Social pop anthropologist
In the first place, Maral Salmassi just wanted to produce the record by the Icelandic dance pop duo Magnea. But somewhere while doing so the music of Liina Magnea and Haraldur Thrastarson touched the right triggers in Salmassi and so she decided spontaneously to reactive her label Television Rocks for „700“ – and also to contribute one of the remixed to the ep under her famous Kali signet; other remixes are coming in by DJ Earl, Air Max ’97, Sporting Life, Ben Jackson and Divoli S’vere.
Liina, Maral, as „700“ feels like the starting point for a longer story, why not start right at the beginning. How did you two meet and how did the collaboration kick off?
Liina Magnea: I had perviousely worked with Can (Khan Of Finland) and asked him if he knows any female producers in Berlin interested in producing pop music? He directed me to Maral and I send her some shitty demos I had made. I was super happy she saw some potential in my stuff so from there on we listened to music together and send each other ideas.
At the same time I had started composing music with Haraldur who was studying in Amsterdam, so I was spending a lot of time there, mostly in the red light district. Im not sure but maybe thats why the first line of the song „700“ goes like that: „strip it down…“ I wanted the beats and the bass to reflect the harshnness of the lyrics while giving ground for the eerie melodies; it´s supposed to be one of those song you want to swing, drive and fly to. So I made a demo together with Halli and send it to Maral who immidiately jumped on the boat and heard what the song was still missing.
Maral Salmassi: What caught my attention was the composition. I really liked how the melodies were played, the beautiful chords and also the overall mood of the tracks. It was easy to work with what I got.
Maral, Liina just mentioned that you heard what was missing. What was that?
Maral: Mostly the beat, but also the synth sounds needed to be replaced since they were partly very digital sounding and even clipping. We also changed the arrangement a bit.
I am curious to dig a bit deeper into your working process. How did things come together, Haraldur?
Haraldur Thrastarson: For „700“ I bounced all the stems to Maral but I think in the end we replaced every sound in the production so a big part of the process was re-inventig the sounds that were already there and then with Marals production skills making it sound much fatter and nicer in the end product.
Was it a tough process for you Haraldur to let loose of all the material you had created?
Haraldur: Not at all, I like to think of all sounds and arrangement to be replaceable or reworked before sending it to mixing and mastering, it can be a curse to think this way and to speculate and rework stuff so many times but I guess in the end you have to happy with what you are releasing even though it might sometime seem as an endless process. The hard part is to trust in your decisions and then to seperate the creative from the technical.
Maral: As Haraldur just said: For “700” I replaced the sounds and re-recorded the synths, made a new beat and recorded Liinas voice with a nice original 70s Neumann M49 tube Mic and an old custom made Lorenz tube preamp which sounds like silk. I love this set up for voice recording which I also use for my own voice. I created the instrumental of the song “Profil” after a few music listening sessions with Liina. She liked it and instantly came up with a great vocal melody.
Liina: I remember that Maral sent me a beat called juke. Rhythmically it reminded me of the vogue scene music I got to know in Amsterdam. I gave her some fast paced lyrics and even some sort of a rap that fortunately did not make it to the track.
You did not like her to rap, Maral?
Maral: Well, I think Liina is a great singer and for this song in particular the rap wasn’t needed. Sometimes less is more.
Sorry for the interruption, Liina. Please go on.
Liina: I was at dance school at that time and tindering a lot, so the lyrics are pretty directly reflecting that daily life I was having. Though the song is overall pretty bassy the synths make it somehow more light and 90s happy.
Excuse me, Liina. Did you just say that the lyrics are inspired by your real tinder life? Now you catched our ears here at kaput. How was tindering in Amsterdam?
Liina: I feel like Tinder has been a way for me to investigate on trends and fashion in different places. Plus its also just a lazy way for an ego boost. Somehow I was not to be matched in Amsterdam, while in Berlin I was greeted with open arms and when I visited my grandmother in North Iceland the nearest hot catches were 150km away – so yeah limited. I guess this makes me sound rather like a social anthropologist haha.
To make sure people do not think we are just interested in the gossip here at kaput, let´s come back to the technical aspects of your working process. It seems like you were able to learn from Marals long experience in dance music, right Haraldur?
Haraldur: Oh yes, For the vocals Maral introduced me to this straineous but reward giving method of splitting the vocals into 5 channels and then aligning all of them together and panning them all over the spectrum. This can take a really long time to do and is mosty manual labour. For one of our session we stayed in an apartment of Marals friends and they had three cats – having a crazy allergies to cat I was crying and sneezing the whole seNot at all, I like to think of all sounds and arrangement to be replaceable or reworked before sending it to mixing and mastering, it can be a curse to think this way and to speculate and rework stuff so many times but I guess in the end you have to happy with what you are releasing even though it might sometime seem as an endless process. The hard part is to trust in your decisions and then to seperate the creative from the technical.ssion trying to get these vocal aligned for hours, I think it traumtized me actually.
Maral, you are so cold harded – is this necessary to get the best out of the artists you work with?
Maral: Well, it is. Vocals are very important unless they are used as sample snippets in a Glitchy Trap tracks. You can create a much better listening experience and a much more private atmosphere through certain technics of vocal recording and production.
Maral, have you always been a real studio nerd? And please, share more of our favorite tricks with us.
Maral: My preferred method to achieve powerful and natural sounding vocals is mono layering consisting of two mono vocal tracks in the verse and group processing consisting of five mono tracks in the chorus which are wide and symmetrically panned. Processing the constituent tracks individually and cutting and arranging the vocals precisely within the layers helps to achieve tonal homogeny within the group. Very important is also the right amount of room for vocals. I use different reverbs for the backing and the main voice.
Is Magnea supposed to happen live?
Liina: We already played our release concert at Griessmuhle on Marals label night – this was in 06th of April. As Berlin is this hub for DJs and electronic music producers, theres more nights where the performativity of music is underrepresented. So I felt it was actually extra nice to play in an environment like that. Making up a show for a dark smokey club with a back up dancer lights and all that jazz.
Oh, so you already played live. Nice. How did it feel to you Maral to see the music you worked with them for such a long time finally on stage? What did you read in the faces of the audience?
Maral: The live show was glorious. I would describe it as a performance art concert. Liina and her Dancer created a lot of tension with the visuals and the expressive body performance which was a big part of the show.
Last question: when can we expect the album?
Liina: When we have finished releasing all singles and eps, made more videos and played more gigs, and found a storyline through our songs. Maybe next month, maybe next year.