A truly magical interview… Anne Clark is an icon; one cannot doubt that. But more than that, she is an artist of life, of sharp perception, master of words and sounds, a spectator and an actor in one person, a poet, and a musician, a witness and mastermind. With her music she offers a journey through the layers of sensitivity, pain, anger and beauty. The new album, ‘Synaesthesia - Anne Clark Classics Re-Worked’ which will be released on 28th of May, offers a new insight into her artistic world. She lets the other artists interpret her music and by doing so, she gives us a mirror, a magnifying glass and a sonic matter translated by different personalities and characters. I took a chance to talk to Anne - about music, but above all - life.
Reflections of Darkness RoD: When I think about the re-works process, it makes me think of re-reading some books - I understood them differently when I was, say, 20, a student, and now, when I’m more experienced, and older I see deeper layers and add different meanings to the things I read. Does it work similarly with music or is it something totally else?
Anne: Well, Karo, you would really need to ask each individual who re-worked the tracks. I was very much an observer to the process and only know which versions I wanted to include and which not. I like your idea of it being something like re-reading a book. Indeed. There is something new every time one re-reads a page, as there is when listening to music. There is a mystery in all these things. Something very personal. Just as the reader of a book understands something different from the writer who put the words on paper (or a computer screen!), so a listener hears something else in music. Some of the tracks on ‘Synaesthesia’ stay close to the originals, whereas others are wildly different and innovative. I love it! Listening to these new interpretations of course gives each track a whole other dimension.
RoD: Your music always makes me think of amazing theatre spectacles - so is ‘Synaesthesia’ - poetry combined with heart-touching, inspirational music - do you think various kinds of art meet in your music output?
Anne: Music and all art should, I believe, create new worlds for us, or rather new ways of interpreting the world. This life is damned hard sometimes. It is necessary to blur the hard edges, let our senses intermix. Yes - let’s mix theatre, poetry, music, painting. Let’s mingle touch, taste, smell, sight, sound!
RoD: Further to that question - the concept of synaesthesia has always been very intriguing and actually close to me - I have always felt that music is actually the matter that requires a holistic approach, where a lot of barriers are gone. And I don’t mean it in a strictly technical sense, but rather as far as the effect achieved is concerned. What is your own understanding of “synaesthesia” in music?
Anne: Music is our abstract international language. It is felt in one way or another by everybody who hears it. It invokes emotions of every kind. Just like a certain aroma conjures up memories. Everything is so interconnected. Music allows our emotions and senses total freedom. This can be both beautiful and painful, confusing and revealing.
RoD: Please tell me more about the new release… ‘Synaesthesia’ features 14 exquisite pieces - I must say I spent several hours with the album, delving into the sonic world you and the artists you chosen created, totally enchanted, mesmerized and even consumed by your sounds and discovering new details and shades every time. I wonder - when you and your team started working on the album - did you have a clear vision of what it’s going to be or was it rather a living, changing structure evolving constantly? Did you change any initial assumptions as far as the content is concerned? Influenced the artists you co-operated with?
Anne: As with so many things, I believe in giving musicians total freedom to explore ideas and only later decide on whether it is something I feel works or doesn’t. There were many other versions of songs people submitted that I felt just didn’t capture the essence nor create any new dimension to the material. It was a very interesting experience. In a throwaway consumer world, where music is frequently as disposable as takeaway coffee cups or plastic water bottles, I like to view it as an exercise in recycling, not “just another” remix.
RoD: The album is a place where your ideas meet with the ones who prepared their own versions of your classics - herrB, Thomas Rückoldt, Solomun (with whom you collaborated for your latest album), Blank & Jones, Andreas Brecht and Yagy - is it difficult to create a meeting point for that many personalities?
Anne: That’s an interesting question - a meeting point - every artist worked very independently from each other. All with their own unique style. Does there have to be a meeting point? The album as a whole is that meeting point. A little bit like I said earlier - each track stimulates a different reaction in each listener. The only points of actual convergence are my voice and words. The threads are all pulled together in that.
RoD: I’m wondering what determined the choice of the artists you decided to work with on ‘Synaesthesia’ - is it the particular “feeling” for the person you have or rather the music taste, sensitivity analysis? The workshop?
Anne: As you mentioned, the album includes interpretations by musical partners of mine such as herrB, Blank & Jones and Thomas Rückoldt. Their versions were ideas we had already created or began creating in the studio. Regarding the others, these are people whose work I hugely admire or who I regard as being very much a significant part of the current music scene.
RoD: While working on the album - what were the major ideas for the new versions you shared? What was the co-operation like? What was the effect the particular artists had in mind? In what way did they inscribe their artistic personalities into your very own music?
Anne: As I said earlier, I gave them total freedom (apart from the versions Thomas and herrB and I had already worked on). I only came later with comments and suggestions. I think each track contains the very clear identity of each artist.
RoD: Change of subject for a while - we all sometimes loose balance or seek sense, loose the direction or the purpose - not sure if you agree. I’m wondering what does it take to keep on creating for 40 years? I mean, I sometimes have a feeling that we currently live in an instant era - everything must happen fast, preferably immediately, things become uninteresting, irrelevant in a blink of an eye. In this crazy world, you manage to be consistent, true and faithful to your vision. How do you do it?
Anne: I cannot deny that it is truly wonderful to have certain things instantly available. This is the dilemma of our “modern” world. Technology is a tool for each of us to use as we see best... or worst. In one way it allows us to have access to information and things that would have been impossible to find just a few years ago, but yes, it makes us restless, nervous and impatient too. I’m not sure I can connect, or allow myself to consciously connect, my writing to this, although in some ways it must. In the past 40 years I have taken big breaks from creativity, both voluntarily and imposed. That has been necessary. One needs to rest and become re-energised, experience things differently.
RoD: In January 2021 you released your book ‘Notes Taken, Traces Left’ as an audiobook on Spotify, which, to be, honest, made me super happy, cause I was not able to get a hold of a book. It makes me think of you as of a person, who is not afraid to delve into the new experience, but also the one who is delicate, sensitive, pays attention to details, little things, like those “scraps of life”. Is it the way you approach the world? In detail, in close-up? Is it translated into your music, too?
Anne: I think my hyper-sensitivity has been both detrimental and essential in my life. A burden and a blessing. This far down the road I realise there is very little alternative for me. I see beauty and pain intensely. This has made me both a good and a bad person in my life. As the special people treating me through my illness emphasised - don’t count the days, make the days count - and this is true for each and every one of us, whether we are ill or not. This one short and tiny life we have should be lived as deeply as possible. That is my belief at least.
RoD: In what way do you think your past influenced you? Do you think the past has an impact on us through our entire lives or there is a point we get free from it? You mention spirituality, but also anger, various experiences and the environment in the book. It makes me think you are a boiling pot of emotions - all shades of them. A perfect material for an artist?
Anne: I think we not only carry our own past but also that of our parents and the generations before them, our history, our nations’ history, the earth’s history and experience. (Is that another kind of Synaesthesia?!). Do we ever get free from experience? I don’t know. I think we can loosen its hold but change, in this way, is a very slow evolution.
RoD: Do you think there are points in life that you could call your personal milestones? Like certain events, people, perhaps books or poems you read, places you visited... Did you have any in your life? If yes, in what way did they influence your art and changed you as a person, a musician, an artist in general?
Anne: Well, yes & no... Until recently I mostly saw life as just one continual path we make our way along. There are bumps and rocks and boulders and blossoms and blooms and rainbows along the way. Then, last year, my life - everyone’s life - changed so suddenly and so drastically that I had no option but to seriously re-assess it. The significance and importance, the insignificance and unimportance of things became so vivid. Things that I know had been kind of important during my life took on a whole new relevance. As an artist I don’t believe they have any greater significance to me than life events have to anyone. It’s only that artists channel them through their particular mediums and offer the feeling of not being alone with our reactions and experiences.
RoD: Do you think serious illness changes the perspective? Makes one appreciate things more?
Anne: 100%. How could it not? I nearly died last year, in the midst of a pandemic. I had never been seriously ill in my entire life before. I saw humanity in the nurses and doctors who cared for me, all kinds of people, like I could never have imagined. The intensity was uncontainable
RoD: I’ve always associated Anne Clark with poetry - with music, yes, but also with words. The very atmosphere of your shows is like a monodrama, it builds up the ambiance that casts a spell onto the audience with the words you share on the canvas of sounds. It’s very magical, actually. Now we are all deprived of concerts, of course, but my question is - what is the place of lyrics in your art? Of words within the sea of sounds you create?
Anne: They are the core of it. Music is the bridge which carries them across.
RoD: Is such an experienced artist as yourself can still be surprised during a creative process? By some solutions that may come across or new ideas? Do you think the reasons why you’re making music have changed through yours? Or your general approach to art, your audience or inspirations for that matter? Do you think working with other artists may be a refreshing challenge?
Anne: That feels like a kind of cycle or circle to the process, regardless of how far I reach out with my search looking for unexplored sounds and processes, however extreme these become or wherever the journey of collaboration takes me. I am as happy today as I was back at the beginning of the 1990s, finding and recording natural and naturally occurring sounds or sounds created by human activity. Things that are often overlooked or taken for granted in our daily lives. The same with images. In photography as well as sound, the microcosm is endlessly fascinating in relation to the whole. Combining my sound or visual intentions with other artists is always a refreshing challenge and one that, most of the time, I enjoy immensely. As I have said in previous interviews, I often feel like a painter placing colours and textures on a canvas or a cook preparing ingredients. Gathering all the components together and hearing them develop into a whole new concept or structure is my greatest pleasure in the creative process.
RoD: What do you see for yourself in the future? Apart from getting super healthy?
Anne: I see myself waking each morning and grabbing that particular day and living it as fully and as consciously and yes, of course, as healthily as possible. My life will never be lived as it was before I became ill last year but, every detail, every element of it has taken on more significance and poignancy.
RoD: Any final words for your fans?
Anne: Stay safe! Stay tuned! Thank you for ALL the incredible love and support!
RoD: Thank you very much Anne, I appreciate your time and wish the very best!
Anne: Thank you Karo!
Pictures by Tine Franckaert