Miss Stereochemistry, Singer/Songwriter, Berlin24/07/2012
She started out studying science and intending to be a biologist but life often unfolds in the most curious ways and Belgrade-born , Italian raised and Berlin based Karla Hajman (aka Miss Stereochemistry) didn’t feel she quite fit into the picture‚ so she traded her lab coat for a cabaret outfit and became a one-woman show; singer, songwriter and performer.
This modern-day Gypsy, who travels the globe with her guitar and a suitcase full of songs, is a wise old soul; she thinks as fast as she talks and she talks with insight, intelligence and a wisdom way beyond her young years; she knew a life of science wasn’t enough for a curious mind and a heart hungry for magical experiences, people and ideas‚. and today there are still no regrets about leaping feet first into a life of music, magic and constant change.
Creative Mapping caught up with Karla to chat about her work and some of the brave choices she’s made in her life.
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ECHO LOVE – LIVE AT THE HUTCHI GUTCHI, ASPHALT THEATER, BERLIN
“ MY JOB IS TO CONVERT HUMAN EXPERIENCES AND EMOTIONS INTO SOUND WAVES AND WORDS, AND BRING THEM BACK TO PEOPLE IN A TOTALLY SURPRISING WAY SO THEY CAN LOOK AT THEM FROM A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE AND MARVEL. IN OTHER WORDS, I’M A MUSICIAN AND A PERFORMING ARTIST.”Where do you live and what & where did you study? Tell us more about what do you do as a performer? How did you become a professional creative and how do you market yourself as a solo act? Tell us more about your work environment, our preferred working programmes/tools
Where do you live and what & where did you study?
Two tough questions in one sentence! Right now I’m in Venice, Italy, but currently the place I spend the most time is Berlin, Germany. Before unpacking in Berlin last August, I spent 344 days living from my suitcase, on the road to promote the release of my last album ‚“The Vagabond Cabaret‚.
And I became a Vagabond Cabaret, indeed, without any steady address and any keys to a home for an entire year. The tour brought me to Berlin in the first place, though, and slowly that city stole my Gypsy heart – so I live there now.
Regarding studies, I took a bachelor degree in Biotechnology at University of Padova, Italy, followed by a Master of Science in Genomics and Proteomics at the same University. I also started a PhD in Experimental Audiology at Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden, which I never completed, as I realized I much prefer using my ears from another perspective.
Tell us more about what do you do as a performer?
My job is to convert human experiences and emotions into sound waves and words, and bring them back to people in a totally surprising way so they can look at them from a different perspective and marvel. In other words, I’m a musician and a performing artist.
Being a cabaret performer, I am also a harlequin (or ‚“harlequeen‚): once on the stage I am allowed to say anything, and get even the strongest and most upsetting messages through, on the quiet wings of cynicism and irony. At the end of the day, it was us jesters who whispered into the ears of the kings.
I’m also my own sound engineer and producer. All the years in Biotechnology definitely payed off: whenever i find myself in front of a complex studio set up, with a zillion knobs and cables and inserts, I always tell myself: ‚“You could run a half million dollar Atomic Force Microscope when you were 21. This is nothing.‚
When I get too stuck on writing love songs, I call myself a ‚“Professional Siren‚, singing some silly songs to the man I don’t belong to. And I’m my own roadie, too.
How did you become a professional creative and how do you market yourself as a solo act?
My first commissioned project came way back in 1997 when I co-authored a song performed by a friend of mine for the Children’s Music Festival in Rozaje, Montenegro. I was 15 at the time. I wrote the lyrics for the song and am still the youngest author in the history of the festival. But this isn’t when I became a professional creative. It took another ten long years to take that dare.
I’ve been composing music since childhood but somehow got tangled into science and ended up taking a PhD in Experimental Audiology ‚ basically I was discovering the molecular mechanisms of hearing, and how stress influenced them (ears). One year into my research, I realized I was betraying own self and my biggest dream ‚ being a performer and composer: I simply preferred treating ears from the outside than the inside. So I left the Karolinska Institute‚ and became a street musician in Barcelona, Spain, literally starting from ground zero. My parents survived the initial shock and are now my biggest fans.
Now, my audience is quite heterogeneous: I perform in all kinds of venues to any kind of crowds, from the major clubs of Berlin to the tiniest spooky pubs with only five people there, from streets to theatres. I’ve been playing living room shows and I’m a featured artist on the Windows Media Guide USA; I’ve been asked to write music for two independent movies this year. What is common to all these people is curiosity.
I market myself both physically and online. You can buy a piece of my leg every Friday at the Turkish market in Kreuzberg, Berlin. Priced by metre, of course. OK, seriously speaking, I do a lot of internet marketing, through social media platforms, such as Facebook, Soundcloud, Reverbnation, Youtube, iTunes and my official web page stereochemistrymusic.com too. But Internet is just one piece of the cake: I still believe that an awesome live show will attract a more concrete, faithful following then merely internet adds alone.
Therefore I do a lot of shows in as many countries and cities as I can, and sell my CDs and merchandize there. I do all my booking myself, which means a lot of flexibility, but also a lot of work, responsibility and organization skills.
I think the key to spreading the word IS to travel and be the postal pigeon yourself.
Tell us more about your work environment, our preferred working
My working environment can be really ANYTHING. When I was on tour, without a steady place to stay and changing countries every week, I was writing music everywhere: some songs were written in trains and at airports; I remember even recording and mixing down some backing vocals at Rome Fiumicino Airport during a seven hour wait to board a plane to Istanbul.
On the other hand, when I developed and made the Archive Box project, my latest music/conceptual art release, I was buried in my room in Berlin, under a huge pile of cardboard and glue for about twenty hours a day. The project required the construction of 52 cardboard boxes, as the physical release of this album was limited to fifty hand-crafted, interactive and interconnected boxes for archiving memories and all those ghosts from the past that find no other place in one’s life. These anti-Pandora’s boxes were then painted with tea, coffee and vinegar, and during those times, my favourite lab was my kitchen which looked more like some weird obsessive-compulsive witchcraft zone.
Speaking of tools and materials, as mentioned: I love cardboard, newspapers, papermache, wires and I love using uncommon, nature-derived materials for different purposes. ie: painting with tea and coffee, or using acorn hats instead of CD holders, writing my lyrics on pressed leaves (the ones in the‚ Archive Box project were collected from a graveyard where Hans Christian Andersen and Niels Bohr are buried). And I love playing my guitar with the violin bow.
With software, I am a big mac fan and record my music with Logic mainly, although sometimes I use Pro Tools too if the studio I’m working at allows me to. Sometimes I mess around with Final Cut and Photoshop too, but I am more of a musician than a video/photo artist ‚ in fact, the digital album artwork for the Archive Box project was done by Denis Leo Hegic, an architect and a visual artist from Sarajevo whom I live with in Berlin (www.i-am-denis.com).
Being a musician, if I’m writing and recording a new tune, no other music is allowed but mine! But if I’m crafting a weird hat, or working on my stage outfits, or writing miniature words on the matches, then I listen to classical music or piano soundtracks.. So I’ll mention the entire Gnossienne and Gymnopedie collections by Erik Satie, the ‚“Piano‚, ‚“Amelie‚ and ‚“American Beauty‚ official soundtracks‚ but after a while my ears need some funk, so I’d go for old releases of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Incubus ‚ in particular ‚“Apache Rose Peacock‚ and ‚“Summer Romance (Antigravity Love Song)‚.