Erik Honore: Small Sonic Postcards
AAJ: You worked with Sylvian closely on his last two records, Died in the Wool, and especially Uncommon Deities. Even prior to this you had the opportunity to work with him on several occasions. How did it evolve into a musical partnership?
EH: First I have to say that I feel immensely privileged that this collaboration has become a reality. Besides Scott Walker, I think David is probably the only musician who I listened to 25 years ago and who is actually doing more interesting work today. Jan and I can thank Nils Petter Molvær for this. It started with David asking Nils if he'd be interested in doing an instrumental version of the track "Mother and Child" for the compilation Camphor (Virgin, 2002). Nils Petter suggested that he could do the remix together with these two guys he knew in Kristiansand, and we did. After that, David returned the favor by contributing spoken word vocals to our album Crime Scenes (Punkt, 2006) and we also got the chance to contribute another remix to his The Good Son vs. The Only Daughter (The Blemish Remixes) (Samadhisound, 2004).
AAJ: Please talk about your involvement on these two records.
EH: Died in the Wool consisted of variations reworked tracks from David's brilliant Manafon (Samadhisound, 2010), plus a couple of new compositions. Here, Jan and I got the chance to contribute more than just remixing one track, and I guess you can say that we were the main "re-makers." together with Japanese contemporary composer Dai Fujikura. And David, of course.
Uncommon Deities (Samadhisound, 2012) was a completely different process. It started by Jan and I commissioning an audio- visual installation from David for the Punkt 2011 festival. As a part of this installation, we invited a group of musicians to improvise in the installation room, and we also commissioned two Norwegian poets, Paal- Helge Haugen and Nils Christian Moe-Repstad, to write texts inspired by the installation concept and its title. Everything that happened in that room was recorded, and David also recorded himself reading the texts in English.
After the festival was over, I sat down with the recordings and some instrumental tracks that Jan and I had been working on for a duo album. Quite soon it seemed that the texts David had recorded worked really well together with the live recordings and the other instrumental tracks. So after making some demos of the material and making sure that David and Jan also saw potential there, we started putting together an entire album. The live contributions from Sidsel Endresen and Arve Henriksen were also very significant, so the album is co-credited them in addition to Jan, me and David. In general, I have to say that I am extremely privileged to be surrounded by these extremely competent and generous musicians.
AAJ: Has Sylvian affected your musical thinking?
EH: Yes, in a very profound way, and from quite an early age. It's no exaggeration to say that Jan and I were extremely inspired by David's three first solo albums when we started working together 25 years ago. At that age, I guess you are searching for something that resonates in you both musically and on a more philosophical level, and I found exactly that in the combination of the words, voice, melodies, arrangements and sonic textures that was to be found on albums like David's Secrets of the Beehive (Virgin, 1987) Also, the combination of composition, improvisation and electronics on those records was, in away, a precursor the evolution on the Norwegian music scene, the "hybrid scene" that we would later be a part of.
AAJ: The Norwegians have emerged as a serious force in the jazz world and electronic music as well, in recent times. Please talk about the music scene in Norway.
EH: Improvised music has been a strong force in Norwegian music since the sixties, when [saxophonist] Jan Garbarek and others gained an international reputation. For a long time jazz and other music forms lived separate lives, but then there was an evolution in the nineties when improvised music met electronic/club music, most visibly through Bugge Wesseltoft's New Conception of Jazz project and Nils Petter Molvær's work. His ECM album, Khmer, was a huge success, for instance. From there on it seemed that everything was allowed, happily, and suddenly there were all these extremely good young musicians appearing, many of whom had a background in improvised music. But their listening habits were eclectic, and the new technology that allowed for improvisation was also a factor.
This openness is still the rule, not the exception, and it's this musical mentality Jan and I have built the Punkt Festival concept on. The latest addition to the Norwegian music scene is a number of vocal-based artists, for some reason mainly female, who have combined all these elements to make interesting music. Hanne Hukkelberg is one example. But this especially owes much to Sidsel Endresen's development of the voice as an instrument for more than singing in the traditional sense, so there is a historical line also here.