing. What made you want to get into electronic music?
It started when I was a teenager, so I was playing drums in bands and clarinets in orchestras and then I stopped all of that in my 20s when I studied composition from a more narrow field. Even though I wrote for orchestras which I still do a lot, I didn’t get the volume that I was looking for so I started of thinking of other ways in which I could get that impact and that’s why I started playing electronics.

I still use a lot of the same classical techniques so it’s a very similar approach, and I don’t see it as a different thing. I think it was a combination of missing that performance side and feeling that the ideas I had were different, so I guess the electronic band setup was a good thing for what I way writing.

How did you meet your band?
It’s a mix of stuff. Most of them come from a classical background too, but they’re all very versatile players doing a mix of stuff. Some of them are full time members of professional orchestras or freelance players through different collaborative things. I sort of pick them up because they’re into the music or work well together.

In the past you’ve composed on your own. Did you write Varmints alone or with the band?
Yes it was a bit of a mix, depending of what kind of player they are. I’m used to doing everything and having all the parts going, “Here’s your part, here’s your sheet music”, and for some of them, that’s what they wanted, but some of the others are incredibly creative people themselves.

My drummer Sam and my guitarist Jack have made the drum and guitar parts especially interesting, and I like to write it with them and then say “I think you need to add some of this”, and I sort of make a mockup of what they could do and then we would work on it together and release it as a demo. We don’t jam or anything. The pieces are quite formed in my head before they come in.

Have you left your classical career alone?
I’m still writing for orchestras as well. It’s not a change of career or anything. It’s just a broadening of stuff that I’m doing. I still make my living from writing for orchestras, writing for children and writing stuff for soundtracks. It’s just a different vehicle, but I don’t really struggle with changing instrumentation. I’m still happy to write for orchestras as well as small combinations. Writing for a small band isn’t that different.

Your music is very technical. Do you ever find it hard to emit the right atmosphere and sound in outdoor venues?
In my head, I like the focus of somewhere enclosed where people don’t feel there’s too much distraction, but when we did Glastonbury that was a huge stage and it worked really well. I normally like to try different things and see what works best. Stepping out of it, I really do like the idea of an enclosed, intense, loud environment but I’m also really up for trying different setups. We’ve done quite  a few festivals now, so I think we’re getting better at just doing it anywhere.

by Katrina Mirpuri

Anna Meredith is on twitter

Photographs by Kate Bones and Mark Kean

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