mwe3.com presents an interview with Henrik Hytteballe of The Haiku Project.
mwe3: Can you tell us where you’re from originally and where you live now and what you like best about it?
Henrik Hytteballe: I am Danish, living in Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark. I was born in the countryside, but have lived most of my life in cities, which gives me the possibility to find people to work with and I enjoy the cultural life a big city offers.
mwe3: How long have you been playing music and when did you start the band Haiku? Is it The Haiku Project?
Henrik Hytteballe: I began playing piano as a kid. In the school orchestra I played trombone and when I moved to a big city to study, I started playing piano with my first band. During the 1980’s I played with four bands, toured a lot and made albums and composed music for theater. In 1987 I started a duo with guitar player Sokomo, called Haiku, and we played live on the radio and gave small intimate concerts with our ambient, instrumental music.
I moved to Copenhagen and was involved in other projects for a long time. In 2004 I started Haiku, releasing the first album Haiku in 2006. Sokomo joined me for the second album Mondo, writing the lyrics and performing vocals as he also did on the recent Vagabond, which was released in March this year.
The Flow album is entirely my own creation. I wanted to create an ambient album perfect for yoga and meditation and as it is pure instrumental, I could do it all by myself. So yes, The Haiku Project is me, being solo.
mwe3: Haiku records both instrumental / ambient New Age and electro pop vocal music. How do you balance all the variety of music that you write and record and then determine what kind of album to make?
Henrik Hytteballe: As human beings we have complex and varied reactions to what life gives us. Every album I make has a different concept from the other, which defines the atmosphere and style of the music. I have in mind what kind of album, I want to make, and keep my compositions apart. Right now, I am composing for a follow-up to Flow and an electronic album with a German singer from Berlin. The two albums are like night and day, but I like being able to switch between genres.
mwe3: What instruments do you play on the Haiku Flow album and how many instruments do you play?
Henrik Hytteballe: Flow is played on piano and keyboard, this is what I play. In my next life I want to be a guitar player (lol) but in this life I only play keyboard. I am educated a piano player from DARK, the alternative Rhythmic Conservatory in Copenhagen and love the sound of a piano. Playing the synthesizer is a complete different thing. I am painting with my instrument, giving the music colors, I make sounds that squeak, rattle, complain, long and love. Combining the 2 instruments is the Haiku Project.
mwe3: Would you describe the Flow album as being New Age, ambient or healing music (or all three) and what is your opinion on musical therapy? It seems to be a worldwide phenomenon still.
Henrik Hytteballe: Flow is all three, I guess. New Age has a tendency to emphasize beauty and pleasure, where I think my album Flow contains aspects of life’s darker side, too. There’s loss, despair and longing in my tracks, too. By communicating these various feelings, I think Flow becomes healing, too. It is not by neglecting our feelings that we improve our lives, but by facing life and dealing with it. I felt that during the making of Flow, I was healing myself.
I believe that music therapy is very effective. I had a severe traffic accident thirteen years ago. For almost one year I was absent and could do almost nothing. I was in a bad state both physically and mentally. All my cognitive functions had to be rehabilitated as well as my physique.
I think that music helped my brain in building new connections and helped me retain my ability to coordinate and create visual images in my brain, a skill that had been completely gone for more than four years.
So yes, I have experienced myself what music can do.
I have a younger brother, who is autistic and almost every night before he goes to sleep, he listens to Flow. This is something he has chosen himself, but being as sensitive as he is, I take this as a huge compliment.
mwe3: What artists do you follow or listen to from both the pop world and the instrumental electronic / New Age worlds of music and who were some of your favorite artists over the years?
Henrik Hytteballe: I think it was Pink Floyd who started my interest in making music. They, among others, taught me that music is much more than an ordinary pop song.
Brian Eno, who actually invented ambient music, is a pioneer I still follow. I also appreciate his works as a producer for various rock bands. My absolute favorite piano player is the Norwegian jazz pianist Tord Gustavsen. He has the most delicate touch of all, and I love the Nordic melancholy in his tunes.
Among the new artists, I find James Blake very interesting. Both his voice and his musical arrangements are excellent.
Of modern classical composers, I like very much Arvo Pärt.
I have always been very fond of French music. Both classical music like Debussy, Satie, and Fauré but also French pop music. In France they put chords together different from their Anglo-Saxon colleagues. I like when you cannot always foresee what the next step will be. I like being surprised in music and finding the small gifts that this can give you.
mwe3: I was watching the video you have for the latest Haiku pop song, “Tingle Tangle Town” which was quite well done. Can you tell us about the making of that video and how the song contrasts with your life in Copenhagen? Is Copenhagen “Tingle Tangle Town”? Tell us about the musical life in Copenhagen in the year 2014. It’s such a beautiful city.
Henrik Hytteballe: On behalf of Copenhagen, thanks for the compliment! Yes I agree it is a beautiful city. “Tingle Tangle Town” is not a greeting as such. It describes the hectic pulse people feel urged to follow when living in a big city. Since my accident I must look after myself and cannot take part in the rush, but still I can enjoy the variety of life in Copenhagen.
mwe3: Tell us about how you began working with Real Music and about the upcoming instrumental release by Haiku you have planned as a follow up to the Flow CD. Is it also planned for Real Music and what other plans do you have as far as writing new music, recording and performing in 2014 and beyond?
Henrik Hytteballe: Flow has done well in Denmark and is by some considered the best music for meditation. I thought people in other countries should have the chance to listen to it and contacted three labels in the US. The one I was hoping for, Real Music proposed a release on their label. And I must say that I am happy about this cooperation. The new cover they have made illustrates the music exactly and they’ve hit it with the beautiful video for “Eternity”. So I am so pleased by their professionalism.
For the last year I have been composing for a follow-up to Flow to be released on Real Music, and hope to finish it in 2015. As I mentioned I am working on a project of electronic pop songs with a German singer Barbara, and Sokomo and I will meet later to discuss possible future work.
In combination with the next instrumental album, I am planning to do some solo live performances next year.
Thank you very much, Robert, for taking time to listen to my music and for this interview. It is a pleasure being treated with such respect and interest. All the best to you.