Röyksopp Talks Star Wars, Synths, and the Ultra Fest

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Where will you be this evening at approximately 8:15 p.m.?

Well, if you've got a ticket (and even if you don't), make plans to go stand at the foot of Ultra Music Festival's Live Stage. It's definitely where you'll find Crossfade, because synth-y Norwegian duo Röyksopp will be prepping its set at precisely that time.

As a primer, Crossfade reached Berge at his home in Norway not too long ago for a quick conversation. Back then, as a teaser, we posted some of his memories of the last Royksopp gig in Miami.

Now here's the rest of the chat.

Crossfade: When you read about your band, a lot of the biographies and stuff mention the influence of your hometown. But in the states people don't know very much about Scandinavia, and not too much about the scene in Norway. What was the electronic music scene like in your hometown, and how did it influence your band in the early days?

Svein: I can start by telling what the electronic scene was like when I grew up. I am now an old man, or at least in my early 30s -- that's an old man to me. But back in the day, if you will, it has to be said that Torbjorn and myself got interested in electronic music at a very early age, probably a bit by coincidence because we have older siblings that were into music. And they, somehow, introduced us to the likes of Depeche Mode and Kraftwerk and Art of Noise and so on.

We are boys of the Star Wars generation, so the whole thing with space was something that really took up a lot of our time when we were kids, five, six, seven, eight. At the same time, we'd be listening to whatever our parents and big brothers our sisters would be playing on the stereo back home. 

I also understood by looking at, let's say, the cover of a Beatles album, I would understand the sound of a guitar and how a drum kit would sound like, or a piano. I would understand those kinds of sounds quite intuitively.

I remember seeing this documentary when I was about seven, I think, about robots, a Swedish documentary. And the sound for that specific documentary was the track "The Robots" by Kraftwerk. All that put together in the mind of a small child who was fascinated by Luke Skywalker and whatnot, it kind of connected.

So I asked my older brother to try to provide some music by this band, because he could obviously read the end credits for this program. He saw it was Kraftwerk, so he would introduce me to electronic music by buying me some Kraftwerk and Depeche Mode albums at a very early age.

Then Torbjorn had kind of a similar story with his bigger sister, and the two of us became friends when we were about 12 years old. At that point, this was obviously pre-Internet and pre-anything, and we were born and raised in a small city in the very northern part of Norway. So obviously there was no scene, as such, in Tromso in the mid-'80s. 

We really wanted to know more about these synths and all these sounds from the keyboards, so at the age of 12, I bought myself a synthesizer and a drum machine, and Torbjorn bought a synthesizer, and we also bought a synthesizer together. And we srot of started off there, just by being interested in the sounds more than anything. This must have been in 1988, I think. 

At that point, in 1988, in Tromso, most kids our age would be into whatever was on the charts at that time, or probably more likely, stuff like Motley Crue and Metallica and Iron Maiden and all that stuff. That really didn't interest us all that much, so we were part of a very small group, a very small community that was into electronic music. 

I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that there were probably eight people into that kind of music in all of Tromso. So I basically knew everyone!

Let me ask about your last record. Your first studio album came out in 2001 in the States, and then it was four years until your next one. But then, in between 2009 and 2010, you released two albums. Did you plan them as companion releases, and did you write the material at the same time?

Yes, we did write the music at the same time. We did simultaneous work on the things. Obviously, making music, at least to us, is a state of mind. Sometimes you feel like making the more poppy stuff, which is most evident on the Junior LP. 

Other times you feel a bit more experimental and slightly more mature. Well, crap, not mature, that's almost a derogatory term, I'd say! Let's say, more introverted. Sometimes you feel more introverted, and that's when we made the Senior stuff.

So we made the two albums side by side, but we wanted to keep the two different musical outlets separated as an experiment, just to entertain ourselves.

Did you write them in different sessions, or would you switch back and forth, because the mood is so different between the two discs. How would you make the mental switch?

Well, when you're schizophrenic like we are -- no, that's not it. We don't work 20 minutes on one song and then switch and do 20 minutes on the other. It's a long, continuous process. We make the album, let's say for a year or so, then you make one song one day.... And we tend to have very long studio sessions, like 24 hours, and then we go back home and sleep 48 hours, then get up and do the same thing over again. That's sort of our m.o. 

So exactly how we do the switch, I don't know. It's probably chemicals in our body, as  most people have. One day you feel like the world is your oyster and you're the king of it all and you're on top of the things -- and that's probably when we made the Junior bit. And when you feel a bit more blue, that's when you do the Senior stuff, I guess.

What about performing the material live? You have so many different guest vocalists on the Junior album, how do you handle that live? Who sings?

Well, we've done it in different ways. We have had every single one of them tagging along. Now, that's not so easy any more, because obviously, they all have careers on their own. We tend to move around a bit. We have been joining Robyn on some of her shows, so she has been tagging along on a few of ours. 

Anneli [Drecker] is the member who is most likely to come with us to Miami. Again, we try to mix it up a bit to keep it fun for ourselves and those involved. 

You all are known for being into analog synths, which obviously are kind of bulky. So what do you bring for a festival performance?

 It differs from time to time. I guess it depends where we're playing. I remember we were playing in Miami years ago, and we were playing on this beach. I think we broke at least three, if not four keyboards, because they got so filled with sand, which was bit of a pain. I remember even smashing a keyboard on the stage because it stopped working due to all the sand. It was a moment of rock and roll for me!

But we try to bring some of the key analog things, but bringing it all to Miami is basically too expensive, and also too hard on the equipment. I wish there was a way to bring more, because that is the most fun bit for us, is to stand there in this huge fortress of old keyboards. 

It looks a big shitkicker, if I might say. It's a bit camp, in many ways, to stand there and have a lot of keyboards. It's not really cool, and that's why it becomes kind of cool, we think. 

Röyksopp as part of the Ultra Music Festival with a performance on Friday, March 25. Bicentennial Park, 1075 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. Gates open at 4 p.m. on Friday. Tickets are sold out. Visit ultramusicfestival.com.

Follow Crossfade on Facebook and Twitter @Crossfade_SFL.

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