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SOHN: "This Is One Hundred Percent Me"

SOHN im Interview (c) Amelia Troubridge
SOHN im Interview

"Tremors", der erste Longplayer von Senkrechtdurchstarter SOHN, erscheint am 4. April 2014 unter 4AD. Hier geht's zu unserer Album-Review! Wir trafen den aus London stammenden und in Wien lebenden Musiker, um mit ihm über die Geschichte hinter seinem Namen sowie den Prozess seiner Album-Produktion zu sprechen. Außerdem fragten wir nach, warum Isolation, Raum und Dunkelheit so eine wichtige Rolle in seiner Musik spielen.

UNIMAG: 2013 was a pretty amazing year for you. What was the most exciting and impressing thing?

SOHN: Umm...there was something really exciting that happened. Lots of things obviously happened, which were really exciting (laughs). Probably something like playing in New York and having it sold out. It was ridiculous.

What got you into making and producing music on your own in the first place?

I was always in bands when I was a bit younger, but I guess it's easier to do it on your own because you don't rely on anyone else. It's the reason most bands fail.

When and how did you decide to call yourself SOHN?

It was actually the day before the first song went online, maybe even on the same day. I realized that I still didn't have a name for it and everyone kept asking me "What are you going to call it?" "I don't know man, I don't know!" (laughs) I was just looking for one word. It had to be a name that I could call myself as a person, which is very important because I don't want this to be like a project. I wanted it to be me! Then first of all I really like the way the word sounds. It sounds soft. It's also a short word, which is good because it's more focused like I want my music to be. The third thing is that even though the word means something it doesn't make you think of anything in particular. As soon as you say it, it's like a blank label, of which there are not many words in the world. Especially when you look through a dictionary, you'll notice that there's hardly any word. So for me it was important that the name didn't make you think of anything. It doesn't give you a kind of preconception of what I or my music would be like. The last reason was that I tied it to being my own son - learning from my previous self and at the same time being a completely new person. All those things together are the reason why I am called SOHN.

You've lived in Vienna for a few years now. What is it about the city that you like so much?

For me it still has some magic actually, even after four or five years of living here. Every now and then I just feel like "Shit, what am I doing here? This is bizarre that I can live here!" And also the change of pace is big when you move from London to Vienna. Another reason is probably just because I am from a different country. Even though I have lots of friends here, I'm still the outsider in a way. I kind of like and really enjoy that.

How is your German doing?

It's alright. Yeah, it's not bad. I'm fine in shops and restaurants and also in conversations I would be fine - as long as the person who I am talking to I trust enough so I don't feel stupid. But as soon as someone older understands that I can speak a bit of German and they start speaking to me in German, then my brain gets thrilled and I ask myself what the person really wants to know. But I just try and go for it anyway. Generally I get that wrong or I just find myself in a conversation with five people saying "Yeah, and it's like this, isn't it?" and they would be like "Yeah, we just said that." (laughs)

When someone searches "SOHN" on the internet, it's hard to find information about you as a person. Why is it that you want to keep certain information a secret?

This is me, that's how I feel about it. When I first started this, a few people would ask me "What did your parents do?" Or they would ask me "Which town did you grow up in?" None of that is relevant at all. So for me it was important that the second I chose my name, this is one hundred percent me. It's an important thing to sort of maintain that level of consistency about what information is being put out there about me. This is the only me that I think is relevant to the world to talk about. I'm sure it won't stay like that, but it's good for now.

The response to your first single "Artifice" has been pretty impressive. What has that feedback been like for you?

I am really relieved, because the label said for a long time that this is going to be the first single. I was like I always am. I had the same feeling with "Bloodflows". I wasn't super confident, I was a bit like "I'm not sure, is this the one?" (laughs) "What about if I do one more mix?" – but it has been great! I think the response even surprised the label. It feels like a really healthy start to the album.

Yeah, it's incredible that the album isn't even out yet and there is so much response already.

Absolutely, it's mental! It's really crazy (laughs). I've got like a million followers on soundcloud. I mean, are you kidding me? That whole thing is so bizarre. 

Musically and also in your photos you primarily focus on isolation and space. What's so appealing about that?

A lot of the time the things that come out while I'm singing are just like bleh (laughs). So when I'm writing songs what happens is that I already start getting together the music and then I just record a full tape without even knowing what I'm going to sing. But whatever comes out normally stays actually. I end a line with a word that I really like being there. It feels very natural to be there and then I sort of write the line back from this point to just make a sentence which can end on this word. A lot of the time I don't know what I'm writing about until it's like two verses done or something. I guess that's just part of the way that I live, that those things go in there. Like I said the feeling of being kind of an outsider and that isolation are a big part of being a foreigner living in a different country.

There's also a certain darkness lurking within most of your songs I would say - where do you imagine that stems from?

Me, I guess (laughs)...somewhere. Personally what I really like about music is when you really feel the beauty of it to the point that you could cry. If you can make that feeling where it just feels so beautifully sad, that's my top goal - even though the sadness doesn't actually come from lyrics and it doesn't actually has to be sad. But if you think of a film score: The most amazing part happens when the image is something very emotionally important in a movie and a sweep happens with the orchestra. You just feel like someone grabs your heart and pulls it out for a second. That's the best point to reach in music. To make the most uplifting kind of stuff, you have to go deep down first. Otherwise it doesn't work. You need that crescendo.

So to what songs or artists are you listening to at the moment?

At the moment I've been listening to...oh man, I hate when this happens. I am listening to stuff all the time and at the time I can never think of what I've been listening to. Oh my word, let me just think about it for a second. It's definitely in my head somewhere (laughs und pauses for a minute). Damn it! Oh, I've been listening loads to The Knife recently – "Shaking The Habitual". They are amazing, I saw them like eight times last year at festivals and they are just so cool. And the other thing I was listening to was Space Dimension Controller.

What was the process of producing the album like?

Basically what happened was that I had a tour in November and December. So I knew that I have to get the album finished by that time. I got to the beginning of October – very relaxed. "I'm fine, I'll get this done, no problem." And then I realized that I didn't have any songs actually (laughs). So for some reason I'd considered like five or six previous release tunes to go on the album, but then I realized that this would be really shitty. Then I started to panic a little bit, but what I did was that I locked myself in. I would go to the studio every night at like 5 p.m. and leave at 6 a.m. basically. The reason I did it was to make sure I couldn't leave, because after 12:30 a.m. you can't get a tram.

Oh wow, that's actually a pretty great idea!

Yeah, that was my idea (laughs). And also I wasn't at home, so I couldn't do the things I would normally do. I was just in the studio. I'd get there and it was the same every night. I'd try to start something new, had a lot of ideas on my phone where I'm just singing little lines or whatever and I had already shown to the label, which is really funny… Sitting in the office and showing them phone recordings of me "DA DA DA DA" like this (sings along). Then we picked the best ideas and I had a list. My list was basically: Go to the studio, try to start based on those ideas and see what happens. The speed of that was really fast. In that month I completed the album from thinking that I only need to write three songs to ending up writing seven new ones, which all got on the album. At 6 p.m. I'd start working on it and by 12:30 a.m. I'd feel like it's not really working. "I want to go home now." And then I'd realize "Damn it, I can't leave!", so I continue for another hour and always in that hour it would just suddenly click (clicks his fingers) and it would just work. The next five hours are easy, because you're loving, what you're making. It was like that almost every single night for a whole month. I'd be really frustrated at midnight and by 1 o'clock I'd be really loving it. 

What's your favorite song of the upcoming album?

It changes, but I would probably say "Tremors" or "Fool". It depends on where I'm at when I'm hearing them. I like the first track "Tempest" as well. For me it was really important to open the album with a big statement of what this thing is you're about to hear. I think "Tempest" goes through the whole spectrum of the album within one song, which I really like and it ends with you thinking "Uh wow, that was a bit of a trip" (laughs) and then "The Wheel" starts straight away. So maybe even "Tempest" is my favorite song. But I also like "Tremors" for its goose bump-moment at the end.

Last but not least: What would you like to say to your Austrian fans?

Thanks and be patient... (laughs)

Thank you for your time and the lovely interview!

SOHN kommt außerdem für drei magische Shows nach Österreich - und zwar am 4. April ins Rockhouse Salzburg, am 5. April ins Conrad Sohm in Dornbirn und am 23. April in die Arena Wien.

Petra Püngüntzky

Chefin vom Dienst | Content Managerin
Ressortleiterin Musik & Events
Redakteurin | Fotografin

petra.puenguentzky (ät) unimag.at

 

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