Six years ago, Ana Sia was hustling around a kitchen preparing delicious recipes for a living; cooking up grimy bass music was merely a hobby. After being flown out for her first gig, though, she decided it was time to focus her full energy and attention on her music. Playing festivals around the world in recent years, Sia has cultivated a career that has placed her in the deepest pockets of dance music around the globe, and she strives to stay ahead of the curve. We chatted with the Bay Area bass queen about how she keeps her music interesting.
Westword: I wanted to start things off with a little update about what you're doing now and what you've got coming up for the next few months of 2013.
Ana Sia: Mostly just to enjoy my life more. I do a pretty good job of that already, but I am interested in reaching the echelon level of enjoying my life.
Is there anything in particular that you're looking to expand your horizons on?
No, mostly just expanding myself artistically, mentally, spiritually, physically...that actually sounds weird to say. But, yeah, there are a few things that I am looking to accomplish this year.
In what ways are you looking to expand yourself artistically? In my experience, you've always been one to really spread your music across the board.
I am working on a release party right now, kind of a coming-out party for myself, and sort of pushing the agenda of this last year. I think I've been known for never really playing the same thing twice and always coming with the surprise, whether it's stylistically or song-wise. And in the last two years, I'd say I've been transitioning out of this heavier dubstep/grime scene into a more dance-floor-oriented, classy bass-music kind of sound. With the release of the EP, it will be a big expression of what's to come.
When is that EP set for release?
We don't have a date yet, but there is going to be proper promotion around the release. I can't really speak too much on it now, but know that it's soon.
Is this under your label?
Can't really reveal anything yet.
In that case, let's switch gears. On your site, you make notes about "unclassified" music and a lot of the dubstep and drum-and-bass that influenced you over the years. I'm interested in knowing how you are trying to evolve your sound.
I've always tried to stay two steps ahead of trends. I think I have a very wide palette of music, and I do like it all. I've also got a large pool of artists and genres, and we all trade the latest stuff we find from around the planet. It's not been an easy thing to transition out of the dubstep and heavier sound, because it's definitely the most popular thing right now.
But because of this mentality I have with deejaying and doing shows and stuff, I've never wanted to do the hip and popular thing at the time. That's kind of my drive: to find the next thing, you know? Stay ahead of the current trends and sounds, whether that's producing my own or scouring the Net and just having my eyes open to new artists. That's part of the fun for me -- the search and the discovery.
How do you think, as far as trends go, things are evolving? Dubstep got really big, then it almost went the way of moombahton, and now it's trap. I love bass music across the board, but how are you always staying influenced and pushing it? It's not like you are going from dubstep to, say, classical music.
It's funny: I am heavily influenced by bass music, but that is a huge umbrella and very broad, and I am influenced by classical music. I am influenced by deep dubstep -- that is still very relevant -- and rap music, and pop music, and I think because of genres, I like to try and melt them all into my own sound and in my sets, and being able to do it creatively presents this unique kind of signature sound.
I do dive into a lot of different things that other people like, whether or not they are popular tracks, but I try to stay away from that. I try to challenge myself by presenting something new and challenging the audience by giving them the opportunity to listen to something different and perhaps open their eyes and minds to something new, as well.
When you are walking into a show, are you walking in with something in mind, or is it a clean canvas to paint on?
I'd say it's a little bit of both of those. What it takes to do my job is to understand music. You don't want to alienate people, but I don't want to sacrifice myself, either, and my artistic integrity. I love pushing the envelope and entertaining people the best I can. I do like a lot of popular music, as well. I am not anti-anything in my sets, so I have an idea of what I want to do, but I am also very much paying attention to what is happening in front of me, just so I can fulfill my number-one goal, which is to entertain people.
Was there a point when you woke up one morning and said, "I'm done with everything else. This is what I want to do"?
I've always been involved in artistic fields, whether it was in music or with food or with acting. This was just one thing that started as something I enjoyed doing. I guess the day it switched for me, where I wasn't just doing this on the side, was the first time I was flown out for a show and realized that people are taking me seriously, so it's probably time I should start taking this seriously.
Definitely. What were you doing before, I guess, seven years ago?
Seven years ago, I was in the acting field and just kind of running a kitchen in Hawaii for a couple years and cooking. The DJ thing was something I was doing on the side, on the islands, just to have something to do. I kind of filled my time there and made a small community for myself there. When I moved, I brought the skills with me, but it wasn't my intention to do this professionally when I moved to San Francisco. It was something I was good at, and the first time I was flown out, I realized I could really do this.
Do you remember that first show?
I do! It was a good buddy of mine, still the best independent promoter in the country. I got flown out to Reno, and it was my first out-of-state job.
Were you nervous?
I have never been nervous when I play in front of people, whether it's twenty people or twenty thousand. For me, it feels very natural to be playing music and to be involved with this music scene. I was always the one in front of the DJ booth and very involved in rave culture and dance culture and club music. It was a very natural transition for me. There were some moments in my career where I was nervous because of equipment malfunctions, but, for me, that's where I feel the most open and comfortable.
You mentioned acting before that; were you involved in thespian troupes?
No, no, no, that was an eternity ago. I've always been involved in the arts, whether it was acting, music, cooking or really just any place I could find expression. It's a very valuable variable to have art in my life in some way, whether it's art, music or food, or anything like that.
Is there anything that you still do outside of music to feed that expression?
I still cook as much as possible, and I still stay active physically. I think that's one of the most important things, as well. Just the whole mind/body experience of everything. Yes, I practice art every day. Whether it's music or cooking or meditating, I can find expression in all things that I do.
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