Anna Von Hausswolff

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Anna Von Hausswolff is the daughter of experimental Swedish composer and mixed media artist Carl Michael von Hausswolff, so her desire to produce genre exploding music may be genetic. Her new album, Ceremony, combines the sound of a church organ with a small rock band, for music that veers from stately classical themes to simple three-chord drone rock, steeped in a funerial air that’s both exhilarating and foreboding.

SOMA: The sound of a church organ has seldom been used in pop music. Why did you choose it for the main instrument on Ceremony?

Von Hausswolff: My musical taste changed a lot after the release of my first album Singing from the Grave. I started to listen to a lot of drone metal and was totally sucked into that universe. The church organ made it easy for me to play classic pop songs and more experimental stuff, where I could incorporate some of my drone influences into the music. I could create beautiful, long extended layers of sound without using one single pedal effect. All church organs are acoustically made for a specific place and we wanted to capture the atmosphere of the room as much as we wanted to capture the sound of the instrument. You can work with melodies and thick layers of textures; noise and quiet; orchestration and rhythms. The room of Annedal’s Church in Gothenburg, where we recorded Ceremony, is one big echo chamber. I wanted to have the sound of a huge sonic space. I would describe the sound as ancient, yet modern.

SOMA: Why did you choose Ceremony as the album title?

Von Hausswolff: For me, Ceremony is marking the significance of death through the reflection and celebration of life. I wrote the record as a tribute to my grandfather, who passed away and inspired me to make this record. His death became an important rite of passage and a good starting point for me to become more concerned and passionate about life. He encouraged me to write about things that really mattered to me. I had been thinking a lot about the destructive path of human kind. I feel like the natural world and humans are traveling on two parallel tracks, instead of one. We separate ourselves from nature and I am searching for things that can make me feel unified with nature. Sometimes I grasp a feeling of unity with mother earth when I see a sunset, walk in the mountains or if someone close to me dies.

SOMA: How does Ceremony differ from Singing To The Grave?

Von Hausswolff: I worked more thematically with Ceremony,and I was more focused on the record as a whole piece of work, not just a collection of songs. With Singing from the Grave, I had stored the songs in my head for four or five years and I needed to get them out. When I recorded them, it was fast and spontaneous. I needed to spit out my inner collection of songs. Ceremony is more of a vision, something I want to continue to work with and grow with. I don’t think my work on Ceremony is finished.

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SOMA: Did recording Ceremony have any effect on your creative process?

Von Hausswolff: I learned that I can create anything I want to if I just find the right collaborators. I am glad that I decided to work with (producer) Filip Leyman. He’s been a friend for ten years, so I felt safe, relaxed and in good hands during our work together. We experimented a lot and we had no idea if the church organ would work with a rock band. He had never recorded one, and I had never really played on one, but we did our research well and we took a risk. It’s important to take risks; if you don’t, you can get stuck in one place, a safety zone, and that can be boring.

SOMA: Your vocals sometimes make it hard to decipher the words. Was that was a conscious decision?

Von Hausswolff: Yes. I wanted the voice to blend in with the instruments, to be a part of the arrangement. On Singing From the Grave, the vocals are in your face, which fits that record well. On Ceremony, I needed to find a place for my voice where it wasn’t in the center of attention. I had to let it become a small part of a big solar system, a little planet perhaps, or a little star, circling around its master sun.

THE SPRING ISSUE

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