In an East London studio, Natasha Khan (aka Bat For Lashes) and electronic artist Jon Hopkins are sitting on a couch imitating Des’Ree songs, talking, and laughing over each other. Today, conversation touches on thematic extremes like ecological disaster, spirituality and the discomfiting sense that World War III is imminent. The latter is the subject of Kevin McDonald’s film, How I Live Now, for which Hopkins composed the soundtrack and collaborated with Khan on the theme song “Garden’s Heart”. Kahn also directed the darkly cinematographic accompanying music video – her directorial debut – featuring Oscar-nominated actress and Dazed coverstar Saoirse Ronan.
Dazed Digital: Do you think about the potential for another world war a lot?
Jon Hopkins: I don’t think of it in terms of the kind of war in this film. I think about it in terms of, if we’re going to see any of this dramatic stuff, it’s going to be environmental. That is undeniably looming, it’s just when is the question and how extreme. Maybe it’ll be the generation under us that experience the fall. It’s going to have to happen because there’s no attention at all being paid, compared to how much it needs.
DD: I kind of resent my parents because I feel like they’ll just get away with it.
Natasha Khan: [Laughs] they’ll die just in time.
DD: Hanging around just long enough to destroy the planet.
Natasha Khan: Totally. 80's.... total materialists. ‘We did loads of coke and fucked up the planet, we had you and then we just died’. Leaving you to pick up the pieces. (laughs)
Jon Hopkins: 'Waltzed off with our pensions'.
Natasha Khan: I remember seeing a David Attenborough documentary maybe five years ago, saying if we don’t start doing things right now, in 20 years time we’ve got a serious situation on our hands. And it just went on the telly and it went off the telly and no one really batted an eyelid.
Jon Hopkins: No one person wants to take responsibility for it. It’s not going to effect anything by our singular efforts; turning the tap off when we do our teeth and putting the empty Coke cans outside the door in a different coloured bag.
Natasha Khan: You’re drinking your own piss, basically, that’s a fact.
Jon Hopkins: What?
Natasha Khan: Don’t you do that for inspiration? I do every morning.
Jon Hopkins: Not every morning.
Jon Hopkins: They’ve just had a breakthrough the other week. The most efficient solar cell ever was created. If anything like the same investment was put into that than getting more oil out of the earth, then we’d already have enough solar for the planet… probably. I haven’t really researched it [laughs]. Don’t quote me on that.
Natasha Khan: ‘Environmental lecture with Jon Hopkins’.
Jon Hopkins: I get all my information from I Fucking Love Science on Facebook.
Natasha Khan: From Brian Cox, that’s what I do, and David Attenborough. Humans are kind of this overgrown parasite. We’ve taken over everything and there’s a lack of humbleness about that. I think that’s a big reason we feel so isolated or depressed sometimes because we’re so disconnected from the rest of the planet. I hope thing progress where it balances out a bit. In the video with Saoirse there is this idea of the redeeming forces of nature, the theme of being in the water, cleansing yourself. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you become a water nymph for the rest of your life, just running around naked, because she’s got a war to deal with and probably a husband to sort out and a house to clean…
Jon Hopkins: A house to clean?
Natasha Khan: [laughs] Or, you know, whatever badass thing she’s going to go and do.
DD: You’ve done Ayahuasca before haven’t you?
Jon Hopkins: Is that that tea stuff?
Natasha Khan: It’s a plant medicine. I don’t worry about talking about it but I feel like it’s a big responsibility doing it. It was one of the most harrowing experiences of my life. I wouldn’t say it was like, ‘oh yeah, let’s go and do some Ayahuasca, it’s really fun’. It’s like a 12 to 13-hour trip you go on and it’s so intense. You’re confronted with all of your shadow sides so everything you don’t want to look at, everything you try to repress. Ancestrally as well, all the pain that’s handed down the generations comes up too and you’re there to witness it and come to terms with it. Clean it out. People are physically sick and people are screaming and people are…
Jon Hopkins: Great. Good Friday night out.
Natasha Khan: It’s full on. I was thinking about it. That because we live this life where we’re supposed to be so happy, and nice, and polite, and we all live within these confines; we don’t just jump on someone if we want to shag, you’re not allowed to do those things. We repress so much and it’s so sorely needed, this contained, ritualistic situation where you can be sick, you can scream and you can let out the demons because otherwise we have world wars. The shadow side of humanity comes out in rapes, murders and wars; people fighting on the street and just being nasty to each other. It’s not allowed to leak out slowly, in a healthy way, and you get Jeremy Kyle shows.
Jon Hopkins: That’s what you get. Jeremy Kyle. (both laugh)
We all live within these confines; we don’t just jump on someone if we want to shag, you’re not allowed to do those things — Natasha Khan
Natasha Khan: Ultimately, you get people exploiting people’s fucked up-ness and sadness on the telly. So we can all look at them and go, ‘oh look how fucked up they are’.
Jon Hopkins: And you’re just as fucked up.
Natasha Khan: These people are kind of carrying the burden. It’s like other people’s crosses. I just feel like humanity in general would do really well from having more cleansing experiences. Rather than on a Friday night, everyone has a fight and people are screaming and punching each other. It’s like, what are you doing? You swing from like, ‘yes sir, of course I can help you with your gas bill. I fucking hate you but of course I will’. You hold it in all week and then on the weekend you’re an arsehole to people. That’s why I think with music, especially repetitive dance, that people love it. You might not be letting out demons but you’re letting some energy out and it’s cathartic. That’s why art is so important.
How I Live Now OST, scored by Jon Hopkins and including "Garden’s Heart" is out on October 14 on Just Music.