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Posted Nov 6th, 2008 (12:39 pm) by Matt Midgley

Fantastic Swedish/French indie-pop band Herman Düne took some time out of their busy touring schedule to sit down with InYourSpeakers recently to talk about their brand new album Next Year in Zion, recording, and the current state of music in general.

InYourSpeakers: So, how long have you been on this current tour?

David-Ivar Herman Düne: Started October 1st in Canada. Three shows in Canada, then one down in California.

IYS: Next Year in Zion just came out, what, this week?

D: Yesterday in America.

IYS: How does it feel now that it’s out there?

D: It’s exciting to see the different responses for an album of ours. You know, if the press cares… Some people seem to notice songs already from the shows we’ve played so far, so there is an interest.

Néman Herman Düne: And it’s the first time we’ve got a proper release in the States, even if we have a few albums on Shrimper, which is very small. So it’s good news for us, and we’re excited about it.

IYS: This is your first legit American release?

D: Yeah, it’s actually cool to see that it’s not only DIY - although we love the DIY and touring with no notice in the papers - you know, nothing except your MySpace. It’s been cool so far in the US, we’ve had a lot of fun. But it’s fun for us to see that it can actually happen the way it happens for us in Europe. You get to a town and there’s a poster up for your show – It’s not like some kid that had to tell their parents to get out of the house for a house show, you know what I mean? You get to a club and now it’s sort of the same as it is for us in Europe.

IYS: Do you like it this way?

D: I wouldn’t say it’s better, but it’s fun to do it this way.

IYS: Well, let’s talk about the record a little bit.

D: Sure.

IYS: Why Next Year in Zion?

D: It’s kind of cool to talk about it here, it’s just that “Zion” in the psalms and in a lot of scripture, is the way to refer to a home while in exile, you know what I mean? And it’s also a place you want to go back to in extraordinary circumstances. It doesn’t happen naturally, I mean, it doesn’t happen just because you want it to. Like, it takes some extraordinary circumstances to get to Zion, when you want to get back there. And when I wrote the song “Next Year in Zion” it was a song that I wrote about the end of a friendship. The end of a friendship being very painful, but it’s a way to tell someone that you want to end the relationship with “I will see you again when everything is different. In a place where the current rules and what happened in our life now don’t apply anymore.”
It’s also wordplay with the rhymes that I never used before, but it’s kind of, to me… I felt like this sort of poetry behind wanting to get back home. When the Jews were in Babylon and talking about Zion, it wasn’t going to happen in their generation, you know what I mean? Or in Jamaican music you hear about Zion, and it’s Ethiopia for the slaves in Jamaica, but it’s not going to happen right now. I mean, they’re not going to fly on a giant bird back to Ethiopia. So I like this kind of hope. Hope that’s almost impossible, but it’s still there. I like it.

IYS: So that hope, that idea, you’d say that’s your inspiration for the album?

D: For that song. Neman and I have the tradition in pop music where we choose a song for the title of the album.

N: And it’s also that there is a reference to Jamaican music in there. It’s not obvious when you listen to our music but it’s there. It’s funny because lots of people, especially in Europe, say “Why do you guys refer to that National reservation in Utah called Zion?” And we didn’t even know about this. I guess it’s just because it’s..

D: It’s the first thing that comes up on Wikipedia.

IYS: So what would you say about this album – How does it differ from your previous work, or is it a continuation?

D: I guess, for every album, I’ve always looked at it as if it’s the first one. Every time we start working on a new album, I think, this is what I want to do. And for that moment, it feels like I’ve found the kind of songs I want to write, and the kind of music we want to play – so every time it’s like a new, first album for me. But maybe some people will see the continuity from our other albums, but we really don’t think much about the one before when we do the new one. It’s pretty fresh for us.
This one was the first one for me where I was going to tell stories that were more fictional, you know? Less diary-esque kind of stories. Although they were untrue before, but it felt to me like the time to start writing songs that told some stories where I could use my feelings for other people’s stories, their situations.
It was also the time where I felt that we could have guitar solos, and you know, maybe two guitar solos in a song. Lots of percussion [and] backing vocals.

IYS: Well the album is definitely more sonically robust; there is a lot more orchestration to it than previous albums.

D: Yeah.

N: I think to us it’s always a new step, for every album. It’s very exciting because we always have ideas we haven’t tried yet. It’s like we’re going to have a new album, so let’s try these new things. It’s a very exciting time. So maybe, it’s true that for this one there are many more similar musicians right now – there’s horns, there’s backing vocals, you know – but still, to us, we always have these ideas in mind that we haven’t tried yet. It’s always like a laboratory of new things for us.

IYS: So each album you go back to the drawing board, you try and start fresh.

D: Yes, we try to do that. For this one, one of the things I had in mind was instead of trying to work a lot of the arrangements before, I tried to have really solid songs and solid musicians, and that the two of them together would make the good arrangements. So, instead of thinking what the bass is going to play, you just get the right bass player, and you know that what he’s going to do is going to be your thing. You don’t have to think about what kind of bass he’ll play.
It’s the same for the guitar player; Instead of thinking of what kind of solos to have – is it going to be sort of country-ish guitar, or more like psychedelic or whatever – We just picked the right guitar player and let him do his thing, you know?
At least for this album, it was exactly what I wanted to do. I just wanted to have the right musicians and not tell them anything and just see what happens, because I thought the songs themselves were already strong enough. So if they wanted to play so that the song turned out to be a waltz in the end, it would still be a song that I love. Instead of getting there and telling them, “this is a mambo,” or “this is a calypso” – we just played the song and saw what was going on. It was fun.

N: And it’s not if we change radically our ideas from one album to another. I think we’re the type of band who it takes time to accomplish what we want. There are things that on an album that we want to reach, and it takes several albums for us to get there. I guess we’re not like The Beatles where right from the first album it’s amazing.
I think part of it is that for the first time we have all the musicians we want, all at the same time. The bass player, the guitar player; everyone was gathered at the same time to record, and that took us time.

D: And I guess so far, we sort of preferred to record the songs that we had, even when we didn’t have the right studio or the right musicians or the right equipment, you know, we wouldn’t wait. We wouldn’t wait three years to find the right manager or find the right place or the right people to work with. I always had these songs in me, and was just like “Let’s record them.” Even if we only have this tape recorder, we only have bongos or whatever, we’d still just try and record it.
This time, we sort of had everything we wanted. I think maybe it’s a new start for us. I mean, I felt that maybe the next one I’m gonna wait until the conditions around the songs are chosen, instead of just having songs and recording them on the very month that you wrote them, maybe I’m going to wait for that studio or this musician.

IYS: You wanted a more controlled atmosphere?

D: Yeah.

And I used to be afraid of waiting. I don’t know if I thought the songs were going to vanish or something, or if there was this clock ticking and we had to record everything, or else…
I think now I don’t care about that. It has to be good in a way so that I don’t want to go back to the recording later [to fix it].

IYS: During the process of recording or preparing to record this album, was there any particular style of music or artists/bands that you feel had a direct effect on the way you did things?

D: Sure, many. There’s so many that humble me whenever I play, whether in terms of guitar, voice, the writing, drums, groove, bass, whatever. It’s kind of a like there’s this wall of fame of artists that I have in mind every time I pick up a guitar – from Chuck Berry to Bo Diddley, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, I don’t know, Ray Charles, Carol King, Ellie Greenwich. So many artists, you know? I don’t think you need to discover everything again. Some people have been there, the set the table for us. We just have to enjoy that these people have recorded amazing music, and that now whenever you pick up a guitar, you don’t have to have lived in a cave and not think about Chuck Berry. I mean, if you want to play a guitar solo, you think about Chuck Berry. It’s part of it. These people are important to me. Jonathan Richman, Lou Reed, The Velvet Underground, you know - The Sonics.

IYS: So you feel you’re constantly influenced by these people?

D: And directly, on this album. The thing is, it’s become more like an instinct. You know, we listen to them a lot. But, it’s true that sometimes when I have a doubt about a song, or the way we’re recording one, or the way it was played, I’m just like “Oh, well The Doors had great solos, you know? “ There’s no problem with that. So whenever I thought, maybe there’s too many solos or different instruments or whatever, I just think, hey, I love L.A. Woman, so I don’t see a problem with having long songs with solos. That’s kind of the way it works.
Or if we’re working on a beat, on the percussions, and it’s suddenly sounding like it’s from the islands, or the Caribbean, or something and I think, well maybe this is going to take away from the poetry that I tried to write in English. Maybe it’s going to mix things up too much. Then I think about Harry Belafonte and how he sang the blues and how he sang folk songs – he could have calypso or whatever behind it, and it still felt like a folk song. So, it’s kind of like there are some marks we have on the land as you travel the path.
And because of that, you’re always yourself, you know? You don’t need to invent music all over again to be yourself or come up with a guitar with twenty-four strings, you know what I mean? Everyone plays the same guitar. The more you learn from the others, the more you can be yourself. You’re not wasting time trying to make up a chord. I don’t want to make up a new guitar chord.
I think it’s maybe a deeper way to be yourself to use this flow and just change some stuff up or whatever.

IYS: On Next Year in Zion, do you guys have any particular songs that you really want people to be able to connect with? Any personal favorites?

N: Of course there are different levels of it. I think for David and I, the first song, ‘My Home is Nowhere Without You’ is the first one we recorded. We all remember that. It’s the first one when you all get together to start recording. It’s like before that everyone is holding their breath, you know, and then after that, you can just keep it rolling. We all have this in mind. And it was interesting, the first take we did was the take we took for the album.

D: First take, first day, first song. It’s kind of a good memory.

N: It’s a very good memory. It’s a great way to start a recording. So that song is special to me. But, I love them all for different reasons. Some for the words, like ‘When We Were Still Friends’ is my favourite for the words. I think it’s an amazing song.

D: I think I’m really into ‘My Home is Nowhere Without You’, ‘Next Year in Zion’ and ‘Someone Knows Better Than Me’. [Someone] is a song that really like because the writing took me a long time, and the recording was also only one take. I like this style – write for a long time and record it on the first take. That’s the way I want my songs to be. I want to write really solid songs, and then just have fun in the studio. That’s the way I see it

IYS: How are you liking touring with Jolie Holland?

N: It’s very good. They’re lovely people, good musicians.

D: It’s pretty cool to open for a show that you don’t mind watching, you know what I mean? I think it’s good because, I don’t know, I don’t know how it’d be if it was some band I couldn’t stand – after a few shows you’d just want to get out of there.

N: It’s kind of neat.

D: The musicians are awesome; The drummer is great, the bass player…

N: They’re very nice to us.

D: It’s neat too, because she plays kind of mellow music that draws the kind of people who listen to lyrics. That’s important for us. She gives us like forty minutes every night to have people discover our songs, so it’s really neat.
It’s been good to get in the door with people. Every show – I really like this kind of audience; it’s a mixture. Not like only one kind of people.
What I’ve noticed these days, and maybe since Neman and I were like sixteen is that music has become more specialized. Everything has one unique crowd, you know what I mean? They dress the same… And there’s so many; From goth to ska punk to punk rock to college rock to whatever, you name it. And it’s like separating crowds, and it drives me crazy sometimes because when I think about the time when the type of audience I love used to get together…
On the radio there was Bob Dylan and Harry Belafonte and The Dixie Cups; and it was all good. Even though it wasn’t the same kind of music at all, it was all the same people listening. Or Muddy Waters and Leonard Cohen. Same radio, but nothing to do with each other. You don’t have to be a blues guy and wear a jeans shirt or whatever or a poet guy, you just go to the show. That’s the audience I like.
With Jolie Holland, I’ve noticed there’s older guys who probably like folk music and who probably like her voice and her songs, and then there’s young guys who probably like indie rock and roll – any kind of guys, it’s really pretty cool.
And the thing is, I don’t think it’s because music is spreading out. I think it was spread out before. I think it’s because in music now, there’s these new strategies to get your music to a market. You have to kind of create a kind of people to give them your music, you know what I mean? And it’s kind of crazy to me. I see it more and more. Death metal fans, metal fans, hardcore metal fans; I mean it’s like totally different people. They don’t dress or act the same at all. To me it’s all metal music.
And I don’t mean that in a bad way, I mean, I’ll go to a metal show. It just seems so separated. I mean, the Slipknot fans, the Limp Biskit fans, and then the Pinback fans or whatever – it’s all kind of the same music to me, but it’s totally different crowds. I guess it multiplies the amount of types of clubs you can play and the amount of shows you can have on tv. The first show can be for fans of Regina Spektor, the next for fans of Harry Connick Jr. or whatever. I don’t see the point. I wish the radio could have everything on it.

IYS: Alright. Well is there anything else you’d like to get out there? Anything you want people who might not be familiar with you to know?

D: We’d like people who hear our music on the radio, or who buy the album, or whatever to know that when you come to the show, you’re going to have fun. Our live shows are not going to sound just like the record. We like it that way, we like to change things up every night. We like to play it by ear in terms of who is playing what, what instruments we use, and the songs we’ll play.

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