Two years after their collaboration with Steve Hogarth, Isildurs Bane dare to start another cooperation. This time they make common cause with Van der Graaf Generators mythical Peter Hammill. The lone wolf is known for only entering into musical collaborations in exceptional cases. With "In Amazonia" the Englishman and the Swedes have presented a wonderfully complicated, demanding album.
Peter Hammill is, what you might seldom believe as an outsider, once again in a very good mood during the interview and is very willing to provide information as usual. Just like Mats Johansson, mastermind of the Swedish prog collective Isildurs Bane, he is enthusiastic about the collaboration, which could perhaps grow, as both indicate in the interview.
eclipsed: How did your cooperation come about?
Peter Hammill: In 2017 I took part in the Isildurs-Bane-Expo, the annual event they organise in their hometown Halmstad. This is a kind of one-week rehearsal with various invited guests that leads to a unique concert. This is also deliberately not recorded. With me were Tim Bowness and [the koto player] Karin Nakagawa, who plays a decisive role on "In Amazonia".
Mats Johansson: After the concert we were very taken with the idea of continuing to work with Peter. Our producer Thomas Olsson, who also had the idea for the cooperation with Hogarth, said we should try it, but I was skeptical: A Peter Hammill certainly has no time for us, because he prefers his own projects. Fortunately, I was wrong.
eclipsed: Did you know each other's works?
Hammill: Well, I knew more about their way of working than about their music.
Johansson: It was different with us, some knew Peter's work quite well, others only peripherally. I myself discovered Van der Graaf Generator in 1973, at the age of 15 - the perfect age to open up to music. I heard a lot of Van der Graaf Generator in the 70s and was thrilled by this beautiful organ sound. Above all, however, Peter's singing was magical.
eclipsed: Did you have a vision from the beginning how the whole thing should sound?
Hammill: I had no idea what would become of it. In the beginning they sent me one of the compositions, with reserved tips on where to use singing. The piece was quite elaborate in terms of arrangement and orchestration, and they gave me complete freedom in terms of content, style, lyrics and so on. Of course, there was no guarantee on either side that the results would actually be used. When I had worked on the lyrics and vocals, I sent it back to Sweden, but wasn't sure whether it would meet with great approval. That's how it was fortunately. From then on there were also changes to the arrangements, such as repeating individual passages in order to make a kind of refrain out of them. And so the puzzle slowly came together.