Cxemcast 063 – N.M.O.
In an interview for SHAPE platform you’ve said: “We try to question things no one else does, such as the role of the audience in a club”. What did you mean by the role of the audience?
Morten J. Olsen: We try to challenge the role of the audience as not only being passive one, but also taking part in what's happening on the stage. We try to challenge the audience and to question the role of the performer vs the spectator. This is the first show we’ve ever played on stage, so that was completely new to us as well.
Rubén Patiño: Yeah, we are trying to make it more dynamic. If we play in the middle of the room, people can really see what we do, they can get closer, they can touch us, they can, you know, pull a beer. We also move around, so we can create something more dynamic.
Does it mean the audience influences the way performance goes?
R. P.: Actually, yes. We have the same set, which is highly composed like a script or a score, but if we perceive energy as it was, for instance, in Kyiv, we get influenced by it and play more energetically.
So, in case of the Cxema party in Kyiv, how did you interact with the audience? Have you felt yourself comfortable while you were playing on stage for the first time?
M. J. O.: We always want to have the optimal sound. The sound of the room is often the best sound there is, it is hard to recreate this type of energy on stage with small monitors. That is also one of the reasons why we normally choose to be in the middle of the room.
R. P.: On stage it is more like you’ve separated yourself from the audience. It is more mediated, you get an idea of what is happening, but you don’t really understand what's happening on the dance floor exactly. The real sound that you get in the middle of the dance floor was an infernal, good infernal sound. Great, you know.
So, does it mean that you have a certain idea on how your music should be perceived?
R. P.: It really depends on the context. I think we aim for a sound experience that is quite intense, but we combine it with some elements that are more performative or even ridiculous.
Speaking of the context, how important it is for N.M.O.?
M. J. O.: It doesn’t really matter so much which context we are in, but the one that we do happen to find ourselves in really determines how it is perceived. If you put us in art context, for instance, our music or shows are perceived very differently than if you put us in a dance music club.
R. P.: We may do the same, but, of course, we always tend to adapt to each event. When we play in museums, we are more free to play around the space, and we could do more things than in a club or at a festival. If there is a stage, things are more strict.
R. P.: But then, from the other hand, in museums it is rare to get the amount of energy that you can get in a club. The energy of two thousand youngsters in a club at 3 o’clock is quite extreme.
Your performances differ from everything I've ever seen. So, I wanted to ask about the performance part especially, about your movements on stage. You call it fitness. How did this definition appear?
M. J. O.: That is something that relates to military drumming. What comes with the military drumming is very often push ups, sit ups and this kind of military exercises. It is kind of a joke. Sometimes people react in funny ways. For example, some guys think they are really tough, so they start doing push ups.
R. P.: I think it really depends on the context we are now in. We are doing stupid things, but they feel okay, and then we can also do some other stupid things that feel almost okay. We are more liberated this way, and it can create some other funny things.
M. J. O.: And there is also a feeling of uncertainty, which is interesting. You are not sure if people are doing it serious or it is supposed to be funny.
How do you prepare the performance part? Is there room for improvisation?
M. J. O.: It is partly prepared, but there is still some room for improvisation.
R. P.: We have sections that we could stretch or make shorter, depending on the energy.
You invented phrases to describe your music such as Military Danceable Space Music and/or Fluxus Techno. Does it mean you tend to conceptualize your music? Does your music have a certain message?
R. P.: Yes, we wanna save the world with our music.
M. J. O.: Yes and no. We do try to just expose all our ideas...
R. P.: And disagreements.
M. J. O.: This may have something to do with the fact that we are in a military world these days, especially speaking of the internet, which is a military technology. We also talk about space and spatial music, as we like to be around the venue, not necessarily on the stage. And then it is also indirect. We refer to the idea of Fluxus, which is like a neo-Dada, an attitude of not taking ourselves so seriously, but taking the work very seriously at the same time. The Dada movement was an anti-war movement originally. We share some of the ideas, but we are not part of this art movement.
R. P.: We just got influenced by all the things that are happening right now in terms of politics and global aspects. We absorb that, but we are in a way ironic.
Do you apply these ideas in your art in terms of performing and production?
M. J. O.: No. We could put influences from very unlikely sources on top of each other. We could take a starting point at something very simple and then we will apply some logic that comes from very a different place.
R. P.: Yeah, that is that idea of the Lesson 1. We pick disciplines and prepare something like a first lesson. Let's say, first lesson of mathematics, first lesson of linguistics, first lesson of history of art. And we put these very simple first lessons, which can be quite easy to understand, together and make something complex and really strange. For instance, if Morten walks with this snare drum from one point to another, people would think “oh, this sound is moving”, but if you mix that with a huge soundsystem and me playing something with really heavy low bass, it becomes something else.
How did the idea of N.M.O. change through the time? Is it the same as it was in the beginning, and what were your intentions at that moment?
M. J. O.: If it has changed, it’s changed back and forth. There have been deviations and there has been some focus again. We had a clear idea that we wanted to make patterns that would be based on simple lessons from different camps.
R. P.: It was more anthropology, more musicology and searching for different rhythms, from different traditions and cultures, that we could incorporate.
M. J. O.: We put different parts of the world on top of each other. For example, something from South America together with something from Spain.
R. P.: It is like sampling. Morten can write down the notes of something we hear and then make it into the rhythm, and from that we can evolve and change it.
M. J. O.: In some cases we just take the inspiration, but don't take the sounds. We can also exchange the sounds: you can take the rhythm that was played on a hand drum, for instance, and then apply it to some synthetic sounds.
All those influences and connections, military drumming, art movements — does it have anything to do with your background?
R. P.: Yeah, it’s our combined background that has prepared us a field. It was like this idea of bootleg: one plus one makes three.
What was before you formed N.M.O.?
M. J. O.: I was a drummer of noise-oriented composed music. We have different practices. Ruben is… you are basically a visual artist, aren’t you?
R. P.: Yes. I played with the nerves visually, I have a media art background. In the early 2000s in Berlin there was a big noise music scene, and we connected through that thing.
And what is N.M.O. now?
R. P.: We played the new set at Cxema. A little more footwork and rave.
M. J. O.: Yeah, we are doing perverted footwork. We are trying to apply this idea of 5 against 4 instead of the common one, 3 against 4. 5 against 4 is like listening to 3 and 4 at the same time. Footwork is a great example of where this is done masterfully, but we are trying to apply 5 and 4 elsewhere, and sometimes it sounds really bizarre. We are trying to challenge ourselves like that.
R. P.: We are also changing or adding sounds. For instance, adding Uber sounds, car sounds, and horse sounds together to give another meaning to all these things.
M. J. O.: Yeah, and we are trying to apply sounds from one tempo to another tempo.
You create new meanings not for only sounds, but also for your acronym, right?
M. J. O.: When we were starting, we ended up with some unpronounceable name, and it had those 3 letters. We began changing it because we didn't like the first one, and then we changed to a new one with the same acronym, and then to third, and so on. It is like tattoos, you just can’t stop, you want more.
What acronym do you have now?
M. J. O.: We have one in Ukrainian. I wish I could pronounce it. How do you say “my last nights” in Ukrainian?
Moji ostanni nochi?
M. J. O.: «Nochi Moji Ostanni». That’s our name now.
M. J. O.: While it is not the rule, it seems that each acronym is in a different language.
R. P.: We like to do the same thing — to use the same structure, but apply it to a different set of sounds, as each language has different sounds.
Do all these names embody a special meaning?
R. P.: It has to make sense grammatically. Some of them have more meaning than others.
M. J. O.: All of out bigger projects — every release, every record, and sometimes other projects — have a new name, so we come up with the new unfolding of the acronym. For instance, at some point, we were both living in Netherlands, that is why we came up with this name of our first record, Dutch Society Development.
R. P.: Yeah, Nederlandse Maatschappij Ontwikkeling.
M. J. O.: Which means Dutch Society Development.
R. P.: We would use an acronym for everything — even for concerts, and then we go to some mess.
M. J. O.: We’ve got some complaints.
R. P.: Yeah. People thought that we would play in another city.
M. J. O.: We had the name of a city inside our name, so they thought we would play in that city.
You said that the idea of changing names is a somewhat of a middle finger to the industry, and also the worst marketing strategy. Are you anti-capitalists?
M. J. O.: Ideally, we don’t have to promote ourselves, but we have to try to push it that you need to book us. If our name is always different, it would be very hard to tell anyone about our project, so in that sense it is anti-capitalistic. Maybe, it is good that you can not sell something that has no name or has a constantly changing name. Because then it is “not real”.
A lot of people are talking about being anti-capitalistic and anti-marketing, but they are still in that system.
R. P.: We definitely are.
M. J. O.: It is unfortunate.
Can we say that recognition is not very important to you?
M. J. O.: To be able to sustain ourselves is important to us. Recognition, of course, brings something. If you have a dialog with people, that is most likely gonna be a positive thing. At the same time, neither of us has an ambition to become like..
R. P.: Pop stars.
M. J. O.: Yeah, big stars.
So, you wanna stay low-key?
R. P.: No, not myself. But we try to stay true to ourselves. We are in the industry, but we try be as less contaminated as possible.
What is the next step for N.M.O.?
M. J. O.: We are working on a new release which will come up on Italian label Gang of Ducks.
And your next release will come out under Nochi Moji Ostanni, won’t it?
R. P.: Maybe, we’ll use this interview or the Cxema live set for that.
Yeah, your live was the best for me that night.
R. P.: Yeah, it was only half an hour.
M. J. O.: Half an hour of dance prevention.
R. P.: I really love criticism. These guys writing on Resident Advisor have a new concept that I’ve never thought about. They say we are dance blocking! We are blocking the dance floor, preventing people to dance, so maybe that's our style.
Interviewed by TIGHT