I went to Copenhagen once. It was nice. They had great bagels. It was significantly more enjoyable than the time I went to Aarhus, tripped over a step and briefly concussed myself on a toilet. Despite mixed experiences, I’ve maintained a sort of long-distance crush on Denmark for a while now, and so you can imagine my excitement at the prospect of interviewing Danish math-trio Town Portal.
It’s been an eventful few months for TP – not only have they started work on a new album and have a planned UK tour with Dublin’s own Alarmist coming up (clear ur diaries), but they’ve recently been brought under the wing of Small Pond Recordings’ record label, on which their latest album will be released later this year!
BREAKING EDIT: The record will be released in collaboration with Subsuburban, who’s forgiveness I can only beg.
Without further ado:
NB – I’ve linked up all the bands whose names come up in the interview if you want to check them out.
FB: Is the name a Warcraft reference? I’ve always been curious…
Morten, bass: Not exactly, though you’re not far off. The name came from a shared nostalgia for Diablo.
How does it feel to be quite possibly the biggest math rock band in Denmark? What’s the scene like over there?
I don’t know that we are. [FB: I’d like to imagine a hearty chuckle here, but email is a poor transmission medium for laughter] We could quite well be the biggest active math rock band from here, but I feel like the legacy of past bands like Marvins Revolt and Obstacles puts us down the list some. Then you have an active band like Mimas as well, though I’m not sure if they would call themselves a math rock band anymore. In general the math scene here was stronger only a few years back, but a lot of the bands, promoters, and labels with a math rock interest just kinda fizzled out. Also, some of them simply moved onwards to try out new expressions. We’re even hesitant ourselves to label our music math rock these days. Not because of any aversions towards labels or genres in general, but because what you would call the mathy component in our music, is a means rather than an end. In the end we’re just an instrumental rock band.
Who would you describe as your main influences?
Seeing as we’re three very different individuals, it’s hard to pin down main influences. As such, our music is a compromise, which I guess a lot of people think of as a negative thing in the context of creating art, but to us it’s both a premise and a creative force. It’s the same with our influences: While we do find some common ground in a band like Meshuggah, it’s not like they’re the biggest personal influence to either one of us. I believe most listeners will be able to hear that Malik (drums) transmits this particular influence the most, while I think that everyone familiar with 90’s bands like Shiner, Hum and Failure will be able to hear these influences in Christian’s (guitar) chord progressions. And everyone who hasn’t heard about the band Self-Evident should check them out, first of all because they’re amazing, but also because it will be almost shamefully clear that this heavily bearded bass god called Tom Berg, is a big inspiration to me. We even had to coin the adjective ‘bergian’ to describe certain types of bass lines.
What kind of music do you listen to in your spare time?
As with the above, this question leads to three different answers. Personally I find myself strung out between two poles of a very broad continuum at the moment, listening a lot, on one side, to the new Mount Eerie, the Sun Kil Moon record from last year, and other mellow, introverted stuff, and on the other side, a lot of hip hop. I’ve had to surrender to the hype of Run The Jewels [FB: definitely not safe for work/children, but fantastic], which got me browsing back through El-P’s discography to find lot of excellent music. I’m equally excited about another duo called Hail Mary Mallon with Aesop Rock and Rob Sonic.
[FB endorses this response.]
Did you set out with any big ideas/general direction for the new record?
Not from the beginning. We have been searching a lot for these songs. We probably spent more than a year just composing small parts, tearing them apart, rebuilding them again, and displacing single notes one by one both rhythmically and tonally, until we finally reached something that felt right. It was an almost pedantic study into rhythm and tonality that has been equally exciting and frustrating, especially when the time came to transform all this work into actual songs that didn’t feel like long medleys of disparate parts. Probably another year went by with this process. Because of this it’s totally impossible for us to backtrack the process of writing each song, as all the parts in them are in their 4th or 5th reincarnation and thus totally different from the ideas they initially came from. Still I think that 90% of the ideas that we had ended up in a song, which is pretty satisfying.
And finally, Town Portal is trapped on a desert island – who gets eaten first? What single item would you bring along to stay entertained?
We’re a very democratic band, so whoever brought us in the situation of being trapped on an island would have to volunteer to suffer a cannibalistic death. We would probably bring the book Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, as Malik and Christian seem able to spend endless hours talking about it, and probably would enjoy re-reading it a few times more. I haven’t read it yet, as I never seem to find the time for it, but on a desert island I guess that wouldn’t be a problem.
[FB: David Foster Wallace is the man, I heartily encourage readers to check out all of his work, even his review of the Maine Lobster Festival]
Many thanks to Morten for his time and the great answers, and to Small Pond for helping us coordinate this interview! We await the new album with baited breath.