Have you ever thought about the sonic components of your toothbrush when you brush your teeth in the mornings? Manu Delago has and he’s bringing his exploration to the stage. Most famous for playing the Hang, Delago is back with a new sense of musical freedom. His new album ‘Bigger Than Home’ incorporates the soothing timbre of the hang with the boundless possibilities of electronic music. We had the pleasure of asking him some questions about the new album, working with Aurora Orchestra and what we can expect for the performance. Here’s what he had to say:
How on earth did you discover you could make music with toothbrushes?
When you practise an instrument every day, then at some point you also want to perform it on stage.
Why is it important to push the sonic envelope, particularly in classical music?
When I write music, I’m always thinking from an audience point of view. And when I’m in the audience, I’d like to hear and see things, that I haven’t experienced before.
You most famously play an instrument called a ‘Hang’; this will be new to lots of people in our audience… can you describe it, and its sound?
The Hang is a melodic percussion instrument that was invented in Switzerland in 2001. It looks a bit like a UFO and has a versatile sound range that’s somewhere between a harp, a steel drum and the Indian tabla.
You have a new album out called ‘Bigger Than Home’… What can you tell us about it?
‘Bigger Than Home’ was my first album on which I wasn’t limiting myself to a specific ensemble or group of instruments. The Hang plays a key role, but there are also lots of electronic sounds and beats, as well as chamber music elements like string quartet or piano and on a few tracks I had some amazing guest singers such as James Hersey and Andreya Triana.
You mentioned how much Matt Robertson was a big influence regarding the sounds used on the album. What have you learned from working with him?
Matt Robertson was the producer of the album and contributed a lot of electronic sounds and ideas. I’d say he took my compositions to the next level. I have learnt many things from him, technological things but also about sound and frequencies in general.
How are you going to present music from this album to a live audience? The album incorporates a lot of electronic sounds and beats that you haven’t used before, alongside your classic sound…
My band ‘Manu Delago Handmade’ has found a good way to perform the electronic elements live. All band members play several acoustic instruments as well as electronic instruments/controllers such as keyboards, laptop, xylosynth and octapad. Since we’re not using any clicktracks, all electronic sounds and beats still sound very organic and live.
You have collaborated with some big names such as Bjork and London Symphony Orchestra, and now Aurora Orchestra; is collaboration an important part of your work?
Yes, definitely. I easily get bored if I’m playing the same programme over and over. I love playing with different groups and various styles of music. Aurora is one of my favourite orchestras in the world since they are great performers, have very quirky programmes and are an open-minded bunch of people.
How did your association with Aurora Orchestra come about?
I’ve done a few gigs with individual Aurora members and I suppose somehow my name has been on the table for a bit. We’ve been talking about a project for a while and finally managed to shape the ideas into a concert programme and UK tour.
You performed on Pedro Bromfman’s original score for RoboCop – what was that experience like? Have you performed on other film soundtracks?
My music has been used quite a lot for films and adverts but RoboCop was probably the biggest film to date. It was an interesting experience because Pedro Bromfman wasn’t after beautiful Hang sounds (which most composers would choose) but we were looking for metallic and percussive sounds on the Hang. It was fun creating all these unusual sound FX on the instrument.
What’s next for you? Any more adventures with bathroom objects? Something from the kitchen maybe?
I’m currently working on a new album which should be released in Spring 2015. The release will be followed by a European tour with my band ‘Manu Delago Handmade’ and we’ll definitely have some new ideas and items in our pockets. And as always there are some interesting collaborations on the table. I’ve just started performing live with The Cinematic Orchestra and some stuff I can’t tell you yet…
Interview by Michael Beek & Kirsty Green. With thanks to Manu Delago.