It would be ridiculous to blithely say oh this is his best album yet simply because he has always been at his best, but I will say that the choice of self titling this album is fully deserved because this record really feels like his definitive creativity statement.
While he might dispute the fact that he is one of the best guitarists on the planet I consider him to be a truly wonderful and naturally gifted player and an absolute favorite right from the start. A uniquely imaginative and intelligent guitarist with that rare creative ability to awaken the emotions not only when he unleashes the passionate solos but also with the fills, flourishes and psychedelic details he imbues each and every track with.
So with all this in mind and considering a certain somebody wrote the sleevenotes for Anne’s previous record, the, also with Jason, “In Another Life” you would think it easy enough to get both fine gentlemen to sit down for a nice cup of tea and a chat about this latest album and indeed you were correct to think this…so off we jolly well go then.
Art: So once again you decided after the creative success of the previous album In Another Life to head over to the West Coast and do it with Mr. Falkner. Having worked so well together you must have hit the ground running this time around. So what was the average day or recording like, what is the natural musical dynamic between you both and did you have your bike to get around once more?
Anne: Let me start answering that by repeating the words that I wrote for the inside of the CD: “In February 2009, after Jason Falkner and I finished recording In Another Life, we hugged and said goodbye at Los Angeles airport. I wasn't sure if, and when, I would see him again. Back in Holland, I spent most of 2009 and 2010 playing with my band, or acoustically, on my own and writing material for a new album. What else can a man do? Frankly, I didn't want to make a new album, if it wasn't with Jason. And that's just what I told him. "Well, let's make another one together then!" He replied. Excelsior Recordings gave us the green light and so it happened that on a rainy Saturday evening in January 2012, a 70's Mercedes pulled up beside me on the LA pavement. "Hey man, get in!" Jason shouted and before I realized it, I was back in his home studio, listening to records, playing and recording music and having some great time in between. Oh, and this time we did make it to the Pacific Ocean!”
It was like continuing where we had left off, but in a more loose and relaxed atmosphere than before. This time I was being more assured, less tense and introvert, something Jason noticed straight away from the first day. So it was good fun and we even went out to some bars and had some good laughs, a few drinks and played each other great songs from the present and the past…and of course recorded some good stuff as well.
Jason: I'm still so proud of that first record but we basically made that as strangers. Of course we got to know each other during the process but there wasn't any history yet between us so when we finished that record I really hoped we would make another one at some point so we could relax now that there was a friendship. We definitely had more fun this time around. As Anne mentioned he was in a noticeably better place in life and that made my life easier. Unlike most "peace keeper" producer types I'm very susceptible to other peoples moods in the studio because I'm a bit moody myself! We had a much more open dialog, which was obviously a good thing. Of course I had to provide a guy from Amsterdam with a bike! He used my girlfriends because mine is a 70's Japanese collectors item ha ha....no joke.
Anne: The musical strategy was pretty much the same as in 2009: firstly analyzing and (re)arranging the songs I had sent to Jason as demos, then recording the songs by playing all the instruments ourselves. I think this time round my input was somewhat larger than with the first album. I even played drums on four of the songs. (If, On My Way, Purple Heart and Seeing Sounds)
I did get around on bike again, not the red bike from before, that one got stolen, so Jason told me. I instead used Christy’s (Jason’s girlfriend, who by the way sings backing vocals on On My Way and Purple Heart)
Jason was kind enough to suggest we use our time in LA just to record the songs, and that he would mix them after my return to Amsterdam. Which was lucky because helping Jason mixing would have been mostly frustrating I think, because my left ear has been pretty bad this last year or two, I can only hear screeching mids (and they hurt) and no high or low frequencies.
Art: For In Another Life you said that you were somewhat self-conscious when it came to recording your vocals (not that it showed on the finished album). On this new album you seem far more confident in delivering stand out vocal performances, in fact I’d go as far as to state the album is vocal led with your vocal abilities taking center stage. You seem at ease with it all, I was thinking that maybe working with Tim Knoll and paying attention has enlighten you and given you the key to achieve this or is it just a question of time and growing older and wiser and more confident in yourself?
Anne: I am very happy that you say that! I think after playing live a lot with my band in 2010, my singing has become more confident and better overall. I am a strange case, because with me it was never exactly an overnight thing. It has taken a lot of years to get to where I am now vocally. I knew that there is, and always has been, this kind of singing that I want to release from my system as it were. A kind of singing that is more rhythm and blues and makes me feel good. It’s a way of singing that, I guess, surfaced for the first time on We Love Danger from the final Daryll Ann album, Don’t Stop.
Working with Tim Knol has been very good for me (and for Tim as well) in the sense that Tim’s success has also put a lot of people’s focus on my own albums and my guitar playing. The media, as I’m sure you know, are very good at copying quotes and typecasting people. So here in Holland I’m now constantly being referred to as ‘probably Holland’s best guitarist’, which, in one way, helps branding my name but which in another is also complete and utter bullshit. I think I’m a unique player in a way, but at the same time a very limited player in technical and musical terms.
Jason: Anne has a pretty unique way of singing. Very unorthodox and free form when it comes to melody and rhythm so my thing with him is to keep those elements which are unique but harness them a bit and focus the melodies. He's a soulful singer and I mixed that up front so in fact the vocals are leading!
Art: Last time around you arrived with a collection of songs written over a number of years, this time around I believe you also specifically wrote a lot of the songs for this new record. How many songs did you bring with you and which songs came out sounding like more or less you had heard them in your head and what ones changed somewhat as you came to recording and working with Jason. Which were the hardest to nail down and which were fairly effortless?
Jason: Just like the first time around Anne sent me demos of most of the stuff before arriving. We mutually decided which ones to focus on for the record. The ones that hit me immediately with a clear direction to take them were Maybe, Hey Pacifier, Ding Ding Sun, Flingels Shadow, Mai Thai and On My Way. The ones Anne played drums on also had some great overdubs on them from his home recording so I kept a lot of that and added some more music to them here at my studio. When we originally started talking about making this second record Anne wanted to use more loops and samples and things like that but I really felt it should be this organic analog thing that it became because I think that really suits his songwriting and voice and is also my taste preference. I mentioned that to him right before we started recording and he agreed so that's the direction we took. Of course there are quite a bit of vintage synth elements and some mechanical bits but overall it's a truly organic thing with full performances and not looping sections and all that. I think rock and roll records MUST have full performances on each instrument because the song should build and fluctuate so you can't just "fly" the guitar part from the first chorus onto the last chorus because there should be a natural build or change as the performance gets closer to the end. That's how we recorded this record!
Ding Ding Sun and Purple Heart are from around 2007. The thing that made Purple Heart suddenly happen for me was the move from straight waltz tempo to a more jazzy swing thing and I have changed the verse drastically over the years.
The biggest development in my way of writing would probably be the use of computers, software, synths, and sampled drumbeats from 2002 on. I still write songs with just a guitar on my lap (Maybe, If, On My Way, Mai Thai, Purple Heart, Seeing Sounds, Salted). But the other songs I wrote on my computer, usually triggered by a sample or a beat, (like Going South and Mother Of A Lie from In Another Life).
The only song that really surpassed my expectations is Hey Pacifier, I think. The demo I did of that song is really rough and bare so we really brought that one to life in LA and it’s come out so nice! At the same time it was the hardest to nail vocally, I think because the chords and the harmonics in the verses are somewhat weird (in a good way). I love the high energy and triumphant sound of Maybe, Jason really turned that one into a great powerpop gem.
And I love If for it’s feel and melancholy and because it’s a song I wrote after a specific occasion. I was sitting in the band’s van coming from a show and returning to Amsterdam. It was late night, I was tired and a little drunk (most likely) and l looked out of my window and all of a sudden realized that we were passing through the city of Leiden, hometown of my daughter Vera. Knowing she was so close right there and then, and also knowing we had to move on made me very sad…even more so because I don’t see her that much at all.
My favorite is probably Seeing Sounds. It’s the atmosphere, kinda stoned and fragile and the repeating chorus at the end, almost like a hippie drone. I brought eight more songs to Los Angeles which we did not record, simply because our time was limited. The last song on the album, Salted, is one I wrote for the modern dance piece ZOUT (‘SALT’). The company is based in Rotterdam and is called Conny Janssen Danst. I wrote music for the performance and played and sang live on stage with the dancers. I think we visited around 30 theatres during the first half of 2011. A great experience!
With thanks to Anne and Jason (who informs me his own new album will be with us before the year is out)