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Pubblicato il Giugno 7th, 2021 | by DDG

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PETER VON POEHL: MEMORABLE FORGETFULNESS AND RELAXING ANXIETY

We already met Peter von Poehl three years ago, shortly after the release of his previous LP, the thrilling SYMPATHETIC MAGIC: since then, the Swedish musician has worked mostly on scores and commissioned music, before coming back to the limelight with an interesting record co-written with his life partner Marie Modiano, SONGS FROM THE OTHER SIDE (2021), exploring territories other than the pop symphonies that are his signature. His new work is now finally out, MEMORIES FROM SAINT-FORGET, a collection of inspired and somewhat serene songs, perhaps the pinnacle of his fascinating research, at least until today: let’s try to resume the chat with him from where we left her three years ago.

At the end of our previous interview, you were about to work on “…a score for a German production, music for orchestra and pinball machines” – was it published?
The production in question was The Tales of Hoffman, by Offenbach, directed by Michael Serre. My role was to create a parallell composition that played alongside Offenbach’s music. In the set design there were seven pinball machines on stage, which I equipped with speakers. So my score became a sort of surround system of pinball sounds. I also worked with the choir, which was equally present on stage and mixed the live performance with recorded parts (with the same ensemble in the same room) creating a sort of auditive illusion.

Did you work on other similar projects, before SONGS FROM THE OTHER SIDE with Marie Modiano?
In general, I do a lot of commissioned work, something that I truly enjoy. Over the last 5 last years, I have had the privilege to collaborate on a regular basis with a high jewellery brand. Historically, they are affiliated with contemporary dance, so I have worked quite a bit in that field.

In spite of the timing, the two 2021 records – SONGS FROM THE OTHER SIDE with Marie Modiano and your MEMORIES FROM SAINT FORGET – sound quite different: were both records developed during the 2020 lockdown?
SONGS FROM THE OTHER SIDE was supposed to be released in spring 2020, so I had already finished the album early in the year. Most of the recordings were made parallel with the rehearsals for Centre Pompidou in the fall 2019, so there was no real conflict between the two records.

You are working with Marie and – now – also with your son (in the “Behind the Eight-Ball” video): how it is difficult to make music coping well with family life?
I would almost rather say the contrary; we are unhappy when we don’t make music together. Marie and I met in Berlin in 2015 during the recording of her first solo album, and only after a year or so working together did we dare to take the step to get involved romantically. For us living together and making music have always been intertwined and I am not certain we could function differently. Orson, who is almost ten years old now, had to get used to being a part of all this from the start; touring, rehearsals, travelling, etc. Stella, our two year old daughter is only discovering this side of her parents now with a gradual return to ”normal” life. So far she seems to be enjoying it!

The new record is probably one of your masterpieces – the inspiration is strong, and the record sounds peaceful and mature: is it due to the fact that the lockdown forced you to spend more time on yourself and your family? I remember you told me that making solo albums is a complete luxury for you…
Thank you so much for your kind words! Making my solo albums have always been a bit of my own secret garden, a luxury where (almost) everything is permitted – including going over budget, unfortunately… as I am my own producer. In February 2020, weeks before the lock down in Paris, we were already making plans to leave the city. I saw all my future projects being cancelled one after another. With a lot of luck, we were able to set up quarters  in a small house in Saint-Forget. I had rented a van and brought all my equipment along and installed my studio in a shed in the garden. At that point, I felt that I had no other choice than to plunge myself into a new solo album. Maybe as a means to gain an impression of ”control” over the situation and the amounting anxiety I felt. Of course it was not obvious to find the time to work – as for anyone during this period. I got up at dawn, several hours before the rest of the house hold woke up and headed out to my temporary studio.

Then, peace came as a reaction to anxiety…
Although I am reluctant to admit it; this period was also in many ways a joyous moment for me. I advanced on the album in an almost euphoric way. The fact that we had almost no contact with the outside world for several months permitted us to create a bubble, in a way that I don’t think I have ever experienced. So, of course all this has probably found it self into the record.

MEMORIES FROM SAINT-FORGET – a lot of puns and games, starting from the title (with the double reading for Saint-Forget and memories/forget), the “phonetic anagram” Venice/veins, the snooker metaphor of “Behind the Eight-Ball“… Do you feel more ironic and “playful” than before?
All puns apart, the title correspond well to the relation I have to these songs. Like the Estelle Hanania’s snap shots of me on the album cover.  As a collection of holiday pictures pasted on your refrigerator, I can almost place each song in its context and revive the emotions I felt at the time I recorded them. As for all the games with words and meanings, perhaps thanks to English not being my mother tongue (although it is perhaps the language I use the most) I still get exited by words and their potential double meanings; like Monkey’s Wedding, an originally South African expression meaning that the sun shines and it rains at the same time, an idiomI learned when performing in Australia. Behind the Eight Ball is really something I borrowed from Orson, who is a keen billiard player.

Any plan for future tours – in Italy, possibly? And what’s next?
Italy –  I hope so! I had actually received a proposal for a stage project in Sicily in September, but unfortunately the organisers are not certain that the sanitary protocol with permit it. Maybe it will happen in spring instad. I will be picking up touring here in June, performing solo in outdoor spaces, museums and other venues not necessarily made for live music in the first place. I will using a very interesting, lightweight and practically invisible system for the amplification, avoiding the installations of speakers, monitors and mixing desks and permitting to play infront of limited audiences in an economically viable manner. Here in Paris, for instance I will play at the Picasso museum and the Museum of Modern Art, something I am looking forward to immensely.

Thanks a million – we look forward to see you in Italy!
Thank YOU! Mille gracie! Spero di vedervi presto, nella ”vita reale”, qui o in Italia!
[Thanks! Hope to see you soon in person, here or in Italy!]

[June 2021 – Thanks to David Barat – Bellevue Music]

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