by Martin Newman
Pamelia Kurstin is a world renown thereminist. Quite possibly the most intriguing amazing thereminist out there today. You may have seen her play with some larger acts like Cibo Matto, Sebastian Tellier, Matthew Sweet or on soundtracks like Y Tu Mama Tambien, but where she will really fascinate you with her stylings is during her solo sets like I just witnessed, where she employs a looping pedal to her theremin and builds on ambient and melodic loops so that by the end of her 30 minute set itís like youíre listening to an orchestra and all of this is before she even starts messing with the effects. The interview was conducted after her set in a nearby Soho bar.
Martin - Howíd you first get into doing music. What was your first instrument.
Pamelia - Piano.
Martin - and were you trained or self-taught?
Pamelia - Umm no, itís just cuz my mom played it. So you know it was around the house so I was interested in it all the time so I spent a lot of time playing around on it.
Martin - Did that lead to you playing theremin at all, howíd you get into it?
Pamelia - It wasnít until my ex-husband showed me the documentary and I was like, "Hey I wanna try it." It just seemed fun and I play a bunch of instruments and every time, each instrument I just get really into it, excited about it. You know, until I get bored with it and move to another one. (laughs)
Martin - Have you gotten bored with the Theremin yet?
Pamelia - Sometimes, Yeah! (heh)
Martin - Iíve read that you were working on an album, is it done or are you still working on it?
Pamelia - HA HA HA ha ha AH AHHHhÖÖI always think Iím going to work on something and I never do, so I donít know if itíll ever happen. But itís hard to justÖlike, thereís so many different things I do that I canítÖ.but I think I might one day record a live set and just take that and use it. But itís so hard to say thatís it you know?
Martin - So tonight, was that all improvised?
Pamelia - Mm Hmm I think they recorded it, theyíll have it on their site or something.
Martin - You play so many instruments, which one do you enjoy the most?
Pamelia - Out of all the instruments?
Martin - Yeah.
Pamelia - It changes..cuz it depends on what Iím in the mood for, like "I wannna play piianooÖ" or other times, I played cello for a while and I really loved that or upright (bass), it depends on what my mood is at the time. Sometimes I feel so devoted to one instrument but then itís like" hhmmm now Iíll playÖ.."
Martin - What inspires you?
Pamelia - HmmmÖ.I donít know. Sometimes itís like the different emotional things that you deal with or go through and sometimes it takes being excited about "Ooooh Iím gonna play this show" and then you get excited about that and it makes you go "ohhh wow" or sometimes I just feel like shit like Iíll be sick with a bad cold and youíll still forget that your sick and it seems like your just playing with (audio drifts off but you get the idea)
Martin - You lived out west for awhile?
Pamelia - Iím from LA.
Martin - Do you think being on the east has affected your writing at all?
Pamelia - I donít know if it has anything to do with being back East or just the big lifestyle change cuz right after my divorce I moved out to New York and whenever I used to come out to New York in the past it was kind of like I was on vacation, I was hanging out. So moving here it was a big culture shock because it was a big change from the everyday life that youíre used to, it was the little things like driving, you donít do that here, the amount of space you have and you know the season changes and you know all of that throws me off and Iím sure maybe that has an influence on something in my music or whatever.
Martin - Have you ever built your own theremin or played one that was home built as opposed to manufactured?
Pamelia - No, I've played one of those, kind of like the light version of the theremin that are light sensored, the electric eye or whatever. It really depends what you want to be doing on it how youíre gonna play it cuz a lot of theremins may not be calibrated to the way I like playing, you know I like having a lot of octaves, I like the reaction, the response in the volume, the volume control has to be really fine tuned so I can have more to work with.
Martin - Youíre the first person Iíve ever seen use the theremin as an instrument playing melodies, most people Iíve seen use it more to make like whale noises and high pitch squeals. Do you have an opinion about the people that use it as a novelty as opposed to a musical instrument?
Pamelia - Ohhh, I donít give a shit. Itís like what do you think about so and so the actress you knowÖwho gives a fuck you donít have to watch it.
Martin - Do you still have to work a day job?
Pamelia - Yeah I work in a hair salon actually, thatís why my hair changes all the time. Iíve been getting so involved with it and really enjoy it, like now bookkeeping and managing two salons. I started in the salon as receptionist and I got really into it and involved and was like ooh I wanna learn about color, Ooooohhhh. I really enjoy running the business, bookkeeping and ordering things and doing the budgets and making things efficient
Martin - You were supposed to play with an orchestra recently?
Pamelia - Yeah that was something they got off my website cuz I was gonna do this gig but it never went through or it didnít happen. So I never changed my website or updated it in so many months so when the guy asked me for some info and like all this stuff I was like Just look at my site and I look at it and he copied it! On the discography thing I was like damn thatís old I forgot all about that session and I was like oh I should update my site.
Martin - Youíve played with a lot of people do you have any favorites?
Pamelia - I donít know. I donít know, different people itís best when you just hang out and you get along and go out and party thatís whatís important, thatís whatís most fun to me.
Martin - The music doesnít really matter?
Pamelia - No itís secondary heh.
Martin - So what do you have coming up? Playing with anybody else?
Pamelia - Iím gonna do some shows with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. I recorded on their album like last year, theyíve been working on it for a long time. Iím really excited about that itíll be so fun, the hang out part.
Martin - Are you doing an entire tour?
Pamelia - Iím doing like three shows with
them. And the last one Iím going to do here in NY.