Anna von Hausswolff: The Sacred, The Profane, and the Popular

Anna von Hausswolff may be the most poignantly conceptual and boldly experimental artist I’ve ever known to characterize her music as “pop.”  Anna is a Swedish singer/songwriter and pianist,...

Anna von Hausswolff may be the most poignantly conceptual and boldly experimental artist I’ve ever known to characterize her music as “pop.”  Anna is a Swedish singer/songwriter and pianist, who has toured with a handful of noteworthy acts and been frequently compared to Kate Bush.  This July her sophomore album, Ceremony, dropped in the US.  The album is a tribute to her grandfather, who passed three years ago, and it is as haunting as it is daunting, carried out primarily on a church organ.  It rings of the soundtrack to a text exploring the sacred and profane… to put it mildly.  It moves at seemingly a snail’s pace through the most biting kind of self-introspective sonic pallet.  It has its hopeful and uplifting moments, but they still carry the weight of a ten ton truck.  The album is “classically” beautiful, in that there’s nothing quite “light” or “extraneous” in it; everything would seem to have a nearly divine purpose.  (I’m at least slightly reminded of my teen years spent listening to Sam Rosenthal… and that’s not a bad thing.) This summer Anna played her first US show ever at Glasslands in Brooklyn and she’s about to embark on her first US tour, which kicks off December 4th in Washington DC, promptly followed by a December 5th stop at our very own Johnny Brenda’s.  I recently got a chance to chat with Anna, who is far more “human” than her art would lead you to believe.  We chatted about cinema, Drone Metal, and some other stuff…

Izzy Cihak: What have been the highlights of your musical career thus far?  It’s still relatively new.

Anna von Hausswolff I think going on tour with Efterklang was a big highlight for me in my career.  I never toured that intense, but Efterklang are a bunch of amazing, creative people, who gave me a lot of new energy and inspiration.

Izzy: What do you consider to be your most significant influences and inspirations?

Anna: For Ceremony, my latest record, I would definitely say that Drone Metal has been a very important influence and guideline in the making of. Ceremony is a “pop” record, but when I started to listen to drone music my perception of music, and how to make music, changed. I think that has affected my songwriting a lot. Beside Drone Metal, most of my inspiration is coming from nature.

Izzy: I’m a massive fan of cinema and your videos have a very intriguing cinematic aesthetic, which I can’t quite put my finger on.  I want to reference early Lars von Trier or Bergman at his most avant-garde, but I’m also a bit reminded of Richard Kern and Harmony Korine and the most high-minded music videos of the ’80s and ’90s.  What or who is it that most inspires your visuals? (I realize all of my comparisons are quite cliché and I suspect what actually inspires you digs a little deeper.)

Anna: I don´t think your comparisons are cliché. All of those you mentioned are great filmmakers and I truly enjoy their timeless movies. But for Ceremony I was more interested in the scores of certain films. Like the scores of Suspiria by Goblin, Lucifer Rising by Bobby Beausoleil, Angst by Klaus Schulze, or Bröderna Lejonhjärta by Björn Isfält. I believe that the scores of these films are not only original and innovative but also in perfect synchronization with the visuals. That´s what makes a film special and memorable to me.

Izzy: You’re about to embark on your first full-scale US tour, with your second stop here in Philadelphia at Johnny Brenda’s.  What can be expected of the live experience?

Anna: Raw energy

Izzy: I put an open invitation out on Twitter for people to let me know if they have anything they’d like to ask you and people wanted me to ask you to talk about Hydra’s Dream and the possibility for a release of your 30-minute instrumental organ piece.

Anna: Hydras Dream is a collaboration between me and Matti Bye, a Swedish silent picture composer. We draw inspiration from old stories and movies and interpret it into music. Our first record is inspired by “The little match girl” by H.C. Andersen and will be out on Denovali records in Spring 2014. My 30-minute organ piece, which I performed on the legendary Henry Willis organ in Lincoln earlier this year, will hopefully be out on Touch pretty soon.

Izzy: In addition to that, what are your most significant hopes and plans for 2014?

Anna: To collaborate with more interesting people and finish my next album.

Band Interviews

During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.