Lindstrøm Talks Inspiration for 'Six Cups of Rebel'
Nothing was really working and I was just mad. I thought I don't want to have a studio like this anymore. So I sold a lot of stuff.
The shiny object of commercial success is not a distraction for the Oslo resident known as one of the chief architects in the rise of the so-called space disco genre. Norway’s Lindstrøm, a former rock musician from Norway's petro coast of Stavanger turned home producer of galactic-sized disco at laid-back tempos, showed his potential for breaking out with Real Life is No Cool, a 2010 full-length album with vocalist Christabelle and (often with Prins Thomas) remixes of everyone from Bryan Ferry to DJ Harvey. He's certainly considered the possibility of a bigger profile. While Christabelle’s slightly odd vocals might not have sounded mainstream on their own, tucked into Lindstrøm’s playful and urbane future disco, they bloomed brightly. He notes with characteristic modesty, “Some of the songs probably would have sounded good on the radio." Coming after Lindstrøm’s first solo album, the slow-building and epic Wherever You Go I Go Too, his Christabelle album wove boogie and '80s elements together in a stylish blend that wouldn’t scare away fans of Michael Jackson. For the his latest album, Six Cups of Rebel, an upbeat dance record which has an off-kilter jazz fusion and funk feel at times, he threw away the playbook again — and found himself more immersed in the digital realm than ever. Where some electronic producers (Air among them) have found inspiration in their delicate vintage analog gear, Lindstrøm found liberation in doing away with it.
“One day [about a year and half ago] I just came into my studio and I was inspired and wanted to make music," he recounts. "Nothing was really working and I was just mad. I thought I don't want to have a studio like this anymore. So I sold a lot of stuff, bought a new Mac and MIDI keyboard and started working the way I used to when I started making music when I didn't have any money, was using a pirated copy of Cubase on a really bad computer, in 2003 or so.”
Another big change, we hear Lindstrøm’s voice — though not up front or unfiltered. “I realized I needed to distance myself from my own vocals somehow.” Lindstrøm processes the heck out of his own timbres for “Quiet Place to Live” and other numbers. He’s not so concerned with naturalistic tones or with perfection either. He’s opting for character of the innocent. “If you are a really good piano player, you can play piano as perfect as everybody expects you to play. But if you don't really know how to play the piano and you just sit down and play, it can sometimes be more interesting to hear somebody that plays the piano that way,” he explains.
Another unlikely source for Lindstrøm, the Eurovision song contest, or more specifically the Scandinavian pop that would come out of it. When prodded about his regional influences, he owns up to a love for long forgotten Euro-pop. “There's this Swedish artist called Carola, a bit like ABBA. She was like 16. She became a big star in Sweden. Everything that becomes a big star in Sweden becomes a big star in Norway. A lot of that pop music I was listening to in the ‘80s is inspiring to me. It can be interesting to incorporate that. Nobody really knows that music anymore.”
Unlike many of today’s electronic dance heavies — feeding on the remix buffet and producing for bigger names on the side while touring constantly, Lindstrom is quite content to do his own thing and build a discography piece by piece. Surprisingly, for an electronic music maker, he looks to the likes of Paul McCartney and Frank Zappa as musical heroes — especially their oddball excursions into electronics. McCartney II with its drum machines and synths (“I guess most McCartney fans regard that as the worst, the low point in the discography,” he says) and Zappa’s Jazz from Hell with its Synclavier orchestrations are touchstones for him — evidence that the artist vision holds primacy over the tools. He wonders aloud if he’s making a mistake waiting for a true collaboration to come along, but those may come later. Life in the present is too good. “I'm so happy to be able to do what I am doing now, I don't want to waste the opportunity to do another solo album, to do my own tracks.”
Six Cups of Rebel is out now on Smalltown Supersound.