One of the most promising Scandinavian exports for a very long time, multi-instrumentalist Laust Sonne releases his international debut album Relations soon, preceded by the release of the first single On The Radio..
The album was recorded over the last two years in both his native city Copenhagen (Denmark) and Malmø in Sweden. Laust Sonne is already a well-known and popular name in Scandinavia, with a near-endless list of concerts that has taken him across the globe many times over the past decade.
However, this is the first time that he is releasing solo material in Germany and we have an exclusive interview with him below where he reveals how the rather fantastic album Relations was made.
Interviewer (INT): “Your new album is a highly interesting mix of great classic songwriting and bang up-to-date electronic production techniques. What’s inspired you?”
LS: “I´m inspired by everything from Chet Baker to Rihanna. If it´s good, I like it!! If I can use an idea or get inspired from something, I don´t care where that idea or inspiration comes from, I´ll just go ahead and try it out.
Sometimes the big productions, with a million things going on, can get in the way of the song-writing, or it can cover up a not so great song. So my main focus has always been to be one hundred percent sure that the song-writing was where it was supposed to be, because when that´s in order, it makes the production process so much easier. The trick is not to get carried away by a funky beat; you need to be able to put song-writing in there too, or else it ends up being, in my mind, just a nice jam. But the brainstorming process is very important, because that´s where I get the spontaneous, great ideas for synth lines, melodic lines, beats, whatever, and I just pour out one idea on top of the other until it´s all crazy and I´m sweating from dancing around in the room. The point is to get excited!!!! And then, when I´m calm again, I´ll start the sorting out process, so that the song doesn´t drown in crazy stuff, I go back to focusing on the song.”
INT: “When you started work on the album did you already have a clear idea of how you wanted the record to sound like and what you wanted to achieve with it?”
LS: “I had a pretty clear idea. I knew I wanted it to be totally up to date, production and sound-wise. To make old-sounding pop music didn´t make much sense to me. So that meant a lot of programming. A lot of software synths… And a lot of editing. But I was actually surprised that I ended up using so much guitar on the album.
INT: “Why? ”
LS: Well, that wasn´t really part of the plan. But it made sense, because acoustic instruments seem to have a direct emotional line to the human heart, and I needed that because the songs are very personal. So it ended up being more of a mix between “real” instruments (piano & guitars) and software instruments than I had first imagined. I also like to mix vintage-synths with software-synths, because the vintage keyboards have that warmth and dirt that the soft-synths don´t have. A mix can become very transparent and in some ways cold if you´re only using computer sounds. So I needed some organic sounds to blend in with the digital sounds.”
INT: “Somewhere beneath the modern, polished and feel-good sound there is a real sense that your lyrics matter a great deal to you and there is a sense that your fans really take your lyrics in. What is your approach to lyric writing?”
LS: “It comes from many different directions. Sometimes, if I´m lucky, there´s a line that sticks with me when I write the melody, and that creates a platform to continue writing from. But I wanted these songs to connect to people on an emotional level. I want the listener to think: I know that situation, or I recognise that feeling. Sometimes I write from my own perspective, sometimes I write from another man´s perspective, and sometimes I write from a woman´s perspective. That gives it a nice twist, and it makes you look at things from other angles. But most importanty I strive to make lyrics that the listener can really relate to. “Relations” is about love and the different relations and emotions within a relationship. All the different emotions we go through when we get involved with another person.”
INT: “Did you ever during recording, start to realise that this album was to become something really special, that it would mean a lot to a great deal of people and that commercially it would go really far?”
LS: “From day one my only aim was to create something really special, and the first person I had to excite and move was myself. I have to believe 100% that this music I´m making will be able to move mountains, otherwise there´s no way that other people will dig it. Of course I can still be completely wrong, but I can truly say that I´m happy about the way this album turned out.
Can it go far? Yes I believe it can, but that is not only up to me to decide. I wish it was!”
INT: “You mentioned before that you are using all kinds of vintage synths on the recording. Have you programmed them all in or do you actually record them live?”
LS:“ I record them live. I jam a lot on the vintage keyboards, searching for sounds and melody lines and chords. And when I hit on something I like, I record it immediately before I forget it – you know, easy come easy go! And then, of course, if I can´t get it completely right, I can always edit it on the computer. Sometimes though, it´s really nice to have things in the mix that are not completely on the beat. It adds a lot of life to the track. Makes it groove more, and I like that. It doesn´t have to be perfect, but it has to be amazing.”
INT: “Tell a little about your choices of keyboards – you have a great selection in your studio.”
LS: “I´m a sucker for vintage keyboards, always have been. There´s something so cool about them! My flagship is definitely my OB-8 from Oberheim, and then I have a Panther plastic organ, a la Farfisa. It looks amazing, AND sounds great! Then I have a Moog Prodigy, which I use mainly for bass, and I just bought the relatively new remake of an old classic, the KORG MS-20, which is totally great for almost everything! You mix that with all the software-synths and everything is possible…”
INT: “You have previously talked fondly of Kraftwerk. In what way do you find yourself inspired by them?”
LS: “The thing about Kraftwerk is, that everything they ever did, is done SO WELL!!! It´s like they´ve been meditating for hours and hours on what they are about to do, and then they go and do it, calmly and flawlessly. Every sound is perfect, every melody line hits the right spot, and there are always nice ideas/concepts behind the music. There is an amazing clarity, an amazing calmness. I´m a fan.”
INT: “You decided to record in your own studio only by yourself to begin with. How does that differ from having a whole lot of people around during the recording process, technicians, producers, fellow musicians as bands usually have? Does it give you time to experiment more?”
LS: “I´ve always liked making and producing music on my own. Most of the time I know what I want, and I know how to get it too, so there´s really no need to have someone else with me. I work very fast once I get going, and very intuitively, and I like being able to just go for it! Later in the process, it´s vital for me to have other ears and opinions on the music, because you can sort of go creatively numb once you´ve listened to a track a million times. Then, it´s VERY helpful to get some fresh opinions and ideas from other people; it makes you look at the production and the arrangement from another angle, and you can suddenly hear what is missing, and what needs to be edited out. It took a while for me to bring my inner technician/engineer out in the open, but I´m getting there slowly I’m happy to say. I feel quite comfortable now, doing those things myself too.”
INT: “You play a large range of instruments, and drums is probably your main instrument – being a fantastic drummer having played since the age of just 3 – so what is behind your decision then, only to use programmed drums throughout the record?”
LS:“It´s because of the sound that I wanted, and the feeling, and the precision of the production. Live drums will, a lot of times, take up a lot of space, and aren´t as punchy and precise as programmed drums. It´s two entirely different worlds, and the precise and punchy world was what I wanted for this record.”
INT: “For the recording enthusiasts our there… how do you usually build up a track during recording? Do you try different palettes of sound and go imaginative with them or do you have a more conservative approach when it comes to sound choices?”
LS:“I usually start with the beat. It doesn´t have to be the perfect beat, but you need a platform to build from. And I rarely start without having written the song or part of the song already. The song has to be the focus for me, that comes first. Besides that, I don´t have any rules, really. If I hear a bassline, I try to record at once, but sometimes I trip on a really nice sound for a synth part or something, and then I record that, before I continue the search for the right bass sound. I try to keep my mind open for new stuff all the time, ´cause you can´t predict exactly where you end up anyway. But of course, you have to keep in mind, that you are making a record, and the track you´re working on now has to be cohesive with the track you were working on last week. But once you get going, I try to put the vocals down early in the process, so that nothing I do gets in the way of the melody, or goes against it.”