Interviews: Anders Brørby
Anders Brørby is one those really few artists, whose music «speaks» directly to the heart. Although, his music is classified as «neo-classical» or «contemporary», we would rather say that his music is created for causing emotion waves. Beyond labels, beyond tagging. His last year’s offering on Gizeh Records, ‘Nihil’, was among the most outstanding albums of 2016. And there you have him. Make sure you read this lively interview, to learn more about this great Norwegian… Ladies & Gents, Mr. Anders Brørby!
Hi Anders. Let’s kick off this one! How did your involvement with music creation start?
I`ve always loved music and it`s always been a very important thing in my life. Ever since I was a little kid I was recording myself on tapes, singing and humming over tracks by the likes of Michael Jackson, Paul McCartney etc, and making my own versions of those albums. I come from a family where music was everywhere. My parents, like their parents before them, have been singing in choirs since they were young, and my grand-grandfather was a conductor and composer. I didn´t buy a guitar until I was 17 or something like that, but as soon as I did, I started making songs and started getting serious about the recording process. Then I started a progressive rock band (Radiant Frequency) with a couple of friends in 2004, and had a lot of fun with that. We released a couple of albums and did some really fun gigs, but after a while I really felt an urge to record other kinds of music, and to be able to do stuff on my own, without the band-setting where everyone had to agree on everything, which can be extremely frustrating and damaging for the creative spark. At least for me.
Would you be able to provide us with a brief description of your music?
Most of the music that I´ve been making for the last couple of years are basically soundtracks for imaginary scenarios and visions that probably only exist in my head. A lot of it comes from dreams. To me, music is all about capturing a certain feeling. It has to make me feel something strong. For me, these feelings often come from things that many consider “dark” or “bleak”. I love experimenting with combinations of sounds, and to experience how different those sounds makes me feel in various combinations. When it clicks it feels really good. Now and then I just sit down with my shitty acoustic guitar as well, and I had a phase where I tried to make a “progressive synth-pop” album (‘Nocturnal Phases’).
I simply cannot overcome the breathtaking ‘From The Window Above The Lake’ from one of last year’s best albums ‘Nihil’ (personal & site). How was this opus “born”?
Thank you! That’s really nice to hear. That track was written quite late in the making of the ‘Nihil’ record, and when I had the basics down, I knew that it could be something special. To me, that track became sort of the pulse of that record. The climax. I spent lots of time doing these really small adjustments to it, like I was doing some surgery and had to be really careful not to fuck it up. I think the main theme was a patch I made from some short sample of some random sound. I just experimented with this grain-thing in Reaktor for a while. Many of the pad-sounds on that record were made like that. Timestretching and processing the shit out of some really short, simple sounds that I either found or that I made out of field recordings I did on my portable recorder. I had this scene in my head, a dark lake with moonlight above, and this really old house in front of it. And a woman staring out from above the lake from a window. Pretty much the title, really! Maybe she was waiting for something. A lost lover, the end of the world. To me it´s both a peaceful and somewhat violent scenario and I wanted the track to feel like that.
Would you like to share some words about the limited edition cassette for ‘Mulholland Drive, 1984’? Why limited? Why tape?
The label that released that record, Hylè Tapes, was a new discovery for me, and I really loved the stuff on there, both musically and the aesthetics. When they wanted to release it, it just felt like a perfect fit. Richard Frances who runs the label is a great guy and artist, and I love tapes just like him. It feels like a good choice for putting out this kind of music. Producing vinyl costs a lot, and for an experimental label, when releasing a tape, you get that analogue and “true” feel, and really nice artifacts without spending silly amounts of money. For small, experimental labels it seems like a perfect match. Personally I love all kinds of physical formats. Cd, tape and vinyl. It´s all good. And all the people I have been involved with when releasing music has been lovely and really kind. They´re doing it purely out of passion, which is exactly why I make the music.
The last three years you have been over-productive, without losing on quality! How do you manage this then?
I get so many ideas all the time, and I have to put those ideas down somehow. I hear something in my head, and have to recapture it as soon as I can. Then that stuff probably ends up as something entirely different, and I continue to search for what I initially thought of, while getting worked up over something new that came out of it. Then before actually realizing it, I have a couple of different projects in the works, and I like working with different projects simultaneously because then I can just switch over to something else if whatever i´m working on gets boring. In periods it can be quite stressful too, but then I quickly realize that I do these things because it´s some sort of therapy to me. Sometimes it goes a bit far, and I get completely lost in a project. Not just when working on it, but 24/7. Then I just have to get it all down before I can focus on anything else. I do get better at that these days. It’s good to have different projects, and not go completely mental on one project. I would probably go mental if I didn´t get to mess around on my computer and with my stuff as soon as these new ideas pops into my head, but its good to have periods away from all of it too.
Your music contains a strong cinematic feel. Would you be composing music for films?
Absolutely. I have been working a little bit on some documentaries and video-articles, and also doing some work for a movie that a friend of mine is making. I´m currently in the beginning of making music for an American horror/sci-fi movie, but it’s still very new so I don´t know too much about that one yet. I´d love to do more composing for films. It´s really exciting, and much of my music is made as compositions for imaginary films and scenarios anyway, so I feel that it´s already what I spend a lot of time doing. The main difference between making music for imaginary scenes and for actual film is when there´s actual footage in front of it, the music must be more subtle. It cannot take the center stage in the same way as when its only sound. That`s a cool challenge. It needs to be right there, but still in the background.
Music specialists use the title «new music» . What do you think about it? Is it really new music?
I haven`t really heard that expression being used too much here in Norway. I notice that many use the term “neo-classical” for my music though. I`m not interested in labeling my music in a specific genre. It`s all just sounds being put together. When hearing a term like “new music” I don`t really get any specific idea about what that means, and I don`t even remember the last time I heard a record that gave me a “new” feeling as a listener. Maybe the first time I heard Autechre. It`s like all those music discussions where people disagree about genres, and also need to label stuff as a specific thing. “Oh, this is sound art, and this is music”. Why does it have to be a difference? It`s all just sounds. In that sense I guess “new music” is as good as labeling gets.
Listening to your music, classical music should be among your influences. Correct?
Yeah, absolutely. I guess that comes from my parents. I didn`t really get into classical until my twenties, but it was always around when I was a kid. I think that’s why progressive rock became my thing. The structures and build-ups in much of that stuff felt very right for me, and maybe that was because my brain was used to this classical input, even though I ignored it when I was young. Nowadays it`s more about the sound of classical recordings that excites me. The atmosphere. Wagner is very important in that sense. I love the quiet passages and the build-ups. Not so much the opera vocals.
Ambient and new classical music have gained a significant fanbase in underground circles. Do you believe they are the evolution of classical music?
Yeah, I guess it is in many ways. People always look back and try to build on stuff they enjoy or admire. I think it`s like that with all sorts of art-forms, probably even without the artist thinking about it too much. As I said, I don`t think much about labeling music, neither as a listener nor as a composer. And I don`t know what that kind of musical evolution means, if anything at all. I think music in general has been of the same level of quality for the last 10 000 years. It`s probably all a big circle in a way. At least it feels like it has been like that for a long period of time. Personally, it feels strange to think of my music as too closely related to classical music, since I`m not classically trained, and my music comes only from feeling, not from the rulebooks. I probably break every rule in the music production-book, but then again I don`t, because I never learned much of those rules in the first place. For better and worse, I guess.
How did the collaboration for ‘Nihil’ album with Gizeh Records come about? Are you satisfied?
Very satisfied, yeah. That record was my first full instrumental album, and probably the most pure and structured thing I had done at that point. I remember ordering an Aidan Baker record from them, and got this handwritten “thank you” note when receiving the album. That spoke volumes in terms of how much they care about their listeners and supporters. I sent them a track later (I think it was an unfinished version of ‘From The Window Above The Lake’), and they wanted to release the album, which of course made me very happy. It`s so much great stuff on there, and Richard Knox (who runs the label) is a great guy. I was very much a fan of his own projects on there, as well as the likes of Aidan Baker. It felt like a great match for that record, and I`m grateful that they felt the same. I did put so much into that record, and i`m very proud of it. Parts of it was actually recorded when I was on a vacation in Greece. I sat in my hotel room during the nights with my headphones on, making sounds and melodies, while sitting above over a beautiful ocean. I know for certain that the melody for ‘You Have Made Me No Longer Afraid Of Death’ was written and recorded in that hotel room.
High Fidelity time! Which are your favorite authors and films of all time?
I`m quite a “list-freak”, but I`ll keep it clean and simple. Five for each, no specific order.
William S. Burroughs
“Wild At Heart”
“Dawn Of The Dead” (the 1978 original of course, not the remake)
“Mulholland Drive” (well, of course..)
What’s next for you Anders?
I recently finished a collaboration-record with my friend Rune Clausen (aka: Strawberry King). We`ve been working on that one for a couple of years. It`s a record inspired by the mystic and “evil” Scandinavian nature of the 1700`s and the art of Norwegian artist Theodor Kittelsen, who visualized that scenery in such an awesome way, and whom we both love. We recorded lots of sounds from the forests here in Norway. Birds and animals all over the place, mixed with electronics and acoustic stuff. I like it a lot. Very ambient, yet very many different layers and styles. It`s sort of a black metal record, except there`s no growling vocals, no fuzz-guitars and no drums. Quite pure. The famous Norwegian comedian and actor Linn Skåber is on there too, talking about owls. That was so much fun. Also, I`ve started going through some acoustic recordings, and i`m trying to see if I can make some crossover thing between electronic pieces and these lo-fi acoustic “bedroom recordings” I have, which consists of only shitty acoustic guitar recordings and vocals. Maybe it will work.
My friend and guitarist in my old band Radiant Frequency, Ola Vaage Wang and I have a plan to record some stuff in this old, awesome room here in Oslo. It’s a place called Vigelandmauseleet. The acoustics in there is spetacular. I guess it will be a minimalistic guitar/electronics improv-thing, where the sound of that room will be the most Important “instrument”.
Every now and then I also mess around with a pure noise-project. If I ever get around to finish it, it will be called ‘All I Want For Christmas Is Faces Of Death I-IV’ or some stupid shit like that. It`s a nice thing to work on sometimes, as the idea is so simple. I want to make an aural version of a gore-splatter flick. I want the music to make you feel as if you`re watching a movie like that. I want to capture some very bad vibes on that one. Maybe it`s very stupid. I don`t know. And I`m constantly both making beats and jams on my computer, as well as searching for the perfect sounds for a pure, minimalistic dark-ambient record. I want to make what for me would be the ultimate dark-ambient record. No fucking around, just pure sound.
Photo credits: Rune Clausen
***Also published on Last Day Deaf