Name: Sturle Dagsland
Current Release: Kusanagi, the first single from his upcoming self-titled album
Recommendations: Tokyo Tribe is the best Japanese rap musical ever made, directed by one of my favorite directors Sion Sono / The Hearing Trumpet by Leonora Carrington, a wonderful imaginative book.
If you enjoyed this interview with Sturle Dagsland, visit his Facebook page to find out more about his work and music.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What is it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I have always loved to explore my dreams and creativity in a wide array of different ways. I loved writing stories, acting, making movies, singing, playing, etc. After a while music felt like the most exciting and vital platform for me to express myself and continue to explore my creativity. I was singing opera with my full strength every day when I went home from school and when I was 10 years old, I won a talent competition by performing Barbie Girl (by Aqua) in a miniskirt and my mother´s bra filled with candy while I was singing, dancing and simulating sex with a hand-doll I had made. The same time my brother and future band-mate Sjur made lots of robots and wondrous inventions from garbage he found in containers around the suburbs which eventually led him to challenge the same creative energy into music and after a while we started making music together.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
Making music is a flexible multifaceted formula, and the way you cook it, the ingredients you put in can differ from song to song. We are trying to be in a constant process of creating music, rather than waiting to absorb inspiration from somewhere else but inspiration may come from anywhere, both from music, nature, dreams, art, life, and the subconscious.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
It used to be CPU overloads, slow HDDs and latency issues/workarounds. In 2020, however, the world is a much better place.
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?
When I was 6 years old, I had an old cassette-deck that I inherited from my older brothers. I went around and recorded animals, birds, conversations, my favourite Pokémon-raps from the TV in addition to recordings of my own songs, jokes, riddles and stories, so that’s probably my first “studio-experience”, and my first “recording” experience. Most of the upcoming album has been recorded in our studio in Stavanger, Norway, but we have always a go-to portable studio setup ready and we always try to seek out auditive unique and interesting places and utilize that atmosphere into our music. Fortunately we don’t use that cassette-deck anymore but In the last few years we have had recording sessions at high mountain tops in Norway, abandoned industrial areas in Russia, legendary soviet Marine ships in Eastern-Europe, water reservoirs in Germany, A lighthouse on a remote island in the North-Sea, and singing with “wolves” in dogsledding villages in the outback’s of Greenland.
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?
We are on a constant auditive adventure when we are creating music, and that includes experimenting with both technologies, auditive unique places, instruments (both old and new) and the human voice.
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?
We always try to embrace our tools and make use of what is on that endless list of possibilities they offer, while still keeping control of things so it is at the end of the day still man controlling the technology and not the opposite. The most important tool for me is my own voice, and I am continuously exploring and using a wide palette of different vocal techniques in our music such as: throat-singing, kauking, screams, pop and animalesque expressions.
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?
It depends. Sometimes by improvising or jamming, other times it is from a longer continuous exchange of ideas.
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?
Usually I work all day, every day, interspersed with some climbing trips, rollerblading, yoyoing and adventures.
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?
We never have had, and neither are we seeking, a particular type of creative process to work as an ultimate template or starting point for creating our music. Sometimes we may have an idea what we want to achieve beforehand, for instance a part on an instrument, a vision of a soundscape or blurry memories from a previous dream, other times it is just up to each specific moment and the certain mood of the day to decide what musical creation (or humbug) that will come out of a day's work. It can go either way. Often playing around with some of our instruments is a good starting point, and maybe with an unorthodox approach. In our studio we have got an arsenal of different microphones and gear (both vintage and modern) as well as instruments available that we have collected over the years of touring. This includes both exciting acoustic instruments such as: Guzheng, Kora, Cimbalom, Kalimba, Autoharp, Dilruba, Tank Drums, Marxophone, Billy Goat Horn, and much more but also electronics, pedals and synthesizers both analog like our custom modded Yamaha CS15 as well as a range of digital softsynths and midi controllers, so there are a lot of different options and paths to creating music for us either when we are in the studio or on recording trips.
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?
I dress myself naked and take a bath in Acacia honey, after this I walk peacefully out in the forest, meditate for 4 hours, and let the animals feed on my body. The best ideas always come while ants are feeding on your genitalia. – No, but yeah, of course there are some moments where creativity hits its peak and it is always good to exploit those days, minutes or hours to its fullest. These moments are amazing but at the same time it is also important to be a craftsman that works continually on honing the music even when you are not on a creative high.
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?
50 % of our live songs are music that will never be recorded and 50 % of our recorded songs are music that will never be performed. Live and Studio can be completely intertwined and draw and inspire each other – which it often does – but other times it can be like two separate art forms that work completely independent from each other. Something that would work in a film, might not work on the theatre stage, and vice versa – the same goes for music.
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?
In our music the way each individual instrument is played (dynamics, musical phrasing, imperfect particularities, tension between the musicians in the room etc.) are often as important for the end result as the composition in itself. The relationship between all of these focal elements in coalition with how it is recorded (the mics used, positioning, what gear used, and acoustics of the recording space) definitely intertwines and ends up paramount to the final sound.
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?
The symbiosis between humans, animals, and nature really interesting. During our time in a sled dog village in Greenland we made a choir out of all their 150 sled dogs. I was howling, singing, screaming, and throat-singing with husky dogs during which recording session I achieved almost an alpha-like-status in the pack – when I stopped singing – they stopped. I was the conductor, and they were my orchestra. The recordings were made during a hazardous snowstorm and all the senses really came into play, both from me and the dogs.
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?
Explorative, Adventurous, and Expressive.
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?
Music is always evolving, and there are endless possibilities. It is ever expanding and can be moulded to taste and feel in any way.