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The Black Atlantic

Interview von: arne mit Geert, am: 13.05.2010 ]

Der Niederländer Geert van der Velde hat mit The Black Atlantic nach seinem Ausstieg bei Shai Hulud eine neue Band gestartet, die auf Singer/Songwriter-Indie-Pfaden wandelt. Die Entwicklung der Stücke der Gruppe ist durch hohe Intensität und ein Höchstmaß an bauchgesteuertem Gefühl zu charakterisieren. The Black Atlantic spielen schöne und anmutige Tracks zwischen Indie und reduzierter Singer/Songwriter-Romantik. Im Mittelpunkt steht der gefühlvolle und ausdrucksstarke Gesang von Geert van der Velde, die sich unaufdringlich, jedoch nachhaltig im Ohr festsetzt.


Musicscan: Why is music your privileged form of expression as opposed to other artistic avenues?

The Black Atlantic: Music has always had a sort of mysterious attraction for me. I still don't really know why I like playing music so much. Or why I find making a living off of music and living my life based around it so important. I just do.

Musicscan: What makes music special in this regard?

The Black Atlantic: I think what attracts me to music is that it has this enormous transformative power. And it makes me feel like it transcends something. What that 'something' it transcends is, I don't know. And, I haven't figured out how it transcends either. But, then every once in a while I run into someone who is utterly disinterested in music. I've worked a few jobs where I met people who literally said they don't like music. How that's possible I don't know. For me, music is like the thread of my existence. It keeps everything together. It's a binder and a builder at the same time. When I play music there are moments where I feel like I inhabit the song. It's a very bizar experience. But, who knows, maybe what makes music special is that a lot of us think it is so. Although I don't want to believe that.

Musicscan: And what makes The Black Atlantic special out of your view?

The Black Atlantic: I honestly don't think we're that special. We just work hard at what we do because we love doing it.

Musicscan: How would you describe the essence of the band?

The Black Atlantic: 'Craft' and 'Play' 'Play', because that's what doing music is. It's playing. 'Craft' because I'm not a 'natural'. And, I don't think any of us in the band really are. Kim is probably the closest to a 'natural' but he's still more of a craftsman; a songsmith, if you will. Myself, I'm someone who chips away at a song for a long time until a shape emerges. Kind of like a sculptor. Except I usually don't know what the hell I'm doing. I fuck it up a lot of times before I get it right. The great thing about the 'matter' of music, for me, is that I have this endless possibility with it. If I botch it up, I can go back and redo it later.

Musicscan: Do you have certain aesthetic goals when you work on your music?

The Black Atlantic: I used to want everything to sound as technically perfect as possible. But, I've gotten over that. I'm starting to cherish all the little mistakes as if they were my initial intentions. So, if I have any aesthetic goals now I would say it is to catch the unique coincidences as they happen and turn them into songs.

Musicscan: What effect(s) do you hope to generate through your music?

The Black Atlantic: To connect with people

Musicscan: Is there something like a main theme or a main idea that runs through your music, something that perhaps connects the individual songs you create?

The Black Atlantic: Coincidence and selection connect the individual songs. And, the main theme is that they're all somehow related to my life and interests. Whatever I read, eat or dream. And, then a lot of fiction to add to the mess. It all goes into the songs.

Musicscan: What makes for the perfect song in your opinion? Have you ever achieved something like a perfect song? How would you define a perfect song?

The Black Atlantic: I have no idea. I'm attracted to melancholy music. And, I have not achieved a perfect song. If I could define a perfect song I'd write it.

Musicscan: Is it necessary to create a certain distance between you and the music in order to get a better understanding of its inherent quality?

The Black Atlantic: For a recording, yes. Usually, at a later stage it helps to distance yourself from the music. To objectify it. But only for song-writing. Not necessarily for playing. When you play to write music I think it's very important for there to be a healthy interplay between spontaneity and conscious effort.

Musicscan: Do you sometimes feel the urge to write a loud and fast rock song but then dismiss this idea again, because you think it does not fit the The Black Atlantic aesthetic?

The Black Atlantic: Sure. All the time.

Musicscan: Do you think The Black Atlantic would have been as successful as you are right now without the current accessibility of music? I believe you have greatly benefited from the internet machine with the free download of your album, so I was wondering what your opinion is on the open accessibility of music nowadays?

The Black Atlantic: Probably not. We're definitely a good example of a band who have gotten a lot of exposure via the internet. We're fans of the internet.

Musicscan: Do you think music might be valued differently nowadays because it’s basically free for everyone and one does not necessarily have to engage with any of its context in order to appreciate it? What effect do you think does the accessibility of music have on the music itself?

The Black Atlantic: Yes, I do believe music is valued differently than, say, 10 years ago when the internet wasn't as wildly popular yet. But, this isn't just a negative thing. Think of Bon Iver's hermit-cabin-recording story turned myth for one. Bon Iver's story is a (commercial) success because 1) their music is great , and 2) because their music was presented outside its context. A lot of music nowadays has become popular (i.e. is valued differently) precisely because it is now being presented outside of its context. Think of all the basement recordings and demos that become so popular they blow bands up who have barely been around the block or for bands who had been at it for years and now finally get the exposure they deserved. The (accessibility of the) internet has totally changed the game. It's opened up doors for some artists and closed them for others. Think of the now almost ancient idea of a 'recording artist' or 'studio musician' and the huge amount of self-made artists who are taking their place. Sure, from a commercial point of view this means that music is now a commodity. It's not just for music lovers specifically anymore. Suddenly everyone is a musician, music-critic (i.e. blogger) or marketing expert. But, that's because expertise itself has changed. One of the biggest effects of the internet on music, besides the enormous amount of genre cross-pollination, is specialization. Labels and bands can cater and tailor their music for a specific audience and reach them worldwide, on their own terms. They're not bound by geography or financial restrictions (as much) anymore. I think the challenge for musicians/bands nowadays lies in re-claiming, or finding, the right kind of context to present their music in. Bon Iver or Arcade Fire are good examples of artists who do it the right way. They are very specific about the kind of context that they want to present their music in. They don't just say 'yes' to everything and anything and they are commercially viable because of it. They pick and choose the context that they want to put their music in. I think I read in an interview with Arcade Fire once that they attribute their success to saying 'No' to about 90% of the offers they received. Both those bands would've never been as successful if it hadn't been for the accessibility of their music through the internet. But they also would've never been as successful if they hadn't been so picky.

Musicscan: Do you feel that there are differences when touring the different European countries? Do people react differently to your music and do you think that music is perhaps valued differently?

The Black Atlantic: I do. But, it would be another long answer if I tried to describe all the differences. But, my answer to your questions is 'yes'.

Musicscan: What do you hope people to take away from a The Black Atlantic show?

The Black Atlantic: The satisfaction of knowing that we connected with them. That we bridged the gap somehow and were able to bring them into our little world and show them what moves us to play music.

Musicscan: Final thoughts?

The Black Atlantic: My head hurts from answering all these difficult questions.