INTERVIEW: Jane Weaver | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Rebecca Lupton

Two decades, several bands and six solo albums in is not normally the point at which an artist qualifies as an ‘overnight success’. Yet Jane Weaver managed this unusual achievement in 2014 following the release of her magnificent record The Silver Globe. Her previous solo work had explored psychedelic and electronic components in conjunction with stark folk, but the vivid technicolour of The Silver Globe brought her unique magpie vision to life in a striking and new way – and gained her a whole new following in the process.

With this year’s follow-up Modern Kosmology proving a bigger critical and commercial success, I managed to catch up with Jane Weaver ahead of a UK tour that brings her to The Cluny on Thursday 2nd November as part of the venue’s fifteenth anniversary celebrations.

Discussing the increased attention on her work following The Silver Globe, I asked Weaver if her rising status had taken her by surprise. “Yes, definitely! After The Silver Globe, I started getting more gig offers, and I was pretty overwhelmed by the warmth and support I suddenly got. To me it was so nice to know I was engaging with people, and most people are nice.”

Perhaps informed by this, Modern Kosmology arrived earlier this year, presenting a more direct, focused and confident state of intent. Considering the album’s genesis, Weaver notes, “I wanted to make some of the instrumentation clearer and more linear; I made the decision to not swamp everything in space echo (which I love). I suppose it made me feel more exposed, especially when it came to my voice: I like to experiment with different synths and textures, percussion and drum machines, so that [Modern Kosmology] sounded a bit crankier than the last record.”

Weaver explains how the album came together. “I suppose I’m pretty determined to represent whatever I hear in my head, or whatever concept I have, I always start working on stuff alone demoing at home then taking it in the studio. Some tracks are straightforward, like [title track] Modern Kosmology for instance, but sometimes I’ll write a Moog part and then get the drummer to go over the top of it so that he’s playing around the pulse of the Moog. Essentially I like to take my time though, I don’t like to go into the studio for two solid weeks: I like space from it then to be on my own with everything to make it work, I think you need to mull things over and listen, and consider how you can make things better or more interesting.”

If you can’t be free spirited as an artist, when can you be?

A pivotal inspiration on Modern Kosmology proved to be artistic rather than musical, with Weaver’s introduction to the work and life of the Swedish artist and mystic Hilma af Klint proving a key turning point. “A lot of the record is inspired by Hilma af Klint – she used spiritualism and automatic painting in her work, she also had séances that gave her messages and she used codes, geometric shapes and symbolism in her work. Her story is so interesting, her process almost futuristic, so she kind of became my muse and provided me with an expansive collage of sound, vision and lyrics. I initially found it hard to write, I wasn’t feeling very free spirited at the time, so it was nice to discover Hilma af Klint’s story which has so many wonderful things about it and to feel inspired and stop panicking. If you can’t be free spirited as an artist, when can you be?”

As such, amongst the glorious pop epiphanies of songs like lead single Slow Motion and The Architect, Modern Kosmology still takes plenty of detours and unexpected twists reflective of an artist resistant to boiling their creativity down to just one direction or approach. One of the key tracks of the album, Ravenspoint, even saw Weaver collaborating with fellow free spirit and icon Malcolm Mooney, the original Can vocalist who provides a commanding spoken word contribution. “Malcolm is someone I’ve known through my husband [Andy Votel] for a while, they’ve worked together and he’s a family friend. When I wrote Ravenspoint, I could hear a commanding spoken word coming through so it was an obvious connection really, although I would never assume he would do it. I sent him a really bad demo of the song with me playing violin on it, and had to explain it would eventually sound much better: he was fine with it and came to the UK to do a festival, so we recorded him for a few hours. I wrote the words out as phrases, so in effect it sounded a little Biblical; he made the song come to life.”

Weaver has plenty of other projects and ideas currently on the backburner whilst promoting Modern Kosmology. “I’ve got a soundtrack project to finish along with other stuff I’ve written, I’m eager to get back in the studio.” Before that though, there’s the task of taking Modern Kosmology out on the road, and as anyone who’s seen her and her band perform previously will attest, the live spectacle she produces is not one to be missed. “I like to keep to it sounding like the record as much as possible…I never used to enjoy performing, but now I embrace it and get drawn into it, I guess it’s just a more dramatic representation. Songs like Ravenspoint allow more free form and craziness which I love, depending on the song.”

Jane Weaver plays The Cluny on Thursday 2nd November.




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