With The Sexbots, trans-disciplinary artist Ilima Considine has created a musical project very different from a traditional ‘band.’ Having been approached by various producers/beatmakers about collaborating, Considine chose to tie the various works into a cohesive project that could be promoted and fleshed out into live performances and videos. “Don’t Stop,” the first full-length album from “Ilima Considine and The Sexbots” came out in late 2011. In an email interview, Considine explained a bit more about the project.
Could you explain a bit about how The Sexbots came about, both musically and conceptually?
“Basically, what had happened, was that I had a number of beatmakers/producers spontaneously approach me and ask me to do vocals for basement projects. They were at a point in their lives where they couldn’t do the band thing- wife, family, mortgage, and no time for band practice- but they couldn’t stop going into their basement and making these tracks that they always had wanted a singer for, that no one was hearing, and they couldn’t really push themselves. It was a way of gathering all of these in a way that could actually be promoted- rather than 10 different bands that never performed, it was all under the umbrella of The Sexbots, with myself providing aesthetic direction and continuity. Another way of putting it is that it’s the Royksopp/Massive Attack formula flipped. Instead of having a different vocalist on each song, I have a different beatmaker. This was really a surprise to me when it happened because I have a history of performing in very experimental indie bands, but a few people took a chance on my voice and it snowballed.”
Do you see video as an integral creative part of the project, or more of a promotional tool?
“Here’s the part where I start to sound like one of those hipster types… I call myself a trans-disciplinary artist because I feel that what I do has more to do with looking at the world with a certain aesthetic sense, than having any skills. And just applying that to what I do. Video isn’t part of a grand marketing scheme – it’s just I love telling stories and making videos is a way to tell a story with several contiguous layers. I have crazy ideas that, at this point, no one else would let me do for their songs. It’s that I happen to have songs and this persona lying around, so I use them. Low-budget video making is like making dinner – you see what’s in the cupboard and you make it happen. If I had a singer-actress friend who would let me do these things to her – like taking a bath in body paint just so that it can be played in reverse, or getting locked in a trunk for a snuff film, I would – but I’m the only person who allows me to do these things. I’m both the sadistic German film director and his blonde actress at once, except I’m not blonde.”
What factors go into determining which songs you do videos for? Have any songs actually started out as video ideas?
“The song comes first, then I’ll be driving somewhere and I start imagining a story. I had a really sheltered childhood- I wasn’t exposed to MTV until I went to college so I am super fascinated by music videos.”
Since you direct your own videos, I’m curious as to what, if any, impact online viewing might have on the creative side of things? (For example – people potentially viewing on small screens, while jumping around youTube, perhaps seeing but having audio low, etc)
2 ways to answer that question –
1)the only way I can function with creative freedom is by assuming that no one is going to hear the songs and no one is going to watch the videos. Then they do and I am shocked when they ask questions!
2) It allows me to use cheaper equipment- I don’t need to have everything super HD if it is mostly going to be viewed on youtube. When I started making videos, people tried to tell me I need thousands of thousands of dollars and I said NO! It’s going to be seen in a 3 inch square on youtube, it doesn’t need to look that good. That’s something I’ve told my cameramen ever since- it needs to look good enough for youtube. I really don’t have much of a budget. I have 2 kids. The most I’ve ever spent on a video shoot was, I think, like $150, and that’s only because I got all the extras to show up by promising free vodka.
Going into this, did you consider what a project named The Sexbots might get lumped in with when people search for you online? (Porn sites, youTube videos about making large breasted Sims characters, etc)
No, I’m pretty naive. If I was a little more sophisticated, I might have seen what this got us linked to, and the assumptions people would make. Honestly, it’s kind of a convoluted Bladerunner reference. They don’t use the term in the novel or the book, but the concept of a highly sexualized replicant, who doesn’t quite get it, seemed awfully relevant to me at the time. My dating life was less than zero at the time.
Could you describe how the various musical collaborations on “Don’t Stop” worked? For example, did the musicians who created beats for it present fairly complete tracks for you to pick from / work with? Or was there a lot of back and forth as songs developed?
A little of both, depending what song and who it was. “Under My Skin” was something Ceez and I did especially for Halloween. We were driving back from Eugene with hangovers and decided to do a spooky beat and just talked about the concept. Ceez and I are like long lost musical brothers- there are times where we will be chatting online and he’ll send me a track and I will email him a demo 5 minutes later. Other people, there’s more back and forth. Spit Stix and I took a little time to work out what we wanted to do as we come from very different backgrounds.
What made you want to cover “Running Up That Hill” and “Take On Me”? Have there been any songs other you’d wanted to cover, that didn’t work out?
I’m a child of the 80’s, and they are both songs from when I was growing up. I chose them because they are songs that seem happy-go-lucky until you start to pay attention to the lyrics. “Running Up That Hill” is totally chilling and heartbroken. “Take on Me” is telling someone that they don’t know it yet, but you’re going to be lovers. I was trying to re-inject the the lyrical intent into the song.
Is “Don’t Stop” self-released? If so, do you think you’d want to work with a label in the future, or do you prefer to stay completely independent?
It’s self-released. I would like to work with a label- but it has to be a situation where we are both very clear what we want from each other. I’m never going to change my artistic output to be on a label, but I do want help with the logistical side. There’s a huge amount of, basically, office work that goes into doing stuff properly. I will work hard and earn money for a label- but I would rather be shooting a video, playing a show, or writing new songs than doing 100% of the grunt work. There are only so many hours in a day and I’m learning it as I go. There are people who do this full-time and get off on it, and they would be so much better than me. I’m basically running my own label except half the time, I stop what I’m doing to give a 3 year old a bath or something.
Do you have a regular line-up of musicians & dancers for live performances, or does it vary by show?
It varies show by show. There are some recurring regulars. I’ve used circus people, belly dancers, fire artists, drag queens… once an entire modern dance company.
Are you involved in any other musical projects right now?
I do hooks for rappers. I write neoclassical soundtracks for indie films and I’m working on another solo album. I want to start playing instruments with other people in 2012. I badly miss playing with other people, it’s just scheduling is a bear.
What’s in the immediate future for you (with The Sexbots or anything else you’re working on)?
We’re going to be hitting the road hard in 2012. I also want to work with a couple more rappers and put together an entire album that’s all different rappers with me on the hooks. That’s pretty insane! Anyway, if anyone wants me to play a show in their town, or wants to work together, they should e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.