Since emerging in 2010, Swedish duo Alexander Berg and Nils Krogh, better known as Genius of Time have been turning heads with their unique and enchanting take on house music. Though it is hard to pigeon hole their sound, Genius of Time fit somewhere in-between classic and space-age house, and while Chicago influences are clearly evident then their tracks are forward thinking and always retain that traditionally cool and serene Scandinavian style.
Along with partner Fabian, the duo run the vinyl only Aniara Recordings, which serves as a platform to release their own material. Aniara Recordings is characterised by all round high quality, from the raw and original productions right through to the eye-catching artwork. As such previous releases are already fetching up to 40 euros on discogs. In early 2011, despite having only having two releases under their belt, Genius of Time caught the attention of Serge Verschuur, who released the excellent ‘Drifting Back’ EP on the Royal Oak imprint, sublabel of the mighty Clone Records. In spite of their rapid rise, Genius of Time remain two of most easy-going and likeable producers you are ever likely to encounter. Pulse Radio caught up with the duo over Skype for a chat ahead of their gig at FOUND on Friday 11th May, covering ‘discogs fiends’, scientific theories and how they felt when Snoop Dogg featured them in his recent ‘Euro Tekno Mixx’.
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When researching you for this interview I noticed there was not a great deal of information about you, is this low profile intentional?
Nils: It’s probably because we’re not very good with the whole social media thing.
Alex: Yes, we don’t really make decisions because we think they might work, we just do things the way we want to do them. We don't really think about promoting ourselves, personally I don't like getting spam and mails and being bombarded online so we don’t want to do that to others. But of course there are good ways to promote yourself I guess, but we haven’t really been focusing that much on that part of the music business. But it’s not been a choice either to stay low profile it just happened.
Three people running a label seems like an odd number – what is the working relationship you guys have it must be difficult agreeing the whole time?
N: Fabian was the one who started it from the beginning. We wrote the first release on the label and now we are doing it together.
A: It’s true, from the beginning we weren’t really that involved in the label part. We made the first record and Fabian was our friend who had been talking about starting the label and he listened to our music and decided to release it. From then we became closer friends and everything just came together. In the beginning it was more his thing and then our roles started to come together a bit and now we make the decisions together.
N: But its not like we have a big plan on the label side either. We just do what we like.
A: Yes thinking back a bit I think we made some good decisions without knowing it and that’s because we buy a lot of vinyl records ourselves and we love to go out clubbing so we are pretty much the consumers that we want to sell our records to. So it’s quite easy just to feel ‘how would I want a vinyl record to feel or look like’.
There are a few things that stand out about Aniara Recordings apart from the music. It is a Vinyl only label, the artwork is really striking and interestingly there have been no remixes, every track has been an original production. Are these conscious decisions you guys are making?
N: Yes and I think it’s just a bit more interesting like that. When you see a record and it has a remix, people always look to see whom the remix is by and the remixer gets most of the credit anyways.
A: It hasn’t made sense for us yet to have any remixes because I think nowadays the whole concept of doing remixes is just a bit weird sometimes. I think there are interesting ways to do a remix, we could easily contact an artist we like about doing a remix but how can we be sure that they would really want to work with the material, it might not suit them perfectly and so on. It would feel more natural if someone approached us and said ‘Hey I’ve got a nice idea for remixing this song’. If it happened that way then it would be more interesting I think.
That’s interesting that you might be more open to a producer coming to you, rather than commissioning someone to do a remix for you.
A: Yes but saying that, to be honest I don’t know. We haven’t really wanted to have our tracks remixed. We want the label to be our platform for our songs. But maybe in the future, as you get to know more people, maybe it will feel right one day to have people remix our songs but up until now it hasn't been a priority.
What about the artwork on Aniara?
N: That is something Fabian should have the credit for. He has a way with pictures. I think his idea about pictures is similar to the way a lot of electronic music musicians treat sampling. You take it out of its context and put it in your own context. But it’s mainly Fabians thing.
With regards to the vinyl only aspect of the label, I see you are repressing the first three releases that came out on Aniara Recordings. Why?
A: It’s not like we ever meant them to be limited releases. We never said that. We just want to make them available to everyone. We know some people who wanted to buy the records but missed their chance and the records became quite expensive on discogs and in second hand shops. The reason it happened so late is because we didn't have money to do the repressing’s (laughs), we didn't have enough cash so we’ve had to save up some money first.
N: We’re trying to repress as people and shops ask for it.
A: So we’ve made a rerun of the first few. Personally I don't like having to spend a fortune on a record second hand. It's nicer to have it available in shops. I don't know if we’ll do more repressing, it’s new to us running a label so it’s hard for us to know how everything should be done.
I read somewhere that you financed the first release on your label through some kind of medical experiments, can you elaborate?
A: Well that was Fabian. He tried some phsyco–active drugs as a medical trial. He was in the hospital for around a week and they were giving him this medicine and he funded the first pressings on Aniara through that. It's a funny story.
So if you had to give a quick bit of advice to anyone trying to start a record label today?
A: I don't know because we haven’t overly thought about what we should do, its all come naturally. I think my advice would be to turn the question around and to think twice about if you are doing it for the sake of it. I mean sometimes vinyl isn’t the right medium and there’s nothing wrong with that. If it’s not right it’s not right and with some music it wouldn’t make sense. But if you are a consumer of vinyl yourself then you will know what you want to have. Also for artists trying to find a label sometimes its better to do it yourself. I don’t think I can give any good or advice or really I don't know if I think that people should listen to what I say. Just follow your heart and good things will happen (laughs).
N: It’s obviously nicer if the records are available to everyone.
A: Yes we realised we should make represses when we first noticed that people were paying such big amounts of money. It made me feel bad that people were actually buying our records for so much money. At the same time you are flattered because people like the music so it feels both good and bad.
That's true. So with vinyl sales being at a 6 year high in 2012, what do you think is behind this recent resurgence of buying vinyl?
N: Well the feel of actually playing vinyl is what I love. Obviously the sound too but the feel. So if the record is a bit slow you just nudge it and you have direct control over it. As soon as you see the grooves, you have this immediate feeling of where to mix it in and where to mix it out. It’s very different to when you play a CD or anything digital.
A: Yes it’s the emotional value to a physical product.
N: And you have the selection process before a gig, where you can only bring so many records and so you have to select before you start playing and that’s a nice thing also.
A: I don't know if it will change in the future with the digital vs. physical thing but it seems to me that when everything is available digitally, all you need to know is the title of the song, you don't need to physically own it. I still think that many people like to actually get the physical records. You get more connected to the music . I’m just happy to be able to press vinyl because it feels good. [laughs]
So moving away from vinyl, what other interests do you guys have. I noticed some of your track names such as Gliese 581g seemed to have a science theme – is Science something that interests you guys?
A: Yes definitely. I read a lot of books on physics. It is quite hard to grasp but it’s still inspiring and mind bending to read theories of quantum mechanics. And sometimes it’s an inspiration to make music.
N: Its very easy for me to become nerdy with whatever, I mean I have a tendency to get really into something and then move on and be really be into something else for a while. That includes science but it could be about anything and that included collecting vinyl as well.
A: So that is definitely a source of inspiration. But as much as I love making music and it’s my biggest interest, then it is equally enjoyable to go out and dance and see other DJs. We’re not the type of DJs that would stand in the corner and analyse what is being played, we like to go out and dance and have fun.
So have these scientific theories directly inspired certain tracks you’ve made?
A: For me how inspiration works it that I don't just hear something or read something and go make a song about that. For example if I’m at the beach and I get inspired it doesn't mean I run off and make a song about the beach. It just means that in certain situations you get a boost of creativity and you feel inspired and what you do with it doesn't have to connect to what was the original source of inspiration. It’s about getting into a certain state of mind where you get creative and then you’re into what your doing and your making a song and you don't think about what made you start doing it anymore.
N: It’s hard to connect the dots directly to anything.
Moving onto your live show - why did you choose to create a live show – what do you think a live show can offer than playing records can’t?
N: Well it’s two completely different things and both are equally as fun and as important to do. For me it’s about enjoying playing live with music.
A: Nils is a really good musician and I’ve been in bands too but when you play live with club music its different, you don't want to put on too much of a concert, you are still in the club environment, so you have to keep some balance. So if it’s too visual then it is not really for the dancefloor it is for watching. But of course it has to be visually interesting.
N: It is a lot more about changing arrangements than playing I guess.
A: Yes that is the biggest benefit of playing live as opposed to playing records. Because we have set it up so we have full controls of our arrangements and our music. As every gig is different we can respond to how the crowd is responding to the music.
N: Maybe sometimes you see there are some bits of a song that don’t work so you can skip through them a bit faster and you adapt to the party. Which you do as a DJ too but you can’t go into the arrangements of the song.
A: We also have a lot of new music we play for our live shows. If you have ever seen us live you will always hear something new because that is how we try tracks out. We have a jam in the live situation and we later record them into the studio and edit them to make studio recordings.
N: Yes a lot of our songs came about this way, as a result of a jam session. And we usually work like that doing long takes of a lot of our stuff and edit it down to a couple of tracks. Of course some songs haven’t been created like that.
Your track featured in the Snoop Dogg ‘Tekno Euro Mixx’? Were you surprised when you first heard that?
N: Yes for sure. It’s really cool.
A: I think I was hanging out at Fabian’s and he said ‘You have to come see this, your song is in a mix by Snoop Dogg’ and so we listened to the mix and I was surprised at first and I think the mix was quite good. It was unexpected by him to dig out all this music.
Yes I think a lot of people were surprised he even knew about this music.
N: Yes the songs are not the most obvious songs to put in the mix, which is cool.
A: I mean everything about it is just perfect because he even calls it the ‘Euro Tekno Mix’ when it’s really not, it’s Snoop Dogg playing kind of soulful house and disco tunes. So if you take the mix out of context I’m not so sure about it but then again why would you? Music is always experienced in a specific context so it’s definitely a good one.
You guys are playing in London soon at the Royal Oak night at Hidden. The line up is great, you must be pretty excited about this. Do you enjoy playing in London?
N: I love playing in London it’s always really fun.
A: It’s so cool now because when we started to get more gigs outside Gothenburg it was mainly Berlin and I remember thinking it would be so cool to play in London. We didn’t really know how to make that happen, as we didn't have contacts there to get gigs. But now we’ve been twice and played at fabric already so this next one is definitely one we’re particularly excited about.
How was playing at fabric?
N: It was amazing.
A: We hadn’t been before as clubbers but it’s one of those that you know about even if you hadn’t been there. We played in Room 3, the smaller room, which was great and suited us as it had that intimate vibe. It is better for our music too. I don't really see us as playing huge events, we are comfortable is the smaller clubs.
Would you agree with that Nils, that your music is more suited to smaller intimate places?
N: I think it is definitely most suited to us as you get more contact with the audience in a smaller venue. I have no idea how it would work for us in a bigger place.
A: The more I’m thinking about it though maybe that is a horrible thing to say because I don’t want people thinking ‘ I don’t want to book them to our big festivals’ (laughs). It’s just we haven’t really played huge parties yet. While we are getting some recognition now but we are still not a super big name, so we’re in a good situation that with all our previous gigs, then all the promoters have understood what were going to do and the parties have been a really good match for us. I think with bigger names there is a risk you get booked because of your name and you’re not the best match for the party. But we haven’t been in that situation yet.
What have you guys got coming up then?
A: The next one on Aniara is in the pressing plants now and it’s the first time we’re releasing something that we didn't do ourselves. It's a new artist, which feels really cool. It wasn't really our plan initially to release other people’s music. When we release our own work you can do whatever but when you release other peoples music you have a lot more responsibility to do the best you can with the material because it is in your hands. But we felt at this point it could be a good thing both for the artist and for us, as we really like the music, so we decided to do it.
N: And we finished the next track we are going to put out as Genius of Time.
If I had to ask both of you to pick your favourite Swedish record in your collection what would it be?
A: I have a lot of treasured records in my collection and I love how I have a lot of Swedish house and techno, I like representing the local. There was some really cool music that came out of Sweden in the late 1990’s, mainly minimal house and techno. So I have a few gems from that period. This is one I’m really fond of, is from 1997 and it’s not a rareity or anything but I just think it's a brilliant deep house gem, simple and the vibe is just there from the first second.
N: It’s too hard to name one because some records you have an emotional attachment too and some records are the ones that work the best when your playing so it’s too hard to name one.
Finally, can you tell me a bit about the podcast you guys have done?
A: The last podcast we did was mid-tempo house so this time we decided to go for a slower house vibe.
N: There aren’t many of our own songs but there is a remix of The Tortoise in there. One thing was that we wanted to make a slower mix that was not comprised of Disco edits basically. So it’s slow but maybe not what you’d expect from a slow house mix today.
A: The interesting thing with tempo is that once you get into it, you forget it’s slow and it’s just dance music. And that’s something quite interesting, how you can work with these different tempos. It's a slow house ting with some fresh stuff and with only a hint of disco.