Often hidden by bizarre costumes and mysterious masks, Swedish duo The Knife made a reputation for themselves for breaking the boundaries between music and various art forms. After writing the score for the opera production, 'Tomorrow, In a Year', based on the works of Charles Darwin, the Dreijer siblings have since embarked on solo projects via Olof's Oni Ayhun and Karin's Fever Ray.
Dreijer Andersson's haunting vocals have featured in collaborations with Royksopp, to her eerie singles like 'Seven', and 'Triangle Walks' attracting remixers from all over such as Tiga and CSS, to Martyn and Crookers. After the release of Fever Ray's eponymous debut album, she has since performed spellbinding live covers of songs by legends like Nick Cave, Vashti Bunyan and Peter Gabriel whilst touring, and is now set to release a cover of the latter's 'Mercy Street'.
Dreijer Andersson’s chilling signature vocals transform the piece: "It's an interpretation. We made it more intense and faster to fit our eccentric percussionists and energetic live musicians. It is a monotone track but we worked with the dynamics trying to make it sparkle". Before Fever Ray embarks on a stunning audio-visual show in Europe, with long term collaborator Andreas Nilsson as art director this September, she works up an exclusive mixtape for Dazed Digital.
Dazed Digital: Do you feel that 'Fever Ray' is your main concern/focus now? Will The Knife return?
Karin Dreijer Andersson: I don't know, I'm happy having to do both, but it's good if it's something we don't have to agree upon together... I think it's good to have something solo going on...
DD: The working process is easier alone?
Karin Dreijer Andersson: I think it's very different, it's easier when you don't have to agree with somebody else about what you're going to do but then you have to make all the decisions yourself and I think that can be really difficult. I don't know what's easier. I have to write everything myself in the end - but it's good to have other ears listening to what you're doing.
DD: Which way do you feel your music is going? Like Olof's Oni Ayhun project is taking the turn or more electronic music but has Fever Ray liberated you from all that - think I may have read you were getting bored of all the techno stuff?
Karin Dreijer Andersson: I don't know... maybe... I think that differs a lot but it's been fun playing live, with quite a lot of organic things and working with Olaf on the opera album we were using only analogue equipment, so I don't know - at the moment, I think of my future work as more minimal, a minimal Fever Ray.
DD: So how did 'Tomorrow, In A Year', the project inspired by Charles Darwin’s The Origin Of Species, come about? Does Darwin's work particularly relate or bear significance for you?
Karin Dreijer Andersson: We were commissioned by the theatre group to write it, so it was their idea from the beginning about Darwin, and at first all we knew about him were the things we had read in school. I think it was nice to do something else, like reading. We did that for a year really, just reading the Origin of Species and other works about Darwin, so it was really nice for a change. Also applying someone's theories on music, working with text in that way was really inspiring. It's something we've talked about continuing to do.
DD: How important do you think theatrics or the stage show is compared to the recorded music? How does it translate on stage and how do you devise the shows?
Karin Dreijer Andersson: I think the live thing is more of an experiment of how to experience music. Where I am trying different endings and ideas that could happen, it's more like a playground for music, trying out ideas and seeing what happens if we dress up like this, then seeing what happens to the music. The writing and the studio work is the hard part.
DD: Do you think that the hiding part of your identity helps people to focus on the music or does it inadvertently divert people to a different talking point about 'image' anyway?
Karin Dreijer Andersson: That's always the tricky part I think, because when you try out all these costumes and masks, I think you gain so much more when doing it, when taking away the focus from some private person. It's playing with the character, a performer, like deconstructing the idea of a popstar or how a singer appears or should be on stage.
DD: Do you think where you've grown up has influenced your music? Like the darker moods in your music?
Karin Dreijer Andersson: I don't know... I think I have always liked melancholic music more than any other, but not necessarily Swedish music... we listened to a lot of African pop music when I was a kid at home, and also Eastern European music which can be really melancholic, so I don't know really about that or how the climate affects your music. Sometimes I think that if it's light or not where you are recording that affects music, but I'm not sure...
DD: As the themes in your music are quite supernatural, do you feel you relate to a sort of 'spirituality'?
Karin Dreijer Andersson: No, I don't think it's like supernatural, I think music and the ability to reach people and that you can like experience your emotions - that's the power of music. You don't have to talk about anything spiritual, humanity and nature itself has such power you don't have to explain with any religious aspects of it, I'm an atheist!
DD: You've just done a Peter Gabriel cover, do you mostly listen to older music like this?
Karin Dreijer Andersson: I'm a very old woman you know! I grew up with that track when I was a kid, it meant a lot to me then, I thought it was really beautiful. I think I was really moved how it created that kind of atmosphere, and I just wanted to try it and play it now with a live set up and percussionist and see how it works, how it sounded.
1. Khulumani - Nkata Mawewe
2. The Tale - Meredith Monk
3. Guiyome - Konono No. 1
4. Jungle Riot - Ove-Naxx
5. Ngunyuta Dance - BBC
6. Natsu Ga Kita - Afrirampo
7. Do You Be? - Meredith Monk
8. Believer - M.I.A.
9. Kuar - Olof Dreijer remix - Emmanuel Jal
10. Dread - Nate Young
Mercy Street is out now on covetable limited edition 7" and on download through Rabid Records. The 7” single will include album track ‘Dry and Dusty’. Fever Ray is playing Brixton Academy tomorrow, Wednesday 8th of September.
Photographs by Jörgen Ringstrand
Costumes by Andreas Nilsson
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