We would like to thank Erland Cooper for taking the time out to speak to James at Scottish Music Network about his latest album “Hether Blether” and more.. here is what he had to say …..
With the release of your new album Hether Blether, the final part of the triptych, what should listeners expect from it?
I hope it feels like a full circle to listeners, with sounds, key and melody borrowed and reframed, ending where it began. I get messages from people who enjoy listening to the three albums back to back. I’ve found that quite touching.
What differences were there when returning to your childhood place of the Orkney Islands to write these albums?
I return to Orkney several times a year. My parents still live there in Stromness. Unlike many places, the islands advance and adapt swiftly yet manage to stay exactly the same. It’s timeless. Its Neolithic roots scar the landscape beautifully and it feels easy to imagine a community living in the ages between then and now.
What is the meaning of Hether Blether?
In local mythology it’s a vanishing island believed to rise green and fertile from the sea – a place holding memory and lost ones safe. I think it’s a myth born from a story used to deal with grief.
To anyone that has never heard your work, can you suggest a starting point for them to begin with?
Perhaps listen to Solan Goose after a sustained period of stress, frustration or hurt. If lucky enough to be able to, travel with it if you can.
How has the COVID-19 lockdown affected the promotion of the album?
The record is about celebrating community and valuing the spaces and people we think of most. It’s also about valuing the magic of the everyday which I think is all rather pertinent. I was due to play the Barbican main hall this summer with the LCO. It was to be a landmark moment. It felt like a dream and it’s nice that it still does feel like that. It’s one to think about for the next spring equinox.
How are the dates shaping up for the tour in September and October?
I think ‘less is more’ for live touring is a sustainable approach to performing and I’m looking forward to bringing my nest of musicians back to the stage, particularly in Edinburgh for two nights. I really enjoyed playing Glasgow last year at the Macintosh Hall and the Queens Hall prior to that. Scotland really knows how to support live music.
Have you been taking in any of the online music streams from bands and artists online?
Sea-Change Festival did a very good online music event and a similar one to celebrate independent record stores. Both were joyful, interesting and full of brilliant people and ideas.
If you have been, was there something new you have watched that you may never have listened to before?
Moira Rose, Shitz Creek. A welcome distraction. I think comedians, writers and musicians have a lot in common.
Do you have any plans to do live online streams?
I’ve been producing several short music films in the studio. I enjoyed projecting Alex Kozobolis’ Orkney footage inside my piano for the Scotsman lockdown sessions recently.
Which artists do you listen to that have constantly inspired you over the years?
Julianna Barwick, Burt Janch, Moses Sumney, Johann Johannsson, Clint Mansell, Bowie, Prokofiev.
What music are you listening to at present?
Joseph Haydn, Ailbhe Reddy, Robert Aikii Aubrey Lowe.
Do you feel the COVID-19 situation has opened up a new way of working and writing for the music community?
I think it’s highlighted to other sectors how the music and creative community already operate with a lot of work being done remotely in different and unique spaces, and how true collaboration doesn’t have to be done all in the same time and at the same place.
Are you planning on writing more Scottish-themed material or, with the three albums recorded, will you be looking for new inspiration?
I’d like to finish the ambient sister record to Hether Blether. Each of the albums have an ambient companion, previously Murmuration and Seachange and now, a third, is called Landform.
To finish off can you reveal how you yourself would describe your music?
A gentle rumination on time, memory and place.
Thank you for taking the time to speak to us and we wish you all the best with the album and tour.