Part 1

Name: GusGus
Members: Biggi Veira and Daníel Ágúst
Nationality: Icelandic
Occupation: Producers, Live Performers
Current Release: Lies Are More Flexible on Oroom
Recommendations: Book: Eric D. Beinhocker - Origin of Wealth
Painting: Egon Schiele – Seated male Nude (Self-Portrait)
Music: Beethoven – Piano Concert No.5 – Adagio un poco mosso (depends on who plays it though)

Website / Contact: If you enjoyed this interview with GusGus, visit their website for more information, videos and music.

When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
BiggiVeira: I started tapping into music at 13.  There was basically no music at my home but my friend's older brothers had Oxygen by Jean Michael Jarre that I found cool and the feel on Love over Gold by Dire Straits I liked.  Two years later I became friends with one of the DJs at my school who introduced me to HiNRG and Italo Disco, and I just loved those synth sounds and the electronic beat.  This was 83.  Soon I found out that a lot of the stuff he was playing he recorded on cassettes from some of the boys a year younger.  They where into the British synthwave stuff, like Soft Cell and Depeche Mode that I totally fell for.  So my brain was wired by this “Soft Hi Italo Mode”, I tried to do music on a program I wrote for Comandor 64, after a few demos I bought my first synth, Roland Juno2, as this Comandor 64 was not, you know, doing it for me.  The first synth lick I picked up was that lick in “Showing Out,” a track by S.A.W.  After buying a second cassette recorder and the TR-505 that I used for drums and bass sequencing, the first track I recorded was a cover of “So Hurt” by Human League.  A few years passed and then in 92, the ambient brakes scene transformed me with tracks from Fsol, ORB, The Black Dog, Autechre and Aphex Twin of course.  So you could say that the core of my musical nerve system is a mixture of those intelligent brakes, new wave and drum machine disco.  You can call it “Soft-Hi-Italo-Mode-Brakes”.
For most artists, originality is first 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? What is the the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
Biggi Veira:  I think it is important when you are starting, specially if you have no musical training to do covers and pick up chord structures and lead lines from stuff you love.  It is the shortest path to get insight into how to write music.  I spent my first years only having the Juno2 and the Tr505 picking up Depeche Mode and Italodisco licks, just for fun, without any agenda for music as a carrier.  But I think my transition to what I am now is mostly thanks to my ex-partner in T-World and Gusgus, Maggi Lego, who in 93, introduced me what was going on in the club those days and together we experimented with Sampling and Cut Up Beats.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
Biggi Veira:  Trying to produce tracks with the Juno2, Tr505 and two cassette decks that are not on the same speed, and add to that limited musical talent.  Kids today have it astronomically more easy to start producing music.  Now the problem is what to choose to start with, rather than budget.  And with some of this stuff that is out there it is so easy to start being creative, while in the 80s it was how to sync.
What was your first studio like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
Biggi Veira:  The studio setup that I had in beginning of 95 when my band T-World was assimilated into Gusgus was:  Pro6 on Windows 3.1, a 16 Mackie mixer, Ensoniq DP4 for effects and then a Roland S-550 sampler, TR-909, Tr-808, Arp-2600, Yamaha CS-30, SH-101, SH-2 and my old Juno 2 and TR-505 for beats and synths.  That was the stuff we used doing the first Gusgus album “Polydistortion”.  But then Mr Doepfer changed my life in 98 when I bought my first double rack.  The first task was to do a remix for Bjork, only using this new Doepfer, so we started creating drums and percussion on the Doepfer to build up an arsenal of sounds doing that mix.  After that experiment, percussion samples and some nifty patching has always been part of our production.
How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
Biggi Veira:  For me doing electronic music is like having sex with machines, I turn your knobs, you turn mine…  I don’t focus on who is doing what, I just enjoy the blizzz.
Production tools, from instruments to complex software environments, contribute to the compositional process. How does this manifest itself in your work? Can you describe the co-authorship between yourself and your tools?
Biggi Veira:  I am very oldstyle, using logic and not using many tricks within the DAW.  I use EQ's and compressors, yes, but for effects I still use outboard stuff with the TC-2290 as my favourite effect machine.
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?
Biggi Veira: Having a partner is very important and boosts productivity and creativity both ways.  Me and Daniel spend a long time just swimming in early demos of our songs, just waiting for what the machines call on us to do next.
Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
Biggi Veira:  Too many kids..  Arg..  I can squeeze, perhaps 4 hours during the daytime.  But my studio is in my garage so the evenings I often just drown myself in spaced out synth and melody exploring.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece or album that's particularly dear to you, please? Where did the ideas come from, how were they transformed in your mind, what did you start with and how do you refine these beginnings into the finished work of art?
Biggi Veira:  I am not fully aware of where my ideas come from.  Basically I patch up some cool sound or turn on my Juno-106 and then my fingers just start exploring the sound finding what the sound wants me to do at that time.  And then we have what we call a “snippet” that is often just one chord structure or arpeggio with a kick.  If Daniel likes it we explore it further together, searching for additional chords or arpeggio for that traditional verse-chorus-bridge structure.  Beats are then more difficult, but Daniel and I figure it out together in the end.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
Biggi Veira:  The ideal state of mind is to show up in the studio with no schedule for the next 4 hours.
How is playing live and writing music in the studio connected? What do you achieve and draw from each experience personally? How do you see the relationship between improvisation and composition in this regard?
Biggi Veira:  Performing and writing electronic music is very different to us.  Preparing songs for the live set is to strip it to the core, re-sampling everything without effects and re-creating the synths in a way, so they behave nicely in the Doepfer Wasp filters.  Then the parts are laid down on the 10-track output that the AKAI MPC-2500 has, and then you start playing around with that setup, re-exploring the possibilities of the track in that particular setup.  The result is that the songs live have a very different feel and structure than on the releases.  And that is good, and basically essential as electronic music live, without exploring it each time is boring both to the musician and the audience.
How do you see the relationship between the 'sound' aspects of music and the 'composition' aspects? How do you work with sound and timbre to meet certain production ideas and in which way can certain sounds already take on compositional qualities?
Biggi Veira:  Sound and feel is the first thing we find before any structural laydown.  So searching sounds from production ideas we don't really do, it is the other way around, the sound and feel make the production ideas.  Also as the mood is so much in the transition between chords and different chord structures, the laydown of beats and structure is basically the first thing that comes to mind supplementing those transitions.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work? What happens to sound at its outermost borders?
Biggi Veira:  For me music has direct access to my subconscious nerve system so any visual stimulant needs to be very subtle setting for the mood.  What happens with sound at its outermost border is for then me an emotional experience that often includes crying, goosebumps and dizziness.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
Biggi Veira: Art is the pinnacle of human culture.  It is the proof that within us there is something divine.  Art is also important feedback to the culture providing alternative aspects to see and explore things and not least to mirror what it is to be human.
It is remarkable, in a way, that we have arrived in the 21st century with the basic concept of music still intact. Do you have a vision of music, an idea of what music could be beyond its current form?
Biggi Veira: Not really, experiments with no beat structure or musical structure have not cut through really.  Birds sing in key and have been doing so for some millions of years, I guess we will too.