When Mellow Blush sent a direct message on Twitter, I wasn’t sure what to expect from her music, When I started listening to Herland, It was clear that she was tapping into another side of her creative mind. As an animator and musician, I was curious to know what her process was in both mediums.
Can you introduce yourself? Who is Mellow Blush?
I am an artist working under the name of Ansso. I was born and grew up in Seoul, and in 2012, moved to England, where I spent my adulthood up to late 2019. Partly due to Covid-19, I am currently based in Seoul and work as a freelance animator and composer/musician.
Mellow Blush is my solo music project. I think it is a bit silly, but I named it like that because I was struggling with shyness at that time. Perhaps, I wanted to make my musician name include that aspect as an acknowledgement of being too self-aware, lacking self-confidence. In a way, it is like telling myself, “Look, there is no way to hide, so continue what you are doing!”, if that makes sense…
According to your website, you are also an animation filmmaker. What came first – music or animation?
It depends on the perspective; for developing abilities to make things – I think music came first. And for creations as solid outcomes – animation and visual art came first. When I was a kid, I learned how to play piano earlier than how to draw as far as I remember. But then, I went to art university to study fine art and made things that I can call “work.” It was around my final year there that I created Mellow Blush.
Do you have different though processes when it comes to creating animation versus music?
I think the big difference is that planning and pre-production matters a lot more when it comes to making animation, whereas music can be made in the improvised manner or without thinking too much, in my case.
I do not make plans for music, but I do make storyboards for most of my recent animation works. Though post-production is equally important for both and there are a lot of technical aspects that are similar to each other I would say. Such as adjusting tones and saturation, automations, levels…etc.
Your early releases were compilations of songs, like Stay <Moist!>, mixed with soundtracks published under your artist name. Is there a big difference between Ansso An and Mellow Blush? Or are they two explorations into separate mediums?
I have been using my artist name Ansso An for film soundtracks commissioned by other artists and film directors. For my own music, which is often first coming as a form of music, I use Mellow Blush.
It is just a matter of who gives the direction. Though sometimes, I put Mellow Blush in my own film’s end credits because adding a collaborator feels less lonely in an independent project.
What inspired you to start making music?
I don’t think I had anything particular, but multiple things inspired me to make music. Since I was a kid, I liked to play piano on my own, without looking at musical notes. As a teenager, I spent decent amount of time playing alone at home with an old upright piano.
I am sort of a person who can be easily intrigued by instruments or things that make sound. With that being said, it completely felt like a new world when I bought my first MIDI keyboard (I was 20) and started to make music on my laptop.
Originally, I bought the keyboard to make sound effects to use in my student film, but I ended up composing music later. At that time, I taught myself how to use a DAW (digital audio workstation) and I really enjoyed playing around with it.
How do you compose your songs?
I usually compose songs by just playing MIDI keyboards or synthesizer and stack layers of recordings like sandwiches. Sometimes I come up with good melodies in a place where I cannot record, and I write it down on my phone in my own way.
Although I don’t know much about music theory, I think I have this ability that I can easily play the chords that are in my head or things I just hear. Recently, I bought an electric guitar and I am now trying to make songs out of it to break out of my comfort zone.
Is there a challenge being the start and finish of your songs from composition to mixing?
Composing music is the most fun part and mixing is certainly a challenge – I think many musicians can relate to this. Though, I started to enjoy mixing after studying it for few months.
My answer will become very long if I say all the technical challenges in mixing and editing. Recording vocals is another big challenge because I have only recently started, and I think I am not a good singer, haha.
Is there any particular style or message you’re trying to get across with your music?
So far, there is no particular style I aim to achieve, but music has been functioning more like a diary or abstract painting to me. I do set a rough image in my head when making albums, however for average demo tracks, they are often made from improvisations which reflect my mood status of the time I create them. (Though, I care a lot about chord progressions and melodies when playing.)
I have been mainly making instrumental music until my recent album, Herland, but in the future, I plan to make effort in using my vocal and lyrics as a material which could be more powerful way in conveying a message that is important to me.
I think I am on the way of finding my own unique musical voice now. I hope one day people can identify me by just listening to my music without seeing who made it.
Are there any strong influences or inspirations that helped craft your sound and style?
I said that I spent a lot of time playing piano as a teen previously. At that time, I played game BGM or animation soundtracks such as Tales Weaver BGM or Joe Hisaishi’s music. The most played music was probably Ryuichi Sakamoto.
I listened to instrumental music heavily until I was 20, especially Japanese fusion pop like Shibuya-kei, and jazz hip-hop, like Nujabes, and Korean folk/ traditional fusion like 2nd Moon (두번째달) to name a few. I really liked songs with subtly sad and melancholic tunes. I think heavy rotation of their music as a teen influenced me to prefer certain atmosphere.
Any favorite artists or recent releases that you listen to consistently?
This is one of the most difficult questions. I have so many favourite artists so it’s difficult to specify…but I guess I love artists who make experimental, yet unique electronic soundscapes like Mid-Air-Thief, Shohei Amimori, or Atom TM.
Generally, I listen to Japanese music a lot and I like digging new artists on Soundcloud and Bandcamp. I’m always up to date with Japanese net label, Local Visions where I released my old album called, Camera Obscura. I love all of their releases and it is worth checking out if you want to know new quality pop.
Do you have any new music in the works?
Yes, I do have. Although this year, I am not planning to release any Mellow Blush’s album, but I am working on two different projects as a producer instead. One is called, seasonal signals – a one year seasonal compilation project that I am organising. I started this project to remember the time and season we have now, and most importantly, I wanted to make something fun.
From the artwork to musicians, I contact people I want to collaborate with, and then I produce music video works based on each album. It’s a charity project, all proceeds go to WWF. At the moment, I am working on a track for Summer compilation album.
And the other project is called Kajuen (orchard in Japanese). It is an online music duo formed this year too. Here, I make music with a Japanese artist, ミヤオウ, whom I never met before. This is the project that I am actively using my vocals – by singing in Korean and Japanese (or sometimes in English) with him. We are preparing an EP album now.
Anything to say to readers?
Thank you for reading this interview and checking me out.