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ennlfrdeitrues
ahburyheights promo2020Interview with

Anders Hagström (Vocals, programming, production, song writing) from Ashbury Heights

Change and challenge are probably the words that best describes the Swedish project ASHBURY HEIGHTS’ career. Changes in line-up, managerial hiccups on the one hand and fantastic sounds, great presentation and the spirit of constant reinventing on the other.  I had a chance to talk to Anders Hagström about his way of creating art, visual representation and contacts with fans.

Reflections o0f Darkness [RoD]: I first saw you at WGT 2008 - a relatively new project, highly emotional, very determined. It was a long time ago.  You have evolved  a lot since then, especially in terms of your line up. Could you tell me a bit more about the changes in female vocal role in ASHBURY HEIGHTS, the very direction you’re heading in and the story behind your music as of now?
Anders: ASHBURY HEIGHTS has had three singers and the recent changes had made me think a lot about what makes ASHBURY HEIGHTS what it is. I don’t know what the new direction will be, or what the next line-up will look like. Our first priority is releasing an anthology of rare and unreleased tracks, to properly end the era that was, and then I’ll start working on the next ASHBURY HEIGHTS album. I’m excited about the future, but I don’t intend to rush anything. For the anthology I am working with several guest artists to complete any unfinished tracks. It’s been a really fun experience, getting new ideas and influences from musicians outside of my own echo chamber.

RoD: You once mentioned in one of your posts you love English language... could you please develop on that? Is it love of the language itself, the literature or the Brit culture in general? Do you read a lot? Or is it more music, art that inspires you? How is it reflected in your art?
Anders: I love how effortlessly one can express emotions and beauty in English, the language has always been like a magic lamp to me; I have only to wish I could express a thought and English has provided me with the words to pronounce my fears, and loves, and all the silent rage. I do read a lot, or rather I used to read a lot. ASHBURY HEIGHTS was very much a reading band on the last two albums. Now I find less time for it, so the music is becoming more introspective.

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RoD: You started a DIY series at Facebook, is it your way of reaching the fans? Making yourselves more available?
Anders: [laughs] No, it was a joke we started at the beginning of the tour and then we just ran with it. Perhaps we’ll keep doing them. We’re all kind of failed comedians, so our gut reaction when doing stuff on camera is to try and be funny.

RoD: Also, back in January you opened a session for the fans to answer their questions. That makes me ask - what is your approach to your fans? How do you experience social media and the channels of communication? What are your boundaries regarding opening up?
Anders: This is a great question, I don’t really know. We are trying things, feeling it out. I am really uncomfortable with social media, and with posing for a camera, so I’m not good Instagrammer-material.  Just know it’s something we should do, because it’s the way the world connects, so we try our best. We have the most well behaved and nice fans on the internet, so the experience have been entirely positive. I wish we could do YouTube things more frequently, but it’s a huge investment of time and it’s hard to find the time to spend.

RoD: Your stage experience - your best and worst moments?
Anders: There are many to choose from, the best moments are all the moments when the audience is present in the moment with you and you work together to make a great experience. The worst are the times when the stage monitors are really bad and you can’t hit your notes because you can’t hear yourself at all. Being a band with a lot of intricate harmonies is really risky when you don’t have your own sound technician, but I think we’ve been lucky more often than not.

RoD: The visual part of the concert - how important is it to you? How do you feel image and music correlate in scenic performance?
Anders: I love that, I think visuals are a huge part of a performance. Tea was a real mastermind in that regard and worked hard to push our visual style while she was in the band. I’m not at all as comfortable or well versed in the ways of putting up a show so I think Ashbury got rawer and more basic without her. But we try to make that a strength, drawing upon more heavy influences and adding more live elements to offset the lack of visuals.

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RoD: Do you ever experience stage freight? How do you present yourselves while on stage? Do you prefer live act moments or is it rather composing that you prefer in artistic creation?
Anders: Oh I have stage fright every time, I’ll stop doing live shows when I lose that feeling. I try to present our music when I’m on stage, channel it, live it. Nothing beats a good gig, but I’m a perfectionist and it’s always hard for electronic acts to live up to the recorded material live.

RoD: When you compose - sounds or lyrics - what does it take to create a song in your case?
Anders: Depends on the song, some of our songs have a strong lyrical theme that shaped the music, and in other cases the music just needed lyrics. In some cases a good beat demanded both. I used to write all my songs on my mother’s old piano, but since she died I do a bit of everything. ‘Spiders’ for example, was written entirely by me humming to myself on the tram on my way to school. I’d record my awkward public humming on my phone and flesh out the arrangement when I got home.

RoD: About your music - what are we to expect from you? Your last album ‘The Looking Glass Society’ was released back in 2015, what are you up to now?
Anders: Tea’s departure delayed everything, that’s to be expected. I am still thinking about how to do ASHBURY HEIGHTS in the future. We had been planning the follow up when she left and I didn’t want to do that without her so I scrapped the concept. I have written maybe 10 songs for the next album, but it’s still far away from done. In the meanwhile we’ll be releasing an anthology of old unreleased and rare tracks. It’s titled ‘The Ghost House Sessions’ and contains all the web exclusives and covers we’ve done in the past, as well as many of the tracks that didn’t make the cut for the last three albums. We always make about thirty tracks for each album so there’s a lot of songs from our last decade that I’m really proud of and would like to see released.

RoD: Pandemic… how did it influence you? As artists, or human beings?
Anders: I have not written anything pandemic-related with ASHBURY yet. We are still in the middle of it, and I am not sure how it will affect us in the long term. I’m sure there will be lots of emotions to work through at the end. I was in lockdown for four months, stuck in a small room without any human contact, and it certainly affected me.

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RoD: Is art, making music a social, or individual matter? What is it like in your case?
Anders: It’s both and more. Making art is certainly very personal for me as an artist. When I write a song I am bringing it out of concealment, making what was in my mind audible for everyone. But when I have brought the work out, it becomes social, it becomes for everyone, because the song becomes its own work and stands independent of me. I think my works are far more social than I am, they communicate so much more freely with people from all over the world than I ever could.

RoD: When you make music... what is it that inspires you? Is it daily life? Urban music, people walking down the streets, their face expressions  or is art, lit or something totally else?
Anders: All of the above, inspiration really comes from all kinds of places. During my first weeks in Luxembourg I wrote several new songs. Just being away from everything I knew made music happen.

RoD: Future plans - albums, tours? Probably it is silly asking such a question now, but I’m wondering if you’ll use the time to compose something new?
Anders: Next up is the first single from the ‘Ghost House Sessions’ anthology. Touring is obviously very far from our minds right now. We will release more singles and videos before dropping the full album. I wish I could say that Corona has given us free time, but the truth is that we are more busy than ever doing whatever we can to stay afloat.

RoD: Courage is knowing what not to fear… do you relate?
Anders: I think there are many definitions of courage. Right now, when I think of courage, I think of those who stand up for the rights of their fellow man, even at risk for their own well-being. That kind of courage impresses, and moves me, deeply.

RoD: Thank you for your time, stay safe and healthy!

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Live pictures from M’era Luna 2017 by Daniela Vorndran (http://www.vorndranphotography.com / http://www.facebook.com/blackcatnet)
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