Glen Hammarstrom,, April 2006

Glen Hammarstrom: (...) Plumbicon Version II was co-produced by Andrew Phillpott. How did it come about that you would work with him and did you know he had worked a lot with Depeche Mode prior to this?

synclavier The world is a quite small planet. I have an addiction to early digital synthesizers, and I am a happy owner of a machine called Synclavier. The Synclavier was excessively used by Depeche Mode for the albums "Some Great Reward" and "Construction Time Again". It created all these lovely metallic sounds. Some day I bid for more voice cards for my system on Ebay. And another person was bidding also, Tobias Enhus, a film composer from Los Angeles. We exchanged mails and we figured out that he is familiar with my work and we share the same addiction to sound design. When I decided I want other producers to remix my Plumbicon track, which was created mainly with the Synclavier, Tobias came to my mind. And he ended up doing the mix with Andrew. I am actually very, very happy with the result. And I like the fact that there is the connection to Depeche Mode.

How did you feel about the band prior to remixing them? Do you consider yourself much of a fan?
Yes, the music Depeche Mode created in the 80s was very important to me. I really like the sound design and the atmosphere of their tracks. The later works including Playing the Angel are still worth exploring and Exciter actually did grow on me during the years, but my favourite albums are the old ones.

It seems the bands management has approached you to remix before and you were to busy, how did you work it so you could remix The Darkest Star this time?
synclavier I was very sad when I had to reject the remix offer for Something To Do in 2004. But at this time I was completely exhausted and burned out and I did not want to do this job quickly. When the management asked me again in November 2005 it was no question to me that I want to do it and I started to work on it as soon as I got the material.
I found the track quite hard to catch, I have to admit. The tempo is quite slow, 82 bpm and the mood of it does not allow to re-interpret the tempo as 164 bpm for making a drum& version, nor was it possible to transform it into a techno track without completely destroying it. And I found it important to keep the message of it. So I decided that I want to keep all lyrics and build everything else around. I explicitly used sounds from old sound sources including the Synclavier, the original PPG 2.3 and drum sounds from the Linn drum to give it a bit the patina of a track from the 80s. And I wanted to contrast the singing voice with a computer generated "whisper" voice from my Macintosh. The result is the remix. With some month of distance I am still satisfied with the it, but would mix it different now, making the vocals a bit softer and remove some of the reverb on the instruments.

Was there another song they wanted you to remix?
No. They just provided the material for this one. This was before the album came out. I would probably found it easier to remix Nothing’s Impossible. For this I have lots of ideas. But I would rather want to produce a track together with them. I like input from the outside and find it is more inspiring to create something together, to let an idea grow from the beginning instead of re-working an existing track. I might not be the first choice for remixes and I would assume I do a better job as a producer.

Walk us through your remix process. Are there certain steps you take when you start on a remix or do you just take it song by song?
synclavier I have no fixed scheme. I am looking for an idea, something unique which guides me thru what ever comes next. In the case of Darkest Star it was the lyrics. In other cases it might be something else. I want to take the song serious and not apply a standard procedure to it. From a technical point of view, I listen to all parts and rebuild it step by step to understand the strucutre. Then I remove parts and add own ones. During the process of the mix more and more it becomes something else.

When you start work on a remix, how do you balance your sound versus the original? Which of the two decides what direction you will take the mix in?
A remix needs to have enough elements of the original to be easily recognized. If it feels to me like a different track, using just some samples from another record I would not consider it as a remix anymore. Vocals and lyrics make it a lot easier. It is obvious who is singing and if the lyrics are present there is not much of a question which "song" it is. Instrumental tracks are more a challenge in this regard. Andrew Phillpott and Tobias Enhus did a good job on my track actually. Their mix is something very different but there are so much signature elements present that the connection can be made easily.

Was it a difficult song for you to remix? Also, what was the biggest challenge and how did you work it out? Was there a specific direction you wanted to go with the song but couldn’t?
synclavier The challenge was the vocals. I wanted them to be clear and loud. But they have been recorded with the original arrangement in the background and they did not want to be recontextualised. They sounded good within the original track, but not as good as I hoped in my arrangement. So I tried a lot of technical tricks like changing the vocals with software called Melodyne, but had no success. And this was the moment where I decided that the lyrics are most important and that contrasting the original vocals with the computer voice could exactly do what I want. The rest was quite easy and I had lots of fun doing it.

One of the things I love most about your remix, which is sometimes lost in other remixes, is how it still sounds like a Depeche Mode track. Is that something you set out to do on this mix?
Yes. And it makes me incredibly happy to hear this. It might not be the best Depeche Mode track ever, but at least it has some of the color...and as I said earlier in this interview, color is quite important to me. I think much more in colors then in song structures.

Did you get any feedback on the remix from the band at all?
No. unfortunately not.

Is it a let down that your remix is being released on a limited edition 7 inch only? Would you rather it was on all the single formats or do you like the fact that your mix will be part of such a collectors item?
suffer_wellI like the collectors item idea. The only issue is sound quality. A seven-inch is very poor technically. I just hope the cutting engineer did a good job. I have not heard or seen the finished product yet.

What can we look forward to coming up from Monolake in the future?
Currently I am focusing on some soundscape work that will be released under my real name, and I am performing live a lot. I plan to collect a big number of sketches, play the material live and later decide what to do with it. Pretty much the opposite approach of the past Monolake works, which have been made in the studio and afterwards put on stage.

The remix can be found here: DarkestStarMonolakeRMX.mp3 With kind permission by EMI / Novamute.