Music by VICE

How Fatherhood Helped Studio's Dan Lissvik Make the Best Solo Album of His Career

One half of the influential Swedish Balearic dance duo gives a rare interview about his latest record 'Midnight.'

by Cam Lindsay
Jun 15 2016, 4:39pm

Photo courtesy of label

Dan Lissvik is the textbook strong and silent type. In fact, the Swedish artist is so reserved that over the last decade, he's averaged about one interview every other year. His press shyness, along with his fascinating list of credits as one half of influential electronic duo Studio, producer, and remixer, have made him somewhat of a cult figure in dance music.

With his latest solo album, Midnight, he's changed course both professionally and personally however. The record's title is a reference to the time of day at which Lissvik would begin recording sessions, after his wife and newborn daughter were asleep. Instead of using his regular Gothenburg studio, he constructed a makeshift one in their apartment, so that he could be close to his family.

"My work schedule has changed a lot compared to pre-baby," the first-time father explains over Skype. "The biggest struggle was the lack of sleep in the beginning. Low energy just makes everything harder to deal with." With a newfound candor, Lissvik admits that these grueling night-time sessions were fueled by plenty of coffee, which he calls "crucial" though the veteran artist wouldn't have it any other way.

This nocturnal approach is certainly a far cry from his days in the ambiguously-named Studio, which he started with fellow producer Rasmus Hägg in 2001. Together, they helped forge what would be referred to by the press as "Gothenburg Sound," dazed Balearic pop that incorporated elements of krautrock, disco, house, dub, and Afrobeat. During their decade-long career, they put out a handful of singles, one full-length album (2007's West Coast), and two Yearbook compilations, one of those featuring their remixes of tracks by artists including Kylie Minogue, Love Is All, and Shout Out Louds.

Lissvik has been busy since Studio called it quits in 2011, with projects including his 2008 debut solo album 7 Trx + Intermission, a 2014 record of blissed out guitar jams called Meditation under the moniker Atelje (one song was even called "Ode To Studio"), and The Crepes, his pop band with Fredrik Lindson of The Embassy. He's also become an in-demand producer and writer, working behind-the-scenes with groups including Taken By Trees, The Mary Onettes, and Montreal's Young Galaxy, the latter who sought out his services simply because they were massive fans.

"Between 2007 to 2010, I think we listened to Studio more than any other act," says Young Galaxy guitarist and vocalist Stephen Ramsay. "[The music] seemed timeless, familiar and light years ahead of the curve all at once. It was literally the only time in our career so far where we've said to ourselves, 'We have to work with them.'"

Lissvik didn't just produce the band's last three records—including 2015's Falsework—he helped them establish a whole new sound by revamping their dreamy indie rock into slinky, synth-pop. "Dan's very smart and ferociously talented—he's a self-taught musician who can play just about anything he picks up," says Ramsay. "He has an intense work ethic and leads a private life. He feels no irony about being an artist, which is very Swedish and refreshing to an apologetic Canadian like me."

Despite the genesis of the album's name, the entirely instrumental Midnight doesn't really push familial themes. The tracklisting, which assigns each of the letters from the title to a corresponding song, is novel in its minimalism—an aesthetic that has always been important to Lissvik's work. The biggest difference comes in the actual music itself.

Although it touches on some of the artist's trademark sounds, such as fluid rhythms, heavy use of reverb, and mesmeric guitar lines, the record feels like a fresh entry into his diverse catalogue. In fact, it sounds like Lissvik is having the time of his life, quietly trying to jam away in this makeshift studio as his family sleeps in a room down the hall. From the whimsical disco of "M," to the the balmy motorik pulsations of "I, Pt. 2," to the slinky dub pop of "T," he's expanded his horizon to make what is his most fully-formed album to date.

It's no surprise that Midnight was released on Smalltown Supersound, the Oslo-based indie responsible for releases by acts including Lindstrøm, Prins Thomas, and more. It fits right in with the Nordic cosmic disco those artists continue to produce and progress. Lissvik sees the album as a continuation of 7 Trx + Intermission and some of his remix work, though true to his reclusive nature, it's clear he wishes to maintain some distance from the spotlight.

"The label really insisted that I use my own name as well so that kind of ties both albums together I think," he says. "But when I listen to it now it feels more like recordings of me trying to make a record for a Norwegian disco label. Perhaps some of the newfound confusion [from becoming a father] got spilled over on some of the tracks."

Midnight is out now on Smalltown Supersound.

Cam Lindsay is on Twitter.