Monday, 26 January 2009

Fever Ray Interview

Karin Dreijer is no stranger to success. As one sibling half of The Knife, the thirty-three year old Swede has released three internationally acclaimed albums, won a string of Grammis (the Swedish equivalent of the Grammys), and been awarded Pitchfork’s album of the year for 2006’s ‘Silent Shout’. While previous work sans brother Olof has included recording with both Royksopp and dEUS, Karin will release her debut solo album this year, under the new moniker Fever Ray. She caught up with Gigwise recently to talk about going solo, professional priorities and making a stand…

Karin Dreijer’s vocals are anything but apologetic. They are razor sharp, emanating from an underworld, burning through slick electronica as crystal salt on frozen ground; beguiling like the invented mystique of her musical persona. Her music videos show her masked, painted, impersonated: essentially faceless. “I think it’s very important to separate the person behind the work from the music,” she explains. “I’m sure that Fever Ray contains a lot of personal elements, it’s a part of me, but every person has different roles in their own life. You’ll be a different way in your professional life to the way you’ll be with your family, and again with your husband or partner. I feel like Fever Ray is one of my different roles in life.”

Although thirty-three and a mother of two, there is an unexpected unsteady element to her conversation. It might be simply a matter of language barriers and unfamiliarity, yet Karin is softly spoken, humble, and slightly shy as she talks intelligently about her work. The Dreijer siblings have frequently avoided media attention in the past. They didn’t perform anything live until five years after debut album ‘The Knife’ had gone triple platinum, and once famously sent friends in gorilla costumes to collect their Grammi Awards as a protest at the white, male dominated music industry of their home country.

“I don’t think we try to be anonymous, but it’s important to make priorities between doing promo or working in the studio.” Karin says of her musical preoccupations, which come as cold water to the face of a British music industry sold all too frequently on the skin-deep. “We weren’t into doing performances for the first six years or so because we concentrated on working in the studio, which we were good at. The shows we did in 2006 were very much a project for us, working out how we could do a live show. Since then we are a bit more open about it, when we talk about future Knife things we also think of it as a performance act.”

For now though, Karin’s making waves on her own in the wake of a Knife hiatus. “When The Knife finished touring in 2006 we had been working together for seven years, and I think both of us needed some time off and to do something else. I started working on my own and it turned out as Fever Ray a bit later. I love sitting by the computer and programming, and I’ve been using a lot of analogue equipment.” Kristoffel Bari and Van Rivers helped produce in the final stages, and a live band has been put together for the touring that will ensue this spring.

Fever Ray is indelibly marked with inherited sonic elements from The Knife, but there is darker matter at hand here, too. Of her influences, Karin explains: “I was very into the Jim Jarmusch film ‘Dead Man’ during last summer especially, which expressed a more primitive and primal element I wanted to capture. Also I’ve been listening to a lot of Tomahawk, an Indian inspired album called ‘Anonymous’. I feel like that album especially is very free and inspiring. Fever Ray is still very electronic, but maybe a little more organic than previously.”

The video for first single ‘If I Had A Heart’ runs as a short film across mist-covered rivers and into wooden houses hung with antlers, where Karin lurks, painted as a skeleton. It is a haunting backdrop to the sinister throb and dark, writhing vocal of the track itself, although not all of the video’s early audiences were affected by its horror-like supernaturalism: “My eldest daughter didn’t think it was scary! She said, ‘Mum, you look just like someone from KISS!’ She’ll soon be six.”

It is hard to identify the proud parent that Karin suddenly becomes with the fragile preconstructed image of her as the elusive, in-demand heroine of Swedish electronica. But if she eludes the restrictions of labels she does so in an industry that is becoming increasingly receptive to the individual. Karin is optimistic about the future of music, saying, “Now that big, powerful record labels are beginning to disappear, something good will come out of it. Especially with the internet, artists can reach out to a new audience without going through older, more conservative ways of releasing records.”

And of her own future? “I know that during 2009 I will be doing this with Fever Ray, some touring, and finishing the music for an opera that The Knife is working on. I love making music most of the time, but I don’t know about the future. I don’t plan that much ahead.” If her album receives anywhere near the recognition it deserves, Karin might find she has a busy few years ahead of her.

‘Fever Ray’ is out now on digital download via Rabid Records, and is set for physical release in March.

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