So for this short 4-day week I’m taking a bit of a break. That doesn’t mean I’m leaving you all high and dry, no sir. Instead, I’m re-posting some some of my favorite interviews of Complex Distractions past. Many of you weren’t around the first couple years I was doing this writing thing, and I’ve gotten to interview some amazing folks. So this week I’m revisiting one of my absolute favorite record labels, El Paraiso Records. And my first interview is with the incredible Jakob Skott.
Skott is the drummer for Causa Sui, as well as being a profound artist in his own right(solo work, Videodrones, Martin Rude & Jakob Skott Duo, Syntaks.) Jakob Skott is also co-runner of El Paraiso Records with Jonas Munk. This interview originally dropped 7/31/14, the year he dropped Amor Fati and Taurus Rising. So grab some coffee and dive into this great conversation I had with Mr. Jakob Skott. See you on the flip side. -J Hubner
I can remember being a 9-year old punk growing up in the Midwest and feeling like I was living on an island of corn and soybeans. The only thing connecting me to the outside world was the six channels our 40 ft antenna tower allowed us to see. Then in November of 1984 my parents bought a Betamax VCR and I suddenly had this vehicle to take me to the far reaches of the universe. From 70s Italian horror to slapstick humor to zombies shopping in an abandoned mall I always had a way of escaping the Midwest island I called home for greater places. The one thing that stuck with me through the years were the soundtracks on these 80s videos I watched from Vestron Video, Thorn EMI, New Line Cinema, and Gorgon Video. The analog synths that belched, bleeped, and pinged on these soundtracks to movies like The Terminator, Dawn of the Dead, and those Fulci horror classics I wasn’t supposed to be watching at 1am informed my tastes for when I became an adult(or whenever that will be.) A few years back when I first really discovered Boards of Canada listening to their music felt like stepping into a time machine and reliving an analog childhood. Their music became a mainline to those feelings I nurtured and nestled deep down on those warm summer nights and cold winter evenings when no one was around but some B-sci fi or horror film. I never thought I’d ever find another artist that could bring those feelings out of me like that, but low and behold I have indeed discovered another musical purveyor of the analog synth that makes me feel all warm and dystopian inside. His name is Jakob Skott.
I first heard Jakob Skott via his band Causa Sui. Causa Sui are a four-piece psych(and so much more) outfit out of Denmark that make these expansive, free-form psych songs that are more Bitches Brew than Piper At The Gates Of Dawn. Skott is the drummer keeping the band on a merciless path to existential, jamming bliss. After being won over by their Summer Sessions series of records I bought their latest studio record, titled Euporie Tide and became an instant fan. I started going through the band’s record label’s back catalog(Causa Sui started their own record label called El Paraiso in order release their albums the way they wanted to release them) and noticed that Skott and guitarist Jonas Munk had solo records on the label. Munk’s Pan was this beautiful, hazy mix of NEU! and Tangerine Dream. Just really great stuff. Then I dug into Jakob Skott’s discography. The first was Doppler, a lo-fi mix of Boards of Canada sci fi sounds and Tangerine Dream soundscapes. Then in March he released Amor Fati, a electronic masterpiece filled with Miles Davis-like fusion skronk and these dystopian soundscapes of analog synth with Skott’s incredible drum work spread throughout. It plays like a soundtrack to some lost post-apocalyptic cult film that you recently uncovered on a record dig. It’s truly a work of art.
I was lucky enough to get in touch with Jakob Skott and he agreed to answer some of my prying, fanboy questions. I thank him for taking the time and for putting up with me.
J. Hubner: How did you get involved in music? Were the drums your first instrument of choice?
Jakob Skott: I always wanted to play the drums, so that’s the only instrument I got into as a kid. I still don’t know anything about notes, scales or chords, so I’m totally puzzled how sounds intersect with each other on every level it’s total alchemy!
JH: Who or what have influenced you in your life to make music?
Jakob Skott: I’ve always liked how making music keeps changing. There’s different dimensions in it. It seems like most other things you do, you kind of get the grip of it and continue doing it the same way to get better and better until you get bored. I never felt that way about music. It’s not linear and it’s not predictable.
JH: What was the first band you played In?
Jakob Skott: That was a band I started with Jonas and Jess from Causa Sui when I was about 12. We never really stopped, just changed the genre around a few times. But that’s the only band I’ve ever played in.
JH: As well as playing in Causa Sui, you have released two albums under your own name. ‘Doppler’ has more of a lo fi vibe to it while ‘Amor Fati’ sounds a bit sharper, though both have a futuristic, sci fi vibe to them. Boards of Canada and Tangerine Dream come to mind when I listen to your solo albums. What do you get out of your solo records that you may not with your work with Causa Sui? You play everything on your solo albums, correct?
Jakob Skott: I’ve done electronic music since 2002 as Syntaks on electronica labels such as Darla, Morr Music and Ghostly International. Amor Fati was made while I was on 3 months paternal leave from my job last year I really wanted to have guests play on it; guitars, vocals, etc, but I had this crazy time frame so it ended up just being me. You can hear that some of the edits are done a bit quickly, especially in the end of the songs; whereas they are nicer in the beginning probably because the baby just woke up(laughs). But I left all the original impulses in on these albums, using mostly first takes, and then applying some edits and mixing which is an approach more similar to Causa Sui than my other electronic stuff.
JH: Besides playing drums in Causa Sui, you also design all the album artwork. I love the artwork you create with Causa Sui, Papir, and pretty much everything El Paraiso-related. What influences your art? Have you designed all of El Paraiso’s album art catalog?
Jakob Skott: Thanks. Yeah, that was a big motivation for starting a label, having continuity in everything visually. Obviously the music is what influences it. I make whatever artwork is needed for the album. If I can’t nail it, we get someone else to make the main artwork. I don’t see it as art, more like packaging that suits the music, like a book cover. A book cover isn’t art and they change from edition to edition. I can relate more to that than the idea of the iconographic album artwork.
JH: Who are some of your drumming influences? I can hear some Stewart Copeland in your playing, and ‘The Rhythmatist’ comes to mind in-particular when I think of similarities in sound..although you have certainly created something quite unique on your albums, soundwise. Sorry, I’m rambling.
Jakob Skott: No no, I love Stewart Copeland! He said something about originality and drumming in some drummer magazine from the 90s that my brother had lying around: If you want to create something new, you have to combine different styles; like having a reggae beat, but playing it with a punk sensibility or whatever. He said it better than that, but I’ve always thought that was very true. Making something like that work. Blending styles like that is what’s truly original. He totally pulls it off. The sum is greater than the parts, etc. I like to think of my style as a slacker sludge dude playing electronic jazz.
JH: I recently saw a post that Causa Sui are working on Pewter Sessions 3. How is that coming along? What can we expect?
Jakob Skott: The Pewt’r Sessions don’t really come along, they’re just suddenly THERE. The first two albums were jammed up on the same day and released a few months apart. The new one is also a fun day of jamming, but the approach to the album is different it’s all the best segments edited together into a collage. Jonas edited out all the guitarsolos, and just kept the atmosphere parts. He did a brilliant job at that. It has such a great flow!
JH: When you’re playing with Causa Sui, how do their records come about? To me, it sounds like you, Jonas, Rasmus, and Jess just hit record and let things just happen organically. Summer Sessions and Pewter Sessions both have that ‘Desert Sessions’ vibe. Is that the case or is there more control and planning involved?
Jakob Skott: Improvising! We always start out jamming. It’s just a question of when we record it for the album. Sometimes we work on the songs more, sometimes less, but we try to keep it as organic as possible and just let it flow even though we’ve played some of the same ideas for a while.
JH: How does El Paraiso get new talent to record and release? Do you guys have a strict guideline that you follow? Currently you have one American band, Psicomagia, signed. How did you get involved with them? Their album is amazing by the way. Would you like to sign more bands from the US?
Jakob Skott: We never wanted it to be that kind of label, constantly expanding, etc. We’ll put something out when it’s good. If we have a whole year when we don’t put out a single record, I don’t care. It would simply mean that we didn’t have the right album ready. So far only Psicomagia has been able to “sneak in” from the outside of projects that aren’t directly related to me or Jonas. Why? You said it, It’s THAT good! I’m so happy to have helped that album get into the physical world! As well as every other El Paraiso release, these albums wouldn’t be here if we didn’t have the label so everything feeds off each other. It’s a tremendous privilege to have that kind of setup now doing everything surround a release yourself.
JH: ‘Amor Fati’ is one hell of a record(one of my favorites of the year so far.) How often do you work on your own music? Do you have songs ready for release on a new album yet?
Jakob Skott: I’ve just recorded new drums so work is well on the way it’s very much in the vein of Amor Fati, but an expansion of that sound once again It’s massive sounding!
JH: Living in the Midwest in the United States I don’t have a chance in Hell of seeing you or Causa Sui live. Will there ever be a chance of seeing Causa Sui in the states? Or some Jakob Skott solo shows?
Jakob Skott: You can always hope, right? But wouldn’t count on it Jonas and me played there a couple of years ago and did a recording session in Chicago with some of the Tortoise dudes (called Chicago Odense Ensemble) but if I get a chance to go again, that would be the main priority: recording sessions with a bunch of friends: Ron from Sunburned and the dudes from Psicomagia and Tortoise. Some session if we could get them all in a room together, huh!?
JH: Do you have a studio set up at home where you record your solo stuff? What do you use for your albums, instrument-wise? You have such an organic sound. Do you use analog synths? Tape or digital when you record?
Jakob Skott: My drumkit is 100 miles away in the Causa Sui rehearsal room so I just play a couple of times each year when we’re recording or getting ready for a gig, and I have my smaller gear at home. It’s a mix of analog and digital synths and effects. The one instrument you’re hearing more than any on Amor Fati is the Moog Sub Phatty. It’s an amazing synth that blends in with drums perfectly.
JH: What can we expect to see and hear from you and/or Causa Sui in the next few months?
Jakob Skott: The Pewt’r Sessions 3 will feature a limited 10” (300 copies) from our webshop. Linoleum hand-printed sleeves by our friend Martin Rude. I always wanted that: to do a truly unique album where every sleeve is different. It has the wackiest Causa Sui track on it. Totally heavy fuzz jam. Don’t snooze on it!
I haven’t snoozed on it. I’ve preordered mine and I’m currently waiting at the mailbox. I may be here for a while, but I don’t care. I can’t get enough of Causa Sui, and I really can’t get enough of Jakob Skott’s interstellar psych squall. It soundtracks my futuristic hopes, dreams, and aspirations. I plan on having “Earth of No Horizon” playing at my funeral. I’m amending my Will so this will happen. If you haven’t, listen to Causa Sui and most definitely devour some Jakob Skott. Doppler and Amor Fati are the two best records you’ve never heard. Go here to learn more.