Land Observations

James Brooks im Interview der Woche

Land Observations im Interview; Credit: Erika Wall

Land Observations im Interview; Credit: Erika Wall

Vor Kurzem erschien mit “The Grand Tour” das zweite Album nach einer ewigen Auszeit. Über seine Zeit in Bayern und seinen so ungewöhnlichen Sound spricht James Brooks, als Land Oberservations im Interview der Woche mit dem Soundkartell.

James Brooks war früher einmal ein Mitglied der Post-Rock Band Appliance. Dann kam für ein großer Bruch in seinem Leben zustande. Neun Jahre Pause folgten, bis er 2012 bei Mute einen Plattenvertrag unterschrieb und sich mit Land Observations selbstständig machte. Auf seinem neuen zweiten Album “The Grand Tour” arbeitet James ganz bodenständig mit sehr warmen, instrumentalen Bausteinen, und fügt diese zu wirklich wundervollen Tracks zusammen, die uns mitreißen.

Das Soundkartell hat sich nun mit dem Fan deutscher Nachkriegsmusiker über sein neues Werk, seine Zeit in Bayern und vieles mehr unterhalten.

Soundkartell: James, you have produced your new album “The Grand Tour” alone with a guitar in the bavarian alps. Which impression remains after producing this album from bavaria and your surroundings?

James: “Hello, well, there were quite a few moments… I obviously remember the dramatic landscape & general emptiness. But one quirky memory for the recording session, was hearing the distant chimes of Alpine cow bells ringing out in the fields. I was slightly concerned at one point that they were going to seep through the studio walls as an unintentional field recording… I guess they’ve evolved so the sound can travel a long way – it seem to cut through space quite easily. That reminds me, one evening I recorded an Alpine horn ensemble performing outside. It was fantastic; I really must share it on social media.”

Soundkartell: In which way the surroundings and the environment were inspiration in your new songs? Do you now have a kind of special relationship to bavaria?

James: “I think Bavaria is a great area of Germany; life seems easy, healthy and straightforward. My reason for selecting to record there was that it made sense from many angles, as I am a good friend of the owner of a recording studio in the area, and more importantly I was very conscious of wanting the time & space of a rural location to allow the new album to hopefully benefit from a different recording environment than a city offers. There is of course a large history of musicians and bands recording in rural places and in semi isolation. For example, I was of course aware of Harmonia recording in the rural hamlet of Forst in Germany’s Weserbergland region and the records that this generated.”

Soundkartell: Is it right that you are a big fan of german postwar­musicians? How does it come to this “love”? And in which way this is also a big influence for your new songs?

James: “Yes, I believe the music that a number of them made stands up as some of the most playful and satisfyingly inventive music within the genre of rock etc. Their postwar war ability to reinvent the rule book has generated some of the most vibrant music yet.”

“The record is both rhythmic and ambient”


Soundkartell: You are also a visual ­artist. Which status does this talent have in your music? Is this just a incidental for you or what means the combination of this two elements: the music and the visual parts?

James: “This combination has been there for as long as I can remember. I went to art school for many years, but I was already an avid guitar player at that time. I’m interested in how the two disciplines can perhaps affect each other. One such way I’m attempting to explore, is through the relationship of music to drawing – by perhaps expanding musical notation as one potential way.
Concerning the direct visual art references, I’m very interested in legacy of minimalism, along with geometry & abstraction. From my point of view, I do hope it comes through in the music with my interest in instrumental rhythms and repetitive musical structures.”


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Soundkartell: Before you have released your first solo­ album, there was a break for nine years. This is just a long time for a break as a musician. How do we have to understand/imagine the creative break?

James: “Well, I did make music during this time, but I chose not to release it. I was starting to get interested in solo guitar at this point listening to a lot of Takoma and post-Takoma acoustic guitar players. Also, I guess I was caught up in Academia, studying Visual Art at University.. But a guitar has never left my side since I was 12 years old; wherever I have lived, I’ve always had a guitar with me.”

Soundkartell: Do have a break, to pull back in a lonely hut in Sweden…in which way is this quite a stereotype for musicians to be creative? And why is this still a stereotyp which works quite well?

James: “I think any semi isolated space is very conducive to creativity with less distractions, or perhaps financial commitments of everyday life. The notion of rural creativity is very true. The recent book – ‚Electric Eden‘ spoke a lot about this in relation to bands in the 70s retreating to the country to write their albums – rather than be in a big city with all it’s distractions. If you want to really analyse it, I guess it would perhaps stem from mid to late 60’s counter culture and the triumphant celebration of Woodstock festival, of being partially outside of conforming mass society.”

Soundkartell: Since the 25th of july the second album “The Grand Tour” is out. In which way this album is the logical consequence for you as a solo­artist?

James: “Yes, it’s an album looking at travel and more specifically early tourism. It seemed a natural and logical extension from the first album subject of historic Roman Roads and routes.
The album attempts to consider the idea of visiting & sightseeing things of natural and cultural worth… which for the majority of western civilisation exists as a necessity to enriched life. The summer holiday with it’s experience and perhaps a visit to somewhere.”

Land Observations: nach neun Jahren Pause folgten zwei Alben; Credit: Alicia Aimee

Land Observations: nach neun Jahren Pause folgten zwei Alben; Credit: Alicia Aimee

Soundkartell: For all who couldn`t give a listen to the album: what can we expect? And the other way around: what can we not expect?

James: “It’s a record of pastoral guitar instrumentals that are made up of layers of electric guitar melodies. In my mind the record is both rhythmic and ambient.”

Soundkartell: What is for you a typical singer­songwriter about?

James: “I think as soon as the human voice exists in a recording, it will take centre stage – The listeners focus has been directed by it’s existence. I don’t have issues with this, but it could be said to perhaps limit the potential of music as a whole.”

Soundkartell: Your music is very native, unpretentious and straight. Which importance does simplicity have in your songs?

James: “Very important, they have an identity and conceptual framework ( of the albums subject matter) but I am interested for melody to be explored. So I would like to think they are generous to the listener.”



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Soundkartell: And how do you nevertheless manage it in your songwriting that this simplicity grows up to a complexity in your songs?

James: “I like the old blues belief that you can play one note with more feeling and intent than a hundred of notes. It comes down to confidence with having space.”

Soundkartell: Which three things characterize your music the most?

James: “Pastoral, rhythmic and warmth.”

Soundkartell: Please choose one or two tracks from „The Grand Tour“ and tell us a little bit about their development and backstory.

James: “It was important for the record to be concerned with implying places, of suggesting difference, but not feeling the need to be heavy handed with description.
A track like flatlands and the Flemish roads instantly took shape with an unbroken continuum. It’s a track about movement and motion with very little disruption- akin to the area of Northern Europe that it is looking at…Perhaps another example of this is – ‚ode to Viennese streets‘ I knew when I was writing that track it needed a careful consideration of tempo and time signature to hint and suggest the music environment and architectural history of it’s title.”

Soundkartell: Thanks for your answers!

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