Lindstrí¸m: The simple things

“It’s been busy the last five or six years,” replies Norwegian maestro Hans-Peter Lindstrí¸m when inthemix asks if he’s had a busy summer. “Summer, winter, all the time. I feel more busy then ever, but I’m not complaining.” That prodigious work ethic paid off with two albums in 2012. The first, Six Cups of Rebel, was unpredictable, uneven and gonzo in its approach. In the words of its creator, the album “isn’t the typical music you play in a late-night Berlin club”. Lindstrí¸m then set to work on a “straight-forward” follow-up, Smalhans, featuring six shimmering, streamlined records made with minimal fuss. You might not be able to pronounce any of the names – try Fāār-i-kāāl or Lāmm-Ä™l-āār – but you will feel compelled to the dancefloor.

Very soon, Lindstrí¸m will be back to channel that Smalhans spirit on a Future Classic tour. He’s bringing the live set to Paradiso at Sydney Festival and a special sideshow in Melbourne alongside Metro Area’s Darshan Jesrani. It’s been a few years between visits. “I’m looking forward to coming back to play,” he says. “My music is a little different now than last time I was there. I really like Australia, although it takes 30 hours to get there for me. But when I’m there I will totally enjoy it!”

When did you start working on Smalhans? Did you go back to the studio soon after finishing Six Cups Of Rebel?

I think I started it the day after I finished the previous album. I guess I just needed to do something different and more straight-forward. What happened was that I somehow finished this album in less than a month. I thought, well, maybe I’ll just release two this year.

That’s so interesting you started the very next day. It must have been such a change in your head-space.

Yes, I need to do that. Especially if I’ve just worked on something experimental and weird, I always get this reaction of needing to make something easier on the ears.

Is that a personal feeling, or how you imagine other people will react?

I guess it’s both. First of all, it’s personal. When I first started listening to music, it was when I was nine or ten years old. I’d listen to pop music in the early ‘80s; local radio stations playing Top 40 music. In the ‘80s, that was really good music. I guess I still really like a good pop song. Even though I like doing weird and crazy stuff, what I enjoy most is trying to make the perfect pop song – in my head. So these instrumental tracks are more…easy listening I guess. It’s something I really enjoy doing.

Especially on this album, I tried to make them as simple as possible. I wanted to make the structure easy and simple, and focus on clean sounds. Six Cups was totally crazy all over. So it was good I didn’t merge those two sides into one album.

As well as that pop element, this one’s pretty focused on the dancefloor as well. When you toured Six Cups, what were some of the reactions you were getting to that material?

It’s different from club to club and city to city. When I played in a typical Berlin nightclub, people didn’t understand anything! [Laughs] But if I play at an arts festival in Krakí³w or Italy, the reaction is much better. Six Cups Of Rebel isn’t the typical music you play in a late-night, Berlin club.

It will definitely be easier to promote Smalhans. I guess I’ve been making it hard for myself: Where You Go… was really long, and the one with Christabelle was more pop. For some reason, people regard me as a DJ more than a live band, so I get invited to play clubs mostly, and it’s much easier to play club music in a club. I really think I will get a better reception with this album, but I will definitely do something weird again.

So it’s a cycle.

Yeah, I don’t want to do one thing. Especially if you’re doing music for a living, it’s easy to get preoccupied with what kind of music sells. I don’t want my career to end up like that. I don’t want to be a robot, doing the same album every time. It’s been working for me for more than ten years now…

You’ve also described the album as ‘streamlined’, which I thought was a good word for it.

On my previous albums, I’ve been making transitions between the songs and I just wanted this album to be a small collection of individual tracks without tying them together. I made all those tracks in less than a month and I was using the same equipment for them all. That’s probably why it feels uniform.

And I’ve read that you used presets in quite an organic way.

[Laughs] Yeah, I did, which was a reaction to the previous album. On Six Cups…, I was twisting sounds in the craziest ways possible. But more or less everything on Smalhans is presets from Logic. I guess you’re not ‘allowed’ to do that, but the focus on expensive vintage instruments and synths is driving me crazy. I’ve been there before, but I don’t understand why the music is so much better using an original Yamaha keyboard from the ‘70s.

The most important thing for me is to find the sounds quickly when I’m making the music. If I come to the studio and my vintage synthesiser doesn’t work, I lose the creative flow of things. Then I spend the day fixing the synth instead of making music. And the thing is, when I started making music, I only had an old computer and a sequencer. Most of the songs on the It’s a Feedelity Affair compilation were more or less only plug-ins on a computer. Even though it sounds more ‘organic’, that’s how I did it. On this album, I wanted to see what would happen if I made music like I did ten years ago.

And you don’t really listen to much contemporary electronic music, right? Does that help your process?

I tend to copy everything I listen to, and if I listen only to electronic music, I’ll just copy everything the other guys were doing! Then my music would sound like all the other contemporary DJ music. I listen to rock bands or old stuff, the music I don’t really make myself.