Lindstrøm Could Never Be Perfect Enough for Ke$ha — Q&A
Lindstrøm

Photo: Lin Stensrud

Producers say more with their hands than their voice and Hans-Peter Lindstrøm is no exception. The Norwegian producer and DJ has released four albums, dozens of remixes and countless one-offs singles and EPs through his Feedelity label, yet before the upcoming Six Cups of Rebel, Silent Bob was more loquacious. “Every time, I’m trying to do something different from the previous album,” he says. Like any Lindstrom album, Rebel is nothing like its predecessors, with the producer scattering his own vocals throughout the album for the first time—in heavily processed form, but still his. Opening track “No Release” sounds like a church organist on mescaline, while prog, acid house and Detroit techno all get filtered through looping arpeggios and ARP synthesizers.

When we met at some fashionable West Village hotel where silver-haired men check in with blond trophies and leather jackets are worn without irony, Lindstrom—skinny, unshaven, bag of DFA records in hand—fits right in, yet his lack of vocals on record is hardly for lack of personality. From a New York hotel balcony, the producer, talkative and affable, discusses using his own vocals, being in a Deep Purple tribute band and sharing the pick-up line guaranteed to get you laid in Norway.

Let’s get the obvious question out of the way first. What the hell does Six Cups of Rebel mean?

I was reading this book of Bob Dylan poetry called “Tarantula” and a lot of the titles I used were from that book for some reason. It’s a phrase from something I read in his poems. I liked the sound of it and I was like, “What does this mean?” But it sounded good, so let’s use it.

Did your equipment setup change on this album versus past releases?

While I was recording Where You Go I Go and working with Christabelle, I was buying a lot of hardware stuff.  I was geeking out and I think I overdid it [laughs]. In the end, I was just going into the studio and seeing all the stuff and thinking, “Where should I begin? There’s so much here.” So one day, I just entered the room and just decided I don’t need this stuff anymore and sold half of it. I kept those few things that I appreciated the most.

So what’s the one piece of equipment you can’t live without?

The Yamaha CS60, which I’ve had for three or four months and it just died. It’s been unrepaired for two and a half years or something, and I’m not sure that I will ever get it back working. It’s really sad, because it’s the best thing I’ve ever owned. On Six Cups of Rebel, I just scaled down everything and just decided to do it like when I first started making music: with a computer, Midi keyboard and lots of pirate plug-ins.

The whole “Beauty in simplicity” vibe?

Yeah. Sometimes I get a little bored when everything is done the traditional way. You can mic correctly and get a good drum sound, but if you do it a different way and mic up everything wrong, you get a crappy sound but sometimes it adds personality. These days, I get the feeling that everybody’s all about getting the really expensive mics to get the right sound on the drums and vocals, but I think some of the reason why I like the old stuff from the ’80s is because it’s recorded very poor and raw like a demo. It’s sometimes much more interesting than what is being recorded today because everything is so perfect now and sounds the same. I’m trying to find ways of escaping; I don’t have the engineer ears to make my music sound like a lot of the really well-produced stuff.

You wouldn’t produce for Ke$ha or Britney Spears if they asked?

No, I don’t think I would ever get that perfect sound. Even though I work with only a computer, everything ends up sounding a little wrong—a little weird in a way—but I guess that’s a good thing in the end because maybe that’s my signature or something. On the first track ["No Release"], the organ intro track, I was thinking that maybe I should do this in a church, but then I decided that it’s more interesting to do a cheap, Midi church-sounding presets.

Was there a plan going into the album or was it more about going into the studio and seeing what comes out?

Every time, I’m trying to do something different from the previous album. I just wanted to do something that I hadn’t done before and I guess that’s why I wanted to include vocals of mine as well. It might not be the traditional way of using vocals, but I never really have done anything traditional. I started with a few tracks and thought, “Okay, this is something that might work.”

Are you self-conscious about your voice?

I know that my voice isn’t the typical, good-schooled voice or something like that, but many times it’s more interesting with voices that don’t sound like Bono or however it’s supposed to sound. That’s why I really like the voice of [longtime collaborator] Christabelle as well, because she’s weird and she’s just making up things while she sings. Nothing is planned. It doesn’t really always make sense what she’s singing, but that’s kind of charming. When I’m listening to her lyrics, it’s more like words in English that sound good more than the meaning of the lyrics.

Like those old disco records with just a female vocalist cooing for 10 minutes.

Right. The main focus is definitely not on the lyrics. I’ve been fascinated by a lot of disco records that have basically one or two sentences or even only one word sung over and over again. I don’t think I’m able to write a traditional lyric like a verse or refrain; I really think that there’s many more ways of doing it. I just decided to do it my way this time.

You were once in a Deep Purple tribute band. How does a dance guy get into metal?

That was the music I was listening to while I was in college, like all kinds of cheesy heavy metal; everything from Kiss to Yngwie Malmsteen and that Swedish guitar, neo-classical kind of stuff. I still like a lot of it now. It’s really cheesy, but the music that you grew up with will always sound good. You will always have some memories.

Are there any videos of you doing “Smoke on the Water” floating around?

[Laughs] I know there are some videos somewhere. We used to rehearse three kilometers from where I was living and I was playing this big Hammond organ. Where I’m from, it’s all farmers and tractors. None of us had any cars, but my friend had a tractor, so when we had to rehearse, I had to put my organ behind the tractor and hold it while we were driving. Everything was shaking and there were delicate tubes in there, so I was like “Wow. If my organ gets destroyed!….”

Do you approach a remix differently from your own productions?

On this album — because of the vocals — I decided to treat my vocals as if I got it from somebody else. I didn’t want it to sound like my own natural voice, so I just pitch shifted up and down and processed it just to get the distance from your own vocals.

It’s like an out-of-body experience.

Yeah. I think that was the only way I could do this album. One of the best things with remixes is that you get something that you’re not involved in yourself and you’re able to keep or throw away whatever you want. Usually, I keep a lot of the vocals and maybe some drums and synthesizers and I add a lot of synths or guitars or whatever. I like having that freedom to do whatever you want with an already existing track; it’s a really interesting way of working with music.

I haven’t been to Norway, but if I go, what’s the one Norwegian pick-up line I need to know?

Do you know any?

Only “Is skinny dipping allowed in the fjord?”

Who taught you that?

The Internet.

[Laughs.]

There has to be a better one, though.

You know, I don’t know if you say it in English, but in Norway, there’s the classical phrase “Can I show you my stamp collection?”

Excuse me?

Is that something that you guys have?

No. Is it a metaphor or do you mean an actual stamp collection?

Actual stamps. It’s more like if you’re a nerd and you want to impress a girl and the only thing you have that you think is impressive is this stamp collection. That would be a perfect introduction to a lady.

Has that worked in the past?

[Laughs.] I’ve never really used it.

Six Cups of Rebel is out now on Smalltown Supersound.

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