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by CHIRP Radio DJ and Features Co-Director Mick R (Listen to his most recent shows / Read his blog)
A grim urgency shoots through your veins like shot of nitrogen. A corkscrew sensation fans through the fibers of your spine. Your feet begin moving before your mind catches up. Your momentum carries you through a tangle of blind corners and underground corridors.
What are you looking for? What are you running from? You don’t know. All you can know that there is a sharp pain in your chest a panicked desire to move flooding your mind. This is the essence of Sharperheart. Welcome to the world to her world.
Sharperheart is Elma Husetovic, a producer and electronic artist, who has recently relocated from St. Louis to Chicago in order to pursue her passion for the dark, mystic power of sound. Last month she released a self-titled EP dripping with claustrophobically caustic atmosphere and inertial aggression. It is a twisted treaty of miasmic malevolence, that ruminates on the realities of addiction, lament, and the wars waged inside one’s own head. It sounds like hell on Earth, bubbling up from the abyss and flowing into a club near you.
I caught up Emma to talk about her new album as well as where her project has been and where it is headed in the second half of 2022. You can check out her self-titled EP here and check out her responses below.
The following interview took place over email on April 21, 2022. It has been edited slightly for the sake of clarity.
How did you end up in Chicago?
I moved to Chicago in the fall of 2017 to go to school for an interior architecture degree. I ended up dropping out after the first year and have been back and forth between Chicago and St. Louis for the last 5 years.
How is the music scene in St. Louis different from Chicago's? Are there any shocking similarities that you've noticed?
When I was in high school I went to a ton of shows, mostly bigger, more established acts. I was in a couple street teams so I would get to go to free shows all the time, it was the best.
Just last summer I kind of got to experience house shows and more of the local scene in St. Louis. I don’t really have much to go off of since I ended up moving back, but from what I’ve seen it’s mostly indie/rock bands and that got boring honestly.
You know how some venues or collectives organize shows, but every show has the same 2 or 3 repeating artists? It was kind of like that. I feel like there’s just so much more going on here. Maybe I just didn't see enough though, who knows.
What is your favorite/least tolerable aspect of the Chicago electronic scene?
I hate when people try to talk to me about my gear or setup. I know that makes no sense, but honestly I just keep it so simple that it’s not even interesting to talk about. I’m not someone who’s very into all the technical parts of making music, I can’t do synth nerd talk.
I’ve also had a couple moments where I’ve told someone about what I do and they'll start giving me unsolicited advice or even suggestions on creative direction. That’s literally crazy! Please don’t do that. Besides that, my favorite part is meeting all the new really cool people. It’s so nice when you meet someone new, hit it off, and then get a friendship out of it.
Your sound has a very gritty, lo-fi flavor to it, but still manages to be quite epic. Can you give us any insights into how you balance things in the mix to achieve this effect?
I like the way you said that because I think that’s a good way to describe me as a person too. I think at heart I am more gritty / lo-fi.
When I first started making music I made super ambient, orchestral, and even just straight up piano music. The epic / more intense sounds started coming later when I made myself learn how to actually write drum patterns. I think as time went on I just filled in the blanks and kept layering all these sounds to where my music started sounding like boss battle music.
I bought my first synth years before I wrote an actual song. So I think everything really just came together after playing piano for years, messing with the synth, and then finally learning how to actually produce along with everything that’s influenced me.
Can you give us your thoughts on the track "Ketsy Relepsy"? I'm guessing that it has something to do with mental health and saying you're fine, when you're not, but I'd like to hear your take on it.
“Ketsy Relepsy” is actually about doing a shit ton of ketamine. But, that thought on mental health and acting like you're fine is very true too and could go along with it because I did do that for a while.
The title “Ketsy Relepsy” is just a fun way of me saying ketamine relapse. I wrote it after one of the last times I did ketamine and it was a terrifying experience so the song itself is just very intense. That experience was one of the worst k-holes I ever had. I remember feeling so separate from everything that I just cried like a bitch when I came back to reality, and it was because I was so angry that I had to go back to real life and just be a person again.
I’m glad I had the experience though because honestly “Ketsy Relepsy” is one of the best songs I’ve ever written.
I'm going to just say, your music sounds very evil. But I can only assume that you, as a human, are not as menacing as your music sounds. What are you tapping into in order to bring this dark energy to your music?
I do have an angry and messy side. I’ve always been really depressed and sensitive. I’m definitely someone who can feel everyone else's emotions as well, and I’ll hold on to them too. So that along with my own shit just gets to be so overwhelming.
Like I mentioned earlier, I used to write strictly orchestral, more ambient, and piano music. I remember having these moments of frustration where it felt like every time I sat down to play piano it would just be the saddest shit. And I mean it makes sense because I was sad. So I mix that depressed high school Elma with the now early 20s Elma after a couple years of doing drugs and you get Sharperheart.
Would you consider your art "dance music"? What does that term mean to you?
Not at all. If someone were to tell me to put on dance music I’d probably play like '80s stuff. I guess dance music can be anything though. The lines of genre are getting thinner and thinner by the second.
Who are some of the artists in Chicago who you admire, and how do they impact or influence your own art?
Obviously, I really admire Pixel Grip. Their sound and consistency as a band is very inspiring. They put me on the opening spot for the Lincoln Hall show for their tour with Patriarchy, my first big show, and it made me feel so seen as an artist. Which of course just makes me wanna work harder.
I really love Glad Rags. They’re one of the first Chicago bands I found out about when I first moved here. Mabel, from Glad Rags, does the mixing and mastering for my music. I really value that relationship because of it being something that started when I was 19/20 years old. It just makes me feel so comfortable.
DOLL FOOD is another great experimental artist and now friend that I’m inspired by. Her song “The Flowers Opened” is insane. I used to literally listen to that song for hours and hours and then fall asleep to it. It was a very weird and special time, I look back on it fondly.
A group that I just found out about and saw perform recently, Conjunto Primitivo, has been on my mind ever since. When they performed the atmosphere of the venue completely changed, it was like they almost hypnotized everyone. And I would say that that’s the goal of doing a live set, I was so inspired.
Is the image on the cover going to live on as a logo, or is it just the cover art for now?
I think both. When I first made that graphic I used it as a profile picture for a while and then later decided to use it as the EP cover. I think it works really well as a logo. I’ve been told a couple times that it could be something people would buy on a product even without knowing it’s Sharperheart.
I'm not going to lie, the cover art for your S/T EP kind of gives me heartburn. What are some Chicago-local foods that you can't get enough of, and what do you try to avoid?
That makes me sad, heartburn is the worst. Vodka sometimes gives me heartburn.
As for Chicago foods, I literally hate deep dish pizza. Too much sauce. I would bash a Chicago-style hot dog though. I really don't usually enjoy super acidic foods like pickles, mustard, or even sauerkraut sometimes. But, that hot dog is an exception.
My favorite place to get takeout from right now is Dak, a Korean wing place. I’m not gonna lie though I do eat a lot of fast food, I should be avoiding that a little more. I feel like there are a ton of local places that I still need to try out.
The fact that you named one of your songs "Gorpcore" makes me think you're a bit of a hiker. Where are some of your favorite Chicago-land parks and what do you like about them?
I hate to tell you this, but I’m not a hiker. I’m actually just a poser. No, but really, I just like the look of all of that functional outdoor wear.
That song is like what I would want playing at a gorpcore-themed fashion show. I like Labagh Woods. I also really like the little nature park by Rosehill Cemetery, West Ridge Nature Park. That place is the best when the weather is nice and everyone is out and in a good mood. I saw the smallest baby squirrel ever there once.
There’s also this little park downtown that I used to smoke at when I was at school, Printer’s Row Park. I love the little fountain there and everyone walks their dogs through it so you could chill there for 30 minutes and see like 10 different dogs.
How did you feel about Boy Harsher's The Runner? Can you give us a quick take on the band's new cinematic direction?
I love the album. The first song I heard on it was “Machina” when I was at a friend's house and it immediately got stuck in my head. I haven’t seen the short film yet, but I do plan to. I love that concept, doing a short film of your own and having the soundtrack just be yours and releasing it all. It’s so smart. The closing track was one of my favorites as well, I love the piano. It was a really great release.
What is next for Sharperheart?
Hopefully just more of what’s been happening. I wanna keep playing shows and finding my audience. I’m still in the very beginning of everything with this. I have so much more unreleased music that I wanna get out after this release.
I’ve always wanted to do a collab album/EP with my music and different vocalists, so maybe I’ll start getting into that finally. I also have an event that I’m trying to put together for this summer that will be so sick if all works out, but that’s a secret.
Anything else you'd like our audience to know?
“Golden Apple” by Filmmaker is one of the best songs ever made.
Image courtesy of the artist.
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