Rasmus Stolberg of Efterklang Talks the Copenhagen Music Scene, Recording on an Arctic Island and Why Socialism Works
Unsatisfied with simply recording in a top-notch studio in Copenhagen, the members of Efterklang decided to head to the Arctic island of Piramida to create their album of the same name. Using the desolate climate as inspiration, the band used field recordings as the basis for each track. These dudes from Denmark meld experimental electronics with an 80's new wave vibe and the results are impressive.
Speaking from Copenhagen in anticipation of Tuesday's show at Dan's Silverleaf, bassist Rasmus Stolberg talked with DC9 about recording at the top of the world and why he likes socialism.
How's the weather in Copenhagen?
Today, it's pretty freezing. We are certainly looking forward to coming to Texas soon.
Is there a great music scene in Copenhagen?
Yes, I think there is actually. We are happy to be a part of it. It's been booming for the past three years. New bands keep coming. Just yesterday, I was at a show watching these young guys play their first show and I was blown away.
How many languages do you speak?
I speak three, English, Danish and German.
Do most of the bands over there sing in English?
It's a mix of course. There are a lot of bands that sing in the native language. But a lot of us, when we were growing up and getting into music, it was the band who sang in English that were big for us. When I was a teenager, it was The Beatles and Nirvana. When you feel inspired by the music, it is natural to want to sing in that language. There are a lot of bands who sing in English all across Scandinavia.
Have you ever wanted to sing a song in your native language?
It's never really came up. A lot of bands sing in English and think it's a funny thing to try one in Danish, but we have never done it.
Your band has been labeled everything from alternative folk to post-rock. How would you describe the sound?
It's not so easy. We sometimes say that it is experimental and orchestral pop music. I think that sums it up somehow. There's a lot of different stuff in there. There's some Talking Heads and a little Talk Talk. And there is Radiohead in there for sure.
The band has recorded many times with various orchestras and string quartets. Does a player have to be more precise in these sessions?
It's very different playing with an orchestra. I am very happy playing in this band because we can do both things. We can play our music with so many different set-ups. It takes a lot of planning to play with an orchestra and you cannot fool around. It's choreographed down to the tiniest details. We have tried to let loose and play with an orchestra, but it was just too hard to have them follow us. It's always fun, but it rarely works.
Have you ever screwed up?
We always screw up a little, but we haven't anything major; nothing that would make things fall into pieces.
What were the logistics of going to such a remote place to record Piramida?
We had a lot of questions before we went there. What do we bring and where do we stay? We've not exactly the wild life types. We were very lucky that we could follow along with this expedition from television. They were much better prepared than we were. We stocked up on carrots. I got really tired of carrots. It was nine days of eating carrots and pumpernickel bread. That bread doesn't go stale and it doesn't take up much space.
Did you camp out?
The place has been completely abandoned for fifteen years, but now the Russians have come back. I guess they want to keep an eye on their ruins. There were coal mines still owned by Russia there. I think the Russians want to still have a presence there. People come and visit. They have installed these containers where you can sleep. It was the most expensive hostel I have ever been in and it was also the worst. But I was thrilled to sleep in there instead of a tent.
Where you happy to get back to Copenhagen?
It's funny that when you are out there, you start thinking about how we take mother earth for granted. We felt like we had to write about that and explore it, to take advantage of it. When you are out there, the nature is so dramatic. You are reminded about how old and crazy the earth is. It's the same feeling you get when you stare up at the stars and wonder how many galaxies are really out there. It makes you a little sad about civilization and how we do things. After nine days, we come back to civilization and of course we jump right back into it. One of the best meals ever was when I got back.
How much did the surroundings there affect the music?
Sometimes, it was pure inspirations, thinking about it and trying to form that idea into music. Some of it was easy because we used so many field recordings. That was the biggest influence from up there. All the synth sounds, all of the electronics was generated from sounds we heard and recorded up there. It's much more present than you think when you first listen to the album. We strongly manipulated the field recordings. We had one recording that had three different pitches, so we used to computer to generate keyboard parts. That greatly influenced the songwriting.
Whose idea was it to go out there in the first place?
We can't remember who came up with the idea. That must mean that we all liked the idea. Before we went up there, we wanted to try and connect a specific location with the next album in terms of sampling and field recordings. Suddenly, we got introduced to this place and it just looked amazing and we got turned on really fast. We read on line that the world's farthest north grand piano was there.
What's next, the jungles of Africa?
We don't know and I don't know if we are going to do the same kind of project again. That might be boring. Plus, it might be difficult to find some place as interesting. We always use field recordings. We will definitely continue doing that, but I don't know if it will be on this scale again.
Denmark has the highest level of income equality in the world. It is also considered the least corrupt country. How do you do that?
We are socialists.
Is that a good thing?
It's a nice thing. It's not communism. It's not dangerous. It's pure, sweet socialism. That's why we are all together richer.
Why do you think most Americans are so averse to socialism?
I think it is a form of collective brainwashing from very powerful and rich people.
Efterklang performs with Nightlands and Chambers on Tuesday, March 5, at Dan's Silverleaf.