Rumpistol a.k.a. Jens Christiansen is the prolific Danish producer who is always on the go. Producing music, setting up visual shows, mapping out audio scores for films, leading a life outside of music, one may wonder how he manages to get everything done at the end of the day. But we sure are glad that he does so. Coming off a super busy 2014 that had him playing over 50 shows between his solo acts and his band, Kalaha, it was a bit tough to coordinate this interview and video premiere, but we finally reached that connecting point! And in case any of our EARMILK loyal readers haven't come around to digging deeper on who exactly Rumpistol is when in conversation, we got you covered.
Along with a nice chat Christiansen had with former Senior Editor, Alyce, the man also gave us the opportunity to premiere the video for his track, "Atacamia". Check it all out below!
EARMILK: You've worked on a lot of different types of projects. How does your solo music differ from your collaborations?
Rumpistol: When I collaborate with someone I try to keep an open mind and regard the other persons input just as important as my own. When I work on my own stuff I have a pretty slow and intuitive way of working, where the whole process is just as important as the end result. I dive into little details that I wouldn’t do if someone else was in the room. I’ve reworked some of my tracks around fifty times because I really like to explore new sonic possibilities. It really drives me crazy sometimes because after a while I can’t judge if a track is great anymore. Still it’s all part of the process. These days I'm forcing myself to finish a track as fast as possible and then move on to a new one. The track stays more fresh this way and who cares if everything is EQ’d perfectly anyway?
EM: What makes for a great musical collaboration?
R: I think a great collaboration is like a conversation where you listen more than you speak. It sometimes feels odd not to say anything at all but in fact it’s much more rewarding. Especially when you have a band of 4 instrumentalists like we are in Kalaha. We really have to pay attention to each other and be very clear in our communication or else there’s just going to be too much noise!
EM: What's the most exciting thing you're working on now?
R: I've just finished 2 theatrical scores. One is for a play called “The Failure Monologues” (“Fiasko Monologerne”) which is a site specific play consisting of 3 monologues set in 3 different locations. The audience are divided in 3 groups and guided from place to place. The monologues are quite dark already so I couldn’t do anything too dramatic. It had to be really subtle to work or it would take away people’s attention from the monologues. This year I’ve also been working on producing an album from Danish folk singer Jullie Hjetland aka Lukkif who just won a Danish Music Award for best folk singer of the year. This project is super exciting because she has a totally different musical background than me so great contrasts occur. Then again I grew up with hippie parents who were really into Danish folk music in the eighties so it’s not completely strange to me.
EM: You've been making music for a while now. How has the landscape changed over time?
R: The internet happened! Which I basically think is good and bad. Good because you can find music from every part of the world in a few seconds and also introduce your music to people from all around the world. Bad because there’s just too much information to deal with and too many possibilities which I think has created a more superficial way of consuming music. We get impatient much faster and skip tracks if it doesn’t appeal to us immediately. It offers a constant distraction. When I started discovering electronic music you really had to make an effort in finding it. You had to go to the right record shops and look for flyers from underground events or speak to someone who really knew something about it, and to me that effort made it so much more enjoyable when you actually found something you liked. Still I really can’t imagine a world without internet. In terms of the sheer volume of music that is being released these days there’s really not that much of it that impresses me. Too much average sounding stuff with no new ideas. We’ve reached a point in history where technology has made it very easy to produce something that sounds… well… "alright". Then again there’s still a lot of talent out there too. You just have to search for it.
EM: Can you tell us a bit about the A/V show you're working on? What's the role of visuals alongside music?
R: With visuals I think it's really important that they don't take away too much attention from the music but rather underlines the feelings of the music or create a framework in which to understand the music better. I work on two different A/V projects at the moment: KUBE and GRID2. KUBE is a specially designed 3x3m cube, with a semi-transparent screen mapped to 3 video projectors designed by http://www.obscura.dk/ With focus on the intimacy that occurs when artist and audience share a space, the KUBE installation aims to expand the framework by which we usually experience electronic music and abstract sound art in a live context. Mikkel Meyer, Unkwon and I have so far been playing around 12 shows inside the KUBE installation and next year we will extend the lineup with Bjørn Svin and Ceephax Acid Crew!
GRID2 is an interactive realtime sound visualizer that you control with a leap motion controller (literally hands in the air!), allowing you to fly through these fantastic 3D spaces. It was designed by Andreas Rothaug and has similarities with the Floating app we released 2 years ago only this time you're not touching any surfaces at all! We've just been showcasing it at the Audi City Codes Expo in Beijing.
EM: Have you ever experienced a creative slump with music?
R: I never understood the concept of a creative slump to be honest. I find it much harder to finish a track than to get started. I get distracted easily yes (there’s that internet again!) How do you overcome that? I use the app SelfControl to block certain URL's and then I always find something to work on. And that’s what it is really: Work. I believe the more you work on improving your songwriting & producing skills the better you get. Ok, so you might not make something fantastic every single time, but then you just start on something new. It’s all part of the learning process. Again the hard thing is to know when to stop. It also helps me sometimes to set up some obstructions for myself. Try writing a song in no more than 20 minutes or do a complete track with just one synth for instance. When I limit my possibilities I usually get more done than when every tool is available to me. I often remind myself about the fact that I did my first album entirely in Reason 2!
EM: What sparked your interest in making music?
R: I guess initially being surrounded with lots of people playing instruments, dancing and having a good time together during my parents before-mentioned folk period in the 80s. And later on starting bands of my own. Music as a social instrument as well as a way of expression. But also listening to records that could transport me to other worlds: The Beatles, Can, My Bloody Valentine, Public Enemy to name a few. I spend so much time at the local music library as a child my mum often asked me if I hadn’t been through everything they had.. It was the closest thing we had to the internet back then (but without the distractions and the ads). I guess I became a music addict from a very early age. Since I was around 5 years old, I've made recordings of myself doing all kinds of weird shit: radio theatre, songs and improvisations with friends, running things backwards etc.
EM: What have you been listening to and inspired by in the last couple months?
R: I’ve listened to Dawn of MIDI a lot this year while driving between gigs. It’s great stuff. I’m also enjoying the new albums from my old IDM heroes: Aphex Twin, Clark, Plaid & Arovane. Also I’ve been listening quite a lot to classical piano works from composers like Chopin, Ravel & Debussy. Listening to Ravel’s string quartet makes you realise how few great ideas there are in contemporary music. I like the new wave of modular synth stuff. People like Holden, Luke Abbot etc. For more quiet moments I often chose Jan Johansson, Nils Frahm or Max Richter. I also listen to a lot of old Danish children’s records these days because my daughter is now 5 years old and she's learning to work the 1210s. Jean Jaques Perrey and Gershon Kingsley’s records are also a good meeting point for us.
EM: If you had to pick a musical "guilty pleasure" what would it be?
R: Ha ha. I have lots of so called guilty pleasures that people wouldn’t expect. I like Bob James which my wife hates but I also like Robyn which she loves too. But I try not to see it as anything wrong to listen to more mainstream music or "B-music". I don’t really care if artists are overexposed or if the music are produced for a consumer market. If it moves me it moves me. Why try to resists it just because you’ve labelled yourself as an indie-rocker or dubstep purist or whatever? It’s lame to think like that. I try to keep an open mind, Sometimes you hear a track like Toni Braxton's "Unbreak My Heart" which I used to hate as a teenager. Now I can see through all the cheesiness, shimmering production, spanish guitar solo etc and just appreciate it as the huge love song is.
EM: What exciting things are coming up for you before the end of the year?
R: I'm finishing the Lukkif album this week then I have one more theatrical score to do before I can begin working on new Rumpistol material.