Anil Sebastian agreed to speak to GIGsoup about his new deliriously drifting single ‘We Both Know’. The London-based artist formerly headed up The London Contemporary Voice Choir and has worked with a range of artists from Imogen Heap, Alt-J and Laura Mvula. Sebastian is now ready to go it alone- his new album is due to be released at the end of October.
GIGsoup caught up with him to find out more about his current single, as well as exciting plans about his album launch and some exciting collaborations that are on the cards.
You’ve said that ‘We Both Know’ was written shortly after the death of your father. It’s clearly a very intimate and personal single. What’s it like letting it out into the world?
A huge, huge relief. ‘We Both Know’ began in my teens just before my Dad’s death. After he died I abandoned the song and rediscovered it during a bit of a personal breakdown. It’s also a lot about a beautiful three-way relationship that blew me open, died and – oddly – became the last step in my grief over my Dad’s death. Somehow it contained the final piece of the puzzle and I was able to finish the song. My brother Ingmar and partner Didier got me through it. When I told him I was working on them again I swore them to secrecy – Ingmar co-produced the record with me. Some days he actually physically carried me to the studio. Later, we started to work with Cherif Hashizume at Cafe Music Studios on the track. He’s incredible – and they have a special stash of honey vodka under the sink.
GIGsoup have heard that you’re currently working with Bjork and Madonna producer Guy Sigsworth- what’s that like? Can you tell us more?
For every Madonna or BjÖrk’ song Guy has produced, there is a whole library of sublime, utterly unique and masterful classical piano work – all unreleased. Every conversation with Guy leads me to a life time of new ideas – it’s no lie – he’s a phenomenal human being – one like no other I’ve ever met. His solo project will be coming out under a different name. My own work is heavily influenced by him – and in particular his hand in BjÖrk’s ‘Homogenic’ and ‘Vespertine’ albums as well as from ‘Frou Frou’ his project with Imogen Heap. We’ve been writing songs about physics -time in particular. I did my degree in Physics and Philosophy – so it’s been great to think about those things again.
Your album launch is set for the 27th October at the ICA. What can fans expect from the show? Can you give us a taster?
Casual Psychotic, who created ‘Hiraeth’ a two-part animated film which accompanied my first two singles, ‘Human’ and ‘Living’, is going to be doing live visuals. I will play the whole of my album ‘Mesonoxian’ with my brother Ingmar on drums, Cherif Hashizume on electronics and Andrew R Bird who’ll be playing synths, celeste and a single string piano using an electronic marimba. We will also be joined by some guest vocalists from my choir, London Contemporary Voices. I’ve been spending some time in Iceland where I’ve been creating some slowly evolving music for when the audience first arrives in the room.
Your sound has been likened to many artists including Arca– what’s it like being likened to such acts?
I didn’t expect it at all so it’s so it’s been a nice surprise as I really admire his work. I produced the record with my brother Ingmar and Cherif Hashizume. The way what we all do combines is really special to me. Cherif has worked with Jon Hopkins for many years and so when we heard about that comparison, it made total sense!
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You’ve previously headed up The LCV (London Contemporary Voices Choir) but ‘Mesonoxian’ is your debut album as a solo artist. What’s it like going it alone?
I co-founded LCV with Didier Rochard for a special show Imogen Heap did at the Royal Albert Hall. Back in my my teens (just after Dad died), I toured with her as a guitarist in Japan. She wanted to make a choir of people she’d worked with and so she asked us to create it. We loved it and decided to keep it going. Since then we’ve collaborated with over a hundred artists including Alt-J, Sam Smith and Laura Mvula. We performed with Alt-J on Jools Holland and even got asked to do a number of fashion shows for Burberry which was incredible. A few months back, we even did a special choral version of Imogen Heap’s ‘Hide and Seek’ for the ‘Harry Potter The Cursed Child’ stage play. It’s been a mad 5 years. The choir is a bit like a love army – it’s a creative community first and foremost – but it’s also both the cure and cause of a lot of my madness. There are so many incredible artists within it – it overwhelms me. The choir gave me the time and kept me alive creatively to be ready to put out these songs. It was all too raw for me before that point.
You’ve worked with your brother Ingmar on this release and the forthcoming album. What’s it like to work so closely with a sibling?
We’re opposites. I sleep too much or not at all. He doesn’t set an alarm – he wakes up naturally at the same time every day. Chaos vs. calm. He’s more of our German side – organised, clean; structured. We have to work asynchronously – kind of like a relay. If we tried working at the same time, we would definitely kill each other. I couldn’t have done any of this without him – from the beginning of making the record, he’s been there for me – at times, it was debilitating – virtually impossible for me to work – because of the subject matter. He got me through it. We talk every day and he’s a really central part to every aspect of what I’m doing.
The artwork that’s been produced for the album is amazing; so many swirls and distortions of your face. Did you come up with these ideas- how much are you involved in this visual aspect of your work?
Thanks! Very much so – it’s my favourite part of the process. The photographer Alma Haser worked on the project and came up with the album cover using photography and origami. I fell in love with her ‘Cosmic Surgery’ work. I also took a set of portraits she took and began distorting the images myself – digitally, but also using paint. I also have a wealth of images and sketches from ‘Hiraeth’, a two-part animated film by Casual Psychotic which accompanied my first two singles ‘Human’ and ‘Living’. More recently, I’ve been working with Rino Stefano Tagliafierro – and incredible Italian director who has created a video for ‘Closer’, which comes out in October. His work involves distorting, painting and animating onto real video footage of me and Sian (who also sings on the track). It is inspired by Gustav Klimt’s ‘Mermaids’.
‘We Both Know’ is out now via Lost in the Manor records