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METAL DISCOVERY: I also like the way the songs transcend genre. I think too many people get hung up on having to categorise everything they hear, but I think it’s better to describe how music makes you feel, how you connect to it emotionally, rather than obsessing over pigeon-holing it into whatever genre. I think categorising stuff compromises and undermines an artist’s integrity and individuality. Is that something you agree with?
LOUISE: I absolutely agree with that. I so strongly agree with that. And, you know, when I set out to do this, I guess I had this blissful freedom in my head and, of course, Stephen’s open mind as a producer was fantastic in that sense because he was happy to give me a platform to explore what I wanted to explore. And, certainly, whenever Jakko [Jakszyk] came on board - I mean, he plays and sings on six out of eight songs, so a very big part of the record, and I think it’s an important part of the tapestry of the entire album - but we also have a very, very similar taste in music and we probably bridged the gap in terms of the progressive rock side, whereas Stephen Carey and I don’t. So I think a lot of those similar tastes, Jakko completely got what I was going for and understood the emotions of a lot of things. And has done some beautiful parts on the record, which has definitely added a certain level of fairy dust.
(Louise Patricia Crane on the importance of botany to her artistry)
"I find flowers incredibly beautiful. They tie in so beautifully as an analogy for some of the feelings and desires and some of the seduction aspects of my writing."
Louise Patricia Crane
Interview by Mark Holmes
Photograph copyright © 2020 Ester Segarra - www.estersegarra.com
But, yeah, at no point at all did I want to approach this with anybody involved; I wanted everyone to understand that… is it really wanky for me to say this, but I want it to be a piece of art; I want it to be an emotional thing. When you listen to this, it’s not going to be about me singing my balls off the whole time; it’s got to be about translating some sort of emotion or escape or journey to someone who’s listening to it with that in mind. Just trying to make the absolute best album I can make and put into it the things that I really find aesthetically beautiful, and really sort of sensual and alluring, and that’s where the literary and stuff like the ‘Valerie…’ aspect, these kind of aesthetics that are really alluring to me and I find very seductive.
But, yeah… I think, probably, genre-wise, rather than think I want to do this kind of music, I knew what I wanted to avoid. And there wasn’t really any massive risk of this with Stephen because he knew me and he knew what I was into and stuff, but I wanted to avoid doing a Goth record. I didn’t want to do an out-and-out Goth record or anything like that. For the first time, after being in all these other bands, I wanted to really have this be, you know, my say.
MD: Yeah, and it has that feel of integrity to it, I think. I mean, every piece of art - painting; film; music; whatever - it’s an outward expression of someone’s emotions. So I guess if you express yourself in the most genuine way possible, without pandering to what you think people would want to hear, or without writing deliberately in a particular style, then you are expressing your emotions in the truest form you can. I think that’s why the album transcends genre, too, because that’s obviously been your approach.
LOUISE: Oh, wonderful.
MD: I gather the album is supposed to be regarded as the sun on one side of the record, and the moon on the other, so are each of the four sets of songs supposed to represent the sun and moon in different ways?
LOUISE: Yeah, the notion behind that is, when you put the record on, that’s the sun at its brightest. As you journey through the record, if you imagine the sun on its course to sunset, that is the end of side one. So, as it closes off, you’re imagining the sun still up, but it’s setting at that point; we’re ‘Cascading’; it’s closing off the first half. And moonrise would be ‘Deep Blue’, and the darkest part of night would then be, of course, ‘The Eve of the Hunter’, when the album ends. I didn’t go too far in trying to force that down anyone’s throat, but that’s definitely how I view the songs; it’s how I view the record. It does have these brighter, sunny themes. I mean, I have synaesthesia, so I have really strong visual associations with sound, with all the music that I’ve created. So, yeah, that’s the idea - when you start the record, it’s sunrise, and when you finish the record, it’s the darkest part of night.
MD: So I guess if you time it right, you could listen to side A when the sun’s setting, and then put on side B as it’s dusking. Aligning the listening experience with the cycle of the day, I guess!
LOUISE: Yeah, and it’s even better if you have a bottle of wine!
MD: Always better!
LOUISE: I agree!
MD: Maybe a bottle of white wine for the first side, and a bottle or red for the second!
LOUISE: Oh, you’re talking my language now!
MD: I gather botany is very important to the album. Is that from a metaphorical, artistic perspective, or in the sense of a more real-world medicinal appeal, perhaps?
LOUISE: Botany is such a huge part of this record. It became obsessive. There’s something mysterious and I think there’s so much we don’t know about the world of flora. The symbolism in ‘Valerie and Her Week of Wonders’ with the daisy, which I gather, at least in how I interpret it, symbolises her innocence and purity; her change into womanhood. Flowers, back in older times, of course, held meaning. So, a bouquet, you could send someone a hate bouquet, which tells someone lots of different things and none of them are good! Or you could suggest that you long for someone, that you really desire someone very much, by a certain flower that you give them. I find that fascinating; I find flowers incredibly beautiful. They tie in so beautifully as an analogy for some of the feelings and desires and some of the seduction aspects of my writing.
I had this black book that I kept the whole time, whenever I was writing the lyrics for ‘Deep Blue’. They were all over the place but, in my head, I somehow knew what groups were going to become a song. But so much of it, I would sit and pore over these old Victorian flower books, and these books that talk about the language of flowers and the meanings behind flowers and so on. And, yeah, it became a total obsession. There’s probably another album’s worth of material in that black book that features botany of some kind!
MD: That’s your genre, obviously... botanical rock!
LOUISE: Botanical rock, I like that! That’s brilliant!
MD: You’ve got some pretty tasty guests on the album, as well. You managed to entice Ian Anderson to become involved, who I gather you met at a King Crimson show. I guess you don’t get if you don’t ask, so how did that conversation go?
LOUISE: Well, I put a spell on him!
LOUISE: Well, actually, Jakko had put me in a box next to Ian Anderson because he knew it would freak me out! Because Jethro Tull are my other favourite band. King Crimson are my number one favourite band, and Jethro Tull would be very close; almost tied with Crimson. So he thought it would be hilarious to put me in a box. There’s about six or eight seats in this box; it’s tiny. And I’m sitting there having a glass of… actually, between you and me, I was having a pint of wine!
MD: Well, yeah, at a gig, it saves you having to queue at a bar too often. So that’s the best thing to do!
LOUISE: Thank you, thank you! So, yeah, I was drinking a pint of wine, which is very glamorous and very classy, and Ian Anderson walks in and I’m on my own in this box. He sits down and he said, “Hello, what’s your name?”, and I said, “I’m Louise”, so he said, “I’m Ian”, and I said, “I know who you are!”… you know, I could barely breathe, I couldn’t believe this; he’s a total hero of mine. So we start chatting and we got on really well. He was talking about whenever Tull played in the Albert Hall and he was asking me about what I do; he was asking me about my music. And, yeah, we were just chatting about everything and then Bill Bruford walks in and that was completely mental! Another person that Jakko had arranged to sit beside me!
By the end of that evening, I said to Ian I’d be going to see Jethro Tull in Dublin in September, which was a few months later, and he said, “Oh well, let’s have a drink after the show, we’ll catch up and it was lovely to meet you.” And, true to his words, we did. A few months later, I went down to Dublin and we had a few drinks after the show. It was brilliant, it was really nice. I met the band and we were hanging out in the dressing room and I popped the question to Ian!
LOUISE: Which was like, can you imagine how nerve-wracking that was?!
MD: Yeah, wow.
LOUISE: But he showed so much interest in the music I was doing and he was really receptive to it. He was really into the idea and he said, “Send your music across to me.” He was so lovely and so professional. He asked me, “What’s the meaning behind ‘Ophelia’?”; “What’s the meaning behind ‘Snake Oil’?” You know, “What do these lyrics mean to you?”, and, “What are you going for emotionally on these songs? Where do you want me to play and where do you not want me to play?” Oh god, it was incredible.
MD: Oh wow, so a lot of integrity in terms of what he put into it. I mean, two amazing performances on those songs.
LOUISE: Yeah, they make those songs. They really add so much to those songs. In particular with ‘Ophelia’, because the instrumental, the atmospheric break, it’s a bit arty and it’s supposed to convey the emotion of Ophelia succumbing to death, to suicide and taking her own life and drowning. That’s the idea behind that part of the song and Ian completely got that, and he completely did the most amazing job. So haunting. I’m really, really over the moon with what he did on both of those songs. And I’m completely not worthy!
MD: That was your ‘Wayne’s World’ moment!
LOUISE: My ‘Wayne’s World’ moment, yeah!
MD: You also had Jakko from King Crimson, as you’ve already talked about, with guitar, a bit of tin whistle, some backing vocals, so how did he originally become involved?
LOUISE: Jakko and I became friends. We met each other and the first song he heard of mine was… and he didn’t hear it for a month because I was so… can you imagine? He’s the frontman of my favourite band and there was an element of, I can’t let him hear my music!
LOUISE: Maybe I was drunk, I don’t remember what happened, but I somehow decided to have the courage to send him ‘Deity’. I sent him that song and he loved the song; he thought it was fantastic. He really loved it and he said, “I would love to contribute in some way.” He loved the chorus, in particular; the chord change on the chorus, he loved it. And he said, “Please, I would love to do something on this, whatever it is that you want.” When I played him the other songs I’d written and recorded, he really liked the stuff that was there and he wanted to contribute to it. If he had his way, he would play on everything that was on the album.
MD: You had to tame his enthusiasm a little bit!
LOUISE: I had to tame his enthusiasm a little bit, yeah!
MD: What a massive compliment, though…
LOUISE: Massive.
MD: The frontman of your all-time favourite band and to have that level of enthusiasm. How did that feel?
LOUISE: That was around the time that I went, “This isn’t real, something weird has happened. I’ve taken some sort of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ potion and, somehow, I’ve ended up in this fantasy world!” Which wouldn’t surprise me, by the way, Mark, because I just live in a fantasy dream world, anyway… all the time, if I can. That’s where I want to be, so it wouldn’t surprise me if, at some point, I wake up and this has all been a crazy dream!
MD: But what a dream, if that happens to be!
LOUISE: Yeah, a very good dream!
MD: Shir-ran Yinon is another very interesting guest. I remember her briefly in Eluveitie… I don’t know if you know them, the Swiss metal band?
LOUISE: Yes, I do, yeah.
MD: Yeah, I think when Nicole Ansperger stepped away from the band for a year or so, Shir-ran was touring with them. So how did she become involved?
LOUISE: Well, Shir-ran is a friend via The Eden House. Shir-ran performed with us. She took over Bob Loveday’s duties on the violin for us, whenever we performed live. I believe the first time was WGT, so Wave-Gotik-Treffen in Leipzig in 2018, I think. And then we did another show in Poland and Shir-ran joined us there, as well. So, yeah, she’s amazing. I was writing ‘Deep Blue’ and, when we were in Poland, we were talking, we were having breakfast, and she said, “I would love to be a part of it, I would love to be involved, so let me know if you ever need any violin.” And, yeah, whenever it came to the point of adding embellishments on the record, we got in touch with Shir-ran because we’ve worked with her and we love her. Because she’d expressed enthusiasm to become involved, it was fantastic and a total honour, as well.
And, at that point, I started getting this niggling feeling - like, I really want to hear her violin; I really want to hear some discordant, vampiric violin on ‘Isolde’. At that point, it was the second song I’d written for the album so that was three years old by then. And, I’m sort of thinking, it needs something else; what is it that it needs? And it just had to be violin because it always gave off this vampire’s ballroom dance vibe, to me and to Stephen, as well, actually. We always talked about it in that sense. And, yeah, in all honesty, Shir-ran’s contribution to ‘Isolde’, the violin solo on that song, might be my favourite part of the whole album.
MD: Oh wow. It is an amazing performance. She is an incredible musician.
LOUISE: Incredible. It’s so tasty! The violin performance she does, she just teases you throughout the song and then, when she goes into that moment, she has the floor and she does that solo. Oh my god! I could just marry her! It’s unbelievable. It’s a real highlight moment, for me, on the record.