Volruptus, a young, dynamic alien of Icelandic origin, has been producing music quietly for ten years before landing on Bjarki’s bbbbbb planet with his Homeblast EP. He did not wait long to navigate his spaceship towards трип, an intergalactic imprint founded by Nina Kraviz. It is not the Lunar Flag Assembly but his Hessdalen EP’s banner that he is planting proudly on this planet for the passing by psychonauts to stop by and pay their electric respects.
We catch up with Voruptus to discuss electro, techno, and the future of sound transmission. We need to be fast and efficient to document his futuristic thoughts before he turns himself into a cyborg and stops using human speech to transmit his messages.
Mariana Berezovska: It’s been ten years since you started your experiments with electronic music. What got you into this world of wires and synthesized electric signals?
Volruptus: Me and my friends at the primary school had a lot of weird and surrealistic humor. Iceland has already strange humor in general, and we were those strange young boys with a very creative imagination. We discovered this program GarageBand that comes with every Apple computer. It is not a good program, but you can still make music with it. We would put these loops together in the worst possible combination, and then we’d record our voices and manipulate recordings. It was all centered around our own humor. Eventually, I figured that this program could be used for making actual music. For a few years, I was making hip-hop beats, but I never wanted any rappers to rap on them because we thought these were not good enough. So at the beginning, I was messing around with this GarageBand just to make funny stuff. Music can be funny and it is very rare.
MB: Iceland is quite famous for its unconventional, experimental pop music, but not much is known about the electronic music scene. And how did you first got introduced to electronic music?
V: Everyone who has the same kind of interests in Iceland is very close to you, so it was easy to get involved with the scene. I would go to the robot disco parties where DJs would play a lot of electro. In the beginning, I would sneak into drum-and-bass parties (I would show up before the door guy, climbing fences to the smoking area).
It is interesting with Iceland: in the early 90ies there was a rave scene, but there was no hip-hop scene until the late 90ies, which is abnormal. Later, there was a really strong drum-and-bass scene in Reykjavik in the early 2000s that I missed, because I only started going out when it was about to end. And now there are almost no drum-and-bass parties left.
MB: Before releasing on bbbbbb and трип, you have already put out some music on your label called Sweaty Records, right?
V: True. I released a CD on Sweaty Records in May last year. I have been making music for eight years before I released anything and I think a lot of musicians could consider that. I know many producers, especially rappers, who make one song and try to be a star.
MB: So eventually, when you felt like hip-hop is too easy to make, you made a transition into electro, right?
V: I used to only listen to hip-hop, it’s good music. I just think that electronic music is on the frontier and will always be. Everything else has just gotten old. Rock bands will be seen as an orchestra soon. It’s already kind of classical. No one can do what Kraftwerk did again. Now we can just evolve our way of making electronic music. I am looking forward to the day when you can just think about a song, and it becomes a reality.
MB: How will it work with imagining a song? One will imagine a song, and it will be ‘extracted’ to the outside?
V: It will be possible with future technologies. With quantum computing, you are going to be able to connect a human brain with a computer easily. And it’s already happening. We will have cyborgs in a matter of years. Elon Musk is going to turn himself into a cyborg soon. Brain-computer interface has been created. People are just afraid of it. We are still in the bodies of cavemen. There are so many people who don’t understand how the technology works, although they use it every day. That’s incredibly ignorant in a way. Of course it’s hard to understand some really complex technology, but I think that in the nearest future the world is going to be divided between people who can program and those who know how to use a program. We depend so much on technology that I think we should understand it at least a little bit.
MB: From the titles of the tracks and the video you shot for Alien Transmissions, it seems like you are really into sci-fi: everything is full of extraterrestrials and “androids navigating through deep space”.
V: All of my favourite films and TV shows are science fiction. I think that science is the only thing that brought humans forwards. And sometimes backwards. I always wanted to be a scientist when I was a kid. I guess that when you make music with complex synthesizers you are a bit of a scientist.
MB: In the press release of Hessdalen EP, all of the tracks are described in a very detailed way: “Alien Transmissions is a disorienting dose of acid powered electropunkfunk whilst Jargon uses complex polyrhythms to propel a grinding techno stomper. Gett Vffreakye uses percussive breaks and mechanised vocal chops, whilst closing track Tesseract is an angular drum workout featuring animated bass and dissonant pad calls”. This was not your description, right?
V: No, I did not write this but it was exciting to read this description. When I describe sounds, I imagine what they make me think of, like spies or aliens, darkness, and space. Usually, I can connect sounds to something.
MB: What does your idea of an alien look like?
V: I could describe that, but no one would understand except for nerds.
MB: You could try!
V: For example, really low frequencies that have a lot of overtones and are filtered. Some sounds are robots, and some are aliens. Humans do not understand that we are aliens. We live on a planet, we travel to space, we make music. People often think that when we meet aliens, they will be radically different from us. But I don’t think so. Evolution always finds the best way and if a planet can sustain life, then it’s probably going to be very similar to life on Earth. If there turns out to be an intelligent life form, it will probably walk on two feet, have two arms, eyes, ears. Eyes and ears are useful on any planet! The physics are universal. Also, music is a universal language because harmony is the same. Aliens might hear totally different frequencies, but the intervals don’t change. On Earth, there are various types of music, but they all are recognized as music. People can express themselves with music without using any words.
MB: And this is also how you at times connect with people: sometimes you don’t have to talk to a person when you know that the same music moves you.
V: I feel that people who make electronic music are always very modern because they are making the most futuristic music that there is. They often don’t speak much on their music using words, because they don’t think that it’s that interesting.
MB: Out of the things that are happening now, what do you think will have the most significant influence on the music that will come next?
V: Microtuning is going to be big. Acid is going to be more in pop music. Also hip-hop will become slow electronic music with rapping. We are moving towards an era where electronic music is going to be really big in Asia. The new stuff won’t be coming from Europe or America. It is going to be from China or India.
MB: Lately, there has been a revived interest in Intelligent dance music from the 90ies, it’s also seen through трип releases.
V: Artists who were making the music you are referring to in the 90ies didn’t like using this term. Aphex Twin was one of the pioneers of the style, and he hated this name. When he was asked what his music should be called, he called it “brain dance music.” I think that those who listen to this kind of music are usually smart. But unfortunately, people often see just this one type – mathematically, logically kind of smart. There are countless ways of being smart.
I guess “stupid dance music” exists as opposed to the intelligent one. Music can be really intriguing. Take, for example, children’s music. It can be incredibly simple, always major, usually C major. I think that there is a lot of music that works similarly to children’s music, but it’s not meant for kids. The Americans from Detroit invented techno, but the rest of America did not know about it. This dance music coming from America right now is like beginners’ electronic music. They have discovered electronic music only now because they had been too focused on hip-hop and rap, listening to people wreck about how much money they have. It is a really good thing because it is going to evolve into something better. Right now it fits their society: it is all about being cooler than someone else. I think that European music is about being beautiful.