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Friday, 13 May 2011 10:31

Wired in #12: Henri Joel

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Today's music for the weekend is a guest post by our reader Aurelia Mason and 6th sense editor Matt. They interviewed an up and coming multi-instrumental artist whose music is an exciting blend of pop, rock, funk and other influences in various languages. Henri Joel comes from Vienna, but is really inspired by many places in Europe. His music is dynamic, fun and melodious, the tunes are catchy and his voice is both deep and sweet, accompanied by his sharp European band The Harlequins.

Find more henri joel songs at Myspace Music

E&M: Your new album is called Radio Erasmus. How did that name come about?

HJ: I went away from home when I was 20 to follow my heart's voice - I fell in love with an Austrian girl in France - and always saw this move as an extended Erasmus experience. Apart from that, I had seven different roommates during my time in Austria, England and Spain, all Erasmus students! So for me it was quite logical to write an album about the exciting life you embrace when you're away from home. The word "Radio" came quite naturally, thinking of the different stations on a radio as the various European cities in our modern world.

E&M: Even though your CD has sold rather well since it came out on iTunes and in Austria in April 2011, music is not your full-time occupation. Why, and what do you do apart from music?

HJ: I studied English and romance literature in Vienna, and then German literature in France, so now I have an MA. One day I'll be a teacher, when I'm fed up with music (laughs). I have a teaching qualification for German already. 

E&M: How about your band?

HJ: My band, The Harlequins, consists of Mark Royce (from Colchester, England), Florian Kogler (Vienna, Austria), Philip Pflamitzer (New York City, USA) and Francis Lirsch (Vienna, Austria). So we're a Vienna-based band from all over the place! Being on tour is quite fun, believe me - our Berlin gigs in 2009 are one of my best memories ever. Sometimes I also play solo gigs, but that's quite rare. The Harlequins bring my music to another level, really.

E&M: Very few artists sing in different languages for different songs (or even in the same song!) - how do you choose which language to write each song in?

HJ: This also comes very naturally. English was always the first choice until the writing of "Radio Erasmus". Then I realised I want to include my mother tongue and other languages like German and Spanish. But I could never write romantic songs like "Save" or "an ode to beauty" in French. Not yet! To me, English is the best language for this kind of rock ballads. French is rather good for club sounding tracks. The mixture of different languages in one song is just me being realistic and imitating reality: it's the 21st century, English is having such a big influence on our lives that everybody in Paris is starting to mix English words into their everyday French conversations!

E&M: We talked to writers this issue about writing in a foreign language http://www.europeandme.eu/12heart/622-in-other-words. How do you feel the language changes the tone and feeling of each of your songs and the music you use for each?

HJ: I think I've got this distance to the English language that allows me to write about more personal things, to express deeper feelings. I'd probably be embarrassed to sing those things in French. AND many of my musical heroes are from the UK, Ireland or the US, which makes it logical for me to want to follow in their footsteps! (e.g. Radiohead, Jeff Buckley, U2 etc.)

E&M: Do you think its possible to have a European language? (Or as we sometimes say - a European English?)

HJ: Yes, definitely. Linguists tend to call this European or even world-wide use the "use of English as a lingua franca". Yesterday I had to ask a woman something on my plane to Germany. I saw she was reading a book in Romanian, so I asked her my question in English and it worked perfectly well. English is a great chance for all of us to understand each other. Maybe someday we'll have a great mixture of all European languages in one language! That's Michael Metzeltin's point of view. This might happen, but it'll take time! For now English should be the learning priority in every school, worldwide!

E&M: Who and what inspires your music?

HJ: Everything. People I see on the streets in Europe and in cafés, TV, radio, other bands, friends, love, passion... really, everything. My head is like European Dadaism, so to speak. 

E&M: Where can we see you performing live soon?

HJ: We played a couple of promotion gigs in Austria and Germany at the end of April/beginning of May that went really well!! Next stop should be France and then hopefully England, but there are no dates fixed yet. Stay tuned on www.henrijoel.com or on Facebook

E&M: And finally, what does Europe mean to you?

HJ: Europe is a very young concept and reality to me. The history of the USA is full of struggles for unity, and they are still struggling now! I think we face a similar challenge in Europe. Kant dreamt of European republics living together in peace, and he also used the metaphor of trees growing next to each other: motivating each other to fight for light, but never going into battle against each other. Let's hope the same is true for Europe! I'm optimistic because I'm right in the middle of the European concept, building it up with a few million people out there!

E&M: Thank you for the interview Henri!

For more on Henri Joel check out www.myspace.com/henrijoel.

Last modified on Sunday, 15 May 2011 10:09
Matt Shearman

Matt Shearman, Brain of E&M, is originally from Yorkshire, UK, but now lives in London, having arrived there via Berlin and Oxford. He holds an MSc in International Relations and is into E&M because he is fascinated by identity, nationality and transnationality. For more political commentary on Europe / Germany / international relations, follow him on twitter: @shearmanm

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