In conversation with Christian Fennesz

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Photo by Luis Martins

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After five years since his latest album release Fennesz has returned to  Touch label with a new release, Agora. Due to be released on the 28th of March, this album finds the composer returning to his roots with a minimal production setup and a focus on manipulated and mangled guitar riffs and synths.

Fennesz will play in Control Club (Bucharest) on the 4th of March, so we couldn't miss this opportunity to have a conversation with Christian about his new album, his incentive of creating music and about his collaborations with artists such as Ryuichi Sakamoto or Jim O´Rourke. 

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| A lot of people describe your music as cinematic, so does cinema have an
influence on your sound and textures?

I love cinema and films, but i don't think it has more influence on my work than any other
artform I enjoy, or good food or maybe a nice journey.


How did you approach soundtracking the film AUN?

Some of the tracks already existed. The director, Edgar Honetschläger, wanted three tracks from the album “Cendre” which I made with Ryuichi Sakamoto back in 2007. So, all the other pieces are composed around these three tracks. I was trying to stay in the same mood/colour of those compositions.

 

| You have had amazing collaborations with musicians like Sakamoto, OʼRourke, Sylvian, Noto and Vainio. What are your fondest memories about each of these meetings?

For me, all these collaborations were equally important. I remember having had great times in New York city with Ryuichi Sakamoto, nice travels with Mika and Carsten, a fantastic time with David in studios in Vienna and London. But from all of these, the person I have played together with the most is Jim O´Rourke. Jim lives in Japan and I go there at least once in a year and we go on tour together.

Christian Fennesz and Jim O'Rourke

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You are now preparing for the release of your new solo album, "Agora", again on the Touch label. You had a special challenge on this one by recording it at home on your headphones, can you please tell us more about it? Is it called Agora by contrast?

Agora was not easy to make and I am actually surprised and very happy how it came out. Having had to record at home again, after all these years in a proper studio, it felt like a burden. Later on it felt like a relief not to have too many options... "Agora" has a meaning in old greek language and in Portuguese, but  in the end its just a name.


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Does the context of an album dictates the instruments you are going to use, or do you think is it instinctual?

For me it is instinctual. I use whatever is at hand, whatever is around, guitars, pedals, plenty of software synths and effects. If there is a grand piano, I would use it, if there is an orchestra, I´d be happy to use it. But the guitar and the laptop were always my main instruments, that is why I stick to the things that I know and understand.


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How did your longterm relationship with designer and publisher Jon Wozencroft started? Does he always envision the perfect image for you music?

I let Jon do his job. I totally respect his work. The “Touch” label are only two people. Mike Harding and Jon Wozencroft. Mike runs the business and Jon does the art direction, sometimes this also mixes somehow. Whenever we do an album, its a bit of a teamwork.

 

| What is the role of nature in the music and sound that defines you as an artist?

I think it was Lars van Trier who once said “Nature is the church of Satan”. I wouldn´t totally agree, but there is a part of I´d agree with. I know in some old press texts it says I am using field recordings but actually I have never done that. I think the only field recording I have ever done was the tram outside of my window that appears on Tom / Station one.

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Your live recordings from Japan, Australia and Portugal, but also the garden performance from 1999 are such unique approaches. What's the story behind these releases?

I guess these were just “happy accidents”. The live albums always were suggestions from labels. They wanted to do them. I wasn't even sure it is such a good idea. I assume the 1999 recording you mention refers to that album I made for Touch in that year. It's true, at the time I didn´t have much more than a laptop, a small mixer, headphones and a guitar. That's why I could go record anywhere. There wasn´t an approach. It was made out of being quite poor at the time.


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Have you got a perspective on the future of music? Do you think that things will change in the next 5 years and people would prefer live streaming over attending live performances?

Oh God, I really think I am the wrong person for that question. From what I see, I get the impression people still want to come at live performances. I actually did live streaming twice. Once in Paris and once in Tokyo. It felt a little boring to me...not my thing. Then better not playing live anymore, or owning a streaming channel and play live say three times a week. Thats something to think about but people would never get out of their pyjamas anymore...

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