By Morgan James
Inspiration surrounds us like a warm, dry blanket on a rainy day or like a bridge leading us through to a brighter road ahead. Lia Shapiro of Alien Tribe has channeled inspiration from years of living abroad, immersed in a multitude of cultures, which she pours into her music. This “one woman band” has followed a path in electronic music and successfully seen her music distributed and recognized globally in the last few years. From a medical scare twenty years ago to a fresh beginning in which the songstress “feels better than ever,” Lia shares her life, her inspiration, and opens up about her music.
MJ: Tell me about your experiences living abroad and how they have influenced your music?
LS: “I grew up in Washington DC and my dad was in the army so we traveled a lot. Then my husband had a government job and so I continued to travel. When I lived in the Persian Gulf all I heard was middle Eastern music. I have lived in Germany and Japan. I lived in Nairobe, Kenya- you can hear a lot of influence in my drums from there. They take on that tribal feeling, hence the ‘Tribe’ in Alien Tribe. I always felt like I lived in a tribe and not even necessarily in this world, you know? Hence the ‘Alien’ in Alien Tribe.”
MJ: Tell me about your health scare twenty years ago and how that has changed your life now to focus on your new music process?
LS: “It was Viral Meningitis. They say it’s not as deadly or damaging as Bacterial Meningitis, but sometimes it can be, and mine was quite terrible. I almost died and spent years re-programming my brain. I came home from the hospital and had forgotten how to cook, drive a car and so many other things, but, it seems anything computer related, my brain took to it. I built a few websites, wrote a book, magazine articles, and started making and producing music. I did eventually remember how to cook and drive again and all the other things, but since the meningitis, seems I went from cooking and mostly writing, to music. I love the track work, which some might find tedious, but chopping up tracks and re-shuffling all the track pieces is how I come up with my final songs, like a huge jigsaw puzzle. Instead of working with notes, I work with wave forms once I have all the music and vocals down. It’s called micro-engineering or micro-producing, and of course, sound engineering. I love to program and reprogram synth vocals and my vocals so you can’t even tell which ones are me. I use the tribal effect in my vocals too; lots of vocal layers.”
MJ: With such a heavy emphasis on computer generated music and adding synthetic sounds, how has your music been received by audiences?
LS: “I’ve been told that my music is an “emotional experience,” and have been asked if I intentionally make it that way. I’m an emotionally receptive and feeling sort of person, so it just turns out that way. But, I always want others to feel it as well. Good music means conveying the emotion, so when people tell me my music is emotional or passionate, that makes me happy, because that means they ‘feel it’ and can relate it to their own feelings and make it theirs.
I want people to get that ‘emotional experience’ when they hear my music. They may not always be able to identify it, such as categorizing it or putting it into a specific genre, but, if it creates a feeling or makes them want to move, that’s all that counts. That’s what makes me happy. I make every song in the hopes of creating emotional impact and wanting to leave a lasting feeling so that people will remember. I’ve made music in over a dozen genres, that way, I feel I can at least make something for everyone. Good music is what we all want, and these days there are so many options for finding music. If I can just keep creating, my hope is that people will find me. Although I create out of my own emotional depths, what gives me true joy and satisfaction is knowing that I can touch others and make the experience personal for them too.”
MJ: Were you a live performing artist before you started producing music electronically?
LS: “All my life I dabbled in music- singing lessons, keyboard, guitar, piano, etc., but no I never did much actual performing live other than a brief stint about 30 years ago. I was extremely shy. I performed at a few events in Seattle, but it was difficult for me to overcome the nerves. I was serious on keyboard for eighteen years until I met a gentleman in Sweden about fifteen years ago where I began singing on his electronic music.
I’m what is called a ‘studio musician,’ and, I make ‘studio albums,’ although maybe one of these days, my hope is to perform live.”
MJ: What other artists have you collaborated with?
LS: “Besides collaborating with Pelle Handen, the Swedish guy, who also does his own music, I also collaborate with Geoff Keogh, an Irish guy. I’ve also done a collaboration with my brother, Rob Langnas, and a gentleman from Iran.”
MJ: Tell me how the Coachella Valley has influenced you in your music?
LS: “I did a 3 song EP called, “Going To Coachella.” Two of the songs are instrumentals, called, “Coachella Daze,” and “Coachella Nights.” The one with my vocals is titled, “Going To Coachella.” I sing in sort of a “valley girl talk.” I live and work 2 miles from the Polo grounds and even though I didn’t attend the festival, I was totally inspired one weekend by the music floating through my windows. The “Going To Coachella” EP is my inspirational effort directly tied to the experience of being so close by. In the music, you can hear a helicopter. Yes, I found one in my keyboard! Out jogging at night in the community, the sky was filled with helicopters, airplanes and private jets bringing celebrities in, thus the helicopter in the music. You can hear all three songs at this link.”
My music at bandcamp: alientribe.bandcamp.com
MJ: What are you looking forward to in the future?
LS: “My music was first heard on British radio and is slowly spidering its way around the world. I’ll be joining the Grammy’s next year.
Although I’ve created over 20 genres, I’m best known for my dance music or EDM. The song “American Chick” is a good example.” alientribe.bandcamp.com/album/american-chick
This is a link to some of my dance tunes at my website, shortened versions.
My “Deep Down” EP is totally non-dance.
Songs in progress, and some short released songs: