HOLY interview: "I wanted the songs to have a powerful feeling, at the same time I wanted them to feel vague, fragile and soft."
Last month Swedish musician and producer Hannes Ferm, aka HOLY, released his second album under the moniker All These Worlds Are Yours. It’s an hour-long musical voyage into all sorts of alternative and experimental realms, touching on glam rock, ambient interludes, multi-part suites and plenty of interstitial movements that stitch the whole piece together. We wanted to ask Ferm some questions about the creation of such a complex album, and how he intends to bring it to a live setting, ahead of his live performances in the next couple of months, including a show at London’s Sebright Arms tomorrow night.
Tell us about the album title All These Worlds Are Yours and the cover.
The cover is inspired by Japanese export vinyl that has that bar running down the side, covering up the actual artwork with a translation of the title in Japanese. I love how those LP looks, and I love the thought of having information on there that is suggestive, symbols without clear meaning or intention. The title was with me for a while, but like vaguely. I didn’t know exactly what to call it until I got a book from my little sister that was called All These Worlds Are Yours. The moment I got it I knew that was going to be the name of the album.
How does this play into the music found within the album?
When I work a long time with an album I subconsciously start to color-categorize the song by color. And there was a lot of red songs on this album. And I wanted the cover to resonate with the songs on there; I wanted both the songs and the cover to have a feeling of bigness or like a powerful feeling, as the same time as I wanted them to feel vague, fragile and soft.
It sounds like you had a lot of fun building this album in the studio – has your technical ability improved significantly between albums?
It definitely has, yeah. I started working extra in the studio as the same time as I was working on the album. Working as a sound technician a couple of hours a week when my producer needed one. So the whole thing was kind of a learning process, learning to work the studio, and how the studio sounded. All These Worlds Are Yours is an experiment in a lot of ways.
Did you know going in that you were going to make an album with so many layers and sonic corridors? How did it come about?
Yeah kind of. When I started making the demos for this album I had that in the back of my head that all these different soundscapes and changes could occur in one song. It was also an effect of bringing demos into the studio and layering stuff upon them, removing and changing parts that weren’t needed, and keeping some of them.
There seem to be obvious musical touchstones in glam rock and maybe even 90s rock – what/who would you point out as the most obvious influences on the sound?
At the time I was really into early 70s stuff. Like really classic stuff I guess, Bowie, Lou Reed, Electric Light Orchestra... but also more experimental acts from the same era like Todd Rundgren and Brian Eno’s earliest albums.
Is there a narrative arc or internal logic to the album?
That wasn’t my intention. If some kind of narrative is going on there I think the songs work more like fragments. Like pieces cut out from a narrative.
How do you say ‘ððð’?
“xiâs-xi£s-xx^s” (whisper into someone’s ear then lick it).
When you were building the album in the studio were you thinking about playing them live? Or is that a problem that comes later?
I did not think of playing them live at all. It has been a problem, but we’ve rehearsed the new stuff for like 6 months so we got our shit together now. I hope.
How are you bringing such a complex album to a live setting? What/who is in your band?
First time we played the new stuff we were like 9 people... That was before I had even finished the album. We got a request to open for Thee Oh Sees when they were playing in Stockholm. And I was like “shit we have to do it”. I have admired them for ages, they were one of the reasons I started writing music actually. So I kind of panicked and thought I could work it out by having one person per track, basically. I don’t know how it went... but it felt like I was overdoing the whole thing a bit. So now we’re just five people. Everyone has to work more, but it works a lot better.
There are many great musicians coming out of Scandinavia at the moment; do you think there’s something special about that part of the world? Is Sweden’s music scene particularly noteworthy for any reason?
I don’t think that Sweden really has a music scene. But I do think that there is a scene growing around labels like PNKSLM. I’m happy to be able to say that most of the artists I listen to are my friends.
Are there any musical acts from Sweden who haven’t blown up abroad yet that you’d like to shout out?
Yeah! Filip who plays bass in HOLY has a solo project that’s called Jelly Crystal. Nora who plays guitar has a solo project called Boys, and she has an album coming out this year that I helped produce! Spice Boys is a band that’s also on PNKSLM that is very dear to me. They’ve just released an album called Glade.
HOLY's new album All These Worlds Are Yours is out now on PNKSLM.
This article was originally published on The 405 - 7th February 2018.