Rosa Anschütz is a transmedia artist based between Vienna and Berlin. She recently released her other-worldly debut album, Votive, and I was keen to ask about the process of finding her sound, as well as the unique processes she uses as a musician. Three years in the making, we discussed how this album is both a collation of her past and a testament to her evolution.
Just as Rosa was taking part in the photoshoot for this story, the heinous shootings at Schwedenplatz simultaneously occurred. In light of this, she wished to include the following context:

"What a day! I woke up early that Monday, to have a Skype call with my team. First, with my producer and friend Jan Wagner. We opened the first small bottle of Prosecco to celebrate the release. Emotions were high, euphoric. This is my first album! It’s something that I’ve worked on for three years, with a dear wish to eventually release something physical to touch. To celebrate the release, I met with Anna Breit in the evening. She is a photographer based in Vienna, we worked together on visualizing my concept for Votive.

I am a passionate ice cream consumer! To write lyrics, I often go to the famous Eissalon am Schwedenplatz. The ice cream season here lasts only until the end of October. So for Monday, we had to find an alternative, the last remaining Eis Salon before lockdown, it was Garda. We ordered more Prosecco and each of us had a scoop. Anna went with strawberry, I chose romeo.

When we received the first messages from our friends, telling us to be careful and watch out for ourselves, we didn't really understand what was happening. In the context of a celebration and the ecstasies of the night before lockdown, it was hard to understand the brutality of what was happening at Schwedenplatz, only thirty minutes away from us. What followed was a long night searching for shelter in different places.

The  next day, when I woke up,  I felt devastated and confused, no longer in the mood to celebrate anything. On Wednesday, I got back on my feet and made the necessary emotional space to enjoy this moment! I am so glad that Anna and I had the chance to capture this intense day in the perfect environment. I will always remember my debut release day. For the lightness and light, and the darkness that ensued. Take care."
Hi Rosa. Congratulations on the new album! Could you start off by telling our readers about the kind of music you make, and what they can expect from Votive?
Come closer. Even if I am wrapping things up in metaphors, it is honest. I am singing and speaking texts that are coming from daily notes, thoughts and observations. Votive is open, as a term, especially when you approach it from an agnostic point of view. The songs are singular, I am the connection, and the clay objects I’ve crafted for each of the tracks bind everything together. Votive is a transmedia project and the work of three years of displaying my insights in regards to my singing and instrumental practice.
You’ve mentioned that you played a lot of instruments as a child. Did it take a while for you to find the genre of music you were most interested in creating?
By rejecting systematic training, I finally found my own access to music making. I work very intuitively, which helps me to feel very free and unbound to any rules. Making music is a tool for me to release. I don’t think in genres. Systems can harm my spirit.
The title of the album is very interesting. A votive is kind of offering, often with religious connotations. I know you’ve mentioned you sang in choirs. Does that experience influence the music you make, either sonically or emotionally?
Both. I used Votive to question the sublime. The tradition and the ritual is something that I’ve adopted from the Christian religion for the purposes of this record. Rituals thrive on repetition. To create the objects, I listened to the album again and again. There is also a moment of repetition in choir singing supported by several voices that reinforce hopes and aspirations. Another aspect of this singing is the volume and the expansion of sound through the vast halls of churches, which I emulated using a reverb. I use reverb a lot because it transports me to a place without walls or a floor, a place completely detached. The moment of writing music and singing is something ethereal for me.
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What else has influenced this album? Any other artists you have admired? Or other experiences from your past?
I absorb everything with an intensity that could be seen from the outside as dramatic. I feel close to myself from spending a lot of time on my own. It is the experiences I had, moving and constantly trying to learn, question and reflect on. The tracks on Votive are open for interpretation. I don’t intend to share their story or how they are rooted in the past because I would seal them, make them less accessible. I want my music to exist independently of the initial intention of writing them.
How do you feel you have evolved as an artist in the making of Votive? Do you feel it is very different from your previous projects such as your EP Rigid, or a natural progression?
More independent of perceptions. I take care of myself and my work. Votive is still an archive of things from the past, like Rigid was. Productions I have been working on this year are more detached and not burdened by a fear of them sounding in a particular way. Working on the concept of Votive was an intense process of questioning things at the core.
To give you an example, the location where the cover image was shot – the photo was taken by the talented Anna Breit, who also shot the pictures in this ice salon – was an old factory which will be demolished and converted into new apartments. The cloth I’m wearing, designed by Jennifer Milleder, functions as an intimation of a dress. The stand with the fabric that serves as the background can be set up somewhere else, again. It is a theatrical background that could be used over and over again. I have deconstructed the metal parts of the stand for further processing. Question sustainability and use. Utilities of intent.
Your website also features texts of poems and phrases you have written down, like diary entries. Do you find that inspiration strikes at particular moments more than others, as a writer?
The writing is very influenced by the environment that I am in. Writing happens mostly while being on the road. It can function like a conversation in the dark, not with yourself, necessarily. I have entire books from journeys I made alone. Writing down something like this feeling, for example, I had while sitting alone at a bar for the first time. That was in Brooklyn, last year, Bossa Nova Civic. I had a strange day, ordered a Chardonnay and wrote in my book how I feel about sitting there having this wine. Just exactly as it was. Anyone looking at me? What presumption someone could have. Feeling uncomfortable, challenged – these are strong emotions. Questionable feelings that need a context.
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What is the process like in taking these notes and creating fully-realised songs from them? How do you get to that end result of such a large, mesmeric sound?
I take that feeling and imagine a space, anything visual in order to find a translation. Sometimes it doesn’t need this translation, As in Opacity – “She’s on fire”. That was the mood, clear and easy, no need for metaphors sometimes. Connecting sounds with lyrics or lyrics with sounds, it is a role play of two entities or a natural combination.
You’ve mentioned that you see the synthesiser as having its ‘own personality,’ allowing you to use it in lots of ways. Can you expand on that idea?
I feel like I’m having a conversation when I work with this instrument. Also, the modular case is always different in terms of which modules you have chosen. Mine is full of drones. When I am patching a cable, the synthesizer directly responds. It is a connecting tool that brings sound, and from what I hear, I can decide on how to proceed. My very intuitive approach with instruments in general is that of not expecting anything specific from the sound. This means that when I am patching there is no presumption, Which is why I stopped using headphones. I don’t search for one sound. Very early, I start to record and build loops and continue with the next patch. Record and loop.
You also describe yourself as a transmedia artist. How has your work in other forms of media impacted this album? Can we expect visuals from this album which match the transfixing nature of its sound?
For the album, I created a clay object for each one of the nine tracks. I translated the notion of a votive object to pursue my consideration of the possible shape of sound. I think it is a general, even psychological, mannerism of ours to seek out the shape in things, even those that seem to be unattainable. The trans- aspect of the medium happened as I was 3D scanning the clay objects into renderings, a digital file of which you could 3D print the object and then endlessly multiply it. I was very interested in this aspect of something being crafted physically, by your hands, getting transformed into something digital. The result is also an Instagram filter, which you can find by searching the term ‘votive,’ of course.
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You must be excited about the album release as I know you have been working on it for quite some time. Do you take some time away from music after a release like this one or are you already working on new ideas?
The release set something free, something that I had worked on for three years. It’s not that the songs took so long in the production process, but to have the structure of an album, my producer Jan Wagner and I collected material and assembled it. It is important to let go and be able to enjoy it and be proud of what you did. I wasn’t able to imagine the moment after. Everything is just flowing right now and I am swimming fast.
The global pandemic is affecting everyone, but live music is certainly one of the most severely drowned. How are you living these times as an artist? What are you doing to cope with the situation?
For the last lockdown, I transformed my room into a neutral space, that I am also willing to share publicly. It functioned as a stage for various live streams, mixes and a setup for multiple photoshoots that I did myself. I am missing the encounters with new people through touring and playing shows. To get closer to this feeling, I was delivering fifty records to people who live in Vienna. I am doing my last five tours tomorrow. It was very touching to engage with everyone and talk to them about this week, about our current situation and, of course, about Votive. Ice cream also helps.
Since the release of an album usually goes hand-in-hand with live presentations, I wonder how are you planning to connect with your audience online? Any ideas about how to present/communicate Votive in Covid-19 times?
It is so hard to plan. Though daily life seems almost predictable due to the restrictions, you never really know what could happen next. I answered this particular interview question just a few days ago, but my initial answer is no longer the same nor valid because plans are not constant. It is a strange and intense time, but this feeling of the future changed also in a positive way, reminding me to relax sometimes, go along with what is coming. Sure, I am working on precise projects, but I am also not willing to find an alternative every single time.
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