In February the Mindful Bard had the honour of meeting and interviewing Christina Enigma and William Moon, the duo at the heart of KyAzMa, our favourite discovery in Montreal this year. In their recently released debut album, The Magician’s Mirror, KyAzMa uses a vast array of electronic sounds and found sounds along with acoustic instruments (guitar, piano, cello, and flute, to name a few) and stirring musical arrangements to carry Moon’s mind-plumbing lyrics, sung enchantingly by the two perfectly blended voices.
The album has been on repeat in our iTunes ever since.
At the Dépanneur Café on Bernard Street in Montreal it’s just William and Christina on guitar and piano, yet they somehow manage to fill the room with the essence of their beautiful, thoughtful songs.
A part of this interview appeared here in Rawckus Maazine, and the rest appears below.
How did the two of you first meet?
CHRISTINA ENIGMA: We just had to cross the street. I was moving in to a place called “Skid House” back when I first moved to Montreal and this random guy walked off the street and asked if I needed help.
WILLIAM MOON: It wasn’t that random. I lived there.
CHRISTINA ENIGMA: It seemed random to me at first, until I learned that he lived there. I believe he’d lived there for five years.
It’s funny that you should ask, because we were just talking about this last night. Our other friend was there. We were friends for like four years and then he wanted to start this project that he’d been working on for a long time and incorporate other people into it. He had a violin player working with him, so it was kind of the two of them, and he asked, “Well, what about Christina on keys?”
Will thought that I said very long good-byes. I don’t know what that means, but I guess that I was still allowed to try them, and it worked. I still say very long good-byes. He’s lengthening his good-byes as well.
What did Merleau-Ponty teach you?
WILLIAM MOON: More about being aware of the non-separation of body and mind. The classical idea is that the mind is something that we hold in the brain, that’s separate. Merleau-Ponty was a lot more about how the mind is the body.
You can extend your consciousness through the objects that appear while you’re driving your car. Your consciousness is, in a way, extended through the driving. I’ve really taken that philosophy seriously.
In terms of our designing the music, I really pay a lot attention to how we’re doing our live stuff in particular, to try and think about what we can do to extend our musical consciousness in performing melodies through the electronics. We use a lot of mini controllers to control the computer, which is kind of the brain of the group (we’re the heart).
You just need to think about it in terms of what is the most natural way of expressing certain ideas; the most useful way of extending ourselves into these actuals. That was a huge influence on me.
I also want to say that I work at a bagel shop to support this music thing. The guys at the bagel shop who work much harder than I do and are far more present with their work than I am teach me a lot in terms of trying to be a lot more present with my own work– and not burn bagels, which is the same as not getting a rotten note in music.
CHRISTINA ENIGMA: Montreal’s really good for this kind of lifestyle. You know, working some seemingly small, not-so-important job that helps keep yourself afloat, allows for time and space to do the things that you really want to do, and doesn’t necessarily pull you down so that you’re still with the job when you walk away from it. You still have the capacity to take on the rest of the day.
What are your most mesmerising musical experiences?
CHRISTINA ENIGMA: The most blown away that I can be is either alone in the living room with my piano, or with Will, deep in a jam. It gets so profound that I’ve literally broken down in tears with it.
“Where is it coming from?” I wonder. It’s like that openness and allowance of channelling resources, I suppose. This is what I personally strive to bring to others. It may not be as universally opening for everybody as it is for me, but for a lot of people, I think that it has the ability to.
How do you manage to recreate the spirit of the album with just voices, guitar, and piano?
CHRISTINA ENIGMA: It’s easy to do it here, because we’ve been doing it here for a while. It sounds really good, as it does when we’re at Will’s place, for example, because we know precisely what we’re doing. Whenever we step out onto a new stage, which is usually the case, we have no idea what’s going to happen with the sound. Last night we played and I couldn’t even hear myself.
WILLIAM MOON: I don’t even know if the microphone was plugged in that night.
CHRISTINA ENIGMA: It’s like painting in the dark. You can feel something, and maybe something neat is going to happen, but you have to trust. Sometimes I literally feel like I’m on stage and I’m doing this but it’s not even worth it, that I might as well just walk away, but I can’t do that because I’m performing.
I know they’re hearing something different than I am. We’ve done it so many times together that we have to trust that it sounds okay. People are usually blown away those times when I fell that it was terrible.
WILLIAM MOON: It’s the acoustics. You know, the way the reflections of the sound bounce off of the brick. Our bodies get in tune to that, so I know how far back I’ll have to be from my microphone to get the right blend with Christina’s voice.
Does William write all the lyrics?
CHRISTINA ENIGMA: All but one very short spoken word part that I did. You caught it, actually, in the article that you wrote. It was in the very first line — “The soul is the center of the sacred self.”
Was the song “Magician Man” inspired by that chapter in Plato’s Republic about the sun, the line, and the cave?
WILLIAM MOON: Yes, and I was really impressed that you found that.
Were the sentiments expressed in that the song influenced by hallucinogens?
WILLIAM MOON: For that song, I would have to say no. They’re always influential, but with that song, they weren’t directly influential. Some songs are a lot more directly influenced by the experience — doing LSD in a forest and then having some sort of profound realization or emotional breakthrough, or dealing with drama. Usually for me, it’s like a lot of heavy processing, and eventually I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
CHRISTINA ENIGMA: The tunnel is only an illusion, and the light is all around.
What conditions do you need to go on living the creative life?
CHRISTINA ENIGMA: Just off the top of my head, freestyle poetry, if you will. Not necessarily anything that is intended for anything, just kind of a the pen leads the way type of thing. I kind of stopped writing after I had a traumatic experience and wrote it all through, and then my journal was stolen from me, so I just kind of allowed myself to give up for a while. After that, a whole series of all sorts of other life events happened. At a time when I should have been writing the most, I let it go.
I’m hopeful. It’s starting to come back now, a little bit. It’s really important for me to be more focused in my space. I have to create the time and space in my life to do it. It’s silly, but I try to do things like go off of Facebook and stuff. I am getting better at just staying in on Friday and Saturday nights and doing nothing.
For me, personally, I know that at this point in my process what I need to do (perhaps I needed this earlier than what I’m owning up to) is to focus more. It’s almost like putting blinders on.
Community is very important to me. I spend a lot of time engaging (on some level) with others in a lot of different ways. You know, friends, family, etc. I’ve realized that time spent working with other people or doing things with other people is time away from me being with me and my own internal process, not to mention my writing.
WILLIAM MOON: I really really love Montreal winters for the creative process. Spring and summer are times of going out and learning things and opening the door. Winter is better for processing and writing and consolidating, so I really appreciate how difficult it is to get out of the house, because it gives me more time with my instruments and music.
Do you engage in any spiritual practices that have an effect on your art?
CHRISTINA ENIGMA: I do a lot of yoga and body work. I’ve been getting back into meditation and trying to cleanse my mind with breath. It’s the most detoxifying aspect that your body has.
I was listening to Glenn Gould the other day, and what I love about listening to piano is you can hear the breaths. It’s so integrated with the music it’s amazing, and I’m really well aware of that. It’s important to be conscious of one’s breath and the body of it.
WILLIAM MOON: I believe that science is the greatest tool that we have and any spirituality or religious practice should be subservient to a scientific inquiry and a really rigorous search.
Not just to cover my bases, but what’s very dangerous when you go to a lot of festivals is that there are a lot of new age spiritual practices, people standing there saying, “Here, hold this crystal, it will cure your whatever.” I respect the fact that some may want to look at that from a psychological perspective or something– if the crystal were to remind you of something and help your body by making it more relaxed that way– but don’t just accept something that somebody says. That’s how all of our problems are happening right now. Science is the common method of communicating that we have according to a common reality.
I don’t know about religion, but I really feel that a lot of new spirituality focuses on things like synchronicities. A lot of religions talk about how divine providence brings the right thing to you at the right time, just when you need it. You can start to think of it like, “Okay, maybe nature has an intelligence” as opposed to thinking of a miraculous invisible above.
Do you believe that society is better off when artists respond with compassion to the suffering in the world?
WILLIAM MOON: Yes, but I also think sometimes that that compassion doesn’t necessarily need to be expressed in this optimistic “we love everybody” or “everything is great” kind of way. I think there’s a lot of art that’s more direct. Smashing a widow could be art, in the right context. It’s not always as black and white as lyrics about love and compassion, especially when they’re not coming from a genuine place.
CHRISTINA ENIGMA: Definitely, but at the same time it’s still inspiring. It’s not inspiring to see where they’re at and what the world is coming to. That being said, there are still bands like KyAzMa who are still going to do it no matter what. Trump would likely not want to listen, and that’s great. Well, it’s not great, but . . .
WILLIAM MOON: I don’t blame him, I mean, obviously he’s the face of a really great lack of knowledge. It makes me very angry, but also a lot more determined to grow more. We waste a lot of energy by focusing on how bad things are that are outside of our control. That energy could be going into developing whatever is positive and respected.