Sunday, 15 February 2009

Royksopp Interview

In the words of Royksopp’s Svein Berge, “there are things brewing in the north.” Not least among them is the third album from the smooth-talking electro-pop pair. Entitled ‘Junior’, this latest instalment of gilded Royksoppian glitch-pop promises to fall somewhere between their million-selling debut of 2001, ‘Melody AM’, and the catchier, melodic sensibilities of 2005’s follow-up, ‘The Understanding’. Though ‘Junior’s’ list of guest vocalists reads like a roll call of Scandinavian pop goddesses, it’s the return of the internationally acclaimed Norwegian duo that that fans are most anticipating. In a very special early preview, Svein tells Gigwise what we can expect…

“For us ‘Junior’ is following the concert of Royksopp in terms of trying to create unique songs – that sounds very pretentious but that’s what we try to make in all honesty,” Svein begins of Royksopp’s third studio album. Even on the phone, his famed good-humour and silver-tongued press-manner shine through. He tells me that the new album contains “special songs with emphasis on trying to present interesting sounds in the traditional heritage of Royksopp,” in a description so spectacularly evasive that there seems little point asking him to elaborate further.

Instead, we move onto Junior’s Scandinavian celebrity line-up. Robyn, Lykke Li, and The Knife’s Karin Dreijer are holding the Swedish fort, while Anneli Drecker represents Royksopp’s own Norway. “There are a lot of good things coming out of Scandinavia at the moment from Sweden, Norway and Denmark,” Svein says of his contemporaries. “We know these people and they know us: it is all intertwined and very inclusive, the whole operation. I don’t mind being associated with these enormously talented artists. Royksopp are a bit on the side of it, but we try and invite ourselves into that clique, obviously.”

But Svein is keen to make clear that Royksopp have never quite courted convention: “I notice that we are still being called either a downtempo, chillout duo, which I believe is quite wrong, or I see us branded as a dance act, which I also think is mistaken. I wouldn’t really go out and shake my hips to a song like Royksopp’s ‘Forever’, you know? It would be kind of hard unless you have very special dancing abilities!”

“There’s no one around quite like us,” Svein elaborates of the difficulties of being a crossover between dancefloor acts like Daft Punk, Justice, or the oft-compared polished electro-pulse of Air, and the recent surge of indie-electro bands, like MGMT. “This album in particular I believe is quite eclectic and diverse: I couldn’t really recommend one single place to listen to it. Torbjørn likes to listen to it while he’s driving a car. I’m more of a shower man myself, I like to listen to it when I’m showering. I’m an Aquarius, so I like being close to water, and then there’s nudity, which adds to it.”

The ten years of Royksopp’s history make for impressive reading. Svein Berge and Torbjørn Brundtland met at school, though Royksopp came into being a few years later, in 1998, in a Norwegian musical renaissance remembered as the ‘Bergen Wave’, after its place of origin. Just three years on, the success of their debut, with its ingenious videos and ubiquitous commercial licencing, catapulted them into an international sphere of recognition that has seen them win numerous awards and sell millions of records. It’s an illustrious career, no doubt, but Svein isn’t quite finished just yet: “I’ve always wanted to touch Vangelis’ beard. I want to touch divinity, and to me he is the god of synthesizer. After that I can just wither and die, I’ll have done my share of mortal toil.” I meekly suggest that some Royksopp fans might object to this rather unexpected demise of Norway’s best-loved musical export, at which point he muses, “well, there’s always the option of remastering Melody A.M. ten times with different remixes…”

To the contrary, new single ‘Happy Up Here’ more that suffices to prove that Royksopp have no intention of living off their past successes: “Age is coming whether you like it or not – but it’s not as if we are going to drift into mediocrity,” Svein assures. The single’s seductive, reverberating throb coats familiar Royksoppian melodic murmurings that promise, "You know I really like it/ I know I'll always be here.” And while, much like ‘Forever’, the allusions to eternity strike of ambition beyond Svein and Torbjørn’s mere-mortal means, it’s clear that Royksopp haven’t quite lost their charisma, musical or otherwise, just yet.

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