Meet the producer behind the success of Mø.
Preferring shadows to spotlights, Ronni Vindahl is one of those slightly invisible lynchpin figures in the contemporary Danish music scene. He has spent the better part of the last 10 years in the studio and on stage as a founding member of Boom Clap Bachelors, a producer for hire and as a creative collaborator with his most recent success project in Danish artist Mø. As avid followers of everything he touches, the recent gorgeous electro pop duo project Ivory & Gold and his almost unheard of self released Non + album created with Robin Hannibal, Ronni has been on our interview radar for the past couple of years. What better timing then as we meet in his comfortable studio in Nørrebro, Copenhagen with ‘big things’ happening. His hip hop and Prince inspired beats and melodies bring you through an entire album, not just a single. And all of it grooves with soul. And now it’s paying off.
Interview by Fergus Murphy and Nick Bridge
Photography: Jens Schrøder
“With Mø it’s been really intense, her manager hasn’t slept for 6 months.”
So how long have you been doing this full time?
2 years now, but it was 8 or 10 years to be able to live off it.
It’s quite an achievement to make a living in the music industry these days. Plenty of broke days with just a lille salat?
There are a lot of days walking to the studio.
Yea because the limo has a flat tire?
I hate when that happens.
We’re coming from a background of watching this scene or sound not get any recognition in Denmark and it’s great to see it become a local success as well as grow so strongly internationally now. You’re also getting attention from the younger generation of producers here in Denmark.
Apparently we have reached that age and have done so much that younger generations are referring to us as something cool from years back – Boom Clap Bachelors for example. Sometimes I’m pretty surprised that younger people and producers know about Boom Clap. You never really get a clear picture of the impact you’ve had on anyone.
So we first came across you around the time of Nobody Beats The Beats and on those EPs. That first Boom Clap EP was very much a beat thing wasn’t it?
It was meant to be an instrumental LP. We had a few vocal features on it but mainly beats. We were into that Detroit, Slum Village and also the L.A. scene, Jay Dee and that quirky left field hip hop stuff and electronic music, so we just wanted to do a beat LP. And now we somehow became the old guys.
Liv Lykke was telling us earlier in the year that when you were making that music you’d never really heard the sound before. Where did it come from?
At the time we were listening to a lot of experimental stuff from Detroit and L.A. And we were all musicians so we could all play, so it wasn’t just sampling something and adding some drums to it.
What was the original set up?
Robin Hannibal and me. A guy called Nicolai who went on to play with Choir Of Young Believers and Oh No Ono, a DJ called David Cytryn and a rapper and producer called Thomas Bisballe. We called it a collective because we weren’t really a band. We had a live aspect to it, and I was the only one from the Boom Clap Bachelors collective that was playing in the band and we had some hired guns in playing the other instruments and then we found Coco and Liv (Lykke) because we needed some vocalists. There was a real contrast, a yin and yang thing.
I remember you guys playing a packed gig up in the Vega lounge, there was sweat rolling off the walls – people up on the sofas.
That was the release of the first album.
Was that the release? Wow, that was amazing!
When we released the first Boom Clap album in 2008, Robin and I had been working on another project called Non + with a reggae singer called Tuco. We did an album and got signed to a label back then called Sonet which was a division of Universal but then it went bankrupt as we finished the album so it never came out.
So that’s what happened to Non +?
Yes, and I think we made an album that would have done well today. We had some good feedback but then the label went bankrupt and Universal bought us out but didn’t want us so we had a finished album just sitting there.
So where’s the album now?
It’s on iTunes actually. We just put it up ourselves. It was a real anti-climax. Robin and I haven’t really been working that close since then. We both want to do our things and when we work together we often come up with something different than if we weren’t working together. But we’re more or less good at the same things. But then I started to work on my own album at the same time as he moved to L.A. He had just done the record with Coco. I decided that I wanted to work more on my own and I’ve been trying to work for other artists, then Karen called me from Ivory & Gold and she wanted to do some Nordic inspired electro-pop and I was like kind of in the mood for that too so we went to the studio and made one track, which become an EP and we got signed to Universal and they released it and not that much happened, we got some radio play and some press but it wasn’t really fulfilling. But we decided to continue to make music together so I went to my Father’s place in Sweden and it felt easy to compose so we just did that and made a lot of tracks with eventually become the album we just released. Actually that album has been finished for about a year. When we were almost done with that album my manager introduced me to Mø, and it’s been an explosion.
So what happened there – you just clicked or?
Well actually he’s been managing her for a few years and she used to do some ‘crap rap’, you know when you rap about shit, like Peaches and all that, on electro beats. And I thought it was funny but I didn’t really think it was super good or something I would work with. But then he played me an acapella she had done and she actually turned out to be a really amazing singer so I was like ‘let me see if I can do something with those vocals’ so I went to the studio and produced a track called Maiden which was the first track I did with Karen.
With all these Karens around, all you need now is a girlfriend called Karen! You’ll get into trouble. But Mø blew up fast, right?
Yes she played at Spot festival and the Danish labels were already starting to see the potential. We decided to keep on working on some new tracks and then we made Pilgrim, which must have been her biggest hit until now. With Mø it’s been really intense, her manager hasn’t slept for 6 months. We played SXSW and pretend we’re living the rockstar life but it’s a lot of hard work. Planes and trains and taxis and waiting. We played 12 gigs in 12 days in New York and L.A. and around.
“We pretend we’re living the rockstar life but it’s a lot of hard work.”
So where’s all that heading?
I’m producing her album. I did one track with Eloq which is a demo. I thought it was a really good track but it didn’t really fit into the Mø universe so I got all the parts from Eloq and started producing on it, so it doesn’t sound like his demo at all and luckily for us he thought it was cool. And that was the single Glass. So right now I’m just working really hard on getting it done.
So even though you’re in the band is it a conscious thing that you hang in the shadows as the producer guy rather than the spotlight?
Yes, I’ve tried to be more of an artist but it’s not really me. I like to be the architect more, I like to be behind the scene and do the construction, the production and create something around an artist. I like that way better. I love to perform as well, that’s what I’m doing with Mø at the moment but I’m going to be replaced by a new guitarist at some stage so I can concentrate on producing.
So back to the solo stuff. I loved that Serendipity album that came out on Tokyo Dawn records. You’re singing on that right? How do you get so high?
It came from us not seeing ourselves as singers and it was more convenient to just sing in your talking voice if you know what I mean? I played one concert with that album, I had Jenny Wilson come down, she’s a good friend of mine and has a track on there. It’s very disco inspired. Ever since I started playing guitar I’ve been fascinated by Prince because he’s actually extraordinarily good at playing guitar.
With so many projects going on how do you differentiate the tunes that pop into your head – how do you place them, on which artist? Or does it work that other way around?
I’m very inspired by the artist I’m working with. I rarely just start a track and don’t know what to do with it. For instance working with Karen from Ivory & Gold I produce in one way and when I produce with Mø I do so in another way because they inspire me in different ways. I think it’s kind of easy because it’s still me and I still have my ways of doing things but I’m very inspired by the person I’m working with. I had a concept that I wanted an album that was disco inspired that was quirky and had melodies, I love melodies, so ‘Serendipity’ was my attempt at that.
Ok, but do you apply different processes to the production when you’re working with different artists?
Practically speaking yes, with Karen from Ivory & Gold we sit in the studio and wrote almost everything together. With Mø, it’s more that she has an idea for the song and she sings it, she records an acapella of that and I get it inspired by it and start producing on it and send it back to her and we probably only spend a few hours in the studio together.
Postal Service style.
Yea exactly, Postal Service style. Sending back and forth. That’s because I think that she writes better when she’s alone. She goes to Norway a lot to a cottage up there.
Everyone’s heard the Bon Iver story and just needs a cottage and a broken heart to make good tunes.
Of course when you sit with another person and it’s working then you have another dynamic but this works for us.
Tell us about the label signing?
It’s RCA in England. They’re really cool guys and we wanted a UK label, they have more edge than the US, it’s a different game. They’re not that afraid of being a little daring. So that’s what we’re doing.
Are there any talents you rate in the newer generations?
I think Eloq is very talented but he’s also young. He’s really practising on being super good at Trap music and Glitch and that’s what’s hip right now so that’s what he’s doing, but when that’s not cool anymore he’ll move into doing other things. He’s so committed as well, he really wants it. Sequoia is pretty cool. Ukendt Kunstner, I like both the singer and producer, it’s pretty decent. They’re really good craftsmen. From Norway you have Cashmere Cat. There are too many, I can’t see the wood for the trees.
Do you have a favourite spot in København?
I love this neighbourhood. I go to the studio every day and I’m glad I can get my daily dose of Nørrebro.
So what’s the next year going to bring?
The next year is going to be centred around Mø. Once we’ve finished the album we’re going to continue on the next one right away. That and touring a lot. US and Europe. From June we have all the festivals. Sweden, Norway, Denmark, UK.
After a couple of hours hanging out with Ronni in his basement studio and picking his brains we draw to a close with a list of new music to go out and buy, some of which is mentioned above. We take leave as Ronni prepares to travel yet to another place doing what he loves and has worked so hard for. And as we gather ourselves and head for a street beer to discuss the interview, we both agree that whatever’s coming from Ronni Vindahl’s instruments and computers is something to look forward to.