According to Jason Grier’s introductory words about ‘Omonia’ (2016, Velvet Mode), the lovely and highly recommended debut album by Danish musician Line Gøttsche Dyrholm, “Gøttsche’s low-tech invocation of cognitive dissonance, heightened sensitivity, and circular memory finds itself squarely in the midst of our amnesiac age of digital alienation and artificial dreams. But Omonia comes across as neither a coy sarcasm nor a trenchant critique, rather, something quite original and strange; sincere and surreal in equal measure.” Let’s see why such an analysis describes Line’s release, and let’s get to know this talented artist better.
Chain D.L.K.: Hi, Line! How are you?
Line Gøttsche: Hello, Chain D.L.K. I feel good, thank you. Currently, I am on a residency in Greece, writing from the terrace of The Nordic Library at Athens, and having just served myself a cup of hot Greek coffee with milk.
Chain D.L.K.: Compliments on your recent release”Omonia,” but before we talk about it, let’s have a sort of wrap-up! When and why did you get closer to music?
Line Gøttsche: Since I was born, my parents have been playing records at home. We listened to a lot of folk and pop, and they were never secretive about their enthusiasm for the things we heard. It was a natural part of the enjoyment for them to verbalize what they liked about the music, and, also, I have a strong memory of their faces and their voices while the music was on – they really brightened up, became almost spellbound by the music. And of course, then, so was I. Still, I was pretty shy about music. I remember some times when I was just a few years old, and I got caught being absorbed in a song, dancing or singing along; in these situations, I was very embarrassed by myself. Now, I realize that this shyness must have had something to do with the way that I felt that music was a kind of wizard that could soften me up or open me up in a way that made me feel completely exposed.
Chain D.L.K.: How did you discover your voice? Do you remember the first person who was astonished by your voice, and the moment when he or she had this privilege?
Line Gøttsche: From when I was 6 till I was 15 years old, I went to a very basic primary school in the city I grew up in. There, what my friends listened to were mostly artists like the Spice Girls or Maria Carey. You know, female singers with tight, loud voices. At this point, my vocal practice was limited to being an alto in a church choir; I was more of an instrumentalist by then, playing the piano and the violin (until a certain point in my teens when I began to carry my violin in a guitar bag, and then soon after switched over to electric guitar). It was not until I began high school and became enrolled in the students’ jazz band that, one afternoon, the school’s best pianist, in a very low-key manner, said to me that I had a good voice and a fine way of using it.
Chain D.L.K.: Have you trained it in some academy or by some wise guide?
Line Gøttsche: I have studied with a couple of singing teachers throughout the years, but I consider my relationships with certain people a much more vital part of my musical education. These people are either musicians or music lovers – they are family and friends who have expressed and communicated their fascination about music or certain aspects of it to me. Music performance is about technique, of course, but it also has something to do with the ability to let one’s channels be wide open. By this, I mean that it is, I think, one of the most important things for a musician to keep a breeding ground for the connections between different spheres in oneself. As a musician, you must be able to merge all these components of silent sensibilities that you hold, such as the sense of phrasing, intonation, rhythm and tempo, with feelings and inner life into one braiding. There must be a correspondence between your body, your mind and all the past and present held in them, that will finally end up in this one stream to be carried from yourself and out to everyone else in the form of music. I think that the way I have learned about these correspondences and the art of combination is through experiencing how my relationships vibrate together with music in different ways.
Chain D.L.K.: When you perform, do you feel that music guides your voice, or that you let the music chase after it?
Line Gøttsche: I feel my music’s movements are characterized by expansion, rather than linearity. This structure is present in Omonia’s motivic dimension as well as its form, and it will be my answer to this question as well: I do not see the one thing in front of the other – no, I perceive it as a mutual vibration, an oscillation between instrument and music.
Chain D.L.K.: You trained as a violinist as well…do you think that the understanding of an instrument is a plus for a singer?
Line Gøttsche: Yes, for sure.
Chain D.L.K.: …related to the last question, can a single instrument have an influence on the voice or the perception of it, in your opinion?
Line Gøttsche: Certainly. It is impossible to separate the facts that I am a former violinist who is now a singer and a composer from each other. Too, I believe that my reveling in phrasing acoustic instruments on Omonia has something to do with the fact that, in my early twenties, I worked in the field of electronic music driven by beats and synths.
Chain D.L.K.: Let’s get deeper into ‘Omonia’… I read you kept some songs in the drawer for ages before its release… why?
Line Gøttsche: Being confident enough to finally break out of the traditional way of creating pop music took me a lot of time. To reach this point, I had to go all the way to Greece, where I was so lucky to have my own grand piano, a roof terrace and an amazing mountain view to myself for one and a half months. Although the ideas for Omonia had been germinating in me for a long time, this situation, plus the warmth I was met with by the Greeks and in the Mediterranean climate, was an essential component in the process of making the record. Try to imagine this scenario: I came from Scandinavia in March and arrived in this already blooming city with orange trees in the streets and poppy-sprinkled meadows. My whole existence was dragged to mirror this flourishing lushness, and, luckily, the scene offered enough space and warmth for it to grow as wildly as it could. So, the main process of the composition began here, and basically, it went on until the recordings were finished. Also, as I mentioned before, I became more self-assured during these Greek weeks. This means that, in the following years up to the release, I held a stoic approach to things that made me able to do whatever other things I needed to see to alongside the creation of Omonia: I naturally had to earn a living, and besides that, finance the production of the release. I also studied language science at the university and took courses in music composition at CalArts. So, none of the songs were ever in the drawer; the process was just extended in a way that I, with hindsight, believe has had a ripening effect on the final release in all its dimensions.
Chain D.L.K.: What’s the meaning of its title?
Line Gøttsche: Initially, I picked Omonia because I was fascinated by the word itself. It is structured around these clear, clean vowels, o, i and a, but at the same time, it has a drama to it. It feels deep, ominous and alluring. This could have been a reason in itself, but it also made sense in the way that Omonia is the name of an interesting but also slightly sketchy area of Athens. Again, the word echoes this duality that is a thematic key element of the work that reflects upon (the relation to) a double person.
Chain D.L.K.: You could expect a question about ‘Rome’ in an interview led by a half-Italian citizen…was the decadent beauty of that city a source of inspiration for that song? If yes, how?
Line Gøttsche: I have heard from Roman Italians that Rome can be a hard nut to crack, but to me, having experienced it primarily as a tourist, only from its surface, it has a soothing beauty, a generous and romantic schwung that is definitely reflected in this section of the composition.
Chain D.L.K.: I read you carefully picked each musician playing instruments in ‘Omonia’…can you tell us something about the criteria for your choices and some unusual circumstances justifying those choices?
Line Gøttsche: Since Omonia is strongly affected by the fact that it is my first full work as a solo artist, I think that I unconsciously sensed the importance of balancing its soundscape with something from outside. This is why I picked three highly personal musicians for the ensemble that is playing on the recordings. I already knew the two stringers, Live and Niels, who I had been playing with since I started out as a solo artist. They are extremely disciplined and almost telepathic, I sometimes feel, classically trained musicians, and I was aware from the start that they would be the ones to play the string parts. Later on, as an impulse, I decided to add a saxophone. My boyfriend, who is a visual artist, mentioned that he had once had a jazz saxophonist playing a two-hour long solo for an exhibition opening, and by then I knew that this musician would be the right one to add a hint of flighty spontaneousness to the very well-planned record. This is how the music ended up being performed by musicians coming from spheres as different as classical music, pop and experimental jazz. This kind of collage-y approach worked out very fine, I think.
Chain D.L.K.: …and what were the weirdest events inspiring some of the songs we can here on ‘Omonia’?
Line Gøttsche: Riding alone on a night bus from Lithuania to Berlin in January 2013.
Chain D.L.K.: Have you performed ‘Omonia’ on a live stage? Some memorable feedback?
Line Gøttsche: Until now, I have played (parts of) Omonia live very rarely. I am continuously amazed by the concept of the fact that my music is being listened to, so I find every kind of feedback memorable.
Chain D.L.K.: Music plays a major role in your songs, as far as I can tell while listening to each of the five songs on ‘Omonia.’ Have you ever imagined a different musical “wearing” for any of them?
Line Gøttsche: No. I have a vague memory of the period where I decided the instrumentation for the piece, but this part of the process was very easy and natural and not characterized by any kind of doubt.
Chain D.L.K.: People in art experience a sort of ecstasy when they meet beauty… Have you ever gawked while listening to your voice?
Line Gøttsche: I am aware of the fact that I have a good voice, but I think that I feel about it the same way as people living their everyday lives in Rome: I know its complexities.
Chain D.L.K.: Any work in progress?
Line Gøttsche: Definitely! Here, back in Athens, I am growing the textual part of a new work in a way that could, if you imagine my words as paint, be described as putting blobs of watercolor onto the paper while they slowly coalesce.
visit Line Gøttsche on the web at www.linegoettsche.com