Sofus Forsberg is one of the pioneering forces behind Nordic electronica. He began blurring the lines between art and technology when knob twiddling hipsters were still in their nappies. Armed to the back teeth with a universe of sounds – he joins us at the Midnight Sun Festival’s Sun Observatory stage for the second time.
Thanks to cool parents in love with the sixties, Sofus has been programmed by music since birth. Hendrix, Santana, Zeppelin, The Beatles – he heard it all from the foetal position, spawning this cosmic child of rock n’ roll.
Later on, at the age of six, his mother gave him a record player. “But it had no needle” he says.
“So she replaced it with a sewing pin and gave me two vinyls. And then I plugged in some headphones and sat there for hours expecting something to happen.”
Sofus launched his highly-anticipated third album FM Volta on Mindwaves Music in 2014. Analog geeks had waited nine long years for it. But Sofus had kept himself busy with various performances, projects and collaborations.
The album was well-received and a treat for those in love with experimental post-electronica and machines that make noise.
Once signed to Danish label Jenka Music – Sofus joined Mindwaves after meeting founder Pat Flanders in 2007.
“Being on Mindwaves is truly an experience. To be one of the selected few who have actually made it through the needle’s eye is a big honour among such great artists as Badun, Karsten Pflum and Ebertbrothers. Pat Flanders is a very passionate music lover and one of the rare creatures that really live for his artists and their creations. In many ways it resembles a family which I’m very thankful to be part of.”
Currently in the throes of producing his fourth studio release, he says: “First of all, I don’t want to wait nine more years. That’s not how it’s supposed to be. Secondly, I’ve been much more productive in the last couple of years. I’ve had a big change in my life. Something happened to make me realise I was living in some sort of sleep. I wasn’t really awake.
“Now I’ve made some changes and try to be in the present moment more than ever. I feel really awake and aware of what’s going on around me. Life is a fantastic journey with many challenges and I guess my view is to try to learn as much as possible out of situations I get into.
“So my intention right now is to give something back to the world, in a thankful, humble manner.”
He doesn’t want to say much about the new release so we chat about other stuff instead – such as the Midnight Sun Festival – and his main love – the modular synthesiser.
“I’m very, very happy to be back at the Midnight Sun Festival. I was there in 2014 and it’s a very special place. I feel so honoured that I can live to experience things like this. It’s all about having a chance to play music to people. To connect. Music is the vehicle I use for doing that.
“My intention is to give people a deep and profound experience. To tell my story with the speakers as my instrument. And to make a safe-haven so people can let go as I guide us together through a journey of sound that hopefully transcends time and space.”
Over the years, Sofus has developed an inextricable connection with the modular synth. It’s like the band leader of his one-man band. His ‘go to instrument’ as he says.
“Yeah, the whole modular synthesiser scene has really exploded over the last couple of years.
“But it’s just crazy this thing. There are things that come out of it that I never quite imagined. It’s got a life of its own that has to be tamed – a bit like a guitar but with a feeder creating lots of distortion. I guess this also describes my way of composing, which is very much trial and error – and the modular is in everything I do.”
For Sofus, making electronic music is about ‘making machines sing’ – and working with hardware.
“My background as an artist is about playing music. To make the machines sing, I have to play on them to get a connection to the physicality of the sound. It’s a bit tedious sometimes, as I can’t save and recall so easily, so I’m working on getting smarter and develop my working methods.
Sofus experienced the onset of the electronic music revolution with the Commodore VIC-20 at the age of 12 with his brother. “They were the craziest toys and this particular machine was just fantastic!
“It was something to disappear into and the demos for the computer games that played little tunes have certainly had a major influence on generations of electronic music makers.
Mixing everything became a passion with his 1995 project, Impotators. “We just mixed everything we liked – Meshuggah, Pantera, Defunkt, Allan Holdsworth, 24/7 Spyz, Living Colour, Bad Brains, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker – some of those artists have been a real inspiration for me.”
Goldie’s Timeless made a massive impression too. “I started playing with jungle and breaks. Then Aphex Twin turned up with a more electronica/IDM style so that had a big effect on me too.
“But I heard about Logic later on, so I bought it and taught myself how to use it. I also got an EMU E64, a JUNO 106, a mixer and threw in some effects from my guitar – so that was my initial setup. There was much to learn when it came to thinking about the music that was being generated by the program – but Midi became my best friend and I found it interesting to sit and program the machines to play music.”
Sofus spent hours programming tracks in Logic and mixing them down into DATs. “There were so many different things to be made live on the mixer with a filter or a synth while they were getting recorded. So I practiced for a few years until I produced my very first track.”
By 2000 though, Sofus was introduced to a ‘more sensitive and introverted manner of looking at life’ – and developed an interest in artists like Future 3, Opiate, Acoustic and the entire world of minimalist Danish electronica – leading to influences such as Boards of Canada, Autechre, Biosphere, Plaid, Squarepusher, Warp and Planet-Mu.
In the midst of producing his latest project, Sofus has visualised a trip to Africa. Will he unite Nordic electronica with the sounds of Mama Africa?
“Wow man, I’m looking so forward to going there – but I will go there more as a human being than as a musician. I wanna dance – Mama Africa is telling me to come and play some drums and move that body!
“She says the separation between music and dance isn’t right. That you should connect to the deep roots of being a human being and start becoming who you really are. Why the shame and the ego and the self-obsessiveness when you know that deep down you are connected to all beings? What is holding you back? She says come, come and feel my love, be safe in the soil of your roots and let go. Dance, dance and be free.”