Hakan Lidbo - The Self-Made Man (Teil 1)

Rubrik » Interview Portrait

Hakan Lidbo gehört derzeit zu einem der versiertesten Techno und House Produzenten. Seine Label-Stationen sind Vielfältig: Pokerflat, Paper Recordings, Force Inc., und noch viele andere. Mit seinem neuen Projekt Data 80 auf Force Inc. schüttelt er jetzt noch einmal richtig am 80ies Revival. Warum er uns mit cheesy Vocodern, süßen Melodien und Off-Beat-Basslines so herbe provoziert, verriet er in einem sehr ausführlichen Email-Interview. Seinen ausführlichen Studiobericht könnt ihr hier lesen.

Why don't you produce the different styles under one name? Why do you use synonyms?
Hakan Lidbo: I do produce different styles under one name; Hakan Lidbo, if you compare my latest album, the one on mitek, with for example my "Walk Away" EP on loaded, they're very very different but both are released under my name. It's actaully the other way around. People tell me that I shouldn't release different styles on different labels and use the same name. It could be slightly confusing, especially for the people running the record stores, they might get sales sheets for 2 singles from me the very same week - sometimes from 2 very different labels. Sometimes the labels need a unique name for the project and then I come up with something suitable, like monsoon on driftwood records, dirty harriet on plastic city, jell on x-trax, stockholm decadence on frogman, dirt bomb on joia, royal flesh on drought, rupert pupkin on aka, the vanisher on fragile.

Sometimes the whole project works better with a project name like data 80 on force-tracks But when it comes to the record buyers, I trust that they won't buy just anything with my name, but maybe they will listen to my different kinds of music with an open mind. Maybe they will discover the production details of my new cheesy pop house album on Force Tracks even though they are totally into my minimal tech funk on my previous releases on Force Tracks.

I'd like to learn from every style I'm dealing with, then I can take the minimalfunkiness of the tech-house and maybe incorporate that into pop-house, take the rhythms of my Latin house and use that in minimal clicks 'n' cuts - maybe one day I'll invent a totally new style of music.

You produce so many different styles and dig deep into the different formats like techhouse (pokerflat) or now with data 80 house music. also you have a release-schedule which is amazing. How do you produce? Do you work simultaneous for different projects or one after another?

I have the privilige to work with pretty much what I feel like for the moment. I'm not exclusively signed to any label that expects me to deliver a certain type of music at a specific time. I work with quite a few different labels and they are all well aware that I'm releasing elsewhere. So it might be that I'm totally into experimental techno one week and then I get a bit fed up and make dance-pop the next. Sometimes the feedback from DJ's and journalists makes you continue on something that they appreciate. Sometimes when I'm out playing at clubs I get inspirations from hearing my own music on a big system and see people react to the music. And I'm also inspired listening to other DJs spin.

There are several reasons why I produce a lot of music and also release a lot of music, on is that I've been doing this for a long time. I know my studio very well. I've spent a great deal of my grown up life in front of a mixing desk, so I don't have to tweek that hihat sound back and forward for half an hour and compare should it be like this ? or maybe like this .? I just do it without thinking twice (and this is really interesting to me because if you know your equipment very well, electronic music is very close to improvised jazz or fusion where you jam with fellow musicians - I have a jam session with the computer because I can make the msuci almost in real time) and I work mostly with analogue equipment, machines with knobs, so I can use both my hands and twist the knobs really fast, whereas if you work only with software, it takes much longer time, at least for me, to twist those virtual knobs and choose functions in the menues.

another reason that I'm pretty fast is, that I'm lazy; if I've just finished a remix or a rather complicated track with vocals and stuff, I erase the arrangement and start from scratch building up new rhythm patterns with the same sound. I mean the mix is already on the desk and it sounds good - so why waste time making a totally new set of sounds and a new mix? So after every vocal track, I make at least one tech house or deep house track out of the same sounds. No-one can hear that anyway (not until now when I revieled my secret !!!!)

A third reson for me being fast and effective in the studio is that I used to work on a big swedish record company, dealing with a lot of commercial dance pop, I got really fed up with that music and I got fed up working so hard at the label that I couldnt find any time working in my studio. So when I quit there almost 4 years ago, I had so much music inside me that I had to let out and I still have that feeling inside; I'm bursting with ideas that I need to make into music. and I'm not afraid that the good ideas will run out. I've been working with music for more than 10 years now and I feel that I have almost just started, I'm getting better all the time and my ideas get better alll the time.

The data 80 album feels like an album that want to conquer the charts. Have you got an intention to enter the charts and to see if your music also works out in the mainstream?

That is not the intention but I wouldn't have a problem with it if it happens. I even think that some of the most important ways to promote new quality music is through tv commercials. Because it reaches people that wouldnt dare to get into a record store where some of that music is to be found. My intention with the data 80 album is to present underground music with nice melodies. The production, I hope, is much more complex and less cliché than a lot of the mainstream music, and that is probalbly why it won't be played that much on the radio, but I've added sweet melodies and vocals on top.

If the difference between commercial vocal house and underground vocal house is that the commercial music have good melodies and the underground music have weak melodies, then I guess it's commercial. But to me the difference is not the sound but the way the music was "concieved" - if it was made to make money or made directly from the heart with a true love of the music. And this album is made out of my love for both: pop and underground house and techno.

The way I see it: there's a war going on. The war between the big companies and the small independent companies, between the superficial mainstream popstars and the obscure undersgound producers and artists. The quality of underground house, electronica and techno has increased so much during the last few years when the level of commercial pop has dropped drastically. the big labels are so afraid of the decreasing market, that they don't take chances any longer, they just go for the most obvious, the most cliché, most sexist, most brainless projects they can find...and thats why they're digging their own grave.

The internet hasn't only created a new market place for obscure music, it has also made more people more aware of good music in general, especially people in small cities and in countries with a very small music scene.. in one way I very much appreciate the presence of commercial exploitative music because the quality underground music can define itself against it. If bad music didn1t exist, we wouldn1t know what was good, and the worse the music on the major labels gets, the more the underground focuses to do something else, something different, something with a substance, something that matters. I think that music can change peoples life, it changed my life, that's for sure. I rememebr specific songs and me listening to them at specific moments in my life - and it made me change my way of looking at myself and my possibilites.

The 80ies revival is nearly over. Your album has a lot of the cheesyness of the 80ies and I think it's with intention (the name of the project for example). Sometimes it feels like you are making jokes about those times. All those vocoder vocals are so plastic and trashy. Would you agree?

My idea with his album is that good taste is always changing. The music we thougth was crap when it was released maybe in the 60s or 70s or 80s we think is fantastic today. Everything moves, especially ideas about aesthetics and style. So I'm pretty sure that we one day will re-evaluate the pop music of today and give it credit. Artists like kylie minogue, cher, maybe even 2unlimited, will be the heroes of tomorrows pop junkies and record collectors. So whe I decided that I wanted to do a straight up pop album i started with the idea of a virtual songwriter, a computer program that had access to all msuci in the history of pop, and the ability to combine the best of all styles there are. maybe a silly idea but it helped me to put things in perspective. There's a scene in that crappy 90s sandra bullock film demolition man whrer they listen to the radio (the movie takes place some decades into the future) and all they play is songs from commercialss, those are the big radio hits in the future. not a pleasant thougth but neverhte less so this is a story that I made up as I was working with the music, yet to be edited and spell checked:

data 80 was one the first neurological networks to be self-aware. this happened in 2002, after more than 20 years of self-learing and collecting information. when the project was launched by japaneese honda industries in 1979, all information was typed in manually by 3 teams of computer progammers working in shift. hondas hope was to get the network not only self learning, but also curious to find and select new information by itself. when an evaluation was made in 1989 they sadly had to conclude that data 80s mental capacity was equal to the one of a mosquito.

but when the program was hooked up to the internet in 1991 things started to happen. the ammount of information available mutiplied by one hundred every six months and data 80 expanded way beyond its original hard disk space. in the beginning data 80 dissapointed the honda ingeneers by selecting information that was more about english 19th century poetry rather than nuclear physics and astronomy. one could have simple conversations with the network but it seemed very irrational and sensitive. data 80 made its first creation in the mid 901s, a poem about death. not very mature but still with a good sensability of the language and clever rhymes. something like depressed school girl in her early teens would have done.

when the illegal MP3 downloading hysteria started with napster and other search engines, data 80 collected and analyzed all music available, comparing musical structures, production tricks and melodies, it hooked up with a software studio and started to compose its own pop-tunes, all built on the massive ammount of information collected from the internet. the studio grew to finally hold all programs officially and illegally available on the net, linked together, re-programmed and improved by the data 80. all the song lyrics to be found was collected, analyzed and evaluated to create the perfect ballance, made to appeal to the most number of listeners on the biggest markets on the planet, profiled by information taken from tax registers and medical journals.

today, 40 years later, data 80 is the leading composer of popular music in the world, not yet officially awarded - as no software this far ever have won the grammy. the perfect mix of the cathiest melodies, linked with perfect lyrics, sometimes sung by the synthetic voice of data 80 itsef, sometimes by other artists, is without a doubt the most talented composer since lennon/mccartney or bacharach/david. the program1s extensive knowledge about pop history makes it possible to combine styles and influences from every song ever written. this timeless quality makes the music appealing to every generation of listeners. bla bla bla...

its not at all finished but it gives you an idea what my viewpoint has been making this album. I have this idea that if you know your music well enough, if you know your music history, if you know what music came from where, what effected what, who was influencedd by who, who copied what etc, you might predict the music of the future, if you have a lot of knowledge of that web of ideas and influences that are surrounding us today, you might have an idea what will be the next step. I mean; asian dub foundation in london. second generaton of immigrants from the west indies living in lllondon began to spin the reggae records at the double speed and the toasters began to double the speed of theirr phrases, white kids picked it up and did drumn bass, second generation of pakistanian kids took that sound and mixed it with the sound of the pakistanian movuie soundtrtacks all this happened within a few years and the result was music that was never heard before on earth (drumnbass is one of the most musicla inventions I n the 20th century, no doubt). all this because people from different ethnic background got together or at least inspired each other. adnoff course, there were clubs were you could hear all this fresh music. I think that if you imagine that japaneese kids that are collecting swedish 50s jazz and combining that with german tech house meet some african guys who are into brazilian 60s and 70s bossanova this will proalby never happen but as an expewriment you can very well try to figure out what it would sound like and even try to create it in your computer. I think the strongest force of change in music for the forthcoming years will be when people in new parts of the world get accesss to computers and the net, I think that there will be totally new ways of making music and combining rhythms that no-one thought of. and off course when girls start to be as big nerds as the boys and make new electronic music.

Hakan Lidbo to me is something like a one-man-army that seems to produce the whole day long. After techcouture on pokerflat the listeners can hear now on data 80 lots of vocals. Did you work with others together? and when yes how was the cooperation? Did you treat the vocalists just as an instrument or did they help you develop the sound?

Well, I'm doing most off the vocals myself. but when I use other vocalists it depends who they are. my wife is singing on one song (don't believe me - maybe you noticed the refrain "don't belive a word/I'm just sining what im told/there's no deeper meaning/but to get this single sold/don't believe me " ) and she's pretty much singing what she's told as I wrote the lyrics and meelody. she is a good improvisor but maybe not on this particular track. but on the song called "open skies" the lyric and vocal melody is written by the vocalist fredrik joelson. off course I see the vvocals ass an instrument just like everything else that has a place in the mix, but vocals has the ability to take a lot of focus from the rest of the arrangement so you have to mix in a very different way compared with an instrumental track.

In an interview I read that you produce your tracks between 9-14 o'clock. is this still true. I ask because data 80 is more song orientated, has it's own melodies and there seems a lot of love in the arrangements?

It's pretty much true except that I had to work until 19.00 with these tracks. vocal tracks always take longer time and the mixes needed to be clear and crisp to fit the concept of the album. I still love making instrumental minimal club tracks as well but youre allowed to improvise more and make live mutes, filters and fades when you mix those tracks - you work pretty much like Dj when you produce those ones. this album was a very nice break for me, I guess its more common to do somethiing experimental to get away from the day to day commercail msuci, but for me it's the other way around. I needed to make some pop to take a break from the experimental stuff.

I read that you like and collect men-magazines from the 60 and 70ies. even you like clothing yourself with style. Maybe mod-style. have you now pink hair and cheap plastic round your neck? Do you change your outfit like the styles of your music?

I don't change the way idresss but I cchang emy music all the time. maybe because I'm not as interested in clothes as in music. I still think that michael caine in the films the ipcress file or get carter is as cool as a man can be. I use to say that good taste is to always question your taste and to explore the things you used to reject, to always move on and develop. unfortunatley that doesn't go for my dressing style. last time I bought trousers I bought 3 pairs of exactly the same trousers but they're nice. but I very much respect a person who honeestly feels that pink hair and cheap plastic around the neck is the way to look. style comes from inside and hasn't anything to do with wealth. I think that some of the most stylish peoplee are heavy metal fans, bikers and harcore gay people, they are truly expressive in their way of dressing and they know what they like. it's not my style but itts definatley style.

I think today when you want to survive and live from music doing underground-music you have to be very versatile and a clever and smart business man. How do you manage all your appearances on the different labels? How did you contact the label-manager etc.

I'm doing it the only possible way; I send my demo cds and let the music speak. if its good enough the music will get released, if its crap tehn i guess no-one wants it. off course its easier now when I've released a few records ond people know who I am but I still do it the same way. naturally i have to kep a record of which music I sent where and when the msuci is released I spend s lot of time making sure that I get all the money that im supposed to get; mechanical royalties, money from compilations, money from airplay. I run my own pubblishing company and we have people representing us in different parts of the world, making sure that we get what is ours. I try to devide my time between being hakan the artist/producer and hakan the manager.

In the last years force inc. was very strict in its release plans. There was a lot of clicks'n'cuts, forward moving techno-tracks and cool techhouse. The data 80 album is something totally different if you compare it with the other musicians. It is a lot about humor and just having fun. How did the idea come up for the data 80-release on force inc.?

Achim, the label manager of force-inc, told me about his visions of a new style disco or dance pop. I had similar ideas and started to make music. simple as that. I think its very brave of force-tracks to change the direction of the label now when its getting established. force-tracks is in a position where most labels start to feel safe and repeat the old formula to make more money. force-tracks is changing into somethingg that isnt only something completely different but also something that s lot of underground fans will find hard to appreciate. i'm pretty sure that some of my "fans" will hate this album and think that i'm selling out. I hope that they will listen again and try to unerstand why the difference between underground and pop isnt about money and fame, its all in your head, its either good music or bad music, its made to make money, or whatever reason you have to prove something with your music - or its made straight from the heart. be it pop or clic n cuts, theres only good or bad. I'm glad that you hear an elemnt of humor in the music, off course this album is a bit ironic but its not looking down at, or making fun of pop, but its more of an homage to pop music. actually I'm preparing other pop projects right now. a bit new wave power pop stuff. quite nice if I may say so myself....

What is the essence of hakan lidbo as an musician?

Music to me is bloody important. Music expressses something where words are not enough. sometimes where intellect isnt enough. It needs to be taken seriously.

The human hakan lidbo seems to be a lot about style, speed, future and taste. what do you like in your spare time? Could you tell me a little bit about yourself?

As I'm working pretty much business hours 10.00-19.00 I have as much spare ttime as anyone in my age with a wife, no children, two dogs, a very big interest in music but also film, art, whatever really. I try to check out intersting exhibitiions, theater, films, sometimes even a modern ballet. but to be honest, more often I (or we) go down to the pub. as clublife in stockholm is quite bad, I don't go clubbng that much but as i have the privilige to be sked to play at really nice clubs around the world with my liveset, I don't need much clubbing when I'm home. as I'm working with music, I always carry a melody or a rhtythm pattern in my head and sometimes that can be a bit annoying. so me and my wife try to go away on vacation, preferly to places where there is very litle clublife, to empty the head and to refuel the batteries. I dont know what else to tell...

Thanx a lot!

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