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Meet Anohni, the voice of Antony and the Johnsons, with her new album, “Hopelessness”

 

The incredible voice of the English artist is back on our airwaves. With a majestic new album it delivers a virulent critique of a world gone mad, a plea for the sake of the earth and an enraged call to galvanise sensitive humanity. An encounter.

Portrait by Harry Eelman.

Numéro: You recently changed your name to Anohni. What does this change represent for you?

Anohni: It’s pretty normal for transgender people to choose a new name. It’s like a rite of passage. It’s also a way for me to take note of the person I’ve become, of my life as it is today. The older I get, the closer I get to the person I really am. I’m building. I’m learning how to accept. I was raised in devout faith. But by the age of 11 or 12 I realised that world wasn’t for me. So I set out to find another way to connect with life. Children often have a fairly clear notion of what their future holds. And then afterwards it took a long time as an adult to believe in that intuition and to make it a reality. A similar thing happens at the start of your twenties. You have a vision of your potential, what you could become if you really gave it your all. So that’s when you have to get working… 

 

 

On Hopelessness, your view of the world is somewhat glum. You review what Obama has achieved, you denounce the drone attacks in Afghanistan, global warming… And yet this album is the most musically galvanising.

Some of the songs, like Execution [against capital punishment] are even king of raging. As for Obama, it’s an incantation. In the past my music was more of like a delicate pastoral. It reflected my interior landscapes through a very personal language. I expressed myself with immense sadness. This time I’ve chosen to focus on more exalting emotions. This musical choice and the anger that inhabits me helped bring this out the energy of this album. 

 

Why the title Hopelessness?

Hopelessness is passivity. Its refusing to react or making your voice heard. It’s enjoying life to the max, egoism, hoping to die before things get any worse. That’s what most people do. Hope however is passion and action. It’s about confronting the present and facing the world as it is. I deeply feel this to change things. 

Drone Bomb Me, the first track on the album, is written from the viewpoint of a young Afghan girl who asks the drone that killed her family to kill her too. This song led to a video with Riccardo Tisci as artistic director. Naomi Campbell sings but it’s your voice we hear. Why this choice?

The idea of my voice being physically embodied by Naomi in the video takes the song to a new level of universality. It’s no longer just the words of a little girl, or me interpreting them, but a universal speech given by an icon of femininity. Naomi gives all her power and her innocence to the song. Her performance is amazing. I like the idea of my voice being independent of my body. It opens interesting creative perspectives, because it means it can be embodied by anyone, and anywhere. 

The relationship between man and the Earth is at the heart of your album. What do mean when you sing, Why Did You Separate Me from the Earth? 

We are born from the Earth, and we go back there when we die. The water that flows through our bodies, that animates us, is the same that flows through our planet. Earth is the mother from which we’ve been separated. And we are currently killing this mother. For the first time we have the power to kill our creator. In the past man’s destructive capacities were limited. There was always a new continent to colonise, new resources to swallow up. But the time of a finite world has come. We understand that there is only one Earth and that its resources are limited. And it’s very hard to hear. No child wants to feel responsible for the life of their mother. But that’s exactly where we are right now.

 

Hopelessness by Anohni, 

(Rough Trade Records),

Released on May 6th.

 

Interview by Thibaut Wychowanok

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