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Interview with Haiganoush

On October 6, 2015

We recently stumbled across Haiganoush and had the pleasure of getting to talk with them some more about their music and how their group came about. Turns out they're hilarious and super sharp, and it's likely they'll end up being one of your favorite new artists. 

VMP: To start, tell me a little bit about the project and how this all came about. Is this the first band either of you have been in?

Richard Melkonian: Well, we’re brother and sister and our father is a classical composer so we’ve been around music since day one. Veronica had a revelation after selling her soul to finance that she would rather sing, I think she has her soul back now.

Veronica Melkonian: We’d worked on music here and there, but fiery tempers usually got in the way, somehow this year it all fell into place and Haiganoush was born... Haiganoush is our Armenian grandmother’s name and it literally translates to sweet land - I’m the sweet one and Richard is the land haha.

VMP: What are some of the major influences on the record? Are there particular events, ideas, personal struggles, etc that you feel like provide the spine for the project?

Veronica: I guess we’re still discovering our core ideas as the writing process continues. It’s definitely family orientated, Richard and I have very contrasting tastes, which we somehow manage to bring together through Haiganoush. I listen to a lot of jazz so that with Richard’s bizarre influences… it’s this clash of cultures and tastes.

Richard: Especially being diaspora Armenians growing up very detached from our culture, you get curious later in life and I think that maybe comes through in the music. From November onwards, both of us will be in Beirut, Lebanon… we’ve been before, but this time we’ll be actively soaking up the music and partying to Fairuz for sure.

Veronica: Most of the tracks are about relatable pains that we’ve all felt but in the end they are resolved both tonally and lyrically.

VMP: What's the writing process like for you all? Is it split up into different sections (i.e. one writes the lyrics the other the music etc etc) or is there more overlap? Has the writing process changed over the course of your time playing/writing together?

Veronica: I call it Richard Song Camp, he’s very militaristic with me, telling me what I should and shouldn’t be doing. He writes the track, sends it over, I write the melody line and some lyrics then send it back. We go back and forth for a while but slowly we come to an agreement. Actually most of our work is done remotely but I guess it works.

Richard: I use my MPC 1000 for all the beats, but all the samples are from real instruments I have in my flat, Darbukas, Persian Dafs, there’s no snare-drums, no kicks and no hi-hats, so there’s a blending of hip-hop and central-asian folkloric music of there, although for me hip-hop is a kind of neo-folkloric tradition.

VMP: Let's talk idols. Who are some of the people, musical or otherwise, who have had a big influence over you both individually? Could be books that had a huge impact on you, musicians/albums that blew you away, literally anything.

Richard: Rick Rubin, Mica Levi, Arvo Part, Morton Feldman, Samuel Beckett, Ornette Coleman, Agnes Martin, Palestrina, Kanye West and Mahler’s 7th Symphony, all of these artists changed the way I think about culture… for the better hopefully.

Veronica: My influences vary widely from Erik Satie and Debussy to the jazz greats such as Billie Holiday, Julie London, Nancy Wilson and Peggy Lee to Grandmaster Flash and Biggie and the more contemporary sounds of Air, Feist, Jamie Woon, Radiohead and Amy Winehouse. As well as lyrical inspiration from writers like Hemingway, Gabriel Marquez and Lord Byron.

VMP: Who are a few artists that you've been hooked on lately who you think we should be listening to?

Veronica: I’m all over Ibeyi at the moment and I recently discovered Benjamin Clementine who I’m addicted to but I’m eagerly awaiting Jamie Woon’s new album.

Richard: I’ve been hooked on Arthur Russell and John Luther Adams, I’ve also been listening to a lot of Jim Caesar-Goddard and Liskka.

If you like what you hear, show them some love and buy their songs here.


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