It speaks to the universality of music. Maybe some of us are just wired to love certain types of sounds, no matter when or where we first run into them. Maybe it would have taken Brikha longer to hear Depeche Mode in America. Maybe it would have happened around the same time. Either way, they were one of the first groups to truly catch his ear and, armed with keyboards at a young age—he got his first at 7—he began to figure out how to do it for himself. "I think my parents must've gone crazy listening to me figuring out the intro to 'Strangelove' or 'Behind the Wheel,'" he laughs.
That Brikha was so interested in melody is instructive. You'll hear plenty of hardened techno producers cite Depeche Mode as a formative influence. For Brikha it was always about the emotional impact of the hook. "It wasn't until my first releases that I even realized people would dance to my music," he says. "The stuff that I was making was so different from the hard techno that I had been subjected to early on. I think most people come from one of two backgrounds: Being a DJ from the hip-hop scene and using a sampler to make beats. I'm not that type. I like the melody aspect."
Growing up in a Swedish scene that preferred extremes, Brikha didn't fit in. His music was too hard for house labels like Svek, and too soft for what became the Drumcode family. Frustrated by his inability to get signed, Brikha metaphorically threw his hands up and sent a demo to two labels that he believed he didn't have a chance of getting signed to: Transmat and 430 West. "I didn't have a fax machine at the time, so my neighbor came in three days later with a message from 430 West. Trasmat called more or less the same day."
The rest, as they say, is history. "Groove La Chord," the hit track on that demo has gone down as one of techno's most celebrated anthems. It's a perfect example of Brikha's predilection for an indelible melody. It's an outlier in his catalogue, though, as it came together quickly. "I didn't have the chance to ruin it. I was waiting for a friend to come by, and working on this track. It was a date actually. She had heard some of my other stuff, which had strings and things. And she was like, 'Oh, that's different.' I made her wait 15 minutes while I recorded two takes live to tape," Brikha recalls.
A perfectionist in the studio, Brikha has never forced much. When he has writer's block, he simply doesn't make music. That's meant the level of quality has rarely dipped, but it's also meant that there is often a lengthy wait between releases. After the release of his first album, Deeparture in Time, in 2000, it took him three years to follow. Then two more years for another 12-inch. Then a slew of records of 2007. Then silence again. Late last year Brikha returned. Sort of. His new label, which would have begun in 1998 had Derrick May not intervened, put out a remix package of tracks from Deeparture in Time in advance of a double disc reissue of the album itself. There's plenty more on the way in 2011.
As the name of his first EP and the name of his label, the phrase "Art of Vengeance" has particular significance for Brikha. "It isn't about violence. It's about focusing negative energy into art. It's funny how my music never comes out angry, though. Something is happening in the process. I probably have a lot of anger. I know I do," Brikha laughs. "It could be anything from injustice in the world to a bad meal. For years I've been trying to make banging tracks. It always just ends up with strings."
Brikha isn't a DJ, so talk eventually drifts to his live set. Things have gotten more compact, but he claims that it hasn't changed much over the years. "It kind of puts me off when people say that it was much cooler when I had hardware on the stage. Even with the hardware, I was running it on MPC and using the pads to mute and trigger tracks. It's just a change of gear, but the concept is the same. I've even had offers from people to rent gear. 'It looks better. If you want to have some gear on stage with you...' The discussion is always the same, though. It's not what you have, it's how you use it."
This sort of pragmatism marks our chat. Despite the periods of silence on the release front and despite his inability to make tracks that bang, Brikha seems remarkably sanguine. Every time he says something like, "To make people dance with chords hasn't been easy. It wasn't easy then, and it hasn't been easy for the past ten years. People are usually drawn to the kick drum" it isn't said with a resigned sigh. It's just a fact. Maybe he's just wired that way.