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Interview with Fjordne

img  Tobias

What is it about „The Setting Sun“ that keeps is so remarkably contemporary?
One of the reasons I would assume is that the theme of this book reflects not only the people of the 1940’s but also the minds of people now. In many of Dazai’s books there is a consistent theme of exclusiveness and self-deception. These are some themes that many of us have to deal with in a world like this.

At the same time, „The Setting Sun“ seems like an extremely private and intimate album. In which way did exploring the themes of the book also represent a personal journey for you?
I have lived outside of Japan in my youth and after I came back, reading Japanese literature was a huge interest for a while. A lot of my music is based on it. My third album, „Stories Apart From The World“, for example, is based on Haruki Murakami’s homonymous novel. After talking to Ricks about a release for his Kitchen label, I thought that „The Setting Sun“ would be perfect for the album.
Probably the theme of this album made the sound a bit dark. But I tried to add in positiveness to the sound because another theme I wanted to express was the strength people have after they have accepted despair.

How did you set about setting the story to sound and collaborating with April Lee on the artwork?
Some of the tracks are based on the characters of the book. Others are based on the image I got from the book. I tried to capture the atmosphere of the story not by single tracks but the whole album.
I like to think of this album as a soundtrack for the novel so naturally no words entered this album. I instead tried to transform the words in the book into sound so I hope this record will be an introduction to people who haven’t read it yet.
During the process of writing the music, I sent demos and talked about the ideas I had for the album to Ricks and April by e-mail and face to face. Through this, April took pictures that best fitted the image of the album. We both have read the book so naturally we had the same image. I didn’t indicate anything about the artwork because I knew that April’s works would be perfect.

Were you aware of the fact that almost exactly in sync with the release of your album, a movie was also being shot about the same subject?
I didn’t know about it until one of my friends told me about it. I haven’t seen the movie but I plan not to. I like keeping the image of my favorite books to myself rather than sharing it with many others.

I was quite taken by how you managed to award an entirely new kind of interaction between acoustic instruments through the subtle use of electronica. How did this concept develop?
In making music, I have always had trouble in using electronic instruments like synths. I use acoustic instruments as a source even though sometimes they don’t sound like them. In making this album, I wanted to stay away from using so much electronically processed sounds to make the music „progress“ naturally.

To me, the organic nature of the music often conjured up the idea of a kind of virtual ensemble ...
I wanted to make the instruments interact with each other as if they were going in their own directions but aiming for the same goal. The instruments and sounds sometimes seem as if they aren’t interacting with each other but sometimes they come together perfectly. Just like how in the book the characters struggle living their lives but somehow they are all alike aiming for a better life.
I've created a program that plays back real-time recorded samples in a special way. I used this program in some of the piano pieces on the album. So all the piano lines and the electronically manipulated piano lines are played simultaneously. I like to think of my program as another musician. I play music and the program gives me feedback, and I answer to that and this goes on and on.

Were there any kind of direct influences from the world of classical music on your pieces?
Actually, I listen to many types of music, but I don’t listen to classical music. I’m a heavy jazz listener. The piano I play is self taught. A lot of influence I get is probably from all the ECM records I listen to.

You released three albums in 2008 but just one in 2009 – did you put everything you had to say into "The Setting Sun" this time?

I started making music by myself at the end of 2007. Before that I was playing in a couple of bands. Once I got prepared for making music by myself, I couldn’t stop recording the ideas I had in my mind. So, making 3 albums in a year was not particularly difficult for me. To me, making the „The Setting Sun“ was kind of like the final chapter for the music I had in my mind. After making this album, I stopped making music because I needed time to start thinking of new ideas and to push my music skills to a higher level.

By Tobias Fischer

Pictures by April Lee

Interview conducted by Tobias Fischer for “Beat” Magazine. Many thanks to Thomas Raukamp.

Unmoving  (U-Cover) 2007
Stories Apart From The World (Ryoondo-Tea) 2008
The Last 3 Days Of Time (Dynamophone Records)    2008
Light Passed On Through The Layer (SEM Label) 2009
The Setting Sun (Kitchen) 2009

Fjordne at MySpace

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