Saturday 11 April 2009

Anne Soldaat In Another Life sleevenotes

It's not often you get to write the sleevenotes for what's surely going to be the album of the year (oh hold on I also got to do this last year for the Pillbugs record ;-) so what a total honour it was when Anne asked me to do just that for his new album In Another Life. The honour was made even sweeter because Jason Falkner produces and plays all over this beautiful gem. So I talked to both in detail about the creative process that resulted in this legendary pairing of two such important talents. I roped my friend Matt Dornan (he of Comes With A Smile fame) in to the mix and well here it is.

01 Runaway
02 Pray for Delay
03 Born to Perform
04 Teenage View
05 Mr. Randalph
06 Birdfights
07 Mother of a Lie
08 Rubitin
09 Going South
10 Pillow Talk
11 Seven

[ EXCEL96176 buy cd ]
[ EXCEL96185 buy vinyl+cd ]

In the spring of 2008 it was announced that Anne Soldaat would be recording his second solo-album in Los Angeles with multi-instrumentalist Jason Falkner at the production helm. This inspired pairing of Anne (formerly co-songwriter, lead guitarist and vocalist for much-loved Dutch masters Daryll Ann) and Jason (prodigiously talented musician, songwriter, producer and arranger who first came to prominence as the lead guitarist in Jellyfish before forming the short-lived but astonishing Grays alongside Jon Brion, and subsequently releasing a slew of majestic solo albums since 1996) spelled wonderful news for music lovers everywhere. The album you now hold in your hands is the beautiful result of this creative union, but the tale of how the it took shape is best left to its creators…

Jason: When I put out my Necessity — The 4 track Years record on SpinArt the label sent me a bunch of CDs they had released. Among them was a compilation of bands on [Dutch label] Excelsior and the two Daryll-Ann tracks totally blew me away! Such unexpected twists and a strange urgency in the vocals. Loved it!

Anne: Sometime in 2002/2003 Jason heard the Daryll-Ann song "A Proper Line", and liked it a lot. So when he came to Amsterdam in 2004, playing with Air, he invited us to see the show and meet him backstage. I remember Jason played bass and also did lead vocal on "Playground Love" — all very impressive. Backstage we had a brief chat. 

Jason: Ferry, who runs Excelsior, e-mailed me ages ago to possibly work with Anne on music for a children’s book, but that collaboration never happened because I was really busy with Air at the time.

Anne: The plan was to write songs together for a CD to be released with the book ‘The Cat-a-Day Tales’. Jason and I emailed about working together, but it never materialized. I ended up writing 7 songs for the CD. It was Ferry who suggested, in 2007, that I should make the next Do-The-Undo album with Jason. An exciting idea! Jason was really up for it, so we agreed that I would come to LA to record an album with just the two of us.

Jason: I was thrilled at the idea of producing Anne’s record! We talked about studios and it seemed perfect, creatively and financially, to do it in my little studio. Anne was in LA two months later.

Anne: Jason has converted his living room into a studio, a great museum of vintage synths, organs, amps, guitars and recording-equipment. There was no need to take any of my guitars with me from Amsterdam, I just brought my suitcase, laptop and hard-disk. The first thing Jason and I did was buy a nice red vintage Schwinn bicycle that I could use while in LA and that would be Jason’s the moment I left. Each morning I rode the bike from the hotel to Jason’s place. The morning ride was fast, hazardous and exciting, because it was downhill. Making it back to the hotel in the night, after a day of pretty intense work was exhausting.

Jason: I am a rather late riser, still on rock ‘n’ roll time you know, so we would start at 12 or sometimes 1 pm and work at least 9 hours. I would usually be tinkering on the computer when I would hear Anne rolling up on the Schwinn and we would get right to it.
Anne: I think I had sent Jason around sixteen demos that I recorded at home. Some were pretty basic and others were more-or-less finished songs. The "Going South" and "Mother Of A Lie" demos I had done six years ago while other songs were brand new.

Jason: I really loved Anne’s demos so I took the job of making this record as good as possible very seriously. Just me and another person in the studio making all the music is actually my favourite way to record. Too many minds involved in the creative process can really water down the purity of an original idea.

Anne: The first week we had a good look at the structure and arrangement of the songs and then we recorded the basic tracks. That was Jason playing drums and myself playing/singing guide-guitar and vocals. Initially I dreamt about doing a little drumming on some of the tracks, but Jason is a much better drummer than I am — in fact he’s much better at every instrument than I will ever be, something I tried to think about as little as possible! The rest of the time we spent dubbing and completing the songs, two songs in three days on average. Once we started tackling a particular song, we would see it through to the end including the mix. A very efficient and, at the same time, unusual way to work for me, as I am more used to jumping from song to song, often during a day.

Jason: Most of the recording was really natural and effortless because we wanted to make the music great. However Anne and I are very different people in the way we react. I am pretty extreme in my highs and my lows and Anne is pretty smooth and consistent, but we are both sensitive and confident in our opinions. This could’ve resulted in arguing or compromise where one of us isn’t happy with the outcome but I think we are equally pleased with the record.

Anne: The hardest part of the process was the singing. Normally I’d save the singing bit for the last week of recording, but not this time. It’s such a personal, naked thing that involves so much self-consciousness. I had moments of deep frustration because I couldn’t get it right. I think I was constantly testing Jason’s patience and perfect-pitched ears. Singing is very much like walking a rope: once you start thinking about it or you begin questioning your faith, you’ll fall down. And, yes, we had some words about that. I remember him asking me if I liked what we had done so far. He couldn’t tell from the signals I was transmitting. Of course I was totally happy with what we were doing, it was just the self-doubt that was bugging me. I think "Born To Perform" touches this same theme. It was intended to be both an honest and cynical reflection of my ambition to be a solo artist.

Jason: I really love "Born to Perform". I think we achieved a unique sonic landscape and mood on that track that is at once classic and modern. I always loved "Runaway" and I am so happy it opens the record. It sets the whole thing up by announcing this is not for the faint of heart. "Rubitin" changed quite a bit from the demo, which didn’t have the energy I thought it screamed for, so we revved it up. 

Anne: Jason really took that one to a higher level. Not just production-wise, but as a composition — chorus and verse changed quite a bit. It became a high-energy power-pop gem. And "Mother Of A Lie" became much mellower and a bit more soulful than I originally had in mind. The demo is more uptight and aggressive. But I really like the final version for the feel and sound of it.

Jason: I can’t really say any songs surprised me because we were there every step sculpting them, but in a way they all surpassed my expectations! A good thing.
Mick Dillingham and Matt Dornan.

the beautiful cover art is by Lotte Klaver who also did the cover for the Do The Undo album..check out her charming and emotive work here


troy said...

Congrats, Mick. And it's no surprise; there's a very good reason you're the one enlisted to do these.

Anonymous said...

Very nice CD too!

Mick you always have great taste in music ;)


Anonymous said...

I am happy to report that I am playing Anne's new CD on my internet radio show! Excellent disc!

ShockPop on