It’s not often that Your EDM highlights a new(er)artist with an interview, but with the level or creativity going on in musician, producer and art collective show runner Anne Wichmann’s world, it seemed warranted. It would seem Wichmann named her new project “She’s Excited!” because, well, she it. Brimming with exclamation points and ideas, Wichmann is deep in the audio/visual, VR and AR and alt electronica music worlds after having moved to Brooklyn.
With her new EP, Shock Therapy, her prominent XRE (Extended Reality Ensemble) collective spearheading VR and AR installations at multiple festivals around New York City this year and her ongoing musical collaborations, Richmann has enough energy and collaborative strength to bring the more indie forms of electronic music into the spotlight. The darkwave and IDM-laced Shock Therapy is heavy, futuristic and full of collaborations including both remixes and a “visual EP” on YouTube which also makes it an art installation. Inspired by the apocalyptic energy of the COVID lockdown in New York City in 2020, the EP is a snapshot of what Richmann can accomplish and, potentially, where IDM and augmented reality art are headed next.
Given the size of the waves Richmann, She’s Excited! and XRE have already been making, it seemed only logical that Your EDM hand over the reins to this one-woman multimedia experience (with some well-placed questions) to find out what inspires her, how she inspires others in the art and music world and what’s next for her, because it could very well also be what’s next in IDM and VR art as a whole. Buckle up and get excited!
How did you come up with the idea for this new EP, Shock Therapy?
She’s Excited! is a one-woman-show, and it is really nice to work alone, but I also truly love collaborating with other artists. I am so lucky to already have worked with amazing remixers for my past releases. On top of that, I have a passion for visual arts. In November 2020, I was so lucky that the artist collective that I co-founded called XRE (Extended Reality Ensemble) could co-curate the Creative Code Festival in New York. The main curators were Never Knows Better and Creative Code Art. They brought amazing visual pieces into Lightbox NYC, and that gave me the idea to extend my next EP from being an audio album to becoming an audio visual EP. I thought: Why not team up each music track – originals and remixes – with one visual artist and create a unique piece of art that way? This is how I got inspired to realize the concept of “Shock Therapy”.
In terms of influences, you’ve named David Bowie and Bjork but also Billie Eilish. There also seems to be a pretty strong Nina Hagen current running through your work. How do you think all these influences culminate in your own musical style?
Ooh, Nina Hagen! Nobody ever mentioned her when it comes to my music yet, I am honored! My biggest take-away from Björk is something she said in an interview once that for every new project, she goes deep inside and explores where she is at right now as a way to not simply repeat what she always did.
I think David Bowie did that, too but what mostly influences me when it comes to his music is his vocal styles and the songwriting. Bowie showed me as a kid that singing can be so many things. And it rocked my world to hear him express his emotions in his vocals so intensely. It did not even matter if I understood the lyrics or not.
And then of course I get inspired by sounds and breaks and builds of amazing musicians, songwriters, producers and singers. When writing and producing myself, I never intellectually think about those things, but of course they shine through.
Speaking to your own varied tastes, what sort of vibes are you trying to put out with this diverse palette of sounds in Shock Therapy?
I want to put out the positive energy that I am lucky to have, vibes that encourage growth and courage and strength. My psyche is not an easy one. Already as I child I suffered from depression which turned into huge anxiety attacks after my mother suddenly died. Music always helped me to handle that. Fear never limited me. I was never ready to settle for the darkness. Throughout the years with a lot of work and practice, I was able to get rid of these fears and panic attacks. The good news is If I can do this, everybody can! Fear and depression cannot be overcome by ignoring them.
My music is dark because darkness is a part of everyone’s life. Anxiety itself is not the problem. To be afraid of the fear and the darkness is the problem. In my music, I want to embrace the dark side, open up a portal to the bright side and through this process make space for the two opposites. They belong together. With my music I want to make space for healing and start a dialogue about difficult topics. Genre is not important when it comes to art. The intention is.
Speaking of feelings and mental health, you’ve said that Shock Therapy is an expression of emotions you felt during the 2020 lockdown in New York City. Do you think some of them were universal to what everyone was experiencing during lockdown or were there experiences specific to New York that may have been unique?
I think during that time – and still now – the whole world collective was confused and anxious. To a certain extent, the confusion is still going on. So yes, some of the emotions I felt during the NYC lockdown were and are pretty universal, but the situation here in New York was really extreme. The city was on the news not only in the US but in so many other countries, because it got hit so hard. So many people died, that they had to be buried temporarily in mass graves. We heard sirens passing by for 24/7, but all the other city noises were missing. New York, this absolutely crazy and buzzing city that never sleeps was silent. It was just the birds singing and the sirens howling. This felt like the apocalypse. It was really intense.
You’ve built a really strong visual component into this EP and you’ve tagged the YouTube videos as the “visual EP.” What did you want to convey with these visuals and how do you feel they reflect your style?
The only thing I did was to have a vision and follow it through. I teamed up the songs and remixes with visual artists. These decisions steered the work in a certain direction. When it comes to collaborating with other artists that I adore, I try to stay out of their process as much as I can. I usually have a lot of ideas, but in my experience you will get the best results if you give artists creative freedom.
Erin Wajufos decided to go for a “real music video” for “Add Clarity”. I totally love it. It reflects the vibe and the energy of the song in a very deep way and champions NYC as a protagonist. The other artists created mind blowing visuals. Intuitively they grasped the core of the music and visualized it in beautiful ways. You can hear and see the artists’ uniqueness in every video. Despite the styles being different, we were able to create a beautiful concept album that really gels.
A unique feature of this EP is that you’ve featured the remixes along with the originals. How did that choice happen? How did you decide who to work with on each remix? Did you give them all carte blanche or was it more collaborative?
I love remixing myself, and I love hearing my songs remixed. It is such an exciting process! Very often remixes are not really recognized. To share the spotlight, I wanted them to be a part of the main release. I am a huge fan of all three remixers. Cameron Gary is a friend of mine, we have already worked together in the past, and I was really happy when he agreed to do a remix. I came across Trovarsi and Primitive Heart through the female:pressure network and had followed their work for a while. Last fall I summoned my courage and asked them if they would like to remix my tune and hey said yes! Since I was familiar with the work of all three artists, I gave them carte blanche. I love their skills and I wanted them to be able to use them in a free, playful and creative way.
Now the lockdown’s largely over, do you see Shock Therapy as more of a catharsis, or do you think it’s not over and it will continue to fuel your work?
Shock Therapy needed to happen. Music helps me to cope with things that I experience. It is not over in the sense that the pandemic is not over yet. And in the sense that I still enjoy playing the tracks live and I can share this music and these emotions with different people, they are still pretty real and valid. Additionally, I think the audio visual release is a beauty. It is timeless.
My next release will be quite different because I am different! The songs are lighter, a bit more colorful, and I am already in touch with some of the artists that I want to work with, which is a beautiful part of the creative process. All I can say at the moment is avatars will be in the mix!
Speak a little more about XRE collective, if you will. Can you elaborate on what you hope to achieve with it? Who’s involved and what types or projects are you all working on now?
I co-founded XRE with my dear friend and colleague Clara Francesca, who is an amazing actress and poet. Right now we are spearheading the curation of the Ars Electronica Festival Garden NYC which will take place from September 8-12 in Culture Lab LIC in Queens. Ars Electronica is a very prestigious institution and we are stoked to work with them.
XRE has a bold vision of how to bring communities together in our new reality. Audiences became more separated by and during the pandemic. We want to bring these bubbles back together so we are working with artists with different cultural and social backgrounds. Audience accessibility is also very important to us. It is a big component of dismantling white supremacy in the age of COVID and racial injustice. To solve this problem, we’re bringing the audience as close as possible to our work, which, in turn, brings them closer to each other and themselves. If we, the creators, can be changed by our work, our audience can too. Together we can acknowledge the realities of life and the joy of diversity within it, rather than to ostracize one another for different perspectives. Thus, to really make the festival accessible, the entrance is free and people can donate if they can or want to.
Speaking of future work, is there anything you can talk about in terms of upcoming releases from She’s Excited!? Any more collabs with your remixers or artists in XRE?
With XRE we have a lot going on, as curators as well as artists. We just started to develop a new really big performance piece that will happen in both VR in live performance. We want to bring it to the Prague Quadrennial and to Japan.
For the Ars Electronica Festival Garden I teamed up with the amazing visual artist Ulisespal for our project “The Cube.” You will be able to see it online via streaming as well as in-person in NYC. It’s an audio reactive visual installation featuring two 15 minute music pieces that I created: soothing binaural beats layered with electronic music. The audience will be invited for 30 minutes every day to participate and send messages to the future audiences: I will record their voices, loop them, mix them and thus create a sound sculpture that will organically grow throughout the five days of the festival. The final version will then be featured on the XRE website.
And some wonderful gigs are coming up: I will perform as She’s Excited! online at the MONDO NYC Festival in October, and I will play in-person at the DIGITALANALOG Festival in my hometown Munich in the same month I have not been in Germany for more than two years, and I am really excited to go back, see friends and family and play such an amazing festival.
My next EP has the working title “Year Of Sonder” and will hopefully be released in March 2022. For the visuals I will team up with artists that are friends and/or members of XRE, one of them in Japan, so that’s really exciting! If everything goes according to my vision, I will also work with some amazing poets for this release.
Shock Therapy is out now and can be streamed on Spotify along with the rest of the She’s Excited! catalog, but do take 20 minutes and watch the visual EP on the project’s YouTube channel as well; it’s worth it.