Following the release of the gorgeous ‘The North and the Sea’ LP, we had the pleasure of sitting down behind the man behind the moniker, Nicholas (AKA Wavewulf) to find out more…
Which song off your new album was the hardest to write?
Well, the hardest songs to write (or the ones that took the longest anyway) were probably “The Sea and the Glacier” and “The Power of Water”, probably because there is a lot going on in those songs rhythm wise and I took a while to get the drums/percussion, synths, vocals, etc. to work together well in those particular tracks. Also, “Scandinavian Nights” took a long time to get working well with all of the persuasive elements, guitars, vocals etc.
Which song are you most proud of and which one is your least favourite?
Honestly, that is a tough question… I think “Luft”, “The Power of Water”, “Serenade” and “The Sea and the Glacier” are some of my favourite tracks on the record. I just love the bassline and drums on Serenade, and I also love the lyrics Marta wrote for that track as well as her super vocals. In addition, I love the drums that Christopher John Donato did on “The Sea and the Glacier” as well as the lyrics Maxx and I wrote together (as well as Maxx’s wonderful vocals on that track). Least favourite… that’s a tough one… I love the song “Predator” but I think that it could have been better as I had originally intended to be with vocals (kind of hip-hop vocals) but the vocalist I had been working with on that track didn’t wish to keep working on it with me, so I just made it an instrumental track. I think it still turned out good though.
If you could collab with one artist, who would it be?
Man, there are so many great artists I respect and have been influenced by over the years… I suppose if I could go back in time (to before he passed) it would have to be David Bowie. He just had such a fascinating career as an artist with all of his phases and I love his music so much. Other than him, perhaps Brian Eno or Flood (James Ellis), I just love the work they have done with artists of all stripes. Also, Martin Gore or Dave Gahan or Alan Wilder from Depeche Mode would be brilliant to collaborate with as I’ve been a big Depeche Mode fan over the years. Or… another artist would be Robert Smith of The Cure, another one of my all-time favourites. As far as vocalists, perhaps Liz Fraser (of Cocteau Twins fame), I’ve always just loved her vocals and vocal harmonies so much! So many…
How easy does inspiration come to you?
Honestly, inspiration comes to me all the time, from all kinds of directions. I think the more difficult part is trying to take that inspiration and pull off what you have in mind musically with what inspires you so much.
What was the main inspiration behind the new album?
The record is a concept album based around a northern/Nordic/arctic/sea theme. The idea for the album really came about during my trip to Iceland this past year. When I was there, I thought a lot about the power of the sea, of water really, and the other geological forces that make such an exotic land as Iceland exist. Before my trip, I had been feeling a bit claustrophobic and disconnected from people. The trip gave me a feeling of freedom, freedom to move, freedom to see, freedom to connect. I think connection is a huge theme of the record.
The album is also really about freedom, and the interplay between feelings of oppression by circumstances and about how to break out of that oppression to gain freedom. The album is also about how we connect as people. I had been feeling pretty disconnected from others during the pandemic (I suppose this has been a feeling for a lot of us) and I wanted to write about how we connect with others and find connection with others. Songs like “Open the Gate”, “Luft”, “The Power of Water”, and “The Sea and the Glacier” illustrate this theme nicely I think. Also, “New Amsterdam” is really about the feeling of being without… being without a loved one (or loved ones) and how that can make life seem quite meaningless. “Understand Me”, besides being a leftist, anti-capitalism track, is also about how we have to break beyond the mundane “the automatic” to forge meaning. “Permafrost” is a track with not only an environmental, save the planet theme but also about our collective loneliness and the power of music in connecting people across places and cultures. “Through the Wires” is a song about what happens when we get our “wires crossed” communicating with others, and also about how that can even happen on a global level and cause misunderstanding between peoples, and governments, and can even cause violence (much as we are now seeing with the tragic invasion of Ukraine).
In addition, direction has always been important to me; maps, latitude, longitude, where one is in the world. I think “The North” is kind of a metaphor for truth and “The Sea” for freedom, which is where the name “The North and the Sea” came from.
Did you run into any difficulties when writing/recording the new tracks?
I think the biggest difficulty with making an album with so many collaborators all over the world is just the logistics of it. You know, it’s the complicated process of trying to get everyone’s ideas and all of the files to fit together well. As a producer, ones has to make everything sound good when everyone is experimenting, and all of the tracks people sent to me to work well together as coherent songs. It’s also a very fun and creative process working with so many different ideas, and with such wonderful talents as those I worked with on making The North and the Sea!
How do you think electronic music is viewed in 2022?
Well, I’m not sure how it is viewed by most but I would say for myself and my colleagues, we view electronic music as a highly expressive and emotional music. I think we also view electronic music as something really substantial and, I would say forward looking, or even futuristic. For instance, I don’t really like the kind of 1980s nostalgia that has become so common in a lot of electronic music in the last decade or so. I mean, I do love many things about the 1980s sound and aesthetic but I don’t like nostalgia for nostalgias sake and think that it is a bit overdone now or at least not very interesting.
There were certainly cool things about the 1980s and early 1990s and loads of great electronic and new wave/indie/alternative music but there were also a lot of terrible things; for instance, high unemployment, bigotry, the Cold War, Reaganomics, Thatcherism, and all of the bad politics of that time. I suppose I just prefer music that is current or especially avant-garde or, like I said, about the future or how to build a better future. And… I think there are loads of things going on in the world now (good, bad or indifferent) that deserve to be written about or expressed musically, and I think electronic music can be a great medium for this! I believe most of my musical friends and colleagues view things this way as well.
Who is your biggest inspiration / what made you start writing music?
Some of my biggest inspirations over the years have been Kraftwerk, Brian Eno, and also Jean-Michael Jarre. I think it is the way they viewed (and view) the synthesizer as an instrument in its own right. It’s an instrument with loads of expressive and emotional power. This as an idea was definitely picked up in the late 1970’s and 1980s by artist such as Depeche Mode, Tangerine Dream, David Bowie, The Human League, New Order, Japan, Gary Numan and loads of others, especially in Germany and Britain. This line of thinking is where I’m coming from as well in terms of how I view and how to “play” (and write songs with) synthesizers.
This is a huge part of the reason why I only use hardware and (mostly) analogue synthesizers in making and recording my music. I just love all of the hands-on controls of these machines and find that using them, especially in such a tactile way adds so much to my ability to express myself musically. Sound wise, I also believe that using hardware and mostly analogue synthesizers give Wavewulf that little something special and makes my music sound a bit different than many more modern (mostly software based) electronic artists.
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