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15 Questions to whomadewho

img  Tobias Fischer

Hi! How are you? Where are you?
Home for a couple of days in Copenhagen chilling out, doing interviews, working on music and on interior design in my music-room. Basically just resting out after a fun sold out bus-tour in Germany where we played eight shows in a row.

What’s on your schedule right now?
In the weekend we're off to Perugia and Rome, Italy. In general we are touring a lot the whole year. Released the two albums Knee Deep and Brighter within one year. Now its time to perform the music. Scheduled are primarily concerts in Europe, but also a tour in North America and Mexico in September.

How would you describe and rate the music scene of the city you are currently living in?
The Danish Music-scene is more vibrant than ever. After decades in local darkness, It seems that the Internet and cheap flights have opened up the country to a new, more international approach than before. The Danish film-industry based around Zentropa has shown the Danes that you need to think more personal, and stop imitating American and British culture. We have been hiding something inside Scandinavia, but recently we have started digging it out. Also in the music industry.

When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences?
When we started out in my first real band, writing and performing our own music, I was around eleven years old. But that was only live-performances, we never really succeeded in recording the music. It was in the early nineties, and we had too much respect for the studios at that time. My influences at that time were mainly Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles and Deep Purple. Completely hooked on guitar music.

What do you personally consider to be the incisive moments in your artistic work and/or career?
I think it was around two years ago when we decided to introduce the double- or-die concept in whomadewho. We were at a point where we felt like being in a loop. We needed to develop. It wasn´t ok to just do things like we always did. We needed to make a big change. To step out of our live-concert-eternal-party-mode for a while and spend more time in the studio making new music. We needed to challenge ourselves to avoid being our own cliché. It has been two years since that decision, and we have succeeded in doing this. A development like that has to come from within. From the time where we introduced the concept to now, things started moving way faster. We made and released two albums on the great label Kompakt. Our live-shows have become stronger. Our facebook friends have doubled. And so has the level of the concerts. Our music videos keeps getting stronger. ("Every Minute Alone" got rewarded the best Scandinavian music-video in 2011.) And we feel the momentum. It really helped to challenge ourselves.

What are currently your main compositional- and production-challenges?
We are very strong in making the music. Our big challenge has been to get better at doing the lyrics. On Brighter and Knee Deep, we had a very strong focus on this matter, and I am very satisfied with the lyrical outcome. Originally we would just take a simple phrase and repeat it endlessly, but this has now changed. Still, if it is a good phrase we still like to repeat things but only if it makes deeper sense – not because it is easy.

What do you usually start with when working on a new piece?

During Brighter and Knee Deep, it was very different from song to song. But the classic whomadewho-way is to develop a rhythmic skeleton and then gradually add bass and the melodic layers on top. After creating the fundamentals we start developing different vocal-melodies on top. Often we create loads of melodies before deciding on which melody to use. We end up creating the lyrics based on the subconscious message from the demos.

How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?
For me, they are very connected. The first part of the composing-process is like improvising. When you start doing a song, you normally don’t have anything. You have to get started, and the best way to open up the composition is just to start without thinking about it. Using your intuition.

How do you see the relationship between sound, space and composition?
It is all connected. The production of the music plays a big part in the making. We work on many aspects of a song before closing the mix. If we have a strong melody and the musical background doesn’t fit we will skip the whole backing and make a new one. It is important that the production is synchronised with the feeling of the song. Its fundamental. If there is not enough space in a composition, you choke. And on the other hand, if there is too much space, you get bored. Especially on Brighter, we worked like mad on this “thin red line”.

Do you feel it important that an audience is able to deduct the processes and ideas behind a work purely on the basis of the music? If so, how do you make them transparent?
Music is escapism, and I like the idea that you have elements in the production of the music that is impossible to deduct. Divine sounds that activate the imagination and fantasy. On the other hand, I think it is very important to have strong ideas. Ideas that can be absolutely transparent. If  the idea is strong enough, you don´t need to add so much texture or overdub, and it is best if it stands alone. The whole composing/recording process is mainly about cutting down ideas, and killing the darlings. It is sometimes very difficult to deduct which is the strongest idea. But in a democratic trio the strongest idea mostly win with a minimum of two to one.

There seem to be two fundamental tendencies in music today: On the one hand, a move towards complete virtualisation, where tracks and albums are merely released as digital files. And, on the other, an even closer union between music, artwork, packaging and physical presentation. Where do you stand between these poles?
I am quite taken by the whole minimalism electronic world. When the focus is only on the music. I used to love that whole concept: Music is for music-lovers. Its not about the packaging, its about the content ...
But now, when music is so easy to download for free that concept gets challenged. I guess you need to give the music-lovers/consumers something extra. Make it special. In Whomadewho, we are aware of the power of good artwork, exclusive packaging, bonus tracks/videos, and physical presentation. The release of a united package. Everything around the music plays a big part. Nothing is superfluous.

The role of an artist is always subject to change. What's your view on the (e.g. political/social/creative) tasks of artists today and how do you try to meet these goals in your work?
I deeply respect artists like Bruce Springsteen, who is getting very political on his latest album. The whomadewho agenda has never been too concrete, though. Its more abstract, based on personal experiences in our life. We are not challenging the system. But we are expressing emotions that are inspired by the world we  live in. Emotions and concerns.

Music-sharing sites and -blogs as well as a flood of releases in general are presenting both listeners and artists with challenging questions. What's your view on the value of music today?
Music is, and has always been, a very strong messenger of emotions. It plays a very important part in all cultures  in the world. We are fortunate to live in a modern part of the world were everything is accessible. In a world where you need to be picky and selective to avoid drowning in useless information. In a time like this, people don’t have the time for shitty music. If you have talent and have something to say, you will eventually get the chance to get your message out.

How, would you say, could non-mainstream forms of music reach wider audiences?
It seems to me that we live in a period where music that was considered non- mainstream yesterday gets to be the mainstream of tomorrow. The Internet is helping in taking weird music out of the closet. You just need to believe in what you do. If you do it well, you have a very good chance of reaching a wider audience. Sooner or later. The main thing is to believe in it and to keep going for it. It might not make you rich, but it will make you feel good.

Please recommend two artists to our readers which you feel deserve their attention.

In February we played in Oslo, and I had the pleasure of listening to a great danish trio called ThuleBasen. They were playing a 30 minute set, and it kind of blew my mind. With a small powerful viking girl keeping it together with big authority and two male singers it reminded me of Nirvana at an early stage. Highly recommendable live-band.
I have also been very inspired by Canadian DJ/producer Caribou. His latest album “swim” is also highly recommendable.

Many artists dream of a “magnum opus”. Do you have a vision of what yours would sound like?

Right now, we are releasing Brighter. On this album, we have some singles. To illustrate that our melodies are very classic, we have different people, that we respect, making acoustic covers of these songs. The first single “Inside World” had the American singer-songwriter John Grant doing a cover. The next three are not yet official, but we have a very good line-up coming. I would love to do a “magnum opus” featuring these four artists and a symphonic orchestra. Playing selected Whomadewho songs stripped down with an emphasis on the fragility of the words and melodies. That would be epic!

Intro by Hannis Brown

Whomadewho discography:
WhoMadeWho (Gomma) 2005   
Green Versions (Gomma) 2006   
Live In France (Gomma) 2007   
The Plot (Gomma) 2009   
Knee Deep (Kompakt) 2011   
Brighter (Kompakt) 2012


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