This song is inspired by the story of an older Ukrainian woman who sought refuge in the Netherlands. Its lyricist, Dutch poet Linda de Bruijn, was moved to write about Elena’s story after hearing about her experiences from friends that had sponsored Elena’s settlement in the country.
The song describes how 63-year-old Elena flees her war-torn land with nothing but a plastic bag full of her remaining possessions and a one-way bus ticket to safety.
When Linda showed me her lyrics, I knew I had set them to music, and the melody came very quickly. The subject resonates so strongly with me because my parents were also refugees – they fled Hungary when the Soviet Union invaded the country after the uprising in November 1956. They made their separate ways out of Hungary, meeting in Scotland the following month. Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine is indefensible. I wanted to record this single to protest against the tragedy and suffering of the innocent caused by the horrors of war.
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"Shameless Tango" came about from an experimental piece I played around with over twenty years ago using a Fostex 4 track cassette tape recorder, a couple of Zoom FX boxes and my '79 Stratocaster. I had also just seen David Lynch's "Eraserhead" for the first time, the sound design of which greatly influenced the sonic vibe. I came across a recording of a speech by Lenin which, thanks to the forensic research by The Empty Mirrors, turns out to be about the function of capitalism and those who benefit and lose from its perpetuation. The combination of the heavily effected speech and guitar was quite unsettling but thrilling at the same time. The Empty Mirrors capitalised on this to produce a lullaby for our times.
Cover art by Robert Severin
With the empty mirrors
Singing with the empty mirrors
I was invited to sing on four tracks by The Empty Mirrors, an Anglo-Finnish collective, founded by Helsinki based English songwriter, Rupert Haigh. It was tremendous fun to step into other characters through Rupert's cinematic lyrics. I'm looking forward to further adventures in Nord-Noir Pop in 2022