Name: Uffe Christensen
Current release: Uffe's Words and Endings is out on On the Corner. While you can already stream the album, the physical edition will be released on October 8th.
John Holten – The Readymades
Chris Kraus – Where art belongs
Lukid – Onandon
Don Cherry – Tibet
African Head Charge – My life in the whole in the ground
If you enjoyed this interview with Uffe and would like to find our more about his work, visit him on Instagram, Soundcloud, and Facebook.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I was a nerdy kid in a preppy private school. No one shared my early interest for electronic music so I would spend a lot of time alone until I started skateboarding at like 13. But that's irrelevant.
I heard Kraftwerk's Die Mensch Machine at perhaps 9 or 10 and that immediately did something to me. I would spend so much time at the local music library which was amazing and this formed the beginnings for how I’d approach digging for new music. I’d go to the electronic music section pretty much with my eyes closed and pick out the maximum. From DJ Shadow to Alva Noto and Jan Jelinek – you name it. I'd listen and when I went back to return the CDs I’d recognise names, labels and the release dates.
My foundation is rooted in that, but also my older cousin was a hiphop DJ so he taught me the basics of turntablism and hiphop. Besides, this was soon to be the golden era of Danish electronica and folktronica. So that's the starting point and I still consider myself hiphop deep inside but there's so much.
I don't know if it comes across in my records but it’s about blending things for me. In 2006 me and my rock ’n jock teenage friends were in London for a trip. Dubstep records were coming out proper, so I bought everything without really knowing what it was or the history of it. I just heard on the radio that a new thing was emerging from SE London called dubstep. Burial had just come out and it was a game changer.
So now almost two decades later I find myself returning to that aesthetic. But I consider that my “rave genre and culture”. Sub bass and half tempos are back – at least for now.
For most artists, originality is preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you: How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
I gave up on originality a long time ago – I've worked the same way for 10 years (technically) and I'm comfortable and confident in that process. That's all I can say, honestly.
When other people say, “no one sounds like you”, that is a huge compliment but that's the closest I get to my own voice I suppose.
How do you feel your sense of identity influences your creativity?
It happens from time to time. These days I'm more of an alchemist than an activist. But it’s like a creative process when you make music. My surroundings, both personally and musically, influence me too much and usually nothing gets finished. It's weed and long studio jams. I like to get finished. Usually these jams sound great but never see the light of day. And constant critiques while working can set the tempo and ideas down a notch.
It's a difficult question because here in Copenhagen, I’m a persona non grata – not because of the music I make, but my outspoken personality.
What were your main creative challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
Well to start learning how this shit works and then keeping adding to that knowledge will reward you at some point. I think I've done that without ever thinking about it. I overthink everything but try not to do it with the sound coming out of the speakers.
As creative goals and technical abilities change, so does the need for different tools of expression, be it instruments, software tools or recording equipment. Can you describe this path for you, starting from your first studio/first instrument? What motivated some of the choices you made in terms of instruments/tools/equipment over the years?
eJay, Reason, Logic, Native Instrument’s Battery 3 and my sampler. This has been it, pretty much from the start and is the foundation of all I do. I borrow equipment from time to time from friends, but I'm – don't get me wrong – too lazy to learn how to master them and with cables.
Have there been technologies or instruments which have profoundly changed or even questioned the way you make music?
Logic 9, my Roland Boss dr. Sample 303 (and 404). My 1210s.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
For me there are two ways of this way of working – you can sit together and make music which for me usually ends as a mistake and a waste of time.
What works for me is that you hire people you like and admire and let them do their thing. And you don't fuck with it. Because they will inevitably do a better job than I will ever be able to do.
I might do some editing but never without a mutual creative’s agreeable consent.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
Well it's pretty neurotic but when you manage your own time structure is important.
Get up between 5 – 6am with coffee, a cigarette, a snack, meds, shower etc.
Go for a morning walk for about an hour (I need to leave the house to come back “to work.”). I’m incredibly productive in the morning hours. I used to be able to work all night but I can't do that anymore – I'm too old. Until lunch, cigarette coffee, another walk.
Come back and listen to what is there or read what is there, maybe some emails. And just work until I collapse, which for most people is really early. Works for me.
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
Not really. The reason I keep making music that no one listens to is that it's just what I do.
Breakthrough work might be the music I’ve created with Julie Pavon - she features on Words and Endings on two tracks. We’re also working together on her upcoming album and EP. We are in complete synch artistically and our neurotic idiosyncrasies are like ying and yang. She hired herself and is now my boss. How's that for irony?
Btw, she wasn't just brought on as a collaborator to do her own thing - we’re best friends now.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
Oh a ton of distractions. I'm trying to embrace them and feed them more and more into how I work – like obstructions.
I've never had a strict way of working – I don't even have a studio anymore. I can go to it out of randomness, boredom, inspiration. But never emotion – I can't feel sad and then turn it into a song. It's a blessing and a curse.
Sometimes my work ethic is complete rubbish, sometimes I won't get much sleep for days, sometimes it's really structured. I envy people who go to the studio and do nine to five and leave, but my life has never been structured, so I have always just sat and looked at all the gear that I don't know how to work anyway.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
I turn it off.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
This has been on my mind for the last two years. And I have to think about it both as a sample-based artist but also as a DJ and it's driving me insane that I think about it so much. When is it homage when is it stealing?
My PR homegirl Aimee came up with 'cultural appreciation'. Not as a defence mechanism, but I could potentially be DJ'ing a track from somewhere in Africa, and no one [on the dancefloor] will have the slightest idea of what they are singing – is that my responsibility or is it good music?
The beauty of the dance floor is that it welcomes all genders, all political agendas and brings it together in unity. It's just a matter of time before I'll be shot down for claiming such a thing.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?
When music becomes physical. I'm not 16 anymore.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
Not really – I'd rather make trouble on the street than with art. As I might have mentioned – I didn't chose to do this, I just fell into it, really. Music is what came through first by mistake and it stuck.
It’s the backbone of my art, and the visual art, graphic design and other creative outlets have become second hand.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
Well, we sing lullabiesd to small children. People in caskets have no clue.