Interview: Vashti BUNYAN / Intervju z Vashti Bunyan
So, I just want to know, Vashti, what was your approach when you start to create your new album Heartleap?
Heartleap was written and recorded over seven years ?although I was not working on it all that time. The last two years though were more concentrated as I made up my mind to produce the songs myself. I was learning more and more about the technology of recording and found I was enjoying it and liked the fact that I could take my time and not be constricted by studio time.
Your previous album was released at FatCat record label. How are you satisfied with your position at the label?
FatCat had released Lookaftering in 2005 and were wonderfully kind and considerate when it came to the 'next one' ?in that they allowed me to sail through two deadlines ?2008 and 2010 ?without making me feel bad. They have been very patient and very faithful.
What was your intension in the very beginning, the prime idea, even before you started writing songs for the album?
I had no fixed ideas at all. I was not even sure I wanted to make another album. The first and second - with their 35 year gap between - seemed like book-ends of my life at that time and I wasn't sure I had anything else to say. It was only slowly - as more songs came to me - that I realized I would like to make just one more album.
Music on the new album is again very, very intense and emotional. Is it difficult for you to exhibit it live?
Yes the new songs could be more difficult to play live the same as they are on the recording - but I have played a few shows recently with Gareth Dickson and myself on guitar with no other instrumentation and we hoped that the songs were strong enough in themselves to be able to take different treatment.
How do you usually work? And how different is your approach to live presentation, when you're alone on the stage or with the bend?
I have played very few shows completely alone. After Lookaftering came out I toured for a few years with a band - sometimes six of us and sometimes four or three. Every different combination has been inspiring in a different way.
You are great songwriter, the guitar player, the singer, performer, arranger; how do you feel in all these incarnations of specific music art?
Thank you! I have trouble sometimes considering myself to be a serious musician as I had so many years when music didn't have any part in my life. I sometimes look at the people who have played in my band and wonder at their commitment since childhood to learn the theory of music and to learn their instruments so completely - and to learn how to read music - none of which I can do. I am just instinctive I guess - with very little musical education.
What was your musical inspirations in the past? What are your memories to your childhood?
Mostly my father's collection of classical music on fragile 78 rpm records - and then later an addiction to 50s pop music which was hard to find on the radio at the time. Radio Luxembourg helped. I always liked the way that those early pop-songs said so much with so few words.
The inner force is the most important and powerful thing in the human being. The way you think, behave, how you tolerate the world, says a lot about you. Your work and words on the latest album will certainly inspire someone; what do you think about that?
When I am writing a song the last thing on my mind is that it might ever be listened to by someone else. That comes later - once I have decided that I might be happy for someone to hear it - usually my daughter or my partner. It is always nerve-wracking to venture out with a new song - so exposing of such a personal process.
With whom do you feel alignment with nowadays?
I have always been a very isolated writer and especially with this last album so I have not been listening to much new music. With my contemporaries I feel very little alignment as we never really met - so it is strange for me now to be categorised along with the Brit-Folk musicians of the 70s. I certainly didn't feel part of any 'movement' at the time.
You don't want to talk a lot about your past, still I dare to ask you; do you regret any decisions in your past?
Only that after my feelings of failure with Just Another Diamond Day I turned my back on music so much that I deprived my children of a musical childhood and I didn? ever sing to them. Apart from that no - I have no regrets - because it would be fruitless. It all happened and unfolded in a way that - looking back - I can only feel immense gratitude for.
How did you change within the years (when you where 30, 40, 50, 60)?
I grew up (I hope!). 25 to 50 I lived a very rural existence with children and animals and then moved back to the city for the next two decades where I still live - happily - though with less animals and an even bigger family.
What are your experiences about being a woman artist in this chaotic music business?
This is sometimes a leading question which pre-supposes that I will talk of difficulties caused by my being a woman. I have never wanted to attribute any of my musical failures to my being a girl or a woman. I feel that the only way we can move towards transcending the differences is by not giving them any notice.
I'm reading that Heartleap was largely self recorded and self produced on digital technology, when a music tech course refused to take you on, being a woman of a certain age. Is it true? Still... after all this years? What do you think about that?
I was furious of course - but in a way it was a very good thing as it made me more determined to find out for myself and learn for myself. I am not sure if I had been a 'man of a certain age' whether or not I would have been accepted more readily for that course.. I will never know - but it was 12 years ago and I'm sure things are moving on for the better by now. That is my hope anyway.
Your lyrics are just so intimate, subversively delicate yet strong enough to tell your life story. Or just fragments of it. (lyrics in song Mother, The Boy, Gunpowder...) Have you ever thought to write an autobiography, for instance?
Yes that is my next big project. I promised my children I would start to write down the story once this last album was done. So now I have to keep my word. It might be quite hard to write about the way things were over the decades - especially the fifties and sixties - but I look forward to trying.
Is Heartleap really your last album?
I think so yes. It has taken a long time to write, arrange, record and edit just ten songs - and so the thought of finding another ten is quite daunting. I would like to work with other people maybe and try different musical ideas. I don't want to turn my back on music again that is for sure.
(Rock Obrobje, March 2015)