You gotta love the Swedes! First, they manage to conquer most living rooms with reasonably priced furniture, and now they are incidently taking over dancefloors from Capetown to the North Cape as well. Hardly anything has to be said about the pulsating music scene in this sparsely populated country in northern Europe, which is not only home to a sheer incredible amount of Pop- and Indie groups, but also offers a lively history of electronic music with a massive output of quality records. Within this scene, two names went out to form one of the most prolific and inventive techno outfits in the past years: Sebastian Mullaert and Marcus Henriksson, more widely known under the name of Minilogue, released almost 20 singles since 2006, many of them on renowned labels such as Wagon Repair, Traum and Cocoon.
Looking at these numbers, it seems rather odd that only now they managed to release their first album under their main Minilogue moniker. The duo, which is now living and working out of Malmö on the very southern tip of Sweden, already knows each other since the early 90s, when they were touring and producing as a trance act under the name of Son Kite. Even now, after changing to a more Techno-based approach with Minilogue (without actually leaving trance behind, as we will hear), each release retains its distinctive sound, ranging from dubby downtempo tracks to improvised jams and stomping dancefloor smashers. Animals seems to confirm this philosophy. It is the result of three and a half years of searching, producing and refining the sound of Minilogue, culminating in a diverse and multifaced double-album, which consists of a disc aimed at the dancefloor and one disc with ambient compositions. And yet, there is no time to rest, as Sebastian Mullaert tells us. A conversation about mystic animals, small cities and the future of Minilogue, which seems to have only just begun…
Looking at your releases over the last two years, you guys seem to have a rather high output, yet Animals is your first album. Why did it take you so long to come up with it and how long has it been in the making?
There are many reasons why we’ve waited a few years to release the album. Something we’ve learned over the years is not to stress things. If something tends to be delayed there is most often a reason for it, and instead of trying to push things we’ve tried to use the „extra“ time to make things better. We started working on this album three and a half years ago, and during this time we’ve slowly been shaping our thoughts and feelings. Some music you write is more temporary and some more timeless, so a lot of the music we’ve made over the last years ended up as singles on various labels, the music on Animals is what we felt was something special for an album; music that hopefully survives the test of time.
To release an album is completely different to releasing a 12″. When you release a 12″ you reach a lot of customers that don’t know who you are, because the distribution is extremely focused towards a customer group which is very dedicated to the search for new music that comes out each week. Before releasing an album you have to establish yourself, and let people know that you exist, and that takes a lot of time. Only now we feel that we’ve reached this point.
The new album is divided into two parts. At which point did you decide to release a double-album?
From the very beginning, we had a strong feeling that we wanted to show the multi-faced musical output of Minilogue. How this would sound wasn’t clear at first, but we wanted to provide the listener with a wide musical experience. We thought this would be possible to do on one disc, but we realized quite soon that it would be too quick and rushed for our music, so the solution was to make two sides, two stories, with two different energies suitable for different moments, but still with the same deep and psychedelic sound of Minilogue.
Are you also using ambient elements in your current live sets?
So far, we haven’t played any ambient or „freestyle“ live sets with Minilogue, but this is something we’re preparing at the moment. When we play our techno/house live sets we improvise a lot, merging all our songs with each other, as well as with new sounds and rhythms. The plans for our ambient/freestyle sets are to play in the same way; building up a long and deep experience live.
You seem to be quite fascinated with the concept of (mystic) animals. Is this why the album is called Animals?
The animals are part of our logo. We want people to associate us not only with our music but also with something visual. This is the reason why we formed them, and quite early we felt that Animals is the obvious choice for the Album name. Our Minilogue animals are also symbolic for our philosophy to merge different genres and feelings in order to create something new.
Speaking of the visual aspect, there is also a DVD with visuals coming out later this year. Can you tell us something about it, and the artist(s) behind it?
The DVD has been in work almost as long as the album itself. The main producer behind the DVD is an excellent graphic designer from New Zealand called Rob Zorhab (Hinge Design). We met him at the Japanese festival Labyrinth a few years ago, and agreed to do something together. Our plan was to create a musical story based on both the ambient and the dance side, mix it, and use it as a soundtrack to a 1,5h long movie divided into different chapters based on each track from the album. Rob has done most of these chapters, although a few have been made by other visual artists, one of them are Kristoffer Ström who made our rather famous Hitchhiker’s Choice video. Kristoffer also did the cover art for our album, based on clay versions of our Minilogue animals, and he also wrote one of the tracks on the ambient CD together with us. One could say he’s really been involved in producing the album.
As you said before, you are quite fond of reaching out to different styles of music.
Have you ever thought about playing together with a band, or going into more experimental territories?
One thing Marcus and I have in common is our passion, almost obsession, of finding new music. One of the best things that can happen to you is to find a totally new genre and to take the first steps in its universe. The same thing applies for playing and writing new music; to break your formula during the creative process and get lost in a new situation is very healthy. One great way of doing this is to work with other people, it’s not always so easy to find the right people to work with, but when you do, it’s an invaluable treasure. One of these moments happened last year when we got visited by Ian and Philip from Melbourne, two amazing jazz musicians involved in electronic music. We had a two week session in studio together and did an album that will be released on Mule electronics at the end of May under the alias IMPS. The creative process was very interesting, mostly based on jam and improvisation, but still mixed with postproduction while jamming …. a bit of a mix of jamming in a band, recording and being producers at the same time, if you know what I mean … (laughs)
So you are already doing the “band thing”…
Absolutely, we even started another project a couple of months ago with the aim of creating a jam band that merges traditional instrumentation with electronics, looping and live postproduction. One of our favourite Swedish bands, NOW, also live in Malmö, and we brought half our studio to their place and had a weekend of jamming. It is a trio based around guitar, bass and drums, and their sound could be described as krauty, instrumental psychedelic jam sessions …very danceable, sometimes a bit nu-discoish. I brought my lovely moog, sequencer and viola, Marcus brought his drum machines and samplers. We recorded everything we played on separate channels, and after said weekend we had around 10 hours of jamming. Our plan is to dedicate a month after the summer to do all postproduction and we hope to have an album ready with that material … probably released under the name MINOW!
You have also released on a lot of other well-known labels. Were you approached by labels like Wagon Repair or Cocoon, or did you send them your demos?
We like the old fashioned way of sending demos. Taste is, as we all know, very personal, and it is interesting to see how different labels react to our tracks, because of course every label wants to promote a special sound and picks different songs and sounds. Both Cocoon and Wagon Repair for example have received demos from us, and apparently they liked what they’ve heard. (laughs)
Last year you launched your own label. Will there be any stuff from other producers besides you in the future?
We don’t know about the future, but our first plan with our Minilogue label is to release ten 10″ singles, each presenting a Minilogue animal. We already have different ideas for what to do after that, and some of the ideas will include other artists, but it is too early to say what it is exactly. We’re certainly open for new ideas.
Let’s move a bit back in history. How did you guys meet each other in the first place?
Both of us went to high-school in a small city in the south of Sweden called Hässleholm, where most people in the same age know each other. Marcus and some friends of ours started to promote techno parties in the beginning of the 1990s, and these events soon caught my attention. A few years after that, I started to play ambient livesets at several parties along with a friend called Christian. Marcus, who played as a techno DJ at that time, soon encouraged us to try some more uptempo stuff, and he joined the creative process soon after that.
Yet, you originally started as a trance act. When did you decide to leave trance behind?
Actually, we haven’t left trance behind, but unfortunately there is close to none (at least to our ears) good trance being produced. Our trance alias is Son Kite and we’re still touring and producing trance music, although not as much anymore, since Minilogue has been capturing most of our time in the last couple of years. Still, we’re halfway through our new Son Kite album and we hope to release towards the end of the year. It’s very hard to explain the sound of it, but I can imagine most people enjoying Minilogue will also like what we do with Son Kite, as both projects follow the same deep and experimental vein…the differences can be found in energy and tempo: Minilogue explores slower grooves, Son Kite is our view of the peak hour at the club.
Your sound has a much more ‚organic‘ feel to it. A subtle, yet very distinctive emotional hook. How important is the aspect of emotion in your music?
I’m so happy to hear this! We love organic music, that’s probably the biggest reason why we try to record as much as possible live, both arrangements and instrument sequences. Many musicians and composers focus on creating emotions with tone and harmony, but this is just one way of doing it, and we’re trying to create emotional atmospheres with all kinds of sounds, with or without harmony. Something that easily sucks the organic emotions out of modern productions is the sole use of computers and laptops – if you’re not careful, your productions sounds static and digitally clean if you’re sequencing and quantizing everything in the computer. That’s probably the most unsexy thing we know, and minimal music is especially sensitive to this, but maybe that’s just us…
Sweden has a surprisingly flourishing electronic music scene. Are you connected to the rest of the scene? Do people know and collaborate with each other, or is it too dispersed?
We live in the south of Sweden in a town called Malmö. The electronic scenes in Gothenburg, Stockholm and Malmö have always been quite separated, and unfortunately we don’t have much contact with artists and musicians from other cities. However, there appears to be a well known Swedish phenomenon: Hässleholm. As I said before, that’s the city where we went to high school, a very small city, but it is the origin of many famous electronic artists such as Andreas Tilliander, Folie or Sophie Rimheden…none of them do much techno, but they work in other fields of the electronic scene, and when you grow up there, you are in touch with them.
Why are you still living and working out of Malmö? Doesn’t seem like the first choice for techno producers…
Well, true, but we simply love the humble and relaxed life of a small city. When you travel around the world playing at clubs most weekends, it’s wonderful to be in a quiet place once you get home. In Malmö you are able to reach everything you need by bike: home, studio, friends, restaurants, bars, parks, the beach… if you want to see the beauty of the forest, it only takes you a maximum of 20 minutes. On the other side, Malmö is located 18 minutes by train to Copenhagen airport, so it is not as secluded as one might think.
At last: After releasing the album, what are your plans for the rest of the year? Any vacation plans?
As always we have loads of plans. Music wise: promote our Minilogue album and the remix single that will be released in June (including remixes by Dubfire and The Mole), as well as our Minilogue DVD, which will be released in October. In the studio we want to finalize our Son Kite and MINOW! albums, and probably have another IMPS session around the end of August. We always have five weeks of vacation in the middle of the summer, a time with no gigs and no production; just time to relax and have fun with our friends and family.
Judiging by the upcoming plans of the pair, we suppose a little break is more than deserved. We are certainly looking forward to the upcoming albums and the next twenty singles, and we say thanks and „Skal“ for the conversation!