Thursday, 26 April 2012
Laid Back - Exclusive Interview For Elektro Diskow!
Another excellent and exclusive interview for you, this time with Danish electronic legends Laid Back.
Laid Back AKA John Guldberg and Tim Stahl shot to fame in 1983 with the release of their electro anthem White Horse (reaching the US top 30) from their second album, Keep Smiling. The record has been an enormous influence on artists as diverse as Prince (Erotic City and When Doves Cry in particular), Hot Chip, Timbaland and Miami shockrappers 2Live Crew. Records like Bakerman (with its famous Spike Jonze skydiving video) and Sunshine Reggae also found favour on the burgeoning late 80s Balearic scene. Their influence continues to be felt to this day - in recent years Boston production duo Soul Clap remixed Bakerman and lost classic Cocaine Cool while their tunes have found their way into eclectic sets with the likes of LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy and Beats In Space/Loving Hand maestro Tim Sweeney dropping LB in to their mixes.
7th May sees the release of an EP of Laid Back ‘lost’ recordings entitled ‘Cosyland’. These include a previously unreleased extended mix of Cocaine Cool which is premiering for the next 7 days on www.Mixmag.net. Download it here!
We've also put together a special Laid BackSpotify playlist to accompany the interview, featuring classic LB tracks, remixes, inspirations tracks that sample LB and much much more. Listen here.
What are the origins of Laid Back? How did you meet and why did you decide to form an electronic group?
-In the early 70' we met in a band called Bobby Ball and the Starbox Band, a post-Punk and Glitter band. We soon discovered having a good chemistry between the two of us, always keeping on jamming after rehearsals had ended. That band however didn't last long. After a disastrous support gig for the Kinks in Copenhagen we split up.
What were your early influences and how did that feed into the recording of your first (self titled) album in 1981?
-We both began to play guitar at the age of 13, mainly influenced by British groups such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.
Then The Animals came out, Tim switching to play organ. Other influences are Pink Floyd, Stevie Wonder, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Blues and Reggae, roots music with a soul. In the late 70's, new equipment became available to us: like a 808 drum machine along with vocoder, SH 101, GR 500 Guitar Synthesizer - all Roland products. Along the way, also 4-track and 8-track tape machines with mixers by Teac/ Tascam at
affordable prices made it possible for two guys to set up a small studio in downtown Copenhagen. This was to jam with our machinery and recording, primarily for experimenting, for our own pleasure.
Ambitions to make a record for a release came later on when we teamed up with Kjeld Wennick as our personal manager. He made it clear that Laid Back had international potential and signed us to the German record label Teldec. This resulted in our first album, released in 1981.
Ironically, the single "Maybe I'm Crazy" was a huge hit in Denmark and went to Number One on charts in our home country.
Your second album Keep Smiling came along in '83 and contained the massive European hit Sunshine Reggae and also the club classic White Horse (which appears on Elektro Diskow!) - a huge record in the States. Can you tell us a bit about the making of the album and specifically White Horse?
-All of our material on "Keep Smiling" was born on 8-track and then later transferred onto 24-track for further production. At the time, no one really paid any attention to "White Horse". It nearly didn't make it to be transferred to 24 track had we not insisted. This track was just an instrumental jam we made on 8 track. It was later transferred to 24-track for vocal treatment, as well as adding drums and bass, all played by Tim. The few words in its lyrics fitted well in somehow describing the situation, we were in at the time. We just recently realized that! We had daytime jobs and jamming all night long. We simply needed extra gasoline in those days but we certainly didn't need anything to ease the pain.
Are there any other electronic or dance records from that era that stand out for you. Anything from Elektro Diskow?
-Donna Summer, Grace Jones, Robert Palmer Looking For Clues, Human League Don't You Want Me, Talk Talk, Michael Jackson Billy Jean
Were you aware of the effect records like White Horse were having in clubs both in Europe and the States?
-No, this was long before the internet
Did you have a favourite club or DJ at the time. Did you play in any of the underground spots of the time like Danceteria, Roxy etc.?
-No, we were told to stay away from the US by Sire Records and its boss Seymour Stein - sales were good and people thought we were black! The biggest compliment we could ever get... It actually suited us fine not to go on tour, as we didn't have the right band together at the time. Given our background as musicians, it has taken time to find out how to combine an electronic sound in a live set-up (like for "White Horse"). Our very first live attempts were based on a loose reproduction of original sounds and a good swinging band. -Once, we were on a tour in Germany and shared the bill with the US band Toto. They knew "White Horse" quite well and told us they thought we were a cover band! We finally began in 2000 to work with two young guys, Mikkel Damgaard (keyboards) and Thomas Duus (drums and sequencer). With the added use of original samples, our live setup began truly to sound like Laid Back.
Laid Back inspired many of the young musicians coming out of Detroit and Chicago in the late 80s. How did you view the new House sounds?
-We didn't know what was going on. We had no idea of this and were busy working on our next album. People told us many years after that "White Horse" had influenced House music, especially what came from Detroit and Chicago. We are proud of this.
Did these House sounds influence you? I think you can really hear the Balearic vibe in Bakerman for example .
-We are not aware of influences, really... "Bakerman" was one of those magic moments. I came to the studio one day while Tim had a groove going on his Pro 16 Commodore set-up. I immediately plugged in a guitar, a mike and pressed "record" on our tape machine. Just a test ...you know, while grooving on a lyric by Arthur Stander. He's a poet that we have been jamming with many times. Words suddenly came into my mind and right out of my mouth! It all happened as if in magic moment. Luckily, 6 minutes were recorded
before the tape ran out. That is the reason for a fade at the end - tape running out! A part where I was jamming on other lyrics was later edited out for a final track length of 4:40. Everything was done live while composing, first take. Vocalist Hanne Boel then added an overdub - the only one.
It was a thrill to release our own mix to a tremendous feedback - especially after it having been rejected as just another "nice demo"...
Do you hear echoes of your music in today's records? Are there any contemporary artists that stand out for you?
-We released "Cocaine Cool" last year and this track was made the very same night the backing track of "White Horse" was done. These two recordings are like brothers... One of the reviews in a music magazine in UK wrote that it sounded too much like Hot Chip. That's fun...honestly, we are proud to pass it on.
White Horse is still played in clubs across the globe. In the UK it's a mainstay of playlists in (fashionable!) Shoreditch and Dalston and It is said it inspired records as diverse as Prince's When Doves Cry, New Order's Fine Time and Hot Chip's Over & Over while being sampled by hip hop groups like 2live Crew. When did you become aware of its effect on other musicians? And how do you view its legacy?
-It started in the US in the 90s and primarily with black artists using samples from "White Horse". The list is quite long and to name a few there are Monifah, Black Eyed Peas and Justin Timberlake. Later on and when computers got more common, variations of its characteristic groove popped up here and there, wherever we went around the World. Our local electronic hero Anders Trentemoeller told us being raised on that sound. We think he's among the quite few that took the riff further into today's electronic music sound
As you mentioned, last year you released the awesome Cocaine Cool. Can you tell us a little about how you unearthed it and what prompted you to bring it out now?
-Way back in 1982 when we transferred 8 track tapes to a 24 track, not all material was transferred. When we recently came across these 8 track tapes, we were shocked to find material that sounded so fresh and up to date. The tape was then transferred to computer. One of those tracks is "Cocaine Cool", where only vocals and bass were added ahead of the final mix.
What current projects are you working on?
-Our next ep / mini album entitled "Cosyland" will be released 7th May on our own label Brother Music.