Friday, 18 October 2013

TWO WORLDS: Our interview with Alex Vann!

1 - What was your first musical memory and what pushed you towards pursuing a career in the record industry?
"My mum is a Beatles fan and she used to play the Abbey Road album on vinyl while I was still in my pram. Also a lot of Beethoven and other classics and a classical instrumental version of Simon and Garfunkel songs! Later on all the Beatles albums got re-released following John Lennon's assassination and my sister bought the White Album as well as most of the others. That was really the album, and in particular the song Blackbird, that made me want to make my own music."
2 - Had you been involved with any other bands prior to becoming a solo artist as Alex Vann?
"Yes, I was front man of a band called LIFT and we had some moderate success in the late 1990's. Also, I was lead guitarist in an originals band called ZANZIBAR recently."
3 - Why did you choose to become a solo artist instead of forming a band?
"I seem to travel between the two on a regular basis. They both have their pros and cons. With a band you obviously have the camaraderie and sense of being in a team and, of course, a much fuller sound. The solo work I love because you have more control over everything and when you are playing live you can make quick decisions about song length and choice of material. Having said that, right now I am rehearsing with other musicians based on the kind of songs I've written recently - but it's early days - watch this space!"
4 - How would you describe the sound of Alex Vann?
"More pop than folk, more rock than pop, earthy, honest, powerful, acoustic driven, listenable songs."
5 - Can you talk us through the concept behind your ‘Silhouettes and Pirouettes’ album series?
"It started when I reached age forty and with twenty-five years songwriting behind me. In fact the working title was '40/25' for a long time. There were songs that had stayed with me through those years, but I hadn't been a hundred per cent happy with the recorded versions for various reasons. I generally have more musical and producing experience now and that counts for a lot. So I set about re-recording them and also recording the brand new songs I was writing. So, for example, my first song written in 1985 is on there, alongside current ones, but all recorded with the same instruments and voice and recording facilities so it all ties together nicely. The other side of me is the visual artist and I wanted the CD artwork to be equally beautiful in presenting the lyrics and the stories behind each song. It's been selling really well and I've got some great feedback some of which is on my website home page."
  6 - You have stated an intention to make the fourth album in this series more ‘produced’. What do you mean by this and are you hoping to bring in a more experienced produced to help to this end?
"I really mean in terms of instrumentation. For example, I have violin, saxophone and live drums on the album. I can't play these instruments myself so I've been lucky that people have offered their talents. It makes for a richer sound. I've been working on this album for most of 2013 and I want to spend the time to make it the best it can be. I'm still producing everything myself so it means I can dip in and out of the project as inspiration hits. In future I'd like to work with another producer for that other point of view."
7 - One of your songs was, ‘Two Worlds’, was made into a music video in 2012. What is this song about and what influenced it?
"Two Worlds started as a conversation with my partner who is profoundly deaf. He was brought up in a hearing family and didn't learn sign language until he was nine so really up until that point he had no access to meaningful communication. I learnt sign language to level two at college and it totally fascinates me. We wrote the song together first, I recorded it and then we made the video. In the film there is a perceived barrier between the two of us on screen - it's actually achieved through a 'split screen'. This barrier disappears at the end - it's a metaphor for the language barrier between deaf and hearing people. It was shown at 'Deaffest' in Wolverhampton in 2012 and also at the 'Toronto International Deaf Film and Arts Festival' in Canada in 2013."
8 - Do you have any 'rituals' before going on stage?
"Like other interviewees I've read here, I find it hard to talk to people before performing, there's too much going on in my head to be able to engage properly. So I find a quiet space, drink loads of tap water and practice breathing and relaxation exercises. Then afterwards you can't shut me up!"
9 - Any live dates coming up?
"Sunday 27th October, afternoon acoustic session at Flapper  and Firkin in Birmingham
Sunday 24th November, Old Moseley Arms in Birmingham
Sunday supplement 15th December at The Actress and Bishop in Birmingham."
10 - Any new songs in the pipeline?
"Another Place, Another Time. It was written in a tent in Edinburgh and will be on Silhouettes and Pirouettes #4 and I am going to make a sign language video to go with it - it's not a song about deaf issues but the words lend themselves to being expressed physically. The Secret Of Light - is an epic, time signature changes and all. It took me months to work out the drum programming. My daughter sings backing vocals! I sometimes write instrumental piano pieces and I am working on one at the moment. It was inspired by a Holocaust survivor I met recently and is incredibly moving. I can't wait to get it recorded and for people to hear it." 
11 - When can fans be expecting the next release?
"January 2014."
12 - Who would be your dream collaboration?
"Paul McCartney. I think he works better in collaboration, like his stuff with Elvis Costello."
13 - Who would be in your dream super group?
"Freddie Mercury, John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, Janis Joplin, George Harrison, Jon Bonham, Doug Pinnick."
1 - Favourite Beatle?
"George Harrison."
2 - Favourite band?
3 - Favourite new band?
"The Feeling (they're not really new are they?)"
4 - Favourite song?
"This week: Last Night I Nearly Died (But I Woke Up Just In Time) by Duke Special. It's incredible and gets stuck in your brain. Next week it will be Something again by George Harrison."
5 - Favourite album?
"Abbey Road."
6 - Vinyl, CD or download?
"CD (followed by cassette)."
7 - Style icon?
"David Bowie."
8 - Favourite clothing brand?
"Primark (very non-politically correct)."
9 - Favourite film?
"Beautiful Thing."
10 - Favourite TV show?
11 - Who would play you in a film of your life?
"Johnny Depp of course."
12 - Favourite food?
"Moussaka with Greek salad, mmm."
13 - Football team?
Hope you enjoyed this feature on Alex Vann! Check out our previous feature on Orchards!
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