John Talabot and Axel Boman return to their collaborative project and unveil a new visual, as they discuss The Night Land, weird DJ sets and crying on the dancefloor
It’s been four years since the last release by Talaboman, the powerhouse duo of John Talabot and Axel Boman. Now, the two producers have returned from their respective solo projects to the collaboration for The Night Land, an introspective, sonically rich, synth-charged sigh of a debut album. Their initial partnership bore “Sideral”, a fearless, warm, bassline-hopping record that first showed up on Talabot's hallowed DJ-Kicks mix. Their new offering is the soundtrack to a universal bliss shared on sticky dancefloors, in the surf at sunset, heads gathered around laptop screens alike: most of all, it’s a collaboration between musical partners and fond friends. Splitting joint studio time between Barcelona and Stockholm across two years, Talabot and Boman worked closely to craft a sonic landscape quite unlike their individual works – with enough material to make another four LPs, they say.
Today sees the premiere of the visuals for “Safe Changes”, directed by Axel Petersén, with animation by Arild Andersson and starring Mina Talaat and Ido Bercovier. We talked with the pair via Skype about the transcendental rise of their creative process, dodging musical homework, and creating an entirely new beast.
What was the catalyst for working together again?
John Talabot: I think it was not wanting to travel alone. With Axel, it was like: ‘We need to do something more to convince people that they can book us together, travel, and do this project together.’
Axel Boman: It was obviously a nice experience the first time. We have fun together in the studio, it doesn’t feel pressured. It was a natural process with a lot of laughter – I need some fun when I do music.
The first record was so well-received. Were you ever apprehensive about doing another?
Axel Boman: Everything I ever do, I hate (at first). It takes six months to say something kinda worked, and (for me to realise) I’m sitting on a goldmine of unique music. I never expect anything – I was pleasantly surprised and very proud.
John Talabot: After “Sideral” – like a year or something – we heard it was huge in the States. People were playing it a lot. That was confusing. We had fun making it, then Axel came to Barcelona and we were just jamming, (and) we decided that the project should continue. We thought we’d try something longer – we started doing so much that we could do four albums! We always work in a way to record without thinking too much, just using the time together.
Axel Boman: The other day I found this acappella, an old weird vinyl, that I wanted to use for a Talaboman thing, and I was looking in the folder – because we share the same Dropbox – and great, we have 15 tracks we can use these on! It’s nice to have a bit of a library.
“At our point in our lives where we can make music together – making music without any reason, it just feels like freedom from pressure. We are in a position where we can release our dream album” – Axel Boman
Has the Talaboman soundscape evolved much?
Axel Boman: I think we have managed to define what Talaboman is, and what it’s not. I think it’s quite easy for me now to hear when John would love a sample or this sequence, or something that I’ve found.
John Talabot: It’s also refreshing because we usually work alone doing music. We first set some rules about always working in the same room, and every track was done together. For DJ sets, it was ‘no rules’. With Axel, it’s funny, because I play tracks that I would never play alone. Talaboman became its own entity. It’s not the sound that each of us would get in the studio. We always work in Barcelona, Stockholm or Gothenburg. We are super bad with homework!
Axel Boman: Not even my craziest Scandinavian work ethic can bring me to finish tracks without him! There are always obstacles in a studio, there’s two minds, but sometimes you have to just let go.
Was sampling less on The Night Land and recording more a conscious decision?
Axel Boman: Not really – we both saw the Talaboman outlet as a great opportunity to try all of the old synthesisers that we wanted to experiment with.
John Talabot: This album has become like sound designing. We crafted a lot of other tracks with drum machines and effects, synthesisers and some sampling, and picked up a lot of different gear. When we met together in the studio, every track was done with different pieces, but it all has quite a sonic unity. Matt Karmil mixed it, and I think he did a really great job.
How do you decipher what sounds introspective or outward on this record?
John Talabot: The record is like my relationship with Axel. It reflects these crazy moments when we’re on tour. Like playing in Seattle in a really weird house, the first time we were playing together, and it was the best gig ever; we ended at eight in the morning on a Monday. The tracks have this crazy world behind them, but are also melancholic and emotional.
Axel Boman: Since this was made in long sessions, it wasn’t really meant to have a normal song structure. With introverted stuff, it could be four minutes or 12 minutes. Where is this going? It reflects a continuous idea. More traditional electronic music, the extroverted, you suspect what’s next, where the track positions itself: is this meant to be played in a club or in someone’s computer? With this you can take the time and feel it.
“The tracks have this crazy world behind them, but are also melancholic and emotional” – John Talabot
What do you hope for listeners to do with the album?
Axel Boman: Stop the war. Love each other. I want them to realise how fragile life is: the fragility of existence. (laughs)
John Talabot: Like those Chinese cookies with phrases inside.
Axel Boman: No, but, I would love if this album touched someone.
John Talabot: I think this was quite selfish. We wanted to be happy with it, and I wanted to have fun in the studio with Axel. It was great to break our own routine. And Axel is one of my favourite people in the world.
Axel Boman: Any situation where you collaborate, you develop as a person and musician, you have to force yourself to be on-point and engaged.
Do you guys influence each other for the better?
John Talabot: For the worse. (both laugh)
Axel Boman: At our point in our lives where we can make music together – making music without any reason, it just feels like freedom from pressure. We are in a position where we can release our dream album, be very picky and precise about artwork and create this world.
John Talabot: You can get booked for something and the people were expecting something different, or you weren’t so happy with it. With Axel it’s easy to share these moments because we have more or less the same life, but it’s nice to speak about this.
Axel Boman: And sometimes you’re on a line-up and have this room that’s completely on fire – all they want is the hardest music possible because that’s the only thing that could feed the monster...
John Talabot: ...and you don’t feel that...
Axel Boman: ...and it’s like, ‘Shit! I packed the wrong bag!’ You could easily play the weirdest shit ever and never get booked again.
I remember reading about Nina Kraviz in Melbourne having to speak out when a crowd started asking for refunds because ‘wasn’t playing techno’.
Axel Boman: Seriously, being in Nina Kraviz’s position, a woman, she’s taking 100 times more shit than any man would. It’s a really disgusting world sometimes.
John Talabot: And she’s good! She’s a great digger.
Axel Boman: People just saw her as a girl playing records, but Nina is way more than this: she plays really strange records, she plays jungle, fast records, trance, Aphex Twin… a lot of DJs in that position choose the easiest way, and she doesn’t.
John Talabot: I went to see Aphex Twin expecting him to play his first record and he played nothing but other people’s tracks, and I never thought of going to the promoter to complain. It was his artistic decision.
Creativity is really subjective.
Axel Boman: And it’s like Moodymann. Like nobody could go and play a set like Moodymann would. Everybody was like, ‘What the fuck? Why is he changing the tempo again?’, stopping a track, talking a little bit, then playing another record… but since it’s Moodymann, you’re like, ‘Wow, OK’.
What can expect from the show that you’re doing on tour?
John Talabot: Fun, fun, fun – and cries.
Axel Boman: Crisis? Fun and crisis?
John Talabot: Cries.
Axel Boman: Christ?
John Talabot: People crying.
Axel Boman: Ahh, people crying. Fun.
John Talabot: People crying on the dance floor.
Axel Boman: Have you heard about the second coming of Jesus?
The Night Land will be released on R&S Records March 3