Artist Profile: Alexandra "Olenka" Krakus. part 1

Alexandra Krakus and I met 2 years ago on Myspace.  I was looking up acts to play with in and around Toronto and was imediately hooked by her beautiful, challenging voice, and intelligent song-writing.  At the time she was playing mostly low key country-folk but has since evolved her sound, adding elements of polish folk, and gypsy music.  Her songwriting has progressed as well, taking on a more personal and political tone.  She also holds the distinction of being the first interviewee on this new segment "Artist Profile".   Here's part 1. 

Hey Alex, what's happening?

Too Much

Can you Explain where the name "Olenka comes from?

- Olenka is a "cute" variation of Ola, a common Polish nickname based on Alexandra.  
Polish, like most slavic languages, has manifold diminuitive versions of almost every name under the sun.  SO, my nickname has many emotionally inflected variations: Olenka and Olusia/ Olusha are two "cute" versions.  Olusienka/ Olushenka is over the top cute; it's used for when you really want something from me.  Olka is used for when you're angry at me: the louder you shout this moniker, and the more you enunciate, the angrier with me you are. 

As a person who only writes maybe, 2 songs a year, I've always been impressed by how prolific you are.  Is the songwriting process something that comes easy to you?

- Hmm... I suppose it depends on whether or not I'm in "the zone".  I've been casually reflecting on my process over the past few years, and I've found that I write in spurts.  I'll get into a particular frame of mind and I'll end up mining that mental space for all it's worth in a short period of time.  I suppose this is why I'll write 3 or 4 songs in a day, for example.  I'll be trying to capture, as precisely as possible (in at least one of my song-attempts), the idea/mood/ emotion that I'm obsessed with at the time.  When I'm not in one of these spurts, I find it's harder for me to compuse something that I'm happy with, or to finish a composition.  It seems that whenever I'm really involved with an idea or in an intense emotional space, the all-encompassing nature of the idea/ emotion makes it possible for me to focus so intently and compose so much and so quickly.  

Do you have a process you could explain?

- I reflect upon an idea/ emotion and in so doing make it the focal point of my thoughts.  I let this amorphous mood guide my creative inventions (images, words, etc.). I start writing down certain phrases and/ or I'll hum a tune and pluck away on the guitar.  Once I've composed a first line or two, these become foundations from which I build the rest (in terms of rhyme schemes, repeated images, allusions, etc.).  I don't stop writing until the song is done (which may take anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours).  I record the song as soon as it's finished, and then I leave it for a while before I return to it, to gauge whether or not I like what I've composed.

You are supported by a lot of talented friends.  Kaya Fraser is making waves with her new EP, Harvest Chant will soon be taking on the scene in Montreal, The Tom Fun Orchestra, The Fugitives... The list goes on and on... what draws you to these types of people?  and what do you get out of these relationships?

-All these people have expressed something uniquely and perfectly within at least one of their compositions.  I can't help but admire that insight.  We are all each other's teachers and students.  These moments of wisdom are humbling, and I am forever indebted to those who help me maintain my humility.  

What can you tell me about your new band "Our Nation"?

-It's a wonderful different musical project than what I've been doing in my own band.  It's very ambient/noise-driven and very jam-based, though among all of this improvisation there exist fully developed concepts that guide the musical meandering.  I guess it therefore qualifies in the contemporary context.  And we seem to be employing an open door policy for collaborators,  The sound of late has wavered between Silver mt. Zion, Sigor Ros, Sonic Youth, Explosions in the Sky... etc.  A bunch of us are also switching instruments over the course of our sets.  I've always loved Jam-bands, and this one is loads of fun to play in, "play" being the operative word, as it really feels like we're back in the euphoria of the playground.

I see that in June you'll be doing an "Our Nation" show opening for the Nihilist Spasm Band.  A lot of people might not recognize that name but NSB have been legends on the Canadian noise rock scene since the 60's.  How did you hook up with these guys?

-Not June.  We just played with the NSB at the Pandemic on May 5th.  I guess I've known them personally for about 6 months now.  A bunch of us started hanging out with them at a local art gallery: they'd perform a bit, we'd all drink and talk... very convivial.  And then two friends (Geoff Bardwell and Adrian Sinclair) took it upon themselves to help coordinate the NSB's monthly show at the Pandemic.  The NSB are intelligent, hilarious guys.  They're a treat to hang out with.   Bill and I chatter on about Conrad Regularly.

You currently reside in London On, I've visited on a number of occasions, and the music scene there is fantastic.  It seems to be a very close knit community, what would you attribute that to?

-London is filled with musicians.  That was my first impression of the city.  and it is confirmed by each new band and solo performer I meet. (encounterw which happen more often than you'd imagine).  I don't know that the closeness of the musical community is unique to London; I think musicians in general are a supportive and collaborative group, at least that's been my experience; we all know how difficult it is to find support for our creative efforts, and so we all give back.  Okay, maybe this sort of support doesn't exist in all musical communities, so perhaps London is just fortunate to have a large number of scene builders who are of this mind.  
Too Be Continued..... tomorrow.... sometime.


Sam Allen said...

What's cooler than Shawn Clarke and Alex Krakus??
Shawn Clark interviewing Alex Krakus!

Shawn William Clarke said...

sam, you are my hero for reading this and then commenting. Thanks.

Shawn William Clarke said...

sam, you are my hero for reading this and then commenting. Thanks.