Behind the name Carbon Based Lifeforms aka CBL stand the two Swedish musicians Johannes Hedberg and Daniel Segerstad, their body of work spanning five albums and an original soundtrack for the movie Refuge. In the early summer I met with half of the duo, Johannes, for a gig on a small piece of land north of Copenhagen, Denmark. It was his second time there. Last time he was accompanied by his band-mate Danel who unfortunately could not be there this day. We talked for a bit, about the place we were at, the energy there, and what we had going on. Since then we’ve been emailing back and forth and the result is a series of questions and answers.
In case some of the readers have not heard of you or your music before, please introduce yourselves.
Tell us your musical story. Where did you start and how did you end up where you are today?
We got introduced to music making by Mikael Lindquist (aka: Tony Montana, Oxygenial, Digidroids etc.).He made music on his Amiga using a very basic audio sequencer named Fasttracker. So we joined forces with him forming the tracker group “Bassment Studios”. After a few years of tracking we moved on to MIDI and sequencers and formed a group called Notch.
With Notch we explored most of the genres of electronic dance music. We had quite a big impact on various sites around the web and despite various discussions with a lot of different labels we only released a remix of Mourning After’s – “What would you think” (Swedish synthpop, released on pulsewave records)
We really fell in love with the ambient genre after Johannes sister randomly had picked up a copy of Solar Quests “Orgship” (still one of our absolute favorite ambient records). After listening to that record for a few months we felt we needed to make something similar. So we made a few chilled out tracks under the moniker Notch but we soon realized that we would like to make more, which lead to the forming of Carbon Based Lifeforms, focusing only on drones, chill-out and ambient. We got signed to Ultimae and things kind of took off from there.
This may or may not be an obvious question, but what’s your favourite synthesizer?
There are so many beautiful machines out there, but if we have to pick just one, it would probably have to be Rolands TB-303.
The TB-303 is arguably one of the most popular and recognizable instruments in electronic music ever. It has been used by tons of leading musicians and even laid the foundations for a whole genre, acid house. The specific ‘acid’ sound still has a cult following to this day. In your own words, what is it about this machine that makes it so special?
Despite being such a simple instrument it’s extremely versatile, as it can be very aggressive when distorted and at the same time fluffy and bubbly when treated nicely. The super organic but still machine-like sound combined with its quirky sequencer makes this machine unique.
Our music aim is to combine nature and technology so it fits right in for us.
You’ve been in the game for many years now. What keeps you going? What’s your motivation?
The motivation comes and goes, but the feeling when a track comes together is kind of hard to beat, also playing live when the audience is really with you all the way makes a huge impression as well and is a huge source of energy for us.
When you’re not in the studio, what do you like doing? How do you spend your time?
Hanging out with family and friends, watching movies, playing video games and we spend quite a lot of time at the pub :)
And what about when you are in the studio? Do you have any specific rituals?
No specific rituals, it’s more about tinkering with the machines and seeing what happens.
How do your tracks come to life? What processes do they go through in the making?
If the tinkering is fruitful we get an embryo for a track and kind of work on the embryo until it’s a complete track. This process usually takes us quite a lot of time.
When it comes to the production Johannes likes to get lost in a lot of details on sounds and Daniel is usually the one to get things rolling again. Except when it comes to drums and percussions, then the roles are pretty much reversed :)
Festival season is just around the corner now. Are there any shows you’re especially excited for this season?
We’re actually writing this at boom, we’re playing the Sacred Fire stage tonight. All the gigs we’ve done this summer has been really great. But playing together with Magnus a.k.a Solar Fields (as T.S.R) at Ozora was probably a highlight though.
Do you prefer big festivals or smaller intimate settings or club performances?
Generally there is more energy when playing the larger festivals, but it’s not as intimate as playing smaller venues.
What’s the strangest gig you ever played?
That would probably be when Daniel was left at the airport in Moscow by some festival organisers, the festival had been cancelled but they did not bother to tell anyone. Luckily Ultimae had a contact in Moscow, Andriy at Psyway, and he came to the rescue and brought Daniel to another party deep in the russian forests. The people there were really kind and managed to pool together for a tent and a sleeping bag, so Daniel played that party instead and it turned out to be a really nice show.
The inspiration for the track Somewhere In Russia came from this episode and it features a poem from one of the guys at the party.
What did you want to do when you were kids?
Johannes wanted to be an inventor and Daniel wanted to be a musician :)
What kind of people do you think listen to your music?
Thats a tough one, we’ve discussed it at length ourselves. Our best guess it’s a healthy mix of trance people and programmers :)
You recently made the soundtrack for the movie Refuge. What’s the next adventure for you?
The next big project for us is to start the production of a new album. We’re aiming to go back to the more filtered sound of Hydroponic but with the melodic side of Interloper, but of course this is just what we’re aiming for, we usually end up with something completely different in the end :) But since the last two albums we did were more or less beat less stuff we’re definitely going for more drums this time around.
Links to the music of Carbon Based Lifeforms:
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