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Thursday 10th, February 2005
Espen Gulbrandsen

Espen Gulbrandsen is best known these days as half of Recluse, that released some of the most consistent trance in 2004 (Isle Dauphine & Yellow Moon). What you will learn in this interview on the other hand, is that Espen has been an active producer since he turned 13. And now, almost 10 years later, he finally gets the recognition he has deserved for so long: a string of releases is planned -a number of singles, some EPs. Find out more about the mystic norwegian: who is the guy behind the beautiful music?

You started out years ago, with your project "fantasy", that got quite a bit of recognition on mp3.com, tell us a little bit about your start: what got you into dance music, and in what way do you think you have developed from that stage, to the way you produce today?

I'm glad you mention that, because it is what I regard as the foundation of where I stand today. I got into doing music on the computer at the age of 13, and when I was about 15-16, I put my current music (mostly super-melodic trance)on the website mp3.com, and through that I was able to earn some recognition. It was really through there that I met with the amazing Thomas Nøkling, the other half of Recluse. We talked about doing something together for years before it actually became reality. I'm still very much infatuated with the Recluse sound though on the side I've been having an affai with prog, if you will. Also,through Thomas I was introduced to two simply amazing people, Stian Klo (LikWit) and Lars Jacobsen (Elusive) - so that's when phase three started off.

What would you say was the defining moment when you went from bedroom productions, to a more professional and consistent sound?

I had done two remixes for a French singer, Ysa Ferrer in the past, and as they were happy with what I'd done for them, I was subsequently asked to do a third one of her next single 'Made in Japan' that was signed with Warner, France. At the same time, I was getting good feedback from a good friend of mine that I regard as being one of the very best in the industry; Øistein Eide, aka Boom Jinx. It was then that I felt that I was finally climbing to a higher level. A few months later, Thomas and I did a remix of Critical7 - Lost, for Lost Language. Since then, music production became an irreplacable part of my life. I'm still a bedroom producer, though. I don't pay rent, but I still have the nerve to charge for my music.

Tell us a bit about Recluse. How did that project start, and where will it end up? Any future releases?

Ehm.. I think some of that was covered already, but I should perhaps let everyone know that there are sketches written for a fourth single. It's been a bit quiet since Emotional Void (which still isn't out as I'm writing this), but I guess we can only blame the fact that both Thomas and I have been doing so much other stuff in the name of music...

Rumors say that you have started taking DJing more seriously. Any truth to those rumors?

I've tried it once or twice, and Lars said I was alright so I don't think I'll bother tryng again. I'm ready... -See? I'm still not taking it seriously. Rumours are false...

Among your friends you are known to be quite the wizard production wise, if you were to give any advice to upcoming producers, what would it be?

I know that people often say 'don't imitate, innovate', but I'm gonna say the exact opposite: imiate, imitate, imitate - then maybe innovate. People also say that rules are made to be broken, but the people who break them and succeed learned the rules first, THEN broke them. You need to learn how to crawl before you learn how to walk and all that... If you can master imitation, then your life as an innovator is most likely gonna be much easier. happy

You have so many upcoming releases coming out soon it's ridiculous: Vapour, Lost Language, Red Flag Collective, Deep Blue, Low Riders -just to name a few. Do you have any spare time at all, and would you say your life more or less consist purely of music right now?

I owe much to my co-workers. I don't currently have any original works done entirely by me. It takes up a lot of time since I end up sitting alone at night polishing and making sure stuff sounds good. But it would be very misleading to say that I don't do anything else. I'm a fulltime student, I go to the gym four times a week, I go jogging once a week, and I have a long-distance relationship. I'm all over the place wink

You are a strong believer of the "artist" and the freedom that expression brings with it. You are currently working on a jazz project as well. Tell us a bit about that!

If I had a wife and kids maybe I'd have a completely different view on this, but right now it's more important for me to have progress in my work than doing what sells the most records. If you're in this style of music, and you expect to become mighty wealthy doing it, you are either stupid, or your best friend's name is Eric Prydz.. I'll keep doing this until I don't feel that each new record has something that the previous didn't, anymore. The 'jazz project' is one I'm doing with a very talented songwriter and pianist, Tor Ingar Jakobsen; it is a mix of electronic and jazz elements. Versatility is very important.

Yes, that's all nice and dandy, but why Jazz? Jazz is quite different from electronic music in texture, so it would be interesting to know why jazz? Why not hip-hop or pop for that matter?

There are of course many types of jazz, as there are many types of EDM; but I like modal jazz like Miles Davis; I akso like soul, funk etc.. Some of the characteristics that these styles have in common with progressive house, the way I see it, are variation through repetition (featured in funk as well as house), doing much with very little (few chords, making the most out of it), and the great emphasis on a solid performance (a good pianist and a good producer can be equally admirable).

For pure trance fans, any chance of you producing trance in the future, perhaps with a different alias?

Yeah it could happen, I still drool when I listen to stuff by Paul Van Dyk, such as his Politics of Dancing, Out There and Back, and Vorsprung Dyk Technik. I've kinda wanted trance to take that kind of route. I wish people would stop making super-saw trance...

If you could pick out just one piece of equipment you wouldn't want to part with if your life depended on it, be it a microphone, a softsynth or whatever -what would it be?

I have to have Logic, because I can't use anything else. I've also grown used to listening on my Dynaudio monitors, but I think there are other good ones that I've used. Like I totally think the Alesis m1 Actives are brutal for what they cost. To quote the trance.nu geeks: 'They're the OMG's!' Logic is irreplacable, though. I've got one synth that I've kept for the last three years or more: a Novation Nova tabletop, but I reckon I would have sold it if someone would actually give me something for it.

Name the one piece of equipment that makes you drool and have wet dreams about at night -that you can't wait to have in your collection?

I could need a new controller keyboard, but it's mostly software that will give me an erection these days. Like Reaktor, I want to buy it, but I wish knowledge of how to use it properly would come with it... Also really looking into buying
a TC powercore with that Virus plugin. I used to own a Virus B rack...

If you had to describe your music using just 5 words, what would it be?

Melodic, progressive, trance progg united.

You are known to be quite the kick fanatic. You will sit and tweak kicks for hours. Would you say this is insanity, or just being very devoted to your work?

It's a cry for help!

Hehe! But wouldnt you say that the kick is the foundation for a good track, and often underrated production wise these days? And give us a few hints on who, in your opinion, does the best kicks?

Well let's not give the kick ALL the credit here... Surely, you need a good kick in a dance record because it carries so much of the dynamics! I like Mark Otten, Luke Chable and Dousk a lot - they all know the importance of a good kick
drum. On the other hand, you don't need an outstanding kick to make a good sounding record. But sadly, an outstanding record without a kick drum at all will sound less impressive... a rather awkward answer I'm afraid.

Who is your favorite producer, both EDM wise and otherwise?

I need to name more than one here: BT, Paul van Dyk and William Orbit have been my favourites for years now. Over the last couple of years as I've been in the EDM scene, these guys have caught my attention on several occasions: Michael Burns, Descent, Kasey Taylor & Chris Meehan, Andy Moor, Luke Chable, Chris Fortier AND Dousk. It's sad how many brilliant people I've left out... I happen
to think that within EDM you find some of the most amazing producers, so I'm only listing those happy

Any favorite DJs?

Lars and Stian are amazing. I've seen Mattthew Dekay twice and he's good. I also like Perry O'Neil - that's how you spell it.

You did a guest set recently for Ministry Of Sound, any more of those coming up?

Would love to do an Oslo Nights set! Got some new tracks and everything happy

Name 3 tracks you have produced that you are most happy with and name why?

In no particular order: 1. The forthcoming ep with Stian on Vapour: Dominating Male/Great Dame for it's consistency. Very happy with that one. 2. Shexy with Elusive. 3. Emotional Void by Recluse. I sing on that.

How do you see the future of EDM? Will trance die? And what about progressive? Do you think the soft synth generation will only bring good things
to the industry?

I want more PVD-ish trance and less ASOT trance. Soft synths are amazing man. I'm thinking of making a t-shirt that says 'fuck hands-on, I've got a mouse'. All the cool producers have gay t-shirts like that nowadays...

Yeah, but would you say that you use more soft synths now than before, or is it just that soft synths will allow more people to produce?

Yes to both. More people produce, they sound amazing, everyone is happy.

What do you feel is the most fun part of producing? Starting out with a blank sheet, during, or afterwards?

I love shopping to record labels. When you're proud of a piece of work and you're sending it around to your labels for their feedback. It can be a big disappointment, but if you have a good feeling in your gut, it's usually all good.

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