Amelia’s Magazine | An interview with musician and artist Elizabeth Walling, aka Gazelle Twin

Gazelle Twin by Sarah Arnett
Gazelle Twin by Sarah Arnett.

I’ve been keeping a firm eye (and ear) on Gazelle Twin since I discovered her enigmatic first single at the tail end of last year. Changelings was accompanied by a mesmerising video that exemplifies Gazelle Twin‘s approach to music making: creating an overall sensory experience in which the listener/viewer is immersed. That video was followed by the equally transfixing I Am Shell I Am Bone and now her debut album The Entire City is on its way. Not surprisingly she is generating a lot of interest, approved this despite having performed only one live show so far as Gazelle Twin…. I decided to find out a bit more from the lady herself. Meet the genius that is Elizabeth Walling.


According to wikipedia the Loplop was a birdlike creature created by artist Max Ernst. Why and how have you been inspired by this creature?
Loplop was a starting point in the ongoing development for the ideas behind my costumes which I use for live performance and in my imagery. I have always admired the painting The Robing Of The Bride by Ernst. It has a sexual-animal-human oddness that drew me in. I saw the real thing fairly recently in Guggenheim’s house in Venice. It was much smaller than I realised, but still magnificently weird. It really beckons you over from the other side of the room.

Gazelle Twin by Amy Brazier
Gazelle Twin by Amy Brazier.
Were you trained in music, or is it something that has been building over the years? What other jobs have you done in the meantime if so?
I studied briefly at college and then University but I still consider myself to be self-taught. As a kid I would learn everything by ear, including pieces for piano, flute etc. I still do it that way now. Learning to read and write music obviously helped me develop a lot further, but I rarely return to the theory books and manuscript paper these days, except if I’m arranging something for classical musicians. I’m expecting to do a lot of that for the next album.

I Am Shell I Am Bone

What are your main lyrical themes and inspirations?
Hard to know where to start. I’ve been inspired by the paranormal, under water life, science fiction films, dreams I had as a child, space exploration etc. All these influences and experiences are deeply personal, so it all remains very cryptic to others, I think.
How long have you been living in Brighton? What drew you there and what keeps you there?
I came here primarily to study music and never left. It’s a hard place to leave, and I love it here but after 10 years I think I might start to seek new horizons. It’s important to see new places I think.

Gazelle Twin by Lea Rimoux
Gazelle Twin by Lea Rimoux.
What is going on in the Men Like Gods video? Where was it shot and who are the dancers? I presume the scenes of burning pyres being dragged through streets are from the Lewes bonfire night, but are some of them choreographed specifically by yourself?
The Men Like Gods video contains footage from a very ancient Pagan festival in remote Sardinia. Some of the footage is my own from earlier this year, some was sourced through Sardinia‘s vast digital library and contains footage from roughly 30 years ago. The festival relates to the changing of the seasons and the life-giving land and cattle. Each village has it’s own particular ritual and unique costumes, so it is very diverse and strange. I went to experience one village’s ritual in March where I filmed the Mamuthones (the men who dance in black masks, bells and sheepskins). There is not much explanation as to why this ritual has such a bizarre aesthetic, but it is a very deep rooted tradition, at least two thousand years old. They take it very seriously there, it’s certainly not the tourist attraction that Lewes’ Bonfire night has become, but then I am sure it started out with much the same circumstances.

Gazelle Twin by gaarte
Gazelle Twin by Gaarte.
Do you collaborate with fashion designers to create your stage costumes, and if so who? How does that process work?
I design and usually make all the costumes. The process is very basic; I do a fair bit of research or just get an idea in my head and then I go to flea markets, charity shops and usually Poundland to source materials to work with. I’m unsigned so I don’t have an advance or anything to play with or to commission people, so I have to be imaginative and very frugal. Where I lack sewing skills or equipment I call upon my very talented friend, Gita Mistry. She recently helped me realise a brand new costume, a very striking blue, abstract Gazelle headdress, veil and robe which I might wear at my album launch in September.

You’ve been compared to the likes of Bjork but I think you also strongly channel more modern experimental electro musicians such as The Knife – who are more about hiding their personal egos behind creativity than extravagantly promoting themselves. Is it safe to say that you have been influenced by this kind of music? What have been your inspirations?
Classical, early music and film soundtracks are the bedrock of all my influences. When I was studying and composing in my late teens and early twenties I only ever really listened to that, maybe with a bit of Portishead and Jazz thrown in from time to time. Pop music is all relatively new to me, but true artists like The Knife, Fever Ray, Planningtorock and Bjork have all intrigued me musically as well as with their boldness of visual images and play on identity. I really admire artists who resist exposing themselves too much or try to divert people’s attention towards the music. I don’t think it’s enough to sport a weird costume or smear face paint on –  the music has to be really strong first and foremost, but the costume should also be relevant to the identity in order to avoid being a slightly vacuous stunt.

Gazelle Twin by Claire Kearns
Gazelle Twin by Claire Kearns.
How will The Entire City be available in an interactive web only version? Can you explain a bit more about how this works?
 The album will be available as a digital download in the conventional sense and there will be limited vinyl and CD editions coming out later this year. For the digital release in July there is a special web-based counterpart, which will be available on the website very soon. I wanted to create an interactive, tactile way for people to experience the album in digital form, so I got in touch with Champagne Valentine and they came up with a wonderful application for me. The interactive version of The Entire City will be free to access and contains all album tracks which each have their own interactive visuals. It also features remixed video clips from all my music videos, as well as other, as yet unreleased footage. I’m hoping to make something interactive for every album/project in future, it’s a really satisfying process and I hope makes up for some of the loss of pleasure in buying a physical record.

Gazelle Twin by Lea Rimoux
Gazelle Twin by Lea Rimoux.
Why are live performances so rare? Will your fans be able to see more of you now that your album is due to launch? If so where will they be able to find you?
Live shows have been rare because I wanted to take my time with developing the project and make sure it all worked and felt right before I launched the whole thing and took it on tour. I also had to save the money in order to do it properly, so it’s taken a few years to get here. I want to keep shows rare and special; they involve a lot of visuals, choreography and extra musical elements and each one is unique. I much prefer to do a few really special shows than too many run-of-the-mill versions. It makes it more worthwhile as a performer too (and I have experienced many a dodgy gig in the past without this ethos, let me tell you!). I’m really excited to get back to performing this year. My album launch will be on 1st September at Electrowerkz (aka Islington MetalWorks) in Angel, in London. I have curated the event myself and I am making sure it is going to be really unique experience for all involved. I can’t give too much away at the moment, but all will be revealed on my website eventually.

Gazelle Twin by Nicola Ellen
Gazelle Twin by Nicola Ellen.

What do you do to relax? Where might we find you by night time in Brighton?
I tend to spend the majority of my time in the studio at home, I rarely venture out much these days! I play a few video games and watch films to relax – This year I have really sacrificed my social life in order to make this record and really get the project off the ground single-handedly.

Gazelle Twin by Gaarte
Gazelle Twin by Gaarte.

New single Men Like Gods will be released on Monday 11th July alongside the digital release of The Entire City. Here’s a trailer for the amazing video.

Men Like Gods

The opening album track The Entire City can be streamed here

Gazelle Twin will play as part of the Soundwaves Festival on July 14th-17th in Brighton as part of The Infinite Possibilities of Voice at Brighton Town Hall between 5.45pm – 10.30pm on Saturday 16th July. Gazelle Twin will be performing Colossus in the Atrium, a new improvisatory piece exploring the dialogue between human and machine. Voice and electronics will be coupled with darkly theatric sensibilities to create an atmospheric, electrifying and wholly unique experience, in collaboration with artist and musician Ed Briggs. I advise you secure tickets fast! This will not be a performance to miss.

Categories ,Album Launch, ,Amy Brazier, ,Atrium, ,bjork, ,brighton, ,Brighton Town Hall, ,Champagne Valentine, ,Changelings, ,Claire Kearns, ,Colossus, ,Costume, ,Ed Briggs, ,electrowerkz, ,Elizabeth Walling, ,Fever Ray, ,Gaarte, ,Gazelle Twin, ,Gita Mistry, ,Guggenheim, ,I am Shell I am Bone, ,Islington MetalWorks, ,jazz, ,Lea Rimoux, ,Lewes, ,Loplop, ,Mamuthones, ,Max Ernst, ,Men Like Gods, ,Nicola Ellen, ,Pagan, ,Planningtorock, ,Portishead, ,review, ,Sarah Arnett, ,Sardinia, ,single, ,Soundwaves Festival, ,The Entire City, ,The Infinite Possibilities of Voice, ,The Knife, ,The Robing Of The Bride, ,video

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