Ronni Vindahl - May 26th, 2014 - Interview
While Ronni Vindahl may recently be known as the producer behind Denmark’s breakaway pop act MØ, the 31-year-old Copenhagen resident has been a staple of the tiny Nordic country’s burgeoning soul-pop scene. Chiseling out perfectly crafted beats brimming with horns and silky guitar slides, Ronni has been responsible for some of Denmark’s most intriguing funk and soul-pop acts from his solo work as Vindahl to his duo with Karen Marie Groth in Ivory & Gold and finally his producer collective Boom Clap Bachelors. A relentless worker and a producer who constantly gets his hands tied in many concurrent projects, Ronni makes it his mission to peddle out his funky rhythms to the masses. With so many converted to his brand of soul-pop, we think he could very well be the unofficial Church of Denmark, so we sat down on a dusty rooftop and talked to Vindahl about what he does best - making music.
June 3, 2014
Picture + Words: Peter Quincy Ng
You’ve been around in music for a while. Tell us how it got started:
Yeah actually it started out when I was around 12 and my mom gave me an electric guitar and I started playing the guitar. From that time I just wanted to play guitar all the time and I quit playing soccer, sports and just wanted to play music. So I started playing with a lot of punk and rock bands until high school and (then) started an interest in soul and funk music. It’s like a fusion when you go through at some point in your life as a musician.
Tell us how you started producing music:
After high school I started producing because it was very interesting. I’m 31 so at that time (when I was younger) computers weren’t that developed and it was like an old PC and I’d have like 8-tracks and then track them through my pedal board and guitar to do really simple stuff. But I thought it was fun! Actually I started producing when I was 18 and did that for a lot of years while playing for bands. Then we created Boom Clap Bachelors as a producer collective because we were all very young and feeling the same time of music, so we’re like, “hey man let’s do an album that’s instrumental!”. I think it was back in 2004 or 2005, we did an album and then the rest is history. It took off through a lot of hype our band, Boom Clap Bachelors.
Besides your participation in Boom Clap Bachelors, you work most notably in MØ but also in Ivory & Gold and your own solo career, Vindahl. Tell us how you juggle your priorities working in so many different musical projects:
That’s a good question and it’s not easy to balance between all these different things. At some point I had to simplify things. I started with doing my own solo project after Boom Clap Bachelors and that was just something I had to do emancipate myself. That was fine and I learned a lot, but then I met Karen (Marie) Groth at a studio in Copenhagen and we took in the same type of Nordic indie pop thing and we just began making tracks, then that became Ivory & Gold.
Actually, when I started to make that album I met Karen Marie Ørsted from MØ, because we had the same manager and she was looking for a producer for a long time and I didn’t really like the stuff she did before which was rap and I really didn’t feel it. However, she had done one acapella song which was the song that later became “Maiden” and I got the vocals from that because I heard it from (my manager) Bjørn’s house. I thought like, “hey give me those vocals and I’ll try to do something with it” and I did, and I made this track called “Maiden” while Karen (Marie Ørsted) was on an internship in New York where she was attending an art academy. So yeah that was like a long story!
Your first major recognition as a producer came through Kendrick Lamar sampling Boom Clap Bachelors, but did anything prepare for the adventure that would become MØ?
Oh yeah (agreeing with the Kendrick Lamar comment) that’s nice! Actually Karen, Bjørn and I have been on that journey from the beginning but obviously she’s the artist, she’s MØ and we’re behind (the scenes), but none of us were expecting this kind of explosive hype and journey. So like for a year-and-a –half we’ve been working full-on, around the clock touring, working finishing the album and it took Karen and I, (with) the album maybe more than a year to finish the album, maybe a year and a half (for) “No Mythologies to Follow” and we weren’t at all prepared for what was about to happen. We had no fucking clue, no idea. Now we’re just working our asses off to keep up with it.
However, you weren’t the only producer to work on “No Mythologies to Follow” as through ”Glass” with local whiz kid ELOQ and then through Diplo on “XXX 88”. Diplo’s a pretty big deal. How did you get a hold of him? Wasn’t it through Twitter?
Yeah that’s right, that’s right! Yeah I think she tweeted about who she wanted to do a collaboration with and one of the acts she mentioned was Major Lazer. Diplo was very active on Twitter and captured that (tweet). As far as that I’m not really sure but I think he replied or someone retweeted it and then he replied with something like, “I love her or we love her”. So when Bjørn caught that he just kept trying to contact Diplo and was like, “hey man let’s make this happen” and Diplo was game and totally into the idea. So as Diplo was doing a show in the Netherlands some time last year, maybe less than a year ago then Karen, Bjørn and I went to Amsterdam and scheduled a session with him. We met him for the first time and met with him (Diplo) and Chris from Major Lazer and they had a lot of beats on a laptop and just gave us the tracks so I could open them and listen to them. Then Karen and I picked up the demos we felt were cool to work on and that’s how it started. Just out of a tweet! The power of the internet!
Touring and producing has given you a busy schedule. How do you manage your downtime?
That’s a good question because it’s really difficult. Sometimes now as things have improved with I don’t know what you can call “success” we can get single rooms for our hotel, so when you check in the hotel you can sleep in your own bed and have some private time otherwise it’s hard to relax. Either you’re in a nightliner (sleeper/tour bus) or a van driving all day to a new venue, new country and you have no private time or just drive into the airport to fly to a new country. It’s basically not possible to relax unless you know how to relax in a car (laughs)… which is not that comfortable. A lot of lousy sleep!
Rules for keeping the peace on the road:
We don’t really have any rules because we’re all very good friends; we respect each other and give each other privacy. We mostly try to go out after a concert when we feel like it and we almost always do it together or at least go back to the hotel together. We don’t have any rules and it’s harmonic that way and we’re balanced as an entity that way. That’s very good and easy for all us of as a group.
One of the things most fans don’t realize is the immigration and paperwork that comes with being an international act. Any stories that you can tell us about that?
Ah yeah (groans)! I can tell you for sure that I thought the US was a headache but then you should try Australia, Brazil and Russia (with a Danish passport)! (Laughs)
Australia and Russia weren’t that bad, but Brazil in particular was difficult. We had to play a festival down there in December and the Brazilian embassy in Copenhagen had to get our info some weeks in advance and I think we were a little late because we weren’t home, so everything was maybe a day late or so. Everything was booked for that trip but the embassy was so uncooperative keeping us on a thin line until hours until we had to leave, and being cold as ice. So we had to get an attorney from Brazil to handle the situation in Copenhagen to get our visas on time so we could go. That’s really something you learn, that if you have to go to another country which is not in Europe (in our case) or you’re not a citizen, it’s not that easy always. There’s a lot of work (in being an artist with an international touring schedule).
We all know that a show can sometimes be nerve-racking - any pre-stage rituals?
In the beginning we all used to take a shot of vodka, but now we don’t do that anymore. Yeah that was in the beginning but right now we might have a few drinks and a couple of beers –that’s it and then we’re on hot. We try to get our last contact (with each other) before we go on stage and that’s it.
It’s gonna be a long journey this tour with its adventures and mishaps. Anything you look forward when you head back home and kick back in Copenhagen?
I’m actually looking forward to more shows, with tons of festivals and in New Year’s I’m becoming a dad so I’m taking a break this fall with my wife. We’re having a daughter. I’m going to try my best to work as well and be productive. Maybe it’s gonna be kid’s music (laughs)! Well Karen (Marie Ørsted) and I have made a lot of demos, so I definitely have to work on something. Australia and New Zealand are coming up! I’m travelling the world!