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Aleister Crowley - Interview

  by Anthony Dhanendran

published: 13 / 6 / 2004

Aleister Crowley - Interview


Also a member of cult electronica group Fridge, Adem has recently released his debut solo album 'Homesongs' and has been touring it up and down Britain. He speaks to Anthony Dhanendran about his new solo career

Adem Ilhan is in the middle of a morass of tours. When I talk to him, he has just returned from Brussels, where he has been supporting Sun Kil Moon, and he’s just heading off on a tour of Britain, taking in support slots with the Divine Comedy, Fairport Convention and Explosions in the Sky. He has recently played a series of rapturously-received shows at various places in the UK, at which his blend of old-school folk sensibilities with a taste for odd instrumentation have gone down a storm. His solo debut, 'Homesongs', has also been well-received. Before recording as a solo artist, Adem recorded with Kieran Hebden (who records and plays solo work as Four Tet), in the post-rock/electronica group Fridge. He says that his solo music is just as much fun, in a different way. “You can’t really compare them – it’s like comparing weight and height,” he laughs. Fridge, legendarily, became an electronic act because none of the three thought they could sing. In fact, the folk idiom is quite far, at first glance, from the soundscapes of Fridge. “I’ve always been into instruments,” he says. “I picked up this thing in a shop and I found out it was called an Autoharp. So I took it home and figured out how to make a sound out of it. First I learned how it was supposed to be played and then I tried to figure out how to make a sound that I wanted to make. I found that I could make an interesting noise by dropping a pencil on it.” That pencil-on-strings sound went on to become the genesis of Homesongs’ opening track, 'Statued'. “The song was a bit sparse – it had a vocal-shaped hole in it, I realised.” So, almost without thinking about it, Adem put together a vocal part for it. “I always knew I could hold a tune, but I hadn’t really written any lyrics since I was really young.” Listening to the album, it’s hard to believe that the accomplished lyricism is the product of someone who is a relative newcomer to songwriting. “I had to look at it sideways,” he says. “If I looked at it head-on I knew I’d never be able to do it. There are all sorts of questions, like what voice you should use – should I sing in that kind-of standard mid-Atlantic voice? So I just didn’t think about it and I let it come naturally.” But then to call Adem Ilhan a novice would be greatly misleading. This is, after all, a man who’s been in bands since the age of 13, so you can assume that a casual understanding of the craft of songwriting has seeped into him from over a decade spent performing and writing music. The band with whom he tours – he describes them with a grin as a “sort of supergroup” – consists of members of other up-and-coming bands, including critical favourites Hot Chip. At times during the live show the band seem to be enjoying the show more than anyone else, in contrast to the standard po-faced stare of some session musicians. “That was really important to me,” says Adem. He’s very keen that the audience take away the full Adem-experience from the gigs – on the diary on his website you’ll find him discussing t-shirt designs – not something that many bands choose to involve themselves in. “I thought about what I would have wanted when I went to a gig,” he says. But that doesn’t stretch to always giving the audience what they want (or what they think they’re going to get). The many support slots with fairly dissimilar acts mean that he’s playing to disparate audiences across a series of nights. In the forthcoming Divine Comedy support slot he has been asked to slim down the four people on stage to just two. It won’t be a problem, he says, because the Brussels gigs were the same. “It’s not the way I want the audience to first hear me,” he adds, concerned that the full force of the four-man show will be lost on audiences hearing the stripped down version of his show for the first time. “I don’t want people to be able to second-guess what I’m going to do,” he says. “I want to be in the same position as Bjork. If you go to see her you never know what she’s going to do – she could be playing with an Icelandic children’s choir, or doing an electronic set.” In the same vein he is participates in – and, in fact, started – the mass improvisation collective known as the Assembly. The group plays very strange non-linear events in which anything can happen and members of which range from accomplished classical musicians to people who’ve never played an instrument before. “We’re releasing a record in the autumn,” says Adem. “It’s a follow-up to the installation we did at Tate Britain. We’re hoping to have a gig on the roof of ULU (the University of London Union) over the summer.” Other than the Assembly, when Adem comes back from his current spate of tours he’ll be off again – this time to the USA, where 'Homesong's is scheduled for a July release. There is also a new Fridge album in the works, which is already in the recording stage. There won’t be any opportunity to show off his newly-found vocal talents, he insists: “We’ve already got a sound going with Fridge.”

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Aleister Crowley - Interview

Aleister Crowley - Interview

Aleister Crowley - Interview

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