KIM JANSSEN – Interview

In den letzten Wochen und Monaten war Kim Janssen wohl kaum länger zu Hause in Utrecht, sondern entweder gerade am produzieren von neuer Musik oder am live spielen. Und diese Situation wird sich wohl so schnell nicht verändern, heißt es doch zurzeit wieder Konzerte spielen, hat er doch gerade mit The Black Atlantic die neue EP ‘Darkling, I Listen‘ veröffentlicht und kurz danach auch noch sein zweites Solo-Album ‘Ancient Crime‘ folgen lassen. Trotz all dem Stress hat Kim trotzdem die Zeit gefunden uns einige Fragen zu beantworten – Kim Janssen im Bedroomdisco Interview!

1.) Band facts

– Name: Kim Janssen
– Band members: Kim Janssen + studio/stage members
– Founding year: First show was in 2006
– Residence: Utrecht, Netherlands
– Current album: Ancient Crime

2.) Questionnaire:

– We understood from your biography that you came quite around while growing up – how come?
My parents decided to move to the Northeast of Thailand when I was two years old to do development work. Although they signed a contract for only 1 year, they extended it and we ended up moving around Asia for the next 13 years. We changed cities about every 3 years. I was 16 when I came back to the Netherlands.

– At which point did you then start making music? Had you been forced to play an instrument somehow or was it in your own interest? What was your motivation?
My mom wanted us to play an instrument when we were kids. I chose the guitar, I was around 8 at the time. I didn’t have so much patience then 🙂 but I learnt a few chords. When I was in juniorhigh I started a band with friends, that’s when I developed more of a passion for listening/making music.

– What musical influences do you have?
When I was 16 or 17 I discovered a lot of bands that would end up having a lasting influence on me. Pedro the Lion is a big one, Sufjan Stevens, Iron and Wine, The National.
In highschool I listened to Switchfoot, Coldplay, The Spirit That Guides Us, Lifehouse, Travis, Muse. I guess you listen to some of these bands so much at a certain age it will always remain in someway influential.

– How did you meet Geert van der Velde and how did you become part of The Black Atlantic?
Some friends of mine at music school started playing in The Black Atlantic with Geert. I listened to the music (at the time they had just recorded the “Send this Home” ep) and was a fan right off. I went to a bunch of their shows and got to know Geert. At one point the bassist quit and I asked Geert if I could play bass in the band. I joined just before we went to New York to write/record “Reverence for Fallen Trees”.

– Now you’ve just released ‘Darkling, I Listen’ with the Black Atlantic and your second solo-record is also coming out soon – could you describe how the work for your solo-record was different to the work you did on the new Black Atlantic songs?
With “Darkling, I Listen’ we wanted to write everything together as a group. We spent many many hours in the practice space playing ideas off each other, jamming and writing the songs.

With my own record it was the complete opposite. Hardly anyone had heard the songs or the recordings until the whole album was done. It was all in my head, I was writing and arranging. For some reason I didn’t feel comfortable showing anything to anyone. When I recorded, it was only with the session players and with my friend Lukas Dikker (from the band, Luik) who recorded and mixed everything.

Both methods have advantages and disadvantages. Working together can be really intense but having no one else there in the process of writing/recording can also make for a heavy burden.

– Isn’t it difficult to work on two projects on the same time?
I guess it would definitely be easier to have one instead of two!
You have to make sacrifices but at the moment i enjoy doing both things very much. Writing/playing with The Black Atlantic is different to writing/playing with “Kim Janssen” and I like the variety. Plus I guess I like being busy, and especially touring, having two bands helps there.

– How do you normally work on songs? What are the steps/processes, what are the usual problems of finishing a song?
I am very slow with finishing lyrics that’s definitely a “usual problem” with finishing songs. Sometimes I’ll have a “song” all done but can spend a year working on the lyrics. Or finishing the lyrics and starting over again. I’m just weird that way i guess!

Usually when I write a song it happens on a guitar or piano, I’ll be playing and singing something. Sometimes I’ll have some words, that come out naturally. Most of the time those words will change. the guitar/vocal melody are mostly written at the same time. I’ll rarely have a musical idea and then think about how I’m going to sing over it later. It usually happens at the same time.

– In what situations do you write songs/lyrics/which themes inspire you to write songs?
It can be so many different things. At one point I decided to write down everytime I had an idea that could possibly be put into a song. Ever since then I’ve written things down daily. I always a phone with me so I write it down there. So things I hear in conversations, things I read, things I hear in music, thoughts that go through my head – I write things down every day, hoping that it might be turned into a verse or chorus or story for a song.

Musically though it usually happens when I’m playing guitar or piano and I hear something that I think sounds interesting and listen for where the melody could go and I start to try things. These ideas are later sometimes turned into arrangements for other instruments but that’s usually how I start.

– Could you tell us something about the production process of ‘Ancient Crime’? How long did it take, where did it happen, what were the difficulties, how did you prepare for it? What was the best, what the worst moment? Most told anecdote?
The idea to make ‘Ancient Crime” came at the end of 2010. It started out as a christmas ep I wanted to make and release in the winter of 2011. The concept became bigger and bigger until I decided to make it an album.

None of the songs on the album were finished before 2011, so in a way I started writing the album in 2011. I did however have some sketches lying around before then that I turned into these songs. “Holmes’ Bonfire, 1666” is the only song that I was already playing live before I thought of writing this record but I did change the lyrics before putting it on the record.
So I guess it was written/recorded in a year.
I did a lot of the writing/arranging while we were on tour with The Black Atlantic. The recording also involved a lot of travelling. As I said earlier, all the recording was done by my friend Lukas Dikker from the band Luik. We hired all the mic’s and equipment we needed and recorded most of the album at his house. We did however go to Groningen for a few days to record drums in a huge old printing plant. We recorded horns with some music students between their classes at the conservatory of Amsterdam. We recorded the strings with Marla Hansen’s Oriel Quartett in Berlin. We recorded the church choir in the Catharina Cathedral in Utrecht.
Recording was difficult sometimes because not everything was all written and arranged well ahead of time. So we tried a lot of things during the recording process and this was sometimes time consuming. We also first wanted to release the album in the winter of 2011 so we were really stressed about getting it all done!
I think a really great moment was recording the choir. We were rushing through the rain that night with our gear and we came into the church not quite knowing what to expect. Sure enough the conductor and the choir, the organ player, everyone was there. When they sang the song, we were overwhelmed.

– ‘Ancient Crime’ is a concept album, how did you come up with the concept, why did you want to focus on one theme and how did you research on the theme?
I’ve always loved playing hymns and traditionals and I love classical music. I wanted to create a setting where all of these things, including my own music, could come together.

I had spent most of my teenage years at a british boarding school in Nepal and have always loved Donna Tartt’s “The Secret History”, a story that also takes place at a school, and where myth, history are very much alive.

I decided to have the story take place in my own skewed version of a beautiful, old british boarding school in Northwest of England. Where tradition, ambition and discipline are part of everyday life as well as string quartets, clarinets, silver horns, and church choirs. Where there are victorian style houses and old pianos and the sea is nearby to the west and there are mountains in the north. And where the school, though surrounded by beautiful lakes and forests and fields, is extremely isolated.

– We read that you worked for around three years on ‘Ancient Crime’ – why did it take so long to finish your second record?
That’s actually a misunderstanding, I need to talk with the label about that :). I started writing Ancient Crime around the time of Christmas 2010. Before that I was working on something else that will now probably become my third record.
I guess the reason though that it has taken three years to release a new record is because I spent 2010 and 2011 touring so much, solo or with The Black Atlantic.

– For the record you did also work with Marla Hansen again – why did you want to work with her again?
It was really great to work together with Marla in New York for the first record so we had kept contact . At one point she said she had moved to Berlin. That’s basically around the corner from here so when I was writing the record I asked if she had a new quartet and if she would be willing to play on the album.

– ‘Drift’ is one of our favorite songs – can you tell us what it is about, how it was done and if there is a story behind it?
That one probably took the longest to write. I had the song finished once some years ago and decided I wasn’t happy and started writing it again.
To keep it short, the song is about disconnection. About different forces that move us though we sometimes don’t even know that they are there. Or we think they are there and they aren’t. I think there are many different things that can influence us in strange ways that we may not expect. It is sometimes tricky to know what is moving us and if that is for the best. Even joy, relief, love or hope are not always fitting, and sometimes we may think we feel certain things that are not there at all.

– What are your next plans?
First I plan to tour a lot with this record and also The Black Atlantic’s “Darkling, I listen.” I have been playing some “solo” shows with trumpet, clarinet, flute, bass, drums and piano and I can tell you it’s really fun to do!
I’m also working on a third solo record, I already have a lot of material for it, and we are working on a new Black Atlantic album.

– What are you doing if your not making music?
I like to read, travel, go to shows and watch films.

– What did you learn in 2011?
Hmmm.. that China is a great country to tour in!

– Your Top 3 records of 2011? Why?
Not very interesting but my favorite of 2011 are James Blake, Bon Iver and Sun kil Moon. Especially Bon Iver, the arrangements and the songs are just amazing. Really inventive and complex but so easy to listen to. James Blake too, I can always put on that record, I’m always in the mood for it – it’s easylistening and yet has so much depth.

– Which song would fit to your actual situation?

I’ve been listening to a lot to Sun Kil Moon’s Admiral Fell Promises. It’s a song on an album with the same name.

– Which song makes you dance independent of your situation?
Idioteque by Radiohead.

– How would your “Bedroomdisco” look like?
Bedroom party… yeah discolights, a stereo, a lot of people. Sounds good.

– Who did fill out this questionnaire?
Haha! I did.


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