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Lindstrøm: “Making Food And Making Music Is More Or Less The Same Thing”

A conversation about food and synthesizers with the Norwegian cosmic disco “chef”

On the occasion of the release of “Smalhans”, his second album in 2012, we talked to Hans-Peter Lindstrøm about his return to the dance floor, his analogue glut, and the similarities between cooking and recording music.

With “Six Cups of Rebel”, released last February, Lindstrøm started down a winding road. Four years after his timeless “Where You Go I Go Too”, the former Norwegian prince of nu-disco presented a bizarre, maximalist record on which he put away his disco shoes and stepped over into trippy funk and seventies prog-rock territory. It was an excessive, high-calorie album, and it caught many completely off-balance. Perhaps to make it up to those who couldn't handle the curve ball, now he brings us “Smalhans”, his most direct, immediate record to date. As he himself explains in this interview, after the complexity and twisted structures of his previous album, he needed to go back to simplicity. And speaking of going back, another key element of this new full-length is his rediscovery of dance music, after a few years of feeling a bit fed up with it. The results are these six compositions with the feel of his early Feedelity releases, only with an even more expansive vision. With his eye back on the clubs (he explains that the LP is largely motivated by his need for new ammunition for his live shows), Lindstrøm lines up a series of potbellied bass lines, bubbling arpeggios, and euphoric sequences that leave no room for discussion: either you dance to this, or you walk away. Coinciding with the album release, out now on Smalltown Supersound and Feedelity, we spoke to the Norwegian producer about his creative two-headedness, the keys to his creative process, and his taste for exultant chord progressions.

"Making dance music again now was really refreshing"

“Smalhans” is your second album in 2012. Why did you decide to release it so soon after “Six Cups Of Rebel”? Did you have this in mind from the beginning or was it just how things turned out?

Immediately after finishing “Six Cups Of Rebel”, I started working on new tracks. I thought I needed something new to play in my live shows, something which was less crazy and more structured. And for some reason, within less than a month I came up with all the tracks for the album. So I decided that it was going to be my next album. So basically I finished “Smalhans” before “Six Cups” was released. But instead of making one album with tracks from both albums, I wanted to do two separate albums instead.

“Smalhans” is your most dance-floor-oriented album yet. After the experimentation of “Six Cups Of Rebel” did you feel the urge to go back to 4/4 rhythms? Does it have something to do with the fact that the last album was such a departure from your usual sound? It seems like you want to remind your followers that you're still interested in dance music.

Hmm, I enjoyed making both albums. But I definitely needed to do something a little bit more straightforward after doing the “Six Cups” album. I guess I also realised that playing only “Six Cups” tracks in my shows was too much weirdness, and I needed something else to get the right balance between experimentation and accessibility… After doing instrumental dance music in the first 4-5 years after starting Feedelity, my label, I became very bored with it, and started doing all kinds of other stuff instead. But making dance music again now was really refreshing.

I guess the approach for this album was pretty different from the one in “Six Cups Of Rebel”. If your last album was your view of psych-funk and progressive rock, what was the initial concept for “Smalhans”?

I wanted to make the songs as clean, simple and structured as possible. While on “Six Cups” I tried to make everything as weird as possible.

All the titles from the album are related to Norwegian food. Where does this decision come from? Is there any parallelism with the idea behind the album, or is it just that you're a foodie?

I discovered that making food and making music is more or less the same thing… Um… Sounds silly, but that’s how it is.

"I need two hours to come up with a decent musical idea, and two months to finish it"

The album cover seems like the feminine counterpoint of the one for “Where You Go I Go Too”. Is it just a coincidence, or do you feel like this album is the natural prolongation of that record?

Kim Hiorthøy is responsible for the artwork, and I always give him freedom to do whatever he wants. I don't know who the girl is, but I guess maybe she’s a starving artist. Although the artwork might be similar to “Where You Go I Go Too”, I don't consider “Smalhans” related in any way ….

Besides your trademark cosmic vision, the sound of “Smalhans” has a certain trance touch, especially in tracks like “Ęg-Gęd-Ōsis” or “Lāmm-Ęl-Āār”. Do you agree? Nowadays the term has some negative connotations, but back in the day, great things were done within the genre. Are you familiar with it?

I just happen to like interesting chord progressions that spiral upwards… My knowledge of trance is very limited.

You seem pretty interested in epic, expansive music. Do you need to have this elaborate musicality to find it appealing?

At least I have to find some interesting chord structures. Maybe it’s because I used to play classical piano when I was younger …. Piano-playing is usually very chord-based.

What process do you usually use when recording? From what the press release says, it seems that you like to cook things slowly.

Usually I need two hours to come up with a decent musical idea, and two months to finish it. So, yeah, it takes ages ….

The album has a very analogue sound. Regarding the gear, do you like to impose limitations on yourself, like, for example, “I will only use this synthesizer in this song” or do you prefer to have it all ready to go and keep playing around until you find something you like? Is there some gear that you have used specifically for this album, or just the regular set-up?

After experimenting on “Six Cups”, I wanted to do something simple. So I made most of “Smalhans” using Logic presets and very basic sounds/drums. I used to be buried in lots of old hardware, but I lost interest when everything started to fall apart and stopped working. I didn’t have the knowledge to maintain it, so I just got rid of most of it. I also found that lots of gear in my studio slowed down my writing and creativity.

"And for the first time in many years, I find it’s fun to do remixes again!"

Being a trained musician and multi-instrumentalist, I guess your perspective on electronic music is different from that of, let's say, a bedroom producer. At what level are you interested in modern electronic music? Do you follow it at all?

Recently, I’ve been checking out a lot of contemporary electronic music, and I find a lot of amazing tracks and productions. I usually find myself listening to a lot of old music, but I always gets lots of inspiration listening to new productions ….

From the outside, Oslo seems like a pretty vibrant city for electronic music. Do you have the same feeling from the inside? Do you feel part of any scene at all?

Things always look different from the outside, I guess. I love living in Oslo because it’s relatively small, and I don’t like big cities at all. I’m pretty sure it’s a good city when it comes to music, but I don’t really feel I’m part of a scene here.

What are your plans after the release of the album? Are you already working on new material? Do you plan to play the album live?

I’m working on quite a few remixes for the moment. And for the first time in many years, I find it’s fun to do remixes again! Also, some cooperation with some other people is in the pipeline. And, yes, of course I will incorporate the new tracks into my live set!

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