Ex-Japan and ex-Porcupine Tree keyboardist Richard Barbieri presents his fourth solo album with "Under A Spell". Once again, the quiet Brit has succeeded in creating an album full of unusual sounds, hypnotic grooves and an otherworldly atmosphere. In the eclipsed interview he reveals the secret of his greatest influence.
He helped the New Wave band Japan to world fame at the end of the 70s, beginning of the 80s. Then Japan came to an end. Three of the four Japan members - drummer Steve Jansen, bassist Mick Karn and keyboardist Richard Barbieri - then formed the trio Jansen-Barbier-Karn without Japan singer/guitarist/frontman David Sylvian and cultivated a very own avant-garde ambient jazz. He was an integral part of Porcupine Tree and made (New) Artrock history with them. Richard Barbieri has experienced quite a bit in his 40+ year career. Since 2005's "Things Buried", the keyboard artist has also been pushing his solo career. Latest strike: "Under A Spell", his fourth solo album.
eclipsed: "Under A Spell" sounds like an album that no one but Richard Barbieri could have produced.
Richard Barbieri: I think the new album covers all aspects of my previous work. It shows reference points to all sorts of points in my career. From that point of view, there's a lot of my personality in there.
eclipsed: The Corona pandemic certainly had an impact on the production of the album.
Barbieri: Yes, of course it did. When I started working on the album at Christmas 2019, I was going to travel around Europe to the other musicians and record individual things with them. Then Corona came along. So the shutdown changed things. I was faced with the question, do I do nothing or do I do music. I decided to do music. I still had unused material from my previous albums from other musicians. I worked that in, but of course the others also sent me new material. Fortunately, something like that is possible today via file sharing.
eclipsed: The trumpet in "Flare 2" and the bass in "Serpentine" stand out. Who played them?
Barbieri: They are the same musicians as on my previous album "Planets + Persona". Luca Calabrese plays the trumpet. On bass, it's Percy Jones from Brand X. I first heard him on Brian Eno's "Another Green World." I've been a fan of his ever since. But I have a second bass player with me: Axel Croné from the Swedish prog band Isildurs Bane.
eclipsed: The bass in "Serpentine" reminds you of your Japan colleague, the great Mick Karn, who died in 2011.
Barbieri: I can understand if you hear it that way. Percy and Mick both play that signature fretless bass. But they're both fundamentally different, actually. Mick has worked in circles. He always managed to find the absolute perfect melody on the bass and then repeated it over and over. With Percy, more things fell into place, he improvises a lot more.
eclipsed: What's particularly impressive about the album is this dreamlike, otherworldly atmosphere. How did you create that?
Barbieri: It's partly due to Corona. The whole situation in the world is strange and oppressive. I had dreams and images in my head, especially when I woke up. The first and the last song are the entrance and the exit into this dark and unpleasant world. It's the feeling of being in a forest. You can barely hear anything. And what you can hear, you can't see. I wanted to capture those moods on the album. With the last song comes the awakening ...