Röyksopp, riders of the Bergen Wave, came to prominence in 2001 with their debut, ‘Melody A.M’, released amongst a feverish appetite for all things Norwegian - they’ve been with us ever since. Now, a decade later, they’re the subject of a special event at the British Film Institute curated by Adam Buxton (of Adam and Joe fame) where a career retrospective will be shown on the big screen. For an outfit that have been together through three decades (they formed in 1998) they are making music now which is arguably amongst the most interesting they’ve ever released. ‘Senior’, the duo's fourth album came out towards the end of 2010 as a dark side to 2009’s ‘Junior’ – their dancefloor offering and a world away from its moody, introspective follow-up – it was also a completely instrumental album – no Robyn or Karin Dreijer Andersson present.
Dazed Digital: Why did you choose 'Senior' to be an instrumental record?
Svein Berge: The simplest answer would be "'cause we felt like it" - which has been the modus operandi of Röyksopp since day one. But in the spirit of the trademark Röyksopp -kindness & all things good, we'll abbreviate; we initially had the intention to make a full-blown double-LP where one record would represent the youthful, energetic, vocal-and-beat-driven, and perhaps more accessible, side of our music (i.e. ‘Junior’) - and on the other record put the more introvert, darker and perhaps more ‘demanding’ instrumental tracks (i.e. ‘Senior’). We dropped the idea of a double-album though; we felt it was perhaps too much music to throw at people at once (considering we have a very slow release-ratio) and secondly, we felt it might come across as a bit too self-indulgent. And back to the question, to us, instrumental music often suggest less ‘guidance’ and is often subject to a wider array of interpretations, and is ultimately more inviting to the imaginative mind.
DD: By removing the words are you making the album/ your sound more personal?
Svein Berge: We feel that everything we do is personal (not in the Scarface way, but rather in the sense of our presence in the music) and is somehow reflecting our current state in life. To us, none is better than the other - we like both approaches to music, but the main difference would be the required involvement of the listener to ‘get it’. For example; a song with lyrics telling a story about love and happiness suggest what the song is all about, (and possibly that it's a song by Al Green) whereas an instrumental song called, let's say ‘Propaganda Fusion 32’ doesn't tell the listener much, and might require slightly more involvement in order to appreciate and get involved with the music.
DD: Do you think the instrumentation bought anything new to the Royksopp sound?
Svein Berge: Well we hope so. We feel that way at least. We have intentionally made ‘Junior’ both louder and more contemporary in terms of production, clarity, distinct soundscapes etc only to get the contrast to ‘Senior’ which has substantially les hi-end frequencies, is overall less compressed (thus lower in volume) and is more ‘flawed’ in terms of recording techniques (all the ‘hissing’, crackling sounds etc.). ‘Senior’ has also been made utilising a lot of old analogue equipment, and substantially more acoustic instruments (in comparison to other Röyksopp releases), which has been great fun for us. It's also about being entertained at our end as well, you know...
DD: Has it given you more scope to experiment?
Svein Berge: In every possible way. Our art and our collective lives are intertwined, and the ability to experiment and explore is what drives us further. In what direction, is uncertain though... But it has taken us to places of strange beauty and disturbing darkness.
DD: What were you listening to when you made the album? Did any specific records have a big impact on your songwriting at that time?
Svein Berge: Although we have a very vast and eclectic consumption of music (anything from Jorge Dalto to Kris Menace via R. Kelly to Coil), we have to say no - or at least not intentionally. We never sit down in the studio with the intention to emulate Moroder, Michael Nyman, ZZ Top or whoever, but inspiration and influence usually seep into our music without us knowing...
DD: How healthy is the scene in Bergen at the minute? Any recommendations?
Svein Berge: There is a lot of will, but no talent... Ha ha, ok - seriously, one might suggest there is one school of new artists going down the route of naïve, electronic lo-fi pop and the other camp seems to be dealing within the realm of the dance-rock-thing. We comfortably place ourselves outside of any of these camps. On the side. Alone. As we always have...
DD: What’s next for Royksopp in 2011?
Svein Berge: Probably getting stabbed back in Bergen for the comment above. Other than that, we're playing some dates in the US, Canada and Mexico throughout March and we'll occasionally be DJing here, there and everywhere. We also hope to go visit the Aussies in autumn, and do some European dates before Christmas. There will also be time to work on a new album and do some remixes and production work for other people - we've just done a remix for Kings Of Leon, which turned out pretty, damn good, if we say so ourselves...
Photos by Stian Andersen