Zorlu PSM will continue it’s impressive concert series with PJ Harvey on Wednesday. Low will take the stage before her so we talked to Low’s Alan Sparhawk about Turkey, PJ Harvey and musicians psychology.
You’ll be returning to Istanbul once again to perform with PJ Harvey. What are your thoughts on Istanbul and is it an inspiring city?
Absolutely, we were there about a year ago and luckily it was the start of our tour so we had a couple of days to travel. It might be cliché but as a westerner you can definitely feel that you’re in a different place that’s situated on the edge of two different cultures. When we first got there we found it very unfamiliar but as time went past and I got the chance to see daily life such as a father and his son walking around, someone opening up their shop I started to realise their movements, concerns and fears are exactly the same as ours so it became very familiar to me. The thing I love about the city the most is that early in the morning when everything is quiet, you can hear the first prayer far away, then it gets closer and closer to where you are and it really mesmerizes me. Of course the people we met there were lovely as well so we’re really looking forward to come over and look around before we play with PJ, which is an honour.
You’re originally from Minnesota, and I believe we can see the influence of the rural in your sound. How did Minnesota shape your sound and musical perception?
Well it’s difficult to give complete perspective on it as it’s the only thing I know, only when I travelled around I realised that Minnesota had it’s own thing. But of course the rural isolation, the merciless winter affects you. A part of your soul is greatly affected by it. For sure growing up in the country, even though we don’t make country/folk music, made us too familiar with the space, the simplicity and the sobering feelings.
You’ll be opening up for PJ Harvey, what are your thoughts on her music and how will it feel to be sharing the stage with her?
Well its a great honour, we’ve never played with her before and we’ve got a couple of shows with her this tour. I’ve been a huge fan since “Dry”, I had it on cassette and I absolutely wore it out. “Rid of Me” and the 4-Track Demo’s are really powerful, especially the 4-Track Demo is amazing, it’s so brave. As far as I’m concerned it’s the high water mark of how raw and how real you could get with music. So for sure it’s a huge honour and I hope I don’t freak out when I meet her. I mean what are you going to do, she’s someone I idolized, it’s great enough to become friends with her never mind opening up! I’ll try to do my best to make her day easy.
You’ve been on stage for more than twenty years now, how do you keep yourself motivated to keep on going and do you have any rituals before a show?
Well, it might sound childish but honestly that same juvenile desire that’s been inside of me to explain the universe, to be understood keeps me going. There’s always a deception or misunderstanding. It’s quite surprising, but that feeling has always been with me. As time goes by your perspective changes, your physical abilities start to shift but that naive little child never leaves you. I guess a lot of art is simply navigating yourself with the help of that child.
Sometimes you say to yourself “I don’t want to hear this!” but you also learn not to freak out, and start gaining control over your feelings because you learn to accept the cycle and the flow that you’re in.
As for the rituals, I don’t have any because I think if I were too focussed and in realization of going on stage it would freeze me up. I just relax and do it.
I believe that a lot of musicians suffer psychologically from the fame. Did you at any point suffer at all, and if you did how did you get over it?
I did have a pretty public mental breakdown about 10-11 years ago but I don’t know if I’d attribute it to the stage or living life as a stressed out person. I’m constantly aware of how much being on stage can work your sense of who you are and reality and what you’re doing but it really helps to have people in the band who are not afraid of saying “Hey that’s stupid don’t do that.” I think a lot of artists become isolated and are surrounded by people who are too afraid to tell the truth. But you need people to be there for you because you lose perspective. You lose perspective of who you are, how you’re singing and many other things. I mean you can freak out about the simplest things like the way you sing. I’m always trying to take a step back and analyse myself and sometimes even taking a step back can become an inspiring journey.
We’d like to thank Alan for taking time to talk with us!