We first caught up with Janus Rasmussen back in March, just before his beautiful debut album Vín was about to be released. Now, with the Delhia de France remix coming out today from the first of his two ‘Vín – Remixes’ EP’s (released on 19th July), we delve into his creative process and the recording of Vín in our two-part interview…
So firstly, what made you pursue the idea of releasing a solo album, and why specifically now? Was it like a collection of ideas accruing on the shelf or was it more like a growing desire to release something of your own?
Honestly, it’s always been something that I’ve wanted to at some point in my life, but I was always in bands and really accustomed to collaborating with other people so the idea of releasing something as a solo artist was beginning to get kind of scary for me to think about.
Now it felt like it was the right time and there were no other studio projects lined up, just a lot of touring, so I finally felt free to do it.
I read that you’ve been putting some of the tracks together in your DJ sets? How was that experience and how do you think that it benefitted the record?
I actually wrote most of the songs for Vín over a year ago now, so I just ended up taking them out of the drawer and polishing them up a little. That way, they were all written in the same headspace, like a documentation of that particular time. So while they’re all different songs with different tunes etc, they hopefully still have a little thread connecting them to each other.
It’s interesting you say that because, listening to the record, with all of it’s varying styles and influences, it felt to me as if it had been written while you were touring or traveling?
I actually wrote all of the songs in my studio but I do really fantasise about being able to write on my laptop with headphones, I’m just not good at it! That is actually one of the reasons why I wrote the album, as I’d recently moved into a really great studio space and it just felt like I finally had everything I needed to make a record. The room was perfect, the speakers were perfect, I had all the gear I needed, all the time I needed, now I just needed to make something of my own. I knew that if I don’t do it then, it would have been so much harder to do later on.
I also always want to continue to push myself sometimes and try and reach outside of my comfort zone, and so this is certainly something that I’m still not used to.
So with the new space and such a personal challenge ahead of you, what were aiming for with the record? What were your aspirations?
Because I’ve always been in bands and produced albums for other artists, I’ve never done anything completely on my own, where I’m calling all the shots and making all of the decisions. At that time, it just felt like this huge responsibility. Putting together an album where you have no nobody else to hide behind was, for me, what I had to overcome first. Writing an album on your own, with your name on it, where you took every single decision was something that I really wanted to try and prove to myself that I could do with my own music.
Did you try and place any restrictions on the way that you made the record? Did you have any rules or a way of policing the creative process?
No, not really. I just tried to be really open to everything, but I do think that happens the more you progress through the album process and the more songs become finished. It definitely gets much easier as it goes on and the songs I made towards the end of the album process were much simpler and even had fewer channels because it felt like I’d really established the sound and narrative I was after by then. By that point in the process you have made enough songs to know ‘don’t do THAT, do THIS’ and you kind of get into a familiar rhythm.
I always feel like the later parts of creating something is actually when you find you’re the most able?
Yes, which is really frustrating because a lot of times you won’t be able to continue writing music in this way for a long time because you have to go on tour and do press etc. Usually when I’m done with an album I want to go and write a new one straight away, because you’re so fired up and even though you would think you would be exhausted, you’re actually having more ideas and everything gets much, much easier. It’s like a kind of brain training.
I really just want to go back into the studio before I lose the feeling, because it’s always so hard to start again. Every time I’ve done this, even with other projects where you had to write a new album after maybe even two years or so, it’s really so hard to get back into that headspace again.
So many of the songs seem to revolve around some kind of sample or Foley based percussion, was that an important part of the process?
Yeah there was a lot of Foley used on the record. It’s a funny story actually…
I was on an airplane heading somewhere, I don’t remember where, and I was sitting next to a guy who had been working as Foley Artist. We started talking and it turned out that he was this great guy and he’d just been working on the to The Walking Dead series. We ended up talking for the whole flight and he mentioned that his first job was working on Apocalypse Now, when he was only nineteen! Anyway, he said that he had this huge hard drive of Foley that he’d never got to use on the show and he was willing to send it over to me so I could use it on my record. So we swapped emails and he sent over this huge batch of incredible, unused Foley sounds.
A lot of songs started out that way and then I began recording more of my own because I was so inspired by all of the sounds he had sent over.
It’s funny how sounds can inspire a song, even if it’s not necessarily a pristine sample or doesn’t have a tone or anything. It can just become a mood. I’m a firm believer of just putting down a bed, or some kind of sound underneath a track to try and create a spark. Starting from nothing, especially if you’re a producer that makes songs on the computer, is really intimidating. Any kind of tone or ambience will immediately make it easier and help create a mood to build upon.
So as you’ve already been DJing much of this record live, was there a already consideration for making this into a live project and was that something that then informed the recording process?
Honestly, I’m still working on the live set and the tour is in less than two weeks time!
That’s the best time to work on anything haha!
I’m a terrible procrastinator and my two next two weeks are basically focussed entirely on the live set. I’ve started assembling it and it’s definitely going to be a laptop running a lot of stems in the end, as it is with most electronic shows. Then it comes down to ‘what MORE do you do?’ and ‘how much do you do live?’, and I don’t want to make it all glitchy, just to be glitchy and I don’t want to play stuff live for no reason other than to play it live. Especially if it doesn’t make it sound any better. So it’s this fine line, like, what do you REALLY do that creates a better experience for the audience?
I’ve tried it so many times, with electronic projects, where you start putting all sorts of samples on a drum pad, just so you can play a clap on a drum pad. Then you ask yourself why when you realise that it was going to be playing anyway.
You need to pick what’s actually important and what makes it special. It’s hard to describe, but I don’t want to make stuff live just to make it live. It has to have a purpose behind it.
So are you using an Ableton type of setup where you’re triggering different loops and then using Macro/Midi control to change the parameters?
Yeah it’s I think it’s gonna be more stuff like that. It’s also the same as we’re doing with my band KIASMOS where we realised we couldn’t play a lot of this stuff live as there is just too much progression and all of these intricate soundscapes. It’s like ‘okay, we just have to add something musical wherever possible, because if we start muting all this stuff and try to reduce it, it’s just going to sound terrible. Also, traveling with all that gear and relying on it working each and every day is a nightmare. We’re just two people (in KIASMOS) so how do you do it?
There have been so many advances in macro software & MIDI controllers recently…
Exactly! Everyone is looking for something they can bring in their carry-on luggage and that’s totally understandable because flying nowadays is just so expensive, especially when you’re the one bringing extra baggage. Everybody’s on a budget…
The first ‘Vín – Remixes’ EP is released on the 19th July on KI Records.
Part 2 coming on 19th July, so stay tuned! You can see Janus’ live dates & purchase Vín here>>>
Take a look at our round-up of Secret Solstice 2019, Iceland’s midnight sun music festival >>>
Tags: Delhia de France, Janus Rasmussen, Kiasmos, march, Ólafur Arnalds, Remix, Vin, Vín - Remixes
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