Before we get
down to questions about your latest CD, could you tell our readers a little bit
about yourself and how you got started creating the style of music that you do
EW: I started to play the guitar at the age of 11. The first years it was the usual influences like
Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Pink Floyd.
And all the major electronic artists.
I also studied the classical guitar repertoire as well.
Right after high school I started my professional career.
At that time around 1980, I played a lot of jazz oriented music, leading my own
groups touring around in Norway. Playing in small clubs, concerts and doing
festival and TV performances.
Gradually I became more interested in ambient soundscapes
and the idea of creating music for a recorded media like tape, vinyl or CD and using the studio as an extension of my
instruments. In 1984 I quit all the
bands, and started to build my own studio.
I wanted to concentrate more on composition, and less on playing live. Which also resulted in a new direction musically. On “Traces”, my third album (1985) you can hear a
more modern electronic musical world, with influences from various genres, also
ethnic music. All the time with a
minimalistic and ambient approach. It was
one of the first albums recorded
entirely using the new MIDI technology at that
time. Since then I have continued
basically on the same path and
mostly used computers for writing my music.
AV: Your latest
CD, “Blue Sky Red Guitars”, was released not too long ago.
What was the inspiration for this project and when did you actually start work
EW: This is my 12th album and I started to work on
it in 2003. Most of my music is
electronic. But in 1997, I released
an acoustic guitar album called “Guitar Nova”.
This was a concept I had worked on for some years earlier.
In fact, all the way back to 1979. I
spent a lot of time developing the idea of making a new type of acoustic
guitar music, doing overdubs in the studio.
“Guitar Nova” was very well received and I wanted to work
more on this concept. To do an all
acoustic ambient album, but this time I incorporated more studio electronics. Mainly using a lot of layered and overdubbed
guitars, but also adding some creative effects, as well as discreet synth
sounds. I have a nice collection
of various acoustic guitars, that gave the music a wide range of sounds and
The musical idea this time was to make an expression that
was very similar to my electronic music.
Using the same way of building up the compositions.
I also wanted to use other composers material, arranging it in my way. I have been
a long time fan of “Kraftwerk”, the German group of synthesizer masters. I admire both their concept and their way of
composing. For this album I did two
cover version from their repertoire. “Computerlove” and “In The Hall of Mirrors”. Actually it started as an experiment. How would it sound, to transfer extremely
programmed and sequenced electronic music into an all acoustic guitar
performance? So these tunes really started the whole process of making this
album. And nobody has ever done this
AV: Once you get an idea for a music project do
you set aside the time to work on the music and dedicate your full attention to
the project or is it a little less structured than that?
EW: I am a professional artist, and this is my full time work. As a freelancer, I have a lot of projects and I
can not always set up my own schedule.
Ballet music, video music and film music
and other things. And in my situation
it is necessary to be able to switch between projects very quickly. But when I have the opportunity, I always try to
work very intensively with only one project for a certain period. Then take a break from it, leaving it for a couple of weeks or longer. Try to forget the music, getting it out of my
system. Then I will come back to it
and listen to it in a new and objective way.
This is very important. So I guess
my working methods are very structured.
Does beginning a new project bring to mind
echoes of your previous works and how do you let your new work be its own
creation without becoming too derivative of what you have created before?
EW: In the beginning of a project, I try to not be to rigid on
the directions. Just play around for
a while, just making sketches and have fun.
Then after some time I will see where it is leading.
So in the beginning I will let it be very intuitive.
Just like walking in a landscape for the first time.
Walking outside all the paths and trails, to see new things and to discover
what it is all about. Let the
landscape lead you.
But I also like to go back and use material and ideas
from my previous work. On “Emotional
Landscapes” I even resample myself, using sounds and loops from “Traces” and “Silver Beach”. And on occasion I also
use some of my old melodic phrases, arranging them into a new
arrangement or an entirely new composition.
AV: On a project like this (or any of your past
projects for that matter) do you isolate yourself during the creation process
or do you sometimes seek outside opinions as to how things are going?
EW: When I start a project it is very important for me to be
able to isolate myself, and trust my own instincts.
Basically, at this time I just use myself as a
barometer of what works and what doesn't.
But after a while in a process,
it is very important to play the music for other people.
Different kind of people, not just musicians or other artists. There is a real danger of becoming too subjective and
to involved in my own music. One of
the big challenges in being a composer and artist, is how well you can listen
to your own material objectively.
Especially since I am my own producer, and often work alone.
This has also something to do with personality and
experience of course.
Tell me about a good day that you had while
creating this new CD and how moments like that keep you moving forward into
each new project.
EW: One of the tricks I am very aware of as an artist, is the
matter of being surprised. To work
in a way so that I can be positively surprised by myself.
In such moments, nothing can compare to it.
When I have found some tonal combinations that has everything I can wish for. Material that is really containing the essence of
my musical personality. These
moments move me forward, and I know that this is the way I want to live.
If someone were to pick up your latest
release what would they find there? Give me an idea of the feel of your latest
release as compared to what has come before.
Would your listeners recognize it as your “style” or might they be surprised?
EW: “Blue Sky Red Guitars” contains some of my best guitar
works so far. With arrangements and
mixes that really help drive the compositions.
Most of the material is very quiet and peaceful.
But the album also have some intricate rhythmical parts.
All the time with strong emphasis on the ambience and room of the music. The tunes all have a kind of common drone and
environment that are mixed discreet in the background of all the various
layered guitars. To give the music
an uplifting and airy vibe. But
stylistic it is not so far from my electronic works, like “Emotional
Landscapes” or “Wind Journey”.
After all these years and all these albums, I guess I have
developed some typical “Wøllo” ways of doing it.
But I try to surprise and do new and fresh things for every release. Also within each album I want the music to have
some variation. I like to combine
different compositional elements on the same album.
One tune can be concrete and rhythmic, and the next can be very abstract and
ambient. So that the listener can be
One of the worst things that can happen to an artist is when
the audience knows what the next
album will sound like. I want each
new release to be a positive surprise for the listener.
When did you
know that this project was done and that tweaking the mix would not make it any
better than it already is?
EW: For me the finalizing is a very sensitive period of a project. At this stage I need total concentration to be
able to make the right decicions. It
is very important to have enough time and not to rush it. I will sometimes leave the material,
pretend that it is finished. Then,
suddenly I will listen to it again and in different locations. After a while I will eventually discover the weak
parts. I will then fix it, doing
mixes. And then I will again leave it for a while. Finally I will let it go,
when I have the right feeling that this is it.
When the music really has grown up and started to live its own life.
But it is also important not to leave the music too overpolished. Picasso once said, don’t finish the last 2
percents of a work. It will make it
Do you ever
feel apprehensive when it comes time to take a project like this to the next
stage and release it to the public?
EW: If I am satisfied with the product, I will feel very good
about releasing it to the public. As
an independent artist I can myself decide when the album is finished. So I feel very good because I know that I did my
best to make it good. When the album is ready I just cant wait
to get it released and played for as many people as possible.
There are stories about artists working for the big major labels
with no artistic control. If I was
in such a situation, I would certainly feel more apprehensive.
What kind of
feedback have you been getting since releasing this CD? How closely do you
follow reviews or the comments you receive from your listeners?
EW: I have received some very good response on this CD. Both from the public and the reviewers. As well as the radio stations, especially in the
I try to follow reviews and be open for comments. It is always interesting to hear new views and new
opinions on the music. I also get a
lot of fan mail, from people who write long and in-depth letters about my
albums. It really makes me
satisfied, to have the feeling that I can communicate through my music.
finish a project like this and it has had a little time to settle down after
the official release do you ever go back and take a critical look at the
project and think about things that might have been done differently or have
you already moved on in your mind to your next creation?
EW: I force myself to move on to my next creation.
But it is important also to look back.
After a couple of years, I will sometimes discover new things about a release. Both positive and negative things. This is a way of learning and growing. And it gives me a feeling of being on my way, and
that is important.
But there is a fragile balance here.
Like in life, it is important not to be too conscious about the past. It will distract from the new possibilities here and
now. As well as the future.
your listeners be looking for in the near future from you as far as the next
EW: I am currently working on a new album.
With lots of electronic soundscapes this time.
Together with various electric guitars.
It might be a little more spaced out than before!
anything else about this project that stood out in your mind that you would
like to pass along the readers of Ambient Visions as we close out this
EW: “Blue Sky Red Guitars” is a milestone in my acoustic
guitar work. I am planning to work
on more music in the same direction.
But of course I will also continue to work more on my electronic landscapes.
As I grow older, I more and more realise that music is
mainly about artistic content. And
not so much about style and genres.
I want to thank all my fans for supporting my work. As a recording artist, it is sometimes hard to
communicate. And I hope to do more
concerts in the near future. To get
the chance to meet my audience.
Thanks Erik for taking the time out to talk to me and I hope
that you will have many more milestones in the career ahead of you.