Yann Tiersen - Photo by Katherine Rose

YANN TIERSEN – Photo by Katherine Rose

YANN TIERSEN is one of the most popular multi-instrumentalists, composers, and artists of our time. His eighth album new album Infinity will be releasedon May 16th via MUTE Records. NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION sat down with YANN TIERSEN to about the album, Nordic lyrics, islands, stones, and Iceland, where the album was developed.

When you search ‘Yann Tiersen Interview’ on Youtube, there are 23.500 results coming up. I think this is about the amount of interviews you have given since the beginning of your career. Aren’t you sick and tired of this?
23.000 really? You can search that? Well, interviews aren’t too bad. I don’t do that much interviews anyway, its fine. I skip the bad ones and usually say no to TV shows and that stuff. Also, I don‘t do many interviews when we are on tour. I am in Berlin only for one day, it‘s a shame that I have to go again. But I have to see my son and vote the mayor in Ouessant where I live.


Ouessant is a French Island. Your new Album, Infinity, is highly influenced by Iceland, where most part of the album was developed. Do you have a special connection to Islands?
On the way back to Europe from the last tour we had a stop in Iceland and it was just a paradise. I was missing home a lot. I lived in Ouessant for a long time, I almost did all my albums there. It is very small, we only have 8 pubs, one for 100 people. Iceland is a much bigger version, with an actual town and crazy people, I loved it.
We have been touring for 3 years and back home, I was’t in the mood to start an album. I was in the mood for everything but not for that… but I mean, I need to do music to be happy in life. So I thought, lets go to Iceland for two weeks, that must be a good start and a good way to avoid pressure and to be focussed.


Yann Tiersen at Flow Festival 2012 - Photo by Mandy Wagner

YANN TIERSEN – Photo by Mandy Wagner

Can you tell me about the progress and how Iceland influenced your work?
Actually, after the tour I spent two months to set up a Modular Synth and I was playing with it all the time. I thought, ok, I have to stop – or the album will be electronic only. Then I decided it will be the rule of the album that I use acoustic instruments only. So I went to Iceland with just pianos and toys for children, like flutes and bells and tambourines.
It was January, which means only about 4 hours of light a day, but that was not bad, because I could work better. What I did wasn’t dark at all, more like childish christmas songs. Back home, I transformed everything with the computer and messed with the sounds.
This album is all about stones. This was not on purpose. But obviously the topics of Islands and Islanders were kind of in the centre, and sometimes, being on an island, you have the strange feeling that you are on a rock because islands are basically just rock and stones in the middle of the sea. That is the main topic of ‘Infinity’: Stones and minerals.


You always say that music is very abstract, entirely different from language. Still, in Infinity, there are parts spoken and sung in nordic language. How come and how were the lyrics developed?
Icelandic and Faroese are very old languages, very beautiful and very dry. I dont speak them but I sometimes understand the written version. Ólavur Jákuppson, a friend of mine and part of the live band, is from the Faroe Islands, so we have an ‘island connection’. I asked him if he can name stones in Faroese language, he came with lyrics for a proper song about Faroese islands that he wrote himself: Grønjørð. Also, my girlfriend wrote Ar Maen Bihan, and Amiina, who sings in the album, translated the lyrics into Icelandic.


The album contains many natural sounds – footsteps in the mud, rain, wind. It is no secret that you cherish the sound of ‘things’ equally than the one of instruments. How do you find and use sounds?
When I was recording Slippery Stones – the one with the rain – I was in Reykjavik. It was a Saturday and it started raining really bad. But there was this guy singing in the main square. It was not loud, but loud enough so I stopped, took the mic, recorded it and carried on.
Still, in this album, I mostly did this acoustic stuff that I played on real instruments and then transformed them electronically. For the next album – maybe I will not do it, but the idea is to do the same, but to start with non-instrumental sounds that I will record and then build a song with just that. Maybe I will play instruments later on, but the first input will be the mic.
This will be a good way to travel, too – only with a mic. Standing around recording. People will be like ‘what are you doing?’‘Oh nothing.. just working on my new album’ (laughs).


Is there a certain meaning to the album title,’Infinity’?
I was struggling to find a title for the album and then I realized that it was my eight album. Eight – 8 – Infinity, that just made sense!


What do ‘hope’ and ‘passion’ mean to you?
(thinks a lot) Hope.. maybe for the future? A project? I don’t know. I like to be passionate for small things. I’m probably passionate with everything.