As we mentioned a couple weeks back, the Norwegian electro artist Binärpilot has been working on a new release. His new album, Nordland, finally came available on Jamendo last week and has already received stellar reviews from Jamendo users! Since the Jamendo community is loving his new album, we thought you'd like to get to know the man behind Binärpilot. Read on for ten questions with Alexander Støver.
Ten Questions with Binärpilot
- Tell us about growing up in Norway and what inspired you to start creating electronic music. Where do you currently live?
I am naturally biased, but Norway is a very beautiful country. I didn't fully comprehend this in my youth, because I had nothing to compare it to. But now that I am older and looking back --- it's simply stunning. I grew up in Bodø, the biggest city in Nordland. My father was very fond of being outdoors and would bring me and my younger sister a lot of scenic places. I especially remember trips to our small cabin at Gjømmervatnet. Beautiful at day and absolutely terrifying at night. We would peek out the window and swear we could see trolls lurking in the shadows of the forest surrounding us.
I enjoyed music, and especially singing, from day one. I would be on the swings in kindergarden singing Michael Jackson songs (poorly). I started performing in the school band when I was 10. When I was around 12, I was in my first "real" band (doing cover songs). After that it went from band to band, covering a wide spectrum of genres from progressive rock to speed metal. I wrote a lot of songs, but never learned how to play an instrument. I wanted to, on more than one occasion, but lacked the discipline and was far more fascinated with computers.
When I got my first computer at age 15 and discovered the scene, everything changed. The next few years I lost all my friends and became completely obsessed with trackers. It was such an amazing feeling to compose that everything else paled in comparison. I was very uncertain about a lot of things in my teenage years, but that I wanted to create music was definite. I had found the meaning of life.
I currently live in Oslo with my beautiful wife.
- Do you experiment with other kinds of music or play any traditional or acoustic instruments?
I hope it's apparent to people who listen to my music that I'm not really concerned with genres. That's not to say Binärpilot doesn't have a distinct sound, but I make songs that I like. As long as it isn't forced in any direction I am cool with it. I have done the Bee Gee's thing, tried to rap (on several occasions), played half a song in reverse and so on. I did a lot more experiments when I was still working out what my music was about, and I am definitely more set in my ways now. I still challenge myself every so often to work within certain limitations. It's liberating to me.
I know a couple songs on guitar, and that's about it. A group of fans bought me a microKORG that I use a lot for sketching and vocoding, but I wouldn't dare call myself a keyboardist. I have no formal training in music whatsoever, and couldn't tell you the key to any of my songs. I create what sounds good to me - there's a lot of trial and error involved.
- Tell us about your upcoming album! How does Nordland align with your past albums or how is it different?
Nordland is my most accomplished work to date and I am really happy with how it turned out. There are things I would like to change or continue working on, but at one point you just have to say enough. I think it's easy to hear that it builds on, or even continues, a lot of previous work. The biggest difference is the length, it's ten songs and not the usual 4-6. When the donations started rolling in for printing I wanted to take the opportunity and make something special for the fans. I was flabbergasted by how fast the fundraiser hit the target amount, and my only regret is that it took so long to finish. These past few years have been hectic and in the end I had to take three weeks vacation from work to finish it.
I should point out that Nordland is produced by fans. The print, marketing, everything is covered by donations.
- How long does it take for you to produce each track? Tell us about the different aspects that go into every song you create – from finding inspiration to the actual production.
It depends on the song. Sometimes you hit a vein of inspiration that takes you from beginning to end fairly quick, but for the most part there is a lot of hard work involved. The few times I get to work full-time with a track I'd say it takes a week or two. I start by goofing around, making some beats and probably a bass line. If I hit the wall within first few hours I usually move on to something else. If not I start associating with the patterns, trying to figure out where it's coming from. Usually that gives me a sense of direction, like, what I am trying to say in this song. To me music is basically about sharing emotions.
Take Penguin for instance. At the time of composing it, I am stuck in Norway, and Rachael is stuck in America. The song has several (conflicting) emotions that somehow come together in a way that fits. The lead is vulnerable and melancholic and the bass-line is frustrated and angry. When it all comes together, it is a song about longing. And love. Penguin is sad and happy at the same time, and one of my favorite tracks on the album.
- Are there any recurrent themes or messages you tried to convey in the songs that make up the new album?
Every song has it's own story. I don't like giving too much away because it's very rewarding to hear how others interpret them. On a whole it's about growing up, the ideas and aspirations you have in your youth and how they evolve. For me it was coming to terms with being human (and not a robot) and accepting the fact that I will fall short of my own ambitions, but there's no resignation in it. It's become important to me to try and appreciate the world and the people in it instead of being in opposition to everything. That's not to say there isn't things that need to change, but you can't take the world on your shoulders. Life is too short to be miserable. So dance! Yeah, dance like nobody is watching. That's the message.
- What is your day to day life like? What do you like to do when you're not creating music?
I work as a web developer and am fortunate enough have my best friend working with me. When I come home I am greeted by my gorgeous wife. We hang out and talk about our day, then probably watch a show or two before I retire to the computer. Hopefully to make music, but more frequently to play games with friends. I find it difficult to produce during weekdays. My work demands a lot of me so I rarely have the energy. Luckily I don't work weekends, so unless we have something planned, I find time to compose then. I don't get to work with Binärpilot as much as I would like to, but I still consider myself privileged to have such a great life, family and friends. And fans!
- Have you created any music videos to accompany your new album or do you plan to?
I'm happy to say there is at least two groups of people working on videos for Nordland tracks. Looking forward to seeing what they come up with. Actually, all the music videos you see out there are made by fans. It would be cool to be involved once, but I am completely clueless when it comes to making videos. I'm not shy of ideas, but when creative people do something for Binärpilot I want them to do their own thing.
- What are your five favorite albums of all time to listen to?
Not thinking about it:
- Aphex Twin - Richard D. James Album
- Pink Floyd - The Wall
- Yes - Close To The Edge
- Primus - Frizzle Fry
- System Of A Down - System Of A Down
- How has your sound evolved since you started creating music and where do you see it going in the future?
It's become so mainstream that secretly cry myself to sleep each night. No, while it certainly has become more accessible, I'm confident that it's light years away from turning into what I am fighting. Among other things, Binärpilot has always been an attempt at showing that pop music shouldn't have to be bland, soulless and shallow. The popollution must die.
More than anything I think the sound has gotten better and the compositions more complex, without necessarily sounding that way. If that makes sense. It feels to me like a natural progression. Actually, you can usually tell where my next album is headed by listening to the last track on every release. So if that holds true for Nordland, there will be a lot more singing in the future. Yeah, I want to use my voice more.
- What is one thing you'd like your Jamendo fans to know about you?
I lied earlier in this interview and am in fact a robot.