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Taking elements of pop, putting it together with vintage melodies via analogue synthesizers, drawing you in with the flow, before laying down contemporary beats alongside male vocals all full of ennui, Norwegian duo Royksopp’s first album “Melody A.M.” brought Rock and Pop listeners to the dance floor at the same time, adding further allegiance to their ever growing number of fans.
4 years since the sensational “Melody A.M.” , they are releasing the highly anticipated new album, “The Understanding”. Higher-Frequency got the chance to spend some time with them during their recent ‘Golden Week’ promotional visit to Japan, to discuss their studio set up, Fuji Rock, the new album and their love of forests.
Interview by Kei Tajima (HigherFrequency)
HigherFrequency (HRFQ) : How do you feel being back in Japan ?
Torbjørn : We like it very much, because it is a fairly interesting place for us, there are a lot of things to do, there are a lot of things to look at, to buy that we are interested in. Where, on top of that we have a good reception from people who like what we do so it is even better to be here.
Svein : And its a good place to get snacks, nuts with honey mustard and oatmeal, ha ha
HRFQ : Don’t you have it in Norway ?
Svein : I would have to say, No. I haven’t tried it, I think…
HRFQ : You can try it now if you likec
Svein : If I dare ! I think I’ll drink some sake first, and perhaps I will taste it later on.
HRFQ : I saw you at Fuji Rock 2003, and it was a great gig.
Röyksopp : Thank you.
HRFQ : I just moved to the Red marquee after Bjork and so just made it there, but what was your impression of Fuji Rock ?
Torbjørn : Good. Bits were dreamlike to us, the forest, we liked the forest, we are basically fans of forests.
Svein : I was completely taken by the reception, and it seemed as if the audience actually knew some of the songs to quite a big extent, so it was very nice and surprising, it was great just being there with the floodlight being in the middle of the forest at night time, and lots of happy faces.
HRFQ : And you are coming back there again in late July ?
Torbjørn : Yes July, we are playing the same stage, it was a good thing that we were asked to return, ‘cos it was fun last time, hopefully it will be just as fun this time.
HRFQ : Could you tell us a bit about your live set up, like what equipment you use ?
Svein : Ok well we haven’t really started our new live format, but one thing that is for certain is that me and Torbjorn will be taking part, and that probably is as far as it goes, it ‘ll probably be in many ways reminiscent of what we did last time, but obviously we will have new songs and we want to try and present the songs in different ways, but still the ideology behind it, is that we will try to have fun on stage and people will join in with the fun, thats basically what we think, yeah yeah.
Torbjørn : I don’t know if you are specifically interested in exactly what equipment we use …?
HRFQ : I think our readers will be …..I think.
Torbjørn : Well so far we have used different things, tried out different things everything from laptops to hard disc recorders, samplers, electronic percussion, live base, analogue percussion, vocals, recorders.
HRFQ : a lot of stuff…
Torbjørn : And echo pedals and to do live dubs and so on…
HRFQ : Great, you say laptop, does that mean Ableton Live or something like that…?
Torbjørn : We are not really using Ableton Live and so on, we sometimes use older sequences but they are unreliable and 14 years old, the software that we use (that is) , but still we tend to use it.
HRFQ : You will be releasing an album, ‘The Understanding’ and you said on the press release the album would be me more lyrical and melodic than ‘Melody AM’ what kind of concept did you bring to the album this time ?
Svein : This Concept (shows the CD art work I think)
HRFQ : ha ha……this concept, the jacket.B
Torbjørn : It is definitly about exploring and to have a more lyrical approach, we are not saying, that we are a band of just instrumental music, it is just something we like doing, being a bit egocentric we always try to keep some interest for ourselves, and this thing was something that became a bigger thing as we were doing it live, and we just wanted to try it out and see how it would work on an album. And one of the more exciting things is, as soon as you do that, people interpret the music in more different ways than instrumental music, so people find it to be very uplifting and up tempo where actually other people think it is sad and down beat. And none of these interpretations are wrong, it just depends on who you are and where you come from and what your thing is. hence the title, ‘The understanding’ we are just questioning whether there is a thing like ‘universal understanding’ or if the truth is that people are really creating the music as much as we are.
HRFQ : The jacket art is very stylish, is it the same Jacket artist as…
Svein : Melody AM… no this is a different art director, he is based in Paris, we had a close relationship with him, on doing the art work and design and so on. We are quite happy with the outcome.
HRFQ : Yeah definitely. It is really good.
Svein : This is an actual piece of wood.
HRFQ : This is new isn’t it, the new logo ?
Svein : Yeah
HRFQ : Also you feature new singers, what was the criteria in terms of choosing the vocalist ?
Svein : Good Looks. ha ha.
HRFQ : Good Looks ? ha ha
Svein : no…Identity is probably the key word, someone that had a signature as a vocalist.Karin Dreijer, from Sweden, who sings on the track ‘What Else Is There’, and then we have a guy called Chelonis R Jones, who sings on the track ’49 Percent’, and the last sort of feature vocalist is a woman called Kate Havnevik, a fellow Norweigen and she is featured on ‘Circuit Breaker and ‘Only this moment’.
HRFQ : They are coming from various backgrounds, for example Chelonis R Jones is from ‘ Get Physical Music’ which is a deep house label, and The Knife is kind of a Indie rockc
Torbjørn : Indie Electro…
HRFQ : So you had kind of a connection with them from before ?
Torbjørn : Not really…
HRFQ : You just approached them?
Torbjørn : Yes that’s exactly the thing, which luckily turned out in our favour. Each time we said, ‘does this person have a nice voice and is able to work with us and understand what we want. Or will this actually work’, that’s of course the thing exactly.
Svein : It is like a musical ‘blind date’ to some extent, you know certain things but you only know the tip of the mountain, so yeah in meeting these people we invited them to come to the studio, in the first meeting so there was a lot at stake, but luckily for us, it turned out successful and and now we are happily married to everyone !
HRFQ : I guess many want to know what equipment you use to get such a unique electronic sound, especially the Eple’s Melody, on Melody Am, is it a synthesizer or…
Svein : The signature sound is a mix, but the core of the sound – because it is a layered sound – the core of the sound is a, you know the electric piano, like a Werlitzer or Thunder road, that has been sampled and we…you know you can replay the sample, how can I say this…
Torbjørn : There isn’t a word so specific to describe how we make our sound, and one key word is Analogue, synthesizers, sampling, and old school sequencing, and also there are ways of generating your sound, for example, recording your music on to for example we have a vinyl cutter so you can get sort of a vinyl sound on to it, that’s how we have done it, and you can also get …you know when you scratch on an LP or vinyl, you get a ‘whup’ it is sort of the pitch change, and that’s frequently used as well.
HRFQ : Your music is widely accepted from the house music lover to rock music listeners, so why do you think this happened?
Torbjørn : Of course we know the reason for this, but we will not tell anybody, because then everyone will do it.
HRFQ : Ok haha ha.
Svein : It’s an industry secret.
HRFQ : If you have to categorize your music in one music genre what will be the best way of describing it?
Svein : There was a British guy at the very early stage who recorded ‘Progtronic’ a mix between electronic music and prog rock. I like the term, i don’t know whether it is right but I really like the term ‘Progtronic’ .
Torbjørn : But it only partly describes things, the thing is we have achieved or at least we feel we have a achieved making something which defies categorization, but still it is not like totally unfamiliar should I say. We have both these things, ‘familiarity’ and music which defies categorization. It is almost like an impossible thing , it is something we are proud of, without sounding like we are bragging too much. We don’t like to brag about what we do, but then again we must be honest and say we are proud.
HRFQ : This will be my last question. Do you have any message to the Japanese fans ?
Torbjørn : We have several messages, they go as follows,
Thanks for the support,
we hope that we will be seeing you in concert,
Stay true to who you are,
and…… er save money.
HRFQ : Ha ha, thank you very much.
Röyksopp : Thank you.
End of the interview
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