The Freio Music Podcast
Episode 01 - HÄANA
This episode's featured artist is HÄANA. She shares some amazing stories about her life's journey and her travels throughout the world. HÄANA is a classically trained violinist who utilizes electronic (digital) and organic (analog) elements to blend her creations into delicate works of art. HÄANA will take you on her journey from playing on the streets of Europe to playing festivals and shows around the world!
This episode's featured artist is HÄANA. She shares many entertaining stories including one about nearly drowning in water during the creation of her music video. She also shares a pivotal moment when she found herself penniless on the streets of Europe with only her violin to earn a living. HÄANA is a classically trained violinist who utilizes electronic and organic elements to blend her creations into delicate works of art. This episode is on the longer side but will keep your ears gripped to the speakers as she reveals details about her life and career that have never been shared on record. She discusses collaborations with some of the top artists in the electronic field as well as the process she uses to finalize her creations. Haana Thiem is a violinist, producer, and creator / founder of two record labels Paper Gold Records and Deep Sonos. Stay tuned!
Listen to HÄANA on SoundCloud
Listen to HÄANA on iTunes
Watch Teardrop Music Video
Full Transcription & Show Notes
HÄANA Podcast Transcription
Start out by introducing yourself
My name is Haana Thiem, I go by HÄANA on stage. I am very particular about my brand because it is recognizable, and what people read, see and hear. I live in L.A. now. I used to live in New York and the east coast for about 10 years, before New York was Boston. I am kind of a nomadic individual. I love the question “where have you been?” rather than “where do you live?” or “where were you born?” because that doesn’t say a lot about a person, I think.
In that light then, where are some of the highlights of where you have been?
Well some of the most special places, I lived in Germany for a year. I lived in Spain for almost a year. I lived in Granada . I lived on an island in the Mediterranean called Formentera, which is just south of Ibiza. Then I traveled through Greece. I was studying Greek and I was going to move to Crete, but instead I moved to Boston somehow. They are kinda parallel, kinda not. I studied German, studied Spanish. I have had opportunities to play in a whole bunch of different places but, for a moment I realized that, all the traveling was kind of confusing me. But what I wanted to do instead, was hone my art, and my craft, and my offering and then travel. Which is how it has turned out.
Great, so where were you honing your craft? Was it in the Mediterranean?
It kinda started there. The really interesting turn of events. Should we get into it?
Sure. Ya, lets get into it. That’s why we are here.
Well, lately i have been posting old photos of me from when I was 21 living in Formentera and living in Spain. It is a really Inspiring story. I think it is important to share the back story. I feel like people want to know about that. I tend to shroud myself in a bit of mystery. I want to let more people in, so thank you for the opportunity. I was living in Granada, Spain and at that point I wasn’t performing on violin that much. I started playing Violin when I was three but I was studying languages in college. So, I bought a violin while in Spain and started playing casually on the street. It wasn’t until, this was the turning point of my whole career, somebody stole my wallet. I had no money. So, I decided that I would go put on a costume with a beautiful shirt and shall or something.
How did you overcome your fear? And like do you get yourself in a mental mindset to use meditation in order to clarify your vision before stepping out in the curtains open? You get yourself ready mentally. I do try to do that. I if at all possible, I try to have the green room cleared right before my set and just spend a few moments of just centering and grounding. Two years ago I played lightning in a bottle in the thunder stage and I tried something new there, so I arrived in the evening. My set was maybe two days later, and I arrived to the space. It was at night. Everything was closed and I just did a visualization there. I closed my eyes and envisioned the whole space filled with light and setting an intention to really inspire people. And just like envisioning the whole space like just this enormous ball of energy. And that was really powerful, you know, like arriving to a space setting, an intention, really doing some visualizations. I mean, it doesn't happen every time, like especially at festivals. Sometimes those changeovers are just so rapid, and it's just a million things and chaos and like the rain, Why Why does after rain? And you know. But there's also all that adrenaline. So, you know, sometimes it's a little bit like rushed and maybe not that grand like the blank stage. And then the grand reveal. And then I enter, um, you know, But you kind of have to roll with whatever is given to you and make the most of it, like one important practice that I do too. Like, of course, it's ideal if every performance you have the best sound, the best lighting, the best ambience, the best audience. But if you don't have all those elements, you just fake it. You just and what I'm saying by that is like, let's say I can't hear myself very well on stage for some reason or something shifted in the audio, you roll with it. You don't make a big deal about it unless if it's like, really will affect your performance, because the most important thing is that people they're watching, they're listening. They're there for an experience. They showed up. They want whatever it is that you're going to give them and to break the flow. I don't really like to do that. I like to just proceed. If if it's not ideal, it's okay like it's being It's improvising in the moment as.
back to your question earlier about collaborations. I do write a lot for cello. Um, my new EP will have a few different guitarists on it. String Trio with a I recorded a viola snails Mills Baumann, who works with Bluetec and then Jay, Alberta, and Adam Maloof, there cellist who live in New York and a lot of piano on there. I play piano, too, and, you know, collaborating with people in the sense that I'm you know, if you're just one person, you have just one expression. But if you pull other people in and their talents in, you know, wow, it's so beautiful, like Teardrop, the cover that I did a massive attack. I worked with a cellist named Raymond who tours with Celine Dion, or he did in the past, and his expression on cello is just like this. Gorgeous like like your heart just goes, Oh melts and like, you feel things. That's what I want people to feel things. So that's what I keep in mind with every every piece of music that I write
well, paper, Gold Records is actually my label, and it's it's kind of a at the moment I am the only artist on it. But my vision with it, actually which could tie in with what you're doing is I mean, my goal is to inspire especially young girls and women to pursue a career in music and the whole world of electronic music. I feel like there there could be definitely a lot more women who could take that challenge. And so, with paper gold, it's currently a vanity label. But my vision is to take that to the next level and have it be a platform for other artists to release their music on. Now how How do you make a record label like, You know? I mean, not all artists are willing to put in the work, and But, you know, just most artists don't put in that work. So, like tell me how how that is for you and how you balance dealing with the record label and all the you know, political hoops that you got to jump through Well, it's getting easier and easier to release your own music to be an independent artist and sometimes it's good to have an additional avenue. Two. Release your music. I mean, first of all, it's quality control and and also, you know, if I own all the pieces of my music, then getting it placed for television for commercial, for films, if I own all my publishing all mastering, I mean. The downside to it, though, is that when you're part of a bigger label, you are part of a bigger network. So if you want to do it on your own, you build your team. You you know. But everyone starts somewhere. Everyone starts small and then grows. And if the if it's the right thing, the path will be easy. And if it's not quite the right thing, then the path might be a little more difficult. But it depends also how much you really want it. So you know, the important key element that I found was distribution, and so I work with symphonic distribution and they're amazing, like that's how I get my music up on Spotify and iTunes and Soundcloud is different. But all the digital distribution happens through my distributor, and I mean, yeah, it's not. It's not too difficult to start your own, start your own business. In that way, you got to be bold and take that first step. Yes, and come up with a good name. All right? Like, really, The biggest thing was paper, gold label or paper Gold records. Which one? They're so similar to. How long is that? I don't know. Probably a month, maybe two.
How do you How do you build and cultivate a team? You know that helps you succeed. If you could speak to the building of teams, Sure. Well, Brian Belmar was the first song that I did for my solo project and actually went through an iteration of a few different producers. My friend Ben in Khanty did some of the W the dub step sort of growls and textures and then subatomic. He he worked with me. He was like, Okay, Before we actually mix this, I think we need to go in on the sounds themselves like Let's get the best kick drum sound we can. Let's get the best Texture is the best, you know, like because if you have the best quality audio, then everything else will follow. And so he also had the idea to merge. You know, when you're doing electronic music, but with violin or vocals, kind of merging those elements. So it's not this cold, stark electronic content. And so I went in. When I went in the studio, I recorded peppercorns, rice shakers like these organic shaker textures and and then also this Icelandic jaw harp that I had and just in the act of having a few organic percussive elements helped fuse those two worlds together. The organic, the digital and analog, which I still do to this day. And then from there I had it mixed by. It's a Ming. It was another producer in New York who introduced me to I mean, it's kind of like, you know, you connect with one person, another person, another person, but really, I wanted to find the person that really fit and really understood what I was doing. Really got me and working with Ming. He's super, super fast, super efficient, like there were some moments of the song where, like, transitions, I didn't really know how that would work or different production elements. Um, but it still wasn't there, even after all those people. And then I finally brought it to Dave Sharma, who has been mixing who mixed that whole EP. The first EP that I released and I basically sat with him for a bunch of the sessions, a bunch of the mix sessions and the process with that is, you know, really finding where the song wants to live, which is interesting, like each song actually has a place where it wants to live. And because I've approached a lot of my music as as like an artistic expression that's really important. I'm not producing something that anybody else has inequality control over. It's not, um, not for you know, it's like a commercial label that has the specific thing that they want me to fit into. It's my expression, and I'm ultimately giving the yes or the no to the final product. So, you know, I really felt like Dave really got my vision and was pulling out elements of each song like when we worked on five, which is inspired by a Finnish Acapella women's course. But as represented by violins, Um, you know, I had a particular way that I thought that the track should go, but he was like So let's try it this way. I think this is and I was like, Okay, well, I'm open to it and very happy with that direction that we took so and then finding a mastering engineer. That's another critical piece. And how did I find? So I've been working with audible oddities, and he's worked with some of the top top artists. Top electronic artists like Amon Tobin and I can't think of the list right off the top of my head. But I think Eskimo as well. And, you know, just because I'm an audio file. So finding people who really care about audio, sound quality and the first the first track that I sent him to master it came back with It was perfect, like dough. No need to revise things. Uh, for this release that I did with desert dwellers, Um, they put Leah, which is one of my I think I really set in 2015. It was Leah and then four remixes by a few different artists Hodge and Tanner coming under and twin shape. And they used a different mastering engineer. I think we went through about four or five different revisions with that one because it plays to get the right person Does. It does, you know, like again, like investing just a little more, but because it's a legacy or leaving behind something that will live forever
very first song that I produced for my solo project. I was called Brim Al Mar, and I have a music video for that out, and that was one of the like while we could get into the music video, but it was just, you know, the the biggest project, like manifestation of my artistic vision to that point. So that in itself was incredible. But, um, Omar brim it brim. The word means it's kind of a play on words, Um, but it means the salt spray hitting the rocks or surf. But surf sounds funny. Salt spray sounds more romantic, and then al Mar is in Spanish of the sea, and the melody itself is inspired by a Norwegian folk song. And the video kind of goes into life and death and multiple iterations. And then also this folk, uh, mythology. Or what is it called folk tale about the Normans, which are these in Nordic mythology? These three sisters, who weave the threads of past, present and future and so you'll see that in the video. It's kind of abstract, and you know, I love things to be mysterious, and but you see the Normans weaving the threads of life and you see me going through this iteration of me in a white dress on top of a cliff. Then I fall into the water and then I emerges this badass like mo heart, Um, all in black with this black Harding or fiddle by the fire. So it's kind of incorporate a lot of the elements. That's amazing. So I mean, there's a lot of people out there who don't have a music video and who do have music. So in that light, like, did you dream up this vision of yourself in this music video? How did it come to be? Was it step by step, where you're working with a producer? Well, I had met this, dear friend, very creative individual Arman Mateen in New York. And I knew that this song really needed a music video. I knew that. That's what I wanted before I released it. And so I told him about my idea. I'm a photographer. I'm not I don't think in moving pictures, really. I think in frames snapshots like composition. And so I told him what my idea was, and then he really dove deep into it. So he is this incredible creative individual. He works on big commercial projects in New York, but this he took on as a personal project. So he did a lot of research. He discovered the Normans. You know, I didn't even know they existed. And, uh, kind of wove all these different story threads. And I was like, Wow, how are we ever going to be able to do this like this is crazy. I mean, I don't have that much money to pull this off the songs only so long, right? Yeah, like, wow, we need like CG. But he does like CG. And after effect, it was like, Well, maybe she didn't actually take a cliff dive. Well, I'll get into that. I mean, if we want to. Depends on how long we want to make this interview. So then he presented it to Alice Alice Miller, who's an incredible cinematographer in New York. And she apparently has been obsessed with the Normans, and she was a little girl, So she's like, Yes, I want to do this. And she took it on as a personal project as well. And we the three of us were very interested in creating a piece of art. So sometimes when people really take on an idea and they really take ownership of it, a lot more beauty can come out of it. Because it's not just the dollar sign. It's not the, you know, the the commercial product. It's the art vision, the passion. Yeah, And so then everyone we hired for the team, everyone, you know, we had a budget, but like everyone wasn't getting like their commercial rates. But everyone was pulling like 200% of their energy like we had this incredible assistant photographer. We had incredible lighting designer. Part of the shoot was done under water, and we did. We used black light cannons and they basically spent, like, the whole day setting up this this part of the shoot that you can see in the video that's underwater with, like, a scrim underwater and these black light cannons and this whole thing, I mean, it was incredible. The piece that they didn't do, they didn't heat the pool. And it was May and I was supposed to fall into the pool backwards from a diving board into the water. And I'm like, Okay, calm face calm face like. No, I think it's going to be great. It's going to be wonderful. But, you know, there's fear involved, Like wearing this long dress all these layers. We added more fabric to the dress because we went shopping for fabrics that would glow with black light cannon. And, you know, and I was envisioning how would be in the water. Like I had bought a cheap throwaway violin on eBay for like, for $30. So the violin was going to go into the water, and I was envisioning, you know, me twirling in the water and, like, you know, playing violin In this whole romantic, beautiful scene. The reality is so I fall into the water backwards and I'm I'm sure my face probably had some kind of grimace on it because how can you not? And then I fall in and I'm like, trying to swim up and my dress wrapped around my legs and I couldn't I could not swim. I couldn't move. I could not do that. I don't know why I couldn't do that. Why can't I do that? And so we have slow motion footage of the lighting designer diving in and like diving rescued me, pulled me to the surface and all his water came out of my nose. My ears. It was like I had waterboarded. Also the other piece side of makeup artist. Incredible. Just just toss. And she had done this whole water waterproof makeup Look on me. That was also very important because if you fall into water with regular makeup, it's going to wash off or you'll have raccoon eyes. So my makeup did not budge one bit, So thanks to her and then she was like, You can't do that again. I was like, um yeah, I could do it again But she was like, You know, if you don't feel good like, we can stop this right now and I was like, No, no, I'm going to do it. And so then we didn't We didn't. I think I did that sequence a couple more times. Maybe. I'm not sure. Um, but one of the best shots that we did was I was holding onto the edge of the pool because I didn't really want to fall in again. And with my dress with the violin and the water kind of waving it back and forth and kind of creating this like abstract texture, which you can see in the the physical CD. I did a beautiful print of that. That particular shot inside? Yeah, Um, but that was that was a pretty incredible experience. It was a three day shoot, and the end result is something that looks like we spent about 20 grand on it. Yes, but, you know, we just pulled our resources and it was just something that I was feeling so passionate about. And I just knew I needed to invest whatever I could in it, because I really, truly believe that if you if you think big and if you act big, then even if you're not quite there yet you will get there. And also thinking of it as a legacy like this is a forever project. So I didn't want to put out anything less than top top top quality top caliber. And I also didn't want to do a Kickstarter campaign for it because I would prefer, you know that it just it's something that I'm funding. I'm not asking people for money. I think sometimes those can be successful, but sometimes it's sort of a more begging thing, and it's kind of like losing control because you're not. You don't control over the budget. You can't really plan accordingly. Yeah, but I think it's important to yeah, really put out the best quality work that you can because it will be for forever. I mean, we don't know really what the future holds, but I'm thinking it'll live forever.