Karima Walker is a Tucson, AZ based artist whose first full-length album Hands in Our Names was released in 2017. Karima is a master of sound and video collage, blending samples and field recordings of the desert and city, and visual images that emote her aural narrative. Hovering over her alchemy of sound is her ethereal voice and artful guitar work, lulling and comforting us along the unknown road. This week Karima joins us to tell us a little more about the intersection of life in the desert, creativity and love of good coffee.
Hi Karima, thanks for taking some time to Spill The Beans. Could you tell us a bit about who you are and what you do?
Hi Ben, thank you so much for inviting me to do this! I am based out of Tucson, AZ, where I live with my partner and our dog. I work as a server and a sound tech but the funnest work I do is as an experimental songwriter and videographer. More recently, my work and shows have become very installation-like. I tour a fair amount and have been doing some collaborations this year too.
Karima Walker, photo by Eugene Starobinsky.
I started making music about 8 years ago while living in Chicago and listening to a lot of folk music. I was making songs as a singer-songwriter, but that has changed over the last few years. I still love words and melody, and I’m also still really interested in narrative, but more in the sense of deconstructing it and stretching it out, rebuilding it. Breaking down what I used to do has left me a lot of room to explore texture, space, arrangement... So now I am at a new crossroads, looking at new ways to fill a room.
"Hands In Our Names" by Karima Walker, Sleeve image by Dan Schmahl.
How long have you lived in Tucson, and what effect do you feel it has on your art?
I mostly grew up in Tucson and moved back to my hometown about 5 years ago. Moving back was a profound experience, a lot of my family still lives here, and the city had changed. I had seen some of the world and came back appreciating how unique the Sonoran desert is. Rich light and colors, a geological timeline, big sky, striking flora framed with negative space, the quiet. It’s a resourceful place too. All these features have nourished me and held my work like a little jelly mold.
What would you consider the biggest influences on your music, and how have you seen these evolve over time?
It used to be heartache and loneliness, songwriters I kept falling in love with, poetry. Now it’s stuff like Roden Crater, Maria Nordman and silence (lol). I think when making music became touring and performance and being given a space to take over, that’s when things started shifting.
Sun / Moon Chamber of Roden Crater, located in the Painted Desert of Northern Arizona.
What’s your songwriting process like?
OMG I don’t even know right now. On tour this summer I fell in love with Julie Byrne’s most recent record, Sun June and Twain too. I started missing songwriting! After a long break I’ve started again and coming back to words feels brand new in the best and hardest ways.
For my instrumental work and songwriting, it’s all about texture, slow moving gradients, collecting scraps, ideas and field recordings and running and re-running them through various mediums. The process is a larger-than-I-can-contain kind of collage.
Your live show involves film projected on and behind you while you play. Are you putting these images together?
Performing live, photo by Lex Gurasic.
Is your film work predominantly tied to your music?
Yes definitely. The editing process is very similar for me: texture and form broken up and re-shaped. The initial impulse to record is the same in video as it is for music. They feel natural to present together though I think they exist on their own too.
You recently filmed a video for Advance Base’s “Christmas in Nightmare City”. Have you done work for other artists?
This is my first music video project for someone else. It was such a pleasure working with Owen!
What would you call some of your current favorite bands/musicians?
I played a show with Kaila Rose Parrish, or K, in Denton recently, and I have been playing her CD in my car a lot.
When can we expect new music from you?
Next year, I believe.
You tour regularly, how do you feel the creative community in Tucson varies from other places you’ve spent time? Also, how would you compare the coffee culture there to other places?
It has changed a lot in just the few years I’ve been back in Tucson. We are just getting some quieter listening room type spaces (which I am pumped about) and some great festivals and events going. It’s a small city, with people coming and going a lot (myself included) which can be strange being away so often, but also really good for getting things flowing ya know? Alongside this movement, I think a lot of people in Tucson are truly grounded in the identity of this place as, for example, a border city, or a desert with seasons that are different than the rest of the country. I only get to skim the surface of other creative communities!
Ok, it’s coffee time. Do you like that stuff?
<3 love it <3
Karima enjoying some limited edition Glassworks Orindal Roast with Nicholas Krgovich while on tour. Photo by Owen Ashworth.
What do you look for in a good cup of coffee?
Depth, brightness, evolution.
How do you make coffee at home, and do you travel with coffee when you’re touring?
I usually make a V60 at home, or if I’m making coffee for loved ones, a Chemex. On the road I travel with an AeroPress - it’s one of my favorite touring rituals/luxury items. If I can’t find a local spot for coffee, I’ll just make a hot water stop.
The Aeropress. Photo by Kristan Lieb.
If you are grabbing a coffee at a cafe, what is your go-to?
I love a short Americano or a single origin espresso.
What are some of your favorite coffee spots you’ve come across in your travels?
Are there coffees from particular regions that you are particularly fond of?
I had a Costa Rican coffee (I think it was a natural process?) that I still dream about. I love the bright Ethiopian or Kenyan coffees, something that sweetens as it cools.
How do you feel that coffee intersects with your creativity?
I think the ritual has something to do with it, getting me ready to sit down with the work for the day. A true comfort! Thank you so much, Karima!