October – The 13th Floor Interview

New Zealand singer, producer and songwriter October…aka Emma Logan…has released her debut album, Ultra Red, today via Universal Music.

The 21-year-old Blenheim native has been working up to this moment every since her first commercial single, Cherry Cola, caught the ear of tastemakers around the globe, including Lorde.

The 13th Floor’s Marty Duda sat down with the self-described introvert for an in-depth interview to find out just who October is and what makes her tick and found her “quietly terrified”.

Click here to listen to the interview with October:

Or, read a transcription of the interview here:


MD: Congratulations on a new album.

EL: Thank you.

MD: You’re excited about it, I assume?

EL: I’m terrified.

MD: You’re terrified?

EL: Very…quietly terrified.

MD: What are you afraid of?

EL: I don’t know. I think it’s just quite a scary prospect, you know, having spent over a year producing and reproducing this thing, and suddenly it’s like – oh, it’s actually coming out. It’s quite surreal.

MD: Because the image that you project on some of your videos does not give off the vibe of a person who would be terrified by much of anything.

EL: Yes. I think that’s quite a calculated effort. To appear a lot more calm and collected than I actually am. I’m very much an introvert, and very much, um…full of anxiety at most times in my life. But October is this clean-cut, fearless, version of myself.

MD: And…how long has this version of yourself been around?

EL: I think I was seventeen when I decided that I was gonna have a music moniker, and named her October.

MD: Was there a defining moment when that happened? Was there something that caused that to take place?

I released Cherry Cola and that really set the ball rolling. Lorde tweeted it, and it got a lot of traction out of that. Very lucky.

EL: I released my first ever – ever – single. And that was called Voids. That was when I was, I think I was in my first year of university, and I put it out on Soundcloud. And I was like, “Okay,  I think I’m taking myself seriously now”.

MD: [Laughs]. You gotta start there, before anyone else will take you seriously. And so – music-wise, the journey from the first single to what we’re gonna hear on the album, how would you describe how it’s gone from one to the other?

EL: It was a lot of time spent by myself in my bedroom. I mean I … I was, and I essentially still am, a bedroom producer. I dropped out of university. I was studying music at Victoria University in Wellington and I got offered a scholarship at Massey University for a new music program there, and that would cover three years of my tuition. And I decided to turn it down and come to Auckland and try and do music for real. And I didn’t tell my parents I got the scholarship.

And I just upped and I went, on my merry way, and I think they found out, midway through the year after I’d lived in Auckland for about six months. I think they found out about the scholarship, and they were like: “Do you regret anything? Do you regret not taking it?” And I think at this point I had just signed to Universal and I said, “No, I don’t regret it at all.” And I still don’t. I’m very much happy about the decision I made. So yeah, I made Switchblade EP. And that was my first, sort of, official release. I signed to Universal and then I released Cherry Cola and that really set the ball rolling. Lorde tweeted it, and it got a lot of traction out of that. Very lucky.

And then I went on tour with Broods briefly in New Zealand, that’s how I met Ashley, and Ashley Page who’s now my manager, and… yeah. I got to spend all of last year writing my album. And here we are. It’s coming out on Friday [April 20]. That’s how it all went down. It feels like it went by very quickly…extremely quickly.

MD: Time does fly these days.

EL: It does.

MD: So – the process of writing the album…I think you did some co-writing with some other folks as well?

EL: Yeah. I was thrown into my first set of writing sessions – it’s quite strange, you know, coming from someone who’s always spent their time in their bedroom making music. And, essentially I just wanted to work with other producers so that I could learn from them. I still considered myself quite green at the time. But I think… the number one thing that I learned from working with these other producers is that I enjoy producing my own stuff!

I think that I have a very distinct sound, I have a very clear vision of how I want to be heard,

And so I had sort of finished the album in about… August, and I’d been listening to these songs that these other people had produced for me, and I just…I couldn’t allow myself to release something that didn’t feel or sound like…me, because so much of my musical identity is rooted in the fact that I’m a producer. I’ve been self-sufficient for X amount of years, why do I need to stop now? Because … this is what “real artists” do? Well, then I don’t want to be a “real artist”.  I just want to be a producer. I think I’m good enough. I think I’m a good producer, I really do.

And ever since day one, I’ve made my own music, I’ve written my own music, I’ve made my own music videos, I’ve organized my own music shoots, I do it all myself because I enjoy it. I enjoy this creative outlet that is October. And me and my boyfriend have a lot of fun organizing the visual side of it. He’s a designer, he’s just graduated with an Industrial Design degree, and he’s very good when it comes to everything visual. So it’s been very lucky having a free in-house designer.

MD: Yeah, that does help.

EL: But yeah! This is…this is my project, and I enjoy executing it, the way that I want to do it, on my terms.

MD: So when you say you consider yourself a producer, what does that mean exactly?

EL: Well, I make all of the instrumentation. I program it all in. I do the synths, I program the drums, I program the bass, all of the effects. Everything that you hear when you take away the voice is what I’ve made. So it came to about October… I called up my management, and I said, “I want all the stems [stem-mixes] back, I want to reproduce the album, entirely myself.  Again.” And Ashley was very gracious, and he said, “If this is what you think you need to do, if this is what is going to give you peace of mind, then I think you should do it.” Got the stems back, and I spent the whole summer, in the searing heat, in the heat of my bedroom, reproducing this thing, like… every single day. It was like a job – it was like a job to me.  And, yeah. I’m very glad that I did. Because I think that I have a very distinct sound, I have a very clear vision of how I want to be heard, how I want it to sound, how I want to be seen. What everything is going to look like. I have a very clear vision.

MD: And how would you describe that vision or that sound?

EL: In terms of sound, I’m very much inspired by the industrial music scene. I feel like there’s something kind of cheesy about industrial electronic music of the 80s. So it’s like – how can you take these inspirations of punk and post-punk that I listen to a lot, and industrial music, and sort of…filter them through this modern pop filter, and bring it into a new modern context. That was my ethos of bringing old into new. I think a band that does it really well is um – I don’t know if you’d call them a band – but that I really like Death Grips. I don’t know if you’ve heard of Death Grips?

MD: No, I don’t think so.

EL: But I’d call them very much neo-industrial. MC Ride, and he’s like this incredible aggressive rapper, and then there’s Zach Hill, who’s traditionally like a metal drummer, and he does all the production, it’s very heavy and abrasive and so I guess those are things that I try and translate into my own music.

I remember playing The Smiths, and being like “Dad, I love The Smiths, I’ve just discovered The Smiths,” and he was like “Oh, I really don’t know about The Smiths, Emma…

I use a lot of metal samples, like chains hitting concrete, metal bin lids being smashed together, glass being smashed, all of these really harsh, abrasive, field recordings and I sort of scatter them and layer them through the percussion of my songs. And I have a very specific way of creating synths. I really love arpeggiated synths, I think it gives it quite a playful sound. But I turn it on its head by making it sound quite dark,using a lot of chorus…heavy reverb, heavy delay, like really heavy chorus. And make them sound really wonky and sort of weird. And those are really two stand-out characteristics. And I also really like, um, really harsh vocals. A lot of the vocal treatment on the album is me yelling to the mixer like, “More distortion! Crank up the distortion! I can’t hear enough!” Like I want it to crackle. And I guess that’s me pulling from traditional punk and post-punk, and the industrial music of the 70s and 80s.

MD: So you grew up in Blenheim, is that right?

EL: I did. I grew up in Blenheim.

MD: So, did you listen to that stuff when you were growing up?

EL: Not really, no. Blenheim is a very small town. And I attribute a lot of what I listen to now to the Internet, really. Dad sort of bred me on Pink Floyd and The Doors and Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, all of like, classic rock, which I really love still. But it’s like… growing up through the Internet era, there’s just so much information at your fingertips and you just go on a slippery slope into finding these new artists. And I remember playing The Smiths, and being like “Dad, I love The Smiths, I’ve just discovered The Smiths,” and he was like “Oh, I really don’t know about The Smiths, Emma…” and it’s sort of the first time where you break off into your own musical independence, I suppose. Yeah. I mean, a lot of the artists I listen to now, I purely just found on the Internet.

I’d listen to my Rachmaninov or Mozart and then I was allowed to eat my omelette.

MD: But were you listening to contemporary music, like when you were a teenager?

EL: Umm…I forgot. I don’t know what I was listening to as a teenager, I think it was, uh…

MD: …Which couldn’t have been that long ago, so….

EL: Which wasn’t that long ago, no! I was definitely listening to contemporary music. But I was listening also to a lot of classical music, cause my mum is a piano teacher. She has a performance piano degree. From the London Royal College of Music. And ever since I was a child, she was always playing Rachmaninov and Debussy and Chopin, as a child. And I’d have to ‘Sit!’ And have to ‘Do my puzzle!’ and I’d listen to my Rachmaninov or Mozart and then I was allowed to eat my omelette. And that was just like – this memory that I have, so ingrained in my brain. Yeah. I was always very much into music. I was in a choir, and I did all of the musical theatre productions that the school put on. I was very much a thespian and music was my life, of course. But it wasn’t until about I was 17, 18, where I discovered production and the electronic world of creating music.

MD: And do you play any traditional instruments as well?

EL: I play piano and I play guitar, like, pretty mediocre. For me my instrument pretty much is the computer! It’s my laptop. It’s like… my physical skills as a musician are relatively limited, but I can do just about anything through production on the computer. That feels good, you know… my physical limitations aren’t holding me back. It’s like – if I can think it, then I can do it.

MD: Are you kind of self-taught?

EL: Yeah, entirely self-taught. Started out on GarageBand when I was like, twelve, sneaking into my brother’s room and using his Apple computer. And then I got my own laptop at about age sixteen and just learned to produce from there.

MD: I know the song – the most recent single – is a 1000 Eyes?  Supposedly, what I read is, that’s about the relationship you have with your audience? Just explain – elaborate on that, if you will?

EL: Yeah! Well, um. Yeah, as I mentioned before, I consider myself quite an introverted person. And it’s this weird thing, coming to grips that I have an audience. Although it’s small, I have an audience, and people are listening to me.

I’ve had really, really bad problems with anxiety, just waking up and for no apparent reason feeling sick to my stomach and really…embarrassed about myself, and really ashamed.

I guess it’s this weird thing where it’s like, in everyday social interactions, I find myself quite clumsy, and anxious. But put me on a stage in a thousand-people audience, and that’s fine. I have no fear there. It’s this very strange thing, where it’s like… if an audience is there, it’s this invitation for me to be this hyper…version of myself. It’s like the other side of the coin. October essentially – when I’m performing  as October, it is this emboldened, confident, version of myself. It’s one little outlet where I can be a bit bratty, I can be a bit moody, I can be a bit of a bitch, I can be this cool version of myself, essentially.

MD: And when you’re not doing that, is there times when you wish you were in that mode, or vice versa?

When people see me live, they understand the dimension of my character, of my being, because I really let myself go.

EL: Totally. A lot of writing this record, I was totally consumed by anxiety. I’ve had really, really bad problems with anxiety, just waking up and for no apparent reason feeling sick to my stomach and really…embarrassed about myself, and really ashamed, and that’s not necessarily something people would pick up on through my videos or through my social media. This image that I’m putting forward is a very selective version of myself. It’s the emboldened version of myself. If you know me, as Emma Logan, as a friend, you know I’m quite introverted. I don’t have a hundred friends. I have a very select group of friends, and I don’t necessarily like going out and socializing all too much. I really just enjoy staying in my room and making music. It’s what I like to do.

MD: When you do do your live performances…how does that music translate live?

EL: It’s a bloody… blood-bath. Translated into a live sense. It’s a nightmare! It’s such a nightmare. Because it’s like – you’re producing this thing that is entirely electronic. And a lot of it is programmed. You can’t replicate that live. You just can’t replicate that arpeggiated synth live. Unless you’re triggering it.

I think it’s a little snapshot of a 21-year-old going through a little bit of early adult disenchantment. And all the other things that come along with that.

So a lot of my set is made up of triggering certain sounds, triggering certain synths, triggering certain percussive sounds. We also have a live drummer, which adds so much energy to it.  I love having a live drummer. It just really adds another dimension of chaos and energy. And then I have Jinaro , who plays synths, and guitar. So he kind of… alternates. I trust these guys a lot. They’re really great musicians, so I’m like, “You don’t necessarily have to play ‘to the T’ of what I’ve produced. Feel free to embellish it a little bit and improvise a little bit.” I really don’t like going to a live concert and it just being like, the backing track, and a regurgitated version of the recorded song. I really think that it’s important to bring something new and interesting to a live set, because why bother coming out then? Why bother going out to the show if it’s going to be exactly the same?

I think that the live version of the songs are a lot more raw, they’re a lot more energetic, they’re a lot more chaotic. I think – when people see me live, they understand the dimension of my character, of my being, because I really let myself go. I really let myself go when I perform. It’s why I love it so much.

MD: For folks who’ve heard the single from the album … and haven’t heard anything else yet. What are they going to expect to be hearing when they listen to the rest of the record?

EL: There’s a lot of light… and dark. I think that’s something that, I’ve quite carefully juxtaposed throughout the album. There’s a really heavy – the dark, abrasive percussion with the metal samples, and the wavy, watery, wonky synths. But there’s also really sweet and light, and kind of sugary bubblegum moments that are set against these really harsh sounds, because you can’t really understand the dark, if there isn’t any light to contrast it.

So – that was sort of, a tricky sort of tight, walk, rope – uh, what was it? A tightrope walk. That’s right. …When I was making the record, because I didn’t want to be entirely distorted and heavy and crunchy and abrasive the whole time. I wanted there to be moments of sweet and sugary, syrupy sounds. So there’s that. I think in the album I have tried to be as honest as possible about my struggle with anxiety and depression. It’s a very tricky thing to write about, because, on the one hand you don’t want to glorify and romanticize it, but, you want to be truthful about what it feels like, and you wanna show off a bit of poetic prowess, of course you do. And so it’s this very fine line between being authentic about the experience of feeling depressed and feeling anxious, but you know, not trying to embellish it or make it sound nice, because there’s nothing nice about it. And there’s some lighter moments on the record too. Stupid little love songs…as reluctant as I was to write them, it’s like – I’m a human being! Of course I feel – of course I feel love. Of course it’s a huge part of my life. So, yeah. I think it’s a little snapshot of a 21-year-old going through a little bit of early adult disenchantment. And all the other things that come along with that.

MD: And other than – the other music that you listened to and have been exposed to, what other things influence what you’re making as far as the music goes?

EL: Well, music-wise, I listen to a lot of post-punk and punk. I really like The Cure, I love Siouxsie & The Banshees, if you couldn’t already pick up on the inspiration.

I just wanna be creatively fulfilled in every way possible. I don’t never wanna stop!

MD: Ha, yes.

EL: I love Bauhaus, I love Jesus And The Mary Chain, Big Black, all those punk bands. I really love FKA Twigs and Grimes, those kind of shining beacons of female fearlessness as female producers. I think they’re super incredible. But a lot of my friends are just very, very creative people. I don’t actually have a lot of friends that are musicians. Most of them are visual artists. I think that’s incredibly inspiring. Just being around people who are so, so driven and so, so creatively excited about things. I think that’s – one thing I really like doing on the visual side of things is collaborating with friends who are artists. I obviously work a lot alongside Connor, my boyfriend, on the visual side of things, but I also love – I’ve worked with my friend, Eddie Richards, who studies fashion. I got him to style a shoot. And I worked with my friend who’s an artist, Alex Schipper, he just graduated with a Master’s Degree of Fine Arts – and we worked with him on the 1000 Eyes music video. And I used Jimmy D, he’s a designer, I use his clothes a lot. And he’s incredible. I think – it’s just always fun when you can do something creative with creative friends when I’m so protective about the music side of things. I’m very sure about that, but I’m very open to working with friends and creative people when making the visual side of October.

MD: And it’s record store day! Coming up on…Saturday. Is that something that you get involved with, at all?

EL:  No, I wish I had a record. That’s something I really wish I could do…but the timing just wasn’t there. But I hope maybe down the line I could get something sussed. There’s something about vinyl, you know…

My flatmate is a big vinyl collector. Well yeah, all of us, we collect vinyl. We have a big, big rack of our favourite vinyl. [phone buzzes] Oh! Oh, sorry, my phone’s going off.

The physicality of owning music is so much more special when you can hold it in your hand, and you can see the big album artwork, all glossy and beautiful.

MD: So you’re going to be heading to the record stores on … Saturday?

EL: I’ll be working, buddy.

MD: No? What are you going to be doing?

EL: I work at a fashion store. That’s not interesting. Something’s gotta pay the bills, right?

MD: I do know that yeah, same here. I managed to get this Saturday off, though, so I could –

EL: Oh, nice. Lucky you. Maybe I’ll send my flatmate down.

MD: Good idea. So once the record is out, what is the plan? Are you going to be touring?

EL: Yep! I’m going to be doing some sort of tour. I mean that’s all up in the air in terms of information and logistics, but I’ll be doing some sort of New Zealand and Australian tour. But, um, I think I’ll be taking a creative break from October. But um – I won’t be stopping creating, that’s for sure. I’m writing a lot on guitar at the moment, more for myself. Not October, myself. And me and my flatmate, my good buddy Jinaro, we want to start a band just for the fun of it. I really want to produce for other people. I’d love to produce a sugary, sickly sweet, awful pop song and give it to someone else. I’d love to do that. I’d like to flex a few creative muscles that I feel have been dormant whilst I’ve been focusing on October. Yeah. I want to do a thousand things. I just wanna be creatively fulfilled in every way possible. I don’t never wanna stop!