Henrik Villard

Premiere: Henrik Villard – Jordbær (BCR)

Henrik Villard pre-empts his latest release with an email claiming “Jordbær” and its two companions on his and BCR‘s next release, “Sveve” is a “slightly different style from me.” On the first listen it’s familiar alongside Villard’s efforts for the BCR label. Its deep groove carves trenches in the recesses of traditional House, while the artist’s effervescent touch for atmosphere remains at the fore of its appeal. Pads and synthesisers establish a heady firmament of textures, anchored in a low end rumble. A lysergic 303 bass-line emerges from the lower register, growing into the central motif alongside the determined groove.

It develops into fully formed song inspiring another listen and then another, and it’s at that point when you hear it. There is something different here. Whispers of noise stick to the atmosphere and the low bass takes on a menacing character. There’s something raw and visceral operating in the background behind the established  melodic ideas and pristine production touches.

“Jordbær” and the rest of “Sveve” finds Henrik Villard explore a new realm, something indefinable and far from obvious. It’s not exactly a new direction from the artist, but hints at some new terrain from an artist whose musical prowess has been established with records for the likes of labels like Mhost Likely and more recently for Tensnake’s True Romance. We’re excited to premiere “Jordbær” today ahead of its official release this Friday and caught up with Henrik to ask about the exact nature of this new direction. We and ended up going deep into his production processes and the nature of BCR in this lengthy email exchange.

Henrik talks about the BCR nights at Jaeger; his “sound”; and how Sveve came together in this Q&A. “Jordbær” and “Sveve” is out this Friday via Bandcamp and catch Henrik Villard and BCR in the booth in December.

Hey Henrik. Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions. You introduced this record via email as “slightly different style from me.” What makes it different?

Hey Mischa! Thanks for having me. Yes, I did. The whole EP, Sveve, is a product of some intense hardware-jams, which is a shift from my usual in-the-box process of making music to being more hardware oriented. The limitations imposed by hardware made me realise that I need to approach the music making-process in a new way – which led to me being more open minded in terms of the ideas that came from jamming on the synths.

A typical Henrik Villard-sound might be a lot more lofi and not necessarily something you’d hear in a club setting, while the tracks on Sveve still have a slight lofi-feel to them (especially on the pads, in my view) these are tracks I’ve played out in a club setting.

What influenced the changes in your approach this time around?

It’s kind of two fold. I’ve felt for some time that I’ve been stagnating with the music I made, and sometimes it was not even that fun to make (a bit frustrating). So I decided to experiment more and try different approaches to making music – to make it fun again!

You’ve released quite a bit on other labels in the past. Was there any intention to make something for BCR this time and what changes when you do something for our own label?

Yes, I recently released an EP on Tensnake’s label “True Romance”, which I’m very proud of. The intention to make a release for BCR kind of grew at the same time as I started to experiment. And I knew that no matter what, I’d have Anders and Perkules’ blessing to express myself. I feel a lot more confident to experiment (even though it’s not really wild experimenting) with my tracks when the intention is to release it on BCR. It feels like I’m much more free to do what I want.

What in your opinion is the defining Henrik Villard sound in records like these?

To be honest I have a hard time pin-pointing what “my” sound is – maybe it’s in the way I imagine a baseline. To me, that’s been my main focus for a couple of years when I make music. I’ve let my TD-3 run hot on these tracks, and I like to think that how I process and automate it as it runs throughout the tracks is part of what makes up “my” sound for these tracks. Where does a certain element come in in the track? What kind of atmos/background sounds are used to “lift” the track? I think the three tracks are firmly rooted in a house-tradition, I use 909 and 707 drums and acid-lines, bass-motifs that are meant to be something that keeps the groove going throughout the track. This release really is an exercise in house-music as I’ve perceived it at the time.

You specifically chose “Jordbær” as the premiere. Why did you choose that track from this record?

I really like Jordbær cause the idea came together real quick. I just had an idea of what the track would be and mashed it out. It’s hard to pick favourites, but I think this track stands just a tad bit closer to my heart.

In what context would we usually find this record in one of your DJ sets?

I’ve played it out a lot. I think it works well to set the mood in a set, and I like to think that it has some sort of dubby-quality (especially The piano). Not really a peak track, but before and after, hehe.

The thing that strikes me first is the bass, that deep rumbling consistent underneath the track. Tell us a bit more about how this track started and took shape?

The track started with the rimshot rhythm that goes through most of the track, then came some more drums. Then I made a pad sound, and also “jammed out” a baseline. After that I tried out a couple of acid-lines until I got the one you can hear in the song.  

Any specific records that influenced this sound?

Genius of Times’ “Sunswell” and Qnete and Carmel’s “Vierfecta”. The “floatiness” of Sunswell and the static nature of the drums and rhythm on Vierfecta.

At its crux though it’s that acid refrain that comes in during the height of the track, breaking through the atmosphere. It’s more like a song than a track.  From where do you draw your ideas for arrangement and melodies?

Oh, I feel like I’m the least creative when it comes to arranging tracks. I usually work with 16-bar sections, and I work a lot with filters. So I usually introduce an element (a stab, vox, etc) in the start of a 16-bar section, and use the filter to fade it in. For melodies I love to make a sound on a synth, and while I’m turning knobs something (like a meloyi, a motif) usually just catches my ear.

At what point do you realise a track like this is good enough to find a spot on a record? 

That’s a tough one. Because when you make the track, you listen to it over and over again. And it can sometimes be a bit hard to judge whether a track is good or not. I think we all know the feeling of working on a track the whole day, and then when you listen to the same track the next day, it sounds like garbage/crappy/bad. In my case I go off the tracks (and ideas) that don’t sound bad the day after, and if I like the idea I’ll keep working on it. It is also very helpful to get input and feedback from Anders and Perkules.

BCR has now been fully inducted in the Jaeger roster. Tell me what you guys take away from your nights here and how it folds into what you do at the label? 

For me, our summer residency (Sundaze) helped me evolve my taste in electronic music, it really helped broaden my horizon. We’ve also talked about that through our nights at Jaeger we’ve learned a lot about crowds, DJing together, and I’ve learned a lot about what kind of tunes work out (or not). A key takeaway is that I’ve noticed when a crowd reacts to a song, I’ve tried to take the memory or the sense of the crowd with me when I make music.

From the stuff I’ve been hearing from Anders Hajem and Perkules coming via the label, it seems there’s a general progression towards that new plateau. And you saying there’s a slight difference in this record, suggests there’s some evolution there. Is that right?

I would very much agree that there’s a progression or evolution of our respective sounds. Over the last 12 months I’ve gotten a lot of inspiration from tracks and ideas that Anders and Perkules have shown me. They have been a great source of inspiration, and I like to think that the same goes for them. So I think we are able to inspire each other to take things towards a new plateau. Also I’ve had a sense of need to do something new in my music, and tried my best to act on this. 

And where do you see that evolution taking BCR and your own music in the future?

I’d really like for this evolution in sound to take BCR to new heights, I’d love for our music to reach more people. The same goes for my own music. We’re planning some exciting things for BCR so keep an eye out for updates.