Interview: Lindstrøm on Finding the Balance Between Gear Experimentation and a Practical Live Setup

The Oslo-based producer Hans-Peter Lindstrøm has been making music since the early 2000s. As an early pioneer of the Scandinavian “Space Disco” sound—which incorporates elements of prog, electro, and Italo—he rose to prominence alongside fellow Norwegian producers Todd Terje and Prins Thomas.

In 2002, Lindstrøm established his own record label called Feedelity on which he has released all of his solo work. His most recent album, It’s Alright Between Us As It Is, is his fifth and just came out this past October.

We had an opportunity to sit down with Lindstrøm to talk over the new album, his songwriting process, and how he keeps his live shows interesting with the various gear he uses on stage. For more information on Lindstrøm or to check out more of his music, you can visit his website here.

I know you just released an album, It’s Alright Between Us As It Is. You posted recently that you were working on some of these songs for as many as five years and that starting a new track is sometimes the easiest part of the songwriting process. When it comes to sitting down and writing a song, where do you tend to start?

Lindstrøm - It's Alright Between Us As It Is

It depends on the song. My main focus is usually around vocals, I build around that. I’m always trying to find interesting chord changes or the melodies or stuff like that, though. I guess that’s my main priority usually when making music.

Do you find that your creative process is mostly in the box with your DAW, or are you using a lot of outboard gear?

Well, I’ve been going in all directions. For the moment, I’m only working outboard, but that’s for the stuff I’m working on right now. But for the album, I guess it was half-and-half, or even less hardware and more software/in the box.

Many years ago, I sold my [gear] because I was tired of stuff that was old, vintage, and didn’t work, with too many cables. But after quite a few years with software, I started to miss the gear. The variation and balance between using a lot of hardware and synths and software is important.

These days, it’s really liberating because it’s something different than I did before. That’s the main thing for me, to try and make the music-making process as interesting as possible, and that means not doing the same thing over again and trying not to be bored and trying not to get into this formal kind of thing.

Have you found any pieces of gear that really help you break out of that cycle?

At the moment, there are many things. I’ve kept some of the things I’ve collected many years ago. Recently, I was playing around with my Memorymoog—something that I wasn’t really ready for when I bought it, and besides, it was not really tuning all the voices and I had trouble with it. But in the last two or three months, I’ve been playing around with it a lot.

I also have this CP-70—basically the electric piano that everybody was using in the early ‘80s. It’s a great piano. Maybe not the kind that you play Mozart or Chopin on, but you can connect it and apply effects, and it’s really easy to work with in the studio.

Lindstrøm and Grace Hall - " Home Tonight"

Do you have any dream gear? Anything that you’ve been coveting or had your eye on that you haven’t had a chance to use in any productions?

I had a Yamaha CS60, little brother of the CS80, for two months or so before it died on me. It’s still in repair, and I guess it will probably never get fixed. At that time, I was really in front of that synthesizer because it’s really tactile, with the rhythm controller and a really nice modulator. It’s kind of different from the usual Japanese synths, like the Rolands or the Korgs.

I got so much good stuff in this studio already, so I think I’m pretty much covered. I’m also waiting for the Analog Rytm MKII. I never had the MKI, but after borrowing the MKI from a friend for quite some time, I realized that I need that for some drum duties.

I’ve seen those Elektron items lend really well to live situations. Do you use anything like that in a live setup? What does your live rig look like?

For the last 10 years or so, it’s been Ableton and MIDI controllers. That’s a really reliable setup, but it can get a little boring for me, personally. For the listener, it probably doesn’t really matter, but for me, doing something fun when on stage is getting more and more important.

I don’t know if you know that New Zealand company called Synthstrom—they just made something like an Elektron, but it’s also a little different. It’s called the Deluge. It’s a sequencer with MIDI and it has like a sampler and synthesizer. It’s got this 128-dot matrix thing and you can just plot in everything that you will want to play, and it’s a really visual way of working with drums and bass especially.

I’ve been working with it daily for the last couple weeks, and it’s growing on me. I’m actually going to use that this weekend when I’m playing in Istanbul on Saturday. That’s going to be my debut with something different than the usual Ableton setup, and I’m really excited.

I did actually do something different two weekends ago, as well. I was using the Mother-32 for some bass stuff and also brought an Omnichord and some of the stuff I used on the album, like the Juno 106. So I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to do something different and make it more fun for myself.

I can imagine it’s probably pretty hard to travel with a whole rack of gear like that to live gigs.

Lindstrøm (All photos by Lin Stensrud)

Yeah, that’s the thing. Traveling is the main problem because, basically, it doesn’t even bring that much to the table or change much for the crowd and the listeners, but for me, it’s nice to have something tactile to touch and twist and turn and play. But you can’t bring too much or traveling logistics become complicated.

I also got the Organelle from Critter & Guitari. A really, really great little thing that you can use as an effect box or a synth or sampler or whatever. And that’s also something that I’m trying to incorporate in my life and in the studio. In the studio, things can be really big with big knobs and big keys and everything. When traveling, it’s really important to have everything be as small as possible, as long as it doesn’t compromise on the sound. I’m thinking every day about how I can make it better and more interesting.

You mentioned that kind of the brain of your live setup is on Ableton right now. Are there any plugins or software that you’re really into at the moment?

Playing live, I’m trying to use as little software as possible because I’m scared of everything crashing on me because of something like a program not being updated or whatever it is. So I try to keep it as simple as possible. I use a few plugins—a Juno 106 plugin, and some others—that are really straightforward and never fail. But I’m trying to keep it simple, and I’m not experimenting much.

In the studio, I’m using Reaper and trying to explore it. I’m also really curious about the Acustica-Audio stuff, like all of the crazy CPU-hungry stuff that sounds really good. I also use Console 1 from Softube, and I really like it—especially now that it’s supported by Reaper. But again, these days, I’m more into hardware.

Lindstrøm - "Closing Shot"

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