Talk to Lustmord for a few moments, though, and you'll immediately realize that the darkness is left strictly on record. When asked about his live performance on 6/6/06 at the Church of Satan, he calls it a Spinal Tap-esque opportunity he couldn't pass up. As for his career in film soundtracks… well, we'll just say Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and leave it there for now.
This month, Lustmord will take to the stage alongside Biosphere as part of Unsound Festival New York and Communikey in a collaboration that "explores the first tests of nuclear weapons in the New Mexico desert."
I find it fascinating that you're working with Biosphere. I mean, on one hand it makes sense, given all of your past collaborations, but on the other hand when I first saw the names together, I was like: How's that gonna work?
So how is that gonna work?
Oh God. [laughs] On the record or off the record?
Definitely on the record. We'll keep that "oh God" on the record too.
No! [laughs] It's interesting. I've been aware of his work since his first Biosphere album. I've always liked his sound aesthetic and the way he approaches things. I met him in Krakow at the Unsound festival a few years ago, so I thought that, for me—on paper at least—it should make for an interesting collaboration.
We have a different idea of how we should approach it, which I didn't realize until a couple of weeks ago, because I thought we had agreed on everything. I had a view of how I wanted to do it, and then his perspective is very different which, of course, is perfectly fine and perfectly valid. So just like any collaboration, it's a matter of actually bringing those two things together and meeting in the middle.
What did you hear in his stuff that you're really passionate about? You're a pretty picky guy.
Oh, well, who's been talking? [laughs] That's one of those interesting questions, because sometimes it's quite difficult to... [with] things like music, it's a language in itself and sometimes hard to describe it using spoken words. But with Geir [Biosphere], it really is aesthetic. I just like the sounds he's worked on and how he's combined sounds, because that's how I work as well. There's no secret to what I do or how I do it: The process is quite simple. It's just a matter of choosing things that appeal to me, you know? And, well, his choices of sounds and structure appeal to me. Like you said, I'm picky, and there's not many things in electronic music that do appeal to me. I find most of it kind of weak and half-assed, you know?
You're playing live at a few upcoming shows, which is something that you weren't that interested in doing a few years ago. It seems like you've changed your tune about how interesting ambient music can be in a live context.
I have to a degree. Yeah, actually, I had a couple of epiphanies about it basically. I still think that it doesn't really appeal to me. If somebody said "an ambient musician" was playing live in town this evening, I wouldn't exactly rush out, you know? I'd rather stay home and read a book. [laughs]
Anyway, when the Church of Satan asked me to do it, it was one of those things that was just too funny to say "no" to. June 6, 2006. It was really a Spinal Tap thing. I have this image, this reputation, haven't played live for 25 years... if I'm gonna play live after 25 years, I'm gonna have to play on 6/6/6, cause it was so funny! It was all planned out, but there was also this section where we didn't really know what was going to happen. [That part] was like doing music for a video game, where we didn't know what the player was going to do. In doing that, I found by using Ableton Live that I could actually do what I do live and improvise and actually make it interesting.
The other thing was seeing Kraftwerk. I'm a big Kraftwerk fan. I hadn't seen them live for a long time, and they played in LA—four middle aged guys on laptops, how boring is that? But, fucking hell, it was one of the best gigs I've ever seen. That's when I really thought, yeah, you can stand there with your laptop and do your thing as long as you got the fucking sound. As long as you take care of the sound.
For me, if it's physical ambient music, I will rush out to see it. Ben Frost or Tim Hecker playing on a sound system where you can actually feel it really transforms their music I think.
Exactly, yeah. Which was the whole point of the Unsound show that I did in 2010 in Poland. I have a ridiculously good sound system here at home. It goes well lower than most sound systems, so most people don't hear my stuff like I envision it. Most people are listening to it on mp3, which is even worse. When we talk about things like ambient and atmospheric music, you don't necessarily think of this physical thing that just fucking grabs you by the throat. I've always wanted my music to be a physical presence. So if you get to play live and don't compromise too much, you can actually have people experience the music like it's supposed to be heard, which is with a lot of presence.
Did you succeed with the live show in general, in your mind?
When you're trying to do these things you don't really know if it's a success or not. Usually it takes quite a few years before you can really look back and figure it out. I think it's OK, I mean...
You seem quite hard on yourself in general. Even Heresy, which is regarded as one of your seminal albums, you've said in the past that "Yeah, I like it, but the sound quality really let it down."
Yeah, it was fine. That was the best that I could do at the time without help or anything. Being hard on myself... That's an interesting comment. I hadn't really thought about that. I guess up to a degree, you know. [But] I think it's natural. Occasionally you come across people who create something and they really believe it's the best thing ever. I don't really like those people, cause they're full of shit. [laughs]
to be a physical presence."
Do you use it as a motivational mechanism then?
No, I think maybe on a subconscious level... It's not like a big deal or anything. This is what I do. It's not like, "Oh I have to do another album, because the last one wasn't good enough." This is how I express myself, this is what I do, this is who I am, so it's not so much about competing with myself.
The things of mine that I liked the most are things that I've collaborated on, though, because I can step back from those. I have more of a distance between myself and the work because I can listen to the other person's contribution or sometimes I can't remember exactly who did what.
I think that one's worst critic is oneself. I don't have any big problems, I don't lose any sleep over all this stuff. The only time this subject comes up is when somebody specifically asks me of what I think about an album. There's an album I did a couple of years ago, which is a dub remix album for this band Puscifer. That's the one I'm most pleased with, but it's the one hardly anybody knows about and hardly anybody buys because it's so different from what I normally do. But when it comes to all of them, I don't really care what people think. I only care about what I and a few people I know think.
Who do you go to for feedback?
Just friends and stuff. Mat [Schultz, who runs Unsound] is someone I'm bouncing things off because I respect him, and also because he's commissioned the piece with Biosphere. Of course if a lot of people love it, that's great. If they don't like it, it's not really a problem for me either. But it is a problem for me if Mat doesn't like it. Most of my friends are professional musicians, so I guess there's a few people whose opinions I value.
Well, they remain two of my closest friends. I've known them for at least 30 years. I don't really send them works in progress or anything, but we usually send each other finished albums, and we're still in regular touch.
I was really struck by your performance at Unsound—and their performance the next year. You both still sound very modern. There have been plenty of acts that haven't pulled that off. I find it really interesting, this idea of continuing on and remaining relevant. Maybe it's just a happy accident that...
I think that's a really good comment. I think a lot of it is luck. Because you try to do things, and you're very conscious of making an effort. I always want my stuff to be good. That's what you were saying about me being self-critical. I mean, I'm very proud of my stuff, and, like, working in movies... I've worked on some really crap fucking movies, but it's a day job thing. I'm sure you've wrote some articles for some crap magazines, but sometimes you need to pay the bills, you know what I mean?
You seem to have an interesting relationship with your CV as far as films go.
I call it the bullshit myself, you know? When I send the the actual file I call it "the bullshit." Cause it is! It's all bullshit. I do absolutely care about it though. It's work I enjoy. I have worked in some really trash movies. But if you're working on movies, the odds are you're probably gonna work in some trash ones, unfortunately. But you see, I'm always very proud of my work. I've always tried to make at least my contribution to be as good as possible. I can be really stupid about stuff like that, and putting so much work and effort into something when it's, you know, why bother?
I know you don't have any control over these things, but isn't there some part of you that thinks, "I wish I was working on the next Escape from New York rather than the straight-to-video bla bla bla"?
Well, I haven't worked on the straight-to-video things. It's funny because the crap I refer to a lot is stuff that's been #1 at the box office. Street Fighter and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers are things I worked on, for example. But yeah, they go in the box office the first week and then the word gets around that they're crap and then they disappear two weeks later. [laughs]
I'd love to work with people like David Fincher or David Lynch. I'm a big movie fan. I'm a huge fan of Tarkovsky. I don't like really crap movies, but I can enjoy a big Hollywood blockbuster when they have a certain kind of appeal and intelligence to them. But a lot of the stuff is rubbish and I don't enjoy it.
aspects of my work, but I'm
not that serious about myself."
What's the best comedy that you've seen recently?
There's so much stuff I like. In the Loop, which I think is about two or three years old now. It was a political comedy from Britain. That was really, really good. Have you seen that one?
It's fantastic. I think I read someone once who wrote that there was a poetry in the profanity of that show.
Yes, absolutely. I just love the rhythm of it. And also that humor—that's very much my kind of humor, which is really rapid fire. I always have time for a good comedy. I think it's important to laugh. But, you know, some people can't quite handle my humor sometimes. For me, though, you can make fun of pretty much everything. I think with some subjects you have to be a little bit careful, but generally speaking humor is a very good way of dealing with a lot of stuff, and taking the power away from certain things too.
What's the thing that people misunderstand the most about you? Is it the humor thing?
That's an interesting question, because I'm presuming you mean people who follow my music and of course those people don't really know me. So, a lot of people have an idea of what I'm like, and that's not necessarily correct. I have a reputation of being very dark, for example, and of course, I'm very serious about certain aspects of my work, but I'm not that serious about myself. I think it's important to not take yourself too seriously, because otherwise you do end up talking shit. A lot of people think I'm somehow dark and I live in a castle or in a dungeon. That I only come out at night and stuff.
What is the most pedestrian thing about your life?
Well, it's all pretty pedestrian. This morning I was doing the groceries. I mean my rock 'n roll lifestyle is pretty ordinary. I have to rephrase that: I don't have a pedestrian lifestyle... it's all terribly exotic and exciting. [laughs]