A former member of ARM collective, Norwegian sound artist Alexander Rishaug recently added another great release to his growing discography and artistic curriculum, which already features an impressive amount of collaborations, remixes and performances: “MA.ORG PA.GIT” is a limited edition album consisting of two long tracks that were recorded inside the Norwegian Seaman’s church, in Rotterdam, in January 2012. He used a church organ, an electric guitar and a Vox Limited that created the material that then became a huge collection of remixes by other well-known contemporary musicians. It was released by the Cronica label and after listening to it, we became even more curious about this artist.
Chain D.L.K.: Hi Alexander. How are you?
Alexander Rishaug: Thanks. I’m fine here back in Oslo after a period in Berlin.
Chain D.L.K.: Let’s start from the beginning. When and how did you understand that sound will be an important part of your life?
Alexander Rishaug: I started playing the flute when I was eight. After some years, I quit, as I was really tired of rehearsing. When I became a teenager, I rediscovered my love for music and started playing the guitar, first acoustic only and then electric. When I started art school, I was a bit unsure which path to follow, music or art, but I decided to go for experimental music and sound. I guess this was in ’95.
Chain D.L.K.: You were a key member of ARM. Was ARM the “laboratory” where you prepared your next steps into the world of sound?
Alexander Rishaug: Definitely, ARM was a playground for experimental music and new musical ideas. It was a door opener!
Chain D.L.K.: You had plenty of collaborations, remixes and performances. Did they mark your evolution as a musician?
Alexander Rishaug: I guess my collaborations with Lasse Marhaug and Tore H Böe formed me from a young age. Playing support for Supersilent in Trondheim in 1997 also shaped my belief in music. That concert was mental, Supersilent, I mean. It was just after their first album, 1-3, came out.
Chain D.L.K.: How did the idea behind “Ma.Org Pa.Git” come out?
Alexander Rishaug: The idea behind Ma.Org Pa.Git came to me around 12 years ago, inspired by the “Playthrough” album of K.F Withmann. It was simply about limiting myself to using two of the sources I love the most and that I have used a lot throughout the years. When I met Yngvar Larsen, a friend of mine and an artist, also, he offered me to come and play in the Church in Rotterdam. The idea just came back to me again. He lived there for a couple of years cause his wife worked there as the priest.
Chain D.L.K.: Focusing on a single instrument, like a church organ, let you discover some hidden aspects of it, am I right? If so, would you say there is a sort of connection between musician and “uncommon”, to say, instruments?
Alexander Rishaug: I was interested in the space and the acoustics, as well as the instrument itself. Basically you have pipes and air. During our first day there, I explored the tonality of the organ, then the second day, I discovered some of the mechanical aspects, which become more evident in the middle part of the Ma.org piece.
Chain D.L.K.: What’s the worst and the best way your music has ever been labeled?
Alexander Rishaug: The worst, but the most funny: “Rishaug’s music sounds like your nineties modem”. This was after my debut release “Panorama” on Smalltown Supersound. The best one so far: “dotted with countless collaborations, demonstration of open-minded, eclectic spirit and commitment to research and artistic experimentation in all fields”. Nothing more to be said.
Chain D.L.K.: Great contemporary musicians accepted to remix your output. First of all, how did you get in touch with them?
Alexander Rishaug: Basically, I contacted people which I admire or that have influenced my work. Some of them I’ve met, played with or just stayed in touch throughout the years. I contacted only one person out of the blue.
Chain D.L.K.: Any memorable reaction that followed your remix request?
Alexander Rishaug: Machinefabriek; he said yes first and then he said no, but then I asked again. He’s actually the only one living in Rotterdam, so I thought that was a nice connection. Then he said yes, and I think his remix is stunningly beautiful.
Chain D.L.K.: What are the remixes that managed to highlight aspects of your output that you didn’t even think about?
Alexander Rishaug: Both Curver and Mark Fells remixes push the limits. Curver from Island pushes the volume with a pretty harsh percussive track. Mark Fells’ remix is 1,5 hour long and the original track is 17 min, but I like that. He made a shorter one as well, but the original creates something new. It’s even more close to exploring the acoustics than mine.
Chain D.L.K.: Is there any church organ or any other instrument you’d like to work with in making your music?
Alexander Rishaug: At the moment, I’m planning to perform Ma.org Pa.git live. I’ve invited along Sigbjørn Apeland to play the organ and Ivar Bjørnson for the guitar. They’re both pretty skilled musicians and I think they will bring something else to the pieces. The first concert will be performed at the Incubate Festival in September, and I’m really looking forward to explore the different organs and church spaces. I’m also pretty fascinated by bass clarinets, so maybe there will be a future piece with that instrument.
Chain D.L.K.: Tell us a few words about your recent “Shadow Of Events” on Dekorder?
Alexander Rishaug: Shadow Of Events was released in 2011, after a seven year break. I don’t like to rush things. I had a fulltime job as a concert producer and I got two lovely kids in the meantime, so I had to redefine my platform as an artist. Three years ago, I quit my job. Now, the girls are bigger and I decided to focus on music and art again. Economically, it’s a catastrophe, but I’m happy.
Chain D.L.K.: Any work in progress?
Alexander Rishaug: Several things to come out soon. I’m finishing a couple of new albums. Solo stuff and collaborations. I’m part of a new trio with Andrea Belfi and James Welburn. It’s good fun to play in a proper band again. Last time we played live, there was a girl dancing to our eclectic improv. How cool is that?
Visit Alexander Rishaug online at: www.arishaug.com