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Interview: Molly Nilsson Talks Environmentalism, DIY & Near Futures

Interview: Molly Nilsson Talks Environmentalism, DIY & Near Futures

C.C. / Tuesday 26th November, 2019 9:55AM

Swedish multi-instrumentalist and visual artist Molly Nilsson is playing her first ever Aotearoa headline events in early December, bringing her emotionally charged, retro-futurist pop anthems to Auckland's Whammy Bar and Wellington's Moon. Originally starting out as an underground comics artist and writer, Nilsson gravitated towards electronic sounds while working at Berlin's infamous nightclub Berghain in the 00s, and has since released nine studio records (including last year's 2020), primarily via her own imprint Dark Skies Association – often exploring ideas surrounding solitude and individuals' relationships with society. We caught up with the artist via email in the days following Nilsson's recent performance at Berlin's Extinction Rebellion campus, for an insightful conversation around her work's political content and DIY ethos, the looming "near future" of 2020 and more...

Molly Nilsson
Friday 6th December - Whammy Bar, Auckland w/ Na Noise, Apostille
Saturday 7th December- Moon, Wellington w/ Apostille

Tickets available via Banished Music

Chris Cudby: What was the impulse behind exploring a "near future" with 2020?

Molly Nilsson: I wanted to focus on that feeling that you get in the middle of the week when you’re already thinking about the weekend. I think I live in that feeling a lot. I’ve lived in the past, I’ve dreamt about the future but I’m yet to live in the now. It will maybe take me a few more albums before I’m “here”.

You recently performed at the Extinction Rebellion campus in Berlin – what was that experience like? Why was it important to show your support for the protest events?

If I get asked to play at a soli party or a protest event that I support, I see it as an honor. As an artist it’s really the least you can do. It’s also really healthy to come out and play shows where the focus is not on the artist, like, this is not about me, it’s for the cause. And I have a pretty big ego sometimes but never so much that it stands in the view of the cause.

Your music has been associated with ideas of solitude and loneliness – has there been a move towards more overtly political content with your past few albums? Have those ideas always been present in your work?

I’m still working and writing in the same manner that I did when I first started, but I’m not the same person and the world is not the same place. I think people read a lot of loneliness into my music because it’s something many people have an issue with. Society is “loneliness-phobic”, it’s called autophobia actually. I think subconsciously I started writing songs cause it was something I could do by myself and I would be left to myself and could just think. So a song is just like talking to yourself, whatever comes to mind. Politics is not something that’s happening “out there” or somewhere far removed, it’s everywhere. Inside your own mind too. That’s exactly the point that interest me, where the big issues in the world mirror the problems you have with yourself for example. Because the “world” is just a planet, it’s the people living in it that personifies it. So if people are feeling bad about themselves, how are they gonna treat their environment? Or if you don’t feel like the city that you live in belongs to you, why should you take care of it? I do feel very optimistic about the future though, I always need to underline this part.

An an artist who also started in comics / visual arts and have now found myself making electronic music, I'm interested in how you moved towards creating sounds to accompany your words. I find the process of sitting alone drawing and writing not so different in some ways to conjuring and assembling electronic sounds in a home studio. Do you find yourself thinking of visuals when you're writing your songs? Is there any continuity between your music practice and your earlier visual / comics making?

Yes, it’s very similar. I do think of the music as visual compositions, I want them to “look” good. And texture is very important. The only difference between me sitting bent of a drawing or working on a recording is that the music takes over all of my senses.

When I’m drawing, it’s more relaxing for me, I can listen to music or the radio in the background, and just sort of be. When I work on music I’m very concentrated hours on end, cause I have to make so many little decisions every moment, like every line that you draw is a decision too but not as drastically. I guess because I work much faster on music, I don’t know. But when I’m really happy with a song, I always wish I could frame it and hang it on the wall. I’d like to just be able to sit and look at it. If I could, the walls of my house would be covered with my songs.

What are the aims of your independent label Dark Skies Association?

It’s mostly a practical matter, of getting the music out there. When I first started it I thought maybe one day I would sign other artists, that I would become some old lady smoking behind a desk working with younger artists and bands. Cause I do like running a business, it’s maybe something I have from my grandma. The idea of yourself as business women, not because you love the business, but because that it’s the best option if you want to be independent. But today, I think the music industry is complete bullshit. That image I used to have of record labels, studios and AR people is some ancient history stuff. It doesn’t matter if they sell music or soda, it’s the same crap. I have no respect for it. I would much rather run a copy shop, a cheap place people can come in and print zines and flyers and smell the paper. I love that. I have the perfect name for it too. But I gotta keep releasing records a little longer still.

What form does your live show take at the moment?

My performances change a lot depending on what stage its on, like I’m a hologram projected on whatever background there is. But unlike a hologram it’s a very real thing happening. I want it to be like you take one human life and study it under a microscope. I think it demands a lot of the audience to put themselves on stage, inside the songs and fill them with their own dreams. I hope for every person to walk away from there, having seen completely different performances, feeling like the met themselves, in the past or in the future.


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Molly Nilsson
Fri 6th Dec
Whammy Bar, Auckland
Molly Nilsson
Sat 7th Dec
MOON, Wellington