By: Aleyda Ortiz.
Beyond the Black is an album that will mix essences from different places of the world, sensations and characteristics owned by the guest singers who piece by piece are making part of their thoughts, feelings and voice; the track that they are going to record, each one of them, have been sharing with the “One on one” readers, the experience of working besides Danny Heksolson on this debut Red Page album. This time, we had the pleasure of interviewing an artist, in the whole meaning of the word: Simone Alves, who shares with us the musical beyond the black trip that she does.
Simone, tell us a little about the song that you are working out for the Red Page debut album.
“I’m still working on it. Most probably I’ll adapt very “known” lyrics from Brittany called Ar Plac’h Inferniet: It’s the story of 2 young lovers, eventually the girl dies before they get a chance to get married, and the young man is so devastated that he prays for 7 years in the hope to see her again, until a ghost gets him to visit her in the overworld. Very mythological, very black! I like these lyrics not only because of the story itself, but also because they are very familiar to me. I’m thinking on an improvised part too, not everything is fixed yet, but I have the general idea of what I’ll record. The tune itself has (to me) something from the turkish 70’s atmosphere, and I’ll try to bring that ambiance too.”
Because, talking about Simone Alves is talking about atmospheres and oriental flavours, with a very own technique and style that has set her on a very unique place inside this allbum. But, which is the story of Simone?
“I was born at the end of the 70’s (just on time to get to hear 80’s music as a child!), in a little corner of France, surrounded by borders (Germany and Switzerland were about 20 mins. drive), which probably influenced my love for travelling and crossing borders of many kind, not very fascinating! What I really consider as my home village was left behind by my parents in Portugal as they decided to come to France. As a child my favourites voices were Bono from U2 and Sting, and till now I still treasure quiet moments listening to their music. Then in my teenage years I discovered Dead Can Dance & Lisa Gerrard amazing and impressing way of using voice as an instrument, and this is definitely a huge influence in my approach to vocals. Technique-wise I have learned a lot from Erik Marchand, with whom I got the chance to learn for years in Brittany, and I also got very much influence by the famous Kurdish singer Sivan Perwer. Other musicians/singers with traditional background that somehow influence me are Azam Ali & her project Niyaz (Iran), Muharrem Ahmetti (Makedonian gypsy), Aynur Dogan (Kurdish). I’ve always had a crush for traditional musics, for new wave and for opera!, but it was only when I first visited Celtic Brittany (western part of France) when I discovered singers from there and then I started to seriously learn songs, and well… to sing!”
Besides singing, do you play any instrument?
“I gave up! voice is my instrument! Even when I use percussions I most definitely use them as something “around” the voice more than as a real percussion line, I think I really get to try to use my voice as an instrument, experimenting, trying sounds, bringing atmosphere with some vocal effects – and I still have a lot to explore on that field! I just know I have a very typical voice of someone in love with traditional types of music, that is maybe ruff but powerful.”
A voice that takes us to specific places, to ancient times, to travelling time and space. “This was musical love at the first sight, as soon as I heard her voice singing with her marvelous Astrakan project, I started to figure out a song for her; she has this authentic oriental musicality that have always fascinated me”–said Danny Heksolson when Simone Alves collaboration for Beyod the Black was confirmed, but Simone won´t be working alone on this song, the Astrakan Project spirit will let their energy there in full with the performance of Yann Gourvil.
“I am among the luckiest persons in the world to be working daily with my husband Yann Gourvil. We are very complimentary on the way we work together, we love to work together, and this particular project is definitely the one we started to pour in what was trully us instead of kind of doing what we thought was expected from us. All that are pretty good reasons to defend what we create, to stay focused! I really see it as a way of life, we humans have this great and amazing gift of being able to create!
A lot of our songs are very mythological or tragic, and what we try to do is to create the atmosphere around the basic song that will get listeners to travel to our world. And the visual part is part of that too!
As I said we really complete each other; generally I’ll have a very broad idea of the general sound, ambiance and energy, then Yann will bring my idea into structure and rhythm, then we listen together, get sometimes ideas to replace a sound/instrument by another, he’s very used to record my voice, and that way we spare a lot of time; he also knows very well my level of expectation, and when he says we need to record it over, I trust him 100%. And he will be adding samples and sounds into the mix to the Red Page song.”
Tell us about your participation in Red Page and how did you become part of it?
“A while ago Danny asked me if I would be interested, and I had listened to some of his work on SoundCloud, including his “oriental”-like sounds. Then he sent me the primal idea of the tune he had in mind, and again, it was the “oriental”-like spirit that I liked. As well as the sound of the very first guitar versión!”
Has it been difficult to adapt to this kind of project – overall because of the distance that separates you from the composer-?
“Why? Absolutely not – just of course I really wish one day we could play live (let’s make it a goal, right?). Anyway, I’ve leaning a lot of the songs that I sing now from old recordings, I never got to met most of the singers that had already passed away! In a way, I’m used to long-distance collaborations even from beyond our world!”
The thoughts-feelings-energy connection which is being created when listening the Simone Alves voice is full of textures and colors as it is on art -painting- where you imprint such characteristics. Tell us about your art (painting) taste, how do you make the art of your albums and which painting techniques do you handle?
“I’m a very intuitive artist, whether it is for painting or for singing, I never started with technique, rather I will learn techniques on the way that will serve what I have in mind. I learned a lot from “art journaling”, which is a daily form of introspection using painting/drawing/writing. Frida Kahlo is with no doubt for me a great influence too, art journaling has been a great way for me to experiment techniques, and also to get away from some “pressure” I could get while working on new songs/recording – because it is really important for me to keep making music in an harmonious atmosphere. I can’t see myself being recording in a painful or stressful atmosphere, I just get the feeling these would be the emotions that would be captured on the recording.
Generally, I pick up from my paintings the ones I feel will relate with the music and then I use them as artwork for the covers, until now, only our last digital EP Within the Circle was specifically painted for that cover, other ones were created by chance!”
What does a normal day look like in the life of Simone Alves?
“The great thing is… there is no normal day! There will be times when I’ll be doing a lot of painting, then only focus on music, or sometimes on a specific style of singing, or on video making, or on knitting/sewing… Generally I’ll focus mainly on the creative field for a while until it’s done! What matters in my creative life is to find a balance in which I can have enough time, I need time to let ideas emerge, to try things also, and to learn. But anyway, I tend to be a hard-worker, sometimes I need to put on my agenda a “no-work-today” mark… but it’s hard for me to stick to it!”
What are your future goals Simone? What are your dreams to achieve both professionally and personally?
“Being able to keep on creating everyday, in a joyful and harmonious way is what keeps me going. My main challenge at the moment is to find the financial balance to do it, a lot can be done with very little material (like microphones, cameras, sound-cards), but I also can see the limits of that way of doing things by ourselves. Another BIG dream I wish I can bring to life within the next years is a big European tour, visit and play in every single European country, not only in big cities, but also in remote little towns, wouldn’t it be great?”
Simone Alves: an artist, a woman with a peculiar energy and mysticism, she is totally committed to her goals, we know she will achieve each one of them.
Let’s discover together what lies Beyond the Black, let’s discover the pieces of this project, one by one, revealing their dreams and desires, meanwhile the Astrakan Project and Simone’s voice takes us into their world: