RHYE – Interview

Foto-© Genevieve Medow Jenkins

Wenn man die Chance hat die einzigartige Stimme hinter dem anfangs noch geheimniskrämerischen Projekt Rhye zum Telefoninterview zu treffen (oder eben zu hören), dann zögert man natürlich nicht lange. Gerade da am 02. Februar das neue Album namens Blood in den Läden steht und mit einem deutlich live-orientierteren Sound aufwartet, entsteht einiges an Redebedarf . Hier nun das gesamte Gespräch mit Mike Milosh über den therapeutischen Effekt von Musik, die Trennung von Robin Hannibal und natürlich die neue Platte.

With Please, Summer Days, Taste and Count to Five you’ve released new material for the first time since Woman came out in 2013 and your second album Blood is out on the 2nd of February (via Loma Vista & Caroline). Woman turned from a studio project into a live performance. Whereas Blood started in the energy received from the performances. Did I understand that right? Can you talk me through the process?
The woman record started as a bedroom recording session and became this thing, where 470 plus shows later I kept changing it on stage. Morphing it and expanding some parts of the songs or bringing them down and highlighting different abilities, that the musicians had on stage. When I made this next record, Blood, I was making it while we were touring and playing shows and in this process you have this beautiful live energy with you. I approached each song with the idea of checking it live on stage, so I played songs to people they didn’t yet now. I didn’t want to use trigger samples or drum parts or drum machines or stuff like that. I wanted all the instruments we had to be played live. So it all makes sense, when you hear the record and when you hear it on stage. 

What reaction are you trying to provoke in your listeners? Is this something you incorporate?
The way I look at it is that it’s out of my control, once I finished mixing and mastering a song. I don’t know how people are gonna take things. I have learned that music is incredibly subjective and everyone has their own take on something. It would be kind of like a headtrip, if I did think about it in those terms, so I just don’t really. There are people who are gonna connect with the music and others who won’t. I just hope that the ones who do like it are gonna get something out of it that feels substantial.

Rhye - Blood Cover

Would you say that music has a therapeutic effect on you? If so, when did you discover that healing ability of sound for yourself?
Forever, since I was a small child. I started playing cello when I was three. I’ve always gravitated towards more melancholic music. Generally I don’t think I have a language for it, but I personally love catharsis and more tender music. It’s so soothing, I love it. For me when I’m making music, a lot of it is healing and cathartic. The process of making a song and coming to terms with something, that made you write the song in the first place. So to me, music is definitely like a form of therapy.

While Woman could be described as a romantic serenade, Blood is about dealing with the dissolving of a relationship. In the opener Waste you’re singing about ‘going through some changes’, introducing the idea of a transformational phase. Do you feel like, with the finishing of the album, you’ve found a readiness for a new chapter?
When I started working on the album, I was ending one chapter of my life. And the rest of the record was leading me onto something new. Looking at my personal life and musically. To be able to make this new record, I kept on playing so many life shows. I had to simply generate enough money to be able to fully commit to it. I wanted to be free from the usual album cycle and use the live show as its own concept. That idea brought a lot of changes, but it had a lot of truth in it for me. I had to start from scratch as a person and musically making this record without a label was very beneficial. Because I got back to the idea of making what I thought was a beautiful record. There was noone telling me what they wanted. I definitely felt very lucky and thankful, that it all worked out this way. I thought I was gonna play 9 or 10 shows maybe. It’s a bit unheard of to play over 400 shows with a 45 minute record out.

You weren’t producing the album any more with Robin Hannibal, who left the project before the release of Woman. How did the collaboration with new people impact the production of this new album?
I was actually the producer on both records. There are quite a few misconceptions out there as to who produced what. When I signed the project to Polydor, Robin wasn’t actually involved any more. He wasn’t ever really part of the band and hasn’t played a single show with us live. For this record I found people, who entered my life musically, who I wanted to work with and whom I felt connected with. Working with Tom Bartlett in New York for instance. Who is such a beautiful musician to work with, so tender and an incredibly talented piano player. Just being able to take a few steps back, too, is so beautiful. I was encouraged to be extremely vulnerable – and we truly connected on that vulnerability. We all brought our different backgrounds together up on stage and got along as people really well. I got to really know them and I wanted to have that feel on the record, taking that connection further. It also keeps me challenged to see how different people connect with me and to see how they work and approach things. It’s definitely a positive thing, to never stay stagnant or stubborn in the musical process, but to constantly respond to different people and methodologies. 

Talking about this vulnerability and the deeply personal lyrics and emotional performances you’re sharing now, did this ever feel like a conflict compared to when project Rhye started. When there was hardly a face to the name? Or did it all evolve naturally? 

To me it’s not a conflict. The reason why I didn’t want to be in photos in the first place was because I don’t really like having my photograph taken as much. It wasn’t a concept in that sense. And I also just wanted people to hear the music and not have any expectations based on the way I look. The difference now is that with so many concerts played in front of so many people and photographs taken, it would be kind of weird if I was hiding. People know now who I am anyway and I’ve also come to terms with having my photo taken. I don’t care as much any more.

Reading about you, I got this total sense of letting go. You seem to have mastered surrendering to your emotions and the capability of allowing them, in order to let go of them. I believe, that there’s no way of planning this out and sticking to a production and writing schedule? Are you working very intuitively?

Taste - Single

I just approach each song without any game plan or such. My method is that I just keep looking at it, until it’s finished. There’s a moment when I know it’s done and I move on to the next song. I don’t usually have 10 songs that I’m writing at the same time, but I approach every song as it comes. It generally happens quickly, once I’m writing it. When something happens in my life and I become inspired to write about it, the song takes shape in a couple of days and then I need a week or two to not think about it, to then come back to do touch ups. But I get the vocals and melodies down pretty quickly. Mixing the record all together is then about coming up with a unifying sound. That’s to sum it up though, but when I’m making each particular song, I’m really staying in that song. Even though I have a busy schedule with touring, I still have enough time to sit down in the studio. It’s not a 9 to 5 job and working the same hours every day. I have a busy tour time and then I have a few weeks off. And that’s when I can work on new music and really nurture that emotional state.

You make yourself and your music very relatable, which is incredibly refreshing at a time, when music is often very synthetic and overproduced and people can be so persona-obsessed. You’ve used familiar instruments for the whole record, with everything played live and very little production trickery or editing. Was that a conscious choice?
I wanted to incorporate the special quality of the live sound to the record. It was a very conscious choice. In this day in age, where everyone has the same sounding record, everything I hear out there sounds so similar. It sounds like they’re literally cutting loops and using the same drum beat. There’s no room for magic. To me some of the magic is to find a completely different sound, if you move the microphone one foot left or right. There’s no right way to do analogue recording the way we’re doing it. It’s just about what sounds good in the moment. And there’s a lot of details that transform the sounds you get and you really need to keep your instincts switched on. You just don’t get that from samples and drum machines and such. They don’t have the same human touch. And I’m missing that in music right now- everything I’m hearing I’m mildly disappointed with right now. It doesn’t have this sense of human complexity, that is so important to make something beautiful.

What has the thought process been with the cover art? Can you share with me who the woman is on the cover and was it you who shot it?

It’s my girlfriend actually. We went on a trip to Iceland and shot a few hundred photos that day and got it down to around 30 that we really loved in the end. She decided to jump into this lake with freezing glacier water. I have no idea how she did it.. When she was out and running around I shot this picture. The whole trip and traveling around Iceland was really fun. It felt so special and it kind of incapsulated our years of adventure together. Just putting any model on the artwork just doesn’t work for me. I always had a problem with the fact, that it was like that with the Woman album. I was really pressured into doing it by my label. I’ve been a photographer for 15 years and me shooting my girlfriend for this cover makes it personal and sense to me. Why would I give it up on the last step as if it was a product?

Im März ist Rhye für zwei Termine in Deutschland:
30.03.2018 Funkhaus, Berlin
31.03.2018 Grünspan, Hamburg

Sophia Kahlenberg

Sophia, 29. Fotografin. Dann kam das Schreiben. Verspürt starkes Herzklopfen beim Wort ‚Australien‘. Aber Berlin ist auch ok.

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