“So, my advice is, if nothing is coming out, there’s nothing in you. Writing is an itch, a tension that must be evacuated. Go out and live, have good times, put yourself in risky emotional situations, anything that is crazy, and the rest will come naturally, I think.”-Sacha Talens
Songwriting, broken guitar and writer’s block: Sacha Talens talks about creativity in this impromptu interview.
This is more of a regular conversation than an interview. Sacha Talens could have been a guy in my neighborhood I happen to pass by one day.You know, those spur of the moment things that happen which actually turns out pretty well. Such is this piece I am posting today. This is every playwright’s dream: creating a spontaneous conversation that covers interesting topics and questions. There’s no rehearsal or choreography. Everything is revealed as is…
Background: Early this year Bathurst Moment was released digitally. I also wrote an album review here in Expats Post. So for those who are curious can check that out. Other than this, I do hangout with the artist once in a while. And there is always that informal air around us that sometimes turn into those bantering posts. And you can notice that here. However, the real idea that I want to emphasize on this post is the nature of creativity. And this is universal. Songwriting might be the main issue here, but it all comes from one source: passion. And this is what we are discussing here and hopefully people who read this will get something useful for them. Something they can apply as they go through their creative endeavors.
How’s the tour going? And please tell me about the new tracks via soundcloud.
Oh boy, right to the point eh? Well we’ve been through some sh*t, collectively and individually. After a show things just got sour for reasons that don’t need to be discussed. A diplomatic answer would be that “we’re currently regrouping.”
We’re booking some more dates and trying to find some other musicians, and many other business things that are really boring and tedious and that I won’t get into. I guess I’ll let people know when we have more dates via twitter & Facebook.
Ok so this requires a bit of back story,
I planned my 3 BMG albums to be a trilogy, because I wrote so much material that wouldn’t fit one album. But I loved the songs and didn’t want to move in stylistically before being DONE with all that material.
(someone told me that Coldplay did this exact same thing with their first three albums…. weird eh?)
Anyway, I grouped the songs in 3 themes, one for each album.
The Bathurst Moment was kind of angsty and surreal, but also very strict. The songs in it are very dogmatic in terms of structure.
So the second one is gonna explore the rougher crazier aspects of “Bathurst”, but it’s going to be way more meta, and more… psychedelic, for lack of a better word. Anyway, I could talk about the next album for hours, because I’m working on it now, but I’m gonna spare you that.
So, my point was, I’m posting a lot of the songs for the next album to see how people react to them, I like letting people in the creative process a bit. That’s how I would want to be treated by artists I admire. Creating with the people who like you, that’s a concept that I like.
Hey I like how you got into the specifics. Now, I noticed- and this is a consistent thing about your songs-how you have this knack for epic titles. I mean when I saw ” She is So Natasha” it’s a kind of stuff that would make you go ” Hey I want to know more about Natasha etc” and this is a rare gift for anyone. Do you find choosing titles to be easy?
Generally speaking, what happens is that the title comes first.
Well, not really. First something goes “boom” in my mind for whatever reason, and second, I have a title for that thing. I write it down.
And then there’s a whole other process for the music but that’s another story. Anyway, what I mean is that a title has to be like a string that you pull and the whole song comes out. It seems that when a writer writes something, he has already written it subconsciously, and the consciousness isn’t but a duplication of that first unknown idea.
So, for me, titles are a bit like that. I have piles and piles of little bits of paper with titles.
Sometimes somebody comes to my place for whatever reason and they see a piece of paper and they go “What the fuck is ‘THE WIND IS LAYING EGGS’ ”
Try to answer that question…
Anyway! for She’s So Natasha, it’s about an actual person that I know, for the most part, and that’s what I think when she does stupid mindless things, “She’s soooo Natasha right now”.
Seriously man ‘THE WIND IS LAYING EGGS’…I’d like to hear that. Anyway, I’d say that you are a prolific artist. Not everyone can actually be creatively feverish but there are also those who are afraid of having writer’s block. What’s your advice to people who might at some point in their careers encounter this problem?
First of all, are you sure about this question, because it’s gonna take FOREVER.
Shoot! I am pretty much game about the whole thing.
Short answer, I don’t believe in writer’s block as a thing.
I started “writing songs on a daily basis” (I’ll explain later) when I was 13, and now I’m… older.ANYWAY, over a decade doing this and I’ll be damned if you ask me to write a song and I don’t have something decent 24 hours later.
(by writing songs I mean, mentally, not actually writing a full song with lyrics and arrangements and all, but song ideas, that may or may not end up recorded as a voice memo, which may or may not get selected later for development and etc… etc… down the terrifying hierarchy of ideas)
THIS BEING SAID
Although I have never encountered this problem ever, I’ve watched my dad work as a writer, and he works pretty much the same way (I guess I even got it from him?), he’s top notch every time, regardless of ridiculously short notice or complexity or whatever.
And I have seen him stop writing, recently, but for other reasons that are personal to him. And what I can say is that he makes a good point.
If you can write marvellously, you will always write, marvellously.
But if you’re going through sh*t, that is bothering your mind and filtering your idea, and tying down your intellect to reality, then, for sure, you’re not gonna write. But it has nothing to do with writing, it has to do with you.
And also, being in constant mental search for ideas, always cooking songs in your head nonstop 24h a day even in your dreams can be fu**ing exhausting, plus the business, the money, the system… it would be heavy on my soul if I had one.
I like the concept of life that Rossini had. One day he decided “F**k you all!” and he retired, and continued writing music while he cooked and fu**ed his mistresses, and that music was found and it turns out, it’s his best shit and it was more modern than the moderns, so, you know. The reasons that put my ideas in your speakers or your hands aren’t unconditional, but the ideas are.
(phew, the end)
So, my advice is, if nothing is coming out, there’s nothing in you. Writing is an itch, a tension that must be evacuated. Go out and live, have good times, put yourself in risky emotional situations, anything that is crazy, and the rest will come naturally, I think.
Thanks for pointing Rossini out. I’ve always suspected those about his operas that really revolve around sex. Anyway, I was watching an interesting film by Franco Zeffirelli called Callas Forever and although it’s about ‘what might have been’, it revolves about helping someone (in this case the late Maria Callas) who is crippled artistically in that film. I remember about ‘artist clusters’ where in order for you to be inspired, you need to be with inspiring people. Do you think this is universal?
Well depends if by inspiring people you mean talented artists.
Talented artists and supportive fans who are also creative.
The thing is, I don’t get along well with other artists.
Because I don’t think we live on the same planet, or something. I’m not generalising, I’m saying so far.
But, we’ll get in the “art talk” later, maybe (probably).
For me inspiring people are crazy people.
I love crazy people, and they love me for some reason, because anytime I’m with a group of people and a fu**ing weirdo showing his d**k walks by, he’s gonna talk TO ME.
I even went (and still go) to mental hospitals or residencies for mentally ill people to talk to these characters.
So, inspiring people, yes, weirdos, yes, but talented musicians… not so much.
Is it because you think talented musicians are airheads? I mean not all but most?
Well, no, not at all. I just have a concept of art (and thus, a work ethic, modus operandi, etc..) that is very different than what I have experienced working with other (talented) artists.
I just mentioned that because people who don’t know you, might think you are hard to get along with; based on some of your answers. But for the past few months that I know you, I can say that you are really friendly and supportive. And you like to exchange ideas with your fans and other artists.
Basically the problems are that (from my experience) other artists focus way more on their part, their melody, or their concept or whatever other wanky concept you can imagine (“dude put some of that ring modulator on that snare, c’mon!!” etc, ). Or getting everything right, perfectly pitched, etc..
….Or, you know, their looks.
Ok, I think I get what you mean
And I’m more in the songmaking, which I don’t consider art.
Sounds weird but also makes sense…
No man, songwriting isn’t art.
Songwriting is like knitting, growing a garden, writing a diary..
I see…and what is art then? How do you know something is an art and not a craft?
It’s a format that carries musical concepts according to various pre defined formulas, and which has entertainment as it’s primary purpose.
But, it’s something consumable or you consider that an episode of the Simpsons is art.
What do you think turns something into art? Like say the process of songwriting is more like a craft. But can you say that the end result is an art?
It’s entertainment. An episode of the Simpsons has 3 acts, there’s tension in the second act and at the end everything goes back to normal. Same for a song, it has recognisable melodies, repetition (so you feel safe) and a little bit of tension with the bridge, to conclude with the chorus, often even repeated again for even more feelings of safety.
Well, the actual art is the vision behind the song. If the song is good, it feels like a real person is singing it, that you almost feel that you “get” the person who wrote it, that’s where the art appears. But that is not up to me to decide.
I write songs, I know how to do it, I do it well. Period.
The vision behind the song….that in itself sounds poetic. Well! what an interesting discussion we have.
You tweeted a picture of your broken guitar. What’s it all about?
I’m going to try to make it brief. I have special “bonds” with my guitars, for lack of a better word. I never sell my guitars, and they all have their names engraved on them.
Once I own one, I keep it and sometimes the relationship is over and there’s only one way out of a guitar-human relationship with me.
So, that guitar was Beausaxon and I wrote every song on “Bathurst” with it, and that was the end of us and she had to go.
And it’s kinda sad, but I need symbols like that in music.
I have my music fetishes, per se.
And that is one of them. Hope I didn’t freak out a lot of people.
Nah I thought you were just annoyed hahaha!
Well, I was. This album has been painful, and giving birth to it, very painful.
So, yeah, it’s never a happy moment.
But, again, destroying the symbol of the album, which is the guitar I wrote it on, is like, you know, revenge.