Hi Anna, thanks for doing the interview. This is your second visit to Amplifest after playing here in 2016. How well do you remember that show and how does it feel to be back? After all, this is the festival that introduced you to Portuguese audiences.
A - I feel very excited. I had one of my best festival experiences at Amplifest in 2016 and that was mostly due to the amazing crowd. They were attentive and passionate.
You wrote on your Facebook Page that these European shows in October will be your last performances before embarking on a new journey. What exactly do you have planned? In other words, what does this “end of an era” mean?
A - I'm making a new album. I won't be touring until that album is ready. The end of an era can refer to the end of a story. I have a new story to tell now.
Two years ago you released your fifth studio album, All Thoughts Fly, on Southern Lord Records. It is a highly poetic and introspective collection of instrumental music that evokes the memory of a very specific place - the Sacro Bosco garden in Italy. Do you feel that sounds, in some situations, manage to communicate the indescribable, perhaps revealing emotions that words simply cannot convey? Also, would you consider doing something like this again?
A - I don't specifically work with field recordings but I like the associations that sound can bring; sound to me is a trigger for imagination and fantasy. I think I've always worked with the theme of imagination and as long as a story, a person or a place invokes creativity inside me, art will appear in various forms, but I don't like to bind myself to an idea of what my music should be. I feel that everything that I do is connected even when things sound very different.
“Love is a healing energy, and the more we can spread it around ourselves the stronger we'll be”.
The Sacro Bosco garden was commissioned by Pier Francesco Orsini to cope with the loss of his wife. It is hauntingly beautiful, and, in my opinion, it really reflects your own creative process: you create art that is emotionally intense, extremely cathartic, but at the end of the day, you use it as a way to spread love and light. And just like this garden, it is pure, authentic and mesmerizing. Would you say, then, that paying homage to this place and its legacy is also a way to honor your artistic goals?
A - I think working with this place helped me set new goals for myself. I can honor the imagination, playfulness and the creativity that Mr Orsini had, and by making this record I was trying to connect with him and this park. I honor the legacy that he gave to this world.
Speaking of emotional intensity, we saw you perform twice - first in the 2016 edition of Amplifest and then two years later, at Casa da Música , also in Porto - , and what really impressed me was how passionate and visceral you were on stage. To me, though, it wasn't dark or scary, it was more like spiritual healing. How exactly does each performance make you feel inside - before and after the show?
A - Before a show I like to be alone and concentrate on what's to come, to get in the mood. I also do a 40 minute warm up with my voice. The feelings are mixed, it depends on the day. After a concert I mostly feel liberated and exhausted… Very tired.
To promote All Thoughts Fly you performed in churches and cathedrals all over Europe, but there were a few shows in France that had to be canceled after catholic protesters accused you of making “satanic music”. It is really heartbreaking to see how religion taken to the extreme has the ability to make people so scared and even violent, but what I will never forget is the powerful, touching message you left on your Instagram: “Yesterday night the far-right Catholic integralism won over art, but not over love”. Do you think that love spread through music and other artistic platforms can be an effective weapon in the war against fascism?
A - I think love needs to be more openly emphasized and articulated in political situations. I'm sick of people labeling other people as “hippies” only because they speak of the importance of love. Love is a healing energy, and the more we can spread it around ourselves the stronger we'll be.
Your label, Pomperipossa Records, released a wonderful piano solo album last year by the japanese-born artist Naoko Sakata. Being now in this position of power, do you feel a certain responsibility to support female musicians, almost like a sisterhood of sorts, or do you just look for talented and genuine artists , regardless of gender?
A - As of late I feel a certain responsibility. I didnt think like that before as my label was so small, it was a label for my friends and bandmates really, but after some time in business, it has grown and I've become aware that most people who reach out to Pomperipossa (with their art) are male. I want to break that pattern and invite more women in. But, women need to be braver and reach out more. I don't blame them as I also feel scared of reaching out to business people, asking for help can be a horrible thing (!), but I try to work against that fear and instead think that no man's or woman's opinion can change anything. I stand proud in what I do.
Going back to your performances, you recently presented a commissioned piece entitled As Much Below As Above at Union Chapel, performed by the London Contemporary Orchestra. How did that go, and what would you say are the advantages and disadvantages of creating a piece for someone else, or an institution, as opposed to just doing it because you want to express yourself?
A - I'm a bit shy when it comes to working with strangers, and I didn´t know if this particular piece would work well in this format as I had never written for orchestra before, but the musicians of the LCO were so kind and responsive to my ideas, that things fell into place quickly and the process was rather joyful and easy. I realized that I can express myself through others as long as they also feel that they can express themselves within my art. It became our common language and playground.
You also dedicated that composition to your sister Maria. What inspired you to do this, and how hard was it to maintain the integrity of something so deeply personal , knowing it was going to be interpreted by so many people?
A - The process of how musicians play and interact with each other in this piece is connected to the theme of a collective mind and our desire to be close to each other while also striving for independence within the structures we live in. Maria is, to me, the closest thing I can be to another human being. When we were small we were inseparable, we did the same things, dressed the same and had the same friends. There were no limits between me and her. It was a fantastic feeling but also a bit suffocating. To find my own independence in this relationship was a struggle, but now that I'm older I think a lot about how beautiful this gift of sisterhood has been, it has taught me so much. I think our relationship is a blessing. This composition is for her.
Since Amplifest is this huge celebration of music that lasts an entire weekend, is there any performance you are hoping to catch while you are there? Obviously you collaborated with Wolves in the Throne Room, and they are confirmed for the first weekend, but besides them, which band or artist would you like to see?
A - Lingua Ignota will be amazing I'm sure.
Thank you so much!
Anna von Hausswolff - Amplifest 2016