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Home / Rock & pop / Royksopp



Melody A.M. (2001)


The Understanding (2005)



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Electronic funksters from Norway (interview)
by Claudio Fabretti

Interview with the Norwegain duo who came a sensation in the 2001 with "Melody A.M.". A brilliant album that combines warm and fuzzy ambient dance, lounge music and electronic funk with cinematic soundtracks and club-friendly beats

Royksopp are a Norwegian band playing warm and fuzzy ambient dance that combines lounge music and electronic funk with cinematic soundtracks and club-friendly beats. A formula that won them the fame of the most interesting band of the new Scandinavian scene. The duo consists of Torbj÷rn Brundtland and Svein Berge, and originally come from Troms°, where Geir - the man behind the local electronic phenomenons Biosphere and Bel Canto - helped them to get their first record contract back in 1995, when their name was Aadena Cycle. Among the sources of inspiration for the band are Erik Satie, the porn music composer Francis Lai and the warm, analogue sound of the 1970s. Royksopp's debut album, Melody A.M. was released from the Wall of Sound label, and the first single, "Eple", was  remixed by Bj°rn Torske. As it was reported, this is "electronic music with northern lights in the eyes, and a very elegant Norwegian contribution to the new hot genre: lounge/chill". "Royksopp music is a spectral combination of bleepy 80s synths, lightly crunching backbeats and dreamy vocals; the mood is pure post-clubbing afterglow, in bed with your loved one, in some snowbound Ikea log cabin - Alex Needham wrote on NME - " Sounds nice? It is. 'In Space' sprinkles rippling harps over sighing, sampled strings, 'Royksopp's Night Out' suggests a few hours spent under the Northern Lights rather than a mirrorball, the swaying sample in 'So Easy' irresistibly evokes images of the cuddly monsters from 'Where The Wild Things Are' and 'Poor Leno' is eerie, strangely homoerotic, disco". We interviewed Svein Berge about the sudden (and partly unexpected) success of his band.

When did you and Torbjorn start playing music together?

We met when I was 12 and he was 13. But I guess we already had an interest on electronic music. I thinke we actually both our first synthesizers two years later. It was just a hobby to try how our keyboards and keyboards work. The first thing we did a demo in early Nineties on an ambient thing. As Royksopp we released our first work a couple of years ago.


What does Royksopp mean?

It's a bit hard to translate it, because it's a Norwegian word and it's a worldplay, with so many meanings. If you want to translate it in English, the one word would be "puff ball", which is a small fungus which grows on pavements, a quite ugly little thing. If you step on it it explodes in a small cloud and all the spores will spread around and they will grow other new mushhroom. The way they have sex is if people step on them. Another one is that smoke cloud after an atomic bomb.


Svein BergeTroms°, your hometown, is a very small town but with a lot of music bands; first Bel Canto and Biosphere, then Royksopp. What's the reason for such a cool music scene in Tromso?

It's a really small place situated far above the Artic Circle, the city itself is located on an island with two bridges connections. It's also about 60.000 people. There are many small wooden houses on the island. I think this environment partly has the responsibility for such a music scene. We are isolated, you have to drive five hours to come to the nearest city. There's nothing but pure williness and I guess that people try to be innovative because you don't have a place to look for fun and inspiration. Living on this isolated island, you can't follow trends, you follow your own trends.


Scandinavia is considered as a cold country, but I see that both you and Bel Canto like "warmer sounds", Bel Canto use esothic rhythms, you use especially funk. In your music, what's the balance between the warm, funky sounds and the "cold" electronics atmospheres?

With the dangerto appear pretentious, I would say that we have our music ineritage in the ambient music scene. We grow up listening to Bel Canto and Biosphere, but after we turn a bit more into house music, more drums and more bass basically. And also beeing in Tromso that is very cold we really tried to get a heat, with afro-american sounds. We just wanted to balance everything up.


You say that Norway is a quite isolated country, but I see your music is the synthesys of the new millennium sounds, do you listen to a lot of music? What are your favorite bands?

We basically just like music, there are many inspirations. You have the obvious ones, like Kraftwerk and Brian Eno that represent the electronic side of us. We also like Giorgio Moroder for disco rhythms and melodies, Art of Noise, for their use of sampler as an instrument, many hip hop producers and even Vangelis: some of his early works show how easy harmonies can be very effective and dramatic at the same time. Our music also combines the harmonies of film music and of classical composers such as Erik Satie and melodies of Francis Lai (arty porn film producer) with the analogue warmth of Seventies and the fatness of the Eighties over a thorough beat programming.


What about that "big machine" with which you incorporated your instruments?

We were supposed to play live, but electronic music live can be a bit boring sometimes, we tom ake it more fun to watch. So we built this huge machine out of metal, over 100 kilos, 5 metres long, 1,8 metres tall. We incorporated all our keyboards, all our electronic equipment into it, giving us an opportunity to play on the outside and go in by a door and play from the inside. It looks like a caravan and it has two holes in it so we can play electronic drums from the inside of it with our arms steaking out of the machine and our heads in a glass ball. It also has a chimney where smoke came out. 


What kind of keyboards do you like more? Is it true that you prefer the old ones.

We prefer the old ones instead of the new ones because we find it more easy to manipulate the sounds and make your own sounds than on the new ones. I guess it's more warm, because the electricty in the new ones is more digital and it sounds a bit more steryl.


What's the main goal of your music?

Just to provoke a feeling in people, to provoke an emotional reaction.


Is it true you studied in University to learn making music is much more fun?

We both attended University studing English course, but the music was just a hobby and it turn out to become a bit bigger than we expected so we chose music.


What kind of samples do you use in your music?

The melody line on the track called "So easy" has elements of a Swedish Sixties easy listening band and it's covering also a Burt Bacharach song. Other than that we basically sample sounds, we don't sample all song, it has to be justified in some way.


Will you tour in Italy soon?

So far we haven't played in Italy, but we'd love to play there. Out of Norway, we have played in the UK, in Germany and Belgium.

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