With every artist who has a moderate sense of success they get this feeling or momentum that what got them there will get them further. Ergo; they make the same shit over and over and over…
Say hello, once again, to Savant… One of electronic music’s biggest switch-flippers and non-conformists, he seems wholly fuelled by the art of surprise.
We learnt this when we paid him a personal visit in his previous Oslo HQ and made this episode of Music Makers. We learnt this when he just used the word ‘ergo’. We learnt this when he dropped this epic Nintendo love story…
His biggest game-changer this year, though, has to be Protos.
A sonic scud coded exclusively by the art of surprise, everything we thought we knew about him was subverted and entirely reinterpreted in this 10th artist album. Sure, he’s known for making every type of genre under the sun – from dubstep to death metal – but Protos solidified one particular passion of Savant’s and presented it in a body of work that’s more consistent than anything he’s done before.
It’s poppy, it’s rocky, it’s funky, it’s operatic. It’s silly. It’s serious. It’s like Daft Punk producing a Foreigner soundtrack to feature-length anime romp. Above all, it tells a tale of intergalactic adventures where you, the listener, are the hero.
“With every artist who has a moderate sense of success they get this feeling or momentum that what got them there will get them further. Ergo; they make the same shit over and over and over,” says the now LA-based Norwegian Savant.
I thought ‘fuck everyone! Let’s make an 80s album!’
“It came to me when I was writing one day. I realised I was writing the same drums over and over. I went mad. Insane! When you’re touring and the shows get bigger and bigger. You keep trying to distill what the crowd want. And how they want it. You start wanting 200,000 people to enjoy your music at the same time. But to do that you have to simplify it so much. I didn’t want to do that anymore. I thought ‘fuck everyone! Let’s make an 80s album!’”
Returning to various songs he’d written over the past five years (including many he’d written in his Vinter In Hollywood guise) and writing loads more, he actually scrapped an entire album of EDM-ish bangers to make this happen.
He did a few other impressive things to make it happen, too… One track in particular (Laser Sharks) saw him learning dexterous technical techniques on the guitar and learning some Japanese!
“I tap that whole guitar solo man,” he grins with a certain level of satisfaction. “I won’t play my best riff then chop it up and paste it. I play for hours and hours until it sits. I’ll never copy and paste a riff. That’s lazy! I want to play like a band! That guitar solo took hours and hours. That’s the first time I’ve tapped a solo. And the first time I’ve ever sung in Japanese! I studied how to say things correctly and pronunciation tips. A Japanese friend of mine said it sounded cool… Which was nice.”
This approach to the album also took Savant away from the ‘cut, click paste’ routine he’d found he was too comfortable in. The whole thing was recorded live.
“That was a real challenge,” he explains. “It was pure recording so I couldn’t blaze through with it with my mouse. I found it fulfilling and frustrating, but that’s the point, right?”
Even the delivery was different to anything else he’d ever put out…
“It’s the first album I’ve done that hasn’t been released in the electronic charts,” he explains. “This debuted in the pop charts, which is a whole new world for me. It debuted at 36 in the overall pop charts, which isn’t too bad for an electronic artist who has no foothold in the pop world!”
Programmed/recorded. Electronic/pop. Whatevs… The most important thing is Savant has pushed himself further than before on this record. That dream of combining every musical style into a short, sense-slapping three minute piece of pop that he describes in his Music Makers video is one step closer. And he’s already working on another album!
“Now I’ve gotten over my 80s twitch I can start looking at electronic music again,” he grins. “I’m working on the new album now and it will be ready by December.”
In the meantime, we’d advise you to dive deep into Protos. Any album with a track as bizarre, fun and funky as Laser Sharks is worth checking in our book:
With heroes playing such a strong role in the theme of the album, we couldn’t leave without learning Savant’s own heroes. We weren’t disappointed…
“There are two types of heroes for me,” he explains. “There are some you should meet and some heroes you can’t meet. Ones who I have met are like Rob Swire and Kill The Noise and BT. They’re people who I really looked up to when I was getting into this music and meeting them was crazy… Because they knew of me, my work and had something to say about it. Which is quite scary! Then there are the heroes you wouldn’t want to meet…. Those people who are so influential and so ‘up there’ in your opinion and your inspirations that there is no way they could meet your expectations. It would be like watching a movie you loved when you were a kid and you’re like ‘eeeeggghhhh that sucks now dude!’”
Well these heroes certainly don’t suck…
“I never ever ever want to meet these guys! It would lose the mystery that I love so much about them. They’re my favourite favourite favourite thing in the whole world growing up and there is no way they can possibly stand up against the idea of them I have in my head. They deserve for me to be anonymous to them. For me to not exist. That’s exactly what they said with their original mission statement: we’re in our helmets, do not talk to us. I love that. It’s the total opposite to how I conduct myself online or in public! No one will win if Daft Punk and I meet! You stay over there and I’ll stay here in another room loving your music and everything you do. Let’s keep it this way.”
“This guy! He had so much of an impact on my childhood. I wanted to talk like this guy. I wanted to dress like this guy. I wanted to behave like this guy. He’s professional. He’s got intuition. He was so relaxed in stressful situations. He could make people feel comfortable or comfortable with very simple words and body language. He was just Cool. As. Fuck. And seeing characters like Bond as a kid gave me confidence that human beings could be super human.
Sean Connery was the shit. Dr No was the first Bond movie I saw and I watched it to death. The way he handled people. The machoism that was parent friendly… He wasn’t brutal but he wasn’t soft. There were also cracks in his personality, he played poker face a lot. You knew he wasn’t perfect… Which made him even fucking cooler in my eyes!”
“These guys were my heroes for real! I could never get the clear cut between good and evil. When I started playing with these toys and watching the cartoons I didn’t really know what good and evil were! Evil is a massive concept to get your head around! So I understood quarrelling – because I had siblings – but I didn’t understand why they were bad. The Decepticons were cool guys who were misunderstood! The Autobots were pussies! I hate those red guys… When am I going to get to see those cool purple guys? I fucking loved these guys! Megatron, Starscream and Soundwave! He was my favourite. They were the toys I bought… Who bought fucking Bumblebee? That shit was My Little Pony!
You know thinking about it, maybe The Decepticons paved the way for who I am? From here I’ve always had that rebellious feeling of like… ‘oh Hollywood, you’re going to force me to like the good guy? Well fuck you! I like the bad guy just to fuck with you!’ It was the same with goth stuff, it was the same with metal; I’m going to like the music you hate motherfucker! I guess it all started with Megatron. What a hero!”