Unai is Swedish prodigy artist and producer Erik Möller’s brain child. He’s returning with a new album titled Human Empire, one for which fans, and those are many, have had to wait nearly a decade. First single “Stealing Time” is a thing of beauty, a foretaste of abundant goodness to come.
Human Empire will be released April, 13th.
Thanks to Erik
Patricia Tavares De Oliveira
Spring has arrived unusually early to Sweden, the sun is shining, I have have a new album coming out in a few weeks – can’t be much better!
Your last album, A Love Moderne, came out in 2006, almost ten years ago, why the long wait?
There were many reasons, but what really made it take such a long time was more or less a lack of inspiration. In the early 2000’s I sold almost my whole studio and went for this minimal setup with more or less only a computer. It worked for a few years, but sometime after “A love moderne” I felt I really needed a new direction. By chance, a friend of mine who is more or less a synthesizer collector, asked if he could put his gear in my studio. As soon as I started using these old vintage synthesizers, drum-machines and effects, something happened. It was like opening a locked door. I also bought some old stuff myself and in the process I started recording the first songs for the album. I’m not really that much into the technical side of things, but I really love how these old machines have a life of their own. Maybe that’s why I like to work with this kind of equipment; all their faults and erroneous ways makes them kind of human.
Your upcoming record, Human Empire, has an impressive feature roster, which is quite unusual for you, where did the desire to collaborate with other artists come from? And does it relate in any way to the album’s title?
It wasn’t a conscious decision. I had these separate ideas that I felt that people I knew could do better than me. Tomas Bodén (from Differnet) for example, has this modular system which makes great noises. He knows best how to operate it so he added that to some of the tracks. I called in Lisa & Kroffe from the duo with the same name since I knew that they’re good at playing flute and clarinet. The same goes for Erik Asplund who played the guitar. The album title doesn’t really have anything to do with this…
It is said that this album is your most personal to date – some of the songs’ lyrics are translated poems by your late father – how was the process of channeling these emotions into your musical style? And how difficult or challenging was sharing this with the artists and musicians you worked with?
Even before I started to work on this album I knew I wanted to make something different from before. This time I mostly wrote the music and lyrics before I started producing the tracks. On my earlier records this happened simultaneously. I think – or I hope at least – that this lead to me focusing more on the actual songs than their “sound”. I actually didn’t really have to share this with the musicians I worked with, since they mostly came in very late in the process…
How would you describe your music, and who are you influenced by?
I love melancholic and sad pop music – singer/songwriters like Nick Drake, Fleet Foxes, Scott Walker et al. I love soul music, both old and new. Obviously my main influence is different kinds of electronic music, and then mostly the stripped down, dark and somewhat dubby in style. This might sound like a strange mixture, but I guess that’s what’s keeping me going. I feel that this is the sound that I would love to hear, and if nobody else is doing it (or at least very few), it might as well be me. Sad techno or whatever you might wanna call it.
What is your creative process? How do you go about making a song?
I mostly start with writing the chords and lyrics of the song at home, often at our family piano. I then transfer the chords to a computer, take them down to the studio where I replay them through an old synthesizer to get that more “raw” sound. From there I start to build the songs and add layers. Since all studio gear is old I have to record it directly, the next day everything might sound different (or doesn’t even work at all…).
“Stealing Time” off your upcoming album has a nice pop vibe to it, it’s loud and federating. Is Human Empire an effort at unity?
Yes, in a way you could say that. Human Empire is about the complete human experience, about the things that are common for us all.
Aside from the collaborative and personal aspect of Human Empire, how would you say it differs from your previous work?
I think this is the most raw and at the same time the most melodic of my albums so far. It’s also the most diverse. On “A love moderne” I worked within a quite rigid dancefloor framework. I felt that I had to sacrifice a lot of harmonic emotion to make it work on the floor. Before this album I decided to ditch the whole idea of trying to be “club-friendly”. There are some things I don’t have to worry about; my music will always have a lot of bass, and there’s always going to be a groove going, so this time I concentrated on making my melodies shine.
Who would you say is the hottest artist of the moment?
Oh that’s impossible for me to answer, there are so many to choose from…
What is, in your opinion, the future of electronic music? What directions do you see it taking?
If I am cynical I would say that the current evolution continues. I believe that today when it’s both very easy and very cheap to produce and release music, you could have thought that artists would experiment more and be more individual. There’s really nothing to lose. But I believe that it is the opposite way. Electronic music (and pretty much all other kinds of music) is very homogenous. It feels like the current trend is trying to “fit in” and being as big as possible, rather than to explore the unknown universe that might be around the corner. If I am utopian I see more artists not caring about which genre they “belong to” and who care less about how many likes they have in social media or plays on Soundcloud. It actually doesn’t say anything about how good you are as an artist.
Any chance we’ll see you live this summer?
I hope so! I’m working on a totally new live-set. As I’ve already described I gradually felt that I floated further and further away from the dancefloor. Suddenly it started to feel a bit awkward dj’ing and playing live at clubs where people expected to have something nice to get drunk to, and then there’s this guy singing melancholic songs over a house beat. When it worked this collision was magic, but sometimes it just felt awkward. It also started to feel strange to be a one-man-band on stage, so now we’re at least going to be a duo when Unai plays live. It’s going to be a complete Unai-experience!