Behind Maedon is hiding American female artist Maeghan Donovan. Now based in Berlin (Germany) her sound can be defined as hard, merciless, Techno-Body Music. She got in touch with Sonic Groove owner Adam-X who released her debut EP “Against His Will” in 2019. She next released the EP “Escape To Berlin”. Earlier this year Maedon unleashed her debut full length “Now I Am Become Death” which only confirmed the powerful sound of this artist. This interview is a way to introduce you to the muscled Techno universe of Maedon. Maeghan Donovan is not only a great producer but also an interesting person.
(Courtesy by Inferno Sound Diaries)
Q: How did you get contaminated by Electronic music? And tell us a bit more about your music background and former experiences like Pulsewidthmod?
Maeghan: I became hooked to Electronic music at a very young age, my oldest brother who was a Senior in Highschool when I was in Kindergarten gave me my first tapes. The first two were typical Girl-Pop music. The third tape he gave me was the hook, line, and sinker for me; Depeche Mode “People Are People”. From there on my musical journeys were very diverse over the years, but I always returned to Electronic-Dance music.
As for my musical background, I started playing the piano when I was 5 years old and sang in choirs. I went to college for Classical Piano Performance but decided to drop out to pursue building a studio of my own and producing.
From 2005 to 2014 I spent time learning the ins and outs of synthesis and recording. My first show as my former moniker, Pulsewidthmod, was in 2014. At that point, all my productions were focused more on Pop music but my first shows were playing for Dance parties. I became hooked after my first real rave that I played.
In 2016 I went on my first tour that coincided with my first visit to Namm in Anaheim, California. A few months later, I released my first physical album on cassette tape, “Entelechy”, and booked a 2.5 month coast to coast tour. The music was vocal-centric, Minimal/Dark-Wave. While I was on tour I realized I didn’t really enjoy playing shows where I was performing structured songs and singing. At the end of each set, I would play a more Live PA style. It wasn’t quite Techno, but it was definitely Dance-worthy and that was the time that I focused all my energy on producing music for clubs.
In April of 2018 I released my first 12” on Detroit Underground. In September of that year I moved to Brooklyn, NY. In December of 2018 I played Synthicide and when I was finished with my set I walked from the dance room to the bar and low and behold, who was standing there? Adam-X! We spoke for over two hours that night. He had given me really good feedback on the promo for my Detroit Underground release, “Serpentine Servitude”. It was really cool because he was unaware that I was a female. That’s how I wanted it a the time, I didn’t want my music to be marketed or pushed because I was a woman. I wanted the music to stand on its own. I wore a hood for most of my press shots so it wasn’t obvious that Pulsewidthmod was a woman.
That night at Synthicide, Bossa Nova Civic Club, Adam expressed to me to send him tracks. It took me till the end of April the following year to send him my new productions. He heard my tracks and immediately signed me. As many people know, we are now a couple. This happened after the release of my first Sonic Groove release, “Against His Will”.
Q: I’m always wondering why there’re less female- than male artists active in the music scene, but especially in Electronic/Industrial music. Do you’ve an explanation and how does it feel to be active in this ‘men world’?
Maeghan: We live in a world ruled by men, not women. This mentality trickles down into every aspect of society. The entertainment industry is ruled by men and the world of technology has always been a male driven vocation.
I grew up in a world where girls played with Barbies and wore pink and boys grew up with Transformers, and GI Joe and wore blue. (I could care less about barbies, I much preferred transformers and Casio synthesizers.) Because of technology, the world has changed exponentially. Being an Electronic musician means not only being a musician, but being an engineer and a producer.
Synthesizers are in many ways a very nerdy thing to get into. To the unacclimated musician, they can be somewhat difficult even to get your head around. As a synthesist, you almost have to have an interest in both physics and electronic engineering. As a girl growing up in the 90s, these sorts of things were not marketed to girls. Being a woman, it took breaking the usual societal norms to break into being interested in things that weren’t meant or marketed towards women.
I felt very alienated to a degree and singled out. Promoters were almost always men. They don’t expect for a girl to make music that appeals to them. They don’t expect that a girl even knows what she’s doing. I would play many opening slots. All this gave me fuel to push myself harder, make my music harder, make it darker, to always strive to outdo myself with each passing show. To sum it up, being a woman making music that was almost entirely a male-centric genre, it pushed me to make music that was harder and darker than all the boys.
The best feeling in the world in a way is the reactions I would get from male promoters. At one party I clearly remember the promoter coming up to me halfway through my set saying to me, next time you play for us, we will give you a prime spot. The funny thing about this story, the same promoter booked me for another party; when it came time to make the poster I asked what my time slot was just to make sure. It’s not worth my time or effort to take my gear out to a show where I’m getting paid the equivalent amount as someone doing door. They didn’t keep their promise so I backed out.
I value what I do and I deserve to get treated with respect.
With all this said, things have changed a lot now. Women along with Transgender, and non-binary artists are being heavily pushed. Because of this, I now feel comfortable letting my personality shine through publicly. I don’t hide behind a hood anymore because I don’t need to, my music stands on its own. My music got me to where I am today, not being the ‘token’ female on the all male line-up.
Q: I can easily imagine your move to Berlin, meeting other artists and visiting clubs must have had a serious impact on your artistic activities. What makes Berlin that different from the rest and can you tell us a bit more about the spirit of this town?
Maeghan: I moved to Berlin on March 15th, 2020 two weeks ahead of schedule and only two weeks after returning from playing Tresor for the first time. The Berlin that I know is the locked-down Berlin. That being said, Berlin has had a very positive and dramatic influence on my music and music production.
What makes this city different is the fact that this city not only respects artists but much of the economy has been built around the club culture. Last year Berlin clubs were declared to be a cultural institution to safeguard their future in the time of lockdown. As an artist, this mentality serves as a huge sense of security. Where I come from, being an artist was a constant struggle. I would live day by day, week by week, doing my best to make my rent. Many times I had to sell gear to make up for the difference to pay my rent.
I refused to let my art suffer for the security of a paycheck. I would live off of bagels or spaghetti so I could spend time working on my craft. This was difficult in itself because those around you, including roommates, would look down on me thinking I was being irresponsible. For me, being irresponsible would be denying myself of pursuing my craft.
Here in Berlin, the cost of living is not nearly as high as it was in Brooklyn. This is another aspect of this city that really helps artists thrive. I am here because I am an artist. If I want to stay here, all I need to do is to continue doing what I always have minus the worries and guilty feelings of being a ‘responsible citizen’. This is something artists around the world should feel everywhere.
Meeting other artists is the cherry on top with Berlin. I’ve made many friends and for the first time in my life, I feel like a member of an amazing community. Living in Berlin truly is, living the dream.
Q: Adam Mitchell introduced Mædon as one of the hardest projects signed to Sonic Groove. I think you just are the ‘hardest’ one but what do you try to express by your music and especially the debut album “Now I Am Become Death”?
Maeghan: My music being hard is a result of two things: first, my life experiences, second, we live in a world that’s severely fucked up. “Now I Am Become Death” continues on with the same theme as “Against His Will” and “Escape To Berlin”. I express the atrocities of those who hold the power and rule the world. The title track of the album, “Now I Am Become Death” was started as a more Techno-Body Music track where I sampled Oppenheimer. The quality of the recording from his speech wasn’t sitting well so I decided to say it myself. This is how it morphed into being a more straight up, hard Techno track. My vocals became the lead.
We live in a world where we are ruled by madmen. People follow orders by those in command, and it causes death, repression, pain, suffering … so my sound and this album is me literally saying “Everything is Not O.K.”. That was another track that I originally had a vocal sample of Dave Chappele saying ‘The worst thing to call someone is crazy … maybe the environment is a little sick’. My sound has always been a musical expression of me screaming ‘I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!’ As time goes by, I’m just getting louder expressing this sentiment.
Q: How do you look back at this album? What have been the main difficulties and eventually challenges in the writing- and production process? And what are you personal criteria to say a track/album is finished?
Maeghan: This album was written and recorded during the thick of the pandemic when lockdown was in full effect. It was very difficult to complete because there were no shows to play. Playing shows is a vital part of not only the production but the source of inspiration.
As I look back on it, I see it as an album created in the darkest and hardest of times as an artist. There was an overwhelming fear that club culture might not return. It’s also an album that’s a demonstration of my transition from being known as an EBM artist to being more versatile with making Techno in general. There’s some Hard-Techno in there, some Rave, and some Acid.
Outside of producing dance music when no one is dancing, the hardest challenge to a degree was making the music in a small space entirely in headphones. When I moved here, I came with only the essentials. My monitors and sub were sold because they weighed too much to bring with me from Brooklyn. I also ended up living with Adam in his studio flat because finding a flat during the pandemic was not an option.
So, I made do setting up in Adam X’s kitchen, mixing and cooking up beats, listening through cans. I really look forward to the future where Adam and I can find a suitable flat here where I can rebuild a studio.
Q: A last question about your live sets. Do you’ve specific/favorite tracks/artists you’re always playing? How do you prepare a live set and do you notice significant differences between the places and clubs you’re playing?
Maeghan: I am mostly booked as a live artist so my preparation for gigs is literally making new tracks. The more shows I play, the more new material I get to choose from. The main difference between the places and clubs I’m playing now is this, I’m playing and being booked to play in amazing clubs and parties. Last fall I got to play in Basement and this was such an amazing experience. I also got to play in LA for the first time ever in a proper underground warehouse. This year I look forward to playing in many world renown clubs and parties.
I am beginning to Dj now too, I find it to be very fun. I love being able to play tracks of many of my favorite artists a few of which are Perc, Ansome, Joe Far, Mickey Nox, Sawf, Anfs, Phase Fatale, Dasha Rush… oh yeah, and Adam-X. Every DJ set I play always includes Sheer Insanity or Sensory Overload.
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