David Sylvian: To Blow the Heart Wide Open
DS: In general, it doesn't interest me. As you say, Virgin commissioned a few remixes of my material and I was never remotely interested in the results, with the one exception of the Wagon Christ remix of 'Godman' by Luke Vibert, which was a personal choice.
I don't want to get into the history of the remix, which was largely used as a marketing tool by major labels in attempt to give an act cross-genre appeal, but as most practitioners will tell you, it was a commissioned job which used to pay ludicrously well. Maybe it still does for the few. I've never purchased a remix album because I've generally believed that the artist's intentions were clear in the original work, and that anything thereafter was at best secondary and subject to the needs of the commercial market, at worst exploitative. I guess, in that respect, Blemish is something of an anomaly for me.
AAJ: What was the aim of the remix album?
DS: I felt that the majority of the Blemish material was infinitely malleable and wanted to see what other artists, whom I respected, would make of it. It was a means of testing the water for possible future collaborators, such as Burnt Friedman, who did a couple of remixes for me before we started writing material together for what was to become Snow Borne Sorrow. There are some extraordinary artists that really do have an inspired take on work that's presented to them for remixing. When the remit isn't 'try and make this more appealing to a wider audience,' the potential for creative results is raised considerably. Ryoji Ikeda has done a couple of remixes for me, and his take on 'The Only Daughter' was simply remarkable.
AAJ: How did you choose the pool of artists that took part in reshaping that material?
DS: I was already in communication with all of them for one reason or another. All potential candidates for collaborative work.
AAJ: The single World Citizen expressed your views and attitude to current world politics. Is there a political component to your music?
DS: All music is potentially political in my eyes, as to effectively act as catalyst to change in the heart or mind of an individual is a political act. Sometimes current affairs are addressed directly; at others, less so. I'm not overly fond of the use of popular song as soapbox. I tend to think that it undermines the innate power that music has to dig deep into the subconscious.
AAJ: You have been involved with many exhibitions of audio-visual "installations" or sound art, like Ember Glance and When Loud Weather Buffeted Naoshima. What attracted you to work in this area? Could you talk about the Naoshima work?
DS: Installation work was another arena in which to explore established interests under specific guidelines which could/should prove challenging, potentially resulting in the kind of solutions which help develop this area of work in new and interesting directions.
I was commissioned by the Benesse Foundation to produce a work for the Standards 2 festival within minutes of my landing on the island. This allowed me to explore the landscape with the possible commission in mind. The remit stated that, on reaching the Foundation's offices, the public would be handed an iPod with which to explore the surrounding villages, museums, and 'arthouses' whilst absorbing the audio accompaniment. In effect, it was to be a work that tied these contrasting elements together in some fashion. I attempted to create a work that increased the awareness of other dimensions of reality whilst complimenting, contrasting, and extending the one physically at hand. A multiple exposure, a layering, mapping reference points both real and imagined. The 'loud weather' referred to in the title was in reference to the emotional life of the island, complimented by its spiritual ancestry and its influence on everyday life. There's repeated reference to labor, creative endeavor, an affirmation of life or its possible futility. Then there are the associative landscapes (e.g., Monet's early 20th century French landscape housed beneath the Naoshima soil) that pull in a wider web of connections from around the world, alluding to a greater wealth of resources and cultural exchange. Through it all blows the winds of pollination, cleansing, eradicating, alive with the voices of generations... The intention was that the audio be played at low levels so that the sounds of the environment merged with the recorded elements.
AAJ: Dead Bees On A Cake is an incredibly diverse record. Was it a challenge to make its myriad of various influences fit together?