In 2014, Danish synthesist / composer Henrik Hytteballe released Flow, under the name The Haiku Project. Henrik’s music as The Haiku Project is dark and filled with despair as it’s only through reaching the bottom that we can begin the long journey back to the top again. In his 2014 interview, his first on mwe3.com, Henrik stated “It is not by neglecting our feelings that we improve our lives, but by facing life and dealing with it.” Hytteballe’s The Haiku Project has been called New Age electronic, ambient music and healing music and true to form, there’s elements of all three on the CD release of Glimpses, the 2016 album by The Haiku Project. Performing all the electronic keyboards and writing all the music, Hytteballe receives support from Freddy Albrektsen, who produced, mixed and mastered Glimpses. Hytteballe has stated that French composer Erik Satie is among his big music influences and in the spirit of Satie, the music on Glimpses is best listened to as ambient, minimalist music, filled with slowly moving soundscapes that ebb and flow yet leave the listener in a much better and more relaxed state of well being. Unlike Eno for example, Hytteballe’s music is more romantic and subdued and is filled with a kind of Scandinavian spirit of relaxed etherealness. Glimpses is a most worthy follow up to the sublime sounding Flow and will equally enchant electronic music fans and keyboard fans worldwide. www.henrikhytteballe.com / www.HaikuMusic.dk
mwe3.com presents an interview with
Henrik Hytteballe of The Haiku Project
mwe3: What kind of album did you want to make following the 2014 release of the Flow CD? Would you say that Glimpses is very much in the style of Flow or did you bring in some other ideas on your approach this time?
Henrik Hytteballe: First I want to thank you, Robert, for your interest in my music and the time you spend on listening. I really appreciate that.
I wanted to continue the Flow album, but I wanted to make an album with more light than Flow. There is a lot of sorrow and longing on Flow. Glimpses is about the short moments we get in between, when we are able to be uplifted and see the whole fulfilled.
Another thing I wanted to do on Glimpses was to include shorter tracks to tell more stories. Each song has its own story. Flow was one continuing story.
mwe3: Where was the album recorded and who else worked with you on the making of the Glimpses CD? Tell us about working with Freddy Albrektsen at Basetrack Studio in Copenhagen.
Henrik Hytteballe: I have worked with Freddy Albrektsen since I started making music. We recorded an album together back in the 1980s and it was natural for me working with Freddy when I released my first Haiku album in 2006. Freddy is both a great producer and a fine technician. He has the sharpest ear I can think of. Freddy has produced every album for me except my electronic rock album Vagabond, because we both thought it would be a good idea working with another producer for that album. Freddy is a master when comes to creating a perfect sound, but he does not push you in another direction, which is great for an album like Glimpses, but with Vagabond, I wanted to explore new territory.
mwe3: What was your keyboard setup like on Glimpses and have there been any recent developments for you in the gear and keyboard world? How long have you been playing keyboards and what other instruments do you play?
Henrik Hytteballe: Before recording Glimpses, I bought a new computer and a bunch of plug-in instruments – Native Instruments with great synthesizers, piano-modules. The recent Cubase - the music platform I use for recording - also features some great sounds.
I started playing piano when I was 10 years old and later I played the bassoon at school. With that brass band I learned the pleasure of playing in a band and playing for an audience.
Since I moved away from home I have always lived in an apartment so I have not been able to play any brass instrument because it is too loud for the neighbors, so I stick to the piano and keyboards, which can be played with earphones.
mwe3: Do you have any favorite tracks on the Glimpses CD and were all the tracks written around the same time? I think track 8, “Scandinavia” is a definite high point on the album. What does “Scandinavia” mean to you, the song and the term? Is Scandinavia only comprising, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Iceland? Why not Finland? Is there a Scandinavian spirit and what do you think of the other Scandinavian countries?
Henrik Hytteballe: Scandinavia consists of only 3 countries – Norway, Sweden and Denmark. The Nordic countries include Iceland, the Faroe Islands and Finland. I feel a close relation to Scandinavia and the North. I have never been to Finland, but am very fascinated by Finnish architecture and design.
Scandinavia means a lot to me. Scandinavia is simplistic in design and hand craftsmanship. There is so much great literature and art from our region. It is the great nature of Norway, the Northern Lights, the beautiful nights at the sea in summer when it never gets dark, firesides, riding horseback in the woods or along the extensive beaches, pure white snowflakes. We stand alongside each other with a way of living together in trust.
The Scandinavian society is built on confidence. My perception of Scandinavia is very positive, but I am aware of the challenges we are facing today, both culturally and environmentally. I sincerely hope that we can defend our values and develop all the good things evolved in Scandinavia. I hope we will emphasize the mentality of caring for each other, animals and people in need.
The Glimpses track “Scandinavia” is a very positive track, where I give thanks to everything this region has given me. I am very fond of "Gullfoss" myself. It is inspired of the Icelandic waterfall "Gullfoss." Instead of making a rumble describing the violence of the water, I try to express the humility and devoutness that occurs in my mind when facing such great scenery in nature. And I think it very much describes me as a person.
mwe3: I speak of the Erik Satie comparison in your music in the CD review of Glimpses. Is that a fair appraisal?
Henrik Hytteballe: It is not Erik Satie in particular, that inspires me. It is French composers in general - Debussy, Satie, Fauré, Jean Jaques Goldmann, Alexandre Desplat and more... because the succession of notes and the chords is different from the Anglo-American way of composing.
Henrik Hytteballe: The cover photo is taken by Polish photographer Ireneusz Cyranek, with whom I have been working together ever since my first solo album. He captures the beauty of nature with an underlying melancholy, which is in my music, too. The fairy tales of H. C. Andersen describes this duplicity so I think the somber and mysterious, as you describe it, is part of my DNA.
mwe3: Are you doing more painting these days? How was your exhibition in New York and what other art exhibitions are you planning in the future? What did you think of NYC? Your show was in Soho right, what gallery? What is involved in putting on an exhibition like that?
Henrik Hytteballe: Yes, painting has become an important part of my life. I have had six exhibitions in Denmark this year and am always trying to improve and make my technique more sophisticated. It is important for me that when looking at one of my paintings, you can catch sight of new things. I don’t want to proclaim everything at first sight. In the same way I want this for my music – you can listen to it over and over again and maybe get another story in mind each time you listen to it.
About the exhibition in NYC … it was a great experience. It was my first visit to the US and NYC and being in NYC was awesome, seeing all the buildings, you know from the movies and actually being there.
I could never have made the exhibition if the Agora Gallery in Soho, in NYC had not made contact with me. I would never even of had the thought of doing it. But they made it easy for me… all I had to do, was send my paintings and show up at the reception. The reception was celebrated with good friends who came along with me all the way from Denmark.
mwe3: Have you done any live concerts in Denmark to promote the Glimpses album and what are your live concerts like? Do you like to play at museums and art exhibitions? How about your vocal music? Are you still active in the pop world or do you focus more on your instrumentals?
Henrik Hytteballe: I would like to do some solo piano concerts next year to promote Glimpses. I have not planned any. It is not that easy to find venues for these kind of concerts. I have been playing at the opening of art exhibitions and enjoy doing it, because it is a good combination.
Right now I am focusing on some new electronic music in collaboration with an Icelandic producer, Brynjar Bjarnfoss. I will publish this under another artist’s name as it is very different from the music I have made ‘til now. It is more radical in sound and I get a lot of inspiration from Brynjar.
I don’t think I will be doing any more music with vocal for a long time. The human voice is great, but it is dominating and I like the other layers in music to play an important part.
mwe3: I guess you’re getting ready for Winter 2016. Tell us something about Copenhagen in the winter and what you’re hoping to accomplish in 2016 as far as new music, recording and writing. Even with Glimpses just out, can you envision what your next album will sound like?
Henrik Hytteballe: I will never really get ready for winter as I prefer warm weather except for when everything is covered in pure white snow.
I want to take piano lessons with a classical piano teacher, as I want to improve my skills. I will continue making music in three directions: – The Haiku Project, where I do music in the ambient and meditative style, haiku, which is more rock orientated, and the more experimental electronic style of which I am still considering an artist name. This gives me the freedom to compose all the kinds of music that I love to do without confusion.
I hope to do some traveling before composing the follow up to Glimpses as I want to include inspiration from new places. Glimpses was made and played totally on my own. I am thinking of including either a cello or a double bass on the next album. Having that in mind when making new material, it will change my composing as I have to leave a spare voice for the string instrument. Why I choose a cello or a double-bass is because these instruments also combine beauty and melancholy so they fit in so well.
Thank you, Robert, for your interest and for treating me so seriously and kind, and for your respect in general for musicians and music. I read your mwe3.com with great interest and thanks to you, I get to know music I have never heard of.
My best wishes to you and everyone reading this interview.