Members: Hannes Stenström, Emmanuel Pascal Moreno
Current release: The new SHXCXCHCXSH full-length Kongestion is available via Avian.
Recommendations: Sisters with Transistors, documentary from last year; E-Com/Seico Corp, full discography
If you enjoyed this interview with SHXCXCHCXSH and would like to know more, visit the project on Facebook, Instagram, and Soundcloud.
When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
When we met in 2009, we both noticed that we loved the same kind of techno and weirdness in electronic music.
But it was not just the music as such that we had in common, it was something with the whole attitude to the “underground” scene. Something about letting the music, the experiment be everything, faceless.
Some people experience intense emotion when listening to music, others see colours or shapes. What is your own listening experience like and how does it influence your approach to music?
For us, it has always been about just the music, to make the music become context-free, not literally, but somehow at least temporally, like an escape from reality.
We prefer to listen to music in the dark, preferably without knowing who made it, when or how.
How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?
It’s more fun see each experiment, each recording as its own thing and focus on what is dope with that particular thing, rather than be looking for an identity, an aesthetic, an image. It's about feeling free, not being tied to one's history and the expectations of others.
If you still can hear it sounds like us it’s probably because we have our methods and our taste, and not because we wanted it to sound like us.
Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.
We love to break the music laws and don’t mind being outsiders, always looking for something new, new sounds and rhythms that we have never heard or created before.
Earlier the masks we had was a way to be such, but 10 years later the masks became more like a jail, you feel trapped in a certain aesthetic, image.
So on the day when we celebrated 10 years together we took them off, that was Christmas 2019, just before Covid struck.
What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?
Follow your heart on the rocky road.
How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?
In our utopia there is no need for musical languages. Rhythms, melodies, textures comes out of chaos. Total autonomy always precedes nostalgia and lax reuse of old clichés such as 303s or 909s in techno.
But also autonomy can be stiff if you think about it too much, generally it’s important not to think too much. So we would probably choose chaos before anything else.
Over the course of your development, what have been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?
Sampling is definitely our main strategy. We sample anything, podcasts, youtube, films, field recordings. Also when we use analog hardware we often treat the material as samples rather than long takes / sequences.
What we are looking for are the sounds in-between, unintentional sounds, sounds that don’t sound like the usual sounds you hear on the radio. We use them as loops, as rhythms, as melodies, as drones or whatever they fit for.
Sometimes we take them into sample-based hardware such as Octatrack, Electribe, OP-1, Nord Wave, Blofeld or similar. But none of those really beats what you can do with samples in the computer, like in Reason or Ableton.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.
Lately we’ve spent a lot of time in the countryside where we’ve been renovating an old barn in timber from the 19th century. So we worked a few hours in the studio, then we went cladding the timber-walls with a mixture of clay, dung, sand and straw for a few hours. Then some more in the studio before supper.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that's particularly dear to you, please?
More and more we’ve asked ourselves why we make a record, the purpose of the record. Is it to fill a dance-floor or is more of a way to be free? The answer is more and more the latter. We love techno, but we want it to be more skewed than the usual formats.
Every record has been done differently and in quite a few different locations, most of them in Norrköping, including the new album Kongestion. Our two previous records, OUFOUFOF and AÅÄ were both rather strict in their format, exploring rhythm patterns. This time we wanted to be more free in how we used sounds, but we still wanted limits, because without limits it’s easy to get too full and empty in your head at the same time, like you can’t control your process because too much is going on and you don’t know where to go next.
So we decided to limit ourselves to a few recordings we did in a basement in Norrköping, summer 2019. From the recordings we created a bunch of stems, then we played them more like a DJ, to fit them together into tracks. The album was almost finished that summer, but we had to take a break for six months for other work. Then came Covid and we could not work together for another long time.
When we finally got the opportunity to work together again, 2021, too much time had passed for us to be able to continue working with exactly the same thing. Also Covid had left us with a feeling of isolation, like we missed the congestion in city life and the clubs, so we changed quite a lot, focused on other sounds. Instead of seeing people listen to it in headphones by themselves we saw a skewed crowd of weirdos on a dance-floor doing their thing.
Listening can be both a solitary and a communal activity. Likewise, creating music can be private or collaborative. Can you talk about your preferences in this regard and how these constellations influence creative results?
Making music for dance floors is a process where the context, the common language, the rhythm is more important than when you do it for headphone listeners.
This is something we are constantly working on, how skewed and twisted it can be before people leave the dance floor. Headphone listeners probably have more patience.
The support we get from each other when we work together is very worthwhile and very important for the process. Maybe it's easier to dare to do sick things when you're two instead of one.
How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?
Hard to find words for this at the moment as Ukraine is brutally attacked by Russia. Music could mean nothing or it could mean everything.
Art can be a way of dealing with the big topics in life: Life, loss, death, love, pain, and many more. In which way and on which occasions has music – both your own or that of others - contributed to your understanding of these questions?
Having no expectations at all usually works best when we make or listen to music.
There seems to be increasing interest in a functional, “rational” and scientific approach to music. How do you see the connection between music and science and what can these two fields reveal about each other?
SHX is and has been a kind of playground for us, where we tested lots of different ideas. In the beginning, it was mostly about flowing on with everything possible. But when you just go on intuition, it is easy to end up doing just the same thing that you or others have done before, to repeat yourself or others' work.
So over time, we have tried to clarify our process to be about one thing per record. On our records OUFOUFOUF and AÅÄ we played with making music based on simple rhythmic patterns. It became a way to get away from traditions and clichés and find new rhythms, sounds, connections.
But the most recent stuff is again more free in that respect, like we try to stay open to anything that comes to us, more about pure pleasure than something that we can be rational about.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you feel as though writing or performing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
Coffee is coffee, music is klsaghkljvdlkdalvadsfdsakjwelkfndfklvfdklsafhiurew. That’s just how we see it, maybe a barista feels the opposite, because it’s all about craft, love and passion.
Music is vibration in the air, captured by our ear drums. From your perspective as a creator and listener, do you have an explanation how it able to transmit such diverse and potentially deep messages?
Nope, we just do SHXCXCHCXSH.