When we caught up with Jeppe Kjellberg of WhoMadeWho, he was cycling down a road alongside a train, and had just come from an in-door soccer game. He noted that the weather had suddenly turned hostile, and yet here he was cycling with blue tooth, as if he were a born multi-tasker.
We spoke about recording in unfinished hotels, Danish camping, New York City just after 9/11, the pleasures of Amish dress and WhoMadeWho’s Texas experience.
How’s it going in your neck of the woods?
It’s quite good. I just finished a late night soccer game, in-door in Copenhagen.
You’re on a team then?
Yeah, it’s just a team of musicians and DJ’s playing late night on Mondays. We play from 10pm to 11pm. It’s been nice spring weather, but today it’s like winter again. I think it might be climate change or something.
You recorded in an unfinished hotel—how was that experience?
It was fantastic. It had never been used before, but the rooms were fantastic. They had a view over the sea and we got it really cheap. We had this idea of four different workstations in this room next to each other. So we were just having this manic workstation with this beautiful view. It was like boy scouts going out for a long time together. [Laughs] They eat together, they drink together, they hang out together all the time. It was intense.
A Danish camping experience.
The thing that’s funny is that it was in the middle of Copenhagen, where we all live. We were living there and our girlfriends were at home. So, we were just out with the boys focusing on the music.
Did you guys use analogue or digital equipment?
Both. We all have laptops, so we use electronic equipment, but we also put in loads of acoustic instruments. It’s a big mixture of acoustic and electronic in a big pile. And, also horns actually, and harps… I have a very good friend who plays the weirdest horned instruments in a very good way. He’s the only one we got from outside [the band], the rest we do ourselves.
Are you classically-trained?
Yeah, well, basically me and Tomas went to a place called Conservatory in Copenhagen. My fifth year at the Conservatory I was basically just hanging out in New York and listening to music all the time. It was a really fantastic education.
How did you like New York?
I came on the 1st of October, just after 9/11, so the snow was really weird and the whole vibe was really hard-core. People were in shock but they were also raving because they were afraid they would die the next day. There was this all-or-nothing mentality that I was really fascinated by. They were partying like the world was going to end. It’s funny that we’re talking about this now because they just shot Osama bin Laden. What occurred to me while being in New York was that I loved the way people approached others—they talk and meet each other, they take whatever they can get from each other. “Want to hear my life story? Here you go, bang!” It’s really confronting, direct and lovely compared to the small, cold North where people take it a little bit easy and don’t say too much. They’re holding back on their energies.
The “Every Minute Alone” music video reminded me a bit of “Fight Club”—the meetings where people hug and cry. Was that a direct influence?
It was definitely a subconscious reference, but it’s also a direct reference from Good Boy! Creative—the guys who directed the video—because they love “Fight Club.” We mentioned it while doing the video, so there was definitely an influence, yes.
You guys have expressed an interest in Amish culture and dress. [Laughs] How did that come about?
We use the Amish dress for the live show, basically. In this scene in Europe, where there’s so many electronic acts and night clubs, we just had this idea we’d bring it back down to earth. And instead of using these skeleton outfits and the colored new rave craziness, let’s go into the Amish period. So we had a period where we were wearing straw hats and suspenders.
Where did you gather these costumes?
We have people offer us some weird things or we’ll buy them ourselves. At one time we were half-naked with wife-beaters and underwear. Many different girls like to do weird costumes for us because they think it’s inspiring seeing men wearing these tight, tight things. Remember, the whole idea when we started out… we came from Scandinavia, which can be kind of cold, dark, and the nights are long, and people get depressed and they cry over nothing, like you can see in the video [to “Every Minute Alone”]. In the beginning of our career, we were really having this counter-movement and doing something as uplifting as possible. You can see that definitely in our outfits and also in the music, which was super uplifting. After awhile we changed a little bit. You can see the influence of Scandinavia sneaking into our uplifting disco universe.
The album definitely has a more melancholic feel to it.
That’s where we are right now. It seemed very appropriate for us to, as I say, paint with a darker color. We are human beings and we express ourselves in different ways. It seemed very appropriate right now to make this statement, then put it out on Kompakt. We have “Knee Deep”, which is melancholy and a bit deeper and uncompromising. The next album that’s coming out in the fall is more melodic and positive, which we just finished.
You played South By Southwest this year, did you get to experience Texas—the real Texas outside of Austin?
We played eight concerts within three or four days… therefore, we didn’t get to see much outside of Austin. But, we rented some bikes and we were biking around all the time. We lived in a cottage just outside of the city, which was nice, big and beautiful. We got picked up the first night by some kind of a… I wouldn’t call him a Texas Ranger, but a really big guy in a jeep. We were lost and he gave us a lift in his big jeep. We invited him, his wife and his kids to our concert, and he was so happy about it. And so he offered to take us to a Mexican restaurant afterwards. It was super true Texas experience.