Where are you currently based and what is the music scene like?
I am currently based on a sofa somewhere in North London, with a cup of tea within reach. The music scene here is pretty good; there is a friendly piano and a purring fender rhodes, a harmonium that squeeks and a children’s drumkit. There are also some instruments from around the world – some gamelan pieces, a mbira, a chinese gong. Upstairs there is Sam’s den which has trumpets, trumpets and more trumpets, and Kai has a meowing cat keyboard. Outside my house the music scene is a colourful joyous meltingpot with people from all over the world, which was my main reason for staying here after I first arrived as an exchange artstudent.
How did you first start playing music?
When I was 14 I walked into a bar and there was a really tall dude playing the piano. I asked if I could sing a song with him – of all songs, I chose Bohemian Rhapsody! But apparently it went down well as after that, I sang there every week and the guy gave me a guitar, which I called Gerard. At first I didn’t dare to play and just stared at the guitar, feeling rather shy. But once I picked it up, I started to write my own songs on it, one of the first was called Pink Serenity, and took to the streets, busking. From there, I got swept off my feet and taken on a musical rollercoaster ride of exuberant adventures.
What’s been happening recently?
I have been recording my album, Kaleidophone. And making music videos for the songs, with my brother Kai Nobuko. We make everything ourselves, including the costumes and props.
You have a new single ‘Soul Siren’ that’s soon to be released, what influenced the sound and songwriting for Soul Siren?
Soul Siren is a love letter to the Universe.
It’s about that feeling when something is just about to happen – you have been through something intense and you have overcome it and now your heart is racing with a gentle excitement. You seem to be outside of time, in a state of liminal bliss of the yet unknown soon to unfold. You wake up and the play of golden light trickling through shapes of trees invites you to open the curtains immediately, and greet the world with your smiling heart. Everything you hear, see, smell and feel sings to you; radiates with life, with colour, with soul. And now imagine you can be the truest essence of yourself; no fear or doubt or conditioning or anyone else telling you what you can or can’t do; you are Infinite, you are the Universe, and you and everything in this universe are connected – each thing in this universe contains all the other things in this universe. Your heart is ablaze, aglow, you are ready.
How did you go about writing Soul Siren?
I was doing a gig in Amsterdam and my friend Scale joined me on stage for a jam. He is a beat boxer from Belgium. So we just started to improvise, he made some beats and I enjoyed the flow of creation. Luckily he recorded it all, and sent it to me, so I then transcribed it and began to transform it, kneading and shaping it.
Where and when did you record/produce?
The skeleton was recorded in the Cowshed, I played it live with Juba on the drums, July 2017- I was quite pregnant and the baby was dancing in my tummy. The rest was done at Cross Lane studios, after my son was born.
Who did you work with during the recording/production?
I recorded the live part at the Cowshed, with Joe Leech. We had worked there together before, for Animal Spirit (which was all done live on tape) and some Womp tunes, but Joe had moved back to Australia. When I was pondering about recording the album, I said to the Universe, “oh how I would love to work with Joe Leech!” A few dayslater, Joe mailed me he was- coincidentally – coming to London exactly at the time of the recording.
When I started to edit and arrange, Joe recommended Nick Trepka. I had met Nick before but was always a bit shy as he seemed such a Cool Dude. But Nick turned out to be a geek like myself and he has an old Amiga, and he is really awesome and likes Radiohead just as much as I do. We got on so well we decided to finish this album together, co-producing. For Soul Siren, we also worked intensively with Sam Ritchie.
Please describe how you approached the recording for this track?
We recorded the live skeleton, no click, and I just overdubbed the synth bass and the siren sound – the nerdburger in me feels the need to mention it was a system100. Then I started to dream up these other sounds, trumpet of course, but also African Kora. Sam played the flugelhorn and trumpet parts here at home and Jally Kebba Susso played his beautiful Kora on a few tracks at Cross Lane.
You have a new album on the way, please tell us how the album came about and what to expect:
It all started by accident. I was trying to write some words and melodies for Sam and the Womp – of course you should never “try” to do these things. So to distract myself I started meditating with some instruments – a fender rhodes mostly, but also a harmonium, a piano, a guitar. Sometimes I so happened to press record on my phone recorder. Or in fact, my body did – my mind had nothing to do with it. (The body is clever like that. ) Anyway, at some point I realised I had a collection of sketches. They seemed to be channeled straight from the universe. Letters to myself, and those closest to me. Messages from my Universe self to my human self. (My human self is a clown named Henk and my Universe self is Oo , and Oo is an Instrument of Imaginative Revelations. ) I started working on these sketches. Whilst doing the dishes, whilst walking in the woods with my child, whilst nursing her to sleep, whilst travelling to gigs, whilst being awake when all others were sleeping. And behold, unfold, and there it was: Kaleidophone. I had known this title would become ‘something’ for a very long time, but only once this constellation of songs presented itself to me, I knew this was it. I thought, yes, let’s record it live- drums, vocals, rhodes. 3 days, 9 songs. We did it, but then I started to hear all this other colourful stuff. Trumpets, of course. Gamelan. Some Kora. Strings. Cats. Household items and other objects and trees whispering their joyful secrets. “Here we are and we and everything in this world has a Soul and you are our Soul Siren.“ So of course, I could only comply.
Will you be releasing more singles prior to the release of the album?
Yes! There are at least 4 lined up.
When will your album be released?
When it is readyJ We’re nearly there. There are still about 4 tunes to finish off, they basically just need the cherries on top. And strawberries. And maybe some chocolate sprinkles.
Your know for being musical and visual artist, how do you combine these two area’s?
I have this thing called Synaesthesia. Basically, all my senses are intertwined, and one sensory impulse triggers another. This means that when I hear music, I ‘see’ it too – in colours and shapes, sometimes whole stories, textures and light intensities. I would like to convey this experience to the audience as well, by creating a world of sound and image that appeals to and triggers the viewer’s and listener’s own imagination.
How did you get involved in visual arts?
When I was 20 I lived in Paris for a few months, to record some demos. But even though I did write a few songs, I was going through a strangely dark transformational process, and mostly went out for walks. It was winter. The apartment I lived in had no windows and sometimes I had no idea if it was day or night. I had no money and made pancakes, every day. ( i am now an excellent pancake maker).But every day I would go out and walk and walk and look and walk and seek and look and question and wonder and wander and feel and smell and hear and see and walk. It was like the world outside me was a great projection of the world within me. I would see some things that shocked or surprised me. These interested me the most. I would walk for hours until I would receive some kind of revelation, and then would climb Mont Martre and gaze at the whole world beneath me. Sometimes I would feel enlightened, infinite, and full of bliss. But each next day would present another puzzle, and always started again from darkness, heaviness. Lately I have been thinking about this time, as it quite defined me. All the songs I wrote there were rubbish, but whenever friends came to visit me, a lot of silly and ridiculous fun was had. But mostly I was alone, and time did not exist, and I was simply Being and Becoming. Then one day I had enough, and came back to Holland and enrolled into Art School.
What is it about visual arts that you find most appealing?
That without using words, you can communicate to people’s hearts at once. The same is true for music of course.
One of the finest examples of this is that after seeing a Dream Society video we did called Rise of the Foodsoldiers – a music video in which all the weapons in the world are joyfully transformed into food – a guy came up to us and told us he used to be in the army, but after seeing the video he decided to follow his heart and apply for art school.
What do you like to do away from music?
I like to bake vegan cakes and walk in the woods and make things for and with my children. Listen to the sound of the sea whenever I can, and write my morning pages before everyone wakes up.
Who are you listening to at the moment?
Toxic Chicken – Noodle Soup
What’s planned for the remainder of 2019?
Release the other singles, finish off the album, make some more videos, play lots of live gigs, unleash myself upon this world in a generous and playful way.
Any secrets that you care to share?
I can’t show my 5 year old daughter the video for Soul Siren because when she saw the scene in which ‘the Universe’ eats a plate, she was very upset and cried, “but mummy, why are you eating a plate? You can’t eat a plate!”
Favourite food and place to hangout?
Vegan mushroom croquettes are good. They have really good ones in café de Ceuvel in Amsterdam.