By Bob Gourley | Published on March 7, 2016
Scanni is a new project that brings together two of the most unique forces of British music – Robin Rimbaud and Anni Hogan. As Scanner, Rimbaud is known for combining highly creative sound collage with more traditional musical composition. Beyond his own releases and concerts, he’s done a wide variety of collaborations, soundtracks and sound installation work. Composer, producer and pianist Anni Hogan is known for her solo material as well as collaborations with Marc Almond (she was part of Marc and the Mambas and also worked on several of his solo albums, including the highly acclaimed “The Stars We Are”). Though it might not seem like the most obvious collaboration, the musical partnership of Rimbaud and Hogan works extremely well. You can definitely hear elements of their individual styles and skills, but the end result is perfectly cohesive and extremely original. In an email interview, the duo discussed working together as Scanni.
How did you come to collaborate as Scanni? Was the intention from the start to make an album together?
Anni Hogan: I think I made ‘first contact’ maybe and ended up asking Robin to produce my album as I am so into his very personal cinemascopic sound. I started sending some pieces I had written on piano, with vocals, trumpet cello and ambiences I had recorded or got recorded over the previous years.
Robin Rimbaud: I was familiar with Anni’s work having even seen her perform live way back with Marc Almond and also her solo album Kickabye (1985) has long been a favourite recording of mine on a very influential label of the time, Double Vision. When she approached I was delighted at this opportunity to consider making something that would surprise our audiences and equally challenge ourselves in a positive manner.
How do you feel the project evolved from the first work you did together to what we hear on the final album?
AH: It developed from a few scatterings of files, song ideas, sketches and arrangements into an epic pop album so that was an organic and epic journey in itself which naturally became epic in sound as well as nature.
RR: Absolutely. I had a vision of how these often very raw materials could be polished and manipulated into something so much grander, warmer, cinematic and emotional. In fact the hard drive is still littered with unreleased materials, enough to produce a second album almost immediately.
Was combining your names to become “Scanni” always the obvious choice for naming the project?
AH: We started playfully using “Scanni” between ourselves during the album production and the name seemed perfect to keep.
RR: I had affectionally used this name over the years in a playful manner in signing off emails so it made perfect sense once we both realised that it combined our names in such a wonderful manner. And of course trying to think of an artist name for any project is frequently the most challenging task!
What was the creative process like between the two of you? Do you feel that you had clearly defined roles in the writing/compositional/recording process?
AH: I would say I wrote and recorded the bare original pieces and recorded or recorded all of the guests parts. Robin then worked on all the tracks adding his sonic elements and then he pushed further by producing the album creating a holistic whole for the Scanni ‘sound’. He got the best out of the tracks I provided and then a little more. It’s like I sent everything in black and white and Robin then produced it in technicolor : )
RR: Yes, in exchanging materials I could often anticipate what I felt something should be sounding like, even if it was a simple piano sketch in itself. Many of the instruments on the album were added afterwards in the production process, so I’d often add an acoustic bass, keyboards, samples, percussion, etc. It felt important to me to ensure that it felt as ‘live’ as possible, and not neatly tidied up inside a computer. Organic rather than synthetic.
As you are both accomplished musicians, were there any challenges in working together, perhaps dues to differences in how you’re used to working or creative process?
AH: Actually no problems came up except maybe the odd broken file.
RR: Yes, Anni could never file her nails sharply enough as the files were always broken 😀 Actually, it was a remarkably easy project in terms of the making of, only the scheduling proved the most challenging!
What was the actual timeframe of making the album? Were you working on other things at the same time, or did you dedicate an uninterrupted block of time to it? If you were working on other things simultaneously, did any have an influence on the Scanni music?
AH: I am always doing various projects simultaneously as does Robin so we just worked on it when we could. I think a little breathing time can be helpful sometimes more on the actual living with sonic choices rather than being influenced by other stuff.
RR: It was a long creative process in some ways, probably around two years off and on, since we were both committed to other projects. It was only hindered mostly by my other work patterns which is always dangerously overactive. But as they say, good things are worth waiting for!
In making the album, were you thinking at all about what audience(s) you’re striving to reach?
AH: No : ) not me anyway … seriously tho, an older tuned in type of audience I guess. I hear the album on BBC6 music for example..we can only hope.
RR: Absolutely not. Historically my audience has always been very open minded and accepting of my alternating directions my work follows. I was keen to make an album that moved people emotionally more than anything, that touched and reached an audience who might otherwise never engage with the work we are creating in our solo projects.
There are quite a few interesting guests on the album. Could you discuss how these collaborations came about? Did you tend to have tracks mostly complete before bringing in the other vocalists/musicians, or did they have a hand in the writing? Are there any that stand out in terms of bringing something to the track that you might not have anticipated?
AH: I recorded the vocals in Liverpool with Tom Jenn & Kate, they wrote their own lyrics and Liverpool bassist Vicky Edwards came in also. I asked Enrico Tomasso to contribute trumpet as he is my favourite and an old friend & colleague from Marc days and we recorded it in London with my nephew engineering. Jarboe is also an old friend from back in the day and we collaborated on AEAEA, Jarboe introduced me to Julia Kent. I had been touring with Wolfgang Flur and we had written Golden Light together a few years back and I had been working with Martin on a couple of albums previously. I can say that Robin really gets me aesthetically, my film influences my musical influences, he sensed them and this helped and brought more out of every track than I could have anticipated. He puts the epic quality into the album and that makes me so happy. ‘Glorious’ is a wonderful example of Robin creating an epic masterpiece out of quite a simple repetitive rhythmic but spiritually uplifting piece.
RR: Yes, though I’m familiar with many of the guests on the record I’ve barely met any of them in person, but then again I’m sometimes a shy person.
I’m happy that Anni picked out Glorious here as it’s a piece I’m especially proud of that began as something far more reductive and minimal and I was keen to develop it into something melancholic, drifting and cinematic in nature.
Do you see this an ongoing collaboration beyond this album? If so, how much of a focus do you see it as being?
AH: Yes I do. I guess we will always find the time, as it’s been a beautifully satisfying experience musically and emotionally.
RR: Absolutely not. My therapist said that was far too stressful on my heart to repeat the experience 😀 ha ha!
Actually I’d be delighted to. We only need to find some time in our ridiculous calendars to make this happen. We’ve already been speaking about an idea of a variations/remix project for some tunes too, so let’s see what time offers us.
Have you, or do you plan on performing live as Scanni?
RR: And YES again!!