Sat, Oct 20 2018
Interview with: NATTEFROST
Date: May 2008
Ambient atmospherics inspired by ancient Scandinavia: An interview with Nattefrost, aka Bjørn Jeppesen
Bjorn, can you sketch a bit of your musical background, how did you get into electronic music?
I have been into music my whole life. At the age of 4 I was given an electric organ and about four years later I got my first synth, it was one from Yamaha. I was quite happy since it had a built-in 4-track sequencer. And I had a tape recorder so I started recording some music.
Back in those days, I listened to other artists such as Mike Oldfield, Jean-Michel Jarre, Vangelis and also a bit to Kraftwerk. So we could perhaps call that an early idea of what direction my own music would take.
In 1995 I started with Nattefrost. The first release came out in 1997 and was released privately by myself. The next two cds ("De som sejrede.." and "Vejen til Asgård") were released by Nothingness Records and sold out quickly, and therefore, they were re-released in 2007 by Ambient Live Records. And then there are the three cds released by Groove Unlimited. This is what has been released under the name of Nattefrost.
But I am also involved in the band Carboneids. So far, we have released three albums and an ep. In 1999, I did the album "A Feeling of making magic" under the moniker TDE, and the following year I released the full length album "Towards emotional music" using my own name.
Is there something like an electronic music scene in Danmark?
Yes there are many, many fans of electronic music here in Denmark, but then it’s all kinds of electronic music (EM). Both old and new. Many young people start to produce their own music. As for "EM" which we could call a subgenre of electronic music there might not be a lot of fans. I think it is because not a lot of people know about the music, but more and more listeners are getting into ambient elements and therefore I think there’ll be more fans of that kind of music in the near future. There are also some electronic music festivals in Denmark like "Public Service" and "Ström" which means electricity in English. They present all kinds of electronic music. I don’t really follow the scene so I cannot mention any names though
You started out by making a couple of privately released cassette albums("Når månen er fuld" -1996- and "Storm over danmarks oldsletter" -1997-); What kind of music can be found on them?
Your research is really impressive. Those cassettes are very rare today. What can I say about the music? It is quite dark ambient-like with symphonic elements. Some fans have asked if they will be re-released on cd but there are no plans for doing that.
In the second half of 1998 you started the band Carboneids, of which the music took a different direction. Can you tell some more about the founding of it and its music?
Carboneids consists of Claus Holm Lynglund and myself. We met many years ago at a music school here in Denmark and decided to do music together.On our first release "A Journey to Planet Elektra" (1998) we used the name Zone 99, but a year after that was out we changed the name to Carboneids. It’s always hard to describe the music we do.
The "…And Dark Nights" cds are very varied with lots of different electronic styles. On "Synthsyg", we found our own style I think. It’s more relaxed and with soft spherical melodies and vocoder vocals sometimes. Our cds have recently been re-released by the German label MellowJet Records.
I also heard this project put your Nattefrost-activities on hold for quite a while. How come?
Well, if you refer to the "gap" between 1997 and 2004, then I can tell you why. Of course we worked a lot with Carboneids from 1998-2001 and recorded many tracks. At that time I also recorded most of the music for the "De som sejrede…" cd with Nattefrost.
But in the summer 2001, my old studio was totally destroyed by a stroke of lightning at night. I stayed unharmed, but all the equipment was destroyed, so I had a break of a few years making music, which lasted until mid 2003.
From that time, I have spent lots of time with both Carboneids and as a solo artist as Nattefrost.
Today, I am working a lot on both.
Later on you invested more time and energy in the promotion of your own music again. What channels did you go through?
Promotion is very important, you can never get enough of it I think. I use the internet a lot and I am constantly searching for new and interesting ways to make the fan base grow bigger.
One way or the other, your music found a steady base at the Groove Unlimited label. How did that happen?
As for the three albums released on Groove Unlimited, I confess they are in the same style, and I think the next one will not differ too much either.
It’s important for me to keep some of the elements from the older albums but also to come up with some new and hopefully fresh and interesting ideas on each album, so I’ll continue to do so with the next album.
The nicely moulded atmospheric ambient music on your Groove Unlimited debut album "Absorbed In Dreams And Yearning" received quite some critical acclaim.
I am still very satisfied with that album and I think it’s very varied. It contains short and long tracks, a few up-tempo pieces but also slow ambient tracks. It’s a good mixture and perhaps I am already a little bit inspired by that album when I am producing new tracks for the next cd.
The cosmic music on your 2007-release "Underneath the Nightsky" took on a different direction, as it was heavily sequencer-based. Did you have to try something new?
As I said previously, with every new release I try out new things and I think they worked quite well on "Underneath the Nightsky". I still kept some of the elements from "Absorbed in dreams and yearning". With the track "Winterland", I definitely tried out something new, but I like that a lot myself and I think many fans feel the same. There’s this great guitar solo by Phil Molto, aka Robert Schroeder, at the end of that track, don’t you think so as well?
Can you tell something about the Nattefrost studio, the Nattefrost Mobile studio, the electronics you use? Are there any favourites among them? In what way do you start composing?
The Nattefrost Studio is located in Copenhagen, it’s the place where I live.
I have some excellent equipment. Favourites might be my Korg R3 synth, which also works as a vocoder. And most of all, is that it sounds really, really good and great for small themes and sound fx.
I am also very fond of the software tools Cubase SE and Propellerhead Reason.
In my studio is also the quite old Yamaha SY-1 but it doesn’t really fit into my music nowadays. I have used it a little bit but there are better toys around.
I have a mobile studio too which is basically consisting of a few things. A laptop for recording and then a nice Novation synth. I sometimes visit my parents in Odense a few hours from here and then it’s good for me to be able to work a little bit when I travel by train and so on.
It’s really difficult to describe how I compose, since I don’t do it the same way with every track. But I mostly surf through synthesizer sounds. I could imagine an arpeggio sequence and then I make a few ideas from that. I search for pads and strings perhaps and add it. Soloing or rather small themes mostly come as the last bit. Drums I also add at the end. But I spent much time with drums since I find them really important. Also some nice sound FXs should be added. And sometimes I do some vocoder parts with my own voice.
Most important is the harmonies and melodies. But the sound is certainly also necessary to work on. I spend days improving the sound after a track has been recorded.
Do you have any interest in playing your music live, or is Nattefrost a studio-only thing?
Yes I am very interested in playing live and giving some good concerts. I recently did one at the Ambient Experience in Wuppertal, Germany, and it was a success. But I’d like to do a good concert. It’s not cheap and the organizers mostly don’t want to or cannot pay for it.
But I’ll gladly give some more concerts in the future if it’s under the right conditions.
Next to all your activities, you're also responsible for the radio-program "Elektroland".
How did that start, is it all about electronic music?
I started to work with radio in 1998 when I was searching for my main job. I had good contact to the radio station in Roskilde and have stayed there since that time.
Besides doing Elektroland I am also responsible for the technical stuff for our producers and editing interviews and radio shows and stuff like that.
Our radio station has a wide range of musical genres, everything from country music, classical music, folk, rock, jazz, metal and blues. We don’t present so much of the more commercial kind of pop music.
Therefore, it was no problem to start Elektroland, which was in the beginning of 1999. After about 70 shows, I had a break with Elektroland from mid 2002 until summer 2005, when I decided to continue with the show.
And it’s of course a pleasure to broadcast online and through other Danish radio stations as well. It receives lots of nice feedback.
What's your opinion on nowadays electronic music scene, the way it has developed over the years, any thought on the future of the genre?
As for EM, I think nowadays some musicians want to sound very old. Their music sounds very retro like in the 70’s and 80’s.
A lot of newer bands are doing their music with analogue synths and hardware and dislike the whole software world. It’s almost like they are stuck in the 70’s, and I guess their music will not survive.
Perhaps in an audience of 100 enthusiastic people, but for the general public they will never succeed and that is a very sad thing, at least that’s my opinion.
Personally, I like to evolve with my own music, and by doing that I hope that my fan base will grow further over the next few years.
For the wider style of electronic music, I think there’s a future since there are now so many different genres. Here in Denmark, the "electronica" scene is really big. Artists such as "Aphex Twin" and "Trentemöller" are quite popular.
You and Robert Schröder also collaborated a few times. How did that happen, are there any plans for a full-length collaborative release sometime?
Through the earlier mentioned radioshow Elektroland I made contact with him. I knew some of Robert’s albums for many years. And after his break, he released an album called "BrainChips" which I wanted to promote through the show.
So I contacted Robert and asked if we could do an interview. There he could tell the listeners about his new cd. So we did the interview and afterwards I told him that I was also releasing music under the names of Nattefrost and Carboneids.
At that time, I was just finishing my album "Absorbed in dreams and yearning" and when it was released, I sent it to Robert, who liked it very much.
When I started recording my next album "Underneath the Nightsky", an idea popped up in my mind. I wanted to make a synth track with a guitar part at the end.
Since I hadn’t played guitar for more than eight years, I didn’t want to do it myself Perhaps, I might start playing the instrument again in the future. I called Robert and he liked the idea and the music, so we recorded the track "Winterland". I made the basics in my studio here in Copenhagen and sent it via the internet to Aachen, where Robert, aka Phil Molto, added their parts. Since then, we’ve become very good friends.
On my recently released album "Transformation", Robert and I composed two of the ten tracks together. We have done parts in both Robert’s and in my studio, and the outcome of the two new tracks is excellent.
In addition, I like him both as a person and as a musician, and respect him very much. I think we can learn from each other.
Bit let’s see what the future might bring. We are both very busy with a lot of projects, but maybe one of us will end up in the music of the other again soon. We keep contact, so you’ll never know.
Only recently, your album "Transformation" saw the light of day. What were your goals for it, in what way do you feel it's different from the previous ones.
"Transformation" is more melodic and a little bit more up-tempo in most tracks. I still worked a lot with the sequencing and chords and I think it’s a good follow-up to "Underneath the Nightsky". All in all, it’s not too different for the fans.
At the time I had nearly finished all tracks, I realized there was a certain theme throughout the whole album, something I wasn’t aware of when I started composing the music.
The concept is about travelling in various ways, which form is up to the listener. It could be by train, car, bus, cycling, walking or even sailing. E.g., on the opening track "Decadence", you will hear a sample from a train station in Germany. And at the end of the title track I added sounds of an intercity train.
The tracks with Robert Schroeder has something to do with travelling as well. "Kopenhaachen" might be a brand new city. It’s of course a mixture of the cities in which Robert and I live and work with our music.
So let’s just say that the album is a musical journey to wherever you want to go.
Do you have any new music or projects in the works, other collaborations or other plans you'd like to realize sometime?
Yes, but at this time I cannot reveal much about them. We are working on new tracks for the next Carboneids album, which will hopefully see the light of day somewhere next year. And I am also preparing new music for a forthcoming full-length Nattefrost cd. There is more to come, but you all have to wait, so watch out.
Anything else you'd like to discuss/come up with......?
I’d just like to say thanks a lot to you Bert, you are doing a great job. And also a big thank you to all the true Nattefrost fans all around the world who keep on supporting by buying the music. Keep it going, so will I.
* Nordboernes solhvervsfest (4-track Ep, 1997)
* De som sejrede…..(CD, 2004)
* Vejen til Asgård (6-track Ep, 2004)
* Absorbed in dreams and yearning (CD, 2006)
* Underneath the Nightsky (CD, 2007)
* Transformation (CD, 2008)
© Bert Strolenberg
||Date of interview
Ambient atmospherics inspired by ancient Scandinavia: An interview with Nattefrost, aka Bjørn Jeppesen
July 8 2010
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The Imaginary Realms of Contemporary Finnish Electronics: an interview with Ami Hassinen of Nemesis
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A passion for vintage technology and extreme electronic atmospheres: an interview with Ed Buller & Dave Bessell of Node.