How Cosmic Disco Legend Lindstrøm Learnt to Love Music Again

We spoke to the Norwegian producer ahead of the release of a brand new EP.

by Josh Baines
22 June 2016, 9:55am

For the best back of thirteen years now, Hans-Peter Lindstrøm has been redefining what's expected of him. Regarded by many as one of the most important figures in the Scandanavian cosmic-disco boom of the mid-00s, the Oslo-based multi-instrumentalist is as at home with crafting new agey synthscapes as he is gargantuan club classics. His seminal work with fellow Norwegian Prins Thomas was followed by a ludicrously luscious solo record in 2008 (Where You Go I Go Too) and a year after that, Hans-Peter dropped Real Life is No Cool with Christabelle. More solo work—proggier, hairier, wilder solo work—followed, and last year he hooked up with Emil Nikolaisen and Todd Rundgren for the wonderfully beguiling, beguilingly wonderful Runddans LP.

Next month sees Lindstrøm return to slightly clubbier fare with the Smalltown Supersound released Windings EP, a spacey and seductive three tracker that's been enjoying repeat plays our way ever since we go our hands on it.

We caught up with Hans-Peter on a rainy Norwegian evening just before the release of the EP.

THUMP: So it's been nearly a decade since the release of It's a Feedelity Affair, and that's become a real landmark record for a lot of people. Did you ever get a sense that it'd become so important when you released it?
Hans-Peter Lindstrøm: Is it really a landmark record? To be honest, it wasn't even my idea to compile those singles. I'd met Joakim Haugland from Smalltown Supersound and he wanted to work with me. He really believed in what I was doing, and even when I told him I already had my own label he still wanted to make something happen. It was a good idea at the time to compile everything. Those songs that I made during the first year of Feedelity never really went further than being heard by DJs and putting them out on a CD meant they were available to a bigger audience.

From where I was back then, this Scandinavian cosmic-disco thing seemed so exciting, so new. Did it feel like that for you, as one of the pivotal players?
It was exciting, yeah. I'd been listening to UK DJs like the Idjut Boys, and New York DJs like Daniel Wang and other guys who added a disco twist to house music. I was bored of deep house and whatever else was going on, and found that stuff so refreshing. Then there were people like Daniele Baldelli who inspired what me and Prins Thomas were doing. They taught us to think outside of the box, and gave us the confidence to do what we wanted to do without worrying about other people. Looking back on it, what me and Thomas were doing was this kind of unacceptable, very weird music, and that was the charm of it. Or something. With my own music, especially a track like "I Feel Space" I was lucky because I didn't really know what I was doing and I made this 'wrong' stuff and in some ways that was a good thing. Wrong things stand out.

Looking back now it was fun because I didn't know the unwritten rules that apply to making music for clubs. I was just fooling around with a sampler and a computer and then buying instruments like banjos or sitars and trying to incorporate that into my music.

I love that idea of 'wrong' music. Are you fuelled by knowing that you're able to take things in weird directions?
It's been really important to me to think like that. I really like working with different kinds of projects. I can be working on accessible stuff that might even end up on the radio while working on really, really weird stuff. The record I did with Todd Rundgren was some of the weirdest stuff I've ever been involved with, but I think it's some of the best material I've ever made. If I make the same music every day, week, year, I get so bored.

Is making music for yourself as important as making something that gets people dancing? Do you need self-interest to get into the studio?
That's become more and more important to me as my career has gone on. I'd say that at this point it's not that important to me to actually release music any more. I've got so much recognition for what I've done over the years. Earlier in my career that recognition was really important to me and I wanted the right people to react to my music. I have to admit that now, after being in the studio for a while I'm pretty much done with whatever I've been working on. That's when the label starts to work on the release, so by the time of the actual release I'm not really that interested any more. The good thing with putting music out and letting people listen to it is the response I get from live shows. People know the songs! Other than that, releasing music isn't that important to me. More and more I'm doing it for myself.

Do you still approach music as a fan? Are you going home from the studio and picking out gems from your collection and kicking back on the sofa with your feet up?
Not that many years ago I stopped listening to music. It didn't inspire me any more. I don't know what happened. I'm a music junkie and have been buying records for as long as I can remember, but suddenly I just stopped listening to it. I started to watch movies. Recently I've been getting interested in it again. When I made this EP I was more or less just listening to English baroque music. Henry Purcell and stuff like that. I'm almost only listening to classical music at the moment. I never really listen to electronic music. Not because I don't like it, but I end up copying stuff I do like, and that means I loose a bit of myself. Everybody has their ways of dealing with stuff, and for me, at the moment, I'm all about the baroque.

When you're working on these big collaborative efforts, how do you approach them, and is it an enjoyable process?
I enjoy the balance between working alone and with others. My friend Emil Nikolaisenwho I did the Runddans album with says the same, that he loves working alone but you need to keep your ego in check. I'm totally like that. I really love working alone but after a while it does get a bit boring. You really need to talk to somebody and make music with somebody else and that's how all these collaborations have been approached. Every time i've been working with somebody for a while I need to shut the door and work totally alone. I go crazy when there's too much collaboration and I have to deal with people all the time.

While we're on the topic, what's your favourite Todd Rundgren deep cut?
I would say the B-Side of the Initiation album. It's a three piece suite, half an hour long thing. It's really, really weird. Even the die hard Rundgren fans have problems with it, but it's really amazing. You need to spend time with it. It's called "The Treatise on Cosmic Fire".

The word that sprung to mind when I heard the EP for the first time was "euphoria" and I've always wondered if that's an emotion you attach to your own music?
I don't really think in those terms when I'm making music. The big, massive synth-stuff, all those layers, maybe makes it feel euphoric. I make music with my heart and not my head, so I'll let other people ascribe words to it.

Do you see crowds reacting in that euphoric way when you're playing out?
I want people to leave feeling euphoric, yes. It's really important to me when I'm playing to get actual reaction. It doesn't really matter if the sound is terrible or the venue is bad, as long as the crowd are good. If I get a feeling that they're really following what I'm doing, that I can lift them up and take them down, then I'm really happy. But isn't that what every DJ wants to achieve.

If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, who'd it be?
I'd love to collaborate with Edward Grieg, the Norwegian composer. He died about 200 years ago. I'm really inspired by his music, and it's like walking around the forest in Norway. You don't need to hear his music, you just feel it. His music is like a snow-capped mountain. The way he worked with texture and melody was totally amazing. He's the one for me.

Windings arrives on Smalltown Supersound/Feedelity Recordings on July 8th

Lindstrøm is on Facebook // SoundCloud // Twitter

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