Photo: Observatoriet / Courtesy of Terrorbird Media

20 Questions: Kaada

From quirky pop to classically-affected modern compositions, John Erik Kaada has returned with his first solo album in nine years, so wants to do what any regarded musician would: talk about Homer Simpson and Norwegian environmental policies.

Closing Statements

John Erik Kaada’s last name rhymes with “coda,” in case you were curious how it is pronounced, as there are no doubt people who have gone on thinking you say Kaada like “tada!” Fans could be forgiven for thinking the latter vocalization, however, because it makes the most sense, given that Kaada is something akin to a musical magician.

His first act of illusion came when the Norwegian multi-instrumentalist dropped his 2001 debut Thank You For Giving Me Your Valuable Time. Mixing sample-based drums and grooves with his own quirky aesthetic, certain revelations only became apparent on careful listening, like how a trumpet line you really like, upon closer inspection, is actually just him using his mouth. Subsequent recordings, however, has revealed Kaada’s love of film scores and classical music, working with dozen-plus member ensembles and creating an endearing artistic partnership with Mike Patton, who has Kaada signed to his own Ipecac Records.

Although his work in the Norwegian film industry keeps him nothing short of intensely busy, we haven’t had a Kaada studio album proper since 2009’s Junkyard Nostalgias. So for 2018’s Closing Statements, it picks up where his acclaimed Music for Moviebikers left off, creating gentle melodic orchestral soundscapes that feature a delicacy of grace, pleasing melodies with an undercurrent of hardening emotion to them.

It’s a striking new effort, and to help celebrate the occasion, Kaada sat down to answer PopMatters’ 20 Questions, revealing how he’s akin to Homer Simpson, why he’d like to get to know Elon Musk better, and how he feels Norway should be leading the environmental policy revolution.

1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?

I’m not much of a crier, but after we got a daughter nine years ago, movies or books with father and daughter relationships have a tendency to bring out a stronger emotional response. Not long ago I did the music for a fantastic documentary from Afghanistan called Angels Are Made of Light. To prepare for this, I read The Kite Runner by Khalid Hosseini. And later saw the movie. I remember they both brought a tear to my eyes.

2. The fictional character most like you?

Like Homer Simpson, I like donuts.

3. The greatest album, ever?

Come on — [that’s] impossible to answer! But what I can tell you is what I listened to this morning. It’s an album called Roomful of Teeth, by Brad Wells. Fresh, lovely and fucked up at the same time.

4. Star Trek or Star Wars?

Star Wars was the franchise I grew up with. The first three movies made a great impression on me when I saw them as a kid. I never really got into the Star Trek universe. It all felt a little to slow. The action and the pace in Star Wars has always, and still has a stronger appeal to me.

5. Your ideal brain food?

I like to observe. I observe the nature, the city life, and my surroundings intensely.

6. You’re proud of this accomplishment, but why?

My daughter makes me proud. But I am not going to say more about it, because I know how terrible it is when people start talking about their kids. It is the worst.

7. You want to be remembered for …?

As one gets older, you realize that even though I have worked my ass off, I probably won’t go down in history as one of the greatest composers of all time. This hasn’t been particularly difficult to swallow. As this brings focus to where I am now, and that I will rather try to get the most out of the days I have here on this planet. My rename after my death, is just uninteresting. Unless I could do something really spectacular like walk on my hands, drinking beer at the same time.

8. Of those who’ve come before, the most inspirational are?

I believe that in our age, we tend to put too much focus on what is new and up-and-coming. We have a long history behind us in the artist and music world, with so much good stuff that has been done already. I find so much inspiration in going through the catalog of the old masters. Nothing beats a great Bach tune on the piano, for example.

9. The creative masterpiece you wish bore your signature?

The helicopter (Aerial screw), invented by Leonardo da Vinci

10. Your hidden talents . . .?

I can twist my tongue and spread my toes, possibly also at the same time.

11. The best piece of advice you actually followed?

“Daydream. Give yourself plenty of time to do nothing.” In these times with distractions on every corner and internet addictions, I believe strongly in disconnecting from the world once in a while.

12. The best thing you ever bought, stole, or borrowed?

Not a single thing comes to mind. Hmmm… I recently borrowed some guitar pedals from a friend of mine, which I intend to hold on to as long as possible.

13. You feel best in Armani or Levis or . . .?

When I get older, the plan is to only wear classic British style gentlemen’s clothing. But for now, I go with whatever I think looks best, and are comfortable to wear. I have never cared much about clothing brands.

14. Your dinner guest at the Ritz would be?

Elon Musk. Definitively a great inventor and a man with fantastic ideas and thoughts. We’d have plenty to talk about.

15. Time travel: where, when and why?

To see what the world looks like in a hundred years from now, and what kinds of music they make would be pretty awesome. If I had to go back in time, it would be nice to pay a visit to one of the older Emperors of China.

16. Stress management: hit man, spa vacation or Prozac?

Walking or running in nature is the best medicine for me. I grip every opportunity to get out in the wild.

17. Essential to life: coffee, vodka, cigarettes, chocolate, or . . .?

Coffee in the morning and after every meal is essential to get through the days. I like to make strong espressos and have gotten quite picky about the taste lately. It has to be freshly roasted and from quality beans.

18. Environ of choice: city or country, and where on the map?

A place with both urban city and nature close by. Currently, I live at the outskirts of Oslo. From my kitchen window I see only forest, and from my living room window, I can see the city. I need both things in my life, the calmness I get from waking in the woods, and the hectic city life, side by side. Currently, I’d say that where I live in Oslo, Norway, is the best alternative. But there are a lot of places in the world I haven’t seen, and I am hoping that we’ll manage to move around, and not get stuck here.

19. What do you want to say to the leader of your country?

The most important issues are environmental issues. My country should make no compromises in making things better. Norway is in a unique situation because of its natural resources and its wealth built up on oil money. Therefore we should be in the frontline on all climate battles. Go further than other countries and lead the way towards a cleaner world.

20. Last but certainly not least, what are you working on, now?

Currently promoting this album that I just released called Closing Statements. It’s been nine years since my last solo album, and I hope to get as much out of this one as possible. Meaning I have to answer questions that I can’t answer easily.