It was an informal meeting on a park bench in Kreuzberg that brought Alexander Rishaug’s newest project Rudow to life. Initially pinned as a “lost tape” project and released as an unknown release through Hardwax channels, Rudow is experimental artist, Alexander Rishaug infiltrating the club floor from the inky subterranean where intuition and intrigue dwell. Rudow is Rishaug’s first concerted effort at club music, channeling his extensive experience, as sound artist, musician, producer, remixer and conceptual artist into a singular execution with designs on the DJ booth.
Rudow bucks the trend in Freakout Cult’s discography, with a sonic mire of layers flowing through progressions whose closest relative is Techno. Although a rhythmical output, Rudow’s intentions move away from the genre’s percussive insistency and channels it to a textural dimension closer associated with the drone and ambient genres that Alexander Rishaug is often associated with.
Rishaug’s musical career begins in ‘95 with a series of self-released tapes, bridging the gaps between noise and electronica before releasing his now classic debut, Panorama on Smalltown Supersound. A fleeting figure, Rishaug has indulged all encompassing corners of the electronic music sphere and beyond with music that feigns the obvious and thrives in the obscure without alienating a listener. 2014’s Ma.org Pa.git illustrates this most effectively as a work born out of the harsh tonalities of a church organ and guitar, inspired by Doom and Black Metal, but executed in a most subtle ambient arrangement, bringing out only the tenderest sonorities from those domineering instruments.
In the six tracks that make up the new Rudow release, a bridge exists between these works and Rishaug’s more club-leaning influences, carried over by tracks like “Floating Point” and “Slow / Grow”. “Contrary Motion” and “Manifesting the Unreal” lead us out of these worlds again, but remain tethered to Rishaug’s artistic identity which is ingrained in a kind of textural atmosphere defined by a succinct mood.
Where does Rishaug end and Rudow begin and how did the record end up on Freakout Cult? We attempt to unravel these burning questions and more when we sit down with Alexander over a coffee to find out where the thin red line exists between two worls..
Tell me a bit about the Rudow project.
It’s a parallel project to the more experimental stuff I do. For me it’s been there from the start; there’s always been an interest in rhythms in my experimental music, but when I had found the name Rudow, I realised that I wanted it to be its own project. It has a clear framework and a direction, and when I met Fett Burger from Freakout Cult, I decided to finish the project.
How did you meet DJ Fett Burger?
I knew him a bit from the art and Techno scene in Norway, and he also knew my work, but we weren’t really friends. I was sitting on a bench in Kreuzberg in Berlin and this guy was locking his bike up, and I happened to recognize him. We started talking about experimental music and the Berlin scene vs the Oslo scene and after a really nice chat we cemented the beginning of the release.
You mentioned you found a framework for the project, but besides the rhythmical aspect what did that entail for Rudow?
I wanted to have that rhythmical aspect, but I also wanted to have it a little more open towards textures and ambient spheres. When I started listening to club music I was always more interested in the leftfield electronica like Basic Channel, DeepChord and Warp. That was kind of the plan for it, but then I had no idea how it would sound in the end. I remember when I made that first bass line on the first track on the album, I knew that this is the Rudow sound I was looking for.
One thing that makes this release stick out from any of the other releases on Freakout Cult is that is very layered and the textures are quite rich, which kind of ties in with your more experimental stuff.
Yes, I guess that’s where my experience as a composer comes into it. I like to work with details and layers and develop small changes over time.
So you’re background is in composition?
Actually my background is as a visual artist, so I’m not academically skilled in composition, but self taught. I started composing/improvising in ‘95 and had my first tape release in ‘97 called “Rainy Days Forever”, which was a kind of lo-fi, guitar synth album. My first electronic music album came out in 2001 on Smalltown Supersound, titled Panorama.
What was the instrument that started it all for you?
I played the flute, but in the end I hadn’t gotten any joy out of it, because I had to practise and do big band rehearsals. It wasn’t quite as free as I would’ve liked it, so I stopped playing music for a couple of years. Later I started playing the guitar when a friend of mine introduced me to classic guitar. I started playing around with interesting textures and melodies and that was the way in to working with transforming and processing sound, to use an instrument or a field recording and turning it into something else.
Tell me a bit about your early musical influences, away from the club music hemisphere.
Before I went to art school, I didn’t know that much of the history of experimental electronic music, so I started digging a little further into that side of the world with John Cage, Pauline Oliveros, Steve Reich, Eliane Radique and Terry Riley.
One of the reasons I went to Trondheim University was because Helge Sten (Deathprod) was at the academy. There was this rumour that the academy was focussing on new media and technology. Today all of the Norwegian art academies do that, but at that time Trondheim was the multimedia hub. So that was the reason I wanted to go there.
I had also heard this Motorspycho album, Demon Box in which Helge had quite a central role as the producer. This was a big influence in terms of turning rock or popular music into something else, and that took me from listening to punk andhardcore to other, more experimental things. I was listening to a lot of metal stuff, so in a way I came from metal, but moved into electronic music.
Do you still listen to metal?
Sometimes, but I don’t go to every metal show, and I don’t often listen to metal at home, but I still enjoy the power of it.
Do you ever reference it in your music in terms of trying to recreate something from metal in an electronic landscape?
I guess so. In the beginning I was very influenced by black metal and the more emotional/melodic part of the noise genre; that dirty and beautiful distorted sound. My last solo album for instance, Ma.Org Pa.Git which I released in 2014 was based on church organ and electric guitar. For me It has this kind of connection between ambience, doom and folk music and was a tribute to where I had come from.
Getting back to Rudow. Are there any plans for a live show around the EP?
Yes I hope so. I also made some other tracks at the same time and I have some ideas for a live show incorporating these pieces. One of the ideas is to have Eivind Henjum alias Sprutbass from the Dødpop collective to play bass and incorporate that with the synths. I actually played some of the tracks when I played at Sunkissed Live at BLÅ, so I think it definitely could work on a dance floor.
I don’t actually call it an EP by the way, I’m calling it an album.
Do you prefer it as an album because it consolidates the project?
I guess so, it’s not just two tracks, which is more like a teaser, I think of it as a fully -fledged album, that can stand on its own.
Did you sit down with the idea to create an album?
It had a different idea from the start, because when I sent it to Freakout Cult, it had only four tracks, so the last tracks on either side would not have been there. I had the idea to make one more rhythmical track and then an ambient texture track, but they (Freakout cult) wanted two more tracks that were kind of similar to what I do as an experimental artist, to create a bridge between those two worlds.
I’ve been listening to your album shadow of events recently and thought the Rudow project might be a complete departure but was happy to find that there’s a red thread between them, and that it wasn’t adapting to that Freakout Cult sound, which is a bit more lo-fi, more dancefloor orientated.
I guess it’s a bit different to the other releases on Freakout Cult, but since Dj Fett Burger is into it and wanted to release it, I don’t find it problematic at all. I think it’s great that the label can have that wideness to it, and it might be that their regular listeners might find this a bit dark, but I think that’s ok.
I remember seeing the Sex Tags guys many years ago in Bergen and I felt that their live set was quite vibrant and full of surprises. They can take it to many different directions. It’s playful and they don’t try to copy just one style of music. They are present, listening and always pushing what’s possible on the dance floor.
Where do you usually start off with your music; is it concept or an instrument?
I use field recordings and some analogue equipment, and then I process it in the computer, the Rudow project starts off on a Juno 60.
Will you be going back to the experimental stuff after this Rudow release?
Yes, at the moment I’m actually working on another project in ”Regjeringskvartalet” (the empty parliament buildings in Oslo). I had this idea of recording the emptiness and current state of the building. They want to tear down the two top floors and build four new ones and the “Y-block” will most likely be demolished and I wanted to record it before it goes, but it’s incredibly strict. After trying for half a year to get permission we finally succeeded. It’s interesting to see how these power structures function.
After recording two nights in ”Høyblokka” I got some really amazing material, which you can almost use it exactly as it is, with just some simple tweaking. I see the building as an organism, a living instrument and placed out microphones in various pipes, cavities and spaces.
Are you setting any part of the building into vibration to capture the results?
No, and that’s why we recorded it at night too. I wanted to make sure there was a lack of human interaction. We went there around three in the morning to record, and I noticed when people started arriving to work in the morning, the strength and the intensity of the sound material died. It was supposed to be about the lack of humanity and just this empty building. Even silence is something when you record it. I’ve often found that when you enter an empty space and go into a deep listening mode, you often hear frequencies and sound qualities you wouldn’t hear normally.
So this is going to be an album?
Yes, I want to make an album and a sound installation, but one of the other ideas is to give the raw files to the National Library for their archives, for future generations.
How would the sound installation work?
I received URO funding for the project from KORO, who supports art projects in public spaces and I was trying to figure out how to use it in a public space, but realised that because it comes from a public space it could be re-appropriated in a gallery or something similar. Maybe that’s even stronger than to present it there? We’ll see, this is still just a thought process.
Was there a point where you moved out of creating music for the sake of music like your 2001 smalltown supersound album and moved into a more conceptual framework?
I never really moved out of that phase. I believe I can work in between the two, and I did that, even at that time. When I released that album, I was still doing things in art galleries and theatres, but I guess when you have a very broad interest in sound, people often find it hard to understand. I’m not a Techno artist, and I’m not a classical composer either, so that’s why when people ask, I refer to myself as a sound artist / musician, because then I have the freedom to go in between.