I am using my position as guest editor for August 2018’s The Sampler blog to investigate how intersectionality informs the identities and processes of our sound and music practices. My questions aim to center the idea of intersectional personhood and creative output.
You will find a links relating to the content of this interview at the bottom of this page.
You will also find a helpful glossary of terms relevant to this interview in a digital publication entitled ‘Women and Non-Binary Identities’ created by the educational platform Shades of Noir which is linked to at the bottom of this page.
YaYa Bones is the musical moniker of multi-disciplinary artist Ayesha Tan Jones. Coining their genre ‘dream n bass’, YaYa Bones makes protest music for witches, fusing opera melodies with earth core beats and UFO ritual rhythms. Traversing pop music, sculpture, alter-egos, digital image and video work, Ayesha sanctifies these mediums as tool’s in their craft.
You can find Ayesha’s work here
For accompanying interview audio see here
In one sentence tell me who you are
I’m Ayesha Tan Jones. I’m an artist musician and witch and I see all of my practice as a craft and as a sculptural craft, so I sculpt sound, community and material.
How would you describe the sound and music you make?
I often find it difficult to pinpoint a genre. I started thinking about other ways I could describe my music because I listen to a lot of electronic stuff and a lot of Dub, Jungle and Drum and Bass but I don’t make Drum and Bass but I make ‘Dream and Base’. I call my music ‘Dream and Bass’ [which is] an undefined genre so it can be whatever I want it to be. Just dreamy and bassey. I make protest music for witches. It’s music that witches, magical people and people who are on the fringes of society’s expectations can stomp their feet and get angry with.
How would you define a witch?
For me [a witch is] someone who fully takes responsibility for their actions and understands that what they give out they receive back. So, a witch is someone who gives to the community and uses their power, whether that’s magic or music or community organising to help their society and community to grow, flourish and learn. So it’s healing through your power. Another definition is someone who’s viewed by society and particularly media as ‘other’ [and] often branded as ‘witch’. Currently trans people [and] trans women in particular are branded as other, which they’re not.
How does your music express (or not express) your identity?
Music is an extension of my craft and my craft is an extension of my soul, but soul is different to identity. I actually identify as a non-binary witch. In my lyrics I like to talk about magic as a radical act [and] breaking down binaries. A recent music video I made is all about breaking down the binary code. I use my music to show the identity of a femme presenting non-binary person, which is maybe something that the media doesn’t see that often and people aren’t aware that there’s loads of us that exist. So that’s a cool way to share my identity by using [music] as a platform to express that queerness. When I’m feeling down I’ll just go into my studio and make some sounds and that’s an expression of how I’m feeling at that time and that’s a healing process.
How does your identity inform (or not) your creative process?
I’m an only child and I was in a band when I was seventeen. [For] the most of my music career I’ve been solo. When I rehearse I am a Virgo – I need everything to be perfect, if there’s something tiny out of beat I have to stop and start again until it’s perfect and then I perform it and it’s perfect. People can tell that I’ve rehearsed and rehearsed and rehearsed. Whereas in recent months I’ve started being in situations with people making the weirdest soundscapes. I don’t need to have this written down, I don’t need to play this ever again, it’s just something that’s coming out right now, surrendering to the flow.
Do you think collaboration is helping?
Collaboration is so important and I’m learning the joys of collaboration right now. [In] my recent music video I’ve joined with this incredible filmmaker. I’ve never given away my film to anyone else.
Could you give us the title [of the music video]?
It’s called ‘Grandchildren’ and it’s coming out on my birthday on August 31 2018.
Do you feel like any of the landmarks that you consider to be part of your identity [to] have informed your use of software [and] equipment?
I use a loop machine – a loop pedal and I can just be my own choir, bassist, keyboard player and I really have relied on my loop pedal for many years. I don’t need anyone in my band because I’ve got my loop pedal so in a way it’s liberating but in other ways it’s quite constricting because it means that I don’t look elsewhere for collaborators musically. So the loop pedal’s definitely the staple of my performance. I record in Logic. Because I’m dyslexic I’m finding it difficult to learn a new programme [Ableton] so I need some lessons!
Is there a question that you would like to answer that I haven’t asked here?
You’ve asked who I am – Ayesha – but you haven’t asked who YaYa Bones is. So YaYa Bones is a genderless cyborg operatic witch. That was the original concept [behind the name]. YaYa Bones the name is a mishmash of my two childhood nicknames which were YaYa because my cousin couldn’t say Ayesha, he was too young. And then Bones because my surname is Jones and I was really skinny so I was called ‘Bone-sie’. In my art practice I use a lot of alter egos and I channel other characters, so I thought YaYa Bones was going to be an alter ego but then it’s just an amalgamation of myself especially the name because it’s me, it’s just my nicknames. I don’t see YaYa Bones as an alter-ego, I see them as me extended. It was a process and a channel for me to come out as non-binary as well because at first I didn’t think that Ayesha could, but YaYa Bones could – it just made it loads easier.
I am compiling a ten-track playlist and would love to feature one artist / sound practitioner / band you would recommend.
I listen to K Rizz’s ‘If It Ain’t Foreign it’s Borin’’ to motivate myself when I’m doing the house hold chores to make the boring work seem sexy.
Terminology Glossary (created by Shades of Noir)
The following are mentioned in this interview
Ayesha Tan Jones’ website
Ayesha’s next music release ‘Grandchildren’ out on August 31 2018
Ayesha’s audio-visual works
Ayesha is currently listening to
Interview produced, transcribed and edited by Rebekah Ubuntu with editorial support from Jaime Peschiera