Where He Goes We Go Too: An Interview with Lindstrøm
Bright synthesized epics and cinematic spaceship endeavors: This is the bread and butter of Norwegian disco king Hans-Peter Lindstrøm. His evolution from small-time mining town country-rocker to one of the recognized leaders in the world of dance began with the discovery of club culture and electronica in 1999. Early experiments with a sampler led to more developed tracks and a steady stream of well-received singles, collected on the 2006 compilation It’s a Feedelity Affair. On August 18, his evolution reaches full bloom with the release of his first proper solo album, Where You Go I Go Too, out on Oslo’s Smalltown Supersound. Yet for all of the coming excitement, Lindstrøm’s demeanor remains humanly relaxed: Sentences end in half-finished jumbles, thoughts are peppered with verbal pauses, and his chuckle is disarmingly frequent. In fact, when Dusted’s Patrick Masterson called him, Lindstrøm was just relaxing out in his garden, kicking it to a warm Oslo evening.
Dusted: So let me just get it out of the way: This album is one of the best of the year. That said, why now? Why do an album now as opposed to another collection of singles?
Hans-Peter Lindstrøm: Well, the first album I did [A Feedelity Affair], was a compilation of singles from between 2003 and 2006, or something like that. I just wanted to do an album on my own. I’ve done an album before with [Prins] Thomas, and I’ve been afraid to do albums until now. Singles, it’s like, it’s not that dangerous. If you release an album, it’s more like a big thing. You get more attention when you do it.
D: What was the initial vision? How did it change as you progressed?
HPL: After Feedelity Affair, I was thinking we’ll have a different approach. The basic idea, melodies, they take me like hours or days to arrange everything and get the right movements in the music or whatever. I’m using a lot of time doing that. There are still lots of tracks on my computer, I don’t know how or when I’ll use them again. I just wanted to try something else. I wanted to make something fresh and new. I was thinking maybe four or five tracks, but then I decided one didn’t fit somehow. I had to replace one of the tracks.
D: There were a few delays with mixing this spring. What sorts of things were you adding or removing to finish the songs off?
HPL: That was mainly because of the post-production mixing and those people. I was mainly concerned with getting sound right, you know. It can’t happen alone. It’s just too much sound, you know. That’s the reason I wanted to use those guys. Before I did all the mixing myself. I’ve been doing everything myself and doing the label and making the music. But recently I’ve kind of discovered that I’m not good at doing everything myself. The problem with involving other people is that sometimes all the progress gets slowed down, but as long as the results are good, I’m happy. I guess I just have to get used to that. It’s rather nice to talk with people rather than listen to myself. I’ve been more interested in bringing in other people when working with my own solo stuff. I realize I don’t want to be good at everything, just try to focus on the music and the writing and recording. Leave the post-production to somebody else. It’s always good to have somebody else to listen to.
D: You have an album out with Prins Thomas soon. This autumn, right?
HPL: Yeah, yeah.
D: How much did that affect the music on Where You Go I Go Too? Or did it?
HPL: Not really, no. When I started on post-production with this album, that was at the same time we were working on our album together. I just wanted to kind of focus on one album at a time.
D: So was it the other way around then? Did that solo stuff show up in your work with Thomas?
HPL: Since I was finished with my solo album, I mean, if you work together with somebody it’s kind of important to find your role in the corporation. Like on the first album we did together [2005’s Lindstrom & Prins Thomas], it was kind of, sometimes not always agreeing on whether he or I would play guitar or play bass or this or that.
D: Or who would do the wicked guitar solo.
HPL: Right, yeah. Sometimes, I guess, everybody wants to participate as much as possible on an album to get your own thing. But I think, because I just finished my own album, it was not so important with the work. We were not quarreling or disagreeing on whether I was going to play this. It’s kind of easier now. But this album was made within three months. The album with Thomas is two or three years. I wanted to try to do that, focus only on one thing in a certain period of time.
D: How do you know a track is finished?
HPL: I put it away for a few months, but then I think I have to change this to make it sound more… new, more now, you know. But this time I was like, okay, it was done.
D: Do you find yourself going back with those tracks and changing them around live a lot?
HPL: Yeah, I mean, that’s kind of the good thing with performing my tracks live, is that you can rework them. Sometimes I just take down the tempo or something.
D: What were you listening to during the making of this album?
HPL: Usually I’m listening to music which is very different from the sound I’m actually working on myself. So I think I tend to go back to everything from Pet Sounds to “Hotel California” to even stuff like, do you know Kirsty MacColl?
D: Oh yeah. Mostly because she worked with The Pogues once though.
HPL: Yeah, exactly, I listen to her. I think most of my biggest musical expressions is kind of directly from the music I was listening to when I started listening to music, you know? Mostly chart music from 1983-84. At the same time, after I finished the album, I was listening to Philip Glass. I never listened to that kind of music before because I thought it was repetitive, boring. But I was ready for exploring that kind of composition or that way of recording music.
D: What was radio like growing up in Stavanger? Were there a lot of pop stations, or were there many channels?
HPL: Yeah, of course, there were pop stations. There was some of the stuff from ’83 which was also popular in Norway. A lot of European stuff and Italian stuff, mostly, which is cheesy now. I had this project, this kind of personal project, to locate and relisten to all the stuff I remembered when I was young, and 95 percent of it was still there sounding good. Apart from listening to music on the radio, I was playing in bands and church gospel choirs, which, if you listen closely, is some of my music inspiration as well. Lots of chords, not that much rhythms. Like a church organ, kind of classical.
D: Which church was that? Were you Lutheran?
HPL: Yeah, Lutheran, that’s right.
D: So that as your environment and your upbringing, I mean, what do your parents think about what you’re doing?
HPL: When I started they were not very happy, you know, like most other parents, they wanted me to do something great. I mean, I got a university degree, but I realized that the only thing I really cared about was music. After I was able to make a living, they kind of stopped. But they’re still asking me, you know, “Are you doing all right? How is your bank account?” They don’t really understand what I’m doing, but it’s not that important for me to keep them satisfied.
D: Tell me a little more about Oslo. Most people know about Smalltown Supersound, but is it a large community beyond that?
HPL: Well Oslo is quite a small city, I mean, Norway is four million and I think Oslo is 1.5 million with just a few labels, not many who are able to go international, you know. I didn’t know [Smalltown Supersound head Joakim Haugland] when I started my label, but I thought, if I get attention in Norway, they were the only possibility to go international. ... It’s kind of weird because every time I meet business people in music, they are always saying it’s really hard these days and kids aren’t buying music. But I think there’s so much more good music than there was three, four years ago. I think it’s good. Something is happening, some kind of revolution.
D: Do you do all your listening on mp3 and vinyl, or do you still do CDs?
HPL: There’s so much good stuff that is not possible to find on vinyl. ... But I’ve been collecting [vinyl] for the last 10 years and I always go home with like 30 cheap records so, yeah, I use mp3s for my iPhone and I’m listening to vinyl.
D: Yeah, there’s always so much to keep up with. It’s nearly impossible, stuff just constantly being put out there. You have to kind of find your own way. Do you read blogs much, or are there any you frequent?
HPL: Yeah, I mean, I was fascinated by the fact that there is so much good stuff everywhere. I was frequently listening to Lovefingers. But there are so many new blogs that are so interesting, I don’t read anything now.
D: There are too many good ones. It’s easy to wear out on it all.
HPL: Yeah, exactly. And it’s the same with digital promos and stuff. It comes to a point where I just throw everything away. I don’t believe in that kind of marketing at all because I think it’s impossible. I mean, I’m probably receiving a fraction of what the big guys are getting. There’s so much to relate to. It’s like, these days people are getting exposed to so much. When I was listening, you know, you would wear something out, destroy it. It’s kind of nice to just be able to listen to an album over and over again to get to know anything.
D: Which I think is one of the big attractions to Where You Go I Go Too. I’ve had this record on repeat for weeks and I still find something new. It’s a relationship you develop.
HPL: Yeah, thank you. I mean, one of my favorite albums was Holgar Czukay’s Movies. That record moves in all kinds of directions. It’s hard to find any hooks, it’s really going in all kinds of directions all the time. You have to listen eight times to really hear it, you know.
D: What other sorts of inspiration did you take for this album? Were there any books or TV shows or something like that?
HPL: I don’t take any influences except listening to music when working on music. I don’t have any time to watch movies or TV, you know. Time flies. I wish I could read more because that can be inspiring. When I used to be at university, I read quite a lot of literature, but then I started doing music and I haven’t read since.
D: Were there any new instruments you learned or tried to use?
HPL: Not really. Steel guitar is something I want to try to play more. Maybe I’ll take it back home and play it when I’m there. When I’m in the studio and working, I’m not actually practicing musical skills. I do like the sound of the omnichord, which is one of these weird toy instruments from the '80s, which sounds really, really beautiful when it’s soaked in reverb and delay. If you just play it by random, you get some really weird chord progressions, so it’s kind of inspiring to use it as a backbone of a track.
D: You’ll be using that for future work?
HPL: I don’t really know what I’m going to do next. Keep on buying weird instruments. I’m kind of classically trained on piano and it sounds boring when I play it, I know all the tricks and so on. It’s interesting to see someone else play it who doesn’t know, like a naïve quality or something.
D: So you like flawed works.
HPL: Yeah, I mean, human elements. Even the mistakes made, because there’s so much that quantifies the boring stuff made out of GarageBand with prefabricated loops. I like seeing the imperfections, I think it’s interesting when you have the imperfections. I like combining those two elements.
D: And I think you really nailed that for this. What’s next? It sounds like you’ve done pretty much everything you wanted to with this sound. More country in your new music, maybe?
HPL: Well, it feels better for me to work on albums. I’ll keep on doing albums instead of singles tracks. I think I’ve been kind of reorganizing my studio recently because I’m kind of trying to get out and move more into analog recording. I’m kind of tired of the computer and all the possibilities and limitations. It will be interesting not trying to make something sounding so retro, you know. I used to work only within the computer but now I’m kind of tired of that. I think the next stuff, the next music I’m going to start working on, is going to be on tape only, trying to do it the old way. What’s important for me is to do something new every time, and if I get bored working with music, doing the same stuff, repeating myself and stuff like that, if that happens, it’s no fun anymore. I don’t believe in music as work, you know? I will keep dabbling and playing everywhere. Beatboxes or live guitars. And I really believe my country background is not completely buried.
By Patrick Masterson