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———– Writer / Music re-views / inter-views / and my points of view ———– The GROUND Magazine / HungerTV

Tag: interview

The Labèque Way – A Conversation with Katia and Marielle Labèque

Read it on The GROUND Magazine

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Katia and Marielle Labèque are more than sisters and internationally acclaimed pianists. There’s something in their bond that goes beyond genetic; it’s something that taps into the soul level. They may be daughters of Ada Cecchi, who was a pupil of pianist Marguerite Long, and passed on to them her love for classical music but these details feels more like faded information on a passport than a blueprint for their future. In fact, meeting Katia and Marielle is like standing in front of two very distinct mirrors reflecting each other as they play along the same harmony. Their talent is not the result of a solitary gene showing up, uninvited, in their DNA; Katia and Marielle recognized their artistic place in the world from an early age and ignited it with a passion that revolutionized the classical world, starting with their contemporary rendition of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue that became one of the first gold records in classical music.

As I see them taking the stage at the London Festival Hall, where they will play Poulenc’s Concerto for two pianos and orchestra, led by Spanish conductor Juanjo Mena, I recall my phone conversation with Katia. The punchy and acerbic Concerto begins, I understand that despite the innate nature of talent, Katia and Marielle’s synchronicity is not a mere family affair but a true passion for a journey called life and living for art. An ever experimental journey that may just be better shared and enjoyed between siblings.

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Photo by Umberto Nicoletti

“Our lives are so intertwined…” Katia tells me from her apartment in Rome who once belonged to the Borgia family and has been decorated by the grand seigneur of the design world Alex Vervoordt “…and when we’re not travelling together, Marielle travels with her husband”. The other half of the Labèque piano duo is married to prestigious orchestra conductor Semyon Bychkov. “Her life is so difficult to manage having a husband constantly on the road as we are but passion is the key to make it work”. Katia sounds as warm as the sun shining in the a-typically warm winter day in the Italian capital and the passion she speaks with is the same as the one she uses at the grand piano. Time may stand still in the Eternal City but indulging in it is out of discussion for them; “We are musicians and interpreters so being on a stage is essential for us. If we’d be at home the whole time we couldn’t express our musicality. In this respect travelling around the world is a necessity to bring our work to the audience; otherwise it’ll remain a lifeless piece of work. We don’t really get to be tourists but it’s a beautiful necessity”.

It’s a lifetime journey started in the Basque region of France, “one of the few places in France where a musical education does not exist though its culture is musically strong” an adventure that brought them together to the most illustrious orchestras in the world, collaborating with composers like Philip Glass and Luciano Berio and to a record-breaking performance attended by more than 33,000 people at a gala concert with the Berlin Philharmonic inside the Berlin’s Waldbühne. In a classical world where the repertoire for piano duo is limited, Katia and Marielle always had it their way, as the title of their documentary suggests: The Labèque Way, directed by Félix Cábez. Applying the expertise of an artisan they created a body of work of their own, delivering mesmerizing projects that show, and dare, to display exotic combination between the classical world and contemporary art forms. After all Katia is not afraid to mention Radiohead among her favourite composers, along with “Bach, Mozart, Stravinsky in general and Schumann, who in my opinion is not played enough.” I immediately feel that the charm of this lady is not only in the way she speaks Italian but in her nonconforming nature. They brought basque percussions to Ravel’s Bolero with the Kalakan Trio, performed an arrangement for two pianos of Bernstein’s West Side Story arranged by Irwin Kostal and more recently Minimalist Dreamhouse, a project inspired by the early minimalist works that got their exposure in La Monte Young’s 1960-61 Chamber Street Series in Yoko Ono’s New York loft.

Katia, who lives with guitarist, composer and producer David Chalmin has a kind of stability that also allows her to look after their KML Foundation, a heartfelt project founded in 2005 aiming to promote classical music to a new audience whose educational background has lacked an introduction to the classical world “I really enjoy it and I’m definitely more available than Marielle but I don’t see our relationship about sharing tasks. Everything between us runs with a natural flow by now. When we play it’s different though; she brings her strengths, balance and happiness. She’s also physically strong in her approach to the piano and it’s a resourceful skill to use on so many pieces. We are working on the original version of The Rite Of Spring by Stravinsky who composed it for two pianos and she’s got such a strength in the virtuoso and lower parts. Playing together with someone at her level helps a lot.”

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Photo by Nacho Carretero

When Katia and Marielle take the stage before my very eyes there’s a silent thrill in the audience and as I find myself in front of this one entity breathing the same breath, it’s not difficult to see why they compliment each other so effortlessly. It’s not about major and minor scales, they somehow complete two very opposite emotions. Katia, bringing a touch of red with her Louboutin stiletto has a dramatic stage persona that approaches the piano like an animal in trance. It’s surreal and supernatural to see the instrument surrender to her hands. Her counterpart, Marielle, brings to life the deepest and darkest side of the composition in a calm, precise and most of all meditative manner. Their eyes always staring at each other, as if severing this connection would bring about utter destruction. The audience under their spell… “It takes time to control the piano for it’s a very strong instrument but you have to, otherwise it will fall apart. There are no limits to what you can achieve by playing it and yet there is a little bit of suffering that I guess it’s part of our world and any other artistic expression. It’s a moral and physical pain, like a dancer who’s got his own body as an instrument but the moment I go on stage it all fades away. There is definitely a dark side to this all and we need it in order to reveal light and find a balance. This is a permanent game we have to play otherwise we’ll live in a superficial state of joy or sadness”

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Photo by Umberto Nicoletti

The secret for achieving this level of consciousness and be a channel rather than the bearer of the darkest emotions is discipline. I expected it to be part of this equation but Katia and Marielle found freedom through it that allowed them to experiment with classical music like no others. “It’s always a fight against something, even freedom! People who can do whatever they please are not really free or interesting. True freedom is being able to be disciplined in your work that sustains your artistic freedom. The more you work, the more you’ll arrive on stage so prepared that you’ll fell like you are recreating that piece as if it was yours rather than just playing it. Almost as if you are improvising Mozart! The music you play is not a fruit of your hard work anymore; it’s just like a piece of art speak for itself to you. This happens only because the painter has worked so much before and this is a kind of discipline that comes from our mother.”

Writer Hanif Kureishi once wrote in Gabriel’s Gift through the voice of a father “if you’ve got it, you’ve got it from yourself, and don’t you forget it. You can inherit an old tie but not a gift, that’s one thing I know” It may not be written in stars or in the family tree but can talent be just a sheer coincidence when it comes to Katia? “The quote is so terribly true. He’s right, you can pass on so many things, like education for example which is very important to your personal growth by the way, but when it comes to talent we are talking about a gift; you either have it or not. No matter how hard you work this quote remains very true. On the other hand, talent with no hard work and discipline is useless and a sad condition because it’s not enough. We learnt a great deal about discipline from our mother, she was a role model in that regard, she would know if one day, for example, I wasn’t training properly and it took her a few words to let me know. Practice and hard work is the engine to make your talent running otherwise it will just stay there, switched off.”

At such a young age and seen the extreme experimental nature of their projects, I imagine a rebellious duo and two daughters who, just like anybody else, have a conflictual relationship with their mother. “I wouldn’t say we were rebels in our growing up. When teenagers started rebelling we were already in Paris on our own, studying at the Conservatoire. You know, we grew up in a small village and our mother made the best she could. Since she was a teacher she understood us but when we reached a certain level she knew she couldn’t keep us at home anymore as it would have equaled to kill us. If she wanted our talent to grow and blossom she’d had to make this sacrifice and let us go. I was 13 and Marielle was 11. We weren’t rebels because we chose to be musicians; it was our passion and what we wanted. We did not argue with our parents’ choices because we knew it from the start what an incredible sacrifice they were doing. We have been lucky at the end of our studies to be able to make a living on our own immediately, going on tour with a dance ballet. We actually had a very wonderful and easy relationship! Life itself was hard. It was tremendously sad for us not being able to see our parents so often. My mother came to visit us in Paris whenever she could but still it was hard moving away from the basque coast; that was the country we were in love with, its beaches, its sea. Paris was not our city.”

Luck literally came knocking on the door on day during their years at the Conservatoire. “We were playing Visions de L’Amen by Olivier Messiaen and he came in wondering who was playing his music. It was normal for us back then to be playing in front of him but it was actually a turning point for us once we recorded the piece. Thanks to that moment people got to know us.” The eagerness that made them want so much to perform as a duo is the same they use to promote their foundation that among its artistic committee includes Madonna, Placido Domingo and Italian writer Alessandro Baricco “He’s a great friend of ours who welcomed us in of the rooms of his Scuola Holden to shoot a project on Tina Modotti. Director Nathalie Joffre and actress Dajana Roncione worked on this project to honour the life and work of Tina who was such an incredible photographer and revolutionary. There was a lot of research involved and we made this short film. Madonna is a friend of ours and we introduced her to the basque Kalakan Trio who eventually went on to follow her during the MDNA Tour. I believe in and support them as much as I can. We are interested in people whose worlds are about the continuous research of ways to experiment. Every artist brought us closer to another and this is extremely interesting. Miles Davis was doing the same thing, he brought people and artists in the same circles so that they could learn a lot from each other. There is too much individualism at the moment in society. You’ll always have commercial products and works anyway at it’s fine because this is something so far away from our world that we don’t feel any sort of competition. I only wish more people would be exposed as much in regards of classical music, and I do want to believe that this is possible.”

Where only the love of a mother can gift her own daughters to follow their talent even if it means living apart, dealing with record companies was an even more painful matter. It tested them in how far a “difficult artist” could go. “Many things changed so quickly in the music industry that there’s no time to adapt and for artists like us it has never been easy. The classical repertoire for piano duo is not a well-known thing to begin with, probably the most famous one is by Mozart but even fans of classical music aren’t quite aware of it as much as they are with Chopin or Liszt. We love playing Poulenc, but once again he is not considered that much as part of a pianist’s classical repertoire. It wasn’t easy for record companies to deal with us and in the end it was always up to Marielle and I to decide what to do and what to play.” Taking the road less travelled by rewarded them once again. Instead of continuing with Philips Record, they finally started their own record company “It was not a nasty divorce but we could just could not picture anymore their projects in our world. When you are young you need someone to look after you but in our case it’s fame that helped us achieve many things. People got to know us and supported us so all of this became possible. I find it natural having created our own record company and helping different artists from different artistic worlds that we feel so close to us. There are already many foundations in the classical world of virtuosismo that help the best violinist, or pianist. Our aim is to also support artists beyond our world because nowadays’s music is electronic. I’m not saying that it’s done without classical instruments, on the contrary, but if you look at Radiohead for example, they are genius. They create a world of acoustic and electronic guitars to add a certain sensibility to electronic music as we know it. If you do this as well as they do the result is mesmerising.”

Someone said that classical music will never ever cease to appeal in human history, and it’s not even rare to see how modern authors turn to it. Haruki Murakami uses classical compositions as metaphors and to create emotional landscapes in his novels. His epic work 1Q84 actually open with Janáček’s Sinfonietta playing on the radio of a taxi. “The thing with music is that you have to love it first of all and not trying to understand it, that will happen later on if you want to. The problem with classical music is that people are not exposed to it; it’s not that they don’t love it because music is so direct and immediately speaks to you. People think that in order to enjoy classical music they have to be clever and sometimes they’re afraid they won’t get it but this is just confusing. Media are not helping with this, nowadays it’s all about pop or rock music which by the way I love; Radiohead are one of my favorite groups and very important musicians. Even though classical music is the music I was born with, I always like when it comes into contact with contemporary music. It’s a paradox but maybe contemporary music is the most difficult to understand and love immediately. If you make a kid listen to Ravel’s Bolero or The Rite os Spring, he gets it and loves it. A kid is not afraid because fear comes afterwards, when you grow up and you’re lead to believe that classical music is conceived as something elitist. It didn’t find its way yet, it still suffers from prejudice and it’s not well divulged. A lot of people are trying to work towards that direction but classical music, I believe, needs to be part of children’s education in particular since school. It’s important to divulge and it should start when you are a child. Of course if you then want to play Mozart, knowing his historical context, the architecture and instruments of those times helps a lot. When we played on a fortepiano from his time it made us understand deeply his style and we found a new way of playing beyond the limits of the instrument. It’s exciting and to me, knowing how to deal with your emotions and control them is at the basis of my drive.”

I’m interested to know how their inspirations come about when choosing a theme to explore and experiment with and most of the times it has got to do with artists or movements that challenged common thinking. “Minimalism for example is an extremely important movement in music history for me. It may very well be the greatest revolution of the last century because it opened the door for rock, pop and a different way of making cinema. Everyone from Brian Eno to Radiohead got in touch at least once with minimalist’s principles. It was a kind of music that wasn’t well received at the beginning and so we recreated the same kind of atmosphere that Yoko Ono created in her loft. We gathered with different musicians in our studio, improvised a lot and discovered many things along the way. It’s an endless project because there are endless possibilities and it all started with our friend Igor Toronyi-Lalic who asked us to play in a minimalist festival at London’s Kings Place, even though we had never played that music before. We are always looking for something new, if we wanted we could have played Gershwin’s Rhapsody In Blue all our lives. Don’t get me wrong, I love it but you have to move on. Recently we have been working on new projects that we are excited about like The Bernard Hermann Concert Project that includes arrangements of Hermann’s music. He was such a great composer who scored many fantastic films by Alfred Hitchock. We are also working on a project about Moondog and his world on NYC’s Sixth Avenue. He used to dress up as a viking and wrote incredible music. A documentary about him is coming out soon. Philips Glass took him under his wing and also Steve Reich was greatly influenced by him. We’ll perform this project as part of Kings Place’s Minimalism Unwrapped programme and it will include also music by Glass and a modern piece from David Chalmin. We want to investigate and show how Moondog inspired Glass but also young composers. He used to live on the street and he was an incredible talent.

We are also doing a project with one of Madonna’s break-dancers Yaman Okur who invented a particular style of dancing. It will be inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and it’s called Star-Cross’d Lovers; the music for this ballet has been exclusively written by David Chalmin. It’s a contemporary Romeo and Juliet for seven break-dancers, two pianos, electric guitar and percussions premiering in May 9th-10th at Paris’s Philharmonie 2 followed by Luzern Festival and later on Dortmund and Bordeaux” Shakespeare’s  timeless theme of impossible love has been a source of inspiration for both Chalmin and Okur who, together with Katia and Marielle, managed to break down yet another barrier. On one side, Chalmin shows how rock music, Minimalism or electronics can coexist with classical pianos and in doing so, he paves the way for contemporary music to be closer to pop music without being elitist. On the other hand, Okur is free like his body movements to bring break-dancing from the streets to concerts halls as a piece of art that can be written, choreographed and danced alongside classical soloist. Chalmin’s ability to build bridges between different musical universes has found the perfect chemistry in allies like the Labèque sisters and when this alchemy gets in touch with a visionary choreographer like Okur, these universes collide and come together to create a new symphony that is the very essence of experimentation. Love and hatred through fluctuating dancing, two romantic pianos inspired by Schubert or Chopin, and rock explosions between Capulet and Montague all find a common ground in this unconventionally conceived and produced project.

“Not that I’m surprised but you looked beautiful on stage tonight” I tell her as we meet backstage and find out that fashion doesn’t go unnoticed in the Labèque universe. “It’s really important even in our world because once you walk on stage you are already making an impression. Maybe this is one of the reasons why the classical world has to learn a lot from the pop-rock scene because that world presents itself in an appealing way. The way you look on stage is also a form of respect towards your audience.” Katia, wearing a purple velvet long jacket tells me about her love for Riccardo Tisci, “it’s not about the fashion house for us, it’s about the designer. If Riccardo was to leave Givenchy one day we’ll follow him.”

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Photo by Umberto Nicoletti

As Marielle is on her way to sign autographs for the fans already in line I need to tell Katia how impressive it was to see them on stage and ask her about a piece that expresses her unity with Marielle. Just like a breath mark, a pause that does not affect the overall tempo, her answer brings everything back to the beginning: to family and those memories of their mother taking them to see Ravel’s birth house before treating them to cake and chocolate. “It would be Ma Mère L’Oye by Ravel and his music in general that we grew up to. He’s a special composer to us and our mother’s teacher was a dear friend of him. I think it reminds us of our childhood that is always inside of us; we never lost a connection to it. Yes, we are adults now but you have to keep that world inside of you alive. When I sit with Marielle in front of the piano I always feel something gripping my heart as soon as we play the first notes. It’s very important to me and I think it has got to do with being always amazed towards life. Everything may keep on falling in a routine but it’s important to keep alive that part inside of you that is always in awe. It also helps you recognise what you have before your eyes. People are too blasé nowadays.”

Throughout yet another year’s packed schedule, the Lebèques are performing at the end of May the world premiere of a new Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra written for them by Philip Glass. Commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and conducted by Gustavo Dudamel, this double piano concerto will then be performed in France, Turkey, Sweden and Spain. The influential master composer said – “Like many people involved in today’s music I have long been an admirer of Katia and Marielle Labèque’s performance of traditional and new concert music for duo pianos. I was very happy to hear their brilliant playing and interpretative skills with my own music – first with the 2007 work, Four Movements for Two Pianos and then, more recently, the Two Movements for Four Pianos. This last work was premiered by the Labèques along with additional pianists Dennis Russell Davies and Maki Namekawa. I was very pleased when they suggested a new work – the present double concerto.” This project promises a new way of experiencing the relationship of the soloist to the orchestra and since both Glass and the Labèques always seek inspiration in the unusual and unexplored, the music of the soloists will be shared between the two and the orchestra will serve to extend the range and color of the soloists.

Katia and Marielle Labèque make an impression even when they walk away from the venue and looking at them, talent is not only in the movements of their hands, the knowledge of their minds, in their fighting spirits and the exposure to music within their family. Talent is as hard to describe as the reason why a soul choses to come to life in a certain body. Reason may tell us that the Labèque future was inevitable, but when our heart is touched by their passion, talent is nothing more than “seeking the echo rather than the refrain and preferring discovery to repetition.” Their uniqueness won’t be repeated even with their DNA but Katia has her own “piece” to pass on to the future “The only thing that can make you strong is years of experience and love for music. It’s the willingness to hand down to someone your knowledge.

M.P

Katia and Marielle Labèque nel album ‘Sisters’ is out now on KML Recordings

Official Website www.labeque.com

KML Foundation www.fondazionekml.org

Twitter @KMLabeque

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Agnes Obel / Interview / HUNGER TV

Read it on HUNGER TV

There is something from another place and a different time in everything that Agnes Obel does. Maybe it’s because she grew up playing the piano as opposed to listening to the radio, or maybe because her inspirations are to be found in the visual realms of Hitchcock, Tina Modotti, and Robert Mapplethorpe. Playing Chopin for her was as inspiring as the release of “Dummy” by Portishead, and this might be the reason why her music is an ever elegant fusion between a classical sensibility and a modern curiosity.

The Berlin-based Danish musician has recently released a deluxe version of her second album ‘Aventine’, featuring 3 new tracks, live recordings and a remix of ‘Fuel To Fire’ by none other than David Lynch. Agnes’s ability to create intimate and effortless soundscapes comes from the total control she has over compositions, production and the usage of her pure vocals. Ahead of her UK live dates, Hunger TV meets with the polyhedric and fascinating artist to talk about her impressionistic world, intimate creative process and how being receptive to your own self may be the secret to touch people’s heart through your work.

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YOUR PIANO TEACHER USED TO MAKE YOU PLAY ONLY WHAT YOU LIKED. IS THIS STILL SOMETHING YOU KEEP IN MIND WHEN MAKING MUSIC?

Yes and it hasn’t changed. I still do the best work when not knowing the reason why. It’s a mixture of being curious and feeling the need to express something. Working on a deadline or having certain limitations can be useful sometimes because it takes you in new directions

YOU PLAY, SING AND PRODUCE ALL BY YOURSELF. HOW DOES IT FEEL WHEN SOMETHING SO INTIMATE IS RELEASED?

I like at certain times, mainly before a release, to suspend my knowledge of the outside world for a while. You cannot know how the music will feel to anyone other than yourself so overthinking that would be a waste of time. On the other side, it is interesting to pursue a certain state of mind and find out if you can capture it within a certain song or a piece of music. This experience is always your own of course, and in a way very introspective, but you still always hope that this will resonate with something outside of yourself and that the songs can be something on their own.

MUSIC ALWAYS COMES FIRST FOR YOU, LONG BEFORE LYRICS DO. HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH THIS CREATIVE PROCESS?

To me, words and their meaning change significantly when you put them into a piece of music. I can have something written down before hand, but as soon as I play and sing them it is like they become physical to me. They are suddenly part of the room, the music, the body and my voice. I find this connection and transformation super interesting so I try to be open to this form of imagination and lyric writing that takes place when the words are actually sung and played. Sometimes words are linked to something very personal, a specific experience for example, and sometimes they become very abstract and it takes years before I understand what that song is about.

YOU ONCE SAID THAT THE PIANO AND SINGING ARE TWO EQUAL THINGS TO YOU. SINCE YOU ARE WORKING WITH NEW INSTRUMENTS ON THE NEXT ALBUM, DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOUR VOICE NEEDS TO ADAPT DIFFERENTLY TO THIS?

I guess so. The music I have been working on lately has been with more mid-frequencies and less bright instruments, so this changes a lot of things, mainly the way I sing and use my voice in the music. I have always used recordings to develop sounds and instrumentation in order to understand how to use my voice and the words within the music. It always worked and in many ways I feel like the recordings and the instruments become decisive on how I end up using voice and words.

CAN YOU TELL US ANYTHING ABOUT YOUR NEXT PROJECT?

I have some clear ideas but I’m not sure it is a good idea to go into specifics on such an early stage. I mainly plan to work with old keyboards like spinet and harpsichord and then see where they take me.

THE ARTWORK FOR YOUR MUSIC IS ALWAYS VERY DISTINCTIVE AND AS ELEGANT AS YOUR MUSIC. DOES HAVING A PHOTOGRAPHER AND ANIMATOR AS A PARTNER HELP YOU TO FEEL INSPIRED?

I am lucky to have someone close to me that has such a different perspective but who’s still deeply involved with what I do. He is a powerful influence, no doubt, and he’s very good at making things happen and seeing things from an absolute unexpected point of view.

YOUR MUSIC ALWAYS CREATES DIFFERENT SOUNDSCAPES. HAVE YOU EVER CONSIDERED CREATING A SCORE TO A FILM?

I think the conversation between film and music is very interesting. I guess I am from a generation where film and music are perceived as intrinsically linked. I especially like the point when a film, or a scene, changes unexpectedly because of the music that is being used. Music becomes a part of the story and changes your perception of it. I would definitely love to be part of that in some way of another so yes, if the right project comes along, I would be up for it.

CONSIDERING TODAY’S MUSIC INDUSTRY, YOU ARE AN EXCEPTION; A SELF MADE ARTIST WHO IS NOT PRESSURED BY ANYONE AND TRULY DOES WHAT SHE WANTS. WHAT WOULD YOU TELL TO MUSICIANS WHO HOPE TO FOLLOW YOUR PATH?

I’m not sure. What I often find interesting in music is the window into something singular and otherwise unreachable. I guess that being open to your own self, and all the idiosyncrasies in your work, is the best advice I could give. If you look at it in this way, you are opening yourself to others as well.

WHAT WOULD YOU PLAY DURING A DINNER WITH ALFRED HITCHCOCK, INGMAR BERGMAN, ROBERT MAPPLETHORPE AND NINA SIMONE?

I think they would all appreciate “Der Leiermann” by Schubert. It is the last song in the Winterreise song cycle and to me the bleakest and the most beautiful of the whole song cycle. To many Der Leiermann, the hurdy-gurdy-man who the song is about, is the ultimate picture for loss and abandonment. It is fatalistic; the endless grind of life only ended by death. I think they all would be intrigued.

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Sinéad O’Connor / Interview / HUNGER TV

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Read it on HUNGER TV

 

“It’s been seven hours and fifteen days” is one of those lines from a song that always forces you to sing “since you took your love away” It’s one of those lines that brings back to your memory that simple and yet unforgettable video where Sinéad O’Connor looks at you with those fearless eyes. It’s been a little longer than seven hours but after two years, the quintessentially Irish singer-songwriter is releasing her tenth studio album, titled I’m Not Bossy, I’m The Boss and after almost thirty years in the business, she deserves such a title. After all, her breakthrough hit “Mandinka” is dated 1987 and since then, we’ve seen Sinéad shaving her head, selling millions of records with “I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got”, boycotting the Grammys, fighting the real enemy on SNL by tearing into pieces a picture of the Pope on live TV, and never stepping away from difficult territories like the Vatican, child abuse, sexuality, religion and more recently Miley Cyrus. She has also been ordained as a priest along the way. The glue between success and controversy has always been her powerful and moving voice and the ability to write fragile and yet strong in their honesty lyrics. In her latest work, Sinéad is a real full woman, approaching the subject of love à la Tori Amos, through different characters, lust, theology and illusions. Hunger TV goes on this journey, track by track, with the Irish national treasure, to find out why women shouldn’t think with their dicks and that nothing compares to Lady O’C.

 

HOW ABOUT I BE ME 

“A woman like me needs love

A woman like me needs a man to be

Stronger than herself”

WOULD YOU RATHER BE A MAN OR A WOMAN IN YOUR NEXT LIFE?

I don’t have the benefit of the wisdom that one might have, if one was not limited by being in a human body, in order to make a responsible choice. I imagine that I’d want to be whichever is going to be at the best service. This opening track came together because, about three years ago, I wrote some very funny articles for an Irish newspaper about sex. Ireland is a very sexually repressed place and these articles caused great scandal among the media for their naughtiness. The song was my response to their response and it’s also the title of my previous album How About I Be Me (And You Be You)? I have recorded the song about two years ago but it was a reggae version, so it didn’t quite fit with the sound of that album and I decided to rework it for this album and make it more of a pop song.

DENSE WATER DEEPER DOWN 

“Hijacked kiss made me feel in bliss

And he’s the only love I miss”

HOW DID YOUR APPROACH IN WRITING LOVE SONGS CHANGED OVER THE YEARS?

I don’t really think that I have ever written love songs before, certainly not very much. What happened is that I got very interested in what you call “Chicago Blues” which is a happy, funky blues; people like Elmore James, Howlin’ Wolf, Magic Sam and a guy called Willie Dixon who wrote nearly every blues song that you could imagine. Everything that we know as rock music came from blues and I was watching a lot of what these guys had to say about songwriting. They were talking about keeping things simple and to not sugarcoat things, even the good things and happy moments. I suppose I began to write about characters in the last few years and I also started getting some songwriting lessons really by watching these guys on YouTube. All they were writing was love songs, and with religious or love songs there is a very fine line between corny and cool so you have to be careful and stay on the right side. I love this song; I actually wrote it about fifteen years ago and I had a much longer version of it on another album but it got put out on a sort of closing down record company. I always wanted to take it and chop it down.

KISSES LIKE MINE

“I have a heart that flies away

Betrays me every day

But don’t let it stay heavy on your mind

I’m just not the Keeping kind”

IS IT HARD TO BE YOU IN OUR SOCIETY? SOMEONE OUTSPOKEN AND THOUGHT-PROVOKING?

The song is just a pop song and the only three songs on the album that are autobiographical, or personal, are the opening track, Dense Water Deeper Down and 8 Good Reasons. The other tracks are all characters that I invented. As for your question, it is not hard to be someone who speaks her mind but sometimes it’s hard to live with the consequences of doing it, but that’s OK. It’s part of the adventure

YOUR GREEN JACKET

“Oh how I wish that I could sell myself to you

And do the things that only lovers do

Meet me at that crazy apple tree in heaven

We’ll go dancing all night”

ARE YOU REFERENCING TO ADAM AND EVE AND THE APPLE TREE IN THE GARDEN OF EDEN?

No, and it’s funny that you say that because this is something I’ve always said to my kids over the years when they were going to sleep. I had an apple tree and heaven in my mind so I’d say to them “OK, we’ll go to sleep now and we’ll meet you at the apple tree and go dancing”. I wasn’t thinking about Adam and Eve but it’s an interesting observation.

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THE VISHNU ROOM

“Because Vishnu lives at the core of my heart

Vishnu is and Vishnu starts”

THERE IS A SEXUAL YET SPIRITUAL TENSION IN THIS TRACK. HOW IS YOUR PURSUIT OF FAITH GOING?

It’s really more about sexuality. The Hindu theology believes that sex and sexuality is a sacred connection with the divine and this is one of the reason why I like it. I would subscribe to that belief that no matter how filthy or sweet sex may be, or everything in between, it’s a sacred thing. Even if you are doing it with a total stranger actually. The line you mentioned is from a teaching and Vishnu is the equivalent of the Holy Spirit who lives at the core of your heart, the place from where you love and God is in. I had this thing from probably before I was even born; the fact that I came into this world and, I suppose, I was lucky that I was born in Ireland. At that time it was a Catholic theocracy, so I was the type of child who only took on the good part of that and I believed in Jesus. I still do and I like to study theology from all kind of different religions but I’ve seen that God and religion are not the same thing. In fact, religion is a deliberate obstacle to God and that’s the reason why it exists. It actually creates a barrier between people and God. Everybody can choose to believe in whatever they want to, as long as you are doing no harm to anybody; we are all different and that’s why there are so many flavours of ice cream. I do believe that religion is doing harm to God and cleverly got everybody talking to the wall. When you study Jesus, He instructs you to talk to God, not to the church; He talks a lot about the science of prayers and the power of the spoken words but you see, if you don’t speak in the right place, the science can’t work. No matter how much you are praying. God gave us free will which is possibly a mistake, or at least it’s regrettable, so he can’t intervene unless we ask it and religion have us asking it in the wrong place. We could fix the world very quickly if we’d just ask for what Jesus told us to ask for, and that is not what we want but what the Holy Spirit intends for us. It’s my passion as a belief and knowledge that God needs to be rescued from religion

THE VOICE OF MY DOCTOR

“When I opened my eyes in your bedroom

Saw a painting of a bald lady”

WHAT DO YOU ALWAYS TRY TO REMEMBER TO YOURSELF?

As a songwriter, to be emotionally honest but with as few words as possible. To only use the words that I really need. This song was genuinely inspired by a kind of Vietnamese painting I saw in a shop. It was just a giant, concrete head and face of a man and there was one little tear going down his face. He took up most of the frame and beside him there was a tiny buddha priestess leaning on his cheek. When I saw it, I just begun to ask myself many questions about what was actually happening in the painting. That’s the way you work when you write a song.

HARBOUR

“No man is her father

She fought for something holy

Found only the dreams of Don Quixote”

THERE QUITE A BIT OF ANGER IN THE WAY YOU SING THIS TRACK…

The are approximately four female characters on the record, apart from myself. One character appears in about six songs starting with Your Green Jacket. The central character is going on a bit of a journey where she’s learning the difference between illusion and reality when it comes to matters of romance. Tracks like this one, where she appears, are conversations with the man that she loves and by the time Harbour begins, he has asked her to explain some marks that he has found upon her. The song is her answer to what’s gone on before.

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JAMES BROWN (with SEUN KUTI)

“I know I may look a little square

I know I look like a wooden chair”

WHAT ASSUMPTION MADE BY PEOPLE HURT YOU THE MOST?

What hurt me the most was that I’ve never got the Rear Of The Year Award, because I’ve secretly had the greatest ass throughout all of these years and no one knows. Kylie Minogue won it! It’s the one thing about me that has never been understood the most: how great my butt is! I could still win it though! I’m sorry, I’m just joking with you because I’m trying to not take myself too seriously. Back to the song, this is not the central character but it’s not me either. I guess I just wanted to create different characters, write love songs and have a very romantic record but I also wanted to perhaps show the different types of woman that even one woman might be. The central character is this very romantic woman but she also has these other parts which are represented by other more naughty characters, in Kisses Like Mine and this one. I think there is a bit of every character in each woman; it’s just a question of whether we express all of those parts or not.

8 GOOD REASONS

“You know I love to make music

But my head got wrecked by the business”

IS THERE ANYTHING ABOUT BEING IRISH THAT HELPED YOU COPING WITH THE BUSINESS?

Strangely and ironically it was the fact that I had a Catholic upbringing. I really believed what I was taught about Jesus in particular, and the Holy Spirit. That was the thing that kept me alive during my childhood and led me into music. It’s the thing that led me to deal with pretty much anything in life. At the same time, I was able to see beyond Irish’s theocracy in a way, so it helped me through.

TAKE ME TO CHURCH

“What have I been singing love songs for?

I don’t wanna sing them any more

I’m the only one I should adore”

DOES HAVING 4 CHILDREN CHANGE THE KIND OF LOVE THAT WE HAVE FOR OURSELVES? AS FOR THIS SINGLE, YOU LOOK BARELY RECOGNISABLE IN THE PROMO PICTURES…

I don’t think anything makes it better or worse; it’s not like a switch that you can flick. It doesn’t come from outside or inside you in the form of a baby, it’s an understanding that you reach one day and you wonder “Ah, OK, I get it now!” It was just a way to attract the public and media attention to the album, that’s the only reason. It was not supposed to be the album cover in the first place, I just wanted to throw out two publicity shots and to put on a wig and a dress because nobody ever saw me looking like a woman. I knew that everybody around the world would run the shots and would have to mention the album but then, the record company asked if they could use one of these shots for the album cover. It was a purely calculated publicity stunt. I did the trick.

WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?

“Colour all gone, no iris in sight

I saw darkness

where I should have seen light”

WHAT HAPPENS TO THE CHARACTER IN THIS SONG?

She has been singing to this man through many songs by now, even though they are not together, and she has these ideas about him, like that he’s a lovely man for example. What happens now is that she has a brief experience with him, and it turns out that she gets quite afraid. This causes her to examine how she found herself in this frightening situation and, as you can see from the end of the album, she begins to talk about safety. It’s basically her response to the fright she has got after receiving what she wished for. Take Me To Church is her eureka moment and she decides that she’s got to be very careful about what kind of songs she writes in the future because all of that romanticising, led her to get what she wanted but, what she thought she wanted, was very frightening and unsafe. In the last track she understands that what she wants mostly is to be safe and what she was actually longing for was herself.

STREETCARS

“If I were dying, if I were dying

What would I want,

what would I want with me?”

WHAT ARE YOU HUNGRY FOR?

Peanut butter sandwich! Music I guess, and playing live. The line you mentioned sees the character talking to herself and not to him anymore. “What would I want with me?” We’re all supposed to live as if everyday was our last day and, if this was her last day on earth, would she want this guy around her? The answer is no, and in fact, what she thought was love for this dude was actually an illusion that led her to that frightening situation. She finally takes these informations and use them to transform herself instead of responding negatively. Her longings switch towards herself  and she’ll make safer decision in the future about what kind of man to be with. She’s not gonna be thinking with her dick! You could really encapsulate the record into that; the first half, she’s thinking with her dick, and then she gets five minutes with the man and decides to never think with her dick again! She decides to be careful about what she asks for.

M.P

 

I’m Not Bossy, I’m The Boss is released on August 11th

 

Sinéad O’Connor live at London’s Roundhouse on August 12th – Tickets http://www.roundhouse.org.uk/whats-on/2014/summer-sessions/sinead-oconnor/

 

http://www.sineadoconnor.com

 

William Orbit / Interview / HUNGER TV – Long Edit

Read it on HUNGER TV

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 Photo by Rankin

British musician and record producer William Orbit is well known for bringing a Ray Of Light in Madonna‘s career back in 1998 and more recently for creating an Alien on Britney Spears‘ latest album Britney Jean. What often goes unsaid is the influence he had in establishing progressive house and ambient music as a genre that could embrace the pop world and, at the same time, be as emotional as a symphony. William made his latest album, Strange Cargo 5, available on SoundCloud and it features singer-songwriter Beth Orton and longtime friend/collaborator Laurie Mayer, who encouraged him to build the first of his many Guerilla Studios. It was within those walls that William started remixing The Cure, Peter Gabriel, Prince and Depeche Mode before venturing on countless collaborations including U2, Blur, Beck, All Saints and Pink. What we call ‘recording studio’ is for William Orbit a longing, a place to call home and a laboratory, where molecules of sound are accurately created and filtered through his witty personality and gentle sensibility. After all, only an experienced musical chemist like him could have arranged Pieces in a Modern Style, an album where classical pieces by Beethoven, Vivaldi and Handel are given a good dose of electronica. As he enjoys a cup of coffee in LA, Hunger TV has an in-depth chat with the talented musician about his 35 years-long career, the ups and downs of success and the only collaboration that can equal the ones with Queen of pop: a Michael Jackson and Freddie Mercury unreleased track.  

 

HELLO WILLIAM, IT’S GOOD TO HAVE YOU ON HUNGER TV! 

Hi there! It’s a pleasure, I like Hunger‘s “visually and culturally hungry” thing and I love Rankin; he’s such a character and a unique man. One of the last times I saw him he was taking photos of me. He had me emerging from some sort of chest-of-drawers with a plastic dog on my head or something like that. The very last time, was at a party that I threw for Madonna at China White. My girlfriend had obtained a beautiful beaded xxx Jean Paul Gaultier kilt, before kilts briefly became all the rage I hasten to add, and M said that if I wore it that night, she’d give me all the royalties for the song we were working on that day. Well I didn’t hold her to her bet, bless her, but wore the kilt with pride. I noticed that I was constantly being goosed by the girls… and Rankin! There are certain people like Rankin and Will.i.am that we have to cherish. I hear people say: “there are no popstars anymore” but when they look back 20 years from now and start to say the same thing about the current artists in 2034, they might proclaim that “it was great in 2014, why can’t we have it like that now?”

YOU RECENTLY RELEASED STRANGE CARGO 5 ON SOUNDCLOUD. HOW DOES IT FEEL TO RELEASE AN ALBUM DIGITALLY AND SHARE YOUR MUSIC IN THIS WAY? 

First of all, well done for spotting it! Yes, I’ve put it out in the lowest possible profile. Music business is changing so fast that I decided to just do my own thing; you’ll drive yourself mad otherwise, unless you are an adventure capitalist but it’s creativity that we are talking about. You do what you do, hoping that people will come around to it eventually. I’m really good at making music but I’m really bad at selling it; I just cannot do that. It has been such a disappointment in the past, marketing and press wise, with the records I’ve done on my own and it always left me thinking “why did I do that?” I feel terrible afterwards and though I understand that you have to make a living, I know that it’s not going to come from my music and selling downloads so, why going through the indignity? Also, the professional reviewing elite don’t really apply and what I do is to see what fans say. They are brilliant and always very polite. If you read through the lines of what they are saying about your music, you’ll find out whether you’ve done a decent track or not. That’s what fans do, they’re going to let you know in a way that is impossible to challenge. It can hurt sometimes but it’s the best way to release this kind of music and in due course you’ll see what happens. Water From A Vine Leaf is a track that I released many years ago and everybody is talking about it all over the internet but, believe me, when that came out, it did very silently so I’m glad that you found out about Strange Cargo 5. The response I’m getting is certainly fulfilling. You see, I’ve just released a symphony and it only got 6 listens but I’m happy. I’m going to be living somehow, I’m perfectly capable and of course producing artist pays well.

THE ALBUM HAS BEEN RECORDED ALL OVER THE WORLD AND IN SEVERAL OF YOUR GUERILLA STUDIOS. WAS THIS INTENTIONAL OR IT’S JUST YOUR MODUS OPERANDI? 

Going around the world is my life, I’m a nomadic and I have so many studios. As a result of that, to answer your question as you’ve asked it, I didn’t go around the world specifically to make the album. I travel and make music, in Palm Spring or Las Vegas or you name it! There’s always a studio everywhere I go and I’m always in them with these pieces of music with no identity yet. I love studios, they are very valuable places but there are also homes and laptops. Somehow I always feel at home whenever I’m in a studio.

WAS THERE ANYTHING IN PARTICULAR THAT YOU WANTED TO ACHIEVE WITH THIS ALBUM? 

I wouldn’t be able to make the album without my longtime friend and collaborator Laurie Mayer and that is absolutely true. I was actually in a quite difficult place because of a drinking issue that I overcame and I had a management company that I left. She basically got me healthy again and got me feeling inspired. She’s somebody I write with so it was important. There’s also Rico Conning, another member of our little group, and I’m really enjoying making a robot with him. He has been developing this musical robot and we’re planning to use it on stage in London in the autumn, it’s a big deal and a technical challenge for us; literally time consuming. We’re going to film it on YouTube in June so all sorts of interesting thing are happening that keep me busy. I’m also writing a book but I’m keeping this to myself at the moment because if I mention it on my Facebook page, people wouldn’t believe me. They know me for somebody that works with Britney or Madonna but there’s room for everything in my world. The book is biographical in a way but it’s more of a social commentary. I’ve been writing and writing compulsively and I’ve never published anything so, let’s see how it goes. As for music I’m working with Queen on an unreleased Michael Jackson and Freddie Mercury track, Rico has done a beautiful remix, he’s so talented. They had a track they recorded in the early 80s but nothing happened to the song and it didn’t make it down to any release. I’ve developed it with Brian May who added more guitars and it has been an enjoyable process; they were such incredible singers. When you work on a track with a vocalist, you really start to get inside of his or her soul.

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I GUESS THE VOICE IS A PECULIAR ELEMENT WHEN YOU DECIDE TO START A COLLABORATION OR PRODUCTION… 

Absolutely, I get so into it. It’s the best thing in the world and, probably, the first thing human beings ever did that you could call music, had to do with either the voice or banging a stick to a wall. It’s a fundamental core to music creativity. The voice does something and when you like it, obviously you listen to it over and over again, especially if you are paying attention to details as I do. Bono, Madonna, Britney, Michael Jackson or Freddie Mercury are all so special and they didn’t get so big just because they put on great shows; they got to be that way because their voices are unique: you hear two words and you know who is singing. This is fascinating to me because you get so much emotional information just from that. When I have the voice and melody in place, I’m the happiest person in the world! On the other hand, I can’t stand the marketing’s bullshit, I’m really bad at it, it’s probably the reason why I’m not more famous than I am. I don’t disdain it by the way, it is pop music we’re doing and it’s always been that way. You can’t put on a circus from nothing, you got to tell everybody, it’s important but I’m just not able to do it myself.

IT MUST HAVE BEEN OVERWHELMING WHEN YOUR PRODUCTION WITH MADONNA ON RAY OF LIGHT  RESULTED IN 4 GRAMMY AWARDS… 

After the Ray Of Light experience, success tore me up to be honest. The force that makes you strive to do better becomes even more powerful and you don’t need anybody to motivate or question you. This is why I’m happy to do my own things and even when you just put something out on SoundCloud, I feel exactly the same sort of fear of failure and hunger for excellence. The amount of time you have to spend promoting music is enormous. It’s good if it works for you or, if you are like Katy Perry for instance, you have to go and promote your work otherwise it loses the whole point. If you do a symphony on the other hand, there’s no point in promoting it because you can’t persuade people to like it. This is why I really love doing the Facebook page, it’s a very good platform and it integrates with SoundCloud and I love it. I just hope that we won’t see adverts on there. Interacting with fans is great and surreal. I wake up in the morning, check their comments and they always say interesting things about music and they also criticize. It’s a great source of information, I don’t like Twitter as much.

I PAINT WHAT I SEE IS A TRACK AS BEAUTIFUL AS BETH ORTON’S VOCALS. I KNOW YOU LIKE DRAWING, WORKING ON CARTOONS AND PHOTOGRAPHY. WHAT DOES INSPIRE YOUR MUSIC VISUALLY? 

Light. The way it plays on things. This is how I see music, it’s totally visual. The context informs the music like a candle in a painting; the way it is placed and what the light reflects. I often start with a visual image in my head and music forms around that. In my mind they are the same.

THE TRACK MY FRIEND MORPHEUS IS ADAPTED FROM THE ARIA “AH! NON CREDEA MIRARTI” CONTAINED IN VINCENZO BELLINI’S OPERA LA SONNAMBULA. IT MEANS “I DID NOT BELIEVE YOU WOULD FADE SO SOON, OH FLOWER!” AND IT IS INSCRIBED ON BELLINI’S GRAVE. WHAT WOULD YOU WRITE ON YOURS? 

Oh gosh! I hope I won’t be forgotten but let me think… It would probably be “I Am Still Here”

BEFORE YOU BECAME A MUSICIAN YOU HAVE DONE MANY DIFFERENT JOBS AND LIVED I. SQUATS ALL AROUND EUROPE. DO YOU THINK THESE EXPERIENCES SHAPED YOU AS A MUSICIAN? 

As a musician I’m not sure, I’ve done everything in my life and I guess it shaped me as a person. I so desperately wanted to make music and if I started earlier, before I was 23, maybe I would have been better, I don’t know. I think it made me value the fact that I can do music for a living; you know exactly how it’s like to not be able to. It gave me a chance to relate to people out there who would love to do it but, at the same time, they have to get a job and feed their families. Sometimes their passion for music is even greater than mine! I understand people who write to me and maybe they’re working in the bank and as soon as they go back home they make music and it’s the thing they’ve longed to do the whole day. I can’t help them making a record but I do understand that longing. I don’t want to sound like one of these guys who say how difficult it was in the old days; it sounds old-fashioned but it was, for me anyway.

LAURIE MAYER FEATURES IN A COUPLE OF TRACKS ON YOUR ALBUM. YOU TWO FOUNDED THE FIRST GUERILLA STUDIO IN LONDON. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE FEELING OF BEING IN A STUDIO? 

It feels great because it’s like collecting memories. When you finish an album, months go by as you master it and you reach a point where there are no more ifs and buts. It’s done, for better or worse, so you go back home relaxed and listen to it with a different set of speakers for example, and it all comes back to you. All of the sounds of the record are like reminders and memories of the places where you’ve been recording. You don’t listen to it as music but as a scrapbook of all those experiences. Memories come floating back and that’s great, especially the ones from Las Vegas! It’s pretty crazy there and I can tell you that your imagination is probably nothing compared to how crazy it was there.

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YOUR MUSIC IS HIGHLY EMOTIONAL AND CINEMATIC. HAVE YOU EVER CONSIDERED COMPOSING A SOUNDTRACK? 

People use my music for movies sometimes but creating an entire score is a different story. You have to be a certain kind of person with the ability to be very quick and on your feet in order to change ideas; it’s something I don’t think I posses. I think I’m better as a producer because you put yourself at the service of the artist. I’m an artist myself but when it comes to producing someone, I literally take my hat off and I become somebody who is at the service of the artist’s vision. It’s all about the artist, not me. I only bring my skills and I’m really good at it; I enjoy working with this willingness. It’s the same with movies, the composer has to put himself at disposal of the director and be very musically adept; it’s like being in a limbo and that’s not me. I have not the ability of composing music as it is done. I know how to make a good record and when people ask me why I don’t score movies, the answer is that I probably can’t. I’m happy to kind of create the movie in my head when I make music; music and the lights in a picture are exactly one and the same to me. Don’t get me wrong I’m a movie buff! I also watch movies about directors and therefore I’m aware that I’d probably disappoint somebody if I’d compose a score! I’d have trouble changing things and not because of my ego, it’s just the way I work. I’m not a painter like Michelangelo who could reproduce anything. I’d love to supervise a score on the other hand, finding the right people and going in the studio with the composer but I don’t know. I guess that world is closed for me.

I WOULD TAKE THAT RISK! ISN’T IT ALL ABOUT TRANSLATING YOUR EMOTIONS IN THE END OF THE DAY? 

Oh thank you! Yes it’s got to do with that and I know it’s not easy to write about music because it’s so impressionable compared to writing about movies for example. What I’m trying to say is that I usually don’t get asked much about my emotions during interviews, and it’s good that you did. I don’t get asked because I’m not a singer I guess, I’m not bearing my soul with singing lyrics but I can assure you that every sound and every aspect of what I do is extremely tied up within myself. If it doesn’t fit emotionally then it’s not happening: it’s all about that. I am not comparing myself to Shostakovich, I’m nowhere near that. Except that after he had composed one of his wondrous symphonies and announced its title, he’d be asked to explain some bits of his music or why something sounded in a certain way in the scenario he had created. About the siege of St. Petersburg he would later say that the music itself inspired him to write the music. It’s impossible to convey this to people. They need something tangible and that’s the difficulty in facing music. A visual artist will deliver paragraphs of exposition but musician can’t do that, it’s not in our DNA.

We want our music to be heard in the end of the day and the reason why I admire film composer and I collect all the records is because a lot of the most exciting music comes from them. Alberto Iglesias and Yann Tiersen for example, anyone who is not Hans Zimmer! I don’t want to hear another Hans Zimmer, I don’t even think he does scores anymore. He just has a team of people, like Howard Shore who did The Hobbit trilogy; he goes in there and gives us two hours of the same old stuff. What the fuck? There are some brilliant people out there who get less money than they do. The classical world is in disarray. They are still struggling with the legacy serialism and they’re afraid of melodies. They spurn the film world. However, I find very exciting what’s happening in modern choral music. There is tremendous innovation happening there. Innovation and beauty.

I THINK THAT AS LONG AS PEOPLE WILL BE EAGER TO LISTEN TO SOMETHING MORE PROFOUND, THERE WILL BE ARTISTS WHO MAKE INTERESTING MUSIC. FOR EXAMPLE, YOUR PRODUCTIONS ALWAYS PRESENT THE POPSTARS WE KNOW SO WELL UNDER A DIFFERENT LIGHT…

What’s interesting is to identify something within the artist that hasn’t necessarily flown free before. You can do this brilliantly and surprise yourself but you have to trust. Actors have to do this! The first thing they do is the trust game, consisting in leaning back with your eyes closed and let somebody catch you. It’s crucial. When Anthony Hopkins goes on set he’s told what to do by the director and there’s a script to follow. What he then does brilliantly is bringing his talent within this framework and it’s very effective. It’s different in the music industry because everybody’s got their own individuality. We don’t work in a big set and record producers’ role is to be passive aggressive; we are different individuals and it makes it hard to work sometimes. People are hesitant to give you a chance or at least try something out and I find it a bit exhausting. Actors are not given enough credit for their talent; you don’t realize how good they are until you see someone acting really badly. If it was up to me, to executive produce and overview the whole process of Madonna’s MDNA and Britney’s Britney Jean, I do feel I could have done an absolutely exceptional job. Something as powerful as Ray Of Light but I guess I don’t have the ability to inspire this kind of managerial level of confidence.

I went through a period where I convinced myself that I was rich because I was lucky with Ray Of Light and its big success and then I spent all of that money. You can’t be rich and do the music that you want. Once you become one with that choice and you don’t drive around, looking at big houses and wishing to have them, then you realize how fortunate and blessed you are to be able to make music. You can’t have everything; I’m in my fifties and it took me decades to get to this point and most of the people I work with professionally are half my age…

ARTISTS ARE ALWAYS LOOKING FOR SOMETHING NEW AND DIFFERENT. HOW DO YOU BALANCE IT WITH YOUR ARTISTIC INTEGRITY? 

Well, it is not your record, it’s their record. I can get frustrated with artists when they have a pure and passionate vision for something unique and special at the beginning which then becomes watered down by commercial pressure, or trendiness. You should never go down that road because you will end up sounding and looking dated. It’s like torturing yourself. I’m a very trustworthy person but I find it impossible to inspire a kind of trust in the music scene. Recently people are suspicious, they thought I was messing up with All Saints and then it went on top of the charts. I see the look in their eyes, they think I am mad but I always say “what are we doing here? Do you want a record that will last forever or what?” I’m happy anyway,  I’ve just released the album and kept fans happy uploading different versions of the Madonna and Britney albums. Let’s give the fans what they want! No one told me off yet.

PEOPLE GOT SO EXCITED WHEN THEY KNEW YOU WERE INVOLVED IN MADONNA’S MDNA. FANS HAVE ALWAYS BEEN WAITING FOR ANOTHER RAY OF LIGHT  TO COME ALONG. HOW DIFFERENT WAS IT TO COLLABORATE WITH HER ON THESE TWO DIFFERENT PROJECTS? 

I knew people were excited, they ask me about a new Ray Of Light every minute of the day. Think of it this way: Ray Of Light came about very spontaneously. We were in this studio in a rather unfashionable part of LA where nobody came. The record company guy came down only once and made some comments and I do remember Madonna telling him “This is art. This is how we are doing it. We’ll let you come and have a good listen but we’ll see you in two months when it’s done.” It was a very pure experience; it was all about making that record and nothing else. I wasn’t sure how this was going to work out at the very beginning but the moment I saw her jumping into the tracks in such an artistic way, I instantly thought how great it was going to be. She’s an amazing person, producer and it was a true collaboration. It’s important to get this across; I don’t like it when people assume that I was the clever one doing the whole job. It has been a bit of a curse and I’d feel mortified if I was her because on the album there is written “produced by Madonna and William Orbit” and that’s what happened! She didn’t put her name there out of vanity, she was fucking in there with me and it wouldn’t have happened without the two of us. As for MDNA it’s important to say that I jumped on the project later; she had already started it. She had a lot of stuff going on, I honestly don’t know how any human being could cope with making an album, directing and producing a movie, launching products and everything that comes with just being her. I mean, I had to cancel a couple of appointments this morning because I was overbooked! She’s so organized and such an incredible time manager, just like a general. Anyway, we were just not really able to lock the door and everybody out for MDNA. She was having such a great time at first but it somehow became very complex for everybody. I would have mixed it myself if I could, or only together with Madonna in front of the mixing desk because she’s a great mixer. We have spirited debates about things but we both always end up in the same direction because we’re good at mixing. Moreover, I should have told her that technically I did more album than she did and even though there’s nothing I can ever do to even come close to what she achieved, I know she can trust me on the technical side of things. Just let me fucking be in charge of the technical, it’s so important! I would have dropped three of the six tracks that she had already made with the other guys. They were not good enough in my opinion; too puerile. As for the remaining three I would have suggested to put more depth and make them more special. I had the best team and other brilliant songs and this is why I am still a bit puzzled to these days. It’s not that I ever give it a second thought; I’m only talking about this because you’ve asked of course. Life is too busy to worry about stuff, you have to move on. Any saying I had on my part are down to me, so if I have made some mistakes then it’s my fault.

ACTUALLY THE SIX TRACKS YOU PRODUCED ARE UNQUESTIONABLY THE MOST POWERFUL ONES. I GUESS MADONNA WAS IN A DIFFERENT EMOTIONAL PLACE DURING THE RAY OF LIGHT ERA… 

It was definitely an important time when a lot of things happened. The day we were recording Swim in the studio, Madonna got a call from her friend Donatella, informing her about that terrible thing that happened to her brother. We kept on recording and of course it had some effects on the song. On a more positive side she had a daughter, her first child, this tiny little thing. What a perfect time to be writing and recording! What she does in the studio is fantastic and as I’ve said, her involvement in that album is much greater than what she has ever been given credit for. We did not have a plan but she’s good in driving things along, in fact when we finished Ray Of Light she immediately set up a listening party for the people at Warner. As we were waiting outside in a little sitting room, picking on strawberries and biting our nails, I realized “shit, Madonna has no idea about how they’re going to respond! She’s nervous! Madonna does no nervous!” I did not expect her to feel that way because she never shows it. As it turned out everybody loved it and started jumping and to me it was a really great example on how making a really good record. I mean, that woman has never lost any money even on a bad year but still… It’s different with Britney for instance, because Madonna is a different kind of artist of course, but nevertheless she deserves to be given a chance and I wish I had the possibility to do what I can do for her. Maybe let’s talk about this in ten years, I’m here to stay. I feel reborn and excited so don’t look at me as a seasoned producer because I am ready to go with the same zeal I had for the first record. If you manage to live on music for 35 years, it means that you’re a hard worker, smart and that you’ll definitely carry on until your death. It’s a long horizon, there’s no rush.

ALIEN, THE TRACK YOU PRODUCED FOR BRITNEY, OPENS HER LATEST ALBUM AND IT SETS A WONDERFUL VIBE. DON’T YOU THINK THAT THE REST OF THE ALBUM IS A BIT OF A LET DOWN? 

Oh God, yes. When I thought I might be involved, I made a point of listening to every track I could find. And the ‘Britney Army’ would send me links to obscure numbers via my Twitter and Facebook. I became a super fan at that point and her voice was superb. I joined the ‘Army’! For some reasons, nobody can really understand these things,  she just has that special ‘thing’. If you listen to the remix of Alien I recently uploaded, it’s more indie pop and I did it for fun but hey, listen to that voice! It’s special. My specialty with artists is to make it seem like we’re not working and quite often they’d say “we’d better start recording” and I tell them “you just did!” They insist to do it again properly but I try to let me understand that if I’m smiling, it means I’m happy with what we’ve just recorded; it means they touched my soul. When artists unconsciously bring this out, I’m the happiest man in the world. I’m slow to make a record, you probably wouldn’t hire me if you had to have something done by tomorrow but when it comes to be in the studio and recording vocals, everything runs quickly and it’s fun. I know what I want technically and what I can work on later, so there is no point for the artist to do it over and over. I know what I can fix and I’m not talking about auto-tune but rather about spontaneity; that something great and special.

WHAT ARE YOU HUNGRY FOR? 

Knowledge. I’m brought up that way, I’m addicted to knowledge. I’m starving for it, aren’t we all? I always need to know more, particularly things of a scientific nature, or philosophical. If I had all the time in the world and someone would tell me that music will completely cease to exist, or I went deaf, I would definitely take a degree course in philosophy. I have no education and I left school at a very young age and would just spend all my time reading the classics and messing around with inks and paints.
As musicians we can’t be social activists but there’s no reason why any human being can’t help each other. I’d love to have more knowledge and make things better. I probably sound like a beauty pageant contestant when asked: “what do you want to do in life?” and the answer is “I want to make the world a better place.” Anyhow, maybe despise is a strong word but greed is something I really loathe. It’s all about money and people do terrible things for it. They think they always need more money in the bank and more influence than they have.

M.P.

William Orbit on Facebook / Twitter

 

 

 

Yann Tiersen ∞ Composing the sound of Infinity

Interview for his new album Infinity – Read it on The GROUND Magazine

I think it’s great to be able to communicate with the world, it’s brilliant. On the other hand, economical globalization is the worst thing that happened to us. It’s horrible and the opposite of what we do as artists. I’m afraid that this situation will lead to the end of the world.

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“Technically and legally I’m French but from where I come from, culture is really different compared to France” tells me Yann Tiersen about Brittany and the Ushant Island, the place where he finds himself for our conversation. It’s the place where he was born and one of the three islands that inspired his latest work, titled Infinity. From the secluded north-westernmost point of France, Tiersen continues to play and experiment with music, sailing away from the safe harbor and etiquette of the Amélie composer, the 2001 surreal film by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. The timeless, and French, soundtrack was heavily driven by the accordion and piano but it also featured a spinning bicycle wheel. It’s fair to say that Yann Tiersen has never been the typical kind of composer, in fact doesn’t see himself as such; he’s an anarchic musician and a visionary. Through his studio albums and countless collaborations, as the instruments he can play, he pushes music closer to our us, creating a universal soundtrack and language made of different moments, textures, sounds and noises. Everything life is made of.

For someone in the middle of rehearsal for his upcoming tour, Tiersen sounds relaxed and I immediately understand that his sensibility is the same as the one we feel in his music. As with every true musician, music is the only meaningful language worth speaking, the only one he knows to communicate. Nevertheless he needs to use words to tell me how good he always feels about going on the road, “We’re almost ready and the set list is finished”. The making of Infinity has definitely something to do with his peaceful state of mind; the album is so minimalistic to a point where, the first time I heard it, I found myself in front of an immense landscape where something esoteric was slicing the air. This feeling is remarkable if you think about the layered process involved in the creation of these sounds.

“I was pretty relaxed and excited to finish with my modular setup. I wanted to avoid all of that without ending up with just modular sequences, so I did something radically opposite. The starting point was completely acoustic and I played with the cliché kind of things let’s say, but why not?! I went to Iceland just with my toys instruments for two weeks and I recorded with the intention to transform everything afterwards, through the modular and computers. I’ve kept everything; even the bad ideas and I used those songs as a base for new songs. It was like doing remixes of songs that don’t actually exist yet, it was quite funny to do”.

The endless back and forth of the album, from acoustic to electronic and digital, and then back to analogue, is in line with Tiersen’s working ethic. His previous work, 2011 Skyline, already contained tracks from the recording sessions of 2010 experimental Dust Lane, in the same way Amélie‘s soundtrack was made of a selection of compositions from his first three albums and the then upcoming L’Absente. Such restlessness creates an ever changing sound, always open to new frontiers and fusions of classical, folk, and indie music. “After a long time, I had this idea to work with acoustic instruments. The last song from Skyline is Vanishing Point and I did it during the mixing with my computer. It’s made of samples from all the songs of the album so I was really excited about pushing things further for the next album. I like to transform things and maybe for the next album I could do the same but with free recordings during my travels. I could try to recompose the sound, manipulate it and try to make songs bases from that”.

Tiersen may be compared to contemporary composer Philip Glass or referred to as the Gallic Michael Nyman but none of these two smashed a violin at the age of thirteen to buy an electric guitar, like Tiersen did. His love for the punk culture will not only shape his avant-garde style but also affect is vision where there are no rules in the world of sound. Instinct and freedom of expression has always been more important for Tiersen than his classical training but he doesn’t see his artistic journey as a series of random shifts. “I think that my music is not really changing, it’s just evolving. I need to feel that what I’m doing is genuine as it was at the beginning and in order to reach that, I need to explore new ways of making music. This is the only way for me to be able to play music and let ideas or inspirations come to me”.

Infinity does not only represent a return to acoustic music as the base for a new textured sound, it also stands for a connection with Nature through songs inspired by stones, minerals and their infinite nature. “I live on an island and I see nature, especially stones and stony places, all the time”. Le Phare, his third album, was inspired by the light house of the island that through his rays of lights revealed to Tiersen hidden details of the land. This time around he goes beneath the land, using different languages trying to reach a universal meaning. Steinn is sung in Icelandic, Grønjørð in Faroese and Ar Maen Bihan in Breton. The closing track of the album, Meteorite, is a true piece of poetry reciting “my heart could be a stone or a sponge” as to express our carelessness or openness towards the wonders of nature and our lives. “I am a massive fan of Aiden Moffat and I asked him if he was keen to write some lyrics about stones. He came back to me with this beautiful piece and when I first heard what he did, I thought that Meteorite had to be the last song”

I would never dare to say something like “out of tune” to someone like Yann Tiersen but as it slips out of my mouth, he gives me permission to use it to describe the somehow distorted and haunting melodies of Infinity. Every track is as complex and layered as the geologic process that formed the Grand Canyon, and yet the outcome is at times introspective and at times joyous like the first single A Midsummer Evening. “Everyone chose it, I guess because it is the catchy one I don’t know!” he sincerely tells me about it before continuing “You can say out of tunes because I love out of tune things. There is this piano at the beginning of the song and I detuned and actually during the whole recordings it was out of tune. When everybody found out they just said that maybe it was better to tune it, at least in one point of the song. It was funny!”

Despite being tired of talking about Amélie, Tiersen’s contribution to it, as well as on 2003 Good Bye Lenin! and 2008 Tabarly, are all examples of how the music for a film can sometimes be remembered much more than the film itself. What Tiersen explains to me is that he’s now far away from those little streets of Montmartre and that Amélie girl played by Audrey Tautou. “Actually I don’t really see it as an important moment of my life. I am happy with it, it’s a good film to have my music featured in but on the other hand, it is really far from what my music is about right now. I am also really far from the Parisian scene and though I am proud of it, I’m also a bit embarrassed because Paris is almost a concentrate of what I really hate; I hate Paris and people always think about it when listening to that soundtrack so, it’s strange to be associated with that since it’s far from me”.

It seems redundant to ask him about a possible new soundtrack in the future; in fact the answer is no. Still, Tiersen gives me an insightful point of view on the relationship between music and images: “I have never been into soundtracks; my former music is not a language but something really abstract. Making music is a sort of DIY for me and I want to be free to experiment and play with music. I really need to have fun with what I’m doing and, on top of that, I think that it’s impossible to make music from images. This is why I don’t really like soundtracks”. I can’t allow myself to be disappointed by his statement because, even if another soundtrack won’t come along, I now understand what he means: every album he makes is a soundtrack on its own and it’s up to us to imagine the film we want to see as we listen. On Infinity, he outlines a few details like his love for Iceland “I felt at home the first time I was there; it smelled and felt like home with its impressive nature” and his fascination with stones and minerals. The rest is left for our personal discovery.

As I picture him with his toys instruments in Iceland, I ask him about his first childhood memory about music, and just like the lighthouse that inspired Le Phare, light symbolizes his first encounter with music. “I know that what put me to music was light actually; it was an exhibition happening somewhere and it impressed me. You had to walk through many lights and there was music so, the whole thing really struck me. My memory is blurred but I definitely remember the feeling”. Those lights keep on showing him the way and one thing is for sure: they keep his teenage sensibility alive. “The hardest thing about being a musician is to keep playing, even if it’s not working. Beside that it is actually a dream life!” he say with no filters “my life didn’t change that much, I live as if I was still 15 thanks to music and the fact that it’s my living. It’s true, I became a father along the way, but I didn’t really change me. Growing up doesn’t mean that you can’t do silly things anymore; actually I do more silly things right now! I’m more in peace with myself and I enjoy my girlfriend and kids. As you grow up you enjoy the real things a bit more”.

Tiersen is ready for another extensive tour and will be presenting Infinity for the first time in an intimate show in London, at the ICA [Institute of Contemporary Arts] and having the chance to travel the world, and gaining access to different cultures is for him the only good thing about globalization. “I think it’s great to be able to communicate with the world, it’s brilliant. On the other hand, economical globalization is the worst thing that happened to us. It’s horrible and the opposite of what we do as artists. I’m afraid that this situation will lead to the end of the world; people are not able to find their place and feed themselves in this world. If we are able to talk to each other, we can rebel to all this and I think it’s the only way to avoid going to war, and save ourselves”.

Does Infinity also represent the artist’s desire for escapism? Not really, it’s more of a reflection or, as Tiersen simply tells me, “Infinity is life itself. It’s quite an optimistic vision on things like unity and life”. The sound of Infinity is not meant to provide us with some philosophical answers. Infinity is the pursuit of life itself, with its unsettling sounds, outburst of happiness and magnificent wonders. The language of Nature is as universal as the different languages we hear on the album. Yann Tiersen is the mere, and master-composer of a positive moment that allows us to experience our own view on mortality and immortality. “It’s good to be positive at the end of the journey, or at least at a certain part of your life”

Infinity is released on May 19th via Mute Records

Tour Dates and Tickets Info on www.yanntiersen.com

 

 

A Conversation with SAMARIS

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We usually think of Iceland as a magic place, a mysterious island beyond time and space where Nature still runs its course peacefully. It’s true that music coming from Iceland, from Björk to Sigur Rós, is as breathtaking as the islands’ landscapes, but progress and modernity is something that won’t hesitate to step into this fairytale land. This is one the many things The GROUND found out talking with Jófríður Ákadóttir, the enchanting voice behind Samaris. The trio, including clarinet player Áslaug Rún Magnúsdóttir and electronic producer Þórður Kári Steinþórsson, is set to release their new album Silkidrangar on May 5th, a piece of work where pagan voices collide with minimal electronic bits, creating an alienated space that feels like the perfect place to reconnect with Nature.

Silkidrangar transcends language and symbolism, casting a spell on the listeners who will discover the authenticity of Samaris’ music and their beloved island. Talking about tradition, modernity and the importance of surrealism, Jófríður welcomes us in the glacial yet romantic world of Samaris.

 HOW DID SAMARIS CAME TOGETHER?

Áslaug and I have been friends for a long time, we both attended the same music school and played the clarinet. We were really bored of everyday life so, we started talking about making a band that would do something different. Áslaug knew about Þórður being a producer, they went to the same elementary school, and so we contacted him to explain the idea we had in mind. He was on our same wavelength and this is how we went to the studio in our school. The outcome was this: Samaris. It’s the name of this female character from François Schuiten’s graphic novel called ‘The Walls Of Samaris’

I GUESS THERE MUST BE A GREAT CHEMISTRY AMONG THE THREE OF YOU…

I guess we all have a great chemistry because we are all good friends. I think a lot about the melodies and chords’ structure, basically about the notes and the way they come together. Þórður thinks a lot about the sound and groove we want to give to the music. It is a very interesting process because we get inspirations from very different directions.

ARE THE LYRICS OF YOUR NEW ALBUM STILL BASED ON 19TH CENTURY’S POEMS

Yes, definitely. We kept on using that concept and develop it a little further; it’s very interesting to us because it represents the whole idea of combining everything we love. I love very much folk music and traditional music while Þórður is all about the 90s, house music and electro music. Áslaug brings in the classical elements, from the clarinet and her classical music training, so these combinations become our sound. This is our ground and when we create, we layer on top of it; it’s our inspiration.

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 WHAT ARE THEY ABOUT?

They all have some sort of mysterious feel to them, and they say a lot about Nature. Most of them are from the Romantic era, when poets were allowed to love Nature and had big feelings towards it; they respected Nature and were even scared of it: this is something we do really appreciate. They’re also about the circles of life and love to a certain extent, there’s some kind of love conflicts in a few songs but always in a mysterious way. It is not a direct language, the poetry covers up the meaning so you have to think about what is happening and what are they trying to tell you.

‘SILKIDRANGAR’, THE TITLE OF YOUR ALBUM, MEANS ‘SILK CLIFF‘. WHAT IMAGE DID YOU WANT TO CONVEY?

We wanted to give a very sort of visual title because when you hear it, or at least when you know the translation, you get an image in your mind. You think of something surreal that doesn’t really exist but at the same time it’s very beautiful and it feels distant. All of these sensations can be captured in one word, ‘Silkidrangar’, and it means a lot to us. It’s not even a real word, it’s a put-together word.

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 WHAT DOES INSPIRE YOU VISUALLY?

We have been working a lot with faces for our album covers, the previous one had a face of a baby on it and you couldn’t see his eyes; he’s like a crying baby. It was more of a painting with a surreal feel to it. The cover for this one is not a painting but a combination of thoughts that we put together in a way that you don’t really know what it is. Your brain sort of makes a face out of it and it’s very interesting. It is usually about faces, or dogs or a lion! Anything surreal and symbolic that triggers a reaction. You have to use your imagination, at least to some extent, when you listen to us. We sing in Icelandic after all, and you don’t know what’s happening.

HAVE YOU EVER CONSIDERED TO SING IN ENGLISH?

We have definitely considered it, we thought it would be fun but we don’t want to translate the lyrics. We would rather create song in English from scratch, so it would be true to itself. I don’t like it when musician write something in one language and then they just translate it; it looses the original idea, so we’d rather work the other way round.

MANY PEOPLE ARE FASCINATED BY ICELAND’S MUSIC AND LANDSCAPES. WHY DO YOU THINK IT IS SO APPEALING?

It think it is because people don’t know much about Iceland, it’s a sort of isolated place and most of the people haven’t been there so they have a fairytale idea of what is happening there. I think this is why people are fascinated by Iceland and I personally appreciate that they think about its nature because it is something we have to preserve and protect. I wish everyone would do something to support it and that our music could make people think about this in some way, and make them want to try to protest against some injustices happening right now. Big companies, especially from abroad, often come to build huge factories and the Icelandic government is weak sometimes, because it only thinks about the money. They don’t see that building factories, trying to make energy out of the nature, is actually ruining nature itself. They should protect it because there is only one Iceland in the world, this is the only land we have and we must not destroy it to make money out of it. It is a very special place and it has to be like that forever without declining.

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WHAT WAS YOUR MAIN FOCUS BEHIND THE ALBUM?

We thought about more details for this album and through the sound we wanted to create an experience the whole from the first song to the last. If you listen to the album you have to think about that, you have to think about its context because nothing has been added by chance. There are also more details in the percussion for example, and we used the clarinet to create sounds-capes rather than melodies.

IS THERE ANYONE WHO INSPIRES YOU VOCALLY?

I was very much inspired by Joni Mitchell when I was a kid. I know we don’t sound the same at all but I was inspired by her songwriting. She’s my favorite singer.

THE VIDEO FOR ‘Góða Tungl‘ IS VERY SYMBOLIC, WHAT WAS THE IDEA BEHIND IT?

The idea behind it is what people do when they can’t sleep. It’s about sleeplessness and the song is like an ode to the moon and how it helps and lends its light to those who are tired and suffering. The video builds around that and what happens in darkness, how the creatures of the darkness go into the light. It almost got a sexual feel to it at the end, it gets a bit provocative and I like that.

HOW DOES IT FEEL TO TRAVEL THE WORLD COMING FROM SUCH AN UNSPOILED PLACE?

I love traveling, it is good to go to big cities. Reykjavik is so small and when you go abroad, you get the feeling that you belong to a much bigger crowd. Keeping a balance is not easy, we travel a lot, jumping back and forth; the last few months have been a strange way of living. In the future we won’t come back home often, so we will get more out of each journey and each day. Traveling is a healthy and necessary thing for someone who comes from a small society. It feels good being on the road to promote Something you have been having in the make for so long. It’s like having a baby in your stomach and giving birth to it. I guess it’s the same feeling, though I never had a baby before, so I don’t know!

IS FASHION SOMETHING IMPORTANT FOR SAMARIS?

We just get inspirations from the internet, we pick a few things that we love and put them on right before the show! Sometimes we make things ourselves and we get help from our designers and visual artists friends. It’s very spontaneous, we don’t have one specific theme we work on, it’s always different time to time.

HOW DOES IT FEEL BEING A FEMALE ARTIST IN TODAY’S MUSIC BUSINESS?

I think it’s good to be a woman, it’s getting better and better. We are reaching this point where men and women will be equal; that’s my hope at least. Pop music culture is all about sexuality and if you are a woman, you should be selling your body along with your voice. Our scene is more liberated, we are free to do what we want without playing with our sexualities I am not saying it is a bad thing to do, there are no problems in showing off your body as long as it comes from yourself. It’s wrong when someone is telling you that you can’t make a music video without wearing a bikini.

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YOUR FAVORITE LINE FROM THE ALBUM IS…

My favorite song of the album is the first. I really like the feel so the baseline is my favorite line

 

‘Silkidrangar’ is out May 5th on One Little Indian / Pre-order on iTunes available now

Official Website http://www.samaris.is

 

A Conversation with LIARS – a MESS on a mission / The GROUND Magazine

Read it on The GROUND Magazine

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Endless choices lead to endless possibilities and while for some people this condition may result in anxiety and paranoia, Liars apply these side effects at the basis of their creativity and drive. They always manage to take unexpected turns with every release, miles away from their previous work and yet without compromising their identity. From punk-funk, garage rock, dance-punk and even modified drum sounds on 2006′s Drum’s Not Dead Liars’ attempt to experiment with electronic music created the introspective and self-analytical 2012′s WIXIW. Ahed of the release of their seventh album Mess, The Ground spoke to band member Angus Andrew who explains to us what it means to “not only face fear but chewing it up and spitting it back out in all its technicolor glory”. This is the new schizophrenic sound of Liars, aiming for the first time to create a beautiful and colorful mess out of the doubts and fears of our real, yet very fictional, existence.

“It is beautiful here in LA” Angus tells me as soon as I get on the phone with him, but it’s not another ordinary sunny morning in LA, it is the day after the Oscars. “All the celebrities left town” he remarks sounding relieved about it even tough Mess is the band’s third album recorded in the City Of Angels. 2010′s Sisterworld focused on the struggle of finding your own space and identity in  a city like LA while WIXIW saw them intentionally retire into an isolated cabin in the wood to completely remove themselves from the ephemeral and plastic reality of the city. The recording sessions, aimed to analyze their internal anxieties, gave life to a beautifully crafted electronic piece of work. In line with their drastic musical shifts, Mess hides a new intention, to finally attack fear, and music, from a different angle in the same city where false promises and discarded dreams can turn out to be a source of inspiration or at least reflection. “LA can be enticing and it’s difficult to navigate away from that. I was living in Berlin before and that was perfect for avoiding all of this. I felt really nicely isolated because I didn’t speak German and it felt like being in a little bubble. I could cocentrate on my own work with no distractions but in LA is the exact opposite, I’m constantly defending myself from the onslaught of media and things trying to grab my attention. It’s difficult but at the same time possibly inspiring too”.

I think about how schizophrenic LA can be since the day before, as I was listening to Mess for the first time, I felt like I was being assaulted by the analogue synths and electric drum pads. It sounds intense and it literally leaves you breathless track after track, as you witness a direct moment of pure instinct and purposeful abandon. Unlike WIXIW this album doesn’t give you time to stop and think, starting with the opening track Mask Maker. “Generally with the whole record I just wanted to have a lot more fun. WIXIW was a great experience but it was very heavy and quite dark. It was a really tough record to make and it took us a really long time and I wanted this one to be the exact opposite. It had to be spontaneous and immediate to kind of get back to the idea of having fun with making music rather than struggling. The reason why I wanted it to be the first track is because it exemplifies this concept. When I did that vocals that you hear at the start, I spent a few hours in my studio kind of talking to myself in that voice and recording it. It got stranger and stranger as I kept going but I loved the feeling and spontaneity of it. If I had been in the mindset I was when we made WIXIW I propably would have thought about it for a month and then decided that maybe it wasn’t the right thing to do. Instead with this record I was like that’s it, that’s what we are doing, let’s just live with it! It is a good track to start.”

The doubts Liars always had about human conditions and relationships were the same they experienced with electronic music but in Mess they are almost nonexistent, at least the ones about electronic. “I always wondered how to rid myself of doubt” he sings in Voc D.E.D and questioning everything may just be the reason of their distinctive sound. “Particularly with WIXIW we where making a record for the first time with electronic instruments and what that meant is that we had a manual open all the time, trying to figure out how to use everything. It was very uncertain to me but part of that was a good thing because being in a mood of questioning everything brought out an interesting sort of sensitivity to the music. On the other hand it is also a bit of a plague and with Mess I wanted to avoid that and the best thing to do was just to work faster. It really helped to get rid of that doubt”.

It’s interesting that despite more than ten years in the music business, Liars’s journey has never been a process of reinvention or a strategy plan to keep their sound fresh all the time. Their journey may be defined as an anthropological one, a study on identity and the culture of our generation: anxiety. “I think this idea of too many choices which leads to a certain amount of paranoia and fear is a very common idea for a lot of people today. The song Dress Walker is about this kind of modern situation you may find yourself in. You are overwhelmed by all the possibilities, the amount of media that we get bombarded with everyday and all the choices you have in terms of life itself. Everything isn’t that compartmentalized as it used to be, even in music. You were a rock band or a jazz musician and now every rock band is an electronic artist and vice versa, everything is very mixed up in a  way. Obviously it is a great thing but it’s also paralyzing. I personally feel overwhelmed with choices in every part of my life and it is not an easy thing to deal with. Sometimes what I try to do is to block everything out or say to myself I’m not going to turn on the TV or the radio, I’m just going to focus on these books that I have. Also having a walk somewhere where there are no billboards can help. Most people have strong feelings inside about what they really want to do and achieve but the problem is that they get pushed around by all these other stuff going on. For example, it is difficult for me to listen to pop radio because I know what I want to make musically but if I listen to a new Gaga song, suddenly I’m like Oh my God I really like that , but it’s really not what I wanna be doing.”

The universe of Liars, just like LA, is an endless dichotomy but when it comes to music their challenge is to produce uncommon sounds with common tools. Technological progress is ever-growing and this definitely contributes to Angus’ anxiety and his way of making music. He actually talks about the insanity of progress in the song Pro Anti Anti but not because he’s a traditional guy. “It’s just admitting that it is hard to keep up with technology. There are artists who embrace technology just like a photographer who is really up on all the new equipments and saves his money to buy the latest lens or camera but there are also the ones who just want to shoot images with their crappy old camera. It’s the same with music but I don’t love the idea of keeping track of the new trends, instruments and programs. I wish I was more technologically advanced but at the same time I don’t want to use the apps on the iPad to make music, it is not interisting to me. I see how it could be and I love that Björk is into that for example but it’s not me”.

Mess On A Mission is the first single off the album and despite its immediacy, it raises the problem of what is real and what is not. In the song, Angus almost commands the listeners to “trash the book the film’s half based on” but if life is a film, on which book is it based on for him? “I just have to go with my gut reaction and that would be Charlie and the Chocolate Factory just because ever since I was a kid I really connected with the character of Charlie Bucket. He’s a very poor kid but with big dreams. The whole movie kind of speaks interestingly about society, greed and the way people take advantage of each other. Groundhog Day with Bill Murray could be another option”. It also seems necessary to mention and remind oneself that “facts are facts and fiction’s fiction” no matter how near of far we live from the Hollywood hills. Angus tells me “the most basic fact to live by is that you gotta be honest, with yourself most of all. That’s where our band’s name kind of comes from because we’re really trying to be honest. The biggest fiction is success, money, popularity and all these things that make for a good life. I think that’s just bullshit. The most important thing is to be happy with what you do yourself, that’s the key to living a good life”.

Julian Gross, the drummer of the band, is also the maker of the artwork for Mess and the long colorful thread that we have been seeing in the album’s trailers. Inspired by contemporary artist Urs Fischer and conceptual artist John Baldessari, Liars wanted to manipulate something in a live setting, as to express their uneasiness towards life in a fucked up, but most importantly vibrant way. “I love contemporary art, particularly conceptual art, that’s where I get a lot of inspiration from. The simple idea that the idea itself is the most important thing rather than the product and end result fascinates me. I love that because it removes this emphasis on technical skills. I like the idea that anyone who has a very interesting idea can put it forward without being a professional painter or musician. The idea of a ‘mess’ is obviously what we where trying to talk about and it is a very personal sort of subjective opinion. If you walked into my bedroom right now you would say that there’s such a mess but ,ayne for me it’s actually really clean. It’s just a way of seeing things differently and I like that about our artwork. One person can look at it and think oh that’s just a pile of strings but another person can realize that it is a very specifically placed and very worked on piece”. Where does he intend to lead his fans following that string in the trailers? “Hopefully it is leading people to think about how they asses what they see in everyday life. To make them think about, or second guess, whether they think what they saw is what it really is”.

Doubt and uncertainty once again. Mess may be a cathartic experience and a way to release some pressure on the subject but sticking to electronic music to finally find some sort of balance doesn’t seem the solution. The more unstable the territory, the more likely is the chance to find Liars there on a mission. “If I had to guess I wouldn’t bet any money at the moment. We spent quite a bit of time now with electronic instruments and I do find myself thinking about how nice it would be to sit in a room with an acoustic guitar and a microphone and just have fun. It is exciting to not know what we are doing next but I’m pretty sure it would be another change. For example I really love that kind of electronic music which uses a lot of acoustic instruments. The Civil War by a band called Matmos made me think a lot about how you could use traditional instruments in a way that was taking advantege of the modern technology and tools. Liars approach music in lots of different ways when making an album; you can be conceptual about it, focus on a particular idea and experiment in a way that you are pretty confident that you’ll end up being uncertain about what you are doing. All of these approaches end up giving you a different but interesting result”.

I can almost picture the trio in the studio dealing with this intricate net of sounds and possibilities but at least for this album they didn’t question too much what they were doing and part of that was in the better understanding of the tools they were using. Mess is a manipulation meant to create fun and color. It was necessary as Angus explains to me “you spend a year or two working on an album and then you go on tour for about a year and that whole time your mind and expression is based around that album. When we get past that point it always makes us want to try something different to experiment with and I think that’s really the way it works. I love the idea of being a band like The Ramones and being able to make a record over and over and make it sound awesome. I also admire people who can be great guitar players for example and choose to keep on playing the same instrument in order to get better at it but as you said before maybe I’m too schizophrenic for that!”

As the album comes to an end, Liars tastefully place Left Speaker Blown as the closing track. It is the quiet moment after a party or a concert. The moment where your mind is still while your ears are buzzing. Every intense experience needs to end like this and despite singing “I hope you never learn how to play music” this is a personal moment of reflection as you finally allow yourself to take a deep breath. “What I was trying to talk about is the idea that when you play music and write songs you express yourself in a way that sometimes could be a little hard for people to swallow. You are constantly putting yourself out there into the world with quite personal feelings more than a lot of people do. As a musician I do it on a regular basis so it makes you very vulnerable. The idea of what it is to be a musician is evolving so much just like technology and you feel certain obligations to keep up with it. Obviously nowadays it has so much more to do with everything except the music but I’m always very interested in the visual aspects. Nevertheless, if you just compare the different mediums of being an artist, the ones who really put themselves out there the most are songwriters. A visual artist or a painter certainly do the same but not in such a direct way of expression. Not even an actor could do that. Songwriters talk about themselves putting words to music and are really speaking directly from their souls”.


The world may be evolving too fast and forcing us to adapt and synchronize our personalities as easily as we do with our iPhones but isn’t this the endless conditions every human being faces over and over? LA, life, and a piece of work from a contemporary artist can be so full of nonsense and meaning at the same time and instead of looking for an answer, Liars let their sensibilities float on this beautiful mess; the only way to create music that never lies. “All I know is that there is an equal chance that what we are doing next is moving to Fiji or making a jazz record. The opportunities are wide open and that’s the only thing I can be confident about”.

Facts are facts and fiction’s fiction.

 

MESS is released on March 24th (25th USA) – Mute Records

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Boy George / Interview / HungerTV

Read my interview with Boy George on HUNGER TV

Last week we caught up with a boy who recently released his first album in 18 years, but since we are not talking about any old boy but Boy George himself, these years have been everything but a hiatus. As the leader of the 80s Grammy Award winning band Culture Club, the first band since The Beatles to have three Top Ten hits in America from a debut album, Boy George’s impact on culture has been ever present, even during his multifaceted solo career.

The iconic and androgynous performer behind the drag queen make up and countless colourful hats has come a long way to prove that what he does best is entertain. In fact, “This Is What I Do” is the title of his latest album, a little gem that serves as a reminder that this is an artist who always has made us hit the dance floor, and probably always will. Boy George is one of a handful of 80s artists still relevant in today’s music industry and has survived not just the changes ion music but also drug addiction and arrests. But as David Bowie, one of his biggest inspirations used to sing, “boys keep swinging, boys always work it out” and here Boy George tells Hunger TV what it feels like being the “King Of Everything” now that he has finally found a balance in his life and musical reign. In a music business where “pop stars don’t want to bake their own pies anymore”, the perpetual chameleon is ready to reveal all the projects he’s keeping under his hat, including a long-awaited Culture Club reunion and a new version of the stage musical Taboo, inspired by the work of performance artist Leigh Bowery.

“THIS IS WHAT I DO” IS YOUR FIRST OFFICIAL ALBUM IN 18 YEARS BUT YOU HAVE BEEN KEEPING BUSY WITH COLLABORATIONS, DJ SETS, GIGS AND A MUSICAL. WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?

I think probably Taboo, the musical, because I was writing and staging my life and those of the people who influenced me and were part of my growing up. I have just rewritten “Taboo” again with the original writer; we spent the last year working on a new script. I think it’s a braver and bolder version of Taboo. I’ve always thought that the best bits of the show were the bravest bits and that Taboo ahead of its time so we’ve put a lot more truth into it and taken more risks. Theatre is one of those things where you can go back; you can’t redo an album or a painting, although you can do it with a painting if you are Banksy! Weirdly there is a performance of Taboo happening in New York in February, a two night’s celebration of the musical and it sold out in an hour which is amazing. Unfortunately the critics in America hated it but on the other hand the Broadway community loved the show and this is the reason why the shows are happening next month, it’s very sweet to me. I think I’ve answered your question but let me also say that when I wrote Taboo, I had that great kind of praise in terms of reviews that I’ve never had in my career. I got possibly one of the greatest write ups about my writing so I’ve always been very proud of this piece of work.

YOU SAID THAT MAKING THIS ALBUM WAS THE “MOST STRESS-FREE RECORDING EXPERIENCE EVER”. IS YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS ANY DIFFERENT WHEN WORKING IN THIS STATE OF MIND?

I think that what you do is reflect on your condition, whether it is physical, spiritual, emotional, or mental because all of those things play a big part in what you do creatively. Being a little crazy works when you’re 19 but as you get older, people want different things from you and you want different things for yourself. We forgive young beautiful people a lot don’t we? Your ambitions change, your reasons for doing what you do change. Music is a hobby for me, I make my living from DJing and that is my career, music is my passion and something I have to do whether it sells or not, whether it’s popular or unpopular, I just can’t live without it. With this record I didn’t want to sound like I was trying too hard. Classic things really work for me at the moment, classic sounds and…classic tailoring!

THE VIDEO FOR “MY GOD!” IS QUITE ECLECTIC, HOW DID IT COME TOGETHER?

I did the video with Dean Stockings at my house, putting on some backdrops and just literally did it on a shoestring because we spent all the money on the first video for “King of Everything”! So we had to kind of do it ourselves but it was real fun. We messed around with different looks, wigs, hats, and had as much fun as possible which I think really come across in the video.

WE ALSO GET TO SEE YOU WITHOUT A HAT…

Yes and I have been wearing a lot of old things too lately, things I’ve had for thirty years in the cupboard that fit me again! So I have been discovering little gems here and there, I am so glad I kept them because they still work and seem fresh somehow. As for the hat I get a lot of the big ones from A Child of the Jago in Shoreditch, he’s a son of Vivienne Westwood and they do great hats.

IN “BIGGER THAN WAR” YOU SING THAT NO ONE IS BIGGER THAN YOKO ONO AND YOU ALSO COVER HER SONG, “DEATH OF SAMANTHA”. WHAT DO YOU ADMIRE ABOUT YOKO?

She’s a great character and as a woman she’s quite formidable. She has always been very true to herself, and put up with a lot of abuses over the years, but she has always been quite dignified. I love her music most of all, I am a big Yoko fan and that song is beautiful with some great lyrics. When people say she doesn’t sing and that she only screams I would say to them to listen to this song and they’re always surprised. Her version is really beautiful.

A LINE FROM THE SONG SAYS “SOMETHING INSIDE ME DIED THAT DAY”. METAPHORICALLY SPEAKING, WHAT PART OF YOURSELF DIED THAT YOU ARE HAPPY ABOUT?

That is quite extreme! In a way the easiest answer would be my desire and appetite for self-destruction. I look at myself now and the way I do things and I can’t imagine ever being any other way. I can’t imagine being that kind of neurotic, highly drunk that I was in the past and I think, Oh God how did I live like that? How did I have a career?” When you are in the moment you’re just in it and it feels normal to be like that, it is only when you have something to kind of balance it that your perception changes. In a way we are all a work in progress, I don’t think you get older and wiser just because you’re getting older; you have to kind of change. The longer you stick around the smarter you get, you have to change things and say to yourself this is not working anymore”.

IN WHICH WAY WOULD YOU SAY THAT BUDDHISM IS WORKING FOR YOU?

It is a real, basic common sense kind of practice I suppose. The question you ask yourself as a Buddhist is what are you going to do about it?” As a practice it is something you have to do like when someone tells you “I love you” for example. It sounds very nice but you kind of need evidence as well. Buddhism is evidence based so there is a practice you do daily and it changes the energy around you; they refer to the chanting as “polishing your mirror” because you get a more clear vision of what you want to say or be, and chanting Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō is basically saying “I believe in the law of cause and effect” so, everything I do, say, think, and the way I behave makes a difference. In that respect it is a verb, Buddhism is a verb, like love.

“IT’S EASY” IS QUITE A SAD SONG ON YOUR ALBUM ABOUT LOVE. WHAT IS YOUR PERSONAL UNDERSTANDING OF LOVE NOW?

I’m not in a relationship right now but it doesn’t mean I am lonely because usually when you say that you are not in a relationship everybody goes “Oooh”. At this point I am not somebody who has to be in a relationship, I want quality not quantity. For someone to come along and interrupt my schedule… Well they have to be pretty damn spectacular! As you get older it becomes harder because you are much more set in your ways and less flexible, when you are 20 you want to change people around and you have the energy for that but right now, oh fuck off! I am kind of relieved that I don’t have that kind of panic that I used to have about finding a boyfriend. In this day and age there may be a lot of ways to find a boyfriend but finding a good quality one is still as hard as it ever was.

WHAT WOULD YOU BRING BACK FROM THE 80S THAT IN YOUR OPINION WOULD BENEFIT TODAY’S MUSIC SCENE?

First of all, in this country we have this kind of attitude that if you are over a certain age you can’t get played on the radio. Everything is like a formula and I want to be able to hear everything, even things that I don’t like! That’s why I love the 70s because it was the craziest decade in music, you had punk, rock, disco, Cliff Richards, and reggae all going on at the same time. Nowadays if you are not 16 and you don’t sound like everybody else they won’t play your record. The downside of technology is that everyone can make a record in their bedroom but nobody is really making anything particularly interesting. I mean there is always great music being made but usually it is from guitar bands. I am more interested in rock bands because pop music is such a formula, even someone like Lady Gaga. What she does is still EDM and if you listen to the new Beyoncé album it is EDM as well so basically everybody wants a piece of the same pie. Nobody wants to bake their own pies anymore! The instinct is still there but I think that what is happening right now is that the industry is run by radio programmers and the artists don’t dictate the art form anymore, they do only in the alternative scene. There are definite rules about how you have to sound in the pop world and I hear lots of people saying oh she’s the new Adele or the new whoever” when she hasn’t even been around for a year and I say, “Hellooo, why do you want a new one already?!” It is a funny time for music, I think the most interesting thing you can be is yourself and you have to work out how you are going to do something without falling into that trap of “I must make a record like this”, or “I must work with this person and dress like this”. Ultimately you just have to do your own thing and as Tom Waits once said, it’s like with prostitutes and monuments, if you stick around long enough you’ll get respected! I love that; I should have that put on my bed in neon lights!

IN A DOCUMENTARY ON YOUR LIFE YOU RECALLED BEING TOLD YOU WERE A ‘FAG’ AT THE AGE OF SIX. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO KIDS WHO ARE STILL GOING THROUGH THE SAME THING?

I think it is not that you want to hear anything. I think as an older man I realize that when you are a kid, almost everything about you is a target like the way you wear glasses or maybe you are a bit fat or not really pretty. Being any kind of kid is very difficult, you hear certain things like “fag” or “puff” and you imagine that you are the only one being called names. I remember kids at school were so vile but a lot of that comes from families. If you grow up in a family where you hear that kind of language then you’re going to repeat it. Kids don’t know what they are saying or meaning so it’s adults’ responsibility to say that something is not acceptable, in the same way they do with racist language for example. We need the same kind of attitude towards any kind of bullying and we just need to be kinder, there is a lot of work to be done and attacking is never the answer. Attacking Putin and making T-shirts with his face wearing makeup on it doesn’t really help, it is a kind of media reaction.

I like Ben Cohen’s anti-bullying campaigns, what he’s doing is brilliant. We need more people like him and straight people to stand up and say “you know what? What is your problem?” that is where the change is going to come from. Gays have been through a huge evolution, we have had AIDS and so many other things to deal with that we are kind of empowered and in the end of the day this is not our problem, it’s their fucking problem! There is nothing wrong with me and I don’t need to adopt or mimic your lifestyle, I don’t need to get married or to be like you, because there is nothing wrong with me anyway. The other thing that I try to explain to people is that being gay takes up about two or three hours of my week, on a good week if I’m lucky! My “gayness” only covers that amount of time in my life because like any other gay person I have other things to do like working and paying bills. Do people think that all we do is just sex? This is the problem with lots of homophobic people; they only focus on the sexual aspect of what gay people do.

IS CULTURE CLUB REALLY HAPPENING IN 2014? WHAT ARE WE TO EXPECT IN THE NEW YEAR?

We’ll start writing together soon but until we’ll get the music right we can’t really decide on how we’re going to do things. Obviously I am concentrating on my record now; it’s coming out in Europe so I will promote but we are also doing a dub version of the album, hopefully it will be ready in June for my birthday, it’s a slightly more indulgent version of “This Is What I Do” called “This Is What I Dub”. I am also doing some shows in April; all of the songs really work live so it’s a pleasure to play them.

WHAT CROSSES YOUR MIND WHEN YOU LOOK IN THE MIRROR WIPING OFF YOUR MAKE UP AFTER A GIG?

How have I got it all off?! It’s because when you wake up in the morning there is always this bit of black on your eyes, it gets stuck so I try to make sure I’ve done a really good job when I wipe it off. There is nothing worse than going for a coffee at Starbucks and having everyone staring at me. The great thing about makeup is that when I’m not wearing it I can be anonymous and people say “is that him? I don’t know!”  This is why I make sure I get it all off properly.

WHAT ARE YOU HUNGRY FOR?

Tolerance is something I’m hungry for. Compassion and humor as well. It is incredible how much intolerance there is in the world, it is 2014 and we are still having the same kind of conversations… And food of course! Food is really important, we can’t exist without it and I would probably say that I am almost obsessed with food. I dream about what I’m going to eat next! A raw cheesecake, or bread! But only when I am in Italy though; when I’m there I always think, “He brought me bread so I have to eat it!”

 “My God” the second single from “This is What I Do” is released on the 26th of January and it features a cover of Lana Del Rey’s “Video Games”

Info and Tickets for the upcoming UK Tour on http://www.boygeorgeuk.com/

 

Madonna #SECRETPROJECTREVOLUTION

Read it on Hunger TV

Long time partners in crime Madonna and Steven Klein join forces again for one of the most talked about hashtags of the year #SecretProjectRevolution

After months of rumors on the nature of this project, the Queen of Pop unveiled this 17 minute black and white short film, directed by Klein with one ambitious intention: to start a revolution of love.

 

A few minutes into the film, we see Madonna brutally imprisoned by some guards, and a quote from French director Jean-Luc Godard appears,

“All you need for a movie is a gun and a girl”

As we see Madonna walking through her tour dancers, shooting each one of them in cold blood along the notes of the sumptuous “Satin Birds” by Abel Korzeniowski, who composed the music for her last directorial effort “W.E”, there is a very honest and necessary moment of revelation. “I want to start a revolution but no one is taking me seriously. Instead I am a woman, I am blond, and I have an insatiable desire to be noticed”.

Madonna SecretProjectRevolution GIF Steven Klein 001

A claustrophobic scene is set before our very eyes where her body is scrutinized as she does what people want her to do: being provocative and obscene. “Show us your ass” is heard in the background, and it is vital for the integrity of the film to make this statement: she doesn’t care what we think of her, she never did after all, but this time it is important to listen to what she has to say. Madonna makes herself vulnerable and reachable, showing her bare naked soul, resulting more outrageous than the times when she was simulating masturbation on stage in the 90′s, performing “Live To Tell” on a cross like Jesus Christ during her Confessions Tour, or showing her ass during last year MDNA Tour. Yes, she did all of these things and many more but… “still… I want to start a revolution”.

During one of her most in-depth interview in years with Vice, who curated with Madonna the global digital Art For Freedom initiative, she explained how the Secret Project is not something she wanted to do but a manifesto that needed to be divulged. She started noticing how the world was collapsing and things that went against the rights of human beings and artists – “I can’t separate the two of them by the way”.

Israel was about to bomb Iran as soon as her last tour started, Pussy Riot was sentenced, and 87 people were arrested by the police during her show in St. Petersburg for being gay. In France, far-right politician Marie Le Pen sent skinhead to boycott her concert, and while young Malala was shot simply for wanting to go to school, in America people live in a state of complacency, “What is a life and death situation in other countries is taken for granted in America”. By the time the tour arrived in South America Madonna was on fire, outraged and decided to shoot with Steven a series of shots where dancers were expressing themselves and their interior struggle improvising dance moves. The rest was added later on as the project shaped, born from a pure, unorganised stream of consciousness.

Madonna SecretProjectRevolution GIF Steven Klein 011

Madonna aims to represent herself not only an artist but a human being imprisoned by people who are afraid of anyone who is different. There is a dark and sinister atmosphere in the film with Klein’s unmistakable style and enhanced by the music that guides us through a world of violence for no reason. A lingering possibility of redemption is also present though and is up to us to grab it because “the enemy is not out there, the enemy is within”.

“I used to think I had a thick skin but now I feel like I’ve been skinned alive”, says Madonna’s narrating voice to metaphorically portray the death of an artist and of creativity in this world of branding. The most moving part is an androgynous looking and almost naked dancer, flowing along the sublime notes of the exquisite “Evgeni’s Waltz”, dancing for his life under the eyes of the guards.

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At this year’s Billboard Awards she said “I have the best dancers” and this is true, they defy gravity and the limit of dance styles’ definitions. This scene is inspired by a controversial 1974 art film by Italian director Liliana Cavani, The Night Porter Madonna explains, “Nazis allowed Jews to stay alive if they had a talent. They wanted to be entertained” and this is why dancer Chaz Buzan is fighting with its own, rare, unique art as the guards watch intrigued, amazed and repulsed at the same time. He dances with no labels or limits and Madonna singing the American National Anthem in this scenario may just be the biggest provocation of her career.

A baby carriage is burning, reminding of the iconic scene of the baby in the carriage falling down the Odessa Steps in the film Battleship Potemkin, a prisoner is beaten up and Madonna is crying before hiding under her cell bed. Even the most famous, successful woman and icon of our times is afraid. “Why did I let doubt into my belief system? WHY?” she sorrowfully asks herself. Parts of speeches given on stage during the tour are playing from the speakers, “We can change this, we have the power, you cannot use religion or God’s name to treat other people badly!” This revolution is not about religion, politics, or taxes and it is not going to be an app on our iPhones. It is a revolution to affirm our right to be who we are, someone unique, rare, and fearless without seeking approval from anyone.

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There is no happy ending; the revolution is on, and for real. The Secret Project has been premiered where a revolution is supposed to happen: on the streets. Madonna always managed to make people come together with her music and always promoted freedom of expression during her shows. We can easily say that her whole career stands for this and like her or not, her voice is always strong.

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Four screenings of the film took place during the same day in London, LA, Rome, Berlin, Tel Aviv and many other cities in the world giving a true and straightforward feel of urgency about this serious cause. The Queen of the revolution was in NYC at the Gagosian Gallery introducing this project as “the most important thing in my life, aside from my children” and singing a mesmerising rendition of Elliot Smith’s 1977 song “Between The Bars” while her son Rocco was dancing besides her. Is her new music going to be influenced by this state of mind? We hope so.

“Incarceration of any kind makes you want to fight for your freedom and I am attracted to that”, Madonna continues in the interview. She has always been inspired by revolutionary women, and artists, like painter Frida Kahlo, dancer Martha Graham and poetess Anne Sexton since her childhood. She is a freedom fighter right now and the photo posted on Instagram of the golden grillz she has been wearing recently, laying on the map of the world, means that she is ready to conquer the world all over again. Other artists will be invited to this movement but everyone can and must share their experiences through videos, music, poetry and photography on the Art For Freedom website or by tagging their posts #artforfreedom. Innocence has been lost, civilization has lost empathy, and this is an emotional revolution to make people understand that they have a voice and someone who will fight for them. “I’m in this for real, I will fight and go as far as I have to go” is Madonna’s promise, pleasure, and pain.

“Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you” Jean Paul Sartre

“Are you with me?” and “What does freedom mean to you?” are Madonna’s and Steven Klein’s questions. Join the revolution by sharing your view and who you are through your art, even if you haven’t been directly persecuted.

To take part, visit ArtForFreedom

MOBY / Interview / HungerTV

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Read it on HungerTV

Following a two year hiatus Moby’s new album “Innocents” drops at the end of September and Hunger TV had an exclusive pre-listen before exchanging a few words with one of the most innovative musicians in electronic and popular music.

Working for the first time with an outside producer, friend Mark “Spike” Stent, (Massive Attack, Bjork, Muse and Madonna) the album features many collaborators including alt-rock legend Mark Lanegan, Cold Speck’s and Inyang Bassey’s soulful voices, Wayne Coyne from The Flaming Lips, and indie-folk singer Damien Jurado. Moby named them “the innocents” and the result is an exquisitely lo-fi, idiosyncratic, emotional, melodic album that reflects his musical ingenuity and ability to retrofit antiquated styles and archaic sounds to the electronic age. He may be a raver at heart but this time around his music embraces human vulnerability and celebrate imperfections. Instead of taking off the mask, here Moby tells us why he never really needed to wear one.

 

YOUR PREVIOUS ALBUM, “DESTROYED” WAS RELEASED IN 2011, HOW WAS THE CREATIVE PROCESS LEADING UP TO “INNOCENTS”?

I tend to work pretty constantly which is not to say that I have a particularly good work ethic. I’ve been recently asked how I became successful and to me it comes down to two things: I love what I do and I don’t really know how to do anything else. When I hear about musicians who take about five years in between albums I am honestly a bit jealous because it makes me think that they have really interesting lives and can take five years off to not work on music. I love to do many things, meeting up with friends, play with the dogs but my favourite thing to do is just being alone in my studio working on music. I never think too hard, whether it is going to turn into an album and after my long tour for Destroyed, I was finally able to come home and start working on music. I mean it is so strange making albums in 2013 because very few people buy albums and the ones who do, don’t even listen to them all the way through. I still love making albums though.

THE NEW ALBUM HAS BEEN RECORDED IN YOUR APARTMENT, JUST LIKE 2009′S “WAIT FOR ME”. HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR YOU TO BE ALONE WHEN MAKING MUSIC?

I guess this is because I am an only child and a solo musician so it feels very natural to be by myself in the studio. I like working with other people but somehow it feels unnatural and then when everyone leaves and I get to be by myself, it feels natural again. One thing that changed is that I moved to Los Angeles and this album is the first one I made in my studio in LA.

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YOU REALLY SEEM TO ENJOY LIVING IN LA, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO PEOPLE WHO OFTEN LABEL IT AS A “FAKE” CITY?

One of the problems with LA is that it’s so big and in many ways LA is the anti-city. When you talk about NYC, London, Paris, or Milan they all have a very clear centre that usually is the most beautiful part of the city and the farther you go from it the more run-down the city is. LA is the exact opposite; the middle of the city is the least attractive part and what happens is that people who visit it, like West Hollywood, see some really ugly aspects of the city and assume that everything in LA must look like that. All of the interesting and beautiful things about LA are on the outskirt where everyone lives so, unless you go there and have lots of friend who can show you around you’ll never see the nice bits.

THE VIDEO FOR “THE LONELY NIGHT” FLITS BETWEEN THE CALIFORNIAN DESERT AND THE ELECTRIC CITY EXPANSE OF LA. HOW DID THE CITY INSPIRE YOUR NEW ALBUM?

LA affected the album because so much weird music came out of here in the past forty years. Everything from Dr. Dre, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, to John Williams; LA is such a strange incubator for music. One of the very weird things about LA is that it has no cohesion. When you are in London you always know that you are in London, when in LA sometimes you feel like you are in Mexico, or in the middle of the desert, or in a urban environment. This lack of cohesion is part of what I love about it. It’s very odd and it would make so much more sense if people would think of it as a 150 different towns instead of a single city. LA County is the size of Belgium and this sense of vastness inspired the record. If I drive for ten miles behind my house I am in the middle of the desert, it stretches to Texas, whereas in European cities many other towns are close to each others. There is this sense of strange isolation, you have the Pacific Ocean on one hand, the huge desert on the other and LA is perched in this tiny little strip of land between the vastness of the ocean and the desert. A lot of the architecture and music definitely reflects this.

YOUR UPCOMING SINGLE “THE PERFECT LIFE” SOUNDS UPLIFTING AND JOYOUS COMPARED TO THE EPIC AND MELODIC NATURE OF THE ALBUM. ARE YOU TRYING TO SAY THAT A PERFECT LIFE MUST CONTAIN IMPERFECTIONS?

The song, in a weird way, was inspired by living in New York and having lots of friends who were drug addicts or alcoholics. By the way I feel sorry that we are talking about this because I feel like such a Southern California cliché. Anyway,  the theme of “Innocents” is trying to look at and understand how humans make sense of the human condition. It is the one thing that we all have in common, we are all humans and we are all confused; yes there are some people who are not, but I am. The very act of being human is baffling, we are alive for 80 or 90 years in a universe that is 15 billion years old and we contemplate what significance our lives have and the whole idea that every single thing we know, every single person we know,  at some point will go away. We try to have a good life without really knowing what it means to have one. That’s one of the reasons why I have always been interested in addicts; I mean I am an alcoholic myself. They are really almost distilling this question, “how do you have a good life?” and their answers are quite simple, it is one thing. For someone it might be heroin for example, they don’t need people, food, or sleep; they just need that one thing to have a perfect life. There is something very sort of simple, strange and reductionist about that but also… and I am not in favour of people being addicts, but there is a weird sad beauty to that. Like giving up on everything else in the world and just focusing on that one thing.

THE ALBUM IS AN INTENSE JOURNEY AND ON THE CLOSING TRACK “THE DOGS” YOU SING “THIS IS WHERE WE DIE / LIKE THE DOGS LEFT OUTSIDE”. IS IT A PESSIMISTIC NOTE ON THE HUMAN CONDITION?

I am trying to figure it out. We are seven billion people on this planet and we are all so busy; we try to fill our lives, control things, making them better for ourselves but underneath it all there is this sort of desperation and fear. It’s true for me as well and I really think, not to sound like some weird new age guy from California, the best response to this human condition is dealing with ourselves and other people with a great sense of compassion and understanding that just being human is really difficult for everyone.

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“INNOCENTS” IS YOUR MOST COLLABORATIVE ALBUM TO DATE. WHAT IS THE UNDERLYING ELEMENT WHEN YOU CHOOSE THE VOICES TO SING IN YOUR MUSIC?

First and foremost my own very personal subjective reaction is very important. The moment I hear some voices I immediately have a strong emotional reaction and that is mainly what I am looking for; that subjective response and I guess a combination of looking for a voice that is beautiful and interesting but sort of strong and vulnerable at the same time. Living in LA you come across many good singers, a lot of them are very professional, they sing on commercials or at the Superbowl. It is hard to find people who have a really beautiful voice but also with a lot of character.

PHOTOGRAPHY HAS ALWAYS BEEN A PART OF YOUR LIFE SINCE YOU WERE TEN, AND YOU RECENTLY DIRECTED THE VIDEO FOR LEADING SINGLE “A CASE FOR SHAME”. HOW DOES BEING A VISUAL PERSON AFFECT YOUR MUSIC?

I really like the question; I wish I had a really good answer. The truth is, and I almost feel this is going to be a very disappointing answer, when I am working on music I am only thinking about making music and when I work on the visual I only think about the visual but I guess I only have one brain so the part of making music affects me emotionally and intellectually in the same way working on the visual would affect me. They are different mediums but they’re part of my brain. There is certainly a long tradition of musicians being very either artists or very concerned with the visual side of their work. I think of David Bowie or Madonna, and I guess the one thing that makes me different is that I’m never really using myself as a visual subject. The genius of David Bowie is that his art was always himself. I am perfectly happy being a bald middle aged guy behind the camera, I don’t think of myself as being the canvas or the subject, I’d rather just be the person who makes the music and take pictures.

THE VIDEO YOU DIRECTED FEATURES MASKED CHARACTERS. IT GOT ME THINKING OF LUIGI PIRANDELLO, AN ITALIAN DRAMATIST WHO DEVELOPED THE CONCEPT OF MASK VERSUS IDENTITY A LOT IN HIS WORK. ARE YOU TRYING TO REVEAL OR TO HIDE SOMETHING?

Obviously the mask represents a sense of hiding. One of the most heartbreaking things about human beings is the amount of time and effort everyone spends concealing themselves. The best thing about humans is when they are honest, open, vulnerable and true to who they are. Unfortunately people, myself included, have quite a lot of shame around who they really are or assume they can only present themselves in some sort of idealised light. Everyone wants to be seen as very smart, sexy, ironic, cynical, and the truth is that who people are underneath these masks and facades is just always more interesting. Think about it, if you go on a date with someone and the person you are on a date with would spend the whole time lying about themselves. It would be very depressing. When people are honest and open there is a good chance you might fall in love with them. The mask is the idea behind the reason why we are all spending so much time covering ourselves up and how unnecessary it is. We are only here for a short period of time and I just feel like the best things that ever happened on this planet are when people are being honest about who they really are.

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WHAT ARE YOU HUNGRY FOR?

It is a really good question, and if I’m going to give an honest answer unfortunately I’m going to sound like a complete Southern California cliché again. I am hungry for beauty, joy, nature, friendship, fresh squeezed orange juice, dogs, and amazing music. Those are the things at the top of my list. I wish I had a more esoteric answer but we have been having this conversation about humans being more honest and I figured I had to be.

“Innocents” is released on the 30th of September through Little Idiot / Mute

Moby will be playing only three shows for “The Innocents Tour” at Fonda Theatre in Los Angeles on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th of October

Each show will happen in two parts, with the first part consisting of songs from the new album, ‘Innocents’, and the second part being a ‘greatest hits’ set, including songs from Moby’s past records including “Play’ and ’18′.