Interview: Sturle Dagsland on his debut LP, creative process, and recording with huskies

Sturle Dagsland

Norwegian experimental singer Sturle Dagsland continues to tease his forthcoming self-titled debut album, set for release early next month – February 5th. 

The latest single to be lifted from the album is “Dreaming”; a track that showcases the album’s more ethereal side. It’s positively serene compared to the previously released “Kusanagi” and “Waif”; which highlighted Sturle and his brother’s more primal influences. 

The new single, was influenced by a stay at a lighthouse on a sparsely populated island in the North Sea. It also marks a continuation of the brother’s penchant for interesting instrumentation, with South American flutes amongst the arsenal deployed on the track. 

In anticipation of next month’s album release, we caught up with the Sturle to discover more about the album and his creative process. We chatted about the influence of his hometown of Stavanger and also got the lowdown on some of his favourite remote recording locations. Spoiler alert, there are huskies. 

Congratulations on the album, it’s an extraordinary body of work. For those maybe unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe the album?

The album is explorative, adventurous and expressive. We use a wide array of instruments from all over the world mixed with electronics, modern soundscapes, pop music and a lot of different vocal techniques.

Where do you draw influence from? Any particular artists, musicians, cultures etc?

Inspiration may come from anywhere both from music, nature, dreams, art, life, different cultures, animals and the subconscious. One of the songs on the album – “Blot” – is named after a term for a blood sacrifice ritual in Norse Paganism involving pigs, horses, and occasionally humans to honour the Norse gods.

While the last song on the album “Noaidi” is named after the Shaman of the Sami people. The Sami people are the indigenous people of Northern Europe and we have Sami roots from our mother’s side. The Noaidi is a communicator with the spirit world and with his drum he could travel and bring a person that was trapped in another realm back to our world.

So, while some of the songs draw from Nordic traditions we also have songs like “Kusanagi” and “Harajuku” whose names comes from Japan. There’s also “Hulter Smulter”, which came about after a meeting with a friendly cat.

Some songs may appear in dreams, and other might come into existence through experimentation and jamming. It’s not set in stone where and how a song might come into existence or where the influence might come from.

You’ve recorded parts of this album across of a whole range of locations. How important is “place” and “location” to your work?

We have been composing and recording at a lot of different locations such as high mountain tops in Norway, abandoned industrial areas in Russia, legendary soviet marine ships in Eastern-Europe, water reservoirs in Germany, a lighthouse on a remote island in the North-Sea; and singing with “wolves” in dogsledding villages in the outbacks of Greenland. A certain place may often influence the sound of the music in an interesting way.

During our time in a sled dog village in Greenland we made a choir out of all their 150 sled dogs. I was howling, singing, screaming and throat-singing with husky dogs. During the recording session I achieved almost an alpha-like-status in the pack – when I stopped singing – they stopped. I was the conductor and they were my orchestra. The recordings were made during a hazardous snow storm and all the senses really came into play; both from me and the dogs.

When creating music we are on a constant auditive adventure. A certain place may often influence the sound of the music in an interesting way, but it’s not a necessity.

Also, how much of an influence has Stavanger had on your work? What’s the music scene like there?

It’s a small city; so it’s definitely not got the depth of the music scene of a place such as New York or Berlin. But, it’s okay and there are quite a few artist that comes from Stavanger that are doing really well internationally. The air is clean, the water is amazing and I can go swimming in fjords, canoeing through waterfalls and meet friendly seals on a regular basis.

You’ve also amassed an impressive array of instruments on this record, including some surprising choices. What’s been your favourite instrument to use, and why?

Some my favorite instruments at the moment would probably be the Guzheng (Chinese Harp), Marxophone, Nyckelharpa and my custom made Billy Goat Horn. They are all very distinctive and versatile instruments that I really love but the most important instrument for me is always my own voice.

When making music I love to explore and utilise a wide variety of different vocal techniques, both throat-singing, joiking (The vocals from the Sami, the indigenous people of Northern- Europe), Primal screams, pop-music, Nordic Vocal techniques, animalesque expressions, classical singing, and more.

I’m curious about your songwriting process. How do you put together or build a song like “Kusanagi” or “Harajuku”?

We never have had, and neither are we seeking, a particular type of creative process to work as an ultimate template or starting point for creating our music. Sometimes we may have an idea what we want to achieve beforehand; for instance a part on an instrument, a vision of a soundscape or blurry memories from a previous dream. Other times it is just up to each specific moment and the certain mood of the day to decide what musical creation (or humbug) that will come out of a day’s work. It can go either way. Often playing around with some of our instruments is a good starting point, and maybe with an unorthodox approach.

There’s a great history of sibling relationships in popular music. How do you find working with your brother? And what do you feel he brings/adds to your music?

We both have our own distinct musical phrasing and we complement and challenge each other in different ways.

What books/art/film would you recommend fans explore to get a better idea of Sturle Dagsland, the musician, the artist and the person?

I love a wide spread of imaginative films from different realms, from joyous fairy tales and comedies such as: Spirited Away, La Cite Des Enfants Perdus, Underground, Adventures Of Baron Munchausen, Holy Motors, Boy and Why Don’t You Play In Hell to more brutal film experiences such as I Saw The Devil, Angst, Kawaki and Dogville.

Ace Ventura was also one of my biggest heroes when I was ten years old. Everything about him. His Style, mannerisms, hair and mojo is peak masculinity!

You have a tour booked in supporting Oranssi Pazuzu in early 2021. Any other touring plans in place yet?

Hopefully, yes. We are doing our first concerts in a very long time in March 2021 that we are really looking forward to. And we are planning to come back to Asia, South-America, Mexico and Europe in 2021.

You’re obviously well travelled, a number of the songs on this album are influenced by Japan, can we hope to see you down in Australia soon?

I really hope so. We are planning an Asia tour in 2021 and hopefully it will be possible to include Australia in our tour schedule after our Asian tour dates, but everything is uncertain right now.

We have had some interest from Australia in the past, so hopefully a good opportunity will present itself.

After a massive year of disruption, what are your hopes for 2021?

In 2020 we had around seventy shows cancelled so I really hope that we can get back to touring at full capacity at some point in 2021.

 

New single, “Dreaming” is out now. Sturle Dagland’s self-titled debut album is out February 5th. Pre-order the record HERE.

You can keep up to date with Dagsland via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Simon Clark

Books Editor. An admirer of songs and reader of books. Simon has a PhD in English and Comparative Literature. All errant apostrophes are his own.

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