Be Svendsen was in Montreal last weekend for a great gig at Newspeak and we had the chance to meet with him in a small intimate bar beforehand to talk about his most recent album, his world tour and his inspiration. Enjoy the full transcript of the interview here while listening to his ‘Between A Smile And A Tear’ album.
WWD: Hi Lasse, Thanks for sitting with us today ! You released last fall your debut album ‘Between A Smile And A Tear’ and you did a world tour this winter. Are you happy with the feedback on the album and how everything went for the tour ?
Yes, so far, the response of the album has been really really positive. Especially for the group of listeners I had already. They’ve adopted it quite nicely. Even though the album was slightly off path from the releases I’ve done in the previous year and it was a choice during the process of making it. You know, just follow my heart, just do exactly what came out. Not thinking about DJs, not thinking about which labels or charts.
I choose to release, first of all, with a very small independant Danish record label which is not very clubby. So it’s been positive that the people have taken the album as a listening experience. Back to the feedback of the album, I mean how do you get a feedback of the album ? It’s quite hard to actually know, for me, what is going on, who is listening… There’s all this number and statistics on Spotify and Soundcloud which is a good parameter and there has been a slow steady growth in listening since the album came out. But what are they listening I don’t know haha.
The album tour has also been successful. I’ve changed my live set so I could be play more upbeat, let’s say, more danceable version of the slower track of the album because I play in a very split up into multiple channel kind of set, playing on the spot.
WWD: We know it’s a moment that many artists can struggle with but tell us about the moment you decide ‘that’s it, my album is done’ after all this work.
Deadlines are very very handy in this process because without deadline the album would never be finished. So last summer, we moved the deadline quite a few times. I wanted to finish it before the summer tour but of course it wasn’t. I had to come back and finish a bit more. So it had to be done in the autumn, we set a release date, first it was September than we moved it a month later. I’m quite a perfectionist and I did go over it many times until I was satisfied with it. That was as good as it can be with my time frame.
WWD: What is the meaning behind the title ‘Between A Smile And A Tear’ ?
The title is really special to me. The actual wording ‘Between A Smile and A Tear’ I heard it in a Jaz Film Documentary, like 12 years ago. It was this old jazz musician who was talking about music, he was talking about the chords and the emotional impact that can have a single chord. He was saying : ‘When you take this chord and you add a little note like a seventh or something, and as soon as you do that it completely changes the whole mood of the major to in between and suddenly that one chord can just hit you right between a smile and a tear’. And for me, it made so much sense and it touches me to tears because it’s how I want music to be. Music in general has got to trigger some emotion in me. If it’s a one sided sad song I get a little bit bored. If it’s too happy, I also get bored. For me it’s all about the balance and if you get that and hit right between the smile and the tear, a bit like the relief in the pain or something.
WWD: You’ve played literally everywhere in the world, what have been some of your all time favorite places to play ?
It such a big question because I’ve play so many places, different crowds and different quality for different reasons. Like I’ve had an amazing experience once in Oslo on a Tuesday in a small bar where the energy just went through the roof. And it stands out to be one of my best gigs but it was only a really small place. Everybody was so touching and so into in. But in the same time, last month I played in the Sahara Desert, it was absolutely epic. It was for a small group of 60 people dancing in the desert, super intimate.
I can’t really say what is my favorite place. But I always have super amazing experiences in different places. Of course, I’m more an outdoor person. My music is made for outdoor gig. I was never a club guy. It was always hippy bodies, no shoes in the forest, tripping and dancing until the morning. I still have good club experiences of course though.
WWD: In this regard, how do you experience new culture while travelling ?
I’m quite into good food, vegetarian food, so one thing is the food. But humm, how do I experience new culture ? Let’s turn it around and say how do I experience the similarities despite the different cultures. What I find is that the response from the music can be quite the same everywhere. It shows me that music is a universal language. If I’m in Lebanon or if I’m in South Africa you get similar responses, like we come together over music and it doesn’t matter what language you speak, what is your religion, we only share the same joy together. The music conveys human emotions and that’s gives like a brother and sister feeling. That’s it. There’s no boundaries anymore. So the interesting thing is actually more the similarities rather despite the different cultures.
WWD: While on tour, how do you balance health, wellness and party ?
Very good question. Very essential. I mean, I do like a good party for sure, but playing sober was something I had to teach myself. I had to tell myself that I can do it without drinking. You know, because it’s such a party environment and you have 3 gigs a weekend. I had to learn to be professional about it. For me, If I come and I’m super busted I can lose the magic, because I play a live set, only my own music and it’s very personal. If I’m stressed its translated to the people and it’s not ok. I’m at the service to these people at this point. The times where I have hangovers and I come to the airport really tired I start not enjoying it anymore. I had to teach myself. I did my whole world tour, 7 months completely sober, not a drink, I’m very proud of myself. It was nice to show myself, ‘Hey you can do it !’. Then I can still keep my focus and my creative drive and, you know, I come home and I remember what to do different the next day but if you’re hangover and it’s just survival mode.
It’s also very important to sleep. Sleep is very important even with no alcohol. The lack of sleep can fuck you up so much. And I try to breath. For me, saunas are the best place for this. I always try to find some sauna when I’m travelling. The cold shower, the hot bath, easier to relax and take a moment for yourself.
WWD: Let’s talk about a bit about the music industry. What do you think are the essential ingredient to fostering a long term bond between an artist and their dedicated listeners ?
Making music from your heart. I don’t know… It’s my model. I choose not to follow trend or anything. It’s a hit or miss. If you stay true to your feeling of the music then the people who understand you or resonate with your output or with what your channeling, they’ll stay. I feel it. That’s my experience even though I produce slightly different … I mean… pretty much all my tracks are different than the previous ones and for people if the music touch them they’ll follow.
WWD: What do you feel are the biggest challenges facing artists in the current music industry ?
Well, first of all, there’s not a lot of money to make by selling tracks. If you want to live from your music and you’re not in the pop, really commercial world you have to go out and play all the time. You have to play and play quite a lot to make a sustainable living but for me personally it’s a balance, I need to nurture my creative output and my time to be creative, make music and have time in the studio. I haven’t been in the studio since I finished the album in June last year. Now, I’m just trying to work a bit on the road. I’ve set up my live set in a way that it’s like a constant open project. I can make idea within the live set and hopefully the day I go back to the studio I’ll have a number of things I know I can do. It’s a challenge to balance it if you want to make some money and still be creative at the same time.
WWD: Travelling is of course an essential part of the DJ life, does it impact on trying balancing the other aspects of your life ?
Definitely, I have a lot of people who are slightly disappointed with me because they never see me. Of course, they are also very happy for me and they are proud of what I do by following my passion. I’m doing this 100%. 200% actually haha. But I mean, I do miss seeing my family, not going to my mom birthday because I’m playing this gig somewhere in Asia. You know, there is sacrifice, absolutely. My women, the love of my life, she is very flexible. She’s amazing because it’s not every woman that can put up with this lifestyle I have. She loves what I do, she loves to come along but yes, there’s definitely sacrifices to do.
WWD: What is your first memory of music ? Did you grow up in a musical home ?
That’s interesting. My father was a jazz musician but before I was born, like a life before me, before he married my mom. But then, he kind of left that old world and started working in another sector. It was always this idea of him being a musician but I never really experienced him being a musician, he didn’t play so much anymore and he had hearing damage so he stopped playing. But he taught me a bit, a very basic guitar but I never actually receive training in music. I don’t master an instrument, I didn’t learn how to read music. I work a lot with a mouse. I wish I could play keyboard or piano, it’s my biggest dream.
WWD: Who or what has been the sole biggest influence on your career ?
You probably want me to say an amazing artist or something but I can’t. I mean, artist-wise, there’s so many. It’s like a puzzle. What has been the sole biggest influence on my career is to follow my heart. Follow my inner compass of decision making when I’m making music. I try to have as little thought as possible involved in my decision making and navigate purely like a compass.
Making music today, especially the way we make music now electronically, it’s always like a sequence of choices. You try something and you’re like, yes-no-yes-no, etc. Some people are thinking ‘will this work for a crowd ?’ or ‘how I am gonna get the biggest reaction?’ and it’s one way of doing it and it’s perfectly alright, but I’ve personally chosen to just choose by emotional responses. The moment I get goosebumps or a laugh or a tear, then I know I’m into something good.
WWD: Tell us a bit about where you grow up. What was it like for electronic music ?
I’m from Copenhagen in Denmark, so my first meeting with electronic equipment, I must have been like 7 or 8 years old’ was in 1983 or something. My uncle, at the time, he was playing around with a keyboard, the first MIDI keyboard. And I remember coming to his place and he had like tonnes of cables everywhere. I remember he had a space echo, like a tape echo, and he would let me play with it. He also had an old digital pedal delay and he would lend it to me. I was sitting with a microphone just saying stuff into it and let repeat it. And I kept playing with a lot of these toys. My favorite thing was to make infinity loops with a double tape deck.
Once I got a bit older, I bought my first Technics around 15 years old. I was really into old school hip hop and scratching. That’s how I learn to beatmatch. I loved that stuff.
WWD: You are playing tonight at Newspeak in Montreal. What is your connection with the city ?
I actually don’t have a big connection with the city yet. I’ve only came a few times and always very short stop. The first time I came was actually very memorable. I was playing in a loft kind of thing. I was really touch with how many people show up, how the people already knew my music. It was two days after my birthday and they brought a cake during my set which was super touching. I was very surprised, I didn’t even tell them it was my birthday, someone had found out. That’s my connection at the moment. But now it’s been two days I’m here and I really enjoy it. I just came out of the sauna in the boat in the old port. Very good time.
WWD: Tomorrow we will premiere your club friendly edit of ‘Day 3’’: Dark Matter Mix. Can you explain what is your procedure when you are reworking a track ?
The approach for reworking a track doesn’t have a specific procedure for me. It depends on the mood of the track, the mood I’m in and from where my inspiration is sparked from at that time. In the case of ‘Day 3 (Dark Matter Mix)’, the rework has sprung out of my live set. On my tour I have experimented with the stems from the original album version of ‘Day 3’ and came up with this Juno 60 synth line which I started tweaking on stage. From there, the new mix took shape and developed into this spacey deep dark emo disco version you are premiering tomorrow.
As usual, I’m not sure how this will go down with the DJs but this is the direction I felt like exploring on this. Actually, there will be more stripped down floor friendly version following the release in a little while. Thanks for the premiere guys 🙂