Haastattelussa Astrid Swan
Astrid Swanilta ilmestyy ylihuomenna perjantaina uusi albumi From The Bed And Beyond. Paljon tunteita sisällään pitävä ja niitä ulos purkava kokonaisuus kuulostaa kirpeältä, surulliselta, eri suuntiin väreilevältä – ja silti eheältä. Tulossa on myös kokonaisvaltaisia elämyksiä tarjoavia keikkoja ja tulevaisuudessa ties mitä, sillä viime vuosien pyörityksen jälkeen voi taas uskoa siihen, että on tulevaisuus. Aina se ei ole niin yksiselitteistä.
Uuden jännän kynnyksellä kysyin Astridilta muutaman kysymyksen. Haastattelu on englanniksi, joten kielitaidot käyttöön!
Your 6th album is coming out on Friday. It’s an album about becoming a mother and soon afterwards getting a diagnose for a serious disease – and everything that relates to them, your whole world going upside down. What are your topmost feelings about the release right now?
I’m happy and proud and relieved that the album is coming out, I am alive, seem to be pretty healthy and doing exciting things with my time on this planet. I am also feeling exposed and fragile right now. It is surprising how heavy it feels to be dealing with these issues all the time with interviewers. But the comments I have had from people so far are so lovely, I know it was the right thing to do to put this album out. People are responding to these songs like to nothing I have experienced before.
When a creative person encounters difficult phases in life, their emotions naturally get channeled to their work. Did your songs from the new album sort of write themselves and was the process easy? Or were there obstacles or emotions which were difficult to put into words?
I don’t take it for granted that I turn my negative life experiences to art. There is much that is so painful to visit, even for the sake of making something. People have to make a conscious choice to tackle trauma such as illness in their work. Sometimes it might be smarter to choose an entirely different theme for your art than what you have personally experienced. But in the case of my album I just decided to write a whole exploration of the body going through transitions. I found that it was helpful for me and necessary as an art project. There is so much that remains impossible to verbalize about the lived experience and so much that is expressionless, yet crucial to form somehow… that’s where music can help.
The writing process was long and quite slow. Living and recovering needed to happen. Some songs poured out directly from a place of sadness, loss and fear, others came more laboriously and through error, trial, and letting go of too rigid rules about what the album would be about. Hope and dreaming, sensuality of the body came in through that. Yes, there were experiences and emotions that didn’t find form, were too much to handle or too mundaine seeming once I tackeled them in music. There were times when I thought that I might be laying myself too bare because every time I sang for example Maija’s song and worked on it in the recording it tore me up again and again.
You’ve been very open about getting a diagnose for breast cancer. Personally, I think openness about these kinds of things can’t be emphasized too much because, as we both know, peer support in these situations is crucial. Every Western citizen knows at least one person who has cancer. From The Bed And Beyond definitely gives support to others suffering from the harsh treatments and even gives hope. But what do you think it gives to people who have no idea what medical treatment can do to your mind and body? Or mothers-to-be, as the album is also about motherhood?
I’m hoping that the songs have transcended particular experience and work now on a level that everyone can relate to. I have had some early feedback and a couple of beautiful reviews that suggest this is happening. I am glad. If I can be part of breaking down taboos surrounding illness, health and the body I’m happy! Gender and especially the change of becoming a child-bearer and then a mother are also themes on the album. Maybe I didn’t quite manage to deal with them as extensively as I wanted to, but they glimmer there and give hope while marveling at the strangeness of that transformation too.
You’re playing three nights at the WHS theatre in Helsinki next week. The live shows are said to combine music, visual art and an element of the unknown. I’m sure all three nights are going to be spectacular, but can you give a hint about what that “element of the unknown” is?
Well, the element that is unknown is also still a mystery to me. It is the coming together of many strong artistic visions from different fields. Tekla Vály, an amazing photographer, brings her media art to illustrate the themes, Yat, a fabulous designer, has created a versatile wearable artefact, which is also part of the performance. This is as choreographed as I have ever been, but there is still that element of surprise and a possibility of failing too…let’s see what happens!
You’ve also got upcoming shows at Tavastia (with Jennie Abrahamson), Tallinn Music Week and Sellosali, Espoo, later on this spring. What are you looking forward to in these specific shows the most and how do they differ from your usual live gigs?
Each show will be an adaptation of the themes and our multiple art forms into the space that we are in on a given evening. Tavastia will be spectacular, simple and cinematic! Sellosali will be a large scale night with different parts and more songs from my back catalogue too. There are more very special shows coming and my aim is that there is no repetition – we will stay on our toes, go with the feeling. One guiding principle is my own boredom with the standard way of doing shows: just playing. Let’s see how easy (or hard) this mold is to break.
A cancer diagnose makes people scared of the future, that’s inevitable. I mean, there really isn’t any guarantee one actually has a future… But slowly the trust towards better days grows again. What are your thoughts about future right now and do you have any plans or dreams?
When I started to know that I was going to get through the treatments in 2014, I fell in love with planning like never before. I have always been nervous about big dreams and plans for years to come. Now I have plans and I dream big and colorful. Fear is always there. I am highly aware of the value and uniqueness of this life an each day. Don’t get me wrong, I complain each day too. But I also have given myself license to concentrate on what I deem urgent and important. What a relief.
Thank you dear for this! Any last words?
Remember to lie down in bed and listen to yourself each night before falling asleep. It works.
From The Bed And Beyond ilmestyy perjantaina 3.3.2017.
Ensi viikon levynjulkkarikeikoille löytyy vielä muutamia lippuja Tiketistä.
Astrid Swan’s new album From The Bed And Beyond is out this Friday. It sounds of crisp thoughts, sadness, the flickering to different directions – and still succeeds in being whole. Upcoming shows will combine other artistic elements with music and who knows what else, because after a few year’s rollercoaster there is an actual future to look forward to. I asked Astrid a few questions about things on her mind, so read her answers above! Also check out Tiketti for live gig tickets.