AGENT SIDE GRINDER

   

The following article was published in N-SPHERE June 2010 issue.

 

Hallo and welcome to the Spheres. Agent Side Grinder seems to have moved from the direction of “new band” to a well-established project that is gradually becoming more popular. How do you feel about that change? Do you consider yourself more experienced now after the release of three well-received albums or still in the process of expanding and experimenting?

Thank you. Well, as I see it, it’s a little bit of both; after three albums and a lot of liveperformances we start to feel more sure in what we’re doing but the important thing is to never get comfortable. The core for us is to always improve and take new paths, there wouldn’t be any point in doing this if we ever felt contempt with what we have achieved.

In defining your style, a lot of people have made comparisons with bands such as Suicide, Joy Division, Cabaret Voltaire and so on. How do you feel about those associations? Would you describe your technique as being in the same vein as them?

Well, you always play your part in the mirror of history but we have never expressed any concrete wish for sounding like certain bands. I guess it’s hard to make music entirely forgetting your influences but the interesting thing with ASG is that we all come from very different musical backgrounds, and when I joined the band I listened almost exclusively to Roxy Music!

Do you believe we could talk about a revival of the minimal wave / postpunk scene nowadays?

I don’t know; for many years now there have been a lot of bands out there sounding more and more like bands from the ’80s, but for me most of them just wear it as a costume made out of trend and nostalgia. I don’t think the few really interesting acts are enough to make out a scene.

In making your music, do you feel there is also a certain nostalgia for old sounds and gear or do you opt for a complete abandonment of old values and techniques?

We use old equipment in making our music for sure, but this has never been a goal in itself. We use it as it fits our style and works very good when playing live, but it is important to remember that we, as a band in 2010, make music TODAY, not 20 years ago. Some bands tend to forget about that.

What has been influential for the Agent Side Grinder? From writers to events/movements?

William Blake has been a huge inspiration for me personally, concerning his way of zig-zagging between the known and the beyond.

You are often described as a Stockholm- based band, do you consider yourself being part of a Swedish scene?

I couldn’t say.

Are you trying to push your music further and push geographical boundaries or do you see yourself part of an European/Scandinavian culture, musically as well?

We would love to expand in other countries and territories. Of course, it’s easier to reach people in your own surroundings, but there’s no point in limiting your focus to a certain crowd in any way.

Are there any promising new acts in Sweden nowadays in the area of minimal electronics?

Honestly I don’t really know what minimal electronics mean, but there are a lot of good and interesting bands around in Sweden, though very few of them would consider themselves part of a certain scene.

What gear do you use in producing your sounds?

Analogue synths, drum machine, electric bass-guitar and tape loops. A set completely compatible with playing live and we see ourselves very much like an old school punk orchestra, although the guitars have been replaced.

There seems to be a tendency towards analogue in choosing your instruments. How does that feed in the Agent Side Grinder identity?

It is crucial, the beauty with analog equipment is that it has this element of chaos. It’s organic in a way, and it becomes very evident when you see us live. When you play everything live, the equipment becomes an extension of yourself and the possibility that things can fail on stage gives the performance a nerve that you cannot get with backtracks or computer-programs.

Are you also building your own instruments? If so, how does that process begin and develop?

Henrik builds his own filters and Peter experiments with a lot of things when creating his tapeloops, but apart from that it’s more a question of assembling already existing parts into a working unit.

Are you tempted to experiment more and also blend with more digital sounds in the near future? Keeping in mind that you’ve recently released your self-titled album in CD format…

I don’t know, we experiment all the time in order to develop but on the question upon digital sounds… I don’t think so.

How does the creative process usually take place in making a track and later an album? Is it a joint practice of everyone getting involved in the fragments or do some of you focus on a specific part and later add layers to that?

Usually it all starts with a very brief idea, then everyone brings their own section to it, often while jamming in the studio. I, for example, usually concentrate upon the lyrics and the mood of the vocals while the others all have their own part to work with. But in the making of some tracks, some members have a more clear idea than the others and alas becomes more dominant.

Lyric-wise a large number of words or structures are repeated constantly. Would you put repetition in terms of compulsion and erasure, both being a necessary part of the creative process?

On stage I transform completely into a very distilled version of myself and I think that the repetitive part of the lyrics was born from that. While on stage it is a tool to bring the audience in, to see a part of the state that I’m in. When writing lyrics, this way of thinking has leaked into even the more organized songs of ours, say “Die to Live” for instance. It’s a kind of two-way shift between the chaos of performance and the order of writing.

“Pulse” frames the beginning of your new album, “The Irish Recording Tape”. “I watch you” is echoed throughout the track, could you elaborate a bit on the meaning of that? What does Agent Side Grinder see and focus on as an “observer” of what is out there?

ASG is a band quite hard to define, as we leak into and combine a lot of different ideas and situations, constantly developing but maybe never really completely fitting in anywhere. Much like a Trickster, seeing things a bit from the side, seeing the cracks in the foam and the rooms behind.

Later, in “Die To Live” “Faster faster reaching down” is mentioned. Would you argue that the crashes are inevitable and somewhat compulsory to transgress? Would you see music as creatively destructive and self-destructive, as well?

Actually it’s “dawn” that I sing. It’s a song about the need for speed and movement to be able to stay alive. It’s about a certain Swedish writer who used to drive very very fast at night in order to be able to write. A destructive theme, yes, and I have to admit that it’s much more interesting to write about complicated matters than to write about the bright ones. In a sense I think crashes are very important to be able to reach further, but it’s all about setting yourself info a certain state of mind; if you’re focused enough you don’t need to crash to see clearly.

Still focusing on the “Irish Recording Tape”, a pattern related to age, shifts and differences between old and new generations is noticeable. Could you develop on that theme and how does elements function in the context of your project?

Its themes mostly drawn from my own life. I’ve felt this shift concerning my place in time and space ever since I was a very small child, and the uncertainty has only grown with the years. At its best it is a feeling, timeless, but more often it’s like being a constant anachronism. With the years I’ve learned to deal with it somewhat, but it plays a huge part in how I perceive the surroundings. I guess it is a quite common state in our age in time; the world is moving fast and old memories still lingers.

You’ve been mostly releasing on the Dutch label Enfant Terrible. How did that collaboration start?

We played in Amsterdam four years ago and after the gig the host of the club; Martijn, asked if we wanted to release a 7″ on his label, and that label was Enfant Terrible.

Concerning the visual aspect of your music: a couple of your videos have gained attention online lately. Were you directly involved in their making? Do you want to involve more elaborate videos as a constant part of the Agent Side Grinder aesthetics as well in the near future?

In some of them; we were. I think that videos are an interesting way of spreading the music so it’s very likely that we explore it further.

How do you feel about including background visuals in live performances? Would you be interested in incorporating that or do you feel that the music solely is enough to engage the audience?

The music is enough for us, visuals are a very powerful tool and it easily takes over the show. Music is powerful enough without hiding behind blinding aesthetics.

Related to your future releases: what are your plans for the next material coming out? Any major changes in style/approach?

We continue in the same manner, which is to say; constantly moving forward.

Do you have some collaborations or separate projects going on at the moment?

Not at the moment.

And as a final question: how would you describe the sphere of Agent Side Grinder. What elements are part of it?

I think that’s a question for the listeners actually, I find it very hard to define, I know that it IS but I don’t know WHAT it is.

questions & photo by Diana Daia

answers by Kristoffer Grip, Agent Side Grinder

Full article here.