Archive for March, 2009

Dark Adaptation: Fever Ray Interview

The facts: Fever Ray is the solo vehicle for the musical experiments of one half of Swedish switchblade-electronica proponents The Knife, Karin Dreijer-Andersson. The Knife create dance music with an emphasis on emotive storytelling. Fever Ray creates head music where psychomotor reactions are a curious by-product of her motorik beats. Dark adaptation is the process where your eyes adapt to pitch-blackness in shady light, pupils dilating and retinal sensitivity heightening, searching out any ray of light illuminating the blackness. Fever Ray is dark adaptation for the ears.

Now we’ve cleared the facts up. Let’s get on to the fiction.


There’s a duality in a lot of your music, the conflict between the ‘female’
and ‘male’ voices, the contrast between the pop music and the more ambient
music, the sense of physical mystery you create with the masks and the
confessional, open nature of the lyrics- Do you set out to obscure the true
nature of your music and your identity as Fever Ray, and as The Knife, or is
it a case that you don’t have a strictly defined concept of what Fever
Ray/The Knife is?

K: The Knife and Fever Ray are just free to do whatever they want. They are
projects and worlds where there are no rules or frames for working. I do not
like the idea of concept, as soon you getting close to a too defined idea,
then you have to work towards it in some way.

Ralph Emerson wrote that “Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures.”
Since your writing is usually fiction do you find that it sometimes
illuminates truths in your life you hadn’t been conscious of?

K: I think working through Fever Ray makes many things get clearer. It feels more
real than if I would have tried to say something without a mask of some
kind, for example. ‘Natural’ is also a construction, but it’s not said out
loud enough.

Can you compare the Fever Ray album with any other works of fiction, or even
see traces of other’s creations in it in terms of theme or style?

K: It is close to a scene in Julio Medem’s film The Red Squirrel where the
band Las Mosqas stand on a cliff playing their music dressed in fur.

I know you admire Jim Jarmusch’s ‘Dead Man’ a lot- What elements of it did
you associate with your music?

K: First I like the tempo. The long scenes, the loads of time that passes
and with little things going on. There is room for delicate details. And I
like the photo too, a little bit rough and very beautiful.

Fever Ray is a new character/set of characters from the cast you’ve played
as the Knife. Do you define the characters you play before you inhabit them,
or do they develop as you go on?

K: I see them more as mental characters or emotional characters. A steady
ongoing development, they change shape a lot.

Is Fever Ray predominantly for your own catharsis and as an outlet for your
own creative urges, or is it made for mass consumption? Do you ever create a
song with an audience’s reaction in mind- How much of it is pop music, and
how much of it is art?

K: I never think of an audience, I make the music by myself and my bunch of
pitched friends in the voice machine. It’s only us present at the recordings
and I think of no one else. I think pop music definitely can be art, I am
not so interested in separating it, both can be both, I guess.

The Knife’s success was unprecedented, in a sense. While there’s a core
pop sensibility to a lot of Knife songs, it’s wrapped up in a darkness and a
musical obliqueness that most would consider too weird for a mainstream
audience to latch on to, to enjoy. Do you think Fever Ray is even more
challenging for new listeners? And do you think music is essentially a waste
of time if it doesn’t challenge an existing template?

K: I think music and art should be challenging, yes. Brain exercise. But you
can create challenge in many ways, it can be a tone out of tune and it can
be voices cut in different ways, it’s very hard to say how to create it, but
you know it when you feel it, I hope. I try to always [challenge myself while making music]. Making working routine for example. I worked from almost 7 to 4 every day for 8 months. That’s a good start. I think making music in itself means challenge, cause I don’t think it’s easy at
all.

Is the darkness of your videos and of your music there to make the little
candlelights and the moments of brightness more valuable and more precious,
because they’re rarer? Are you an optimist, a pessimist, or a realist?

K: Yes, that’s a fine way to say it. I am a hopeless optimist, I expect
everything to work, always. I have a very unrealistic confidence many times.

The ocean is a motif through the album- what attracts you most to the sea?

K: I am brought up by the west coast of Sweden and the sea means summer,
holiday and something free. It is also very nice to sleep in boats. Now I
live on the east coast which is not really the sea, a real sea must have
salt water and jellyfish.

Will there always be mystery surrounding your work, or are you gradually
shedding more light on your personality, removing the mask a little bit?

K: Music is mystery in itself, and beauty and possibilities and freedom. You
destroy that when mixing it up with the private, a face or fashion.

Most articles pin the Knife and Fever Ray down as this morose, macabre act
with a zealous approach to your work, but really there’s an awful lot of
humour in some of your stuff. I don’t think anybody who’s listened to
‘Hangin’ Out’ could accuse you of having no sense of humour. But Fever Ray
seems far less cheerful, bleaker than the music you’ve made before, even in
the range of sounds on it- Was it less of a fun and playful album to make?

K: I guess I had no one to laugh together with in the studio. And there was
no need, my hands were full of other matters this time.

Given your love for Miami Vice did you think about getting Jan Hammer in on
the album for a collaboration?

K: I like to keep the writing process for myself. And production-wise, I am
very happy with the more minimal guys I have produced together with. But
remix-wise, why not?

As published in Totally Dublin, March 2009

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