by / September 24th, 2014 /

Interview: Yann Tiersen

Since the release of his eight studio album Infinity back in May, Yann Tiersen has certainly been a busy man. A US tour just completed, with a European one to follow, and the renowned Breton musician and composer is, literally, on the road again as we speak ahead of his first European show in our very own Vicar street. Despite his hectic schedule however, he remains upbeat and generally in good spirits, “Yeah, we’ve been on tour basically. We toured in North America and I was really pleased with the reaction of the audience so far so I’m quite excited to start the European tour”.

Infinity, a palpably atmospheric collection of electro-acoustic tunes inspired by Tiersen’s island home of Ushant, sounds quite different from anything he’s produced thus far in his career. “The idea behind the album was to start with acoustic matter, to record some ID’s on toy instruments, some really basic stuff”, he states of the record’s experimentation. “Using [the recordings] as a sound bank or sound sources for the album, to try to cut it, do a lot of electronic manipulations with it, and then have the basis of the songs. It’s almost like a remix album of an album before it exists”.

With regards to the stylistic change as compared to some of his earlier work Yann is quite forthright. “With the instrumentation the only reference to my earlier work was just to use toy instruments. Just the instruments by themselves, but not the way I was working, or things I was doing with those instruments, it was quite different. It was also like a joke to me, to use what I was using at the very beginning”.

Party recorded in Iceland, the album has a distinct Nordic feel to it at times, with Yann emphasising the importance he places on his recording environment. “Even if I live on a beautiful island in a really beautiful location when I start to work on a new album I like to go abroad somewhere just to avoid pressure, not to wake up one morning and think “Ok, I’m starting to work on the new album”.

So why Iceland in particular? “It’s always more comfortable and easier for me to find ideas from somewhere else, and Iceland was the perfect place as I really like it”, he exclaims in slight reminiscence. “Two years ago we did a long tour in North America so were abroad in Greenland and we stopped in Reykjavik and we got a really good feeling (from the place). It was just like being home, but not home yet”.

The influence of the setting is apparent with the inclusion of both Icelandic and Faroese verses on the record but Yann is quick to point out that the original recording was written in his own, native tongue. “It was written in Breton language which is the main thing”, he remarks wilfully. “My girlfriend did a song in Breton language and we translated in Icelandic, but the original songs were in Breton language on the album”.

We move on to discuss the start of his eagerly anticipated European tour which starts in Dublin with an intimate gig in Vicar Street tonight. Yann remains reserved on the matter but is noticeably looking forward to the concert. “We go on Monday to rehearse in Dublin. I like the place, we already played in Vicar Street”. he remarks buoyantly. “It’s been a while (since my last Irish show) but I really love playing there. We’re just playing Dublin this time but I really enjoy playing in Cork and Galway as well so I am looking forward to coming back”.

So what exactly can his fans’ expect from the show? “We are playing all the (new) album and we will also play older stuff for the first time in a while” he confirms. “We have an electronic piano on stage so it’s going to be a mix between acoustic stuff and more electric stuff”.

With trips Manchester and London next on the card, before a selection of concerts and festivals in mainland Europe over the coming months, the roving Mr. Tiersen could be forgiven for taking a well earned break, but instead, he already seems to be planning his next record. “I think we will carry on touring for a while almost till summer I guess, at the same time I start to figure out the next album. I want to go through the same process but using seal recordings as a basic material so its involving troubles and stuff which is great! So I’ve started thinking about that”.

It seems his fans won’t have to wait too long then.

Yann Tiersen plays Vicar St, Dublin tonight (24th)