Lunchmeat 2022: Short interview with Hüma Utku

This years edition of Lunchmeat takes place from September 26 to October 1. The core festival is happening from Thursday to Saturday night in the National Gallery in Prague. During three extensive nights, a stylistically diverse line-up packed with club sounds, experimental artists and several A/V world premieres unfolds in the Czech capital.

Part of it is Hüma Utku, who released her current album, The Psychologist, in May and is going to perform it live together with visual artist Utku Önal on October 1. In our short interview, she explains the concept of The Psychologist, how she imagines the album to work when played out live and how she plans to overwhelm the crowd. Spoiler: No vanilla, no comfort zone.

Your recent album was heavily influenced by your studies of psychology. How did they seep into its sound?

Psychological themes laid the groundwork of the album’s concept. I tried to sonically portray different bits, corners, twists and turns of a vast labyrinth so the music itself has a wide sound palette and a variety of ways to tackle different emotions. The idea and the attempt was to lay focus both on sound design, texture but also a lot on composition. I allowed myself to experiment a lot with melodies in this work.

Your performance at Lunchmeat is going to be a world premiere. How did you translate The Psychologist into a live environment?

I think there is a difference when you record an album and when you deal with putting together a live set. I run around wildly with ideas and do as I please when I’m recording because I know that the listener will most possibly be in a controlled setting as they’re listening to the album. Possibly by themselves or in company of a few people, judging what they hear by emotions and intellect. Live is different. Live is when the audience gets to feel the music in their body, as a part of the crowd, in a different state. It’s when the solar plexus is activated, like when your organs are vibrating. This is why for me it’s really important for the live to differ from the album.

Also, live I get to try things I didn’t think of during the recording of the album, or experiments that simply didn’t fit in that context. The live set is definitely more rhythmic than the album and it has some throwbacks, meaning there are some direct references in The Psychologist to my debut album Gnosis that was released in 2019. I decided to incorporate those references into the live set by bringing some Gnosis elements in. It sort of ties everything together and at least for me, is a bit of a full circle moment. Also for me it was important that in live, The Psychologist is more general audience friendly. The work itself originally is pretty chaotic and intense, to the point that it could be a bit confusing for the masses. I wanted to tone that down a bit, so we can all go on a journey together.

Are you planning to evoke certain atmospheres, feelings or states of mind in the audience? What are you ideally aiming for?

I go for the ritual feeling, like a spiritual mass. The idea is to drag the listener in by the collar and the rest is a bit of a rollercoaster. As I mentioned, it’s a total activation of the three centres of the body. What happens then is up to each and every individual.

Which setup are you going to use?

My live setup is a modular synthesiser, some effect pedals, a microphone, Ableton Live and a desktop mixer. I’ve recently switched to this, so I’m looking forward to seeing how it’ll go.

Your live performance is going to be backed with visuals by Utku Önal. Can you tell how they conceptually intertwine with your music?

When I first met up with Utku, I told him I’m looking for a visual story and that it should “be a slap in the face”. No vanilla, no comfort zone. It had to be complex and unsettling as the music itself. He is the right address for this as that’s exactly his practice, he has this instinctive knowledge in bringing eerie and unpredictable stuff into his work. So all we had to do was to decide on certain environments, layers and symbologies.

Last but not least: Whose performances – except from your own – are you looking forward to the most at Lunchmeat?

I’m curious about the whole line up on October 1st but I’m specifically looking forward to watching Squarepusher and Holy Other & NYX & Pedro Maia.

Groove präsentiert: Lunchmeat Festival

26. September bis 1.Oktober 2022

Tickets: ca. 130 €


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