Music Musings: Interview with Northern Lite

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Electro-rock-techno band Northern Lite is releasing their eleventh album this month. Though the original lineup consisted of frontman Andreas Kubat, keyboardist/DJ Sebastian Bohn, and guitarist Larry Lowe (Lowe left the group in 2004 to pursue a solo career, and guitarists Valerian Herdam and Frithjof Rödel took over his role), the Berlin-based band is still going strong after sixteen years. FDRMX talked with frontman Andreas Kubat about the evolution of EDM, thoughts about tour and other music experiences, and what he would do if he were a millionaire in Japan. Read on for more.

FDRMX: Tell us about your new mini-album! How many songs, what’s the title, does it have a concept, which genre would you place it in (neo-pop, techno, electro-rock), when will it be available, etc.?
Northern Lite: It was supposed to become a mini album, but then we had so much fun that we decided to do more. Finally it contains 10 Northern Lite tracks, taken from the last 9 albums played in a real special, almost jazzy way. The idea was to record an album in a traditional way – standing all together in the studio and just playing the songs like on a concert. Of course you might miss all those convenient studio tricks, but on the other hand there is some kind of magic in playing together like that. You feel a much stronger connection between the musicians and in the end you can really hear that. The album is called “Northern Lite Vs. The White Noize – Wooden Playground” and it will be available from July 25, download only (iTunes and so on).

FDRMX: What’s your song-writing process? Do you start with one sound and continue to layer? Why do you choose to write your lyrics in English?
NL: Every song is different… Sometimes I start up doing one beat-loop and sit down with my guitar to play some tunes and see what happens. Sometimes I already have a pretty close idea of the whole thing before I start to write down anything. It also depends on where I am when I get the idea. It happens mostly when I am not at the studio, but on the bus when we’re on our way to a concert, backstage or in the hotel room. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night  and start humming a melody into my iPhone… which is not so funny for any other person that is possibly trying to sleep in the same room [winks].  Well – it’s the price you pay [laughs].

FDRMX: Our website currently features your video “In Japan”. It depicts Andreas partaking in a Japanese tea ceremony. Did the concept for the video originate around the same time as the lyrics for the song?

NL: Not really but there still is a link. I wrote this song when I was remembering our Japan concerts. We’ve seen so many strange and sometimes funny things, it was unbelievable. You realize from the first second on when you’re in Tokyo that somehow you don’t belong there. People are so different from the Europeans – [it] seems like another planet. They’re so contained, so full of discipline and humility, it almost scares you. And you have no choice – you fall in love with that. Later when the song was done we decided to release it as a single and to do a video. Regarding the tea ceremony – it might look easy but it was really hard and took one day to learn those few moves. And I bet for the tea master (she started learning the ceremony when she was 4 years old – and she is still learning) it still looked awkward…

FDRMX: Does the band drink green tea on the regular or are you coffee drinkers?
NL: Rather coffee to be honest. But the green tea done by the master is still the best I have ever had and it is very strong. I had like ten of them and felt a bit like on a party [winks].

FDRMX: If you were a millionaire in Japan, how would you spend your time?
NL: Probably I would get up early for my daily kendo training on the roof of my 47th floor apartment, next would be an early tea ceremony…. Maybe a fishing tour on my boat in the afternoon (globefishes, of course NO DOLPHINS), later get a new piece for my sword collection and ride my Harley through Shibuya [laughs].

FDRMX: You’ve been a band for sixteen years. What would you say is the secret of keeping a band together that long?
NL: I think it’s very important to give every member enough space to be [their] own person, not only a part of the band. When you start having a band you don’t think about stuff like that, you are together all the time working on the common idea. Later on you start to raise other “families” (real ones for example). This is the part when you need to find a balance between those two poles. But of course the real secret is success [laughs]. Well, you don’t need big hits, but after years it feels good to know there is someone out there enjoying your stuff. It keeps you going.

FDRMX: What is your opinion on the evolution of electronic music since you first formed as a band? Are you happy with the differences? Is there anything about EDM you would like to change?
NL: Well, it grew up from a niche to a booming industry, and now while the first peak is over, everything has changed, not only electronic music itself. It is now part of almost any kind of popular music. The listening habits have changed since then. Everyone now is used to electronic sounds. Music hard- and software has become a huge branch of industry. It is easy to make music, you get all you need almost for free compared to the early 90s. Besides I don’t believe you need all that stuff to make good music and of course the fact that anyone can do it didn’t lead to the highest quality average possible. But as you said, it is an evolution, which also means that only the strongest will survive.

FDRMX: If you could tour anywhere in the world, where would you want to go?
NL: Thanks for asking because we would love to tour the USA. We [have] never played there and I’ve never even been there. But if we find the right partners in the States we’ll be around to check you guys out soon.

FDRMX: What is the one thing you absolutely have to have with you while on tour?
NL: At least something to note an idea like my iPad and ear plugs to get some sleep in the bus after the gig while our engineers still party hard right beside me.

FDRMX: Do you have any weird/crazy/funny back-stage stories you would like to share?
NL: There is one rule : whatever happens backstage stays backstage [winks].

Hopefully the States will be lucky enough to see Northern Lite on tour there soon. In the meantime, fans can check out their website to pre-order “Northern Lite Vs. The White Noize – Wooden Playground” and listen to preview tracks of the album, as well as our Encyclopedia of Music‘s video section for Northern Lite’s music video “In Japan.”