The Kaje talks solo to Dan Le Sac

Daniel Stephen is better known as Dan Le Sac, who is better known for his work alongside Scroobius Pip (or David Peter Meads-whichever you prefer!), however having unleashed two supremely successful albums as a unit, the pair have gone on a temporary hiatus to explore the solo world. With his debut solo album ‘Space Between The Words” having more than proven he is a capable musician and engaging artist, Dan Le Sac is undertaking yet another challenge-the solo tour. As he prepares to hit the road, The Kaje caught up with the Essex’ innovator to find out how he was feeling…
You are best known for your work with Scroobius Pip-how nervous were you unveiling your solo work?
Really nervous but not because of what I’m known for, it was more about not being known as a solo artist. Hopefully I’ve acquitted myself well enough though!
What prompted the decision to go it alone?
Just time really, with Scroob of doing his “nu-metal” thing, his words not mine, I just started writing & after about 6 months or so I realised I had the foundations of an album. It took me a little longer to decide to actually put it out though!
Tell us some more about the album ‘Space Between The Words’…
It is a difficult beast to describe, it covers so many genres & styles that it has become hard to pigeon hole. The Dan & Pip records are eclectic but it gets to a new level when left to my own devices. I think that’s why I’ve used so many different vocalist on SBTW, it felt right to get B Dolan to share space with Emmy the Great or Merz.
While there aren’t Scroobius Pip collabs on the album, you have teamed up with an array of artists for the album. how do you choose who to work with?
It was fairly simple to be honest, most of the collaborators are friends & people I respect, and this album was a great opportunity to work with them all.
What makes a succesful partnership?
Just being honest, it makes no sense to go along with something for the sake of someone else’s feelings. You’ve both got to love what you do, or neither of you will end up happy.
Who out there do you dream of working with?
Thom Yorke, Cat Power, PJ Harvey, Bernard Sumner, Devendra Banhart to being with but I really like finding new voices to, Kid A on the 2nd DvP record is one of my favourite “finds”!
You are heading out on the road solo-excited?
Scared & excited! We did our first show at Bestival & it was great but I have never felt more nervous than I did on that stage. Even when walking out with Pip to play to 15000 people, I’m usually fairly relaxed but the solo thing is certainly a more raw experience for me.
 What can be expected from your solo show?
It’s a live show, no dj tricks, no just pressing play, it’s Sarah Williams White & myself smashing out these new songs with as many guest vocalists as I can find along the way.
with ‘Space Between The Words’ out there, what is next?
I’ve got to get through the tour first before I can answer that correctly but Pip & I are starting on our 3rd LP, so I’m guessing that’ll take up a lot of my time, although I have been putting together a little electro band, think Human League “Being Boiled” Vs A Certain Ratio’s “Do the Du”, but we’ll just have to wait & see how that pans out!

The Kaje talks creative growth to Manna

Finnish songstress Manna first registered on The Kaje‘s register when she unleashed the beyond brilliant “Songs Of Hope And Desire” back in 2010. With “Truth Song” and “Holy Dirty Game” constantly sung around the office, we were majorly thrilled to hear that Manna was back with album number 3, “Shackles”, and if the stunningly stirring title track is anything to go by, it will be just a blinding and brilliant as its predecessors. With two years to catch up on, The Kaje jumped at the chance to talk creative growth with the lady herself…

“Shackles” is album number 3-how have you grown as an artist over the course of 3 records?

I’m always interested in trying out new things and making my sound evolve by it. I get bored so easily! Creating music with real emotion is my goal but I tend to change the approach production wise and sound wise with every album.
Is your approach to your career the same now as it was at the outset?
You live and you learn! I’m more hands on with all the details now at every stage from composing to production.
What would you say is your defining goal?
Being able to release and tour all over the world. Hopefully one day it’ll be possible.
How would you describe your sound?
On “Shackles”, I would say: moody, rough and dark but with a lot of melodies. Emotional also. I love creating landscapes with music, I aim to make the sound tell a story also, not just the lyrics.
Critics often pull comparisons with PJ Harvey, Courtney Love and Alanis Morissette out of the bag-do you agree with these?
Hmm, I can surely appreciate all of them, so I take it as great compliment. Though Alanis I haven’t listened to.  I guess there aren’t that many women making guitar driven rock´n´roll after  all!
If you were forced to state your own comparisons, who would you say you sound like?
So far I’ve been happy to have comparisation with only musicians I admire, hopefully it’ll stay that way!  I’m just in the process of demoing new songs with gospel and old blues influences so we’ll see who they compare me too with the next album. Although very flattered about comparisations, in the end I of course hope to sound like myself !
What are the overriding themes involved with “Shackles”?
Breaking all “Shackles” that keeps one from evolving, mostly fear.. In the end it’s about the aim for real freedom.
“Battleships” and “Shackles” have already been released from the record-how do you select your singles?
The one’s that are ready the first! Just kidding. I listen to the songs and pick the singles with intuition. The ones I’m keen at the moment of choosing usually!
What other songs should we keep our ears open for?
“Wishing Well” and “Soul To Keep” are very dear to me. So I can give you those two, but I do recommend listening all of the album as it’s thought out as a whole really.
The album sees you teaming up with Mark Lanegan-how did the collaboration come about?
He was recording his solo album with the same producer as I were, so coming by the studio Alain ( the producer) played him some tracks we were working on and to my happiness he liked them. He even wrote his own lines to my song “Wishing Well” which made me so proud as I have tremendous respect for him, I remember listening to his recordings with Kurt Cobain and the the Screaming Trees (his first band) already as a little girl.
Who else do you have ambitions to collaborate with?
Hmm, there are so many I admire!  Karen Dalton or Nina Simone if they were alive, but from the one’s that are still here, I would have to say Bob Dylan or Patti Smith as they are both hero’s of mine. M.I.A and Robyn are geniuses in my books, so let’s add them to the list. I used to love Oasis as teenager so for old times sake I have to say Noel Gallagher also. Eclectic bunch there as I’ve always loved all sort of music. As long as it feels real, has soul and emotion and a good melody – you got me. I’m easy like that..
Interview and Photographs by Jeremy Williams

ALBUM REVIEW: Soap&Skin “Narrow”

Soap&Skin (Anja Plaschg) is not the type of artist whose work would be deemed ‘radio friendly’. Fair enough Jo Whiley may have given the stirring “Wonder” the odd spin on her Sunday night show, but that barely counts. While “Wonder” may represent the sole ‘commercial’ outing of Plaschg’s long-awaited sophomore release “Narrow”, it also  offers a fair insight into what the 21 year Austrian composer has on offer on her scintillating release.

Without venturing two far from the harrowing heartbreak of her 2009 debut “Lovetune For Vacuum”, Plaschg redefines the piano-based lovelorn lustre that Adele so rightly owned in 2011. While comparisons to Adele sonically are extremely inappropriate, on a content level, the two songwriters draw heavily on their emotional turmoil and translate the journeys into tragic tales that are easy for a listener to relate to.

For those unaware of Soap&Skin’s earlier work, it would be fair to say that while Adele caters for the radio listener, Plaschg focuses her energies to the left of centre. With a vocal that may provoke Regina Spektor comparatives, Plaschg boasts a little Polly Scattergood, a little Agnes Obel, a little P.J. Harvey, a little Tori Amos and a little Bjork, without ever losing her own startling presence.

“Narrow” contains compositions of epic proportions. The devastatingly uplifting “Vater” kicks off proceedings, with Plaschg focusing on the loss of her father with both experimental flare and a serene sincerity. While the twists and turns of “Vater” highlights both the highs and lows of loss, it sets the tone perfectly for what is to come. From here Plaschg takes us on a colourful journey through the industrial “Deathmental” and the tender “Cradelsong” before concluding with the brief drama of “Big Hand Nails Down”.

With each twist and turn, Plaschg is able to further entice her listener into her mindspace. “Narrow” is a colourful, challenging listen that warrants exploration. The experimental realm of Soap&Skin may not seem as immediately appealing as her commercial counterpart Adele, but “Narrow” is every inch as enticing as the stunning “21”.

Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Jeremy Williams

LIVE REVIEW: Manna, The Underbelly (London) 20.10.2010

With all the musical and aesthetic panache of a young Patti Smith or PJ Harvey, Manna commands the small factions of Mannites who cluster at the foot of the stage and faithfully bop their heads in the most submissive rock-out I might have ever seen.

I can’t help but think a few more warm bodies would have transformed the evening into a scene you might find in the hipper parts of 60’s Height and Ashbury, and if I squinted a little, I could just about restructure the modern furnishings to make-believe I was living the beatnik dream.

In central London.

Circa now.

With a Finnish-Algerian-punk-rock-folk- singer looking far too preened and pretty to denote the dirt and hard edge of punk rock. Maybe not.

However, Manna satisfies my nostalgic ambitions as the music blares and shifts from more obvious rock-out numbers to jauntier foot-stompers such as “Truth Song”.

Gig-goers hoping that Manna is a one-woman time portal back to late sixties America will be disenchanted for this woman has a style and a voice all her own. If you can get over this, it just so happens that her style (heavily influenced by early Punk, folk and blues) and her voice (almost as pretty as she is) can enthral even the most wistful Smith fan looking for a reincarnation.

Like the lady says “it’s when you let go … follow your intuition that it starts getting interesting. Sound is god and I love music.”

In the underbelly of London, Manna loves music and makes us love her, too.

Reviewer: Dominique Gozdawa

FEATURE: Manna “The World Is Not That Big Music Wise”

“People will always compare. I do that when someone asks me what I thought, I just say it was a little bit of this and little bit of that.” Finland’s Manna is quite aware that as a female solo artist about to be launched into the currently female dominated British music scene that there will be inevitable comparisons. She accepts it but like many a musician does wish it were otherwise. “Obviously I want to make my own sound. It is easy to compare. It is better that people listen and make their own decisions.” The music press and blogs are already hailing her as a new PJ Harvey or Alanis Morissette. Her raw sound proving somewhat refreshing in the current 80s electro climate. Clearly accepting of the Harvey likeness, her reaction to Morissette is slightly different. “Alanis, I was surprised because I never listen to her music. I am not saying anything bad about her. I mean I remember her hits but she isn’t someone I have ever stopped and listened to.”

“Obviously I want to make my own sound. It is easy to compare.”

As for defining her own position in the current climate, the Parisian born half-Algerian, half-Finn seems unsure. “I don’t know yet. I hope I am in there somewhere.” She is aware that her sound is different to all the other girls out there, but hopes that this will allow her be found. She proclaims herself a big fan of “Florence and The Machine. I love her voice. The fact is, I am just getting to know the music here better. I was booked to support Marina and The Diamonds but the gig didn’t fit my schedule. So now I am booked to support Ellie Goulding, which is very different but very good music. So I am just excited to be able to be working alongside these girls and getting to know them. I can’t wait to do festivals and gigs.”

“I grew up listening to The Verve, I am not saying my music sounds anything like them, but I loved their music. Also The Stone Roses and Elastica, I loved them. The British bands I love are sort of older.” Having moved from Paris to Finland at the age of five, Manna grew up in the age of Britpop. Though she connected with some of Finland’s finest she found her musical home in the edginess and honesty of Britpop’s finest. “To be honest I have always listened to male-vocal music. I don’t know why, but for some reason I have always listened to the boys more. I can’t tell you who my idol is.”

Her connection with male-led bands has clearly taken effect. “A lot of music journalists are finding quite a male sound with the heavy guitars. It is actually interesting. Somebody said to me I sounded like Kasabian. I actually don’t mind the ideas that people get, I haven’t gotten any horrible comparisons yet. It is ok for now.”

For someone who dislikes obvious comparisons, Manna never writes the unexpected off. Instead she embraces a suggestion and tries to understand the reason behind it. Having stayed true to the sounds which inspired her, Manna is far from surprised by the male comparisons. “I have never  been afraid to mix emotional lyrics and sensitive material with raw sound. Things don’t have to be so obvious. Pop melodies with a soft production. I like to  keep the edge there, something which gets under my skin. There are not so many guys who do that, it is more guys.”

“I can’t really write without it being somehow true. That’s just my way of working, I am not saying it is the right way. Everyone has their own way to work. It is all quite honest and raw, but there is still a hope and desire for life. Living life to the full and allowing all emotions. It is hard to describe emotions really, but I just try to be honest with my music.” Having been famous in Finland for several years, first as an actress then a singer, Manna has had her fair share of positive and negative attention. Her 2008 debut album “Sisters” was slated by critics. At the time she was just an actress turned singer, who happened to be married to HIM guitarist Linde. Viewed as another celebrity cashing in on their situation, Manna’s musical efforts were written off.

“When you are honest, you have nothing to hide. You can take it or leave it.”

Whilst in private her and Linde were in fact going through a divorce and Manna had been taken for a ride by her record label, who had allowed her no creative freedom with the record. It felt like her world was crumbling, but prompted her need for honesty. “At first it is easy to be scared. But then, if you think about it, when you are honest, you have nothing to hide. You can take it or leave it. I am what I am, I hope you like it. If you don’t, well doesn’t matter. There isn’t any role to play, it isn’t an act. I can then move on all the time, musically and personally, just as Manna.”

The brave decision paid off with the self-penned “Songs Of Hope And Desire” proving both a critical and commercial success on her home turf , Manna is excited to broaden her horizons with her UK release.

“Songs Of Hope And Desire” is out now.

Words & Images: Jeremy Williams

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