Just last month saw the release of Anders Knudsen’s sophomore album, Cloudwalker. We caught up with the man himself, along with music producer Robbie Moore (Florence + The Machine, The Mores), to get the inside story on his latest release.
“I first met Robbie when we did some recording with The Delanies around Brick Lane,” tells Knudsen, speaking of his former band, which he fronted 2005 to 2010. “May have been love at first sight. Maybe I’m wrong,” he jokes, although they clearly have a lot of time for each other, having worked together for a few years before the scene began to disperse, “I think perhaps the magic London times started moving elsewhere, everyone was leaving as it started getting more expensive and I fell out of touch with him for five years or so,” adds Moore, who now resides in Berlin.
The pair reunited when Moore was passing through Copenhagen in 2013. Knudsen was keen to work with him on his solo debut, Perils, but as he still owed him a little money from the last Delanies recordings, was embarrassed to ask, “That’s pretty typical of Anders actually, he is one of the most honest and genuine guys I’ve ever met – he really cares about people.
“So I met him on a street corner on a beautiful late summer afternoon in Copenhagen, he handed me an envelope of money and then took my wife and I on a madcap adventure around the city, through Christiania, we had one of the best nights ever. So many stories to remember together. I felt like he had been through some hard times since I had last seen him – London can be terribly cruel to artistic types – and recording a new album [Perils] would be a way of making peace with himself.”
The first album was recorded pretty quickly, “There was no time for him to agonise over any of it, we just had to hold our breath and jump in head first,” tells Moore. “The process wasn’t without its dramas, and I think it was probably a bit terrifying for him at times, but we got there! I think as a piece of art, it’s a perfect snapshot of an artist moving between big emotional states. I think any artist will relate to that. There are often big dark times to deal with, and when you finally start moving out of them, it can feel like a reinvention of yourself, you are suddenly inhabiting a new flavour of wisdom… maybe like a snake shedding its skin. That’s how I see Perils.
“Cloudwalker was different, although we basically followed a similar method. On both albums we started by doing two days with a drummer, Anders on guitar, me on bass/piano working as quickly as possible to get the basic tracks down and to keep the atmosphere exciting, then intense overdubbing until it’s done. But Cloudwalker felt like Anders had a real plan for the overall concept… plus I now had a bigger studio [B.S.A.M.O.G], which meant we could be a little more adventurous. And have a bit more fun.
“He was obviously a lot more confident about Cloudwalker than Perils… the bar was set a little higher, which meant we were aiming to make something a little more exotic than we had previously.”
“I was in a much better state of mind this time. Knew what I wanted from the start,” adds Knudsen. “We experimented quite a lot. Robbie got to play so many different instruments. I am really happy with the result. Everything from production to artwork. Wouldn’t change a thing.”
Of course the bigger studio helped, “It made a huge difference, environment is everything, but also with Cloudwalker I felt I was way more focused and confident, than when we did Perils. Robbie and his new studio is a great combination. The vibe in there is amazing. You can tell it from the second you walk in through the door. It is very inspiring surroundings to be in, a bit like Gold Star Studios. Also, he built it himself. He’s a good craftsman. Not only with pop music.”
“The best thing about working with Anders is that he completely trusts me to help realise his vision, we work really well together,” says Moore. “I love working fast, I’m used to quickly switching between instruments, letting things appear cerebrally, letting things change without being too attached to them, until it starts to take shape. It’s a challenge for me to pull that off, but I always feel that Anders will let me try things out, and that he has confidence that I will come up with something he likes. He also always had great internal references too, he is a walking music encyclopaedia and always has a super clear sound in mind for each track. A lot of people I work with aren’t really so sure of what they want beforehand, and it’s exciting when I feel I am getting close to helping make it exist.
“I really enjoyed ‘Monkey On My Back’. Shaun Nunutzi from TAU had left his sitar in my studio, and it was fun trying to get a convincing sitar solo down… also ‘Dark Age’, I believe… I think on the last day we were trying to get the vocals down, but realised after a while that it worked way better in a different key than we had recorded it in. We had tracked drums, guitar and bass together in my big room, so there was a bit of bleed between the microphones, mainly some guitar on the drum tracks. Usually I would just re-record the guitars and pianos in the new key on top of the original drums, but the amount of mic bleed made this impossible. So with only a couple of hours to go, we decided to re-record from scratch, with me on drums this time. It ended up having a really cool vibe, I think better than what we had beforehand. It’s often like that with recording. People get pretty hung up on ‘perfection’ but often it’s the imperfections that make the most interesting recordings.”
”I prefer to listen to the album as a whole,” adds Knudsen. ”A nice little 37:20 minutes journey through my own weary mind.
”There were many highlights during those sessions, but watching Saving Mr. Banks, with Robbie and his son Vincent, definitely stands out. It was the night before sessions started and I had only just arrived in Berlin. We got to the scene where The Sherman Brothers sit by the piano, trying to persuade P. L. Travers into letting Walt Disney adapt her Mary Poppins stories onto the big screen. Robbie got completely taken away by how good a song ‘Let’s Go Fly a Kite’ is. Next thing I know, he is running around the room for half an hour – guitar in hand – trying to figure out the chords, while singing loudly and passionately, in that beautiful voice of his. I was instantly reminded why he’s my favourite person to work with, and also that he has an excellent taste in music. That kinda set the scene for the album. Whenever I hear that song now, I picture him dancing around in his socks. So yeah, obviously I listen to it quite often.”
On that note, check out the album in full, along with Knudsen’s breakdown on each track…
“I had a very clear picture of how I wanted this to be. A apocalyptic, prog/psychedelic, eight minute long journey through the darkness of the mind. Robbie suggested that we changed rhythm in the choruses, and everything just came together from there. He also did a great job in the outro, with the organ, making it an almost holy experience. It felt as if higher powers we’re watching over us.”
’Monkey On My Back’
“Monkey was the foundation from which the album grew, and I had really high hopes for it. Thankfully it turned out exactly the way I wanted. It’s a song about facing old demons, turning wayward winds of the past, forwards into the dawn.”
“Originally the working title of the album, and by far the toughest track to record. It was almost left off the album. I think we recorded it three times. Kept changing the key and tempo. It’s actually Robbie playing drums on the final version, as we decided to re-record it (again) just hours before deadline.”
’Motion Picture Paradise’
“People, who like me, tends to glamorise the past, often lose touch with reality, and the present suddenly has a lot to live up to. For better or worse, this song romances cinematic love, where everything is perfect and dreams, “DO come true”. It’s all sung a bit tongue-in-cheek, and naturally, we wanted a John Barry vibe on this one, hence the strings.”
’I’ve Been A Naughty Boy’
“I’ve always found the word ‘naughty’ every amusing and thought it would be fun to use it in a song. I don’t know exactly where it came from. I think lyrically I might owe a bit of credit to songs like ‘Bad Boy’ by Marty Wilde, or ‘I’ve Been A Bad, Bad Boy’ by Paul Jones. Also, you can clearly sense my love of The Kinks in this. I think it’s a sort of rebellion against authority and strict rules, and to some extent mourns the loss of childhood innocence.”
’Saturday Night/Monday Morning’
“Probably the oldest track on the album, even pre-dating [debut album] Perils from 2013. It’s a melody I’ve had lying around for years, until I finally finished it shortly before sessions for Cloudwalker began. The lyrics describe the comedown after a three-day bender, or something, when you’re trying to pick yourself up, slowly coming back to life. The lyrics originally contained the words, ”Shine on”, but Robbie found it almost unbearablely corny. He was right. So we changed it.”
“About the rise and fall of an intoxicated man, whose passions for life almost ended up destroying him. Robbie plays honky-tonk piano and banjo, and you kinda get the feeling that we’re playing live in a barn somewhere in Pigeon Force. Which unfortunately, we are not. I would love to play this live on The Grand Ole Opry show – weekly country-music stage concert in Nashville, Tennessee – someday. As a duet with Robbie of course. As Bob & Andy.”
’Come Back To Me, Melody’
“When you’re young, strokes of love can be so strong and powerful, that they’ll haunt you forever in adult life. It’s a call out to an old friend, lover, or feeling, from the past, and follows a bit in the same vein as, ’Motion Picture Paradise’. Some sort of plea for the magic and simplicity of youthful love to return to you in adulthood, in all it’s euphoric, naivety and glory. Sometimes, of course, you should be careful what you wish for.”
Cloudwalker is out now via AKR/DiGiDi.
Want more? Check out the Behind the Scenes photos in our Video Premiere.
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