Wednesday, 13th December 2017. 3:48:55pm ET
Band: Kobi
Interviewer: Joshua Heinrich
Date: 1/15/06

Blending processed sounds, real instrumentation, and electronics, Kobi, something of a collective of the Norwegian experimental underground, have spent years crafting effective experimental soundscapes and drones. I recently got a chance to interview core member Kai Mikalsen about Kobi's second album, Dronesyndrome (read my review here), and the two year collaborative effort that went into it.

Hello. Thanks for doing the interview! I hope everything's well over there. From my understanding, Kobi is really more of an experimental collective with you at the nucleus as opposed to a structured band or project. How did this collective come together, and what are the roles of the various members?

It started out as my solo project, but I soon realised that it made more sense involving others. On recordings I usually invite people to come and do a recording session. But live it's basically anyone who's willing to join in. It's all democratic and anarchistic, everybody do what they want...

How does the project work from a compositional standpoint? Are all parties involved in the conceptualization of the pieces, or are the musicians merely executing your vision? In other words, are members chosen for a particular song because of their talents or specific instrumentation, or do you start without a blueprint and let the collaborators shape the sound and direction of a piece? How much of the album is based around improvisation, and how much is planned or traditionally composed and arranged?

On the two Silber albums, what happened was that I had made a "sketch of sounds" on my computer, and then I invited different people for each song. Then I started the production, adding or taking away sounds. Most of the "sketch of sound recordings" have elements of improvisation, but are treated sounds of synths or location recordings or sounds of objects played on like instruments. What the others do is improvising on top, with no guidance from me...
For the past two years, all recording- and live sessions has been total improvisations, no plan ahead.

Did you find it difficult to create a cohesive set with an ever-changing lineup, or did the revolving group of musicians help to keep things fresh and creative?

Fresh and creative. I invited who ever I think fit in with my soundscapes....

If I'm not mistaken, Dronesyndrome is the result of 2 years of work. Yet it sounds particularly cohesive both sonically and thematically. Was the album actually recorded over that two year period, or was much of that time conceptualization and mixing/production? Was it recorded with some sort of narrative or common thread in mind, or did that come about in processing and post-production?

Most of my music is based on my vision of sound; creating soundscapes that have never been here before, working with texture instead of loops or rhythm. Another focus is more on space, dynamics, frequency and depth than on melody and harmonies. It's more important to play by ear and guts than intellect..That's maybe why the songs don't sound that different from each other.
We used two years on both the recordings and production. Actually there was material for two cd's, but I only took the best songs, and the ones that fit together.. The only conception was that I had to trust my own intuition, and that I wanted to make a drone-record.

Careful attention seems to be paid to spatiality and depth on Dronesyndrome. How did you approach these elements from a production and compositional standpoint? How much of this was a conscious effort, and how much came about naturally?

When I'm producing I try to fill most of the range of space and frequency. And I try to mix the different "instruments" so they are all audible. I also try to shape a soundscape and mood that's appealing to me. I have to rely on my guts and feelings, hoping that it will appeal to others. I'm trying not to work too much by intellect...

Could you elaborate a bit about the software and sound processing techniques used to create the pieces on the album? How much of the album's sound is live processing and how much is post-production? Did the album become more structured or less structured through processing and post-production?

I use nuendo and plugins, no midi. Most of the album is post-production.

You seem to be acutely conscious of the interplay between electronic and organic elements on this album. What percentage of the instrumentation would you say is from an acoustic source, and what percentage of the sound was created electronically? How did you approach processing and sound manipulation with regard to the acoustic material? Did you make an effort to maintain its acoustic characteristics or perhaps balance the acoustic and electronic elements of the album?

I use an ARP-odyssey to produce the electro elements, and I look upon it as acoustic as it is analogue, and I treat every sound as acoustic sources, and try to strengthen the sounds more than electrifying them...

The titles of the various pieces on the disc are fairly interesting. Are any of them particularly significant in terms of sonic direction or intention, or were they chosen for their imagery?

I would like to not title the songs, as I don't want to give directions to the listener. But instead I collected phrases from the internet and placed them where I found them to fit.

The text pieces chosen for the work, particularly the one found in "This Inclusion is Not a Simple Operation", are rather interesting and oddly compelling. Could you please elaborate a bit on the sources of these passages and why/how they were chosen?

It was Per Gisle who played this on his turntable on the recording session, and it's taken from: "Tales of the norsemen", an old record for children, matchbox playhouse .... on "Anchored to a Central Core of Saturated Intensity", the vocal/song is taken from a concert by Moldurga on dictaphone....all of them were chosen randomly....

How would you describe the Norwegian experimental scene in comparison with that of other countries you've experienced, either based on artists working in those other countries or based on the receptiveness of other countries to your work?

The Norwegian scene is probably not that genrefacist, but more open to experiment cross genre. Most of the people involved in kobi play in different bands, making different music.

Where do you see Kobi going next? Would you like to continue in a similar style or perhaps do something altogether different? Are there any artists you'd particularly like to work with?

We are experimenting with jam sessions with no plan and total improvisations in the kobi-spirit. Hopefully this will be our next album. But I'm also fidling around with sounds on my computer, so it will probably be both.. And I've started out experimenting with video-sound, so I will put out some dvds, too.
I would like to work with: Fred Frith, Kevin Drumm, Taku Sugimoto, Toshimaru Nakamura, Brian Eno, Ikue Mori, Helge Sten and Arve Henriksen

Anything you'd like to add?

Have fun, be present.....take care....share.....!

Thanks again for doing the interview and best of luck!

 

Silber Records website: www.silbermedia.com

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