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Beastie Respond - Fictitious Nostalgia

Rob Eves
beastie respond interview

Ever wanted to know would happen if Soft Cell and This Mortal Coil teamed up to make drum & bass? It's been a huge concern of ours as well. Well fear not, as Denmark's Beastie Respond might have the answer…

We do like new music we do. We especially like new music when it sounds a bit like old music without sounding not like new music, if you catch my drift there. Blending the old with the new, Copenhagen's Beastie Respond is a name that's been on the lips and in the record bags of those in the know for a fair while now, and we think he's a sure bet to catapult to 170 BPM electronica superstardom in 2013, bringing with it immeasurable fame, wealth, perhaps some form of public recognition in the New Year's Honours list- or perhaps just a few room 2 sets at Fabric.

Although his debut album isn't due to drop for a couple of months, we've been blessed in the meantime with a pretty special sampler 12", a wonderful 3-track selection of 80s inspired funky breakbeat action that it's fair to say we have been absolutely battering at the Ivory Towers Of Music Snobbery, aka Organic HQ, aka a Facebook chat thread. Having slept 3 hours out of the last 40 I'm going to stop chatting shit now and let the man tell you a bit about it himself.

To date, you've been a fairly quiet producer on the releases front and yet here we are discussing your first full length album, something that takes most producers years of release experience to develop the knack to pull off, if they put one out at all. Why do you think this has been the case? What have been the biggest challenges, and the biggest advantages to working within the album format?

I think it depends on where you aim with your music. I think the single format is ideal for club use- the fact that there is only one track per side in most cases has a great effect on the sound of the record. If you cram too many tunes on there, the record is not suitable for a club soundsystem. On the other hand this not as important (at least to me) when it comes to my album, because I never aimed to write a club orientated album. So if you are a composer and a producer want to make club tracks, then why make an album?

"I haven't felt any urge to confine myself to a specific stylistic direction so I've tried to draw on all the styles of music that I love."

An album to me is a lot more than a collection of singles. You can go so many places within the album format, and create some sort of narrative that simply isn't possible to create on the single format. One of the biggest challenges was to write tracks that lived up to my own criteria for quality and keep developing ideas, so that all of the tracks can stand out in some way. I have put a lot of effort into creating something new, so that there is a difference from my earlier releases to the album. The biggest advantage has been the format actually. The freedom of not being restricted to the single format, and as I said to be able to create some sort of narrative. Also writing an album has played a big role in a personal learning process, where I feel that I have come close to "my sound" and a place that I need to explore some more. And in addition to all this I don't think that I am very good at writing club tracks.

"Fictitious Nostalgia"- two highly evocative and almost oxymoronic words. Where did the name come from and what's the significance of its meaning?

When I was in the studio with Emilie Reimers to record the vocals for the track entitled "Please Stop Running" we discussed various propositions for titles that would fit the album and the idea behind it. I have been using analog synthesizers heavily in the writing process to capture the aesthetic in sound of the 80s and a bit earlier as well. It's funny because I am too young to have experienced these periods in time, but I am really attracted to the sounds and melodies from these musical eras. I choose the word nostalgia, because thats the easiest way to describe my attraction to this music. And nostalgia is a very powerful feeling. Obviously though I can't really be nostalgic about it, and hence "Fictitious Nostalgia."

Listening to the album sampler, what most strikes me is the variety of the material- both in sonic terms and in mood. While "Wait For Me" the most discernibly rich in emotion, "UL90" has a certain vague, wandering quality and "Jetliner" is just straight-up funky. What other styles, atmospheres and vibes do you hope to have conveyed across the rest of the album?

I don't know if I can give you an exact answer to that question but to me the album is very emotional from start to finish. I think it's atmospheric and cinematic in some ways- melody plays an important role in my music in general which is also quite evident on the album. Rhythmically and sonically we go everywhere from something that could be called drum & bass to dubstep to hip hop to techno and at some points to funk and rock as well. I haven't felt any urge to confine myself to a specific stylistic direction so I've tried to draw on all the styles of music that I love.

As a side note to that, "Wait For Me" has really played a key role in the writing process for the rest of the album, as it really set the bar for me. When I first started working on that track I had no Idea that it would turn into what it did. When I received the vocal tracks that Alia Fresco recorded herself, the track was suddenly turned into a song. She breathed life into it with her lyrics and her vocal in a way that really inspired me to write the rest of the album.

Tell us a bit about your influences. There's been something of a revival of all things '80s in the last few years, not just in electronic music but also in popular music and mainstream culture. Is your eminent influence from this era based upon this recent resurgence or are its roots much deeper? Where else do you take your musical cues from?

I have always been listening to music from that era. I grew up on eighties rock and metal- as I mentioned earlier there is just something about the aesthetic of this era that really took a hold on me. Of course the "revival" of this sound has played a role of some sort. I don't think you can be unbiased by what is happening around you. Instra:mental and dBridge really inspired me to try and combine different styles that haven't been combined before. Also guys like Washed Out, Kuedo and Com Truise has proven to me that this kind of aesthetic is still relevant, which kinda encouraged me to go with my guts. My musical cues come from everywhere- sometimes I get inspired by other music, sometimes I am inspired by an everyday event, a movie, a walk or a bike ride. Names like Ozzy Osbourne, Pink Floyd, Sabbath, The Cure have had a massive influence on me over the last 10 or 15 years.

Although bearing little in common to "drum & bass" in a traditional sense aside from tempo, your music does tend to be (for whatever it's worth) categorised as such, and of course has been best-received and supported from within this scene. Coming out of Copenhagen, which I hope it's fair to say is not a city with much in the way of a history in the genre, can you explain how you've found your way into it? What's the current shape of the Copenhagen electronic music landscape in general?

The answer may be quite dull… I have been into electronic music since I was given a record by the danish musician Bjørn Svin at the age of 10, but I didn't engage in it on a serious level before I learned about drum & bass via the Drum & Bass Arena podcast- the first one I listened to was a Renegade Hardware Podcast mixed by Manifest- at this time I wasn't going to clubs or anything so I just dug into it as some sort of solitary musical journey and I stuck with it. It's true that the music I write now might not be easily connected with drum & bass, but I don't feel obliged to stay within the genre boundaries as a musician. But still I have been moulded by drum & bass as a producer, and I think that it has been a great upbringing for me. Guys like Loxy and dBridge have really shown me great support all the way since my debut release "Syncopy" came about, which I am very grateful for.

The drum & bass scene in Copenhagen has its ups and downs. I think it's really healthy for the bigger names, but the more interesting and experimental names only attract smaller crowds. The electronic music in a more general perspective is quite healthy I think. We have loads of talented people here. Recently I have started putting local nights together with my friend RDG, and this has turned out to be really really successful. We are doing these parties in a small basement in the northwest neighbourhood of Copenhagen which is a bit far from everything else, but these nights has been pure vibes so far. Techno music is very popular here right now like everywhere else.

The album will be dropping on Teal Recordings, who of course are also Copenhagen-based. I notice that of Teal's releases, you've been involved with almost half of them- could you tell us a bit about Teal and what it represents as a stable, and about your working relationship with them?

Simon, who is the head of Teal Recordings is a good friend of mine and I have been working with him very closely, and now I am also doing A&R for Teal Recordings along with Simon, as we seem to share a good musical taste… or at least we like to think that of ourselves! Simon has put a lot of trust into my music and his willingness to let my music take up so much space in the Teal catalogue carries great importance in relation to where I am now. During the rest of 2013 I will not take up much space except for the album. We have lined up a great series of releases for the rest of the year.

"The music I write now might not be easily connected with drum & bass, but I don't feel obliged to stay within the genre boundaries as a musician."

Finally then, what else have you got in store for the year so far, releases wise or otherwise? Can we expect to see you gracing any DJ line ups in the UK anytime soon?

I have quite a few gigs here in Denmark during Spring and one gig in Vilnius, but so far no gigs in the UK… so I will finish with an encouragement for someone to book me, as I would love to come over and play!

"Fictitious Nostalgia's" LP Sampler is out now on Teal Recordings- look out for the full LP around mid-April.