Name: James Heather
Occupations: Pianist, composer
Current release: James Heather's sophomore full-length album Invisible Forces, is out via Ahead of Our Time / Ninja Tune.
If you enjoyed this interview with James Heather and would like to know more about his work and music, start your journey on his official website. He is also on Instagram, Facebook, twitter, and Soundcloud.
For an even deeper look into his thoughts and inspirations, read our expansive earlier James Heather interview.
James Heather: "There is a song on my album Invisible Forces called "Hidden Angel" which was about a decade in the making, in terms of the message I was trying to articulate and its conceptual gestation period.
In 2008 I was hit by a Cement Mixer whilst I was cycling and ended up in a coma, then intensive care, with a 5% chance of living. It was a very long journey back to physical and mental good health, and really this was the moment I decided to take my own music more seriously.
I distinctly remember the days after coming out of the coma and fighting for my life in intensive care, overloaded with morphine and having a voice in my head saying I had not achieved as much as I should have with my music. My jaw was wired shut for a month, and all I saw was darkness. My mind was in overdrive, I just couldn’t communicate with people.
Coming through such an intense period I think that for a while I didn’t want to tackle what happened directly to me in song and release it, I mean I was still 9 years away from my first official release, it felt too personal and it wouldn’t connect with people.
Then one day in 2018 I was walking home listening to a podcast about forgiveness and I realised I still held an anger about what had happened to me. I had spent years focussing on myself, perhaps understandably, but I think it had gone too far and I realised I hadn’t really thought about the driver of the vehicle. For all I know he didn’t know I had survived, and I had no way of contacting him, but I wanted to write a song that was a letter of forgiveness, to say that I hold no anger. The whole experience had made me a better and stronger person, full of more empathy, and I actually saw the driver as hidden angel, despite it being his fault that it all happened. Even though my music to this point is instrumental I do feel I am singing somehow, just without words.
It also links back to the moment of the crash when I was laying down on a street in London looking up at the sky whilst a dark tunnel was forming from the outside of my vision. I feel an angel kept me alive that day somehow. So with all these feelings in mind I started work on the composition, wanting to have all these different emotional themes within it.
There is a moment towards the end of the piece where I start playing all the black keys, creating dissonance and replicating memories of the crash. That links back to memories of going to Mogwai gigs before the accident and honing the energy of guitar feedback. It’s something a bit different when I play live as I play with my full arm, not just my fingers and let out alot of energy.
I debuted it at the Elbphilharmonie concert hall in Hamburg too and rarely for me it hasn’t gone through a big process of evolution through the live performances. It’s a track that’s pretty raw and similar to that day I composed it after that walk home.
I actually went back to the scene of the crash a few years after it happened. I sat there outside a bank on a busy road, put on a Jóhann Jóhannsson track, ‘The Cause Of Labour Is The Hope Of The World’ and a weight lifted from my shoulders, I could start to move on."