Christian Cohle‘s wordly-influenced, deeply personal new record ‘Wetlands’ explores, in an imaginative and emotive way, the break up of a long-term relationship. Specfically, it explores the break up of what had become a long-term relationship withhis partner from Korea, and as such, incorporates soundscapes and field recordings taken from South Korea and Japan that give a real sense of place.
With something of a concept album vibe, ‘Wetlands’ is a journey for the listener. It’s fair to say, perhaps, that it was a journey for the author, too. I caught up with Christian around its launch to hear all about it…
First of all, can you tell me the story behind WETLANDS – how did it come about, and what side of you does it reflect?
It came about , after I returned to Ireland in 2020 feeling like my relationship with my girlfriend was ending. I had come back from spending time with her in Tokyo and Seoul. We had been doing long distance since she had moved back home to Korea in mid 2019 and I was beginning to feel a shift.
It happened in what all seemed like a pin prick moment, where suddenly I felt like I had lost something. It was really disorientating. That’s why the record begins in a really disorientating, anxiety inducing manner.
The story of WETLANDS itself spans over a few years actually. Built from memories and flashbacks to our early days together, present moments of my own pain and exhaustion seeing it all fade away, to lastly shedding light on things too as far as a year after the break-up.
I don’t know what side it reflects,honestly… It’s just a very personal record.
It’s a brave decision to base an album around something traumatic like a break-up. Has your ex-girlfriend heard it?
She has. We listened to it together once, it was emotional and so surreal.
Have you found the process therapeutic, and do you think you will continue to enjoy playing it in the long term?
The reason I began making this record was purely for the therapy of it all. Music has always been that outlet. When I make music, I’m forced to be honest with myself.
Yeah I think I will have no problem continuing to play them. Fingers crossed ha!
I’ve seen the show advertised around town in poster form, which is nice and old school. Have you found that kind of promotion still works?
That’s cool that you’ve seen them! I was discussing this with a friend recently actually. I honestly don’t know how well it works or not, but I just like the process and art direction behind making the posters for the shows.
I’m probably a bit old school in that way. I like having posters out there in physical form. The posters are hand-printed by a riso-machine, it’s an old style of printing technique which gives a unique textured print that I really like.
I often sell a few limited edition prints of them at my shows.
I have my own history with South Korea – I lived in Seoul for two years. At the time, Korean music hadn’t really gained the global appeal it has today. How did your Asian experiences play into your sound?
Obvious examples would be the use of field-recordings from Tokyo, and also parts of South-Korea that are embedded into the album. Any other ways it may have influenced my sound are subconscious I guess.
How does your love of cinema play into the music and the videos?
Again a lot of it is just subconscious. I’m always watching movies, so they just naturally influence me. But I’m so drawn to films that create a world for the viewer that one can get inebriated in almost, and for WETLANDS I really wanted to achieve that too. Make a record that spoke to the senses, drenched in atmosphere and something that felt sonically riveting and immersive.
The videos are deeply influenced by cinema. We make them with more of a filmic approach probably. I’m constantly referencing directors,movies and specific shots from favorite films to whoever I’m working with when we do the music videos. Like I want to use the same color grade as this , or I want to do a similar camera move or effect like in this movie etc.
Some of the people I’ve worked with regularly on them i.e. director Tristan Heanue, and DOP Narayan Van Maele are all in the film industry, so I’ve learned a lot from them and just getting to collaborate with such talented individuals has definitely had a significant impact on them.
The field recording side of the album adds a real dynamic to it. How did the idea come about, and how will you recreate it live?
I’m fascinated by how a specific sound can transport you back to a memory or a place, and so much of WETLANDS is about memories and flashback scenarios, I wanted it to feel like a sonic diary and use the recordings to further add to the entire narrative of the album. So the field-recordings became this really important character.
For live, a lot of the field-recordings are fed into backing tracks, and sent out through the speakers, or some of them I trigger manually and add lots of effects onto them or manipulate them in real-time to give them a spontaneity and freshness when heard live!
What would you consider a success for the record?
Oh god, I don’t know…I try not not to inhabit those sorts of questions. I can fall prey to modes of thought where I think…. oh well if A and B and C doesn’t happen then the whole record is a great big failure!
So yeah, it’s difficult. I think most artists aspire for commercial success etc etc. So yeah, I would of course like it to be critically well received, and hope that it propels my music career forward in some way, builds new fans, engagement or opportunities.
If any of those outcomes happen, if they move the needle even just a little in those aspects, it would be a success!
Do you expect, going forward, other records you produce will have similarly stark themes?
I honestly don’t know. When in that creative space, I don’t really think about what is stark or not stark, I don’t think of it that way. it’s often what feels authentic and right for that moment.
But I’ve done my break-up album now at least, so I can wager the next will be something different.
What are your hopes for the future?
I’d love for my fan-base to continue to grow, Spotify for example has been great for people around the world discovering me so I really hope that continues to grow. That’s my main wish, is just that this whole thing keeps growing, and that I can one day make a decent living out of it, and get to see more of the world and meet more cool people. That would be the dream!
Wetlands by Christian Cohle is out now.