From Korean psychedelic nuggets to the curse of the CD-age via record producers and politics. I sat down with Einar Kaupang from the band Dig Deeper to talk about the recording of their brand new EP, Stars Tonight, and the forthcoming album.
First things first. I know Einar, and I’ve been a fan of Dig Deeper since I first heard their debut EP years ago. I even released their last album, How You Spend Your Days, on my own label. That was a couple of years ago, and though we still are in touch it’s always nice to take some time to sit down and talk about music with some real heads. Kaupang is a real head, that’s for sure.
Heartworn Highways: The title track on this new EP send some pretty obvious thoughts to it’s namesake song from Paul Kantner’s Jefferson Starship and the album Blows Against the Empire, one of my all-time favourite albums. I guess that’s not a coincidence?
Kaupang: No coincidence at all. The Kantner/Crosby song is a big influence on us, and on these recordings. That I used that exact line comes from a writing technique I use to get the flow started when I’m writing. Either to get in a groove, or just to get the feeling down you know. So, that’s kind of how it came about with this song. That said, the song also kind of became a touchstone for where we were headed with these recordings. The Kantner/Crosby song was on this playlist we were grooving to at a afterparty in a hotel we had played in this little place called Ulvik in Hardanger. A pretty far out night. Me and Braut (guitarist, Øystein Braut) both got this euphoric release when we realised which song it was ‘cause it didn’t really fit in with the other songs that had been playing that
Heartworn Highways: You are also pretty explicit in your thoughts about politics in the lyric?
Kaupang: I had been thinking a lot about those things, and it just got to the point that I couldn’t hold it in any longer. This song is the only one we have recorded that are this explicit, but if you look you shall find. It's funny, because Dig Deeper never set out to be a band concerned with much else but playing groovy tunes. But I get angry when I see the government brag about having the strictest laws on immigration in Europe. Even if not so, that's a messed up thing to preach. To me dealing with this situation is much more of a moral question. What is the right thing to do? from a moral perspective; while the Norwegian focus has been mostly concerned with "how can we escape this responsibility?"". Luckily many have done awesome efforts to help too. Let's not forget about them. In that way Norway is a country in it's early childhood unfortunately. Man I wish for us to make a "good times" record one day, like the guys in Natural Child, you know". Let your freak flag fly!
Heartworn Highways: Talking about words and music. Any lyricists you are looking to for inspiration?
Kaupang: When it comes to storytelling and the way I want to write stories in songs I have to say that Willy Vlautin of Richmond Fontaine is a guiding light. That guy can really tell a story. The guys in Drive-By Truckers has also been a big inspiration. The way they can say a lot about the society as a whole by telling a story of a single character. Hard not to be in awe of that. The song, Two Broken Fingers is our Richmond Fontaine song. With some added vibe-y guitars. For the heads out there. Always something for the heads!
Heartworn Highways: Well, yeah, heads you say. There’s a definite psych-vibe around you guys. Is that a big part of your musical influences?
Kaupang: I guess so. But I don’t really want to pigeonhole us down that road either. All the guys in the band come from different places, you know. A lot of british indie-rock, more heady psych stuff, Grateful Dead of course and to some a bit less obvious maybe, Mark Knopfler and Dire Straits. Our groove are very much a Dire Straits thing. I for one, really dig later Knopfler albums like Sailing to Philadelphia and Shangri-La too. Man, imagine those albums in a classic LP length compared to all those filler-songs we got in the CD-era. One of the biggest influences on these recordings is the compilation Forge Your Own Chains. There’s just so many really great heartfelt songs there. There’s this Korean band, I think, called Shin Yung Hyun and the Men on there. A song called Twilight. That was the main inspiration for the song Swimming in Mexico on the EP.
Heartworn Highways: Cool, I totally wouldn’t have guessed that. Pretty obscure, man. But that’s a really heavy compilation. Lots of nuggets everyone should lend their ear to. You had some guest musicians as well on that song?
Kaupang: Yeah, we got the mighty Arthur "Dr. Kay” Piene (The Switch, Dr. Kay and His Interstellar Tone Scientists) on keys and young Bjørnar Ekse Brandseth (Silver Lining, The Northern Belle, Boogie Legs) on pedal steel. They fitted us like a glove. It’s always hard inviting people to play on your stuff like that, but it worked out really well. Arthur just came in the studio, ears open, with no plan or having heard anything of the song before and he just laid down the perfect most groovy stuff. It got this kinda feel that’s all over the Push the Sky Away album by The Bad Seeds, though I really doubt that Arthur have even heard that. Bjørnar came well prepared as always. A true professional. We nerded about a rig rundown episode with Daniel Lanois to explain what we were after. Groovy stuff.
Heartworn Highways: You’ve been working with Anders Møller (Kåre & The Cavemen, Euroboys, Kitchie Kitchie Ki Me O, Ulver etc.) as a producer this time. How has that been?
Kaupang: Møller is amazing. It’s been a pretty amazing experience. We recorded all the basic tracks live this time around, and trying different tempos and just getting a feel and a groove going. We probably did about 10 or 15 takes of every song. A little bit hard on our drummer, Raymond, ‘cause it’s always his fault if the tempo doesn’t feel right. Haha, no, but we are really happy about how the recordings turned out and Møller has been a vital part of that. He doesn’t let things just fly. We had to up our game a bit. At the same time we have been trying out more different versions of songs just to get them right this time. Take Stars Tonight (Have You Seen). We did that various tempos and because of that it ended up being a different and better song than we perhaps had from the get go. The driving element of the song is my acoustic guitar, and that’s something new for us. We wanted a sound a bit like some of Lorenzo Woodrose’s stuff with Spids Nøgenhat. And it’s a song without a chorus – still it’s probably the most poppy and catchy thing we’ve ever done. We’ve got nothing but love for Møller and Vegard Sleipnes who did some truly amazing things with the mastering process of the recordings. Vegard's ways around the tape machine back and forth to the mixer are complicated. He has explained this to me many times now, but he's got a way of sending a stems through the tape machine and mixing down the master afterwards which is wizard like. Check him out at Reel to Reel Mastering. Awesome stuff. He mastered the Torgeir Waldemar album too. That sounds really good!
Top dollar. Just the way Møller explains things is so rad. He’s got this really physical way of explaining things and just a lot of positive energy. That he’s this walking encyclopedia of music doesn’t hurt either, so we listened a lot to examples of what he meant about sounds and grooves and stuff. I don’t think any of us had listened that much to Funkadelic and Maggot Brain for instance, but it’s all in there.
You can be a fly on the wall of the recordings in the video below.
Listen to the EP, Stars Tonight here: