This Time It’s Personal — An Interview with Salt Ashes

Dark-haired woman in dark clothes kneeling with hair eyes looking towards camera
Killing My Mind by Salt Ashes - album cover

Move over, Kylie! There is a new dance-pop star on the horizon. Salt Ashes is insanely talented, fiercely independent and has a sharp wit that makes interviews with her a real treat. You probably already read the review of her album and now you have your chance to get to know more about the person behind this work of art.

Some things you should know about Salt Ashes before you start reading the interview:

  • Her real name is Veiga Sanchez.
  • She is British. She comes from the family of Spanish and Mauritian heritage.
  • She is from Brighton but she is based in London now.
  • The pseudonym Salt Ashes comes from the words scratched on the side of the boat Veiga saw once in Brighton.
  • Salt Ashes’ self-titled debut album has been released in 2016 via Radikal Records. In 2020 she released an EP, counting crosses.
  • Her new album Killing My Mind came out on 5th November 2021.
  • She not only sings, plays few instruments and writes her songs, but also directs her music videos.

How It Started

Maciej Wojcieszek: We know that being a singer was your childhood dream. When did you realize that singing could be your career choice?

Salt Ashes: It happened probably in college or even earlier—when I was 16. I was always singing in school productions, in the assemblies, as well as taking part in talent contests. At this age I was working with a professional producer for the first time and we both ended up in a really sh*tty band (laughs). But after that episode I was still feeling I should’ve followed that path.

Kordian Kuczma: You are always describing your music as “dark pop”. Many people (at least in Poland, where I live) think that rock is the only kind of music that expresses dark emotions well. For them “dark pop” would be an oxymoron. Do you think there is a space for dance music among the dark pop?

Salt Ashes: I think that every artist is capable to express themselves in more than one genre. Sometimes my music gravitates more towards “dance” and “pop”. Sometimes it has a little bit of soul or R&B in it. Sometimes it is very synth-heavy so you can call it electro-pop or synth-pop. When I’m describing my music as “dark pop” I mean it’s not bubblegum and there is an edge to it, a darker side you can spot in the lyrics. It’s rather obvious that pop music by the other artists is also not always happy through and through but I want my fans to be sure that there is always this darker edge to my music.

Kordian: You seem to really like the word “edge”. Would you like to record something with U2’s The Edge in the future?

Salt Ashes (laughs): – Why not? Actually, I wouldn’t call myself a big fan of U2. I don’t mean their music is bad but I don’t know their discography too well. But I really like their biggest hits so I would absolutely enjoy such an opportunity!

Kordian: I see U2 weren’t as important for you as for me in my formative years. Did your music inspirations change much since you were in high school?

Salt Ashes: My inspirations are constantly evolving because I’m still discovering music. Sometimes it is made by the up-and-coming artists, sometimes by the old bands I’m just getting to know. Of course, my core influences are still there. Slight changes happen sometimes—these are the moments when I’m really into Giorgio Moroder, then I’m really into Daft Punk and then I start craving for Kate Bush songs. I feel like it all goes forwards and backwards all the time.

Maciej: We already know your biggest inspirations, because we heard your covers of Madonna, Frank Ocean and the other artists. But I wonder which artists are your favorite songwriters and the biggest inspiration for your lyrics?

Salt Ashes: It’s funny because I’m often not sure what was the inspiration for my lyrics. They just sorta come out. I definitely get a lot of imagery from films, dance pieces and arts in general. As for particular songwriters, I definitely try to learn from them how to describe things in an interesting way. I think Alex Turner is a genius lyricist and I often come back to his songs because of that. Recently, I’ve been listening a lot to Sam Fender and I really love his lyrics, too. He is very candid and good at abstract poetics. There is an air of realness to his songs.

How It’s Going

Kordian: Many music artists nowadays are losing their faith in the album as an art form. They prefer to release EPs, to create mixtapes or are just content with standalone singles. In the meantime, you created two full-length albums. Do you think there is a space for them in the streaming age?

Salt Ashes: I agree that the space for albums in the musical landscape is shrinking. My release calendar usually consists of many singles followed by an EP. My first album came out six years ago and I thought it was the right time to release the bigger body of work. I felt apprehensive about that because I know that human attention span gets shorter and shorter these days. I’m afraid that people who are not my hardcore fans can lose interest halfway into the album, even if the music is really good. Probably that’s why my albums are not in the charts’ Top 10. Putting out albums is a risky business for sure but with so much material I wrote recently it felt right to take this risk again. At the same time, I feel that you won’t have to wait so long for my next LP.

Kordian: It would be great! And you can always make a stop-gap with a remix album.

Salt Ashes: Absolutely!

Kordian: Maybe that’s something the reviewers of your album should figure out but…is there any concept to Killing My Mind?

Salt Ashes: My new album is a journey through all of the relationships I had in last two years. I mean the relationship with myself, with the partriarchy, my boyfriends, the other friends, my family.

Kordian: So…this time it was personal.

Salt Ashes: Definitely. Every track of this album feels very personal to me.

Maciej: In past years you spoke openly about racism you experienced in your everyday life. Did you have the same experiences in your professional life? What should the music industry do to become more open for the people with different ethnic backgrounds?

Salt Ashes: I know many people from the music industry who really struggle with lack of diversity and acceptance for non-white artists. Actually, I’ve been very lucky to never experience such behavior in my professional life. I had more problems with sexist attitudes. In both instances the solution is the same. People should get involved in the honest conversations about the prejudices that are still going on in the society. This could be enlightening for those who can’t see that the assumptions about some groups of people they learned while growing up are simply wrong. I see this process already started. If it continues, the world will surely become a better place to live and operating in music business will feel healthier.

Where It’s Heading

Maciej: Apart from releasing your own material, you were working with the other artists—both as a singer and writer. Could you compare those two processes?

Salt Ashes: When you are in the music industry, it’s important to have a finger in every pie, as we say in England. Writing for the other artists is very different from writing for myself. When I’m writing myself I am a lot more picky. I’m thinking much more about the message I want to send and about the way I want to sing it. In a way, I find writing for others easier, because I know that my collaborators are looking for something specific and that’s my job to help them go for it. Being a featured artist on the others’ songs is also nice because most of the time they already came up with a track and they want me for the top line only. It’s always good to have some baseline to work with.

Maciej: And who would you like to collaborate in the future most?

Salt Ashes: Talking about my dream collaborations is quite hard for me, because I have my guilty pleasures like Coldplay. I would love to collaborate with Chris Martin! Other names that came to my mind are Giorgio Moroder, Erol Alkan, Aphex Twin. Sometimes I’m dreaming about working with Daft Punk, too! There are also some female artists, especially Sevdaliza. Oh, I almost forgot about Jungle. That would be great, too.

Kordian: I already know from one of your livestreams that you play guitar well. Is there any instrument you would suprise us with playing on your future releases?

Salt Ashes: No, there isn’t any (laughs). I play guitar and a little bit of piano, and that’s it. I used to play violin when I was like 10 years old but I wasn’t really good at it and I gave up after five months. My teacher was so horrible I never wanted to go back to him! I’m also often playing keys on my albums. If you hear any live instrument in my songs, there is a high chance it’s me.

Maciej: Have you thought about recording songs in the other languages than English?

Salt Ashes: I do speak Spanish and I would consider recording in that language. However, talking in Spanish and songwriting in Spanish are two different things. So far I have struggled to write anything in that tongue. That’s why it never has been publishing. Every now and then I’m thinking about collaborating with professional songwriters and translating some English songs but this hasn’t quite happened yet.

Maciej: Where do you see your career in the next 5-10 years? What are your plans for the not-so-near-future?

Salt Ashes: I hope that the next 5-10 years see my music spread further around the world. I’m looking to more touring; a world tour would obviously be amazing. I want to make bigger and bigger projects—music videos and stuff. But let’s focus on this music album and see what happens next (laughs).

Face of the curly brunette in leopard print top, black lace mesh gloves and leopard-rimmed specs
Cover of the Salt Ashes single “Lucy”

Outside Music

Kordian: As all the people working in tourism would confirm, locals know best. Are there any landmarks or other places you’d recommend our non-British readers to visit in London and Brighton?

Salt Ashes: Central London is the part of the city that you really can’t miss. In Camden Market you can find many fun quirky shops and Borough Market is great for food. Both are the places where people are constantly milling around. Many art places like Tate Modern, Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club are also worth the visit. As for Brighton, the South Lanes and the North Lanes are full of cool, quirky, independent shops and great food stops (also vegan). Of course, you should also go to the beach, even if it is full of pebbles. There is also this cool music club called Casablanca with a great live band and sweaty dancefloor downstairs. If you go there, a great night is guaranteed!

Kordian and Maciej: 25 Years Later started as a Twin Peaks fansite. Do you have any memories connected with this series or the other works of David Lynch?

Salt Ashes: I love David Lynch but I think I should watch more of his movies than I did so far. I also need to rewatch many of those I watched when I was younger, like Blue Velvet or Twin Peaks. I want to rethink what I liked about them then. The cinematography, storytelling, how dark all of this is—that’s completely my vibe. The man is a genius.

About the co-author of the interview: Writing for more than a decade, Maciej is a blogger—the creator of Mavoy Music—and aspiring music journalist. Sharing days between tweeting and discovering playlists and mixes, he’s also an avid fan of cinema and TV from Lynch through Daredevil to Ozu and Kobayashi—and an expert in various Reddit discussions.

Written by Kordian Kuczma

Kordian Kuczma is a writer, tour guide and teacher from northern Poland. One of his biggest dreams is to write the comprehensive biography of Pet Shop Boys. Being a good European boy, he chose to live his life in the company of Bergman and Tarkovsky. Kordian's path is a strange and difficult one.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *