By Serenat Kivilcim
Flunk is a Norwegian electronic band made of producer Ulf Nygaard, guitarist Jo Bakke, drummer Erik Ruud, and vocalist Anja Oyen
Vister. Flunk started in late 2000 as a project of Ulf and Jo, and in Spring 2002, their first single, a cover of New Order’s Blue Monday, was released. Since then, they have released numerous albums, EPs, and singles. Black on the Canvas recently caught up with Ulf Nygaard and chatted about life, music, and more.
You started off 2015 with a sold out concert in magnificent Istanbul, Turkey, where you have a major following. What do you think of the city? How was the performance and how receptive were the people to your music?
Ulf Nygaard: Istanbul is very special place for us. First time we played there was ten years ago, and we have so many fantastic fans. I guess it must have something to do with our music appealing and touching their hearts. In our shows, they recite our songs and that makes us feel like we have a big family out there cheering with us.
The city itself is very special and unique. We are mostly in touch with more “westernized” people, and we do keep a close watch on what has been happening in Turkey, and as we all know, they are going through some rough times. This being said, it’s very precious and dear to us that the audience is still extremely receptive to our sound, which makes us very proud and motivated.
You guys have been making music together since 2000. How has your sound evolved over the years?
Ulf Nygaard: It’s starting to feel like we’ve been going on forever. With hand on heart, we really try our best to develop new interesting sounds that are fueled by new inspirations and stories. In terms of our live performance, we’d say we have never been better than we are now, though by all means “better” does not mean “cooler”, energetic, or inspiring. However, while recording we follow different approaches to create good and timeless sounds. In a nutshell, yes, we are more seasoned and better musicians compared to the early years of FLUNK. It doesn’t mean sh**. We are continuously striving to be sonically interesting.
How did you recruit the other band members? How do you audition musicians?
Ulf Nygaard: We have been the same people since we started. In 2013, bassist Ole Kristian joined us, which has significantly made us a much better live band. He has played with Jo and Erik (we all have different projects going on), so we kind of knew him from before.
From which artists or bands do you primarily derive your inspiration?
Ulf Nygaard: It’s hard to make a shortlist. We have individual preferences and favorites, but there are a few that are commonly liked by us, such as Neil Young (listen to ’Your Koolest Smile’ on our first album, which is inspired by Young’s ’Out On the Weekend’), New Order, Sigur Rose, The XX, and of course Björk and Massive Attack, especially in the beginning. We all liked The Streets, though it never transmitted into the music. Burial has been important for the last ten years. I guess we are a little bit all over the place.
How do you approach the writing process? Who primarily writes the lyrics?
Ulf Nygaard: We’ve had different kinds of approaches. In the first album, the tracks were made by me (Ulf ) and Jo, and Anja improvised on them, and then we edit the impro and make song structures and lyrics from it. In effect, our tracks are made by everyone. Lyrics are always written by Ulf and/or Anja. We find it rather traumatic to make our records, in fact.
Let us talk about your upcoming remix album “Deconstruction Time Again.” When is it due and what should we expect from this album?
Ulf Nygaard: This compilation of recent remixes has already been released because we knew that we will be quite slow to make a new album. But most of all, we have so many people doing remixes, and again, it makes us very proud, so we want to pay our respects to them by putting a selection out officially. All kinds of people are remixing our tracks, pros and amateurs, and a lot are really good. We like our tracks being bended and deconstructed and recycled.
Do you have any tours or festivals on the horizon for 2015?
Ulf Nygaard: We haven’t booked any tours or festivals at this point. We played at a festival in Western Ukraine last summer, which was fantastic, and we would love to go back there and play. We are working on doing a little tour in June in Poland where we have a great deal of dedicated and enthusiastic fans, as we do in Istanbul.
Tell us a fun fact about Flunk that most people do not know.
Ulf Nygaard: Well, we are not sure what and how much people know about us. It’s kind of funny that we are more or less incognito in our home country, Norway, considering the fact that we go to other countries where we are kind of more famous and bigger, which is a little odd, especially for our fans.
Also, Jo and Erik used to do house for a US label. They also stayed in London for a year or two, where they worked with Joe Strummer of the Clash and New Order’s producer Arthur Baker. Ulf has had platinum hits with his Norwegian language project. Anja was voted the best new artist on mainstream Norwegian radio ages ago. Anja is also a doctor working at an emergency unit in Oslo. Ulf used to work for Norway’s largest newspaper and Erik is an ace at imitating Swedish. And also, during a US tour we had a meeting with a big management guy, and after eating the burgers and drinking the beer, he asked, ’So you would move to LA to work on a career?’ and we just looked at each other and shook our heads. So we have never had a manager and we have total control, and this is probably why we are so not rich…