If you missed Electronic Beats Festival Cologne, you missed a hell of a party! One of our prime party-starters was the Swedish electro-pop project Miike Snow, who wowed the crowd with a slick set of their moving sounds. We caught up with Miike Snow in Cologne to discuss looking ahead, Apocalypse Now, and the formative powers of Depeche Mode.
Electronic Beats: I had this conversation with Arto Lindsay the other day, you know Arto Lindsay? He’s a musician from New York who used to be with DNA. He works with Sakamoto now.
Miike Snow: Oh yeah!
He told me that he’s also a producer and he won a Latin Grammy once for a very, very experimental record he did with Marisa Monte. He once told me that the job of the producer is to always be basically ahead of time; he has to live in the future. When you are a musician and recording your own records as well, then the question is: are you living in the present times or are you living in the future and how does this influence the music you make? Since you also do production and re-mixing for other people, as well as doing your own music, I wonder how this connects with each other?
I can definitely see the point of what he is saying. But…my way of looking at it, I think that goes for all of us, is that it has to be effortless. As soon as you say “you have to live in the future” it stops being effortless and it stops being spontaneous. You have to be interested in looking past the present but in a way that is intuitive and not in a way that is struggling. But I also see that as a part of the job.
Maybe he meant it in a way that you in look in hindsight. I think sometimes you effortlessly do inspiring things, but it’s only in hindsight that you realize they were inspiring.
That’s probably very true. Especially if you’re the only one knowing when you did it. We’ve been quite kind of ahead of time, in a sense. Maybe it is a stupid comparison but that’s probably the same for fashion designers.
It’s not stupid at all, it’s very interesting.
But fashion designers have to take so many other things into consideration. That the clothes are going to work, how to manufacture them, how to do it in an affordable way. That’s kind of the same thing we have. There’s a lot of practical stuff and a lot of responsibility that comes with it. But from inspiration point of view, that is true.
But speaking of fashion, what everyone says is the main thing to learn about is details. How much attention do you pay to details when it comes to your own music? Because when you say effortless do you mean less detailed…
No, not necessarily. I think, without thinking about it, we are so into details and our own music. Like sometimes, maybe it would be better to take a step back, you know, but it’s hard.
This kind of detail, you have to do night shifts.
One thing that a producer has to have is to go from a micro perspective to a macro perspective. You go and do something on a detailed level and then you zoom out and you look at the whole thing, the song, the album, then the whole career. I think that’s definitely hard. I do remember when we started. In the beginning you’re so into it, you never want to take something out that you’re so proud of. Maybe it’s amazing in itself, but maybe it also doesn’t help the song as a whole.
Maybe it’s like film directors. They film this butterfly for hours and hours and then they end up tossing most of the footage, because it doesn’t help the story’s narration. I exactly know what you mean!
I just watched the documentary for the making of Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. It’s fantastic. It’s all about those little details that lead to huge decisions. I think that was very inspiring to see.
That movie is brilliant. In a way, doing that documentary, this behind-the-scenes thing was looking into the future too. You have to always think all the aspects of how you sell yourself, what you look like, how you sound, who you collaborate with. All these things have to be thought through because they are all part of the equation.
Absolutely. And the details and the grand decisions can sometimes be the same thing. A decision about a detail becomes the thing that changes the path.
And when it comes to working for other people, in parts I suppose for money and parts because you admire them. And working for yourself? How do you split time?
We only work for ourselves nowadays more or less.
Is it a disappointing experience?
No, when we had the opportunity and when we really got into working for ourselves, it was so much fun. We might work with other people, but we do not work for them. Making music for yourself is just a complete different thing.
It is freedom, in the existential sense. You are responsible for what you do.
I completely got into it. Something got lost. When you work for others, it’s a job, and it’s a fun job, but…
Who would this person be, who would you like to collaborate with? It is a very modern way to work because it is so easily possible. Look at Martin Gore and Vince Clarke, one is on the East Coast and the other is on the West Coast and they do file sharing and create this fantastic techno album. Martin is very approachable actually.
We were down to the last two or three to produce the Depeche Mode album. We had some kind of connection, we worked on the remix album. They know about us and they like our work.
Are you disappointed when such a job doesn’t come in?
The thing is that we were on tour, it was a really hard thing but of course we really wanted to do it. We were kind of relieved in a way. I mean, just being asked was amazing. Same thing for like doing the remixes and stuff, it’s really cool.
But then again, who would be the person you would like to collaborate with?
Definitely one of those types of persons. Depeche Mode for me has been so important. One of those few bands I grew up with that I never stopped loving.
How would you say Depeche Mode was formative for you?
That was for me my whole experience of liking music. Undertones on everything. I like the whole thing with them. They had studios, they were making their own music. The whole electronic bit to song writing bit. Dave was the front man, but I didn’t feel that.