As Misantrop, Nicolai Vesterkær Krog approaches his craft with a kaleidoscopic vision of music, where a tropical portrait comes to life from the most unlikely of musical sources. A debut artist, Misantrop’s alter Ego, Krog is no stranger to the recorded music universe, and our introduction came via some promo material for other labels, where I would discern a enthusiastic personality, eager to share new music with the rest of the world. “For me it’s about helping to get music from artists and labels I believe in and respect out there,“ he says via an email exchange. It’s a sentiment I’ve always felt quite close to my own pursuits of what we do here at the Formant, and when Misantrop appeared with a debut EP on his newly established Foul-Up label I was intrigued and needed to find out more.
Limerence is an EP that relies on a sonic aesthetic of club music, but reshapes and moulds it into something far removed from functionality. Beatific melodic expressions bounce off rhythms, pacing themselves through a repertoire of grooves that extend way beyond the dance floor. Improvised moments on the title track and Nocturnal Emission expound on a kind of innocence felt through the EP, and inject a prominent sense of personality and charm in the music, transposed from the artist.
In the name he picked for himself as an artist, he eschews social conventions and the music that thus arrives from this ideology refuses to be pigeonholed. Sonic palette’s clash and amalgamate to deliver something unique, yet engaging. Genres make no sense in Misantrop’s complex universe where David Byrne’s guitar solos interlace punchy electro-beats and dissonant keyboard doodles. There are absolutely no taboos left unchallenged in Limerence, which marks the start of this new career with an air of mystery. There’s an intriguing personality behind it all and its one we try to get to know a little more intermittently in this Q&A.
Since this is your first interview I think we should start with introductions… Can you tell us a little about where it all started with music for you?
I’ve been heavily into music for as long as I can remember. As a kid I was into pop music, but I think I’d say an early linchpin was when I was around ten and met my friend Lasse (Metalized Man). While we had completely different interests musically – the Prodigy was the only thing we could agree on – we were both deeply into music. Honestly his interests were just way ahead of his time. A few years later he’d picked up Björk’s “Post” album from the library. I was already familiar with her from watching TV but not into it, yet when I heard the album in full my musical interests very quickly changed completely.
You mentioned Björk there, but what were some of the musical influences that you think were pertinent to your musical growth?
I became obsessed with Björk and through that I was suddenly listening to Oval, Pan Sonic, Aphex Twin, Autechre and other Warp stuff, Pole, the Mille Plateaux stuff… I basically spent all my waking hours in the library exploring music together with Lasse. My tastes just kept expanding – not just gaining knowledge about similarly sounding stuff, but also moving way beyond them. I was researching music like a musicologist, listening to music and reading about the artists I liked, while exploring all the references.
It almost goes without saying I was listening to techno as well, but as I was living with my mom in suburban Denmark trying to distance myself from the shitty euro dance being played at the local discotheques (and enjoyed by my class mates). I had no idea in any way that techno or other stuff I was listening to such as drum’n’bass was perceived as dance music elsewhere. But other than that there’s been several musical discoveries expanding my interests: Discovering The Neptunes, Missy Elliott and Timbaland and that chart music could be innovative too; discovering punk, post punk and industrial in my late teens. Then acid house, then finding out there’s more to disco than just ABBA, and so on and so on.
And how have you channelled all these discoveries into your own music?
It is possible that at times in life I have attempted to narrow my perspective, to try to fit in somewhere – but I think that for the most part I’ve tended to insist that if seemingly disparate styles made sense in my own taste, then I should channel the feeling of some kind of unity by combining elements from different trajectories. I started making music in my early teens actually, and that’s probably when my taste was the most extreme it’s ever been. I was mainly just listening to the clicks’n’cuts stuff, power electronics and dub music. So the music I was making at the time was like an ultra minimalist dub with bursts of noise. I was trying to find my own signature sound within that, but as my taste expanded so did my level of ambition… And though I tried for a while, my skills didn’t match my ambitions at all, so I simply stopped making music.
But then you started again with Misantrop. How would describe your debut EP and what do you hope it establishes as the Misantrop sound?
I really wouldn’t describe any “Misantrop sound” in specific musical terms.My new EP “Limerence” is the start of the Misantrop project. At the time I started what eventually became Misantrop, my level of ambition hadn’t really changed – I still wanted to have a signature sound, but at some point while “Limerence” started to take shape something happened and I realized that trying to find a signature sound was complete and utter bullshit for me. What I actually should be doing was just to try and convey my persona instead, because I didn’t and don’t want my interests to stagnate – so finding a signature sound would become an obstacle before it was even there.
And I’m also definitely not aiming for a sound to be established. It soon became apparent that if I actually wanted to be able to naturally progress musically, then I needed to stop worrying about making that progression sound natural.
What was the context you were envisioning for this release?
In extra-musical terms, “Limerence” does have a kind of theme in a way. As a project, the release has become about me relating to social situations – specifically to club situations of varying kinds; about me being somewhat socially awkward; and about wanting to convey something more than I was socially capable of. It’s about being drawn to the sounds of not one, but various social scenes, but not being able to figure out whether or not I was truly interested in the scenes themselves or just the sounds that came out of them.
The EP was wrapped up because it felt important for me to put something out for personal reasons, but I’m happy I wrapped it up when I did. I feel like I’ve moved past those subjects now – I’m in a different headspace now, both thematically but also style-wise. Also, I’ve accepted being awkward… or I’ve come closer to accepting feeling awkward. I just feel more comfortable being myself at this point than I have before.
You mention various social scenes and in the music you cast your net quite wide with host of elements from Techno to Synth Wave making an appearance. Was there any particular ideology behind this diversity other than expressing something personal?
First of all my musical interests are quite eclectic. I get bored really easily, I can’t listen to the same type of music for very long at a time. As a listener, I mix ’n’ match good songs according to my unstable mood – harsh noise next to R & B, if I enjoy the songs then fuck what genre-labels they’re tagged with. Secondly, my interest in music has very little to do with scenes. Social scenes aren’t all that interesting to me, so I rarely feel the need to limit myself to some pre-defined narrative. More than anything, being personal is what’s crucial to me in all this.
In the press release it also says that the “guiding concept is that mistakes, omissions, SNAFUs are part of the creative process”. What do you believe this particularly brings out in the music?
I think a lot of good and innovative art is rooted in mistakes. What it brings out in “Limerence”, is a sense of presence – that this isn’t just sounds being played back, but that in those sounds there’s an actual presence. The sentence that you’re referring to is one that I myself was reflecting upon because while it may sound appropriate for the release, there’s a missing dimension in terms of the label. The missing element is something along the line of “misunderstanding” or “confusion”. For me, that’s a very important aspect of my music and even more so of having started my own label. I think people are way too often served everything on a silver platter, and I’d rather see people getting confused – going “huh?”
Contrasting sounds that don’t go seamlessly together will make the audience wonder why these creative decisions are being made, the audience will need to think for themselves and not just be passive consumers. Passive consumerism is very, very dangerous politically.Oone aspect that I can’t condemn is when people willingly choose to not think – or when that (even unknowingly) is exploited by others.
You mentioned presence and I detect a sort of human innocence, especially in things like that synth/guitar solo in Nocturnal Emission. I assume this is due to that “guiding concept”, but what are you trying to convey the listener with those moments?
Hearing you talk of “human innocence” is very interesting, but also something I haven’t thought too much of really… About the guitar solo… There’s a really fine line between love and hate that I find very intriguing – basically for a while I was hating most music with guitars, I think I’ve been tainted by a lot of rock music’s “quest for authenticity” that I personally find reveals its own shallowness. Because of that it just suddenly seemed like a natural choice for me to actually make a guitar solo part of a track. And “Nocturnal Emission” started out as me wanting to do UK garage, something that sounded sexy – so when the thought of adding a guitar (played by my good friend Jon Marius Brogaard Aeppli) came to mind, then it also seemed like an interesting way of adding some extra filth and sleaziness.
The tracks are always in touch with a repetitive percussive beat, and there’s a brief sentence in the press release about leaving the club. What role does club music play in your approach generally?
For some reason a good part of my musical interests gravitate towards club sounds (though where I’m at right now and have been for some time, it’s more sounds that are referencing club sounds).
Actually “Limerence” was originally conceived as a release combining various club sounds to make something in-between, but oddly enough, my interests have gradually become so removed from functionality that the EP’s involvement with dance music basically feels like a coincidence.
You opted to create your own label to get this music out. What was the reason behind that?
I have been interested in record labels for as long as I can remember – next to the music itself. I have been working with music professionally for some years now and have worked with quite a few labels – on a professional level, not on a creative level. Gradually I just felt myself going back to what drove me to work for labels in the first place – the ambition to eventually start my own. And I’ve gradually felt more and more equipped to actually do so.
I was having beers at my friend Bjarke aka Grøn and head of Infinite Waves’ house together with Metalized Man and Christian Hougaard who records as Soft Armour and Space Program. Metalized Man wanted to play me a new track of his. So he puts it on the tape deck and it blew me away. So I’m complementing him on the song, to which he responded that Bjarke (who had put out one tape of Lasse’s at the time) wasn’t too crazy about it. So being drunk I said, “Nevermind what Bjarke thinks, I want to put this out – I will start a label to put this track out.”
That track just stuck with me past the hangover, and I think it was only a few days later that I said to Lasse that I meant what I had said and that he shouldn’t offer the track to anyone else – I just needed to work out the details. Personally I’ve never really been able to finish anything until there was an actual reason to do so, a deadline – and during these same days I also realized that if I wanted to put out a release of my own, then I needed to do it myself, because no matter how close I would be with a label, no one in their right mind would ever sign an unfinished release by a debuting artist.
So what I ended up telling Lasse was that I wanted to start a label and put out a release by him, the only condition being that I myself wanted to be the artist behind the label’s first release – without being capable of saying when that would actually happen. I knew that at some point I’d feel guilty for keeping him waiting, guilty enough to actually get my shit together and get my release done. And that happened. It took quite a while and I was pretty close to making Lasse loose his cool along the way, but on the other hand… I think the material he came up with for Foul-Up has also benefitted from that ultimatum/emotional blackmail.
With your proximity to labels and artists where you encounter them daily as part of work in PR, was your artistic process ever in contact with that side of your work?
If you mean, while I was making the record, I was considering how it would be perceived? Of course. Like most people working within the creative field I have some highly developed narcissistic traits. But if you mean, if thoughts about how it would be perceived has influenced the aesthetic choices I’ve made then no, not really. I mean it’s difficult to say for sure, but I certainly haven’t been too preoccupied with making the release pleasing or easily understandable.
I believe your work in PR also has you living between Berlin and Copenhagen. Is there anything of a scene that you can call upon between those cities that might inform your work?
I spend a lot of time in Denmark because I’ve got a lot of ties there as it’s where I’m from, but I don’t live in Copenhagen – I live full time in Berlin.
Copenhagen has an interesting scene around the Mayhem space – there’s the Infinite Waves label that I find highly inspirational in terms of energy and diversity as well as Posh Isolation that inspires me in terms of its energy and artistic techniques. Next to that there’s the heads from the Syg Nok crew like Hvad and Why Be whose advanced (club-related) sounds are unparalleled in my opinion.
Then you’ve got these guys from jazz backgrounds whose work stray from more familiar trajectories. Something I know less of, but the music of a project like Yes Deer and the work of their drummer Anders Vestergaard really stands out for me. And then of course you’ve got the artist Beastie Respond whose hyperactive melting-pot-undertaking just doesn’t really sound like anyone else, to me – most of his music truly defies categories even at a very fundamental level in spite of him being very open about his roots as well as about where he’s currently picking up inspiration from. Beastie Respond together with RDG also runs the night Lash Out, which revolves around footwork but with a very open-minded approach. It’s just about the most fun night I’ve been to (anywhere) for ages – if nothing else then for the mere fact that it’s all about having fun while most other nights seem to have become quite po-faced.
Then there’s Berlin. Though I’ve been here for some years now there’s just so much happening that I feel like I’m still at the tip of the iceberg. Mentioning just a mere few “scenes” from this entire city would seem very wrong to me, but I still feel the need to say that the stuff happening around nights like – among others – Janus, Trade, Creamcake and Boo Hoo has definitely caught my attention, it’s all very unconstrained and progressive –musically I admire that.
Looking to the future of Misantrop what’s up ahead immediately and where do you hope this debut will take you and the label eventually?
From a musical perspective, in the long run, I don’t think my debut is meant to take me anywhere – I consider it a solid release, but it’s not meant to be a signifier of direction for neither Misantrop nor the label. Both are much more open-ended than that, and I have no intention of trying to repeat myself or even to make something similar. I’ve started working on new material, and it’s going to be very different, but it’s definitely too early to go into detail about. But that new material is what’s ahead for the next period for Misantrop. As for Foul-Up there’s already a bunch of stuff lined up for the near future. Stay tuned!
Misantrop and Foul-up will be inaugurating the release of Limerence with a series of events.
*Release party #1: Motto, Berlin on November 18th – Galaxian and Beastie Respond
*Release party #2: Sameheads, Berlin on November 18th – Galaxian, Beastie Respond, MEJLE, Misantrop
*Release party #3: Mayhem, Copenhagen on December 2nd – Galaxian, Beastie Respond, LBV/NVK and Misantrop