Award-winning Australian electric house duo The Ironing Maidens will hit Wollongong with their unique sound as part of their regional Strike While the Iron is Hot Laundromat Tour on Saturday 27 January at City Central Laundry Services.
Yes that’s right folks, this performance will take place in a laundromat and will have you second guessing not only the role of the traditional housewife, but you’ll also never look at your iron the same way again!
Following their stand-out performances at Germany’s famous Fusion Festival and Byron Bay’s Falls Festival, expect an ‘iron sharp‘ performance as The Iron Maidens showcase their breakthrough music and unusual sound by adapting real irons and ironing boards into electronic instruments.
Celebrating the release of their new single Electro Housewife using samples from real life 1950s ads encouraging a life of domestic duties for the female population at the time, explore whether the notion of the ‘female domestic goddess‘ has changed over the decades.
An electronic arts projects that begun 5 years ago, The Ironing Maidens, Patty Preece and Melania Jack are also lifting the lid on female electronic music pioneers that have remained largely under acknowledged.
Encouraging new dynamic expression into the electronic music genre via their own music technology school, Mesh – Music Electronic Sound House, The Ironing Maidens will also be offering public workshops with each performance.
Participants will gain an introduction into the topics of EMP, basic Ableton Live software skills, electronic instrument creation and the history of women in electronic music.
One half of The Ironing Maidens, Melania Jack, took some time out for a chat about their sound and how they are changing the perception of both female pioneers of electronic music and the role of the traditional domestic worker.
A natural evolution into electronic music
I had originally studied guitar and had been writing songs for sometime when I met Patty who produced an earlier EP of mine (In the birds Belly – Melania Jack). Patty’s production on the tracks included some electronic elements which really gave a new edge to the arrangements. From there we started working on more electronic based tracks in a band called Shiny Shiny with Bec Newman – a really fun, crazy and politically charged band with hilarious stage antics.
It has been a natural evolution but what I really love about it is the fluid nature of working in Ableton Live. We can sketch down idea’s, add our own parts, it’s so easy to collaborate. We like to use a lot of samples we collect ourselves which is a really engaging part of the process. It allows us to continually create and develop our ideas, and allows us to stay in the playful part of the track construction until it all settles into itself and feels like it is finished.
The Ironing Maidens journey begins
We had both [Patty Preece and Melania Jack] been studying and working in the Electronic Music Production (EMP) industry for some time before we discovered the work of Daphne Oram – a pioneer in Electronic Music from the 1950’s.
We were surprised at the lack of acknowledgement she received in her time and that she was not included in current EMP history curriculum. We wanted to create a show as a homage to the influence Daphne, and many other females in the industry have had on the development of the industry.
From there we started exploring the parallel topics of the time and what stood out to us was that household technology and the role of the housewife was being heavily marketed towards women. Through this process of research, we felt that not enough has changed for women in our society. Whether they are in the studio, laboratory or kitchen, in our opinion, women’s work and worth is not valued or promoted enough.
The process of adapting the domestic iron to electronic music
The first step is finding an iron that can be pulled apart. This is not easy with modern irons being designed with planned obsolescence and very few spare parts. Then we look at what we can do with them.
One iron – “the ironiser”, has a synth built inside it that I play like any other synth instrument, with pitch and volume control. The ironing boards have sensors to trigger sounds.
Patty has an iron that has been modified with buttons she can press to trigger the samples we use – of 1950’s advertising of household goods. It’s been fun learning how to make our own instruments and really gives you an appreciation for the work of instrument designers – like Daphne.
The ‘irony’ of performing in regional laudromats
The laundromat has been the perfect venue for our show, for the aesthetic, but also because it gives the audience a really unique experience; with the smell of laundry soap, the humming of the dryers and the social nature of the space. I also think using the laundromat as a venue really speaks to the washing and ironing as being work, outside of the home (which seems to be more valued by our society) as opposed to chores.
Female pioneers of electronic music
We hope through the songs and conversations we have after the show with the audience, we can spark people’s interest in the work of these women.
Certainly, in the workshops we’re running during the tour, we’ve found participants are surprised and sometimes blown away when they look at the work, for example the Oramics Machine – an early synthesiser invented by Daphne. Just having her name mentioned and her work discussed I feel changes the way we think about women in the industry.
1950s ads and the role of domestic females – has anything changed?
Listening to the language of the ads makes people laugh, and comment about how it ‘used to be’, but we don’t feel like that much has changed.
One of our strong themes is the gendered allocation of household work, and why it is we are still seeing this extra work being laundry piled onto women.
The 2016 census showed that women are still doing up to 5 to 14 hours of unpaid domestic work, compared to less than 5 hours for the average Australian Man. When we saw those stats, we were even shocked. This needs to shift, and soon; there is nothing about ironing that makes it particularly a woman’s job. We don’t iron with our genitals – that would be dangerous!
Our workshop had been developed with young people (16-30) in mind, but we are open to anyone who is interested in learning the basics of Ableton Live, electronic music production, song-writing and particularly the history of women in electronic music.
We hope people get a taste for the software and the process as well as an opportunity to experience a gender inclusive EMP education space.
Sometimes people can feel a bit excluded by the language and the male dominated nature of tech spaces – we hope we provide a totally different vibe that is female, trans and gender queer friendly. It means that everyone in the room gets to contribute and feel part of something.
The Ironing Maidens Live Wollongong Performance
The Ironing Maidens will perform live at City Central Laundry Services (82 Kembla St, Wollongong) on Saturday, 27 January 2018 from 8.30pm to 9.30pm.
Wollongong Public Workshop
The public workshop will take place at Anchors Aweigh Art Studio (104 Church St, Wollongong) on Saturday, 27 January 2018 from 10.00am to 1.00pm.
Tickets, performance and workshop information available at www.ironingmaidens.com.au