Way back in July of 2014 I was lucky enough to sit down and pick the brain of Causa Sui drummer and sound wizard Jakob Skott about his excellent albums Doppler and Amor Fati, as well as his work with Causa Sui. We also discussed running his own record label, El Paraiso Records, along with Causa Sui guitarist Jonas Munk. It was a great chat and I learned a lot of cool things about the guy. He seems to be a fella with lots of ideas and soundscapes running through his head. Fortunately for him(and the rest of us) he’s talented enough to be able to put those ideas into physical form so folks like myself can experience these massive and intense worlds via vinyl, CD, or MP3(no cassette releases out of El Paraiso headquarters just yet.)
One of the items we discussed was his work on yet another album. Amor Fati had been released in March of 2014, and by July Skott had already begun work on yet another project of synth and drums-fueled instrumental explorations. Well in December of 2014 Taurus Rising was released into the universe and it’s a hell of a trip. A bit looser and heavier on the grooves, it was another instrumental masterpiece that made for a great companion piece to Amor Fati(so much so, that the folks at El Paraiso sold it in a combo pack with Amor Fati.) Being the nosy guy I am I reached out to Jakob to see if he’d answer a few more questions from Jhubner73 headquarters and he was happy to do so.
J.Hubner: When we talked in July you’d released Amor Fati in March of 2014 and were already working on another album. That album, Taurus Rising, was released in December and it’s yet another stellar set of songs. Had you already planned another release in 2014, or was it that your song cycle hadn’t stopped yet? It sounds as if the muse hadn’t left your side just yet.
Jakob Skott: Thanks for having me back! Amor Fati was recorded 90% during a crazed sprint in the spring/summer of 2013. I was on paternal leave, and the only thing I did was work on music and stroll the baby around – it was an amazing break from everything, and I was totally emerged in those two things only, but I did very little work on it after that, and it took a while to finish. So in the summer of 2014 after several months not working on music I felt the need to restart the process over, because I missed that feeling of freedom and overall excitement the previous summer, so I did the drums in exactly the same manner as before – one sloppy afternoon in our rehearsal room and just worked from there. It was a lot easier to finish, so it ended up coming out just a few months after I had layed down the initial ideas. Any musician will know that’s a really awesome thing: To be able to go from creative spark to finished product in such a short time. It’s one of the reasons we got our own label started, and this time it finally panned out. I didn’t even order a test print of the vinyl because I wanted it to materialize so quickly.
J.Hubner: Comparing Amor Fati to Taurus Rising they do feel like related projects, sonically speaking. But to my ears Taurus seems, at least on the front end, more concerned with rhythm and feel where Amor was more about atmosphere and creating a world through music. “Sangue Verde” has an amazing groove to it. It has this tropic, exotic beach vibe to it. Did you approach these two albums differently?
Jakob Skott: In some ways – obviously I had learned a lot of things from Amor Fati, like how to mix drums properly. It was easier getting the sound right and layering the synths, so it was more of a joy the 2nd time around, rather than noodling with topics like over-compressing and overdriving too much. There is a more dense, deep sound on Taurus, but also there’s a better balance between the sounds overall. I got just the vibe I wanted. I’ve been wanting that sound; the idea of raw drums and deeps synths buzzing and scrambling in that way for over ten years! I just couldn’t get myself to progress with it, mostly because I didn’t know where to start. Other than that, I just played what I felt like – not really editing my ideas too much or over-thinking it.
J. Hubner: Taurus is the second astrological sign in the Zodiac. Does that play into the album at all? Is there a loose narrative or concept you were trying to create with these songs?
Jakob Skott: I’m a Taurus, and the drums seem to tap into that sign: mellowness and aggression side by side. Other than that I’m not into astrology, but I think all symbols like that are interesting. Also, it’s a reference to the deep ended growling Moog-sounds (the Taurus-pedals). Kenneth Angers Lucifer Rising is a film and soundtrack I’ve always felt very connected to, and that’s some pretty cosmic shit. Bobby BeauSoleil did a soundtrack that’s just mindbending – be sure to buy his LP boxset from that if you can still get it.
J. Hubner: I love the video you guys put together for “Escape From The Keep”. Using clips from Michael Mann’s excellent film ‘The Keep’ was the perfect visuals to go along with that song. Is the song or title inspired by Mann’s film? Are you a fan of his films? If so, you should definitely make “Thief” your next project.
Jakob Skott: I saw the film for the first time the night I finished the first track – and it fitted my mood perfectly, so I scribbled it down and it stuck. So it didn’t really inspire anything other than the title, but the track is connected to that whole vibe. The film is like a deeply flawed masterpiece – there’s so much ambition there, but you can also sense a struggling in keeping it all together, that it’s almost about to explode or fall out of the screen, and I can deeply relate to that struggle. The difference between grand thoughts and ideas on one hand and the actual thing you end up capturing on the other.
J.Hubner: One thing we didn’t talk about last time was how you put these songs together in the studio. When you’re recording do you record your drums first? I would imagine that would be the easiest way to do what you do. To my ears it sounds like your laying a groove down and then going back and riffing over that with the synths. Is that the case?
Jakob Skott: 100% true. I run a repeating sequence and start playing. And since the drums are live and usually a first take jam, I do a bit of editing and rearranging in some places – mostly to fit the bars and build-ups. It’s very simple and a very effective way to work: Never re-record the same idea twice!
J.Hubner: Besides Taurus Rising, you’ve also been working with Causa Sui. You guys are on your way to a new record as well. Can you tell me a little about the new Causa Sui material? Any plans to release this in 2015?
Jakob Skott: We’re slowly working on it so I don’t want to jinx it, but it’s progressing and we’ve moved into a studio, so that’s next: finishing the songs and getting the studio-set-up working. In the past, we always recorded live in our institutionalized and poorly isolated reheasal room with the instruments bleeding into each other (as well as thru the walls when other bands played), so it will be ideal to try a place that offers more sonic possibilities. We’re moving there permanently, so we’ll have a permanent studio set-up available. Small and cozy, but very cool indeed.
J.Hubner: What else does El Paraiso have planned for 2015? Can you give me an idea of what I’ll be spending my money on this year?
Jakob Skott: Only Papir live at Roadburn is announced at the moment, and that will feature a limited 10” with some brand new tracks from our shop. Jonas has a solo-album coming out as well around that same time and we’re doing a bunch of reprints. We’ve also been getting some great stuff from your side of the pond, but it’s too soon to disclose exactly what it’s gonna end up with.
J.Hubner: Has your song cycle slowed down, or are you still working the Moog for even more musical gold?
Jakob Skott: I’ve just been getting a new Ensemble-effect and a new recording setup, so got some new approaches running, but currently I’m just noodling around making sounds. But I wanna do another pure cosmic synth album at some point to compliment Doppler, however don’t know if now is the time. I also want to collaborate more with different folks, but that could also be in a less synthy and solo-like way. So I don’t really have any plans, but I’ll see what comes along.
J.Hubner: So when you’re not working with Causa Sui or working on your own music, what does Jakob Skott enjoy doing during down time? What do you like to listen to? Do you like the cinema? Books? What fuels the creative fire in you? Your music is so descriptive without a single word being spoken. It’s expressive and colorful. It just feels very passionate. I’m just curious about your creative process.
Jakob Skott: Thanks. The solo-stuff is my downtime, so doing a lot of playing around with knobs – the instruments I have now are just fun to play with, and it puts a smile on my face every time I turn it all on. I still get excited easily and think it’s a huge privilege just to be able to record and release music. I’ve also been watching Foo Fighters Sonic Highways, which has a great part about Kyuss recording in the desert. Obviously I listen to a lot of music, which is my main inspiration. Other than that I’ve been reading Keith Richards and Pete Townsend’s autobiographies mostly because I found them lying in the hall at the publisher where I work, but I was captured by how failed an artist a person like Townsend sees himself – he’s just beating himself up over not completing all these weird projects with gigantic synthesizers, art films and installations, etc. And I sort of thought that no matter how well you do from other peoples point of view, it’ll never satisfy the creative urge – there’s always the craving or dream of something else, just beyond our visible scope – something un-imagined. I think musicians on any level can relate to something like that – just waiting to turn the next corner.
Like I said, Jakob Skott is an interesting guy that makes really interesting music, both with Causa Sui and on his own. He’s one of the rare dudes out there that is extremely gifted at his craft, yet is very much down to earth. He’s buzzing in the cosmic spray of outer space, yet still very firmly planted on the old Terra firma. Keep your eyes and ears open for what Skott and El Paraiso have in store for us this year. And if you haven’t already, get a hold of Taurus Rising. And Amor Fati. And Doppler. Just go to El Paraiso Records website and take the plunge.