Interview with David Sylvian (II)

JASON COWLEY: I saw you perform Blemish at Festival Hall, in London, in the summer of 2003.Your audience listened respectfully, as they always do. But I remember at the start of the second half of the show, when you began by singing one of your old songs, The Other Side of Life, from Quiet Life, there was a huge cheer. It was so loud that you could have heard it from the top of the Millennium Wheel.
It was probably a cheer of relief [we both laugh]. Blemish is an album that people have to work at. That people are prepared to do just that, to spend some time getting to grips with it – well, that’s an act of true generosity on their part.

JC: What do you think of the remix album, The Good Son vs The Only Daughter?
DS: I’m happy with it. Remix albums are, in general, only ever moderately successful: the person commissioned to do the remix would generally prefer to be working on his own material than being paid to work on someone else’s. In this instance, the remix gave us an opportunity to build relationships with artists like Akira [Rabelais] and Burnt [Friedman] that could lead to future collaborations. It gave us a chance to discover if we spoke the same language, if you like.

JC: To listen to Blemish is to discover an artist engaged in the complicated process of remaking himself. I was shocked when I first heard it. It sounded like nothing you had done before.
DS: When I began work on Blemish I had an incredible desire to eradicate the past and to find a whole new vocabulary for myself. At first, you are working from pure intuition. You are not sure where you are going; later, you begin to understand where the vocabulary is leading you and how to make it speak for you in a more profound way.

JC: The form of the pop song no longer interested you?
DS: For me those old forms reached a natural end – or shall I say their pinnacle – with Dead Bees on a Cake. Without the benefit of having to face my catalogue as I had to when putting together those compilation albums [for Virgin], I would never have been able to make such a radical break. In the end, I was too familiar with my own material. I’d toured with it, I knew it too well. I was happy to put it to rest and never face it again. I still enjoy the challenge of writing a well-structured pop song, but the stimulus for doing so usually comes from outside – someone will offer me a project or will offer to collaborate or give me a song to write a lyric to.

JC: You are in the process of completing an album with Steve Jansen and Burnt Freidman. I’ve heard the title track, Snow-borne Sorrow: much more accessible than Blemish but still bold and innovative and rather beautiful. How did this come about?
DS: Steve and I had been working on a project, and I’d also been working on another a project with Burnt. From there, the two projects just came together in the most natural way, and began to develop into something very impressive. The project will incorporate some of the strongest material I’ve ever written with Steve – that’s for sure, some really beautiful pieces. It’s a very confessional album. It has that same confessional edge as Blemish had and some very powerful and emotional qualities to it. The structures are rather repetitive, similar to Blemish, but, yes, far more accessible. But I’m looking forward to putting this one to bed and moving on. At times the speed at which I work causes me great frustration... so many other ideas to pursue. [...]

UPDATE: 20.10.07 - Show Cancellations
Reluctantly, David has had to cancel the shows in Moscow, San Sebastian and Lisbon due to illness brought on by fatigue. We will continue to keep you posted should there be further cancellations.

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