WITH LOUISA JOHN KROLL (italian
by Giancarlo Bolther and Michele Maestrini
Can you tell us your artistic history?
Mandolin was self-taught, after minimal tuition in piano, guitar and singing. Australian birds were my most constant teachers! At age 10 I made my first original studio recording. At university I studied literature, philosophy, art history and Greek/Roman classics. I performed as a faerie storyteller and in bands, financing 5 albums before self-publishing the CD Argo, signed my 2nd CD (7th album) Alexandria to a German label Hyperium, then moved to the French company Prikosnovenie that released Ariel and Alabaster.
Can you tell us about the song of Alabaster?
Alabaster, a kind of marble, refers to the Alabaster Chambers of Emily Dickinson’s poetry, printed on our CD-booklet. Another of her poems appears as lyric text set to music (#10). We entitled it “The Search for Lost Souls – Midnight”. The poem, like Emily, is enigmatic.
Some interesting artists contributed to the new album; how did you get in touch with them, was it organized by the label or did you contact them personally?
Frederic (Lys) wrote first, to introduce his label Prikosnovenie. Spyros (Daemonia Nymphe) and Francesco (Gor) are on the same label. I met all three men in France. Olaf I met in Germany, as his band (Stoa) was on my former label Hyperium. Gianluigi (Oophoi), Italian ambient artist, contacted me after reviewing my music in his magazine Deep Listenings; we were already collecting his albums.
How long did it take you to complete Alabaster?
Alabaster took 2 or 3 years to complete, as did Ariel, Alexandria and Argo.
Where did you record the album?
Alabaster was recorded in 7 studios in 5 nations, mostly at Pilgrim Arts in Australia. “The Seventh Ingress” (#7) was recorded in Germany. Parts by Daemonia Nymphe, Gor and Oophoi were recorded respectively in Greece and Italy.
Were you satisfied with the finished product?
I am never fully satisfied with my work. And that’s ok. Albums, like children, carry our strengths and flaws; we try to raise them, give them every chance, then they gather a life of their own….
Which artists have inspired you most?
Kate Bush remains my deepest inspiration. I also admire Bjork. My favourite classical music is Respighi’s “Trittico Botticelliano”. I listen so widely to music, across so many centuries, it’s hard to trace influences. One night it’s James Brown, Led Zep, The Kinks, PJ Harvey, The Eels, Shai No Shai or The Legendary Pink Dots. Next it’s Purcell. Or Arvo Part. Or Massive Attack, In the Nursery or Asian Dub Foundation. Or dark-ambient music by artists like Alio Die, Stephan Micus, Robert Rich or Mathias Grassow. I’m indebted to such folk classics as Five Leaves Left by Nick Drake, Ladies of the Canyon by Joni Mitchell or Renaissance of the Celtic Harp by Alan Stivell. Naturally I also listen to music in the Heavenly Voices scene that includes Vas, Stellamara, Gor, Vox, Dwelling, Ashram, The Moors, Bel Canto, Caprice, etc. Italian music I like is “Shadow, Light” by Franco Battiato, though my favourite Italian singer is Francesco Banchini!
Can you tell me more about the album Love Sessions?
This collaboration was recorded in France, in the medieval town Clisson. I worked with Fred Chaplain (Lys), singer Marlene Etrillard, Spyros Giasafakis (Daemonia Nymphe) and Italian genius Francesco Banchini (Gor). I learned to play a Greek table harp brought by Spyros and enjoyed everyone’s adventurous approach to arrangement. I look forward to performing “Zjw”, which Francesco and I wrote for Love Sessions. It was an exciting project as so many cultures and personalities mingled in this explosive alchemy.
How do your records differ one from another?
Thematically my albums are connected by a fascination with mythology, poetry and faerielore: vehicles to explore the psyche. Stylistically they’re all eclectic, as ingredients from disparate genres are cast and stirred. Combinations change but the principle is the same. There is a slight shift to more experimentation with electronics, but medieval / folk elements remain in songs like “The Lily and the Rose”. Emotionally, Alabaster is the darkest of my albums - with the realm of Hades at its centre - but an affirmation of the human spirit prevails.
What is the music scene like in your country today?
I’m not aware of any coherent scene here. We are fragmented, perhaps due to our scattered population and dependence on foreign markets. Two of Melbourne’s best songwriters emigrated to other lands: Nick Cave to Brazil; Brendan Perry to Ireland. Melbourne popstar Kylie Minogue went to England. I think Natalie Imbruglia headed over too. Sean Bowley (Eden) lives in the hills of Melbourne’s fringe; Lisa Gerrard (DCD, Duality) lives even further out; neither performs often. Other musicians from our city are Wendy Rule, Faraway, Ikon, Legouisa Hybrida, Trial of the Bow, Lindsay Buckland and Shinjuku Thief. There are more, but being so reclusive, I don’t meet them. Seems like we’re a crew of exiles!
I know that you are planning a European tour in the Fall, what kind of show should we expect?
We’re making an ethereal show with acoustic instrumentation such as clarinet and percussion (Francesco) and mandolin (me), with our vocals. No electronics! We’ll perform a selection of songs from our albums including Love Sessions and new material. One of our first shows is in Bologna, 4 October - I am especially excited to see Italy.
Why do you frequently refer to celtic traditions?
I have often denied any focus on ancestral roots, because if our souls reincarnate, why be limited by genes or blood? However, the recent death of my Welsh-born father has shaken my heart. It’s hard to avoid an ancestral call when we lose a parent. For this life, my ancestors are Celts, Normans, Saxons, Vikings, probably Romans too. Before he died, Dad gave me a Celtic cross. He said it’s the ancient pagan sign of our ancestors: four corners are seasons, circle is the world. When I was a child he called me his “little Boudacia”, the fiery Welsh warrior. All this rushed back to me with his death.
In your opinion, is your music a way to escape from reality, an open window to a secret garden, or a medium through which we can better live the beauty that is all around us?
This is perceptive of you! All these purposes are possible, especially the third: to express a wish to be enchanted by the world…. to fall in love with life, however dangerous!
Do you have a philosophy? Your vision of the world is...
“To be a Sufi is to detach from fixed ideas and preconceptions”(Abu-Said, son of Abi-Khair). This may mean embracing various spiritual views, musical styles or political perspectives. I like inclusion, not exclusion. Open games, not closed games. Compassion, not elitism.
Are you close in some ways to the new pagan and New Age movements?
Whilst I am pagan, I’m no member of any specific coven. I respect Buddhism, Hinduism, Sufism (an esoteric branch of Islam), Celtic / Druidic / Wiccan, Nordic, Greek & Roman deities, the Aboriginal Dreamtime and other faiths. As a polytheist I welcome Christ in my pantheon, alongside other gods. Too many problems are caused by fanatical fundamentalists. Why should one faith dominate?
I really liked the paintings used for your booklets, can you tell me more about them?
Karan Wicks painted Alexandria (Australian edition) and Ariel. She is fragile and reclusive. She created a series on Alice in Wonderland, inspiring “Alice in the Garden of Live Flowers” on Ariel. “Paint the Wind” on Alabaster is a tribute to Karan, who describes herself as a creative expressionist.
Sabine Adelaide painted Alabaster. She uses vibrant colour to convey emotion and drama. Her designs strike me as idiosyncratic, quirky and whimsical. Sabine is part-owner of Prikosnovenie. I had the pleasure of dining at her home in Clisson; her cooking is as wonderful as her design.
What are your ambitions and expectations for the future?
My ambitions are secrets, and I have no expectations. I’m lucky to have already achieved more than a girl from the bushland could dream of. I wish to find beauty forever in the world.