We sat down with Satu Vänskä (Principal Violin, ACO and Frontwoman and Curator, ACO Underground), to chat about ACO Underground and the upcoming gig on 17 December.
How did you come up with the concept for ACO Underground? How does performing in a club/bar differ from performing in traditional venues?
Audience members have been asking for something like this, something a bit more casual, where they can have a drink. We know that some people can find concerts in big halls alienating, so we came up with ACO Underground to combat that. We wanted to create something that was varied and interesting.
It’s really different to play in a club or bar, because you approach the programming to suit the venue. We can’t play the same concert we would do in a concert hall. Playing in bars and clubs opens up a whole world of possibilities for you as a musician, where you can do something a lot more experimental.
It’s more about the contextualisation of the program – juxtaposing the different pieces, seeing what we can put together. People don’t have to know what they’re hearing – in a concert hall you’re so aware of the program, and you’re reading notes (which is great) – whereas this is more ‘turn up and see what happens’. We won’t perform very long pieces; most are the length of a pop song, which paces the night.
ACO Underground is a collaboration between Jim Moginie (Midnight Oil), Brian Ritchie (Violent Femmes), Richard Tognetti and yourself. How did this come about? Can you tell us what it’s like working with them?
In a way, it’s grown. We started off thinking this is ACO Underground, as a concept, whereas now, ACO Underground is its own thing, with Jim Moginie and Brian Ritchie, who are very much part of the band. It’s a collaboration between classical/contemporary musicians who want to do stuff they haven’t done before, playing together – we’re all kind of exploring.
If you could select any musician in the world (alive or dead) to be part of your dream band, who would they be?
I don’t know – Michael Jackson, but that wouldn’t be a band. David Bowie? The interesting thing about bands is that they are a collaboration between people, and often when people go alone, and you thought that in a band they were fantastic, and then you see them on their own and it’s not the same. But, a band is truly a collaboration of different forces, different personalities, so in a way I don’t know – who would you bring in to that mix that we have? Andy Warhol?
ACO Underground sees you sing, as well as play the violin. How does singing for an audience differ from playing for them? Do you get nervous?
I get nervous for everything, anyway. With ACO Underground, I was trying to find a place to be more of an all-round musician, where I could take my musicianship and use it in a different way. When you’re singing, you’re still using that musicianship, but in a different way, because the tool is different, it’s the voice. But, it’s fun to do something different. Obviously, the violin is very difficult to master, and singing is technical, but it’s a whole other world. I think that the one skill complements the other. I always feel like I’m making a total fool of myself; but I think that just comes with being a performer in general.
What can the audience expect from your gig at Goodgod Small Club on 17 December?
You can expect a night of some reflection, looking at some of the repertoire we’ve done before. You can expect some terror and some horror, but you can also expect some punchiness. You can expect an interesting night of music, something that you haven’t heard this year yet.