Andreas Nilsson: Like A Knife

The visionary director and visual artist talks about creating the beautiful nightmares of the Fever Ray video and his enduring collaboration with The Knife.

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With a background in painting and sculpture, Andreas Nilsson “ended up in the music video world by mistake”. But he adds with a twinkle, “it’s a beautiful place to be.” The art world’s loss is our gain as he has created dazzlingly inventive videos for the likes of Goldfrapp, Jenny Wilson and Jose Gonzalez. But he’s perhaps best known for his work with The Knife, having worked with Karin Dreijer Andersson from her first band, Honey Is Cool right up to dreaming up the stunningly creepy video for her new solo project Fever Ray

Dazed Digital: What was the abiding image when you devised the video for “If I Had A Heart”?
Andreas Nilsson: This film’s content evolved organically in correspondence. I can’t really point out a specific image. As always we talked about a lot of things and sent references back and forth. The first thing Karin sent to me to watch was Dead Man by Jim Jarmusch. But we’d been talking about the Jonestown Massacre, Helter Skelter, Maya Deren, Papua New Guinea, the river Styx. It’s an ongoing process to build up the content over a couple of months before shooting. The video is an interpretation of the music obviously but also a comment on Western civilization.

DD: You have been working with Karin for many years now. How has your working relationship evolved over time?
AN: Of course things have changed in many ways, I did my first video for the Knife 9 years ago. Technically its two different approaches, Fever Ray was shot on 35mm and the older Knife videos are shot on a small DV-camera. But the working flow where we share ideas over a longer period of time is the same I think.

DD: You really pushed the boundaries of what a live show could do with the audiovisual experience for the ‘Silent Shout’ tour. Tell us about creating the live spectacle of the Knife stage show. What was your aim going into it and did you feel you achieved your ambitions?
AN: We wanted to do a live show where the artist’s presence on stage was toned down to an extent that he/she more or less could be replaced.
I am surprised that not more bands experiment with the live format more. Not that much has happened over the last 40 years. I would love to see more theatrical work on the music scene. Something that’s in the twilight zone between performance/art/music.

DD: Do you harbour any ambitions to direct a film?
AN: I harbour ambitions to do different things in my life. I have done some theatre work lately and that’s more appealing to me then film at the moment.

DD: What else are you working on that you are excited about for 2009?
AN: Next week I’m going up to Nikel in north of Russia to shoot a video. It’s a town that is built around a nickel mine. It’s been heavily polluted over many many years and the area around it is now dead. It’s very beautiful, like a Tarkovsky film.
Other than that, I plan to work a lot in my garden. I am interested in cultivating roses.

From The Knife's "Silent Shout" tour.

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Video for The Knife's "Heartbeats"

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