Auf Einladung des Icelandic Music Exports war ich vor zwei Wochen in Groningen auf dem Eurosonic Festival unterwegs und hatte die Chance, Janus Rasmussen und Ã“lafur Arnalds von Kiasmos zu interviewen. Die beiden sind mit ihrem gemeinsamen Projekt gerade auf Festival-Tour in Europa unterwegs (Tourdaten am Ende des Interviews). Vor Ihrem Auftritt im Grand Theater Groningen am 15. Januar trafen wir uns zum Gespräch. Dabei verrieten sie mir, woher der Name des Projekts eigentlich stammt, warum sich Kiasmos“™ Musikstil seit 2009 so gewandelt hat – und dass man ihre Musik am besten beim Sex hören sollte.
The myth about Kiasmos is, that you hung around together and just found out, that it would be fun making music together. Is that true? How did it really happen?
Janus: Me and my other band Bloodgroup were touring around Iceland and Ã“li had mixed us at one venue in Reykjavik this time. So he came with us on tour. And me and Ã“li got into that scene of electronic music, that was going on during that time. And when we got back we started meeting up and making some techno – and drinking some gin and tonic.
Gin Tonic is the fuel for your creativity then?
Ã“lafur: That changes from time to time.
Janus: Now it“™s more Whiskey. We matured a bit.
What does the name of the band mean? Where does it come from?
Ã“lafur: It“™s from a friend of mine in London – now he lives in Amsterdam – who was studying for his PhD in literature at that time. And he learned that word at school – chiasmus. It“™s a grammatical term. He called me and said „Hey, I got that great name for a band.“ But he never started a band, as he“™s not a musician. So he told me, I could use it for this project.
And now you pay him a loooot of money?
Ã“lafur: Yeah, he gets 20 percent of everything. Haha.
Your album was really well received. What was the reaction you liked most?
Janus: It just really surprised me, how many people actually like it. Even people who I didn“™t think they would like this sort of music. This trance-ambient-techno-music.
Ã“lafur: It“™s a much wider audience than we thought it would be. I really like that, too.
So it was an experiment for you? A bit like „trial and error“?
Ã“lafur: We just made music. Without thinking about who was going to listen to it.
The music you are making now is really different from what you made in 2009, when you published your first EP. It was rather strong, hard techno. How did that shift happen to the music your making now?
Ã“lafur: One day we were in the studio, while I was writing my solo-album. We thought about not really making a remix but sampling some of the strings that I had on my album. And then we created „Thrown“.
Kiasmos – „Thrown“:
.. which was in 2012 already, right?
Ã“lafur: Yeah. It“™s also on the new album, but we changed it a little bit. And that was how we discovered this way of making music. To mix the strings and the piano. And after that we just completely went down that way to always work with the piano and always work with strings. It was just not a decision that we made. We just discovered something.
What do you want your listeners to take from your music and when do you want them to listen to it?
Janus: They can listen to it whenever they want. Actually I would like people to listen to it, while they“™re making love. That“™s my only wish!
Ã“lafur: I hate talking about when people should listen to my music. The can listen to it wherever and whenever they want to. I´ve heard it in restaurants, I´ve heard it in stores, in supermarkets – and in clubs, and actually they“™re played quite often in clubs.
Isn“™t it difficult for DJs to play your tracks in a club where people want to dance because of the long gaps when there“™s no beat for a long time?
Ã“lafur: Well, it“™s quite tricky to mix it in a club.
Janus: I think so, as well! I think that“™s why there“™s only two or three tracks DJs usually use because the other ones are to hard to mix into straight techno. I think that“™s „Looped“, „Thrown“ and „Swayed“.
How big was the influence of your other band Bloodgroup, Janus?
Janus: I don“™t know how big, I mean… I made three albums with that band and made a lot of experiments. And I bring some of that into Kiasmos.
What is it that Kiasmos gives you that you don“™t get in your solo projects?
Ã“lafur: It“™s dancing!
Janus: Yeah! And for me, as well it“™s the instrumental thing. Because everything I usually write is very pop-arted and has a verse and a chorus, and so on. And for me this music is just completely free of that.
And without any lyrics!
Janus: Yes. Sometimes I start humming along to the songs, but then I“™m like „No, this is not, what it“™s about!“ It“™s just different. And also, there“™s no way to listen just to the start of a Kiasmos-track. You have to listen to the whole thing to see if it“™s doing anything. While with a popsong you listen to the verse and you know what it is about. Even though there“™s very little going on in the tracks – and a lot going on at the same time.
Ã“lafur: Yeah, there are multiple layers. There“™s deep stuff and there“™s also the stuff on top. I really like music that gives you something different depending on the context it is in. If you hear it in a club you will mostly notice the beat and you“™ll dance to it and you can listen to it at home and you“™ll recognize the intricate string arrangements, the tiny details in the synthesizers it gives you a different kind of pleasure.
And what does the Kiasmos-project give to you, Ã“lafur?
Ã“lafur: It gives me kind of freedom to do stuff that I want to do and that I wouldn“™t do in my solo projects. The solo-stuff that I do is also very organized and with big arrangements. And when we go on tour we go with twelve to 15 people in the touring-party, and sometimes we tour with an orchestra of 50 people. So there“™s a lot of responsibilty, there“™s all the arrangements and all the ideas on how you want this production to be like. There“™s the the movies where you“™re dealing very formally with producers. While with Kiasmos it“™s just two friends having fun.
So you don“™t think at all about the economic success of Kiasmos?
Ã“lafur: We don“™t think about the money. It“™s great if we get money for it. But we have our other projects for this.
How do you work together? Do you come together in a studio or do write mails?
Janus: We work together in a studio. We have studios that are in a big studio-complex. And Ã“li has its own, I have my own. And we usually work in Ã“lis studio now because everything is there. Sometimes I´m in my studio and he“™s working on some score and then I“™m like: „Hey, should me make some techno afterwards?!“ and then go over to his room – so that is that!
Ã“lafur: This really clears the mind of a whole day working on a score!
Janus: And then we do whatever – there“™s no plan!
So, it“™s like a catharsis?
Ã“lafur: Well, rather like a holiday! Like getting some fresh air or going outside.
Janus: And we allow ourselves a lot! Sometimes we just mess around a whole evening if we want to.
Ã“lafur: There“™s no pressure to release it. I remember one day when we started and we ended up making a super pop song. And then talking about selling it to a pop artist.
Janus: Haha, yeah!
Ã“lafur: We don“™t have to deliver an album or a score for a movie to this director the next day. We can just play around. It doesn“™t matter if we don“™t make any progress. And that“™s so great. Sometimes we make a song which is totally unuseful but we learn from it and then we“™re happy.
Are you planning to publish something new, already?
Ã“lafur: Yes, we made some new stuff, we“™re playing one new song at this tour – not tonight however. Because we only got 45 minutes. But if nobody is throwing us off the stage, we“™ll play it. But yes, there are two new songs.
Janus: We finished the first album in May. So it“™s been a while, already. So now we start again. Because, when you only got one album, it“™s really difficult playing gigs. You just need a bit more for that.
How will you present your tracks on stage tonight?
Ã“lafur: We“™ve rearranged the songs.
Janus: And we have drum-machines and live-stuff. And then we have our own lights and projections.
Ã“lafur: It“™s more of a visual show. We have a VJ, he“™s called MÃ¡ni Sigfusson, an Icelandic guy, who did the videos for our tour. He“™s quite well-known and works with a lot of artists.
Janus: We had some small ideas but actually he did it on his own.
Das Video zu „Burnt“ von MÃ¡ni Sigfusson:
And how about touring? Are you planning a bigger tour, as well?
Ã“lafur: We have an American tour coming up. It will be our longest tour so far, it“™s going to be ten days.
Did you ever think of using vocals in your tracks?
Janus: I acutally like the music as it is. If we would, maybe we could use vocals to do some ambient-vocal-stuff.
Ã“lafur: I could imagine working with a choir or something like that, not using words.
Do you have any recommendations on new music you“™re listening too, yourselves?
Janus: Yes. You should check Dauwd. He just made a really cool remix, I just don“™t remember for whom. And the new D“™Angelo-album – and something else, that begins with „D“. Haha!
Nach dem Auftritt in Groningen und zwei weiteren Performances in der Schweiz wird die Kiasmos-Tour am 13.3. fortgesetzt. Hier kommen die Termine:
13.3. Convergence, London
14.3. SÃ³nar Festival, Kopenhagen
17.4. Elita Design Week Festival, Mailand
19.6. SÃ³nar Festival, Barcelona