Interview by Miriam Cadoni
We have already introduced UK’s A.A. Williams back in November [ if you missed it, you can read it here] during her tour together with the Norwegian post-black metallers Cult of Luna and the Belgian’s post hardcore trio Brutus. Of course, all the readers will wonder why after few months the post-rocker singer/songwriter in back on our pages. On the 3rd July, her debut LP “Forever Blue” was released via Bella Union and this calls, for an in-depth and updated interview with the artist. Join us to read more about her new LP, her collaboration with Japan’s visionary MONO and her recent participation at the “Stay at Home” festival. Enjoy!
Hi Alex, welcome back to Femme Metal Webzine. How are you and how life is how life is treating you in these precarious times?
I’m good, thank you for asking. I guess, I’m well as I can be. I’m healthy, I’m safe. My family is well and I’m trying to use this time for be productive and for teach myself some new things.
[laughs] I taught myself to edit videos, that was good. Which it partly stemmed for the necessity for making some YouTube videos on where I did record some video covers. At the time, I didn’t know how to do it, so I had to learn. Also, I’m trying to learn some choreographic designer. This helps me to not rely on someone else for doing staff as social medias. Of course, everything is computer based.
We left each other in Amsterdam during the tour in support of Norway’s Cult of Luna with 10″ collaborative vinyl with Japan’s MONO “Exit in Darkness”. So far, how was the general feedback for that release?
It’s been really good. I was, you know, very aware when I started that collaboration. MONO is so revered as instrumental band, I wanted to make sure that their fans would have embraced that not to feel like something that didn’t fit. I’m so so proud of how it did come out. I performed with them once at their 20th anniversary show, it was really wonderful. It was so nice to have that collaboration and be part of their catalogue. I’m very very proud.
Recently, you have signed a record deal with Bella Union. How did you manage to get this deal and how is the collaboration with them right now?
It’s really really wonderful. Bella Union is a fantastic British label, they have a huge variety on their roster. Basically, I was found by Simon Raymond, who is the head of the label . I did a stripped-down performance in Brighton where he lives and I just played two songs together with my bass player. Then, we had a good and long conversation. We spoke about a lot of music stuff and also, dogs and fun things. It just started like that and it was a really enjoyable experience.
Subsequently to your deal with Bella Union, you have revealed some additional info about your upcoming debut “Forever Blue” which it was released on 3rd July. What can you recall about its production?
“Forever Blue” had a lot more time spent on it than my debut EP. I had more time for writing it and for a lot of time for recording it. The album has 8 tracks and it also features two members from Cult of Luna, Johannes [Persson] and Frederik [Kihlberg] kindly agree a part of it and this was arranged before we went on tour with them. We were conversing on email and I really really wanted to add some mail vocal to the recording because I think it’s good to have different textures. I emailed Johannes and he kindly offered to lend some heavy vocals for me, I was so excited. Also, he put me in touch with Frederik who live sings in the softer songs and it’s so wonderful to have them. Additionally, we have Tom Flemming from Wild Beasts on one song as well which it was recorded in London. Yeah, a lots of good things on that.
However, if we should put a timeframe when everything started?
I started writing around April 2019 and then, the actual final stuff was made in June 2019. Let’s say kinda the beginning of the last year.
So, you said earlier that you had much more time to dedicate more time for producing it. If compared to your EP, what do you think have improved in this release?
I think that the writing has more time itself. When I made the EP I had such a short time because Holy Roar Records has kindly agree to release it. They have released to the demos and they was wanted to directly publish them while I wanted to publish an improved version of those songs. So, I had just a short window to complete and gave that to them, in order to make sure that the vinyl was produced in time too. Actually, I think I had just 2 or 3 weeks, so the writing was really quick. Whereas, on this album I had much more time for make sure that the songs were full as a wanted to be. Besides, my own grasp of the technology is better now by only spending time on it. The fact that I was able to go in a studio to record the guitars and stuff like that was great. In the end, I think the sound on a whole is larger, is bigger, more encompassing and more dynamic as well from the EP.
The first single taken from “Forever Blue” was “All I Asked For (Was to End It All)”. First of all, I want to congratulate you for the amazing videoclip. directed by Craig Murray. How this fantastic video connects with its lyrics? Most of all, what is its lyrics about?
Oh thank you so much. I consider the song to be about someone who’s grappling with their own insecurities and sometimes, they feel held back from their own minds. They are trying to understand and to end this relationship for find themselves to be braver in moving their life forward. Now, I didn’t tell this to Craig, he listened to the song and he interpreted it in this way. He sent me roughly a written description of what he wanted to include in the video and I thought the idea of a rebirth was so beautiful. It just fit so well and I’m so pleased with it.
Additionally, you published a second single called “Melt” and it was released on the 20th May. On it, you sing “Slowly, slowly take me away (but I’m not used anyway and I’ll fall into your arms again)” but where? Personally speaking, it holds a lot of meaning but for you what does it means?
I suppose, that sentence is about treading carefully around a subject, a person or a feeling. It’s also about letting helping someone to take the weight off. To help to release the worries and let them free of them.
As we already know, Corona time brings some new challenging solutions, so, I saw your performance featured on the “Stay at Home” Festival. For an artist, but especially for you, how did you feel about it?
I was very pleased to be asked to be part of it. My main focus was to make sure that ultimately, looked nice and sounded nice. I didn’t want that to do a disservice by not trying to film or to do it in a way that didn’t result good quality or the sound wasn’t good. As I said earlier, I’ve been shot a series of cover videos and in doing that I think to have learned to make decent videos, make them stick together, make them look good and sound nice. Because, it’s the only one that I shot were are featured original songs during this isolation period, I liked to keep it fresh. Also, I’ve never played in this solo piano version and it’s always nice to show something different to people.
Actually, I was sincerely moved by the solo acoustic version that you played for that occasion. So, I was wondering if did you ever think to publish a complete acoustic full-length?
It might be something to do later down the line. I would really like to, I love to performing the songs in different ways. For me, it’s really enjoyable as a performer because it’s nice to think about the song differently for different reasons. For example, for this performance I had just think it on my own. It nice to spend some time to go back on it and work on it in a different way. So, yeah, maybe, I would love to do something like that at some point.
I’m dying to know some specs about the instrument that you are playing in the “Stay at Home” performance because I’m not so sure if it is completely a piano…
It’s a completely a piano [laughs], I just have took off the front. I have a little upright piano on which you can take the front off, so, you can see all the the hammers and the string. Because of the limitations of the gear that I have, I don’t have loads of stuff and I just have a microphone which was set on top of the piano and a vocal microphone and that was it. Maybe, in a ideal world I would have more microphones and being able to fix better the tone of the piano but you know, we manage with what we have.
As we have previously mentioned, you have lately your passion for video editing and all this, it produced some interesting sessions that you named “Songs From Isolation” where are featured some covers such as Radiohead‘s “Creep”, Gordon Lightfoot‘s “If You Could Read My Mind”, Nine Inch Nails‘s “Every Day Is Exactly the Same” and Nick Caves‘s “Into Your Arms”. Which personal meaning hold for you these songs?
Well, these songs came from a post that I’ve put up on the social media announcing that I’ll shot some piano videos and if someone would be up to suggesting a song. I didn’t mention that it needed to be my song, ’cause I thought that people asked me to play “Control”, “Cold”. Instead, people started to suggest other bands and I thought “Oh, shit I didn’t specify that it needs to be mine”, so that’s what happened [laughs] and in truth, it turned out to be a great idea. Actually, that is better than playing my own songs, it’s much more fun for me to spend a bit of time on and also it might be engaging for people. So, many fans suggested Radiohead, Deftones, Nick Cave and Nine Inch Nails and these were regularly requested that it seems only right to fulfil their wishes.
Even if I’ve been asked to play several songs throughout their career, the first choice that for Radiohead was “Creep” because it kept popping up but also, it’s one of the songs that I’ve listened a lot when I was younger. It seems to do a good first point of entry. Then, Nine Inch Nails‘s “Every Day Is Exactly the Same” seems so appropriate for this current situation and it was really fun to work with both the piano and the loop pedal as well. So, it has been a combination of suggested song by fans combined with songs that I find practical, that would work for me as a singer and a performer. Also, I tried to have some kind of variety across the border and how they were arranged in order to feature but guitar and piano.
So, this to leave me to ask you a quite stupid question in this time, however it has to be done. Which are your next plans and how this year will turn out for you, Alex?
As you have earlier pointed out, the album was released at the beginning of July. So, that will be available and hopefully, I mean I’m not sure where the music industry is at the moment, it doesn’t certainly that in England nothing’s gonna happen for a while. You know, there are some dates floating around for the end of the year but it’s impossible to know if they whether happen or not. So, if I ignore live music for a while and I focus on other things, then I hope to do some writing and get on the top of those chores and all the boring things I should done a while back.
You know, just put my house in order a bit and just focus on writing as much as I can. Not because I have any pressure, you know I’ve just released my new album and I don’t need to write new songs, but the fact is I love writing new songs. So, I’ll use this time as a kind of therapeutic and an enjoyable act for use in the right way this uncertainty because it’s nice to do something which I’m familiar with.
So, Alex, we’re almost at the end of the interview. Now, it’s your space, so please be free to say hi to your fans and our readers. Thank you once again for this interview.
No, it was my pleasure. I would just like to say hello to everybody who’s reading, even if you are or not are aware of who I am, but thank you for taking the time to be interested and curious. I hope everybody is safe and well and trying to find a little bit of light right now. It will be for all of us if we can.