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Q&A/Music

Let’s get loud

20 August 2020

WA’s first electric string quartet is turning up the volume for classical music. Rosalind Appleby talks to the members of Inneka string quartet.

From the Royal Albert Hall and the O2 Arena to Fringe World, the four individual string players in Inneka have covered a lot of ground. Tonight they pool their collective talent to launch WA’s first electric string quartet. Rosalind Appleby talks with Jasmine Skinner, Sacha McCulloch, Madeleine Antoine and Cheralyn Simpson.

Rosalind Appleby: Whose idea was it to form WA’s first exclusive electric string quartet?

Sacha McCulloch: Bourby Webster, our Perth Symphony CEO and original Bond Girl, first approached us with the idea late last year.  It is really her guiding vision driving the group forward with the hope of using the electric instruments and bold performance moves and style to reach a non-traditional classical audience and engage them in our musical world.

RA: Where did the name Inneka come from?  

SM: Again, this came from Bourby.  Perth Symphony buzz words are innovate and excite which I think are represented in the name.

RA: You all come from a classical background – when did you first venture into amplification?  

SM: I’ve always been a classical cellist at heart, my main passion is chamber music which I still actively pursue. My first brush with electric instruments came when I was completing my Masters Degree in London. I had run out of scholarship & grant money for my second year just as I met an up and coming R&B artist. I was suddenly plunged into the recording, song-writing and touring world and used the record deal to pay for my final year of tuition. Rocking the O2 Arena by night and practising Tchaikovsky’s “Rococo Variations” by day.

Jasmine Skinner: I have loved different genres of music right from the start – Meatloaf was what I loved rocking out to when I was three! Classical music is a great way to learn the all important foundations of music and then I expanded to jazz with the saxophone and also joined a tango group in which both instruments worked well with tango and samba. I got my first electric blue violin when I was 15 as Vanessa Mae was my idol. I think there is something special about using classical music or classical style instrumentation to transform music in a unique way.

RA: What does the amplification add to the string quartet sound world? 

SM: Literally just volume.  It’s the same kick people get from a crazy loud nightclub or just cranking up their favourite tune in the car.

RA: So what kind of repertoire will you play?  

SM: This gig has an energetic Ministry of Sound vibe with a little James Bond thrown in.  Our first violinist, Jasmine is the queen of ‘mash ups’ so listen out for some modern pop sounds melding into the mix.

JS: I do love a good mash up! Much like our name is a blend of ‘innovative’ and ‘eureka’.

RA: What are rehearsals like and have the neighbours complained?  

SM: Rehearsals have been as full of laughter and good food as they have of music making. We are all old friends and colleagues so we were able to hit the ground running. And no neighbour complaints yet. The great thing about electric instruments is unplugged they are as quiet as a mouse. I’m more concerned about my neighbours being driven mad by daily scale practice than this.

RA: There seems to be a charisma that goes with plugging in your instrument – electric quartets go for the punk rock look, or black leathers, or stilettos and a wind machine… what aesthetic are you going for with Inneka?

SM: When Bourby said think Beyonce meets David Bowie meets the 5th Element we were all hooked.

RA: What should audiences expect from an Inneka show? And where can people go to hear you perform?

SM: Expect a lot of sound, a lot of style and a lot of fun.  COVID-19 has definitely put a hold on things but we’re looking forward to hitting the stage. Our launch is this Thursday at the Heath Ledger Theatre, from there who knows.

Pictured top: the members of Inneka are Jasmine Skinner, Sacha McCulloch, Madeleine Antoine and Cheralyn Simpson.

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Author —
Rosalind Appleby

Rosalind Appleby is an arts journalist, author and speaker. She is co-editor of Seesaw Magazine, author of Women of Note, and has written for The West Australian, The Guardian, The Australian, Limelight magazine and Opera magazine. She loves the percussion instruments which can be found in the uber cool parks.

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