Sohn // Interview

sohn interview

“I died a week ago.” As opening gambits go, SOHN’s was stunning. Released in 2012, “The Wheel” showcased the haunting clarity of his voice, juxtaposing it against clattering beats, deftly spliced vocal samples and the warm hum of analogue synths. Since then, he’s shared a string of superb solo tracks – plus brooding productions for BANKS and Kwabs –and established his own unique strain of electronic soul in the process.

Though the music’s poured forth freely, he’s been distinctly less generous with biographical information. For example, we still don’t know his real name. “Nobody does”, he smiles, proffering no answers. He will concede to being “born in South London”, however, and to playing in several “terrible bands” before ‘Kid A’ introduced him to electronic sounds. “It was really inspiring hearing an indie band create music from sounds that I had access to. Also, I’m a bit of a megalomaniac,” he laughs, “And I quickly realised it’s a lot easier to make the computer do what you want than it is people.”

Once solo, he established an unexpected following in Austria, so made a permanent move to Vienna in 2010. The impact on his songwriting was immediate: “I just relaxed. It was like my brain slowed down long enough to make music that was at peace with itself.”

And yet, from the introspection of ‘The Wheel’ to the regret pervading ‘Lessons’, no matter how far SOHN’s voice soars, his words are always anchored by melancholy. So is it fair to describe his default setting as “dolorous”? “I form lyrics using the sound of words. Of course, those words probably reflect subconscious, psychological concerns, but I never examine their meanings because I don’t want songs to become dishonest.”

This quest for artistic honesty is also the reason he’s operating under a pseudonym: “I don’t want my own insecurities or ego-trips filtering into the music.It’s weirdly therapeutic to throw the things I don’t need out of my head and allow the space to fill up. It’s like method acting to the point where there’s nothing else there anymore: I just want to let it destroy me.”

His debut album’s due in spring – through 4AD – and is apparently “80-90% finished”. Unsurprisingly, it’s self-produced, but SOHN still anticipates it raising eyebrows in other respects:“It’s more song-driven than people might expect. And I didn’t want to make an album that was too dark, or lacking air.An album’s like a big empty house: if you don’t open any windows it’s never going to feel fresh. On this album, the windows are wide open.”

What with further collaborations with BANKS and Kwabs already underway,and a trip to L.A. to produce “some big artists” scheduled, 2014’s shaping up to be a breakthrough year for SOHN.So where would he like to be in twelve months’ time? “I don’t know. I’m massively driven, but I don’t necessarily have a specific target. All I know is I’m gunning down this road and I’ll keep going ‘til I’ve gone far enough.”

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FILE NEXT TO: James Blake

ONLINE: @Sohnmusic

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