A month or so after hearing Ann Eysermans’ magnificent album For Trainspotters Only for the first time, I am still totally enthralled by its sonic combinations and emotive strength. Beyond her skill as a musician and composer, Eysermans interest in trains is a central component of this album. It’s an unlikely combination – the harsh tones of locomotives with flickering harp escapades – yet she makes it work. I’ve never heard anything quite like it and can’t imagine anyone else putting these elements together in such an inviting and listenable manner. It’s one of my favorite albums so far in 2022.
I always start interviews asking about early memories and experiences with music and sound and I am going to ask you about that, but I’m first curious to know about your interest in trains and how that started? Does it go back to when you were a child?
Yes, that is true. When I was about 5 years old, I was allowed to go with my uncle in the driver’s cab of the train, from Antwerp to Ostend. That was a great experience. I have always been fascinated by trains: how they look, how they sound, the specific smells, their functioning, … When I was 20, I worked as a sleeping-car assistant on the international night trains, at the Compagnie des Wagons-Lits. And a few years ago I did a Ph.D. [P-TRAINS (Astrin Phosphora)] (2010-2014) on trains and experimental music. The train is – still – always present in my life!
And what about music then – what are some of your earliest memories when it comes to music and sound that have stuck with you?
Train sounds = music. When I was young, I was already fascinated by these different sounds: from horns, departures, and brakes to the slamming of a train. But I have always found the train sighing, the rumble and roar particularly beautiful. During my teenage years, I started looking for those different types of locomotives, each of which produces its own sound. When I was 18 I had a dictaphone. Then I went to Antwerpen Dam, where many locomotives drove back and forth. I recorded these sounds. Now it would be impossible to just get there…
From old diesels to the charming green train carriages of the NMBS. I did not go to sleep until I heard the last train (a diesel type 62, or with a lot of luck a type 55) stop and depart again around midnight. I was completely enchanted by those sounds.