As a session-musician, Henrik Irgens is nothing if not in demand, having worked with the likes of Jamie Lawson, Vanessa Carlton and even playing in George Martin‘s band for the fifth Beatles’ Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. On his debut solo album, Faction (released in 2008), he created a homemade, lo-fi record, influenced by the likes of Eno and Bowie. Now, in 2018, he’s ready to released the follow up, Stars And Time.
We caught Henrik opening for Natalie Imbruglia earlier this month, with a set that dazzled with minimalism, and in a venue so stunning – both visually and acoustically – that the tiny details took the spotlight. We had a chat after the show about what the rest of 2018 has in store, and what to expect on the long awaited follow up album…
This year marks ten years since the release of your debut, Faction. Does it seem like a decade?!
God is it already ten years? It seems like forever, yes. I guess time flies when you’re on the run…
What’s stopped you recording the follow up, or was it a conscious decision to wait?
In the ideal world I would have released an album a year, Woody Allen style… Without the allegations of course. No seriously, it’s a combo of many things – budget, laziness, starting a family and some years simply not having the time because of other music work, which of course is a great privilege. I hope very much to release a lot more of my own music the next ten years.
People would have actually had to BUY the album back then!
Yes, those were the days.
According to reliable media sources, your new album is released this year. How would you describe the difference in sound between Faction and Stars And Time?
Faction is a bedroom record, a combination of lo-fi writing and recording, the basis of the song About You Today was actually a voice memo of an old Nokia phone, the hiss is spectacular up north. Faction encompasses my obsession with Eno, Bowie (in Berlin) and the demos of Elliott Smith and John Lennon. Stars And Time will be a lot leaner album, mainly driven by acoustic guitars and a basic feel of a band rattling shakers in the background. Compared to Faction the songs will be tightly arranged, and way more hi-fi. There may even be some hits on it. Ha!
Is Stars And Time made up of songs written over the last few years, or did you put a specific set of time to write and record for this collection?
Definitely the last few years and some… Actually the title track is from 2009, so yeah it is a spread of songs covering the time since Faction. I would love to set aside a month to write and record an album, it’ll happen from now on… I hope.
Your influences have been listed as people like Brian Eno and Iron & Wine, however you also play with more contemporary acts like Jamie Lawson, and have supported Natalie Imbruglia. How does this varied selection of styles affect your own music? Do you prefer for your recordings to sound more like the people you’re influenced by, or are you happy for those poppier effects to play a part?
Everything plays a small part, it’s basically a mess. No, I don’t know really, sometimes I’m definitely influenced, other times I’m totally unique… Not. Stars And Time is less contrived and homage like, but I still had Sufjan Stevens meets Iron And Wine via a-ha in my mind when we set off for Cornwall to do the sessions.
Talking of Natalie Imbruglia, we recently saw you open for her at London’s Union Chapel. How was that for you?
Oh those gigs were great – an honour to open for Nat, she’s a beautiful nutter. Having grown up playing in bands with a raging drum kit behind me it’s pretty exposed to just be on stage with an acoustic, never mind the fact that bass guitar is what I play for a living. Anyway, I loved the setting, the venue and the audience, it was good fun.
There are probably some people out there who’ve heard Natalie’s Torn and nothing else, whereas you and I know that she has some incredible songs in her back catalogue. Which would you recommend they listen to next?
Yes, there’s a tonnes of hits in there if you ask me. I’ve also had the pleasure to tour with her on bass and bv’s these last couple of years and I really like Beauty On The Fire, Sanctuary, Smoke and Big Mistake. All inspired work and great lyrics.
In that grand venue, with just yourself and your intricate songs on the stage, you absolutely commanded the audience and held their attention, so huge congratulations for that. Are you hoping to head out on your own tour when the new album’s released?
Well thank you, yes the audience was very well behaved and I felt they wanted me to succeed so that was really nice. I’ll play anywhere, anytime, for anyone… For a tenner and a bag of crisps. I have a pretty busy summer ahead but hopefully I’ll play some solo shows in the autumn.
You’re also heading out on tour with Jamie Lawson soon, playing as part of his band. How different is the experience playing as part of a band rather than headlining your own show?
The difference is in the amount of words you chat between songs… No, of course there’s a big difference, my songs are my babies. That said, playing in Jamie’s band is very much a ‘band’ experience, we’re all mates and have areas we look after. I dance, march and try to bring The Beatles into every conversation we have. Jamie’s done really well and I love playing his songs.
You’ve worked with some legends (George Martin and Giles Martin to namecheck just a few). More recently the track Technicolour (played at Union Chapel and sung back by the audience) was written with Jamie Lawson. Who else is on your wish list to write and/or record with?
Yes, Technicolour is very much a Jamie song that I happened to throw some chords and ‘hooks’ at, it’ll be on Stars And Time. In terms of other people to work with I would love to have Daniel Lanois, Joe Henry or, say, Danger Mouse produce my songs. For co-writing Aimee Mann, Paul Waaktaar-Savoy and McCartney will do.
Any plans to do anything in the studio with Natalie Imbruglia?
No plans to record, but we have clocked that we should try do some writing.
Any collaborations on Stars And Time you’d care to reveal?
I feel very fortunate to have Jamie and his team, Mark Ellis, Che Albrighton and John Tilley help me with the record. Other favourite people of mine involved are Rusty Anderson, Nikololaj Torp, Jon Auer and Martin Wenk. I do need to track down some female vocals..
I’m thrilled that you’re a Savoy fan. a-ha are one of my favourite bands, and I love their recent acoustic album, so I’m also hoping that you and Paul Waakter-Savoy get your heads together!
Oh mate, don’t get me started, how fit is Morten Harket?! A Scandi Christ that’s who. The video to Take On Me was what basically got me started and interested in doing my own music. a-ha are just great and yes I would love to work with Paul one day.
Thanks very much for your time, and all the best with the tour and the new album!
Thanks for having me, plug, nudge, it’s been a pleasure. Oui!
Cover photo: Amy Walters