Pelagic Records has been responsible for bringing a considerable amount of talent to my attention over the years, and their 2016 roster has been no exception. One of their most recent releases is ‘Loss’ from Danish sludge/hardcore band LLNN, released in mid-June. While LLNN has only been around for less than two years and this is their second release overall, the experience they have from playing in other bands is evident. Their material uses crushing sludge and hardcore as a base, with haunting synthesizer work giving the material a post-apocalyptic feel.
After previously premiering the band’s video for the song Rapture (which you can check out here), I had the chance to send some questions over to find out more about their writing process. Guitarist/singer Christian Bonnesen replied with some answers that I think will give you a window into what these guys do and how they approach their particular variant of monolith, unsettling sludge/hardcore. ‘Loss’ is out now on Pelagic Records, with vinyl available from Heavy Metal Vomit Party and Bloated Veins as well as a cassette version from NOXO.
Transcending Obscurity (Chris Dahlberg): LLNN formed in 2014, but your roots go back much farther than that. Can you tell us a little bit about your backgrounds and what you were looking to achieve musically when you formed the band?
LLNN (Christian Bonnesen): Rasmus and I played together in a band called The Psyke Project for about 7 years before ending it in late 2014. Rasmus had played with the band almost the entirety of his adult life and I joined about 8 years into its existence. They found me playing in the local youth squad back in the day. Musically we wanted to continue with the overall heaviness of our former band, but bring Ketil into the fray and sort of modify it in that way.
TO: Compared to your debut EP ‘Marks’, were there any elements of writing or recording you approached differently when working on ‘Loss’?
LLNN: We learned a lot of lessons on ‘Marks’. Firstly, ‘Marks’ was just a selection of riffs I had, without any particular goal in mind. Rasmus, Ketil and I just started arranging the riffs into songs while in the studio. We booked 3 days in the studio and just started writing the songs whilst recording them live. Some of the songs are first passes and we just settled with them. It’s the sort of luxury that playing together for 8 years affords you. The only dogma the songs ever had was that we had to leave space enough for the synths. That gave the songs a way more minimalistic feel than what I typically do on guitar. Once we established our “sound” with the synths, it was pretty easy to see where to go from there. I felt like I overcompensated a bit on the vocals, because I had no synths to keep me in line and the sparser riff compositions asked for it, but I liked that, so I decided to continue with that. Ketil bought a setup that made it possible for him to play with us live, so we decided to compose together in the rehearsal space and just jam from a selection of riffs. We knew that the synths would add tremendously to more spacious and bigger sounding songs and that was pretty much the goal from the start of writing ‘Loss’ till the end. ‘Loss’ was also recorded live in 3 days; nothing changed in that regard except we were a full band this time with the addition of Jakob and his input, with the synths added afterwards.
TO: The synth plays a significant role in your ability to create apocalyptic, eerie soundscapes. You mentioned it took seven months to find the right synths that fit your material. Can you tell us more about this process and the transformation the synth work went through from its early incarnations to its final sound on ‘Loss’?
LLNN: While we had melodies and overall ideas from the writing process, you walk a tremendously fine line when adding synths to heavy music. It’s easy to end up sounding like Fear Factory or something really cheesy when pairing the two. We are really self-critical in this regard. Ketil and Rasmus are also the type of guys who likes to create their own samples and sound from scratch, fucking up all sorts of sounds to give it a more original feel instead of using the “KEYBOARD 3” sample from Ableton or something. That’s really time consuming. In some instances, the synths ended up altering the songs directly, like Depths, which was a different song before they got their hands on it. But other than that, it’s pretty much just reiterating until we find something that the band likes on a whole.
TO: You’ve chosen to keep things on the short side on ‘Loss’, letting the dark layers of instrumentation build to crushing, suffocating levels across six songs. Do you think that music like yours can lose its impact if stretched out for too long?
LLNN: I definitely believe so. Otherwise we would have to add a lot of extra layers to the songs/songwriting in order for it to be more dynamic listening experience and I believe that would compromise the overall vision and what we as a band stand for. It’s also a very Danish thing. If you look at our contributions to modern art like Dogme 95, videogames like Inside and Limbo or our culinary rebirth, a lot of the reoccurring themes that repeat are that it’s highly curated and minimalistic. We are pretty much taught the saying “don’t overstay your welcome” from birth as a people. Or at least I was, haha. Loads of people seem to want more and we definitely find that flattering.
TO: You guys had the chance to see John Carpenter perform recently, what was that experience like? Do you have a favorite Carpenter soundtrack? I personally felt a good deal of Carpenter influence being channeled on Voyager as I made my way through ‘Loss’.
LLNN: Unfortunately I didn’t go and see the concert, because I was to slow to buy tickets. But yeah, we love Carpenter in this band. When we started looking at the possibilities of what we could do with synths, his music in his movies just was the first thing that came to mind. He definitely left a mark on Rasmus and I when we grew up.
In some instances, the synths ended up altering the songs directly, like Depths, which was a different song before they got their hands on it
TO: The music video you released for Rapture gives viewers an up close and personal look at your intense live performances. It was shot by Rasmus G. Sejersen, can you tell us more about its creation? What made you decide to go with a live performance video as opposed to a conceptual video?
LLNN: Rasmus is a pretty accomplished editor and cameraman and works with that daily. While our music lends itself to a more conceptual video, we just didn’t have a good idea to pursue. I also feel like if you play the kind of music we play, with roots firmly planted in hardcore, you need to get out there early and show what you are about in a live context.
TO: When it comes to this type of apocalyptic, dark, heavy music, the majority of the bands that come to my mind are European. Do you think the turmoil and chaos in a lot of European countries plays a role in why there is so much of this type of material being created there?
LLNN: I don’t know. It certainly is a crazy place right now. But it’s not exclusive to here. Everywhere seems pretty fucking crazy right about now. The last couple of months I’ve just been sitting in disbelief of all the shit happening. Interesting times. One thing I can say is that the world was a less dark place when we wrote ‘Loss’.
TO: Pelagic Records released ‘Loss’, with Bloated Veins and Heavy Metal Vomit Party helping with the vinyl. Plus you had a limited cassette run through NOXO. How did you come to work with all these different labels, and what are your personal thoughts on the increase in vinyl and cassette releases in recent years?
LLNN: We met Robin from Pelagic Records while playing in a basement in Berlin. I had a long talk with him about cool bands and we got along great. Some time passed and then we got an offer. The world is a strange and wonderful place sometimes. Bloated Veins is our friend Filip’s label. He sings in Hexis and I’ve known that kid since he wore a Murderdolls t-shirt and had long hair, haha. Noxo and Heavy Metal Vomit Party we just got in contact with by putting our music online. We’ve been very fortunate.
TO: Currently you have one show in Sweden confirmed and another you’re trying to set up. What other touring plans do you have for 2016?
LLNN: There’s a lot of stuff in the works, but it’s not ready to be announced just yet. We played a great deal last year, totaling up to about 30 shows all over Europe and it’s taken its toll on us financially. A lot of this year has just been about us getting our shit back together, haha. Plus I’ve been busy with my other band.
TO: What are some other bands from Denmark that our readers should be paying attention to?
LLNN: From the top of my head: Eglisé, Czar, Hexis, UXDXS, No Fealty, Afsky, Serpents Lair + everything on the Indisciplinarian label(a bit of a shameless self plug, since my other band Piss Vortex is on that label as well).
TO: You’ve already covered a lot of ground with your three releases, but are there any directions you’re looking to expand upon further when it comes time to write more material?
LLNN: We recorded ‘Loss’ in 2014 and we are itching to get on with some new material. Or actually we are a bit careful about starting, since Rasmus and I are really intense dudes and we both know that it will pretty much be the only thing on our minds until it’s finished. But I’ve got some riffs and themes and overall song structures I want to explore. Lately I’ve been really into the director David Cronenberg and body horror. I’d like to make something substantial about violence, just in a musical form.
TO: Is there anything else you’d like to say about ‘Loss’ or LLNN?
LLNN: Not really. I just hope that my ramblings here haven’t been too pretentious. If anyone wants to discuss our music, my lyrics, tunings or other things – Feel free to hit me up wherever. I’d love to share a bit of insight.