Musical Rooms

July 17, 2008

Musical Rooms Part 36: Silje Nes

Filed under: Interviews,Music,Musical Rooms Series — by Sinéad Gleeson @ 11:15 am
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“My musical room is a bit in transit. I’ve been living in Berlin for less than a year and I am about to move into my own little studio space there, if i manage to get together the right papers for the German bureaucracy. Right now I’m using half of the bedroom as a studio and half of the living room as a rehearsal space. But I used to live in Bergen, and I´ve had my own space there, that’s where I recorded my first record Ames Room, I guess that can still count as my favorite space to create music for a little while.

It´s in the attic of our apartment in the third floor of an old wooden house, a tiny room with a pitched roof so I could just walk in the middle of it, not unlike a tent. Painted white with a white furry sheep-type carpet in the middle, a tiny window where you can only see rooftops and the sky and the only ones who can see inside are the google map satellites (I imagine). During summer it’s like a greenhouse, especially when you have to close the windows to record and you want to leave out the sea gulls. And in Bergen it rains most of the time so I got familiar with the sound of rain on a window.

I’ve collected different kind of equipment a bit randomly these years that I’ve been working with music. I have a laptop and an mbox, a good mic and a bad mic, monitors and different electronic boxes and some spaghetti cable chaos in between. Then iIhave a kid’s drum kit and some guitars; my first synth, a Roland JV-30, that used to produce what in the 90’s felt like impressive piano sounds, but can now only make one distorted sound. Then there are the microphone stands that don’t really go very well with the ceiling, and a ragged little instrument family that includes flutes, a xylophone, a horn with holes, some percussion, two small Korg keyboards with too small keys and all the things I’ve forgotten. And boxes and piles of things that goes beyond categorisation…

I have no strict schedules. Sometimes having a boring job that I should have done instead, makes the music feel like a treasure and I just make the most out of the time that I have. But I’m normally the most happy when I can focus on only one project at a time. Sometimes my thoughts go in all directions and I can’t get anything done, then I realise this and write a list, and that’s usually enough to make me start to work again.

The way I’ve normally worked, I have to be alone, so you could say isolation is important for my music. It’s so easy to get distracted when you’ve got people around you; either I worry about what they think of what I’m playing, or I just get stuck with a cup of coffee enjoying their company instead. But isolation is a tricky thing, I need to feel undisturbed, but at the same time I need to meet people when I’m not concentrating, or I would go crazy. I have done other things with other people at different times, and even collaborated on one of the songs on my album with a friend, but it felt like I had really come to the right place when I saw how I could work on my own like I do now.

To make music, I start by making myself a cup of tea. Or if it’s in the evening, a cup of coffee. Or something else. Then I grab an instrument and it plays me some of today’s tunes. I record whatever it has to offer, and see if I can put other things together with it that makes it interesting to me. Sometimes it sounds really exciting, when you make new melodies and sounds that didn’t exist the minute before, and you like them. But I won’t know until the next day or even the next month if it was worth it. Those first few steps with a new song are really important, but I can spend weeks after that figuring out how to make something decent out of it in the end.

I record on my laptop through an mbox, that´s the one thing that I haven’t changed for the last few years. I had to switch from Protools to Logic when I bought my new computer, Reason is still with me to play samples. Other than that, I use instruments and sounds that I like at the moment. When I play live, I use a loop pedal, but that’s a different story. I don’t care that much about the equipment as long as it works and as long as I still feel like there’s something new to learn about it or new ways to push it. I just bought a crappy four-track cassette recorder on ebay, when that arrives maybe I’ll degenerate into total lo-fi again, who knows.

What I like most about this space is that it’s so unpractical and yet perfect.”

Norweigan Silje Nes released her first album – the quirky, adventurous Ames Room – via FatCat, in December 2007. A digital-only EP, ‘Yellow’ was released earlier this year and Silje has just started playing some of her first ever shows in 2008. She will perform at the CHQ Building at Docklands as part of the Analog Festival this Saturday July 19th at 8pm. For more information, visit

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