18 quick questions to David Sylvian

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Published at October 5, 2005

mini interview on davidsylvian.com

Added on davidsylvian.com at the re-launch of the site.

After a more improvisation based Blemish why a more traditionally song structured album?

This project was initiated prior to the recording of the blemish album. I started writing with Steve (Jansen) back in 02 so the roots of the project go back farther than the creative U-turn taken with blemish.

I did find it difficult to return to this material after completing blemish and for a while I thought the work might be abandoned. Whilst touring blemish I was introduced to Burnt Friedman whose music Id been enjoying in recent months. We talked of working together and a few months later I received a CD-R containing 8 or 9 demos. I worked on these as time allowed eventually completing 5 pieces. Burnt took these tracks and completed them as part of an album hed been working on with Jaki Leibezeit. When I heard the results I felt the material should be developed further. I asked Burnt if hed allow me to work with the sound files and see where I might take the arrangements given time. He graciously agreed.

As I worked on this material, radically editing the sound files, replacing Jakis drum patterns with Steves, adding keyboard, guitar, and vocal elements to the arrangements I thought of pulling together the two individual projects (the one Id started with steve, the other with burnt) into one cohesive whole. That remained the greater challenge, finding and maintaining that cohesion.

Many reviewers viewed Blemish as a dark album. Was it really dark?

I guess thats for others to answer. Thats really a subjective reading of the material and not something Id care to define.

I was obviously dealing with some unsettling emotions. I attempted to find a means for exploring and expressing these emotions that was somehow relevant to now. Consequently the album might be hard hitting in many respects but I found the entire experience of working on the project cathartic. Ive heard from others who said that on listening to this album they experienced something similar to this too. However, many found it my most inaccessible of recordings. Some seriously disliked it.

What did the Blemish remixed album add to your original ideas?

It wasnt a matter of what was to added to the original ideas. Blemish is a complete work in of itself. What the remix cd did was to explore the emotional core or aspects of the pieces and place them in a new context to see how they resonated.

Did you like those remixes?

Yes.

Do you see this collective (yourself, Steve and Burnt) as a band?

Its an oddly disembodied band. Im not sure what constitutes a band in this day and age. Weve never sat in a room and played music together as a trio. In fact burnt and I have never physically performed together. Im not sure how important this is but at the same time Im not trying to sell nine horses as a band. It is a collaborative project between three musicians who work under the name nine horses!!

Did you knew Burnt Friedman already and what did you think of his musical ideas before this collaboration?

Yes, I was very aware of Burnts work. I enjoyed much of it particularly the Flanger project. I loved the general aesthetic of the work, plus the grooves and his detailed programming.

How did you get together?

Burnt came to my show in Koln. We met after the show and talked about a possible collaboration.

How did the other collaborations on the album come about?

Ive always made it clear that its the compositions themselves that cry out for certain voices. When I completed the lyric for Wonderful World I heard Stinas voice singing the answer vocal. Likewise, when we completed Atom and Cell and darkest dreaming I new we had to have Arve Henriksen as soloist on these pieces. Once the decision is made its a matter of contacting and communicating with those you wish to get involved. Its all very simple really.

I should add that Burnt had already brought a lot of musicians into the mix on the original demos.

What do you sing about in these new songs?

I sing of how I experience the world.

How do you manage to keep yourself and your music away from this madness of our contemporary world (9/11, wars, religious fanaticism)?

I dont try to keep myself isolated from the madness. The work reflects the world I/we live in. Whilst blemish can be viewed as a commentary on the deterioration of a couples relationship it can also be viewed as a comment on the state of the world. After all, the individual is a microcosm of what we see happening in the world on a global scale. This new project looks at 9/11, racism, as well as more personal issues.

Is America still the ideal place to create art and raise a family?

Was it ever? Art can potentially be created anywhere. Adversity fires the creative juices. The outpouring can be cathartic. Family: there are certainly some places that are better than others when it comes to raising children. Clean water, good food, nurturing environment, good education. America is capable of supplying most of these requirements most of the time but the context in which they are provided concerns me. The culture is economically driven. The bottom line is the dollar rather than human values. In the long term this is likely to be the undoing of the nation.

Was it necessary for you to set up your own record label?

I chose to set up my own label for the release of blemish. I believed it wasnt worthwhile shopping such a difficult work around to the major labels. The critical reception of blemish took us by surprise. As a result of the reception the label grew very quickly. I thoroughly enjoy being a part of the samadhisound team. I have no intension of returning to a major label at this point.

How do you manage your label?

I have a small, determined, devoted team of experienced individuals who help run the label.

How do you invite in people to record for the label?

I get sent a fair amount of material to listen to. I also hear a lot of music on my travels and in my research.

Is it a heavy financial burden?

No.

By releasing Everything And Nothing and Camphor do you think you’ve definitely shelved your past recordings?

I do hope so.

Is a definitive Japan anthology yet to be created? Or have you had enough of Japan releases?

This isnt something I have an interest or would wish to be involved in. However, Im sure a definitive anthology will be released one day.

Practical question: will you tour this album and with this “band”?

I have no plans to tour at present.

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