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There is a man from Norway called Koen, and he has a band called Klangstof, and they are rather good. Hailing from exactly nowhere, Koen’s sound reflects the environment in which he grew up. The sounds echo and depict the sparseness quite common to the Norwegian landscape. Koen’s sound can be likened to the likes of Radiohead in that his voice is almost effervescent, a falsetto wail set against a complex interlink of instrumental components. His songs have drawn attention worldwide, including Zane Lowe. I got the chance to speak to him before his appearance at the Reeperbahn festival in Holland.
Let’s jump straight into it, how does the song-writing process work in Klangstof?
Well basically it started as a solo project; it was just me and my computer, pretty much how everyone writes music these days I guess. So it was all kind of digital sounding. That process took about 2 years before I met the other guys in Klangstof, where we went through all the demos and created an album in a very short period of time. It began with all the digital sounds and grew into some really cool atmospheric stuff and then we added guitars and stuff. For me that whole process is what really made the Klangstof sound.
You mention the atmospheric side to your music, was your childhood environment a conscious influence on your sound or was it a more natural addition?
Yeah it wasn’t something I was really thinking of, it was when I moved to Holland that I realised how different the music sounded compared to at home. The Scandinavian thing was very unconscious; I guess it’s just the way people write music over there. It’s a lot quieter, a bit more peaceful and I guess the whole industrial thing never really made its way to Norway. The overproduction and all that pop stuff never really took off over there.
You taught yourself a lot about the production of music and the song-writing process as a whole, what advice would you give to anybody wanting to start creating music themselves?
I think one of the most important things for me at least was just to not have too many influences. You know, I kind of made this music in a very isolated environment which really helped me a lot because you don’t have people telling you what to do or how to do it, which is a great way to figure out how to do everything on your own. So that, for me at least, was very important.
You say you didn’t have too many influences but would you say Radiohead had a big influence on your sound?
Do you ever get tired of the comparisons to Radiohead?
Well if there’s one band I would love to be compared to it’s Radiohead but yeah it is something, when you’re starting out, that you have to get used to, you get compared all the time. After 3 albums though I guess you would not want to be compared with anyone but we’re not there yet [laughs].
In the past you’ve described things like ‘likes’ on Facebook etc. as things that scare you, why is that?
I don’t know, I think scary is a big word but I think I’m scared by the fact that we’re so unaware of how much we depend on that nowadays. It’s become so normal for people to be so addicted to Facebook, like the more likes you get the better your day is. It’s very weird.
How do you tread that line as a band then because obviously you need the internet and online recognition to get your name out there, how do you balance it?
Yeah I guess as a band we’ve put ourselves in a pretty difficult position in that case. I don’t know, when the album comes out there’s going to be lots of reviews and stuff and I’m going to read every word of them [laughs]. That could ruin my day. It’s gonna be a tough one, I’m just as addicted as everybody else [laughs].
*Disclaimer, I ask this in most interviews* If Klangstof was a cocktail, what would it be?
Ooh, well I’m not really a cocktail guy but something with a lot of alcohol, just pure alcohol. Yeah let’s say that, pure alcohol. Hell yeah.
How did it feel when you signed to Mind of a Genius (An LA song-writing powerhouse)?
It was weird. I met the manager in Holland and he was very down to earth which was nice because some people in America obviously aren’t. We really didn’t know what to expect, they were saying “you’re premiering your song with Zane Lowe and they’re gonna love your record” and “you’re gonna sign a deal with Apple”, it was all very DJ Khaled [laughs]. So we signed a deal, still not really believing what they said but it all happened in the last year. Now I’m starting to realise just how big of a deal it was to be able to sign that deal.
Klangstof have recently embarked on a North American tour with Jagwar Ma, spreading their success across the pond. Zane Lowe has continued to support them, saying they’re a band “which take songs into a more widescreen environment”. If you want to get to know the band and Koen’s music, you can listen to their stuff, including their hit single ‘Hostage’ right here: https://soundcloud.com/klangstof