Members: Jeppe Kjellberg (guitar), Tomas Barfod (drums), Tomas Høffding (vocals, bass)
Interviewee: Jeppe Kjellberg
Occupation: Songwriters, performers, producers
Current release: Whomadewho's "Mermaids" is the first single off their next studio album slated for 2022. "Mermaids" is out now on Embassy One.
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Where does the impulse to create something come from for you? What role do often-quoted sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships, politics etc play?
In terms of making a track, we often try start with an architectural approach.Try to make a specific type of beat, with very concrete references that we listen to. Then we basically try to imitate elements of the reference track and fail. Ending up making something completely different. But thats the key! To get the creative proces started and to dive in to our personal whomadewho area.
Afterwards when composing a vocal, I personally love diving in to the subconscious. Its very interesting to just put on the track while the microphone is turned on and start singing. Singing whatever comes to mind. Fragments of words, and melodies. From 2 or 3 of those openminded sessions i can normally dig out a nice melody and also some words that sounds good have an emotional impact and connects to the track. Thereafter we have a fundament, and start creating the narrative from that. Unless off course Tomas Høffding made something even better, or we decide to keep it instrumental. (laughs)
"Oblivion" – a track that went through a process from me testing new plug-ins on my computer, creating some nice chords and a mumbling melody, then forwarding it to Tomas Barfod who made it more structured and finished. The lyrics where very unfinished, but with the phrase “I can remember” in there as a a key part, it was easy to create the lyrics combining personal memories from lovelife and childhood, with my own fear of ending up like my grand-dad with dementia, not able to remember anything. Easy. Afterwards Mano Le Tough managed to lift the production and lyrics to another level.
For you to get started, do there need to be concrete ideas – or what some have called a 'visualisation' of the finished work? What does the balance between planning and chance look like for you?
We like to be very focused about being playful and we like taking chances in the creative phase. We have over the the years learned to be serious about not being to serious. Its a paradox, but it has helped us a lot during the years.
We started out the first years of the band by being extremely laissez-faire about everything, and we had a lot of fun. Got to travel the world and experienced a lot of success from that, being one of the first “live-bands” to start playing in the clubs. We where at that time missing out on a lot of things because we just wanted to travel, play and party.
Then at some point we decided to become more professional and focused. That was an interesting experiment. We focused more on deeper songwriting with more developed lyrics. Making the production cleaner and more tight and thought through. Getting a bigger crew and tour-busses etc. while musically crossing over to the indie-scene. Playing more regular pop/rock shows, q´with a very structured set etc ... It was fun for a while, but I guess we felt too much responsibility and pressure being in that position somehow. Also it ended up being to stiff for us in a way, and we got a little stressed about it all. Therefore we decided to change our ways again.
Especially after playing a specific US-tour in 2017, we followed up our live-set with some freer and openminded DJ-sets. The crowd really enjoyed us jamming on the DJ-set, and we felt a strong internal excitement about this more fresh and openminded concept. Playing Burning Man on The Mayan Warrior artCar in 2018, was the epiphany. Being more experimental and trippy, while at the same time keeping the dance elements underneath.
That show at Burning Man was not in any way planned it just happened along the way. Like many good creative things.
Is there a preparation phase for your process? Do you require your tools to be laid out in a particular way, for example, do you need to do 'research' or create 'early versions'?
We try to make as many songs as possible in the beginning of the recording process. No filter, just composing tracks and top-lines all the time. Then after some months we stop up and do status. Discussing what to trash and what to keep. Then we open up for the next round of song-writing. We're repeating this process many times during the making of an album. In round two we might also want to work further on the “keepers”. Its a Darwinistic race somehow. Survival of the strongest songs.
"Tell Me Are We" – This track was a nice instrumental that we made, but couldn’t find a melody for. Then we sent it to Rampa, along with top lines for a lot of different other songs, and he magically finished the track with a vocal from a different instrumental. Classic WhoMadeWho, random magic.
Do you have certain rituals to get you into the right mindset for creating? What role do certain foods or stimulants like coffee, lighting, scents, exercise or reading poetry play?
We all like to start early in the studio with a coffee for starting up the energy. We all do 16 hour fasting and work out 4-5 times a week with different intensity. I Personally like reading danish poetry at the moment for my own inspiration. Almost every morning my father will also send me a quote from either poetry, hymns, or cartoons. I love the words.
What do you start with? How difficult is that first line of text, the first note?
We often start up discussing what we want to do this day. Like what type of track we want to do. A classic start is beginning with a beat from Tomas B, then we add the chords synth basses and guitars ending up with an instrumental that we can do vocals for in each our studio. Tomas H sometimes also bring a composition to the “bunker”, and then TB will deconstruct it.
Once you've started, how does the work gradually emerge?
Its an ongoing process. Some songs are done in 20 minutes others can take years to finish.
"Closer" – This is a co-op with Artbat. They asked us for an intimate emotional vocal for their instrumental. Once the melody was made, the song was done intuitively without hesitation. I love when music evolves effortlessly like that.
Many writers have claimed that as soon as they enter into the process, certain aspects of the narrative are out of their hands. Do you like to keep strict control over the process or is there a sense of following things where they lead you?
The songs often have their own life. If you have a present experience in mind or something concrete to write about (without making it too obvious), that vision/thought can somehow also lead you through the song-writing and drive the narrative.
The process is different for every track. Sometime the narrative takes control randomly, other times its the opposite. We push through with a clear vision / idea.
Often, while writing, new ideas and alternative roads will open themselves up, pulling and pushing the creator in a different direction. Does this happen to you, too, and how do you deal with it? What do you do with these ideas?
It happens all the time that alternative roads occur. Since we are a trio with 3 strong personalities we push each other on a daily basis. It's very normal. Sometime for instance a person can bring a song to the table, feeling really good about it, while the two other bandmates might just accept a small element and turn it into a completely different track. These changes of direction are the beauty and sometimes also the curse of playing in a three-piece band with a flat hierarchy.
There are many descriptions of the creative state. How would you describe it for you personally? Is there an element of spirituality to what you do?
I do have a humble awareness of our connections to the universe. Call it superstition, or what you like. I just really like if the numbers are right … I also want to believe that all the random things we experience have a deeper meaning, and that we all need to open ourselves to the gifts we are given.
Especially in the digital age, the writing and production process tends towards the infinite. What marks the end of the process? How do you finish a work?
"Abu Simbel" – This track we where very happy about, but didn’t really feel the vocals on. One day before the deadline Rampa kept pushing us to the very last second to make it stronger. Then out of nowhere Tomas Høffding came up with this amazing melody. If we hadn´t had that deadline, I'm not sure that it would have happened.
I think a deadline is essential. Like that the musics becomes a sign of the moment where its done. We all change all the time and so do our ideals, and aesthetics also change with time. So if we didn’t have deadlines, I'm afraid that our songs would just pile up and never be finished properly.
Once a piece is finished, how important is it for you to let it lie and evaluate it later on? What's your take on the role and importance of production, including mixing and mastering for you personally? How involved do you get in this?
It a very important matter I know. But I am not really getting in it. I am deeply involved in the construction of the music. The notes, the rhythms, the lyrics etc. I am so privileged that our drummer Tomas Barfod is an amazing producer / mixer and in conjunction with external Mix/Master colleagues I feel that I am in the best hands. On this album we are working closely with Rampa from Germany, and he is also very inspirational to work with in this matter.
After finishing a piece or album and releasing something into the world, there can be a sense of emptiness. Can you relate to this – and how do you return to the state of creativity after experiencing it?
After the dead-line there are definitely mixed feelings. A sense of relief on the one hand, and on the other hand that deep sense of emptiness. I think it's very normal for songwriters to feel that post deadline blues, still it gets me down every time …
I guess we need to do something else after such a deadline. Normally this will be touring the world and meeting new people. That helps a lot, and sparks the creativity back in the body. Time off is definitely needed after such a musical marathon.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you personally feel as though writing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
I don't think writing music is different from any other job. I deeply respect people who put effort and focus into their job. Any job. Being a barista takes super skills. Awesome. Someone taking out all of our garbage with a smile on the face. Super awesome. Teachers taking care of all the unbehaving children for a lousy pay check. And so on.
I think we are all obligated to put ourselves to optimum use. We need to feel a fundamental sense of happiness and purpose in life. And like that we are all connected. Unfortunately I don't have so many skills in life apart from music, which is my element. I like to express emotions through the music. Big beautiful emotions. In my daily life at home or in the studio I am more in contact with the raw versions.
It's way easier in poetry than real life.