Name: Gustav Rasmussen & Thorben Seierø
Current release: Ghost Coast Choir out with ExoPAC
Recommendations: TS: Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton / What's Next to the Moon where Mark Kozelek covers Bon Scott-era AC/DC songs.
GR: The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell / Songs of Repression a documentary directed by Estephan Wagner and Marianne Hougen-Moraga about abuse, forgiveness, and singing with incredible empathy.
Find Ghost Coast Choir online at www.ghostcoastchoir.com for news and live material.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
TS: As soon as I could play an instrument, I always came up with original melodies. In elementary school, I wrote lyrics for movie scores that I liked such as Rocky and Rambo (I had a thing for Stallone), but also a plethora of others. I've always dreamt myself away in music. Almost like I've had my own movie playing. My eyes being the camera and my Walkman featuring the mixtape of the day as the soundtrack. Other than movie scores, I was into mostly classic hard rock such as Alice Cooper, Guns n Roses, ACDC, as well as the likes of Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine (I know…). Later I'd get into grunge and every Seattle band that were around. Being a Gen X, I found that sound just immediately resonated with me.
GR: The first song I wrote was for a school concert at the age of 14. I assembled an oddly large group of wind instruments – maybe 10 or 15 – wrote a piece without knowing anything about it and performed it, myself playing the piano, even though my main instrument was the trombone. It was about sharing a certain sound and melody, but certainly also about the mathematical fun in doing the arrangement so all the parts fit nicely together. The urge was pretty primal: to create something that I felt needed to exist.
For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
TS: It was actually through the grunge scene that I learned to write songs. Real songs. My own melodies, chords and lyrics.
GR: The world of sound and music appealed to me quite early on, especially the nuts and bolts of it: I was really into music theory as a child, a bit like taking apart a machine to find out how it runs. The other side was that even though this quite conservative path into music was fascinating to me, I constantly had the craving to start my own musical projects – I was never content to only play the part of a musician. So, all through school and studying at the conservatoire, I would put together my own bands, setting up concerts in my parents' living room, writing music for all sorts of bands and orchestras, experimenting with 4-track tape recorders and sequencers. Gradually, I felt the need to focus on what I was personally and emotionally invested in, as opposed to what I was academically interested in. It was a pretty conscious decision and meant that I sorted out my priorities and went with what I felt I couldn't do without.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
TS: Insecurities dominated my early songwritingsong writing years. Today, being an adult with a wife and two kids, I tend to just write what I like, and not what I think my audience would like.
GR: The western choral tradition is such a big part of our cultural heritage that it still feels like a part of me, even though I've never sung in a choir. But when we started Ghost Coast Choir, we felt like there was a sound missing. A lot of choral music, even today, revolves around Christian rituals and is created in Latin – an ancient language no one has spoken for several hundred years. We were hearing the sound of the melodic, classical choir but instead of involving the entrenched traditional elements, we wanted to be able to relate to it lyrically to the likes of a Radiohead song, to understand it and relate to it as a person living today.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
TS: As stated above, when I started out, overthinking was a big thing. I think being more grounded now as a human being on this insignificant little spec of dust we all call home, out among the trillions of stars, kind of sets things into perspective. It’s fantastic and lovely if people feel and are into what we are doing if not, that's OK too. Both Gustav and I are having a blast creating something we absolutely adore. That's really all the reward I need.
GR: The main creative challenge with doing choral music is that you have to get a choir. So, you write something, then plan a recording and maybe one year later you’ll hear what you've written. That part hasn't really changed. But in the beginning, I would spend hours and hours learning how to do things correctly, whereas nowadays I'm more interested in what my way of doing things are.
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
TS: Well, I'm not much of an innovator. I learned Cubase SX 3 back in the day and have chosen just to keep up with them. I’ve never had a computer on stage. I always just played my guitar through my pedalboard. Easy stuff. Nothing fancy for me personally; I leave that to Gustav.
GR: I started out playing the trombone and tried out several different instruments throughout my youth. The motivation always had to do with the kind of music I wanted to make and what I felt that needed. One of the funny things in Ghost Coast Choir is that we don't actually sing ourselves (that much). So, we're using the choir as our instrument – and that's just such a brilliant instrument. Then, as the biggest contrast to the human voice, I started experimenting with electronic instruments and machines to create music: tape machines, guitar pedals etc. I find the built-in inaccuracies and inconsistencies so much fun – almost like finding life in the machines.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
TS: Not really. It's always amazing to see what you can do today with autotune, samples and arpeggiators etc. I just dig coming up with my own stuff.
GR: The computer. Having a professional-grade recording studio at almost anyone's disposal really changes what's possible. Now, of course, you can do as many recordings of a song as you like – keep going until it's perfect. Then the question then becomes, is perfect what you're looking for? The possibilities are endless, but you end up looking for the human touch anyway.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
TS: We write a song. Verses and chorus. We fit the lyrics to that. Then we start adding the voices, and after that, we start producing samples of said voices and add some noise in the form of guitar and so on. Then we mould it, so it fits. And then we transcribe it. Give it to the choir of choice, meet up with them and have them record the raw vocals. In other projects sharing files is easily done today through dropbox/drive etc. We just haven't found the need for this…yet.
GR: Talking about ideas, trying them out and keeping an open mind. When you write for a choir there's quite a distance between that and hearing it sung, and it's difficult to change much on the spot. You could end up with something that's not quite what you're looking for, and in that situation – having spent hours working on the arrangement, you may then decide to scrap it. Therefore, it's so important to stick with how it really works and not what you intended it to be like.