interview December 8, 2005
Kobi is a musical collaboration run by Kai Mikalsen. Kobi is aggressive ambient music based around electro-acoustics. Being based out of Oslo Kai is part of the Origami Republika. If you’re into the bands in The Wire, you’d probably dig Kobi. The latest release Dronesyndrome is out on Silber Records along with two free EPs associated with it on their download page.
QRD – How do you describe your music to someone not into experimental music?
Kai – Our music is more like a landscape or a journey-soundscape than music. Because it doesn’t have melody or clear rhythm structures, and in addition to regular instruments, much of the texture is built up by natural sounds from outdoor recordings or recordings of found objects. It’s based a lot on improvisations, but not like jazz; we focus on single notes and we are more interested in depth and structure than improvising melodies. The music is more like abstract paintings or short films than regular songs.
QRD – On the new record, the center graphic looks like a rune symbol, does it mean anything?
Kai – It’s not a rune, it’s an abstract impression of Chinese calligraphy.
QRD – Your song titles are known for being long, detailed, & almost complete sentences. How do the titles relate to the individual tracks & which comes first, the title or the music?
Kai – Our music is abstract and I would
prefer not to title the songs, but instead I just make titles to either
confuse or be funny or relate to the tracks. My idea is that I can’t
dictate what anybody relates to our music.
QRD – I know you sometimes help setting up art exhibits, has your music ever been used at any of these installations?
Kai – Not to this point. No one has asked. And I think the music speaks for itself. But we might do something like this in the future.
QRD – How are your live shows & studio recordings different?
Kai – The live shows are about being present, improvisations with no plan ahead. While the recording sessions are processed takes; the other members improvise on a soundscape I have already made. We used to improvise to a playback live, but for the last two years we have started from silence....
QRD – I know you sometimes use pre-recorded stuff when you play live & other times all the sound is live. What do you think are the strengths & weaknesses of both of these types of live show?
Kai – When we used playback I could include more natural sounds on stage, and we had some kind of plan. We had to relate to what was already there. Now we can go wherever the soundscape takes us. The structure is more instrumental, but not melodic; we still produce abstract paintings.
QRD – Live you do a lot with contact microphones on hinges & light bulbs & such, what kind of reaction do you get from the crowd on this?
Kai – Most are stunned of what sounds I make out of the objects. And I guess it’s more interesting to see the sound, than looking at a laptop.
QRD – What would have to happen for you to tour outside of Europe?
Kai – Fundings....
QRD – You went to school for graphic design. Do you wish you’d gone for music instead?
Kai – No, I think that would have narrowed my ideas of music and sound.
QRD – How did you get involved with the Origami Republika?
Kai – I got involved in the mid 90’s, when I meet these guys and we shared most of the same ideas about music and politics related to that.
QRD – How do you think your music is affected by your living in Oslo rather than the more rural northern part of Norway where you grew up?
Kai – Most of my moods in music comes from the northern, but I don’t think I would have been ably to express them if I had not moved. In fact I probably wouldn’t have made music if I did not move. Oslo is a small but modern town; the scene is small, everybody knows each other. On the other hand it’s far enough away from the more central parts of Europe. The scene more or less dictates its own rules.…
QRD – With bands like Supersilent & Salvatore getting a good deal of international attention lately, is there a surge in the experimental underground in Norway?
Kai – There’s certainly a focus on the scene, and a lot of interesting music is being made. But the surge has been there for years. Hopefully there will be more awareness of what’s going on. The most interesting thing about the scene is that there are no fractations, everybody works with everybody... making music across the genres.
QRD – What musicians would you like to collaborate with that you haven’t had a chance to?
Kai – Fred Frith, Kevin Drumm, Taku Sugimoto, Toshimaru Nakamura, Brian Eno, Ikue Mori, Helge Sten, and Arve Henriksen.
QRD – Are you a big fan of the 1960’s composers like Ligeti, Cage, Crumb, & Oliveros?
Kai – Not a big fan, but I know of them.
QRD – What other musical projects are you currently working on besides Kobi?
Kai – Origami Arktika, KA, Origami Synergika, and Norwegian Noise Orchestra.
QRD – Anything else?
Kai – Have fun, be present... take care...