One on one: Simone Alves

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.

1-1“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?

4-2“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!

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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?

3“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:

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One on one: Daniel.

By: Aleyda Ortíz.

In order to properly talk and understand about any given project, it is needed to know about its origins and to get sharp when looking for the exact moment of its creation, to dive inside its own history and inside the creative mind behind it to watch from that perspective the growth of the creative seed that every day is watered with talent, effort and dedication.

Surrounded by an unbeatable weather and an impressive scenery as it is a wooden cabin located in the middle of a rain forest in the beautiful state of Hidalgo in Mexico, we go to our meeting with Daniel Martin del Campo to do the third chapter of this “One on one” interviews series for the Red Page musical project, headed by Danny himself.

woodsRed Page was born since 2004, when I was in Norway working as a musician; I had the opportunity of being part, as the bass player, of a band that got formed in the Oslo community: The Intergalactic Movement, which reunited several music styles, it was totally eclectic; we had diverse influences: there were african rythms, norwegian singers, rock guitar players, etc. We performed at the yearly Karlsøy Festival, held up in the north of Norway, precisely at the Karl Island. There were norwegian musicians and more musicians from the whole Scandinavia; in a rehearsal we played a Jam Session and there I realized how international collaboration could drop something of every culture into the music: It was a blues that sounded to each one´s influences; it sounded as the origin lands of each one of us. I got impressed by that. Some days after that, in the very same Karl island, I composed “Oceanic Idyll” the openning track for the first Red Page album while watching to the sea. This track is an instrumental rock blended with baroque influence. That´s how the idea of inviting singers and musicians from other countries to perform my music generated in my brain.

Tell us about the name selection.

The Red Page name synthetizes a lot of my history as a musican and as an individual. My favourite rock music band is Led Zeppelin by far, and obviously my preferred guitar player is Jimmy Page; from there comes the “Page” part, that in a double reading is a clear reference to my literature fascination. “Red” comes from my favourite color and it has to do with the NFL team The Arizona Cardinals from which I´m a big fan since I was 5; the football philosophy is as well an important part of my life. The red color means fire, passion, irritability, protesting… all of that is part of my personality and it reflects in my music. Even the Red Page logo has a cardinal bird and a plant, because the fauna and flora are important components in my life development too.

Who designed the Red Page logo?

The logo is a Marlene Parra´s creation, she is a designer from Guanajuato, México –who by the way is against getting so much credited-, inspired by the project´s idea, she asked me to hear some music by Red Page and on top of that she designed the current logo; the result was magical, because from her sketches, Marlene draw a little bird that a while after I asked her to complete as a cardinal, adding the little tuft over its head; but everything just flowed in such a natural manner, the whole process was always very organic: The strokes seems to be bio-natural structures.

That is why with the singers I just follow the same process, first I deliver the raw song to them so they can hear it, to see if the feel it and if the song says something to them, if the music leads them, that´s what I love about this concept!

Speaking about that, which one is the Red Page essence? Which are the strenghts and the characteristics that are different from other projects?

Inside Red Page I´m looking very forward for the natural conection of my guests with the music, what does it tell to them? most importantly, what do they feel? Musically speaking there is something about improvisation too, due to the huge creative freedom; I´m searching the craftsmanship for the album making and the fact that we dont know exactly where any given song is leading us it is simply excting.

I just don´t foresee, nor ever has been my idea, the massification of Red Page, I´m convinced that the most important thing is the pure artistic expression, and that implies a sensitive, select audience, and because of that scanty; now, if the massification happens because the music itself opens a self way for a lot of people to enjoy it, that would be good! that way we still following the organic route.

Were you always interested in being a musician, Danny?

Artistically I started with the visual arts, as a child I loved to draw and I was serious on it, I drew everything, but the music always captured my senses, overall the TV jingles; so I went to the academization at the National Fine Arts Institute (INBA) from where I ended up being a musician. On the academy I understood I´m a born musician, that´s kind of my mission, I don´t have any doubt abou it; still, linguistics and literature were always art fields that I enjoyed a lot too, but I couldn´t study them precisely because of the musical studies. So, let´s say I alwas have been attracted to Arts, in general.

biblioBecause of that interest in literature, I started a bachelor degree on spanish linguistics and literature at the National Autonomus University of Mexico (UNAM) and I discovered it has a lot to do with the musical work; for instance, you understand that the poets feed themselves with images, personal experiences, things that they observe and that they try to transform, with impossibilities, existencial anguishes; well, a musician suffers those sources too in order to capture a musical idea. Also, when analyzing literary or musical works, we see with a major clearness their similarities, specially with the poetry, that allows us as the music does, the access to unthinkeable possibilities, allowing the transformation through the aesthetic enjoyment.

The today´s most important construction in Daniel´s life, is the first Red Page album: “Beyond the Black” each one of the pieces are part of a puzzle that will give birth to a unique concept and that should be joined in a perfect and armonious manner.

The creation of “Beyond the Black” has been a very long process due to different life situations that in one way or another have delayed the whole process. However, these “delays” have a lot to do with the music itself, whenever a song does not tell me anything it gets static for a while.

It is so difficult, technically speaking, the making of a project with such characteristics, the ambitious thing here is to invite a lot of people who is located in diverse geographical points, this of course without the internet would be impossible to achieve.

I like musical variety and the possibility of choosing among different soundscapes without being locked or commited to only one. I feel that in this year -2013-, we have had great advance, we are working in the distance sending demos, enhancing the songs and making the first stage of the production: an accoustic demo for internal usage.

How do you do the selection of the voices that will perform each one of your songs?

poseFrom the very moment I am designing the music, I imagine it with certain type of vocals already; based on that I make the selection of the probable singers that could fit into it. The music itself has asked for a voice in particular, it is a judgment matter, of being receptive to your creation; but as Red Page is a rock music project, generally I´m looking for voices that are able to sing what I believe is rock music in a more “pure” state from which it can transform into whatever required sub-genre. Bhetzy Velvet for instance, one of our guest singers, she impressed me because her voice synthetizes this whole concept: her voice seems pure rock to me.

Tell us about them, who are the “Beyond the Black” singers? Where did you meet them? How they arrive to your life?

Some of them I met them through the net, others I met them at her countries, others referred by others, others, such as Marike Groot, because they were part of important rock acts in my life, but lets get clear on this:

The first one I worked with was Larisa Shelest, the ukrainian. For her I´m very proud of being her “discoverer”; she was too young when I met her, her natural talent impressed me so much that I knew it was only a matter of waiting for her develop as a more mature singer; what she is now. It is so nice being part of her development and musical growth, UPDATE 1: unfortunately, she won´t be on the first album available, but I hope we can work together for the second one, let´s see what happens.

I met Maly Reyes in México and I invited her to Red Page because I had seen her work closely at the The Gathering tribute parties -that we have done as a freelance work thanks to our fabulous admiration for that dutch band-; I always felt attracted by her voice, ideal for the melancholic expression. She represents and brings with her that part of the gothic dark mexican rock branch.

Alis Heded is an impressive soprano, I heard her and just loved her operistic approach and got fascinated with her taste for metal music. Without any problem she could perform her song and whatever new version of it.

Bhetzy Velvet, continuing with the mexican singers, was the last one joining thinking mainly that, when this project gets to the live stage in Mexico, due to its own characteristics, it will be very hard to bring all the singers together, so she could carry the weight of the whole album live and loud. Her voice is so powerfull! I guess she is one of the best rock singers that I´ve heard in Mexico, capable to sing whatever you put on her.

Mavi Solano is a friend from Málaga that I met several years ago, while visiting Spain for a The Gathering live show. She, along with Curro -her boyfriend and guitar player-, gave me her Overdub band demo CD and when I heard her voice, I identified a very special timbre on her, so special that I inmediately wanted to record something with her. I´ve always wanted to work with Mavi and it is until this album that we will finally do it.

This year also joins Simone Alves, a world music singer who represents three different cultures: the lusitanian, the bretonnian and the turkish; I contacted her because I´ve got engaged very much with her Astrakan Project whit its whole oriental charge; anybody could think that Simone is not for singing rock but that is the delicious point of this experimental try, we´ll see to where this song leads us all.

And well, Marike Groot is part of the dutch rock history and I think that alone validates this whole project. The fact that she enjoys my music until the point of composing together is simply apotheosic to me, something that without any doubt revitalizes me.

UPDATE 2: Emmanuelle Vigneron expands the core of guests singers for the debut album, she has a beautyful voice and her approach to a track that I envision as a very important and weird one has caught my ear, she is from France.

I don´t know if everyone of them will appear at another Red Page album again, but for the debut, they had precisely to be, organically.

Speaking about this album creation implies not only the selection of the tracks and vocals, but the part of the musical assembling. Will this Red Page debut album have the presence of guest musicians? How the prduction part of “Beyond the Black” will be?

For some tracks I´ll invite musicians, for instance that play Harmonica, maybe we´ll have two or three more guests, but I´ll play all the regular instruments as a base.

Regarding the production phase, I´ll do it personally, the whole of it; after touring several studios, after talking to prefesional producers, even with independants, one of them Yann Gourvil, a great breton musician who lives in Turkey and who has become the audio assesor for the project, let me very clear why you, as the creator of your project, should be its own producer too, ideally.

danmicsTo me, it was something I had a strong respect for, overall for the software managing, the seting up of a decent home studio with its special requirements; but, I found that there is a lot of technical myths surrounding the audio engineering of capturing sound, I mean, think about how they used to record in the Rock and Roll days, for instance? Personally, a bunch of those recordings are true artworks, diamonds. So, as I already said, I´ll go the path of craftsmanship in order to keep it pure and simple regarding the technical processes in my self-producer debut, while I obtain a non repeatable atmosphere on the studio, which I am designing and constructing already, this will be delicious.

October the 12th of 2014 is the expected release date for the debut album by Red Page, “Beyond the Black”, that will be available trough the official website.

Exactly in 2014 I´ll have 25 years of musical career and I´ve never released one of my projects officially,– says Danny- I think this album synthetizes all of that, is a work that implies a lot to my very own history.

There is music that let us something and there is inconsequential one, I hope that all the numbers that conforms Beyond the Black let something for those who want to listen and permit them being part of their lives from there on.

Thank you all for reading, let´s wait for the next One on one!

Simone Alves: Vocals

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Name: Simone Alves
Country: Portugal / France / Turkey

She is from a portuguese migrant family and was raised in France. From a very young age she had a great interest and passion for popular crafts and arts: music, dances, popular tales; as well as for minority languages. As a teenager she attended many art classes, but she was already attracted by music and singing.

In 1996, at the fest-noz (traditionnal Breton ball-room) she heard for the first time the fascinating voice of Erik Marchand, and after many workshops with other Breton singers as well as self-practice, she became her student. By 2003, Simone started her professional career performing solo -a Capella- or fronting local bands, then within meaningful projects like Kreiz Breizh Akademi. She also learned the Breton language in the meantime.

Her late project, The Astrakan Project, is a way to explore more vocal techniques and styles, like polyphony, as well as improvisation.

“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”D. Heksolson.

As for being part of the Red Page project, this is what Simone tells us all:

Generally speaking, I love collaborations. When I heard Daniel’s proposal for an “oriental” like tune, I thought that together with my own vision of orientalism, it could lead us to something unexpected.

I also just loved the name of the album “Beyond the black”, I like dark and melancholic sounds…

I feel honoured and excited to find out what is beyond!