Mervin Malone
This is a place — a BLOG, if you will — about music, film, culture, the arts and whatever else co-exists and generates popular culture. Enjoy!

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Wednesday, March 08, 2006
Mervin's 11+ Questions with Ultra Natι!

Aria is pleased to welcome singer and perennial house music pioneer, Ultra Natι!

Well – let's start with you…

1. What have you been doing since Stranger Than Fiction?

Forming my own label for my project...putting the album together — and my husband and I decided to expand our family and had a baby last year — 'been a busy girl!

Though you're primarily associated with dance music, your album work has always drawn from a much wider sonic palette...

This is true, which is what an album should be about — it should be a broader picture than the one presented through a single. A single is one piece of a larger puzzle.

2. Who are some of your longtime musical influences?

Marvin Gaye, Chaka Khan, Madonna, 'Rolling Stones — I'm all over the place. I'm really just into good music, no matter what the genre.

3. Do you ever regard the dance tag as confining?

I think you can only be confined if you let yourself — I choose to look at the dance genre as an opportunity to actually try more diverse things since a dance track can have vibes or influences from any genre.

House music — dance in general — is (often) unfairly stereotyped by the mainstream music press as a "happy", irrelevant medium — the musical equivalent of reckless abandon. You have shown a gift for exploring the darker side of the dancefloor. As the Pet Shop Boys have done with electro-pop, you have effectively expanded the lyrical depth of modern dance music to include the melancholy...

I love the melancholy — it's nothing contrived — it's really just my nature to write and sing in those places. It does give the music a different complexion, which has been a great compliment to my career.

4. Do you draw from personal experiences when singing and/or performing certain songs?

For the most part, but some songs just have their own life and you are the instrument.

5. Where do you most often find inspiration when conceiving musical projects?

Anywhere — anytime — just "being" presents a moment of inspiration if your creative juices are flowing...

This brings us to the new album…

Your new album is tentatively called, Grime, Silk and Thunder. We've heard "Brass In My Pocket" and the Stonebridge collaboration, "Freak On"…

6. What's next?

Next...? I've still have to get this album out! LOL. I've always got some iron in a fire somewhere but for now I'm focused on finishing and fine tuning "Grime...".

7. Are there any new remixes we should be on the look-out for?

Not till we are ready to start working the 1st single. Soon...

On Grime… — as with previous albums — you work with an absolutely outstanding roster of singers and musicians: 4hero – Headrillaz — EastWest Connection — Jill Jones — Jody Watley — Nona Hendryx...

8. Who would you like to work with on a future project that you haven't yet worked with?

Maxwell, Bono, Bahamadia — again — all over the map.

Over the years, you've shown us a great many musical personas; indeed, a listen to One Woman's Insanity, Situation: Critical or any of your previous albums reveal that you have a multitude of voices — jazz, soul, Philly soul — even rock.

9. What new aspect of Ultra Natι can we expect to see on Grime, Silk and Thunder?

Yeah — the "personas" element is very interesting to me — it's like I said about the song having a story and you being the instrument — I write these songs and they dictate a certain emotion which translates as a different persona. I feel it would be too presumptuous of me to classify any of the new stuff myself — I like to hear how other people perceive it without me putting any preconceived concept in their I'll be waiting to hear what you think.

Lastly, I'd like to know…

10. What are you listening to these days?

Kem, Gwen Stefani, Kanye West, Journey's "Best Of" Collection and constant soulful underground house dj mixes (including my own).

11. Is there any current artist or musician from any genre that has your attention right now?

All of the above along with Heather Headley, Vivian Green, Maroon 5, Donnie and Paris (from American Idol — only watch it for her).

You can visit Ultra at, or on MySpace at

Posted at 06:12 am by Mervin Malone
Thoughts (4)  

Monday, March 06, 2006
Mervin's 10... er, ... 14 Questions with Michelle Shaprow!

Aria is pleased to welcome electronica/neo pop vocalist and musician, Michelle Shaprow!

I'd like to start with a little on your background. You were educated at prestigious Yale University, where you studied psychology and philosophy and specialized in musical perception.

1. When and where did you begin your initial musical training?

My mom encouraged me to take piano lessons when I was young, so I trained with many teachers classically. In 8th grade I started writing music for our 8th grade musical and the teacher suggested that I get a synthesizer. I got an Ensoniq and started learning production and arrangement.

Your singles – "If I Lost You"; "Angel" (which you did with King Britt); "Happiness"; "Anything You Say" — showcase a rich and dynamic vocal range.

2. What would you say is your main voice, or vocal part?

Both alto and soprano — I feel equally comfortable in both.Well, I guess depending on my mood; when I'm angry or feeling very empowered I like to sing alto — when I'm pensive, or whimsical I like to take soprano.

3. What is your vocal range in octaves?

I don't know.

4. Who would you say has influenced the vocal side of Michelle Shaprow?

Probably a lot of bossa nova and Esthero.

5. What led you to dance and electronic music?

It really found me. I just do what I do and I tended to get a lot of production and collaboration opportunities in the dance community. I'm much more about music than I am about genre. For me, music is the message — genre is just a language.

6. You have a great working relationship with King Britt. How and when did the two of you first get acquainted?

When I was recording with Warner Brothers, my A&R and manager suggested King for a remix and some production work. We've hit it off ever since.

7. Is Britt involved in the development of your upcoming album?

I'm producing the project, but King has always been there for guidance and advice and probably will be doing some production on some songs as well.

8. And speaking of the new album, do you have a title yet?

Not yet — I'm just building the songs and seeing if anything calls out to me...

In addition to 'Britt, you've also worked with Satoshi Tomiie...

9. Who else would you like to work with in the near future?

Pharrell Williams, Lewis Taylor, David Liang, but in general, I'm pretty open and experimental.

10. Who is on the scene – either vocally, instrumentally or both — that is really moving you right now?

Well I'm in love with almost anything I hear on Groove Salad radio, which you can get through iTunes. I've liked what I heard from David Liang, Recloose, Brazilian many...and it changes everyday.

In addition to singing and composing, you're also a producer. You've produced tracks for Warner Bros., as well as Vh-1's "Strip Search"...

11. Any new production projects that we should be aware of?

My own project. But for the record — I produced the VH1"Strip Search" spots not the music for them — so like, I wrote the scripts, chose the shots, music etc. — so, it was production but not music production. But as far as music production, I do consider myself more of a songwriter than producer and have ended up producing a lot just because it is sometimes the only way to really express the songs as you hear them but I really want to send out good energy into the ether to call upon my production soul mate and hopefully meet that person — or those people — soon who i am really compatible with on a musical level and can help be midwife to some of these songs I've had in my head for ages and have not fully expressed. Right now I'm having horrible throat problems which I believe is related to issues in my throat chakra having to do with expression and expression blockages.

12. Who are some of your favorite musicians?

Jobim, Stevie Wonder, Bjork.

13. Do you have any interests in scoring motion pictures?

Totally. I would LOVE to do that.

14. What other media can we expect to see you involved with in the coming years?

Film — musicals — 'Alternate Reality Events' - a new project I'm working on where we throw events which are a fusion of performance art, musical, and party; to all out there — if you're interested in getting involved and helping out, I could always use a hand and other brains so holler!

Michelle's music is available for download at her website, as well as iTunes; she is also prominently featured on the Fixe Six Recordings compilation, This Is What Radio Should Sound Like.

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Posted at 06:15 am by Mervin Malone

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