THERE are not that many artists out there…
who do things quite like Brudini. As his new single, The Nightcrawler, unravels; one gets the sense of a cinematic world where street corners and unpleasant characters are prominent in the soundtrack. I was keen about that song and the origins behind it. Such is the detail, oddity and beauty on the song – so many contradictions and balances – it is a fascinating thing to unpick. He talks about new material and how this year will shape up; how his nomadic, traveling aesthetic influences his work. The Norwegian-born artist has been around the world and learnt something different from each new area. He talks about the influence behind his music and what gigs are coming up in the pipeline. In addition, I get an insight into a rare creative talent with a voice that compares to very few.
Hi, Brudini. How are you? How has your week been?
Good, thanks! I spent the week moving house which is tiring but good to have it all sorted. I finally bought myself a piano after years of dreaming of having one.
For those new to your work, can you introduce yourself, please?
I’m a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist and just released my debut 7” vinyl. I’d describe my music as eclectic, dark and poetic; reflective of a vast array of references, from classic songwriter to Jazz, Funk; Krautrock and more Avant-Garde soundscapes. Some say my lyrics have a certain beat quality to it and they are generally quite existentialist by nature. I love experimenting with shape, form and sound so you’ll find anything from songs in the traditional sense to a capellas, poetry, instrumentals and soundscapes. Some is very loud and some is very quiet. It’s all quite organic: real instruments, creaky old pianos; analogue synths, tape echoes and spring reverbs. I guess it gives my sound a somewhat timeless texture.
The Nightcrawler is your new single. What can you tell us about the meanings and inspiration behind it?
The Nightcrawler is the story of a vagabond’s gritty, inevitable journey into darkness; but who, in a brief, triumphant moment is overcome by feelings of warmth and nostalgia. Like rays of light momentarily finding their way through the cracks of a dark soul.
I built the music and soundscape around the character to describe his journey: a limping, exhausted walk over syncopated drums and tired blues guitars; an abrupt appearance of strings is the nausea experienced from staring at the glare of a low-hanging, evening sun.
Loud, distorted noise guitars accompany him to the brink of existential breakdown; warmth and a sense of elevation from his struggles takes over in the chorus.
The song frames that remarkable, dark and deep voice. It has so much going on. Who were the singers that helped mould that incredible sound?
First of all, thank you, that’s a big compliment! Actually, it hasn’t always been that way. Had you listened to songs I recorded over a decade ago I would sing with this boyish, often falsetto voice. But when I started writing music again as Brudini, a few years ago, it felt more natural to sing with a darker, more full-bodied voice. Maybe it was a reflection of getting older and that my song material was more mature, but I found that physically my voice had changed too. As if a decade of life experiences – time – had moulded my voice. As for other singers, I think if you listen to Scott Walker, Jaques Brel; Frank Sinatra, Serge Gainsbourg; Johnny Cash, Jim Morrison, even Elvis – their voices all deliver a kind of strong, masculine sentimentality which really appeals to me.
Does this mean we can expect to see an E.P. or album anytime this year?
Yes, I’m working on my debut album which will be called From Darkness, Light. It’s going to be a concept album which takes the listener on a journey to the end of the night: exploring emotions of loss, grief; despair, anger and consolation.
You grew up in Norway but have taken in Tokyo and Paris. Do you feel settled now or still a bit of a nomad?
Ha. I’m indeed starting to feel more settled now, finally. I had my first child last year and I think having a family does that to you – and it’s a good thing.
But then, London is a bit a city of nomads, isn’t it?
Now, you are part of Soho’s lively artistic community. How influential is the area in regards your music and songwriting?
I think Soho’s had a great influence on me, and in many ways inspired me to create music again. While its legacy as a bohemian bastion goes back centuries, I guess true inspiration really comes down to the people you meet. I frequent a tiny, independent bookshop and cocktail bar called the Society Club and the poetry nights hosted there by Californian writer Chip Martin are pure magic. Not in some stuffy, English, elitist way either – the vibe is warm, welcoming and very European; attracting a free-spirited clientele that spans all ages, genders and nationalities.
I performed a lot of my songs for the first time there. Eventually, Chip and I collaborated on a full performance together: blending his poetry with my songs. I’ve also had the pleasure to perform in a string of polysexual Soho cabaret nights hosted by acclaimed poet-playwright Barney Ashton-Bullock alongside agender-madam superstar Lana Pillay and Erasure’s Andy Bell. I came across Jeremy Reed, whose poetry is off this planet. Under the surface, Soho is still an eclectic, artistic melting-pot. May it always remain that way.
You have performed with Lulu Gainsbourg (son of Serge) and put cinema and sweep into The Nightcrawler. How important are films and older ideals to your music? What was it like working with Lulu?
Cinema has definitely influenced me. I often have a very visual image of the scenery and emotional landscape of my songs and will shape the music and sounds to reflect that and draw the listener into that scenery. I like how in a lot of older films which broke new territory in terms of experimentation: the effects introduced were often very direct and conceptual in their simplicity, but therefore, highly impactful. Take French New-Wave for example – where moving the camera around gave the camera an almost subjective role in the film. Or simple effects like muting the sound as someone walks through a corridor, or using lights in unusual ways to blind the camera or cast unnatural shadows. It pulls you into the film in a much more subjective manner – rather than you just following the plot through more static, traditional framing. To me great cinema does this, and I try to borrow a bit from this approach when writing music.
Working with Lulu was great. We did a couple of shows together in Norway and London where we would play on each other’s songs and it was very well-received. He’s a very talented musician. I guess it runs in the family. He is also a very warm and lovely person. I’m hopeful we will do more things together in the future.
Because The Nightcrawler looks at vagaries and vagabonds who creep in the night, I am interested in the artists you grew up listening to.
I grew up listening to Radiohead, Smashing Pumpkins; Depeche Mode, Nick Cave; The Cure… I guess there are vagabonds creeping around at night with some of them. But, the real inspiration for the thematics and emotions in The Nightcrawler probably came more from literature than music.
In the works of Hamsun, John Fante; Celine or Sartre’s Nausea you will find the nightcrawler: a jaded, worn-out, struggling character; fighting to separate his internal world from the external; always at the brink of succumbing to his own abyss yet still capable of feeling human connection through moments of love and nostalgia.
There is something very beautiful and honest about this tormented narrative which resonates with me.
Kate Bush is one of my icons and you have similarities in terms of that experimentation, musicianship and vocals. Is she someone on your radar and do you think too few new musicians possesses that ability to transcend time and mood to deliver something real and captivating?
I do like Kate Bush, yes, and in terms of being eclectic, she almost defines it. You’re the first to make the comparison and it’s an honour to be compared with her! As for new musicians, there is probably as much talent out there now as there ever has been. It’s just maybe a bit harder to find it as we are bombarded with so many things, all the time.
Can we see you at any gigs in the coming months? What is in the diary for 2017?
I play the George Tavern in London a lot, it’s probably one of my favourite venues. So there will be more gigs there, for sure!
I’m also planning an acoustic show at the Society Club and a small tour in Norway. I’m also set to play the Great Escape festival. Live, I normally perform as a trio – with a double bass player and a jazz drummer – while I play a mix of guitars, keys and analogue synths.
If you had to select three albums that have meant most to you which would they be and why?
Siamese Dream by Smashing Pumpkins defined my late teens; the rawness, energy and dynamics blew me away. Eventually, I learned to play the guitar by playing along to every song (and solo) on that album.
Next up: Serge Gainsbourg’s 1971 concept album, Melody Nelson. It is a masterpiece. Everything from the bass lines, the mix of spoken word and singing; the lush string arrangements and a very funky, driving rhythm section. There’s even a full-choir in there and a violin solo (which sounds like a guitar solo). The album was a big influence on the last album I’ll mention…
Sea Change by Beck. It’s so beautiful in its melancholy and vast arrangements: it’s like you can physically feel this warm; fading sunlight throughout the record.
Who are the new artists you recommend we check out?
If you like Kate Bush, I would recommend you to check out Johanna Glaza. Her songs are beautiful, almost otherworldly. Also, check out experimental duo Elephant House from Dalston which is Christos Fanaras on synths. and Shenggy Chen on drums. They are launching a new vinyl next month. Finally, female duo The Butterfly Wheel.
What advice would you offer songwriters coming through right now?
Not sure I’ve accomplished anything thus far which puts me in a position to advise others…! But, generally, I would advise people to perform as much as possible: always make do with what they’ve got and to keep driving things forward.
Performing live forces you to finish songs, gives you feedback and eventually builds that identity of what you do. If you don’t have a band, strip down your songs and perform them solo.
In the past, I sometimes found it was easier to book a gig first and then try to find musicians to play the show (and just play solo if I didn’t find anyone). If you demonstrate to people around you that your project has its own inertia they are more likely to come along for the ride with you. Always simplify things if you have to.
Finally, and for being a good sport, you can name any song you like (not one of yours as I’ll do that) and I’ll play it here.
Check out this live version of Psycho Killer by Talking Head’s David Byrne from the early-1980s – using only an acoustic guitar and a drum machine. What stage presence and energy: he literally becomes the song! It’s one of the coolest performances I’ve ever seen.