Erik Honore: Small Sonic Postcards
Compared to the rest of Europe, Norway's thriving music scenebe it jazz, pop, electronic or in-between genresseems to be the most varied. Since1996/97, with the release of a number of seminal recordings including trumpeter Nils Petter Molvær's Khmer (ECM, 1997), keyboardist Bugge Wesseltoft's New Conception of Jazz (Jazzland, 1996) and noise improv quartet Supersilent's triple-disc debut, 1-3 (Rune Grammofon, 1997), different strands from that scene joined forces and a new kind of music emerged, one that has not shied away from exploring the integration of electronics and programming with improvisation and interaction in order to create different, innovative and otherworldly aural landscapes and sounds.
Producer/composer Erik Honoré is one of the creators of this new scene, and his work reflects the interaction that is happening between musicians and genres, not only domestically but worldwide. Together with producer/live sampler Jan Bang, he has produced several acclaimed records, including the recent Uncommon Deities (SamadhiSound, 2012)a collaboration between British singer/songwriter David Sylvian, whose work Bang and Honré have also remixed in the past; Died in The Wool (SamadhiSound, 2011); and albums by singer Sidsel Endresen and trumpeter Arve Henriksen. Honoré and Bang's attitude towards music ultimately resulted in the well-known and ongoing Punkt live remix festival, in Kristiansand, Norway, which has become one of the world's premiere get-togethers of adventurous improvisers. Alongside these projects and collaborations, Honoré has recently released the beguiling, entrancing and dreamlike Year of the Bullet (Jazzland, 2012), a joint effort with vocalist and spouse Greta Aagre.
All About Jazz: Year of the Bullet has an interesting geographical story to it, as it was written and recorded in various locations outside of your native Norway. Please talk about the creative concept behind this record.
Erik Honoré: The idea was to base it mainly on samples that Greta and I collected while traveling. Like collecting small sonic postcards from various places, and then using those as starting points for songs or, in some cases, as textures added to more traditionally composed songs. The thought was that these fragments would work as inspiring building blocks, and hopefully contribute originality to the soundscapes and even serve as emotional triggers for lyrics.
AAJ: How do you establish continuity or connective tissue throughout the record, when bits and pieces come from so many places?
EH: I think this partly happens because we instinctively search for samples that will work musically in various ways, everything from percussive elements to atmospheres or chords, and instinctively we base our choices on earlier experience of what works. And partly it works because when I edit and electronically treat the samples, I make them blend with whatever else is going on. Obviously, editing is a central part of the process. Sometimes we'll keep only tiny fragments of sounds, not recognizable as what they originally were.
EH: "Years of the Bullet," or "Years of Lead" ("Anni di piombo"), is an Italian expression referring to the seventies, when Italy was plagued by political tension and violence. It's also the title of German director Margarethe von Trotta's movie about this period, and later the expression came to mean "the hard years" in a more general sense. So the title came when we were working on the music in Italy, and in the album context it means simply "the hard year," which is the subject matter of the lyrics.
AAJ: Did you ever think about how the songs would translate live?
EH: Not until we were close to finishing the album, because then the question arose about how to perform the music live. What we chose to do was to take the live process closer to what Jan Bang and I have been doing at the Punkt Festival, the live sampling approach. So I contribute samples, electronics and live sampling of the other musicians, Greta obviously does the vocals, and then we put together a band that we knew would be able to both play songs in a structured manner, and who we could also give open spaces for improvisation. At the Punkt Festival concert we included a soloist, trumpeter Arve Henriksen, who also contributed to the album, and that seemed to work quite well.
AAJ: The press release mentions David Sylvian's contribution at the final stages of this record. What were his contributions here?
EH: David Sylvian is an extremely good listener, who also has helped out on earlier albums, like Arve'sCartography (ECM, 2008), Jan's ... and Poppies from Kandahar (SamadhiSound, 2010). By "a good listener," I mean a person who can comment very clearly on what he hears, and who can pinpoint weaknesses and suggest changes and improvements in a very concrete way. So this was what he did, after first giving Greta and I the confidence to finish the project, something that we really needed at that stage in the process. We needed someone who we respected to say that there was potential, and it had to be someone who wasn't in our immediate family, and who we knew would be honest.