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Music waves interviews Lonny Ziblat on his charming album "Dream Hunting"
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Your album "Dream Hunting" (2019) is released 8 years after your first solo album "Songs From The Drawer", what explains this time lapse between the two solo releases?

I never really set out to build a career as a solo artist. The first album was a collection of songs that didn’t suit the first Modest Midget CD (The Great Prophecy of a Small Man) which was at the time just a project with - what was originally - a virtual band. I did publish one more album and an EP with songs in Hebrew that were simply pending and yearning to come out, but the second album in English came out without any specific plan in mind. Furthermore, after the band broke up I was brutally confronted with the fact that I will probably never be able to play this kind of music live on stage again. I did have a few sketches and ideas that I developed but with no clear aim in mind. Indeed I even concluded there was no use since the whole concept of ‘albums’ and even ‘live played music’ seemed to be dying out. But the music kept persisting. It took me 2,5 years from the moment the album was completed until the moment I was urged by a friend to actually publish it.

How did you perceive the feedback on this album made almost 2 years ago ?

If I understand the question, it’s quite simple: Some people are already accustomed to the modern production sound which is not appealing to me, and they obviously have a hard time connecting to it. Another group gets it and loves it (luckily).

I think that the more further away the music is from the human feel, the poorer it gets

How do your parallel projects (film music, compositions for orchestras) influence your solo project?

I’ve always loved working on a variety of things. They feed one another precisely because they are so different. When I work on a movie, the kind of music differs depending on the taste of the director. If I make commercial music for TV it obviously has a more modern sound. In such a context I’m of course more oriented towards the taste of the current market. I can produce music with modern sound but I think that the more further away the music is from the human feel, the poorer it gets. So making these songs and publishing this ‘raw’ sounding music of mine is my natural asylum.

You were born in Argentina, you lived in Israel and you live in the Netherlands, you are undeniably a citizen of the world, to what extent has this background contributed to forge your inspiration and the artist you have become?

I’m not sure to what extent I’m a “citizen of the world” or rather an absolute outcast by now. All cultures have nice things to offer, but also a whole pile of crazy ‘blind spots’ as I perceive them.

Listening to "Dream Hunting" reminds us of the Beatles' or Paul Simons' talent for composing simple and richly textured melodies, what is the biggest challenge to make a successful pop song and do you find it more difficult to write these songs than more typically progressive compositions or for movies?

It depends on how you define ‘a successful pop song’. If you are talking about generating money and fame, I failed. But if you’re talking about success in artist terms, namely in succeeding to express my most sincere and raw musical and lyrical ideas, then it all depends on the kind of idea that comes to mind. I have ideas that are purely instrumental and can be written for a chamber ensemble, some are instrumental but need a more produced approach (like the opening tracks of my Crysis album with Modest Midget), and other are song that simply beg to be as straightforward and as direct as possible.

There is a strong relationship with childhood and stories in this album, or at least it has a childish sensibility, in what way does this relationship with childhood seem to be primordial for you as a musician?

That’s a fantastic question actually. This album is definitely very self reflecting, but I believe it’s my duty as an artist to always have a straight connection with my source and it was in it’s purest form when I was a child. I think it’s crucial to keep in touch with it for all of us.

When we listen to your album, we have the impression that it could illustrate a book of Carlos Ruiz Zafon for example, do you agree on the fact that "Dream Hunting" has a very pictorial force?

It’s interesting. I never thought of that. But contrary to other projects, there were two songs here that evoked very strong images as soon as I finished recoding them. I opted to travel to the Patagonia and shoot the videos myself for ‘Stuck’ and for ‘Another Day’. You obviously have a point!

Do you have a relationship with musical "analysis" that goes back to your childhood when you discovered a "passion" for the dissection of "toy turtles" in particular? How do you manage to find the balance between this analysis and your artistic sensibility?

I take issue with people who approach an art object or a musical piece with an analytic attitude. I think you miss the whole point by doing that. Analysis is only useful after you’ve experienced the work with a free and neutral mind. However, I’m aware that this can be subject to an interesting discussion. And yet, I prefer to focus and creating.

One of the most intriguing tracks on the album is "Barby Q" which reminds us of Barby Girl from Aqua meeting the Beach Boys, what do these humorous touches bring to your albums ?

It wasn’t a decision of bringing something humorous. I grew up loving artists who managed to mix humor with seriousness. One of the most important works I grew up with is a piece by Les Luthiers – an Argentinean group – which is a cantata to a laxative medicine. It’s a brilliant parody of the famous Bach Passion pieces written with texts taken from laxative medicines. It’s performed by an orchestra, choir and singers and it’s both gorgeous and ridiculously funny.

It's not something to put in the background while you're washing dishes

Lady Witch' is also a track that stands out on the album, it has some eerie parts that Tim Burton would love and it seems to make the transition to the more acoustic and intimate end of the album. Why such a track and is this feeling of transition justified?

Every feeling is justified. Period. If you feel something, it’s there and no one can nor should dispute that. Why this track came is very difficult to answer. It’s just pure me in the most honest sense of the word. It came out and it has a right to exist. You may need the right mood to listen to it. It’s not something to put in the background while you’re washing dishes.

For 'Days Of Peace' you collaborate with Magdalena Golebiowska, how did you come to work together?

I met Magdalena through a mutual acquaintance. She’s extraordinarily musical and has a very warm and comforting character as a performer. She was also the one who gave me the last push to actually publish the album and I’m very grateful for that.

In this album, there are a lot of arrangements around these seemingly simple melodies like little bubbles that seem to burst in 'Stuck' and its ukulele, are they there to add to the immersive aspect of the album?

The songs on the album have one thing in common. They were all written within a certain time-frame and they seem to reflect the processes I’ve been going through in that period. This was the only category. To me they also ‘feel’ right side by side.

Another Day' is also an exception in this album with its atmosphere close to trip hop with more electronic elements a bit like Portishead or Craig Armstrong, is it something you are also working on and is it a direction you wish to explore more and more in the future?

Another Day was written for Wouter Hamel, a successful Dutch artist. The same goes for Barby Q & Outta Sight. Since he didn’t record them I ended up doing all of them myself. There’s a good chance I wouldn’t have written such a song if it weren’t for Wouter. At the same time, experimenting with different styles is very common when you regularly write for film & for TV. If you check out my recent album with Modest Midget you’ll find it’s not a typical Prog sounding album at all and there are lots of flirting with other genres: Punk, Ska, Sicilian Tarantella and even some Romanian Gypsy Folk music. It’s more a parody on Prog than anything else actually, and trying to have an open mind is extremely important to me.

Today we live in a period of pandemic where culture is seen in some countries as non essential (closing of museums, theaters, cinema...), how do you live this period and do you think there was no other alternative than these closures?

That’s a bit of a complicated question. We’re conditioned to expect the government to take care of all of our problems, something that was absolutely not obvious at all before the 2nd world war. But the truth is that no one knew enough about the disease when it started to spread, and I really don’t envy the decision makers who had to find a balance between a healthy mental / social life to a healthy economy. Is there an answer? I’m not at all sure. I was lucky because I could still work as a tutor and I’m receiving royalties but I have friends who are having a disastrous time.

Have you started the year 2021 with optimism or pessimism?

I’m always real skeptic and I don’t believe too much in humanity. At least not where we’re heading in the recent decades. So you can say I’m a natural pessimist and I take life’s pleasures with utmost appreciation.

What are your current and medium-term projects?

There’s an animation being produced for Barby Q. I’m looking forward to that! Besides I started writing my first symphony. I don’t know if I’ll go that far but I’m not planning to write more than seven, since traditionally most of us composers get syphilis around the time we reach the 8th or 9th symphony.  

We leave you the last word for our readers...

Beside publishing the album on Spotify like everyone else does now, I also published it on vinyl. A few years ago I restored and remastered an anthology album of Los Jets – an Argentinean Pop band my dad was a member of in 1962-1966. When I got the vinyl I immediately purchased a record player and fell in love again with the whole ritual of placing a record. Just because you take that effort to clean it up, hold it carefully (you mustn’t touch it with your fingers) and place it cautiously, you actually respect it more. So I found myself listening the way I used to in the past. With headphones, reading the album cover and admiring the artwork. This was an important wake up call for me. So I suggest that you actually purchase the vinyl version of Dream Hunting, and switch off your phone for a while. It’s better than to take a ‘mindfulness’ course where they basically teach you how to take a shit without using your smartphone.

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LONNY ZIBLAT: Dream Hunting (2019)

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