Muted attention-grabbing. Interview with Jose Gonzalez
A velvet voice, complemented by a filigree guitar playing, sounding on several albums. Swedish singer Jose González seems to be an artist who cares little about the attention of the general public.
While in Berlin, he explained to Mark Riemann why he was so secretive, admitted how to deal with anger, and reflected on the benefits of self-pity in songs.
Your music has a constant tendency to get lost in the background. Doesn’t such a characteristic hurt the creative ego?
I understand that my musical style is too gentle and soft to attract attention. I cannot keep up with consumer goods on the radio. But I do not think this is bad. It’s about the ratio of “background music” and hit songs. I play for fun. I use music as a Trojan horse and write songs of such a plan that they can be heard often, very often. The point is in subtle matters. I have nothing against the fact that you listen to my music only because it is pleasant to hear or because you can have a good time under it if it plays in the background. But when you take a timeout to listen to it out loud, you pay attention to the lyrics and so you can survive the whole adventure. I am glad that my music works in both directions.
You are not just careful with the music. You stubbornly avoid any action that would turn your name into a successful brand. In addition, it took you 7 years to record a new album. Do you want to be famous?
If I stuck out myself and my music in the foreground and did PR, this would lead to the opposite results. Then those people who listen to my music could doubt my veracity. So this slow way actually works well. It seems to me that the audience is discredited when artists show themselves too loudly and effectively. Anyone who does this is aimed at an audience like Homer Simpson. I would rather baby Lisa like my music.
In the video “Every Age” you show the world with a special camera attached to a balloon. In combination with the song, the world appears as a defenseless little place in the universe. A clear reflection of the fact that all people are one. Isn’t it hard to be a supporter of such a comprehensive manifesto?
Every time I play at charity events, I want me to have a song like Lennon’s “Imagine”. It is ideal for this kind of event: people sing along to you and dream of a better world. Of course it’s hard to create something like this, but I’m interested in this particular direction and this was also the background for the video. I wanted in many ways to address the ethical perspective of globalization.
Have you ever wanted to use more aggressive tones? This is not so contrary to ethics.
Sometimes I get angry. You just take a look at the news: Isis, Boko Haram, radical opponents of abortion. How can you stay calm? I talk about this in “Stories We Build, Stories We Tell” – the third song on the album. When I first played the bluesy, slightly aggressive riff, it became for me a sound reflection of the feeling when you are ready to explode with rage. This feeling was also transmitted to the text in which I discuss the concepts of “karma” and “hell”. Doing this or that, and you will go to hell – as many cultures say. A good way to prevent theft. But I think it should be controlled differently. Not karma and hell. We have the police, prisons and the army – aren’t there enough whips over your head?
This song directs the album in a completely different direction. It has a lot of percussion. The rhythm that you tap on your guitar can be compared to a house beat.
“Stories We Build, Stories We Tell” is a song comparable to a clenched fist. She needs to be heard loudly and with good bass. It seems risky to be limited only to beautiful harmonies and soothing sounds. Therefore, in “Vestiges & Claws” I clearly followed the rhythm.
You said earlier that you hoped that the new album would sound less plaintive than the previous one. Self-irony?
At the beginning of my career, I wanted to sound melancholy, but at the same time not to spare myself. Unfortunately, I did not always deal with this. So this time I decided to try writing songs on other topics. However, the album sometimes touches on very personal things. For example, “Open Book” is a relationship song that talks about how someone is abandoned for someone else. Here, perhaps, we can talk about self-pity. This is my way to heal wounds – use songs as medicine. So life goes on even after your heart is broken.
Jose González’s third studio album, “Vestiges & Claws”, was released on February 16, 2015 via Imperial Recordings.