Solex – a unique musician from the Netherlands – the creative endeavour of musician Elisabeth Esselink is another of my all-favourite artists. Melody Maker has called her a ‘genius’, AP mag has compared her to ‘Beck or Cornelius at their best’ and Time Out New York has praised “her unique concept of songcrafting points toward seemingly limitless musical possibilities… Solex creates a new pop ideal.” Her most recent release was a collaboration with husband and wife team Jon Spencer and Cristina Martinez and soon she will give the world latest project Solex Ahoy! The Soundmap of The Netherlands – a record and documentary that she made travelling the 12 provinces of The Netherlands by boat inviting musicians from each province to join here on-board to improvise and create art. I was so happy Elisabeth chatted to me about her extraordinary journey!
Where did the idea for your project Solex Ahoy! come from?
I own a boat (pictured below) so the boat was already there [laughs]. Although it’s supposed to be relaxing to travel with a boat – you do it for your pleasure – but it always took longer than I want and I had an itch to do some work at the same time. I thought maybe I should combine the two: to travel with the boat and do some work at the same time. It kind of grew out of frustration! [Laughs]
You’ve mentioned that you already had the boat; is sailing something you’ve always been interested in?
Yeah, I used to have a boat. I used to have a sailboat when I was younger but now it’s an old motor- yacht. I just love to be on the water, it’s so different to life on land. It’s very special, you feel as though you are not on the planet Earth anymore. It’s a totally different world – you don’t have television or internet for a week – it’s as if you’re not part of society. The boat has a kitchen and you can sleep in it. If you do some shopping up front you can really get away with the boat for a long period without seeing anyone.
Are you a homebody? Do you stay in a lot?
Yeah. I have a one year old daughter right now. Maybe you can hear her every now and then?
Yes I can! She seems very vocal and to have a lot of energy.
[Laughs] She makes me very home-y and I really enjoy it! It’s fun to be a mother. When a child is still young it can be demanding but I thought, well it took me a lot of trouble to become a mother so I better enjoy it now while I still can.
Tell me about your creative relationship with Bart van Poppel. He travelled with you on the boat.
He is my boyfriend as well. He is a producer and musician too. He is much more technical than I am. I thought he can be the captain of the ship and the technical part – he can make sure the recording go well – and I can just do the creative side of the project. That’s what happened. He set up the mics and recorded improv. I just tried to inspire the musicians as much as I could.
All the musicians in each province had a loop in their headphones and they had to improvise to a loop. That was to make sure that everyone was playing in the same key. If people don’t play in the same key you can never make one piece out of it, you can never edit a proper song out of it. The musicians never heard the improvisations of the other musicians, they only heard the loop. When I edited the songs I cut out the loop so you can only hear the improvisations and then the improvisations were edited into songs.
I love the way that you create. Each project is so unique.
Most things are just solutions to problems [laughs].
As a creator what is the most important thing to you?
It’s very hard for me to stay focused when it takes too long. I have to work when the inspiration is there. If someone or something is stopping me from getting that work done that is very frustrating. For example, when you have to make a record and work together with other people and you have to wait for other people to get their things done, you have to stop your actions; you cannot keep on going you see. It’s hard for me to explain. If you have a certain workflow, a rhythm in which you work and if something is putting a break on it then it’s very hard to recapture the initial inspiration.
How long did the Solex Ahoy! journey take?
(continues over page)