Exploring Jungian notions of personality with particular focus upon the anima (the feminine inner to the unconscious male shell), Iranian artist Soho Rezanejad’s debut album, Six Archetypes, is a remarkable sea of souls, the fluidity of the self as powerful metaphor for and expression of resistance and progress.
Q: You recorded this album by having people transcribe what they heard from your half-audible vocals. What gave you this idea?
A: When someone would engage in an art form in ancient Greece, it was sometimes thought to be a spirit or “daemon” using a human's body to conceive. So my friends and I call it a daemon method writing because it's like a spirit that possesses you, writing only half-consciously. It’s a guessing game and there’s no consequence for writing a bad line. At the worst, it’s only bad guessing. I find this method useful in overcoming writer’s block.
How did you get involved with Lust For Youth?
I met Loke in 2013 when LFY only consisted of him and Hannes, and there were collaborations between Loke and me from the beginning of our friendship. But it was during the recording of “Armida”, on which I sing vocals, that I learned about Hannes and Malthe. That was the same day Malthe became part of LFY. As for me, I didn’t know I was part of the group until later.
Your parents are Iranian, you were born in New York and now live in Copenhagen. How have your cultural experiences shaped you and your music? What freedoms does recording under your own name allow you?
Recording under one’s own name is a great responsibility. There’s no way out of the pit if you get confronted with something. You are bound to reflect and learn from your actions, which I find is an attribute of freedom. It's still possible to hide behind a persona, but the walls are frangible and bound to break and make you human again. You are someone who changes quickly and expresses that conversion through an art form. You learn very loudly, and you learn it in public. Patti Smith said if you build a name and really go with it, you make that name your currency.
Was anyone else involved with the recording?
Nat (Marcus) was visiting me from Berlin when I only had demos for the tracks that ended up on Six Archetypes. We spent a lot of time together during the process of the album, and he helped open me to new views. So it all started with him and our friend Tao (Sabella) guessing the words to the demos I was recording. Then there was Miccel (Mohr) who worked with me on producing my previous record, Idolatry. He was also in on this entire album, both as an instrumentalist and co-producer. We worked on the songs intensively until everything fell into place. After the record shaped up, I met artist and filmmaker Kamil Dossar, and together we worked on the visual series of the archetypes. This album is a trademark of the relationship with many of my loved ones. Atusa Zamani plays sitar on Elegie. Frederik Iversen plays trombone on December Song. Mathias Sarsgaard does drums on Reptile. Patrick Ryan Frank, a person I found in an airport layover, wrote the words to The Russian.
This album starts off very intensely. Even before the first track was over, I felt the urge to collect myself. Do you favour immediate impact over a slow burn?
It can be uncomfortable, sometimes humiliating, but it's a way if you want something extraordinary. There's something sincere about doing live shows with that kind of unpredictable power because people can stay and leave as they please. The dramatic language reinforces an emotion and boils it up to the surface. That's why people pay to see you play. They want to find out something about you, so piercing and potent, so that they can find out something about themselves. I don't mind confusing the audience with that possibility.
You took inspiration from Carl Jung, such as his concept of the "orphan complex.” Could you explain more about that and how it influenced this album?
Looking at Jung is an open contradiction to the limiting images we have of ourselves. I wanted to practice his theories on an album, because it's endearing and honest to admit to conflicting human behaviour. Maybe as a first impression, you might not want to be in the company of someone who is racing in all sorts of directions at one time, but to revisit that person and see how their verdicts shaped them also means trusting the chaos of trials that led them there in the first place. It's great when you read a book and it somehow transforms you because, deep down, it's all so relatable; you find yourself in that story. The orphan is a blueprint of every hero's journey; take any protagonist in a book who ventures off to get to the other side of a personal quest. You have to leave something behind for a merited transformation.
How do you think the orphan complex has developed since Jung’s coining of it?
I wonder the same. We take turns exhibiting the hero in archetype form, but who defines the end? How do you close something that is always under development? I don't know if you can do such thing.. secure a permanent construction. What makes life raw like that, is that you get to see glimpses of certainty before it slips into the next form. You can't really take the wilderness out of life. Somehow that makes me feel incredibly alone but free, which is why I turn to art.
I'm reading a book by John O’Donohue (Anam Cara), where he reflects on belongingness with this phrase; "We are so many people in need of belonging to an external system, because we are afraid to belong to our own lives." ... If a personal quest means separating yourself from confined expectations, there is a resonating truth to what he's writing. It's similar to how an orphan portrays the archetype of a hero by the end of a succeeding story. If you can be that, you are free, but alone. That kind of liberty is very unsettling for most people, which makes sense. After all, we are herd animals.
“Greed Wears a Disarming Face” is one of the most compelling tracks here and reminds me a lot of Cocteau Twins, both in terms of production and vocals. How did it come to be?
Like all of the rest. I go from falling in love to losing interest very quickly, but the pursuit of finishing the material is time’s credibility. It's like building a relationship. You don’t just bail when things get complicated or stale, otherwise you are chasing after the wrong thing. My songs feel like people to me. I spend a lot of time with them and each one makes me feel like a particular person under its wings.
What message, if any, are you hoping to convey to listeners with your music?
There are people in this world who are remarkable in their presence because they neutralise competition. They bring people closer, make us more relatable to each other, even in our differences. All by this simple lightness. I love meeting people like that and aspire to sustain that quality.
With track titles like “The Russian,” The Idealist” and “The Prostitute,” is identity an important aspect of this album?
A friend of mine went to Lesbos in 2015 looking to interview Syrians seeking asylum. She was there when 170,000 people arrived in one month on the island. During the conversations she had, many of the people arriving had difficulty pronouncing ‘identity’, as a word. Yes, I feel that without it, I lose direction. The archetypes on this record in particular are observations of myself as a multicultural artist. At first, I tried to leave this out of my music but it felt directionless and irresponsible. My work means very little to me unless I subject myself on a personal level. It's the only story I know how to tell.
How did making this album affect your general outlook on life?
It's not something I particularly enjoyed making, but it was a necessary transit for me to move forward. It was a bridge that broke, several times, with uncertainties that had to be reassured, and many people's support. Whether it is received well or poorly doesn't matter. What matters are the decisions I made, and shied away from. It's something I can take with me on the next release, and generally as a life principle.