Interview - Alexander Odden aka Flipside
We’ve been lucky enough to catch up with Alexander Odden, aka. Flipside (and half of the duo Pegboard Nerds), and ask him about his history at The Gathering. He’s made a staggering amount of songs, and collaborated on even more. Some of you who’ve been with us for a while might remember the opening show in 2002? Alexander Odden was on stage, demos rolling from the projectors and a song by Stratosphere blasted from the PA. For me this was a magic moment that still gives me goosebumps whenever I listen to the song. He’s been on stage during The Gathering many times, last time in 2011 with OVRPWR.
- When did you first attend The Gathering? What made you to attend the first time?
I attended for the first time in 1996. I had recently started playing with MS Paint and made a few drawings. I showed them to a relative who had read about TG in a magazine, and who told me about the competitions there, amongst others the graphics compos. This was probably the first time I heard about the concept of a “LAN”, and then it became inevitable: I had to go!
- So, it was graphics, and not music, that made you attend The Gathering for the first time? When did music make its entry?
It was, indeed! It should be mentioned that we listened to .MOD and .XM files in Inertia Player for a long time, so I was a bit into music as well. I remember how fascinating this music was, and wondered how it was possible to make something like that. In the beginning, I don’t think I understood how you could do this yourself.
I saw a guy who was making music when I wandered among the rows in one of the nights during TG, and started talking to him. He was a member of a demo group, but unfortunately I don’t remember which group. Anyways, I got a floppy with FastTracker2 from him, and thus it all began!
- When did you deliver an entry to a music compo for the first time?
I think I delivered an entry already the next year - in 1997.
- What went through your head when your song was played on the PA for the first time?
My song did not make it through pre-selection, of course, and was not played on the PA. I was disappointed, but who wouldn’t be? That didn’t stop me, though, and I delivered again in 1998. My song didn’t make it to the PA that year either. Actually, I think the first time that my song was played on the PA was in 2000!
In the mean time, I had participated, and won, a few music compos at smaller local LANs. Noxious in Halden and Visions of Chaos in Fredrikstad are two parties that I remember.
- What did you experience when your song finally was played on the PA?
It was huge! I remember butterflies in my stomach together with an anxiety about how the audience would react.
- After that, your entries have always been played?
Yes, I think so.
- Then you’ve been played on the PA numerous times. Have you gotten used to hearing your own songs? Or is it the same butterflies and anxiety every time?
It is always a thrill, the whole “my song being played on a big PA” thing. Small mixing “mistakes” gets “blown up”, if you can phrase it like that. I believe I was known to overuse bass some years :) But you learn with time, and then you become more confident in how things will sound on the big PA.
- What inspires you to enter the music compos year after year at The Gathering?
It is something about “comparing forces” with the people you have been competing with year after year, and there is also something about where I have my roots when it comes to creating music. In addition to this, there are new names appearing, which is great! It means that it is not the same old geezers in the top 5. You may also inspire the ones that are new to the game. My placements have varied through the years, so I have by no means always been among the best!
- You are at least one of the names that usually are among the top five. I’ve noticed that you are not always consistent with the artist name you deliver under. Why is that?
Some times it boils down to simply, in an innocent way, “trick” people. But parallell to being a part of the demoscene, I have also steadily worked towards the international market, beyond the demoscene. I wanted to break free from the “Flipside” name, but it has always stuck with me, until this previous year.
- Yes, your previous year, you’ve gotten a real breakthrough! Congratulations! Can you tell us a bit more about your latest project?
Thank you :) I am a part of the duo known as Pegboard Nerds, which consists of Michael Parsberg (DK) and me! We’ve worked together since 2004. Until last year, we had mainly been remixing other artists, with a few productions of our own in between. It had been coming for a long time, but finally we were sick of putting so much time, energy, blood and sweat into other people's music that we decided to create something new, where we basically wanted to create originals, not remixes. This was partly inspired by the new music that was up and coming - today's electronica.
Right before we created Pegboard Nerds, I made a remix of Miu’s (TG’s own Kaktusen/Miu) “We Are The Bass” that was released on the Norwegian label Dub Monkey Records, which is run by Tony Anthun and Axel Ender. This song was uploaded to a promotion channel on Youtube called “JesusDied4Dubstep”. The man behind this channel is associated with the relatively young canadian label “Monstercat”. From there the road to a release on Monstercat was relatively short, and then we finally began to gain some serious attention outside of Norway and Denmark.
- It seems that you’ve been a great success this previous year. I’ve heard rumours about an upcoming tour, is that correct?
Yes, we are waiting for some paperwork to be done, but as soon this is finished, we have a tour in the US waiting for us with 20+ gigs within one month.
- That is quite impressive! It’s not easy to gain popularity in the US.
Some of it is because of all the DJ support that we’ve gotten from well known names, such as Knife Party. We are going to play support for them in both France and Russia during the next couple of months.
- What inspires you when you create music?
That can be a lot of different things. I can get ideas right before I fall asleep or wake up, when I’m happy or sad, listen to other music, hear samples. I can also happen when I sit down to play, trying to generate ideas. Suddenly, something pops up, and then you have to “grab it” and try to develop it further. Some ideas may pop into existence when I’m in the middle of a production, and have too much material to fit it all into one song. Then you have to transfer this material into a new one.
I also experiece that I get ideas from unusal places, like the radio playing on a low volume. The sound coming from it is so muffled that you really don’t hear what’s playing. Then your brain start to interpret what you hear, filling in the blanks. When you turn up the volume, it is usually something completely different that is playing from what you imagined, and then you can use what you thought you heard and create something from that.
- Do you have any hints or tips for people who wish to start making music, or has just started making music?
Many of those who have started, or just have started, are very busy - but at the same time don’t really know where to begin. My advice is to take it slowly and have fun. It takes many years to get really good! I still learn to this day.
It doesn’t really matter which “DAW” (Digital Audio Workstation, music making tool) you use. If it’s Fruity Loops, Ableton Live, Reason, Cubase, Logic, Pro Tools... They can all do more or less the same. Find one you think looks okay, and start there. You don’t need to be a synth-programming wizard, but it helps to know how they work. Find yourself one synth and learn it thoroughly. When you understand the underlying techniques it’s pretty easy to translate to other synths. The most important is to learn what makes a song “work”. What makes you remember the songs you enjoy?
You have to wear a lot of different hats when you make music today, and it’s easy to lose focus. It’s also a question about what you want. If you enjoy just sitting down and doing sound design and making effects - do that! If you instead want to make some music from time to time, you might have to do an evaluation of how much you should do yourself, and when to use presets and samples. You don’t need to create the guitar you’re going to play on... It’s a balance.
Pick up melodies, progressions and arrangements. Train your “melodic ear” by playing meoldies you enjoy, make your own melodies, work with it over time. When you’re going to engineer sound, use reference songs. Learn how equalizers and compressors work. Think about how all elements in the song have their place. With a good concept/melody as a fundament and a balanced mix, you’ve come far. It’s simply an endless process. When you after half a year listen to the music you created when you started, you’ll hear the progress.
- Lastly, what is TG to you?
The Gathering was a huge part of my teenage years, and the atmosphere there is something that will always stay with me. The Gathering is meeting friends you haven't seen in a year, you get to see so many incredible talents in a multitude of areas: graphics, music, programming, etc. It’s loud music, not much sleep and less food, systematic madness and last but not least: Arne.
Six fast ones
- Your own best entry at TG?
OVRPWR - Best Way Of Defense
- TG's best attention grabber of all time?
- On stage yourself, or in the audience?
- Favourite genre?
I usually don’t think in genres, but if I have to; drumstep.
- Favourite key?
- Best memory from TG?
First year, first time I was on stage and was looking out on “TG by night”. Magic!