From classical singer to rave producer, Karmel Jäger’s journey has been a wild ride. We caught up with Karmel to hear about how that transition has been and even unexpected crossovers between the two!
What sparked your passion for music, and how did it lead you to work in iconic studios and on projects like World of Warcraft and The Avengers?
I went to my sister’s school concert to see her playing piano, and I got to see the violin being played for the first time. I was completely enthralled.. Something just reached into my chest and took hold of my heart, and I knew I wasn’t going to rest until I got one of my own. I studied the violin, viola, and then taught myself piano before starting classical singing lessons at the age of 16 – studying at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music before doing a masters at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London.
London. Was. Amazing.
It was a place where you could immediately start getting work as a freelance musician, and I did every gig I could whilst studying for my Masters degree. After I graduated, I began performing in concert halls in the UK and Europe, and doing session recording work in iconic places like Abbey Road and Air Studios, recording vocals for video games like World of Warcraft, and movies like The Avengers. I was basically living my best life – a life I didn’t even know was possible or even existed really, and I’m so so grateful for the time I had there.
What inspired the transition from classical singer to rave producer?
My then-partner wanted to move back to Sydney, leading to a tough decision and a painful road ahead. Finding electronic music saved me, and an interesting move into producing unfolded. While recording at Abbey Road, I realized it was my first time working with a female composer. A colleague mentioned she’s often mistaken for an assistant due to her gender, which made me livid and motivated me to compose and join a songwriting club.
After having a few songs produced in London, I was encouraged to produce my own songs for a more authentic sound. I bought Ableton, started producing, and then fell into DJing. As my DJ style developed, so did my productions.
What advice do you have for musicians who are interested in getting into production but don’t know where to start?
I would say first of all surround yourself with other people who are producing. Go to gigs and get inspired by the music scene you want to be a part of, then come back home and just muck around. I find that when you don’t try too hard and just play, your own individuality shines through.
I remember the Liveschool trainers would play us examples of what they were talking about, and I just thought, wow there’s really room to make whatever you want, and there’s an audience out there for everything. So find your own sound, but also don’t worry about it. It’s always the journey that’s the most fun.
From a sold out performance in a 11th Century French Abbey and singing on the trailer for a Star Wars film, to now releasing a full album of jungle infused techno, what could possibly be next on your agenda?
A big goal for me is to do a live set of all my own music and I reckon some live vocals would be a part of that. There’s something about live instruments that just gets me, and I’d love to give someone in the audience the same feeling I had when I heard that violin for the first time.
With a classical background, you bring harmony and tension to your music – have you applied any direct classical influences here?
The main thing from my classical background I bring, is my openness to anything “good”. I performed classical music from the 1500s-2000s and the chord progressions, and totally weird dissonances in there were so varied – I used to sing a Britten song where the piano part and the vocal part were in different keys – one tone apart! Once you find that sort of thing beautiful, I think you become really open to different sounds, melodies and chord progressions. My track Fluffy Bunny Graveyard Slippers is an example of that.
As I was writing it, I didn’t want the chord progression to end, so I just kept it going where I felt I wanted it to go.
Another influence from my classical background is that I produce left to right, rather than making an 8 bar loop of what will end up as the “biggest part” of the track and expanding it forwards and backwards from there. I think this left to right style allows me to be quite creative and end up in quite a different place to the start of the track. My first solo EP, ‘FTS’ was written this way, and all the tracks run into each other, like they’re being mixed in a DJ set, but I’ve actually written in the transitions between tracks before even starting composing the next track. That EP was really fun to make. It’s really an 18 minute track in one way!
Karmel Jäger DJ sets are full of energy and you’ve cited Donatachi’s Remix of BRUX (both Liveschool alumni) as an inspiration. What do you love about genres like breaks, jungle, techno and rave?
I mean, what’s not to love! My eldest sister used to play me old skool breaks and techno when I was 11 years old and I couldn’t wait to be old enough to go clubbing. But since I went down the classical path, I kind of had to let dance music go to focus on my classical career. Coming back to it now it just feels really natural to go back to those early roots, where the love really began for me. Those old videos of ravers in the early 90s, like acid house in the UK, they just kill me. Everyone is completely lost in the music – no phones, no distractions, just the love of the music. I won’t play any tracks that I don’t think are just complete fire, and I don’t want to release anything mediocre. No entrées, just heavy mains and rich desserts!
As for Donatachi, they make huge, clean ravey sounds and their take on BRUX’s In My Dreams – a track I loved already – is just insane. It’s the perfect high energy track to add into my sets, and it’s one that inspires me to keep working on my sound design.
Karmel Jäger most recently released her EP and remix EP of The Moon Becomes The Sun, on Choki Biki Records, a Dublin based label, and has upcoming releases with Patchworks in Bristol, and B&H Records in Sydney.
Check out what other Liveschool Alumni are up to here!