Wombatmusic interview

Top level Interviews

Radoslaw Bialek from Poland running Psybient.net gives us an interesting interview with Kristian Thinning Andersen from Denmark, known as Elysium and Wombatmusic, who has just released his new downbeat album called Shameful Silence on Chill Tribe Records...

Interview with Kristian Thinning Andersen (Wombatmusic)
Author: Radoslaw Bialek

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1. Let's start with the one big episode from your Elysium's work. Let's talk about Nova Zembla. How your case with this label was ended? Is this only a history for now or maybe lawsuit is still in charge?

It's a long story about a label that tried to tie my hands down legally so I could not release my music with anyone else. Not even under my own personal name or any other project name. To say the least I was very naive and signed a contract without having a lawyer looking at it first. A lesson that I have learned a lot from. So to make the story short. I went ahead and released music under other "secret" names with other record labels and of course Nova Zembla found out about it and refused to pay out my royalties for every CD and vinyl I had released with them. I had some meetings with a lawyer who came to the conclusion that I had done nothing legally wrong and that no contract can bind a person this much as long as I did not release on other labels as Elysium. But lawyers are very expensive and my legal bills had already run amok plus a potential lawsuit would have to take place in Belgium where Nova Zembla has its office. And it would cost me at least half a year's salary so that made my decision much easier to not go ahead with the lawsuit. Of course it was a big letdown not to get my royalties but my freedom was more important to me. So we made a deal with Nova Zembla that I got my freedom back and they could keep the money. Today it is all history to me and I have no intention to raise any legal claims toward them. I got my freedom back and have learned my lesson.

2. At the end of April you have released excellent "Shameful Silence" album on your new project called Wombatmusic after five years of non album works. Do you feel that this is some kind of your second debut in life?

I do not feel it is my second debut because since my last Elysium release I have been very busy releasing other music in the house and electro scene as well as remixing other artists. So I never really left the music business. I just left the psytrance scene behind and concentrated on something else which I personally considered my new fresh start. It has also not been my intention to make a comeback in the psytrance scene and I have mostly focused on trying to get this release out to a broader market. But since I already had a name in the psytrance scene via Elysium and because Chill Tribe has a solid leg in the scene it's obvious that this release would also get some attention there. And any attention is welcome so we can raise as much money as possible for the refugee children in Lebanon.

03. What is the meaning of your new artist name - Wombatmusic? How this name was born?

There is not really any deeper meaning with the use of the name "Wombatmusic". I just thought it would be a nice name to use. I have always tried to use short project names so people remember them easier. But a Wombat is a charming little fella with a fun wobbly walk. A truly chilled out animal.

04. "Shameful Silence" has a very expressive message about situation in Lebanon. We could see this for example on CD booklet or on your official website (www.wombatmusic.eu). You wrote that you were on production phase when you decided to raise your voice about this. It was some kind of self impulse? Or you were think through about situations in Lebanon and decided: "Yes, I must do it"?

As most other people I know who watched the horrible pictures and daily TV news from Lebanon I was shocked and also very angry. Not only angry against the Israeli government and army who completely overreacted and used a tense situation to destroy the only aspiring democracy in the Middle East. I was especially angry about the horrible blood bath of innocent women, men and children. I was also angry and very disappointed in The European Union and our leaders who stayed amazingly silent and stood by watching a country invade and destroy another sovereign country to the extend that today, because of Lebanon's totally destroyed infrastructure and fragile political situation highly triggered by the war with Israel, Lebanon are much closer than ever to a 2nd civil war. This could all have been prevented with just a little bit of political willpower from the western leaders and a bit more pressure on Israel to stop their illegal war. Instead Israel got free hands to do whatever they wanted to do. I stayed in touch with some Lebanese friends and because of them I was told about the real situation on the ground in Lebanon. So it was not a hard decision for me to take. I just felt I had to do something and raise my voice no matter what some people might think about me for bringing politics into my music. But to me the most powerful voice an artist has is the music. At the end of the day I have done what my conscience told me to do and I would do it all over again no matter the cause if I feel injustice is being done to innocent people who can not defend themselves and if I feel something has to be said and done.

05. Which tracks did you wrote before this moment? Was your new concept changed a lot in this how your new album was look before?

I had already worked on some of the tracks for a live gig which never took place. But when I decided to turn the release into a benefit CD I re-wrote the tracks and basically started all over again. The concept did indeed change quite a bit. Before the benefit CD idea came to live I was working on a live performance that eventually would have turned into a Live CD release. But with this new benefit concept I took the music and decided to write it as one long journey in Cubase. It was a total new way of working for me but also a very refreshing way to do things. I had the freedom to work on whatever part I wanted to and then maybe go back and add something different, etc. It gave me a lot of freedom to really use a lot of time on the details and create a journey that fit very well together from start to the end even though the journey go in many different directions as the music move ahead.

06. You are one of those big artists from the world psychedelic music scene from the 90's that after a long break came here again with the new album. The bigger part of these musicians just creates a full on CD that aim wide range of people, like MFG, Pleiadians. Of course you never did a pure uptempo psytrance, but your new sounds are totally different from them. Leave your message about Lebanon now, please focus only on your music: why "Shameful Silence" is so deep album? Many artists on the beginning starts with fresh and innovate sounds and later goes to commercial side, while you have now, after over decade been on this scene, releasing exactly non-commercial album with aiming for innovating... With full on music your message about Lebanon would easily range more people...

I can only speak for myself and say that I would never make music I do not feel passionate about. I can not see myself ever do full on. It's not my style of music and not my taste. I will not judge other artists, old as new, but for me the music is always more important than the gigs, money and popularity. It is hard for me to answer why my music is "deep". I make music that I have inside of me. To me it does not really matter if what I create in the end turns out underground or commercial. All that matters is if I like the music or not. This is the exact reason why I have walked away from contracts with labels that tried to dictate what kind of music I should make. After they had made sure I had put my signature on the contracts. Some will say an artist should listen more to the labels and not be musically "stubborn" but to me that is absolutely nonsense. If a label does not like my music and they know what my style is before they sign a deal with me then they should not agree to sign a deal in the first place and instead focus on signing someone with a style of music they like.

I am very aware of that if I had done an uptempo, let's sound like everyone else does CD, much more people in the psytrance scene would notice and listen to it. But if I had done that I would not be true to myself and that is much more important to me than the acceptance from the majority of the psytrance scene. But I do believe that most people are able to hear when music is made for the purpose of the music itself or made to sell as much CD's as possible or to get as many gigs as possible. People are not stupid and I am sure with the massive promotion we are doing almost every day the sales will be acceptable. At this moment the CD has been played in quite a lot of different countries national radio station's and just by that it has raised quite a lot of money for the Lebanese refugee children. The CD and digital sale itself would probably not be enough. Massive promotion toward any possible target group is the key to getting a release heard and played. That is what we use our energy on instead of releasing a CD which everybody else could release.

07. "Wombatmusic" - would this be always in the music world synonym of experimental, eclectic and psychedelic sounds?

I really do not know. I made this project as a project where I can experiment as much as I want to. It will always be a project focusing on downbeat/chillout/electronica but apart from that all is possible and nothing is impossible.

08. Houry Seukunian is the person that collaborates with you on two parts of the "Shameful Silence" track. Who is this? Tell me something about her.

Houry or better know as Tinkerbell is a young Lebanese girl.

I was visiting the Lebanesravers forum, a community that unite many genres of electronic music in the Middle East, and while I was there talking to people about the benefit project I asked them if they knew a Lebanese girl who had a nice voice. I had an idea of having a Lebanese girl singing on the CD and I got her recommended. So I spoke to her about the project and she did not have to think twice about it and immediately said yes to not only singing on the CD but also write the lyrics. Not long after she went to Canada and from there she wrote the lyrics to the title track "Shameful Silence". I always felt if this project should be 100% honest I had to work with Lebanese people who were the only ones that knew how it felt to have their country attacked. Who knew how it felt inside to worry about family and friends and to loose their homes and dear ones. So she came up with this amazing text that included all my personal thoughts, emotions and concerns and I had no doubt in my mind that we had to use her title "Shameful Silence" as the title for the CD. After that I send her the ready CD and she decided where to put the vocals. But since she had no access to a professional studio and had to record her voice via her own computer we decided that she should read her lyrics as a poem instead of singing it. It would be too difficult to fit in her vocal if she was singing. So the end result was that she ended up doing three versions of the text. One Arabic short version on the track "A Poem of Hope" and an English and French full version on the tracks "Shameful Silence" part 1 and 2. She did an amazing job and this CD would have been nothing without her and her mesmerising voice and eye opening text. I also like to take a moment and thank the members on Lebaneseravers (www.lebaneseravers.com) who opened up their arms and made me feel very welcome into their little community. They helped me lot on this project whenever I had a question or request.

But apart from Tinkerbell I mostly like to give a big thank you and hug to Beatrice (Beebux) who participated with a design for the booklet and Vael who made the CD Cover. They are all truly beautiful souls and without all of them this project would have made no sense.

09. On the track called "You Are On My Mind" we have your vocal and text. About who is this track? Who is on your mind?

Originally it was an unfinished demo track about an old flame of mine. But since that had died out I decided to rewrite the track and use the vocals as a statement that can mean anything or be about anyone. For me personally it became not only about a specific person but after the new track was written it grew into being more about my thoughts toward Lebanon and the Lebanese people and the people I know in Lebanon and the emotions I felt so far away from the eye of the hurricane. About the frustration of not being able to close something out from your thoughts and at the same time not being able to do anything about the situation. About feeling helpless and frustrated.

10. From where did you get a vocal to the "Copaelectrocabana"? We didn't have any other person on credit list at this track without you.

The vocal is a sample from an old recording from the Middle East. I have no clue who is singing but I felt it worked very well on the track and even though it's Arabic singing it really sound Latin.

11. What is your favourite track from "Shameful Silence" and why?

This is a very hard question for me to answer. When I think about it I do not think I have a favourite track because the whole CD represents a long diverse journey to me. But of course as in almost anything else in life we tend to appreciate the things we worked on latest. But at the moment I prefer the 2nd half of the CD but without the 1st half the 2nd half would not make any sense to me.

12. How did you meet Per Kristian Slagsvold (aka PKS) from Norwegian Chill Tribe Records? On the first CD from his label, "Quality Relaxation", we have on the second track your "Fairytale" and now we have on Chill Tribe first artist album ever which is your album. Tell me some thing about working with PKS and Chill Tribe.

I think it all began when I met Roland, a friend of PKS, at the first Boom Festival in Portugal in 1997. PKS or Roland you are welcome to correct me here, haha. I sadly have to admit I am not entirely sure how I then ended up talking to PKS but at one point some years ago he invited me to Oslo to play an Elysium live set and after that we stayed in touch and when he decided to open up Chill Tribe Records and compile his first CD it was natural for him and me to work together. After that we talked back and forward about an artist CD - and voila, now it's there.

PKS are one of those people who truly love music and music fill up his life a lot. He is a very honest and hardworking person and a good friend of mine today. I felt if I had to work with any label instead of releasing it myself it had to be with PKS. Not only because of his personality but also because he have a very open mind toward music. I doubt many others of today's chill labels would have released my CD. Not only because of the political message behind it but also because it does not fit the very popular psychill or dub that most of them prefer to release these days. So the choice of releasing and working with Chill Tribe was very easy.

13. Do you always keep the listener in mind when you write music?

I think all of us at one point question our self in what we do. Will people like it? Will I get good reviews? etc. I guess we are all to some extend victims of our own at times fragile self-esteem and hooked on being appreciated and applauded. But I really try hard to focus on the music and what I have inside of me instead of letting thoughts about expectations and peoples opinions dominate my work with my music. Of course at times it's harder said than done.

14. What is your method of music creation? Describe how a track is made: how does it start, what happens in between, how much time, etc. Do you work on more than one track at the same time? What way do you make the arrangement and the mix? And finally: what inspires you to write a track?

A long time ago I promised myself never to get stuck on a formula when I write music and every time I start working on a new track I start out with a lot of random playing around until I strike something interesting. It can be a sound or a beat or something else. Something that trigger my imagination. One thing I always have with me in my writing process is a visual approach to the track. I tend to see my music in a visual way. Especially in the writing process. When I have found an idea I like I tend to build a lot of small ideas as loops. Sometimes way too many for one track. After that process I start to arrange the track. I never know if I start with the beginning or the end, etc. It all depends on my mood and the building blocks I have. I never make a whole track and then start to mix it. The mixing process and overall production start from the minute I start writing the track. I like to have it sound as good as possible from the first note on and until the last minute of finishing the track I am busy turning the knobs on the mixer and adjusting eq's and effects to produce the best sound possible.

It is hard to tell what inspire me most to write a track. It's of course not so hard to tell with this CD since I had the situation in Lebanon in mind during the whole process. But usually when I work on music I can get inspired by most things. Things I see in my daily day to day life, etc.

15. How would you define your music's development from the first "Dance for the Celestial Beings" album as Elysium to the one just released? Would you name it as evolution or revolution?

For me personally there is a big gap between what I did back then to what I do now. I tend to see it from a more personal and technical angle. When I released my Elysium debut album I was a lot younger and in many ways much more naive and eager to prove myself to the world. Not that this is a bad thing. But from an artist point of view I feel much more sure of myself today and what I can do musically and I tend to enjoy the writing process a lot more because I have nothing to prove to myself and especially to those who are close to me. This also makes my music different today than back then. Some might say they prefer my old music and I can see their point because in some ways it is more innocent and curious toward the world in its expression. But on the other hand I feel my music today is much more mature and more reflect who I am as a person. More honest I guess. I also feel I am much more free to do whatever I like to do without being afraid what people might think. I doubt I would have made a track like "Copaelectrocabana" back then. I would have been much more concerned about what people thought and more limited in my creativity because I was so eager to be accepted as an artist.

As for the technical side there is no doubt that there is a huge gap from back then till today and I have also gained much more technical know how than back then which for me personal is a big satisfaction in my writing process. I do not have to use many hours trying to figure out how to do things. I can focus much more on the writing process and less on solving difficult technical issues.

I will not call it a revolution as my music is a small drop in the big ocean but you can for sure call it evolution. My evolution as an artist and person.

16. How would you describe your music? What is the style of your music in your eyes?

Hehe, that is not an easy question. One goal with this CD was to explore a lot of different styles which has been something I really wanted to try out for a long time. I think I will leave it up to other people to make up their minds about what it is all about. To me it's music. Pure and simple.

17. Which track of you from all you ever did do you like especially and why? Which of your tracks do you have a special feeling for?

I do not think I have a certain "all time" favourite track. I tend to like different tracks of mine at certain points in my life. Of course I have a special nostalgic feeling toward my first ever release on Belgian R&S Records with my old project Tundra but to say it was my best work ever would be to lie, haha. And I also have very good memories and feelings toward my debut E.P. - Elysium's "Project One" on Nova Zembla or Jean Borelli's and my debut Sheyba E.P. - "Into The 4th Dimension" on late Flying Rhino Records. There are so many special moments and way too many special releases to say that I prefer one of them.

18. What artists would you say have influenced you?

I grew up in the late 70's and early 80's so the electronic fathers such as Kraftwerk, Jean-Michel Jarre, Vangelis and Brian Eno played a big role in my at that time geeky hobby of collecting synthesizers and 6 track tape recorders.

Later on the 80's New Wave bands and artists such as Depeche Mode, Ultravox, Japan, Visage, Gary Numan, Soft Cell, David Bowie, New Order and Human League (I can go on) had a huge impact on me and my future artist career. I could not listen to enough music and was glued to the radio every Friday and Saturday listening to especially Swedish radio that at that time was very progressive in its choice of new unknown music from especially London. I would say it is thanks to those artists that my interest in synthesizer music was born and I still hear a lot of their music in my music today.

19. Is there a CD that impressed you greatly in the last period of time?

I do not think I have actually bought a CD the last year or so. Nowadays I tend to buy all my music online via shops like Beatport where I can buy single tracks in CD quality. So I have no doubt I have missed out on a lot of great CD's over the last year. But my time has been very busy with making new music, running my own record label - Loopfreaks Records - and gigging in the house scene and I never really listen to much other music when I am creating my own music. I tend to get too influenced by other people's music in that process so I make a deliberate choice not to listen to too much music. But I have listened a lot to the Amy Winehouse CD. But that's another story...

20. What is your favourite album - your "album of my life"?

Now here's an easy question. Actually I have two favourite albums. The first is Roxy Music's "Flesh + Blood" from 1980. I earned this amazing album working hard in a school trainee project in a radio & TV shop. I got this album alongside Gary Numan's "Music For Chameleons" from 1982. The 2nd favourite is japan's double live album Oil On Canvas from 1983. A true masterpiece. If I ever get to make so beautiful and expressive music my goal in my musical journey is reached.

21. What equipment do you have in your studio?

Not much and certainly not very impressive: a very strong AMD computer with tons of RAM and lots of Disk Space (+ 4 external hard drives), a full octave range MIDI "Keystation" keyboard, a pair of Alesis M1 Active studio monitors, a few old odd synthesizers lying around doing absolutely nothing at the moment (the will soon be active again). I make all my music in Cubase and mostly use software plug-in's. That's about it. As I said. Not very impressive.

22. Do you have any bizarre stories from where you played?

Well one spring to my mind. I was playing at the beach on the beautiful Island of Santorini in Greece. And in the morning some of the 400+ people stripped out of their clothes and danced around naked in the sun. I had a job to do and is a bit shy in such situations so I was a big flappergasted. Especially when some people started having sex in the full monty in the middle of the beach. That was odd and not really the most pretty sight in the world, haha. Maybe if I had been on some secret chemicals I would have appreciated it more, hehe.

23. Now I will ask you about a not very popular case. Could you tell me how many of your previous albums was sold?

It is not a secret that most artists struggle these days with their sales. In the 90's I did very well and have nothing to complain about. Sales was very good at that time. After 2002 things started to go the other way and my last Elysium CD maybe sold 400-500 copies or so. Not very impressive. But I am not sure if it had to do with people downloading like crazy or the fact that the label I released it with did very little to promote it properly. But it sure was a huge disappointment to me. Not so much financially but more on a personal level since it was my first release after a long break away from the music business. After then I have not released any albums and only concentrated on doing one off tracks and remixes. I cross my fingers and hope that this Wombatmusic CD will do better.

24. Do you feel like God when you know that there are people in which memories your music will be live for ever?

I do not consider myself any different than the guy down the road that get up in the morning at five to go to the factory to make a living so he can support his family. I am truely lucky to have a life where I can do what I really love but I also have to work a 9-5 job every day to make a living and I think any artists that have to do this get more humble and stay attached to the ground. But of course I feel very priviledged and honored when people let my music into their hearts. I never take that for granted and I am truely happy everytime someone tell me my music appeal to them. I think the best example I can give you is about a Serbian guy who once wrote to me that during the UN bombings in Beograd he and his wife and their newborn child coped with the anxiety and stress by listening to my music. That really touched me deeply and made me realise how powerful music really is. It made me aware of that I have an obligation as an artist. An obligation to always try my best and to stay honest with what I do. And never take anything for granted.

25. Close your eyes and imagine that you were hibernated for 1000 years. When you're awakening there are many people beside you and they are asking about you and you are talking... On which step you're talking about that you're an artist? On the beginning, on the middle, on the end? Or maybe you're not talking about that? How this that Kristian Thinning Andersen is the creator of music journeys is important to Kristian Thinning Andersen?

Hehe, good question. I think I would be way too confused in the moment and also very curious about the world I woke up to. I think I would ask more questions than speaking about myself. Of course music is very important to me and has been the single most important hobby, career and passion in my life for the last 25 years or so and at one point I would love to explore the fascinating world of futuristic musical possibilities in a society 1000 years down the road. But I think I would be even more curious to hear about what had happened the last 1000 years and about cures of diseases, etc. And not to forget. Is there really life on Mars? Hehe.

26. Tell me about your daily life. "I awake and..."

I wake up (I hate waking up early, I will never get used to it), check my e-mails, go to work as a freelance graphic designer and at times working in warehouses when I need money, get home, check my e-mails, make dinner, check my e-mails, work on label stuff, chat a little, visit a friend, see family, watch TV, etc. Usually daily routines and stuff. In the weekends it's much more variated. Gigs, studio work, design work, label work, going to the movies, go on a date, having dinners with friends, see family, etc.

27. Do you have any advices for the young producers? Some tips on how to deal with labels and how to promote them selves?

I only have these advices. Be patient, do not rush out and release your first best finished track (it's too easy these days). Spend time learning and improve your music and find your own identity and sound. And ALWAYS let a lawyer read a contract before you sign it. It might not be cheap but in the end it can save you a lot of money.

28. What is your life aim? What is your dream?

Professionally my dream and aim is to make music for movies and television. It is a thing I am working on at the moment trying to find an agent who can represent me in UK and USA. I also like to do a lot more producer work from other interesting and talented artists in whatever genre of music. As longs as it's unique and appeal to me. On a personal level I hope to stay healthy and maybe someday have some children. Any women with the same wish please dial 011 IWANTACHILD.

29. What are your plans for the near and far future?

To work a lot more on my record label and to see it grow into something fruitful. And to stay doing what I do now. Making music, travelling and waking up every morning with new energy and hopes and dreams.

30. For the end - do you want to say something especially to your fans?

Stay true to yourself and realise your dreams.

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