Part 1

Name: Peder Thomas Pedersen
Nationality: Danish
Occupation: Musician / Producer / Composer / Actor
Bands/Projects: Peder & Asger Baden / Peder / The Prunes / Xtra Naan
Labels:  Ubiquity / Lizardshakedown Records /Mo’ Wax / Grand Royal
Musical Recommendations: John Grant is great in many ways but I am especially inspired by his way of incorporating his humour and sense of self irony in to his lyrics and still make it moving / Asger Baden, both his classical album coming up and his “the crooked spoke” album.  

When did you start writing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences?

When I was 10 hip-hop came to Denmark and I remember being struck by a sense of belonging. I wanted to be a part of that whole movement.

I went through graffiti, breakdancing, human beat-box, rapping and finally settled on DJing which quickly led me to producing and sampling which then again opened up a whole world of music. I started buying vinyl; whatever I could find that looked old and funky and weird. I listened to fusion, Greek folklore, film scores etc and soon some of the more solid records like Stevie Wonder started to stick to me.

I produced a lot of records in the '90s, but I wouldn’t say I started writing music until 2000 when I started working with musicians and when I say writing I mean usually telling other people what to play or how to fulfil my ideas.

Early influences were hip-hop like Grandmaster Melle Mel and Fat Boys, whose first album made me decide to want to make music. Later on my influences have broadened considerably and I like music that has vibe, story and which usually is quite gloomy.

Artists like Nina Simone, Tom Waits, Radiohead, Timber Timbre, Les Compagnons De Chansons, Gil Evans, Lee Hazlewood, Andrew Bird, Duke Ellington, John Grant, Pablo Casal, Jan Johansson, Blind Willie Johnson, Bobby Darin, Bon Iver, Chet Baker, Dr Dre, Galt McDermot etc. But to be honest I listen to anything that soothes my ears and I consider myself the opposite of a music snob.

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? 

I'm not really a trained musician, I mean I can play some guitar, bass and piano and such and I can sort of sing, but I don’t consider myself very strong or flexible as an artist/musician.

I guess style and mood has been the forefront of my development as an artist. I spent years producing/sampling and mucking around with sounds and had a really good sense for creating a world or a sound before I ever wrote song. And becoming a singer was something that happened after I had sung so many cue vocals for my featured artists and they started asking me why I didn’t just sing it myself. I have no training other than searching for melodies in the studio and I've never sung on stage and fear exactly that like nothing else.

What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?

I would say it is and has always been writing alone that is my main challenge. I work with these insanely talented guys and it makes it kinda strange to sit there alone and try to drag some music out of myself in a slow and draining process. But whenever I do drag it out of myself it always comes out good, so I don’t know what the problem is really. Maybe vanity.

I’m not sure if it has changed over time. Many a time have I started a course of training with either a piano or guitar teacher and I have a hard time sticking to it even though I know it would be a revelation for me to become better at writing songs by myself. I guess it’s about being afraid of not being good enough.

Tell us about your writing environment/studio, please. What were criteria when setting it up and how does this environment influence the creative process? How important, relatively speaking, are factors like mood, ergonomics, haptics and technology for you? 

I share a studio with Asger Baden with whom I do a lot of work (pederandasgerbaden.com) and since he is a keyboard player we need a lot of space for pianos and organs and such, but other than that, many things are important. Close proximity to my home, daylight, the ability to make noise without annoying anyone else, being surrounded by other creative folk and a nice “hyggelig” atmosphere.

What are currently some of the most important tools and instruments you're using?  

The musicians I use are number one. I write with them and once the melodies and vocals and structures are solid, I record 3-4 guys at once usually at another studio.

Also Cubase (or any DAW) really is important.

My microphones; particularly my Coles 4038 (for piano and drums) are important. And my outboard reverbs are very important too AKG BX10 and Fender Spring. 

How would you describe your relationships with technology and what role does it play in your pieces? In which way do certain production tools suggest certain approaches, in which way do they limit and/or expand your own creativity? Are there any promising solutions or set-ups capable of triggering new ideas inside of you as a composer?   

I do use all kinds of plugins especially distortions, echoes and what-not, but to be honest I am getting more and more old-school in my approach. I started making music by scratching and chopping things up, but now I write the song and lyrics first and then I record. I hope to record with more people and myself on the mic next time around if I’m not too afraid – just like they used to do back in the day.

I like to pitch things either an octave down for choirs or strings or pianos which sounds amazing or just recording a clarinet 7 half-notes too high and then pitching it down. It makes things sound other-worldly and gloomy.

Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece or album that's particularly dear to you, please? Where do ideas come from, what do you start with and how do you go about shaping these ideas?

My solo albums are always done while I'm working as a film composer at the same time. Meaning I never get to rip out 3 months and just focus completely on my own stuff. I all ways do it on my breaks. So it’s kinda like always happening and in the back of my mind.

I collect ideas for melodies or rhythmical structures or choir arrangements or whatever I find fascinating and then I meet with musicians and write ideas and then meet with my lyric guy until I have enough solid songs. Then I record, and do overdubs and recording myself singing in the studio when my kids are sleeping. That’s it. Ideas come from all over but mostly from the '30s, '40s and '50s and lyrically it’s a blend of real life and whatever strikes us as poetic when we’re writing.

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