Digital 21 (a.k.a. veteran electronic producer Miguel López Mora) and Placebo bassist/guitarist Stefan Olsdal teamed up and started making music remotely from their home bases of Berlin and London. The result is their triumphant debut album, Inside, featuring a cadre of guest vocalists from all over the world, including Cuushe (Japan), Margrét Rán from Vök (Iceland), Helen Feng from Nova Heart (China), and Julienne Dessagne (France/Germany).
The cinematic album boasts the techy romp “Who Are All Of You” featuring Dessagne, who is one half of genre-bending Saschienne with Sascha Funke. It’s driven by a sinister synth-driven grooves and Dessagne’s enigmatic voice.
Ahead of Inside‘s release on October 20, we wanted to know more about their project. Instead of asking them questions, we turned the tables and asked them to interview each other.
Read on to be a fly on the wall for their chat about music, inspiration and their captivating debut album.
Digital 21 interviews Stefan Olsdal
Name three songs of our album that touch you and why.
Stefan Olsdal: “War”: I think we fused the string quartet with electronica perfectly on this one. The ferocity of the synths and the tension in the strings convey the title well, and the opening chords get me every time!
“Spaces: Margret Ran brought this piece of music alive with her heart wrenching vocals. The instrumental was one of the first we wrote and evolved into something majestic.
“Symmetry”: I’m a sucker for a pop song, and this is the one from this album for me.
Which are your favorite places on earth?
Right now it’s my home in London. I’ve been on the road for a long time and I’m feeling a little vulnerable at the moment. I need my comforts! My apartment is my safe haven from the chaotic and uncontrollable world outside.
Adorable. Soothing yet cutting vocals on “Symmetry.”
Fiery. Crushing vocal delivery on “Who Are All Of You.”
Soulful. Contemplative and experimental vocals on “Human.”
And last but not least, Margrét Rán?
A natural. An singing Icelandic force of nature on “Spaces.”
Your favorite instrument?
Right now it’s my Martin Tenor acoustic guitar from 1946. Four strings and short neck, and tuned like a cello.
My lifetime sparring partner.
Stefan Olsdal interviews Digital 21
The album is called Inside. What’s inside your head right now?
Digital 21: Right now I’m working on the “Toi et Moi” video clip. So “Toi et Moi” in my mind nonstop. After finishing a video, I hear the song in any sound of the “real” life … in the wind or in the sea. And I see the images everywhere.
What would you take to a desert island: A Moog synth or a string quartet?
Both! But if I have to choose, then string quartet for many reasons.
I can hear the album work in a club as well as a seated theatre. Was this the intention?
The main thing is to make our music and our sound. We can enjoy the beauty of a silence in a quiet song and the beauty of a scream in a club song, playing on a big stage. You know I prefer small places, but I always fly playing music. So big places are okay to me as well.
What qualities of voice did you look for in female singers?
I love voices with texture. Voices that can touch you from the insides. But the main thing is always the song.
After touring with Placebo around Europe, where do you want to perform this album live most in the world?
The place of the next gig. Anyplace. I only stop my mind when I play music live. So that is very important to me.
The artwork that you did for the cover reminds me of an August Strindberg painting of the sea. Are you an alchemist like him?
No. I don’t have time for anything else!
“War” is a powerful title. What are two of the most powerful songs on the album for you?
I have to say three at least, or I will feel bad about it. “Spaces,” “Toi et Moi” and “War” (all their versions, so they are seven songs actually). Sorry I cannot choose only two.
The only thing can save me.
Image by Eli Martin. Live image by Javier Alonso & Marina Sanz.