Thursday, April 01, 2010

Prins Thomas interview

In the depths of those chasmic doldrums that winter can bring, I one day received a big sunbeam in the form of an email from a Thomas Hermansen announcing that he had just finished his very first solo album. And since he recalled the good questions I had sent his way when interviewing him and his musical cohort Hans-Peter Lindstrøm back when music website Paper Thin Walls was still extant, would I be into sending him some more questions and scribing the bio for his debut?
Prins Thomas's first album? How had the man gone nearly a decade without dropping such a document on us? I was honored and now that the album is out now, so I'm posting our email exchange below: 

What sort of music did you grow up on as a kid?

My parents split up when I was 4 and most of my musical memories are from after that. I lived with my mother and stepfather. My stepfather used to play all kinds of music from Cramps and Clash to Ry Cooder, John Martyn, jazz, classical music. There where always music magazines and books lying around which also introduced me to learning English so I could read about the artists. I think already at 7 or 8, I was starting to save my weekly allowances for records. I can't remember buying a toy or any candy, but loads of records. 
When visiting my dad (who lived 4 hours away), we used to play tapes while drumming on the dashboard or using the seat belt as a bass. I remember stuff like Santana/Buddy Miles live, Return to Forever, Pink Floyd, Beach Boys...basically loads of jammy and/or harmonic stuff.

Did your parents own many records?

I thought it was many when growing up, now with records spread over the studio downtown, I have way too many at home.

Did you play an instrument as a child? Piano lessons? Bang on pots and pans?

I can't remember exactly but I think this was the rough order, buying records then starting to dj in my bedroom around 84-85 (then local youth club around 87), at the same time I was playing first the flute, then clarinet in a marching band. I also met Pål Nyhus (DJ Strangefruit from Mungolian Jetset) who took me under his wings. I think I was 11 and he 16. He invited me to his house, tried to teach me the basics of Technics 1200s (I had belt-driven turntables...). At the time I was playing a mixture of the pop music at the time (12 inch mixes), electro, hip hop and some of the house stuff that spread overseas, all sprinkled with the pop, rock, jazz etc. I discovered at home. Anyway, the marching band interest didn't last very long but took up the cello as my mother promised me a bass if I toughed it out for 3 years. I didn't...

What made you want to make music as well? 

I already knew at my 7th birthday, miming to The Beatles in front of the prettiest girl in school -- which made quite an impression-- that I wanted to do something with music. Music just made me really happy. School was really tough and I didn't have many friends my first 6 years at school. With music I found something I could master while feeling some kind of satisfaction. I guess it also made me one of the cool guys when I started in 7th grade.
When visiting my dad (getting older now so I took the train by myself), I used to stop off in Oslo  to change trains and spent the one hour wait inbetween trains at the nearest record store. On these trips, I found some of the crossover house stuff that had gone into the charts (JM Silk, Farley Jackmaster Funk, Todd Terry) besides more obscure stuff (here anyway) like Phuture and early Masters At Work. I still hadn't heard this stuff in proper clubs and under the influence (I was still only 13) so as far as I knew, this was just a continuation of the Shep Pettibone, Arthur Baker, François Kevorkian, Latin Rascals, etc., mixes I had but with a bigger and more booming beat.
Anyway, through mixtapes and my good friend Strangefruit word spread and soon I was playing regular gigs in Oslo and I also started playing often in Bergen and got introduced to disco pioneers Bjørn Torske and Erot. In Oslo, I had a bimonthly residency with Strangefruit and Rune Lindbæk called Soda Club. Loads of memorable nights and great varied music. This was a really good time for nightlife in Oslo and a year later I moved here.
There was loads of clubs here and people like Idjut Boys, Maurice Fulton were visiting often. I remember on one night I had brought DJ Harvey over to play and we we're going to dinner with 5 other international guests playing competing clubs the same night. Which says a lot when there's roughly only 35000 people going out in total on a Saturday night in Oslo...

How did you meet Todd Terje and Hans-Peter?

Through regular nights playing around Oslo and digging in record stores I met Hans-Peter then later Terje. Hans-Peter was studying at the university in Oslo (originally from Stavanger in the south) and he was just starting to dj around clubs here and making electronic music. We were both into disco and kind of bonded over that but found out quickly we had lots more in common. Hans-Peter was a highly skilled musician already and I was offering tips on arrangements. I had just gotten my first computer and was eager to learn so Hans-Peter asked me to do a remix for him ("Music" by Lindstrøm & Christabelle). Getting great response from Idjuts and Harvey gave me a flying start and from there I've knocked out too many to mention.

When you and HP teamed up to make music together, were you surprised at the international reception to it?

L&PT has been just a project we did for fun, a possibility to collaborate and get new ideas. Our profiles where both pretty low before our first album (aside from his "I Feel Space" single) and we didn't really expect it to get the kind of broad reception that it got. What was supposed to be a little side project took overhand and after a couple of years with intense travelling, interviews, regular radioshows in Japan and a ton of remixes, we both felt the urge to step down a little bit. It got tiring focussing too much on one thing and both felt the need to realize seperate projects. Whenever there's free time on our hands we get together and do stuff. Of course with album projects on each side there's more time inbetween our jams but we've been talking about ideas for future albums.

There's also some ideas left from the last album sessions that might come out as 12s at some later point. We've also done a couple of remixes that eventually will come out.

No offense, but this album has been a looooong time coming. Why did it take so long to come together after all of the singles and remixes (which you are so prolific on)? What is different about album-making versus track-making?

Actually, the album came together quite quickly. I had a couple of ideas floating around from a couple of years ago but the week after I mixed down me and HP's last album ("II"), I just had a good run in the studio and was feeling really inspired. I haven't really thought about doing a proper solo album before, finding the time for solo 12"s in-between has been hard enough. I think I can probably count 50 remixes for each new 12" I do (ha ha ha). It's also taken some time for me to get the studio set up I wanted to be able to record my own music from scratch and the 2 L&PT albums has been really good for training myself on the drums. The scary thing is how inspiring it is to finally put out a bunch of my own stuff, I've got tons of new stuff in the pipeline already + a couple of more dancey non-album singles lined up too.