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Carstens Considers Us

2009-10-26 13:05
Arno Carstens Interview

Name five ways in which you personally reduce your carbon footprint as a touring musician.
1. Because my job entails a lot of travel it’s something we’re trying to improve. The band share a vehicle, we request that accommodation is within 5 minutes of the venue and we eat either in the dressing room or at the hotel as opposed to going out to restaurants.
2. Living in London taught me to walk more. I live in Sea Point, when I am in South Africa and in the past I wouldn't think twice about jumping in my car to drive to the Spar. Now I walk to the Pick 'n Pay, it’s closer, and do smaller shops.
3. I try not to waste electricity and water. In our house we shower instead of bath, we keep plugs off at the wall when we're not using the appliances and turn the geyser off when we’re away – besides being kind to the environment, it's amazing how much you can save on your electricity bill.
4. Another thing living in London taught me was recycling. It’s harder to keep it up here in South Africa, I don’t understand why we’re not more focussed on making it easier for consumers to recycle.
5. When we bought our house, the back garden was a concrete slab topped with pebbles. We've planted grass out back and planted 4 trees in our garden, taking the total up to 6. I like gardening.

What do you think of the idea of musicians releasing their music digitally online only to reduce their impact on their environment? Are you considering this method of distribution for your forthcoming album, Wonderful Wild?
This is a tough one for me. I am old school ... I actually miss the big old vinyl covers because I am such a fan of the physical album art. That said, it is a changing world and I have to change with it. I buy a lot of music off my iTunes account straight to my iPod. I am still getting used to it. In terms of my new album, we’re doing a physical release for UK and SA. Americans are looking at a digital release only. But we’re still talking about that.

What else can you recommend musicians do to save energy? How about going unplugged? Can we perhaps expect an "Arno Carstens Unplugged" album after Wonderful Wild?
I don't think it's about having a long list of recommendations. It starts getting complicated and scares people off. If we keep it simple, change will be easier. Right now people, regardless of whether they are musicians or not should just focus on trying to walk more, if they can, instead of driving and save as much electricity as they can. That’s a good start for anyone. I am here to make music and do my bit where I can. I have always wanted to make an unplugged DVD, so yeah, that’s on the cards at some point, although unplugged still uses electricity. 

Tell us more about the song you wrote for the campaign, "Emergency".
I didn’t actually write the song for the campaign. I wrote the song in March this year and Zoom approached me in October. They asked me and Theo to write a track for the campaign, but before we even went into the studio, I suggested "Emergency" and it just worked. The song is about a relationship in crisis. Although I wrote the song about a relationship between two people, it could also be seen as being about our relationship with the planet.

What was it like working in London and Spain, with legendary British producer Youth?
Youth is amazing, we just clicked from the start. He is so full of energy and inspiration. We wrote a good couple of songs together and some of them were too weird to even go on the album, but we had a lot of fun. We wrote "Emergency" together actually. Working in London taught me a lot, it wasn’t easy, but I realised how much I was changing and learning and I started enjoying the process. Spain is magical. The studio is brand new and beautiful, built in the middle of the Spanish country side. It was an amazing place to write.

How did the collaboration with the award-winning Tygerberg Children’s Choir come about? Have you worked with kids before? What was it like?
Zoom arranged for them to perform with me. Theo actually used to be in that choir! As far as I can remember I haven't worked with a childrens' choir before, not recently anyway. We performed the song last night, it was amazing. I wish I could always have them on stage with me when I do that song. They were brilliant.

"Emergency" is clearly a protest song. What are your Top 5 protest songs? 
Bob Marley – "Redemption Song"
Sex Pistols – "Anarchy in the UK"
The Smiths – "The Queen is Dead"
The The – "Islam is Rising"
Springbok Nude Girls – "I Love You"
Amy Winehouse – "Rehab"
CD4 – "Sunset Ribbon Red"

Would you consider doing an entire album of protest songs? If so, what else are your pet protests?
I don't think I would ever do an entire album of protest songs myself, but it actaully might be an idea for a compilation .. There are some amazing protest songs out there.

The campaign focuses on children as having the most to lose due to global warming. Do you plan to have kids in the future and how do you feel about them growing up in a polluted world?
I don't think my wife and I will have children. The future is just too uncertain right now. If we change our minds and want to start a family, we will probably adopt.

What's your favourite tree? And why?
The lemon tree in my garden, for fresh lemons for my vodka and tonic.

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Arno Carstens recently added his voice to the Consider Us campaign against global warming. We caught up with the South African rock god after he performed his protest song "Emergency" live at the United Nations conference in Cape Town and quizzed him on his eco-friendly footprint, his favourite protest songs and more.
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