Interview: Hesta Prynn is In

NYC word-slinger, musician and artist Hesta Prynn has always evoked a quirky and intriguing style. These days folks are boasting from the city and where-the-hell-ever she frequents about her skills and delectable selections, craftily spun and delivered, whether on the tables or on the mic.

This morning (well, yesterday morning), a chat with Dr. Prynn was at the top of my to-day list, and I was ecstatic to dig deeper about the new dance EP that’s going to make mainstream stagnates move over, We Could Fall in Love, and the colorfully explosive visual noise candy that is the VHS-baked video for the EP’s single.

TST: Let’s talk about the new record [We Could Fall in Love]. What pushed you in this direction. Is it DJing or playing more with the electronic side of pop? What inspired it?

HP: Yeah, well, I think it’s that I was doing hip-hop for a long time. I’m a really big hip-hop fan and a New York City kid. So that’s my first love in music, and I obviously dedicated a lot of time to working in that genre. But when it came to – I don’t want to say ‘done with that,’ but – when it was time to do something new, as everybody comes to that in any career, it took me a while to kind of figure out what I wanted to do. So on my last EP [Can We Go Wrong] it was like ‘give me a mix of hip-hop sounds and dance sounds but with a lot of organic, almost indie rock production’… live songs, lots of guitars. And that was something I really didn’t like. It was like I really enjoyed the songs and I really liked the direction – things being quirky and weird and kind of cool – but, because I’m a DJ and because I love hip-hop music and electronic music, I didn’t like that suddenly I was this artist who needed to have a band to go out and play.

TST: Okay. Man, I love the sound of Can We Go Wrong. I absolutely love those quirky sounds, but I get what you’re saying.

HP: Right. Yeah, and I really like the sound of it, too, but I think what I mean more is that I’m not somebody who exists in ‘bands’ culture. I’m not like an indie rocker. I’m not like someone who’s on ‘the tour’ with ‘the band.’ I’m totally like… vinyl; that’s me! And so, I felt very trapped because the sound of the record was so organic and I couldn’t perform it. So when I went on tour – the last tour I did was in Europe last year – I went with a band, and was like, fronting this band. It felt soooo not like me. I was thinking, ‘What am I fucking doing fronting a band when I’m a for real legit… like a rapper… and I’m a DJ. Why am I in a band?!’

TST: Right on.

HP: So when it came time to do more stuff, I wanted to kind of keep the idea of doing things that are a little weird. I mean, I and my team – everybody – have accepted that everything I do is a little bit weird. [laughing] So my music still is a little bit weird, but it’s a little bit weird in more of a dance genre, because I think that really reflects my lifestyle. And it feels more right, and it feels right in like… video, and the way I can play it and the way I can mix it live and the way I can perform it. It’s just so much more in my world. It’s like, if I’m not making rap records I make dance records. I don’t think I make rock records. Even though I kind of made one.

TST: Well, yeah, this sounds like a DJ record. You’ve got all the instrumental versions of everything. I really like that you included that.

HP: Yeah, thank you!

TST: So, where does this go from here? Are you going to be touring as a DJ for the rest of the year?

HP: I think so. I’m booked for a lot of events. Like I’m DJing that Vogue event tomorrow, and [in an anticipatory voice] I just got asked to DJ an event for Naomi Campbell… imagine?

TST: Oh wow, that’s cool!

HP: That just happened today; it’s pretty cool. But I have a lot of advantage to doing things like that and what I did with Roxette – I performed with Roxette at the Beacon Theatre on Sunday – what I did was DJ the show. But I really curated it based on the audience. That’s really important to me. I’m not somebody that likes to go show off – I mean, I do like to show off, but I don’t like to show off for me. I like to show off for them. I know what their audience is, and so I chose every song very, very carefully and overthought it and intellectualized the whole thing and made this really special set for that audience. And then I came out and did a couple of songs. I kind of set up my music, like came out behind the tables and performed on the stage. I had a big video projection that I made – like a 45 minute movie… my videos, and some of my archival footage and just all of this weird art that I like to do. I was able to sort of showcase it there. So I performed a couple of songs, went back behind the turntables and it was great, and then the band came out.

Yeah! So I want to keep doing more parties and events, but I really would love to be able to have my own show, too, like I did at the Beacon. I’d love to put on a big, fun, dance, DJ show where I could sing a little and rap a little and play music and have video. I think that feels more like me; I’m more of an interactive artistic type as opposed to the lead singer of a rock-n-roll band.

TST: I think you should be booking at all these new gallery/music crossover venues that are popping up down the East Coast.

HP: I don’t even know; you have to tell me.

TST: I don’t know, Baltimore’s always been notorious for mixing art and music…

HP: Right, yeah that’s true.

TST: But I keep finding more and more new venues that are fashioned around that.

How did the video come about and how much did you spend on the video?

HP: Okay, I spent this much money on the video [making a zero with her hand], yeah…

TST: That’s awesome.

HP: Which is what I’ve spent on all my videos. Randy Slavin, who is my life partner, is a director. We met making the “Can We Go Wrong” video; we met on the set. And we always make – well, you know, I like to do really weird stuff. I just like things that feel a little awkward and a little weird. With this song, to be honest, we really didn’t have a huge idea. We had a couple of ideas… like [1] let’s paint my body black and shoot it in negative. The other idea was [2] – you know the song’s really about parallel lives or whatever (“in another life we could fall in love”), and I wrote it about somebody I used to go out with and whatever. So, through kind of fucking it up and taking passes at it (one more pass, let’s add some lyrics to it, one more pass, let’s cut it up like this or that) and – I don’t remember how the idea came up but – we were talking about it. And we were sort of talking about the concept of VCRs and ghosts in the machine and the static in the VCR. Like, if you were to stretch it out over three minutes, what would be in that static? And so we ended up buying a couple of VCRs on Craigslist and taping the video back and forth, and using a magnet to fuck with the video tape. And that’s how we made the video.

TST: It’s great; it came out really well.

HP: Thanks; it was really fun.

TST: So, are you going to do any more of your webisodes?

HP: Yes, I am.

TST: Or are they total drudgery?

HP: OMG.. No. I actually did some hosting this year. I hosted this YouTube channel for Michael Hirschorn, who’s a big music person. I was really focused on doing something more with TV or on the net or whatever, but I’m going to go back – if I don’t get a job by the end of the month – and make my own webisode shows.

TST: That’s good; the webisodes are fun [Hesta Prynn and Friends].

HP: Yeah, I’ve just got to work out where to put them out. I’ve been a little bit on hold, but it’s something I want to focus on this fall for sure. So I’m going to make some more, and they’ll be funny.

TST: Awesome. So how’s the new record available?

HP: It’s available on MP3s; it will be available on vinyl.

TST: Do you spin vinyl, mostly, or how do you feel about vinyl?

HP: Occasionally if I have a job and it’s short I will do it all in vinyl. But now, when I do these jobs, they have people who help me, so I’m like ‘Great, here are my crates; let’s go!’ So I do that, but people don’t really seem to like – I think people are more impressed when I’m touching the records. I don’t think they really care if it’s serato or if I’m actually changing records, you know what I mean?

TST: Sure. People are weird.

HP: But I do it for myself. I’m actually going to DJ this photo shoot, right? And I’m going to do that all on vinyl… all real vinyl. Because they sometimes have DJs go to these fancy photo shoots, I guess. So, for me, because it’s in a studio and not like at a club or a party venue, I’ll have plenty of space. It’ll be nice and organized and bright and clean, so I’m going to bring a lot of records to that and play all records, and I think everybody will – I hope everybody will – be impressed.

TST: It sounds fun.

HP: It’ll be fun.

If you’re in NYC, you can catch Hesta Prynn DJing the Vogue/Ford Fashion’s Night Out party tonight (Thursday, 9/6/12) at Gansevoort Plaza.

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