When Saints Go Machine are a Danish quartet made up of Silas Moldenhawer, Jonas Kenton, Simon Muschinsky and Nikolaj Manuel Vonsild. We’ve been hooked on this band since they released their mini LP ‘Fail Forever‘ back in January 2011. ‘Fail Forever’ acted as a taster to what has been in the pipeline for the past two years, their second album ‘Konkylie’.
I’ve always wanted to know where you got your band name from, am I right in thinking it’s a title for some advanced religious sci-fi action movie?
That’s not exactly right, but we should definitely make that movie. One thing is for sure we would want Roisin Murphy and Charlotte Gainsbourg to have the leading roles and David Vorhaus to be a Spaceship commander.
Actually we just needed a name and When Saints Go Machine just came up one day. Funny thing is, some people hate it, and others love it. I guess we just think it’s quite a long one. Don’t know what’s in a band name these days.
From what I’ve read, you all met each met each other as kids whilst growing up around Copenhagen. When / what was it that brought you all together to start experimenting with music?
The three others, Simon, Jonas and Silas had actually already started messing around and made a couple of instrumental tracks, but they really wanted to work with vocals as well. I was touring a bit with Simon’s brother at the time and he talked about what they were doing and played some stuff for me and I knew immediately that I wanted to be a part of this project. We tried it out and we had good chemistry so we decided to start a band instead of just doing a one off thing. All good chairs have a lot of legs.
What would you say is the driving force behind the band? Is there a particular person within the band who fits this role?
We all play our different parts in the band, but everything is overlapping so it’s hard to tell. We’re all hopeless perfectionists, but I would say inspiration is the driving force in the band. I pen the lyrics and melodies for the vocals that’s the only thing I know for sure, but other than that we all write the music and I think that’s why you might find it hard to pin point one particular sound or source of inspiration in our music.
Tell me about your new album Konkylie. What is the story behind the name, how long have you been working on the album, where did you spend the majority of your time working on it and what studio[s] did you use to produce the album?
The album title means ‘conch shell’ in Danish and we think it ‘s a beautiful word. You can hear the ocean in them, but really it’s the blood rushing around in your head. I like that. And I think it fits the album well, everyone should listen to it while scuba diving, which would be perfect.
We worked on the album on and off for two years, between touring and the three others working a bit on their own stuff as well. I almost always write the lyrics at home alone; I find it really hard to concentrate with others around during the early stages of writing.
I would definitely say that we spent the most time in my parent’s summerhouse in North Sealand by the sea though, where we put up three small studios and go back and forth working in different constellations to keep a steady workflow. We also spent a lot of time both recording and mixing in our small studio in Copenhagen, but we recorded stuff everywhere. There are sounds from a restaurant in Spain, every room in my apartment the forest, tunnels in the city and huge all red studio by the new Danish concert hall in Copenhagen.
When you began writing the album, what were your original intentions and do you think you have stayed true to them?
We wanted to dig deeper and explore the atmosphere of some of our earlier work and we knew that we didn’t want to make a dance record. And I went through an awful period of my life while writing it, so for me it had to be a personal one and we all agreed on that direction. That said I don’t think we had any idea what it was going to sound like. We never stay true to anything, we do whatever we feel for at the time, during the process.
Who is the visual artist behind the Konkylie’s artwork and what were your reasons for selecting this piece?
It was kind of a joint venture between our friend Philip Dam Roadley-Battin and I with Silas kind of working as an art director overseeing the project and picking at every little detail to make it just right. I did all the drawings and paintings and took all the photos except for one of my younger brother, but I guess you are referring to the front cover (you should see the booklet). I had taking this photo of the girl on the front cover and shown it to the others in the band and from the very beginning of making the artwork, we all thought it was perfect. Strangely drawing, beautiful colors and something that we thought you would remember seeing in a record store.
Nikolaj, you’re voice is very impressive. It’s very similar to the voice of Anthony Heggarty, from Anthony and the Johnsons. How do you go about training your voice to sound so good?
Thank you. It is a huge compliment that people think my voice is similar to Antony’s, but I would really like for people to say that I sound like me at some point. Maybe after making another four albums who knows? It’s a method that just stuck there. I don’t really know why my voice sounds like this now, but I would much rather it sounded a lot different. Listening to a lot of soul music when I was younger made me want to explore the use of my voice and I kind of ended up where it felt natural I guess. But I don’t train anything, I just write songs and sing them.
For me, the album has strong elements of pop in it. Is this something you originally set out to achieve?
To us this is a pop record or at least what we think it sounds like, so the answer is a yes. Everyone loves a good melody, but I think we’re just as much in love with strange sounds and odd machines.
Where do you find inspiration to create and write your music?
We find inspiration in working together, bouncing ideas of each other, talking to friends about music, listening and keeping a steady pace at all times. The lyrics are all inspired by experience, procrastination, loneliness, Loss, funny things I see walking around or going places, love, lawlessness, staying up late and getting up early to do stuff.
Music videos are powerful mediums to get your music played across the world. Do you have more videos lined up for songs on Konkylie? Who / what are the producers, directors stories behind them?
We really like when videos work out and both sound and picture connect to create this strange third dimension where there is just you and St. Peter left, but that’s very rare. Sometimes it’s just entertainment and if it makes more people listen that’s fine. To answer your question I can surely say yes, but I can’t name any names or titles yet. It all depends on how Konkylie will be received.
As a band, do you have any rituals you do before you play live?
Yes. One.When Saints Go Machine!K7June 2011ElectroPop