Artist Profile:
Erik Wøllo
by

Glenn Folkvord


Electronic Shadows presents an exclusive interview with Erik Wøllo, who has produced electronic music
for two decades in Norway, after having made his living as a touring jazz musician in the early 80s.


Electronic Shadows: What are your musical influences, and what is it about them that you like?

Erik Wøllo: I have always had a strong feeling for music and rhythm, as long as I can remember. I started to
listen more deeply to music when I was about 10-12 years old, when I also started to play the guitar. At that
time it was guitar oriented rock music, like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Pink Floyd, Yes and Focus. And of course lots of electronic music. Especially the early recordings by Jarre.


At high school I became interested in other types of music as well. I listened and played a lot of jazz / rock
music, like Mahavishnu Orchestra, Weather Report, and Return to Forever. And Miles Davis. All the time music
that had a rhythmic and melodic strenght, as well as a great sense of space like Soft Machine. And later I
studied modern classical music like John Cage. Where intellectual ideas are merged into new musical areas.


So, my influences are almost all music you can imagine. From pop, rock, jazz and classical. And a also a lot of
world music. It has been my idea, to check out different genres. Musicology is for me a very important subject.
Finding out what music is really about, in a historical and social aspect. I tend, however, to listen to music that
is very different and far away from my own. To learn and get inspiration. I have been a professional artist for
25 years now, and it is important to always get new fresh ideas and get inspired. Although I have a large
production of electronic music, I do not consider myself as an electronic composer only. I write music for any
kind of instruments. From large symphonic orchestra, string quartets, choir or just a single acoustic guitar.


Electronic Shadows: Do you have other influences in your music, beside other artists / music?

Erik Wøllo: I get a lot of inspiration from visual arts. Like photo and paintings. And experimental film. Like
Stalker (Tarkovsky) and Koyaanisqatsi (Reggio / Glass). Both of these two movies are from the eighties, and
they really had a strong impact on me, both filmatic and musically. Two of the most important films of our time.
I have always been interested in visual art. If I would have to choose another profession, I would certainly
choose to be a visual artist. I have very good eye and understanding for visual art, and I do a lot of music
together with diverse visual medias. Like film, art videos and stage performances.


Electronic Shadows: Do you have any specific composing technique?

Erik Wøllo: My composing technique depends on what kind of music I am going to make. What instruments I
am writing for. As a professional composer I have developed different techniques. Writing electronic music
needs a different technique than acoustic written music. I try not to use the same technique everytime, I am
trying to not repeat myself. Forcing myself to start from scratch everytime. For a long time I have collected a
huge sound library. So I have tons of small or large files on my computers. Simple sounds, or more complicated and complete elements I have made in various settings. Elements that can be used anywhere, or as
startingpoints for new compoisitons.


Electronic Shadows: Most music fans know you as a keyboard player or "synthesizer artist", but your are also
a guitarist.


Erik Wøllo: I started to play the guitar at age 11. Guitar is my main instrument and I have developed various
techniques through the years. For several years I rehearsed about 5-6 hours every day. And I still try to
rehearse every day. Gradually I wanted to work more with composition. And my music gradually took a new
and more electronic direction. In 1984, I bought my first guitar synthesizer, a GR 300. At that time I also
bougth my first keyboards. The classic Roland Juno 106, which I still use. And the Yamaha DX7, of course.
These instruments became very significant for my music at that time.

On my first albums I used guitar with MIDI, as my main controller. And I was not so interested in the regular
sounds from the guitar. You know, layering and using creative ideas to make entirly new sounds, has always
interested me. I also have worked a lot to develop a personal style on my acoustic guitars. I am mainly using
picks, but I also have worked with traditional classical guitar techniques. Incorporating acoustic instruments
into electronic soundscapes is a challenge. That is something I have been working on all the time.

There are a lot of well known virtous guitar players who tend to overuse their main instrument in their music.
Strangely, guitarists seems to have this problem more than other musicians. The music becomes overarranged with guitars. I am very aware of this problem. To always orchestrate in a way to best fit the composition.


Electronic Shadows: Tell us about your latest album, Blue Sky Red Guitars.

Erik Wøllo: Blue Sky Red Guitars is an all acoustic album based on various layers of guitars. Stylistic in the same genre as Guitar Nova (1987). But this time also with influences from my electronic albums, like Wind Journey
and Emotional Landscapes. This, my new album is actually very high-tech and a sofisticated studio album. It is
made in the same way that I would make an electronic album. But what you hear is acoustic soundscapes.
Electronic acoustic music! Using the guitars in a new way. And like on all my albums, I make a variation
between rhythmical / melodical tunes with free floating ambient pieces. It is like a day in life. Exploring different events, from active to more silent and not so active moments. And going in and out of different dream
conditions.


Electronic Shadows: On this album, you play two Kraftwerk pieces on guitar, tell us about your relationship to
Kraftwerk.


Erik Wøllo: I have for a long time studied the music of Kraftwerk. Not only the music, but also their artistical
concept. The man / society and the machine subject. I wanted to explore what happens to this music if it was
arranged for acoustic guitars. No one have ever done that before. What happens when you transfer a music
that is originally performed on machines, to acoustic guitars. Guitar is really the opposite kind of instrument,
with a very individualistic and subjective expression. I wanted to explore what is the surface and what is the
body of music. You know, it is all about arrangement. And instrumentation. The music of Kraftwerk is so well
done and calculated. And their way of composing is actually not so far from mine. I guess that is why I am so
attracted by them. And good music is good music. Generally it seems that a lot of music listeners tend to be
too locked up in one particular music style. I would hope for a change in this. Life is too short to only eat
potatoes!


Electronic Shadows: Would you be happy to be labelled "the Norwegian Mike Oldfield" because of your guitar/
synth combinations?

Erik Wøllo: Well, not really. His first album Tubular Bells is really important, and it inspired me a lot when it was released. I still listen to it. But he has also done some not so good albums. My music is "wollomusic", music
that if you listen close enough, has my certain personality. Music that only I myself could make.

Electronic Shadows: Your first album came out in 1983, how has your composing and playing developed over 2 decades?

Erik Wøllo: The music for my first album Where it all begins was made during high school when I was only
about 18-19 years old. At that time I was very jazz influenced. My compositions then were more based on
chord progressions and improvisation. In the early 80s I made a living playing in bands, touring around
Norway. I played a lot of jazz and jazz / rock. From 1985 I quit all the bands and started to build my own
studio. My music became more electronic and minimalistic. Like on my albums Traces or Silver Beach. Music that is based on modal scales and repeated rhythmic patterns. These ideas I have continued to develop ever since.
I guess I am trying to make the same tune all over again and again. But with different instrumentations. And I
feel it is also a matter of how abstract or concrete I want to be. The music on most of my albums is actually
very concrete. I have made a lot of very abstract and complicated soundscapes that are not yet released.

Electronic Shadows: You have produced albums for several other artists; how do you define the role of the
producer?

Erik Wøllo: A producer's role is to get to know the artist very well and try to give birth to his musical ideas. To
helping define the artists personality in his music. I did a couple of good projects some years ago, like Eyeman
Reel and Current. Also an African electronic CD with Kouame Gerhard Sereba, which is probably the best album I have produced so far. I have not done this for several years, simply because I have not got any interesting
projects. I get tapes sent to me all the time. But it seems that a lot of people just do music for fun! Electronic
music is very easy to make on an amateurish level. This is the main problem for this music today. I want to
work with artist who can go some steps further. Do it or die!


Electronic Shadows: You are included on the Michael Garrison tribute CD, what was your relationship to him?

Erik Wøllo: I heard some of his music on a tape copy of a radio programme that was sent to me from USA
several years ago. Since then I have checked out most of his albums. Although very Jarre influenced, his music has an unique personality. When I listen to other artists, that’s what I am looking for. Personality. And
Garrison was a true pioneer, also in the way he distributed his music. My piece for this tribute compilation is a
new tune written especially for this. A rhythmic and ambient composition called The Flight. As a metaphor for
life.


Electronic Shadows: How do you feel about the concert / live situation?

Erik Wøllo: I am working on a new solo concert set up. There are plans for a tour in USA next year. I like to
play for an audience. I did this a lot in the beginnig of my professional career in the eighties. The last years I
have visited USA and Canada once a year touring, playing for a dedicated audience. The music I play live is
much more improvised, and I have specific material written for stage. Here in Norway I have actually also
played live lately. Playing guitar / electronics together with two dancers. Doing about 15-20 performances on
museums and art gallerys. Like the Edvard Munch museum and Musem of Modern Art in Oslo.


Electronic Shadows: Why did you record an album under the alias Exile?

Erik Wøllo: I had some material that was very different from everything else I had made up to then (1997). I
wanted to release it under a new name, a pseudonym. You know authors do this all the time, why should not
musicians do it? Exile is an album in a more techno / ambient style. Or something you would today probably call electronica. Origo Sound heard the material and wanted to release it. This music has later been used all over,
as backgrounds on TV and such.


Electronic Shadows: You decided to not release your two latest albums in Norway, where you are from and
live. Why not?

Erik Wøllo: Well that is obvious. There are no serious record stores left here! The small market here has
become more and more commercial, and the music journalists seems to really have contributed to this. For a
long time I was at BMG in Norway, but I cancelled the contract. I did this also as a statement. I do not want to be part of this side of the music industry.Norway is a small and very special country, and my career would
probably be even better if I moved and lived abroad. I have fans from all over the world, but strangely not so
many from my own country. And Norway do not have any good traditions of taking care of art and artists. But I live a good life her, and I have plenty of work as a composer.

More and more serious artists find better and alternative ways of distributing their music. The internet
revolution is a real gift from the gods. And for this kind of music it is a blessing. The future looks bright.

Electronic Shadows: How is your studio set up today?

Erik Wøllo: I have two rooms in my basement where I have my main Studio Wintergarden. An all digital studio
with 3 different PCs in a netwerk and a mixer. With about 25-30 different hardware synths. And some very
high-end processing tools in racks. The studio will be rebuilt next year. And then there is my mobile unit. A
powerful laptop and a little keyboard / interface. And a couple of microphones. That’s all I need. When I am not travelling, this set up is in a room in the first floor of my house, together with all my guitars.

Electronic Shadows: Do you enjoy software synthesizers and what do you think about the current softsynth
revolution?

Erik Wøllo: Actually I am not using my main studio that much anymore, except for mixing. For the past 2-3
years I have mainly worked on my laptop! All my music has been made on my mobile unit, where I have
installed all the latest softsynths and plug-ins. I have been very active updating myself on the software
revolution. For me it has been fantastic, and it has really inspired me a lot. And the software keeps getting
better and better. But there are a lot of problems and things to consider and be aware of. Producing music out of one box only, is challenging. So, there are still no easy solutions.


Electronic Shadows: What do you do when you are not playing or listening to music?

Erik Wøllo: I take a lot of photos, and I always bring with me a digital camera. Working with visual ideas. I
used to paint, but now I just take photos. In the winter I go skiing and in the summer I like to walk in the
mountains. I grew up with a lot of outdoor life. When I was a kid, one of my big interests was birdwatching. I
am still very interested in ornithology. I also love my car. I tend to spend a lot of time polishing my Mercedes!


Electronic Shadows: What is your favourite food, and colour?

Erik Wøllo: Mexican or japanese food. Or traditional food from my home village in Hemsedal! My favourite colour would be cobolt blue. Or deep wine red.


Electronic Shadows thanks Erik Wøllo for the interview.




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