Some years back I was following the suggestions on iTunes from Hird’s “Moving On” album (if I remember correctly, it’s been so long now but i’m going to go with my gut here) and it lead me to the spacious, heavenly, electronic productions of Iceland’s Jonas Gudmundsson who produces under the moniker of Ruxpin. His release “Avalon” had a huge influence on my own musical tastes, my current productions, and it was actually one of the first digital albums i’ve ever purchased. I had a period where “9Mars”, “Lullaby” and probably my favorite from his entire catalogue, “Please Stay” were in constant rotation. What I noticed almost immediately about his productions was the dichotomy between the cold, fantasy like choirs and the static laden pops and glitches of traditional IDM or other left field sub-genres. During this time, I was still fairly new to electronica so it was usually either or for me. Either a track was an ambient piece designed to be more meditative and filmesque or it was experimental, danceable and full of bent circuits and static. This was long before I had discovered the magnificent “Cendre” by Christian Fennesz and Ryuichi Sakamoto or the brilliant “Ravedeath 1972” by Tim Hecker. So I had never quite heard the two textures blended together so seamlessly and it was a refreshing take on electronic music for me. Boasting a robust catalogue and years of experience, I decided to reach out to him for an interview for Inside the Rift and thankfully, he was more than happy to entertain my questions and give me more insight on what makes him tick.
Prox: Tell us your story. Where did you grow up and how long have you been producing music?
Ruxpin: I grew up in the city of Kopavogur, the second largest city in Iceland. It's about a 10 minute walk from the capital. I first started dabbling in music when I was around 13 years old, I think. My two older brothers were always messing around with a sampler and an Atari computer and I gave it a try - and had so much fun with it that I still haven't stopped. When studying piano, there was a course in my music school which was called "Midi music". The teachers were Maggi Lego (GusGus & T-World) and Bix. There I got more and more involved with techno music and through that course I had my first release on a compilation at the age of 15.
Prox: Who were some of your favorite musicians growing up and currently?
Ruxpin: In my teenage years I used to listen to a lot of FSOL (The Future Sounds of London), Bandulu and Orbital. There was the typical Underworld, Leftfield and The Prodigy as well. We caught MTV at my home and every weekend I was staying up late and ready with my VCR to record some goodies on The Chillout Zone. I discovered Ken Ishii and his "Jelly Tones" album and It influenced me quite a bit during these years. I also remember buying "I Care Because You Do" by Aphex Twin and thinking that this is something I've never heard before. It was weird, but strangely addictive. It's hard to point out which are my favorite musicians currently. I'm always interested what comes from Plaid, Julien Mier, Generate, Roel Funcken and Karsten Pflum. Lots of great stuff coming from Japan such as Ametsub, Daisuke Tanabe and Yosi Horikawa. Some good stuff coming from Iceland as well, such as from Möller Records and Raftonar Records.
Prox: What equipment and software are you using at the moment?
Ruxpin: I hate discussions with other musicians about equipment and software. It doesn't really matter what is being used. Nobody cares. It's the end result that matters.
Prox: Avalon is my favorite release from your entire catalogue. What was the creative process behind it? Did you go into it with a specific idea in mind or did it naturally take shape after completing a certain song?
Ruxpin: I did two albums at the same time: Avalon and Magrathea. The idea from the beginning was to create two separate worlds. One warm and organic (Avalon) while the other one would be cold and artificial (Magrathea). I would say that Avalon was my "love album", even up to the point of almost being a cliché. All the songs were composed with that in mind. There were talks about releasing it as a 2xCD, but Elektrolux found it better to detach them and have them separate, which in the hindsight was probably a better idea.
Prox: Your music has a very interesting soundscape; Infusing digital, matrix-esque glitches with heavenly and expansive choirs and synths. How did you stumble into this particular style?
Ruxpin: I guess It just kind of happened. I always liked opposites in music. Without the ugliness there would be no beauty. The clean and straight up beautiful is uninteresting.
Prox: Iceland is a beautiful country stepped in rich and interesting Norse mythology. Does the Icelandic scenery and culture have an influence on your music?
Ruxpin: It probably does, subconsciously. The last two of my albums have, however, been made in Estonia where i'm currently living.
Prox: What is your favorite song and album from your catalogue? Could you tell us why and the creative process was behind it?
Ruxpin: It’s not really my favorite, but It's quite close to my heart. It's "Requiem of the Metallic Heart" from the Elysium LP. My grandfather was a great musician who played for a symphonic orchestra. He had doubts about electronic music and that it would be unable to perform orchestral pieces in a way that they should be. To try prove him wrong I made an electronic version of Dies Irae by Mozart. He wasn't impressed by it. It was robotic and clumsy. First I was offended, but in hindsight I think he was correct. It taught me that making music to please others will always lead to disappointment. Music should be made for yourself, not others.
My favorite album is always the last one I did. So for the time being it is "This Time We Go Together". When making the album I had two ravens always sitting together in a tree outside my window during mornings and nights. They went their separate ways each day, but ended always up side by side in the end of the day. The album is a story of them.
Prox: You’ve been a musician for quite some time now, walk us through your evolution over the years. What was were some sounds that you favorited in the beginning as opposed to now?
Ruxpin: Hard to say. I guess little by little that I'm tidying things up. In the beginning I was very much into repetitive melodies surrounded by chaotic percussions, but I think I'm starting to minimize the chaos.
Prox: What is the high point of your career so far? Have you had any surreal “look Mom!” or “Wow… I really did it.” moments?
Ruxpin: I’m just hoping that the high point of my career hasn't happened yet. I've experienced great things through music. I've travelled to amazing places and met so many amazing people. I hope to continue doing that.
Prox: What are some of your favorite hobbies outside of music? If we showed up at your home on an average Saturday night, what would we find you doing?
Ruxpin: I’m a pretty normal guy, i guess. On an average Saturday night, I'd probably be putting my one year old son to sleep and afterward cleaning up in the apartment after that little tornado of a child. When I have spare time and lacking inspiration in music, I grab a book - mainly non-fiction. Reading fiction does occasionally happen though, mainly if its Haruki Murakami, Jose Saramago, Stefan Zweig, Eiríkur Örn Norðdahl or Mikhail Bulgakov. I do follow football a bit - mainly English or Icelandic, but my team in Iceland has been dreadful in recent years - so it's been mentally (and sometimes physically) hard to watch.
Prox: If you weren’t producing music, what else could you see yourself doing?
Ruxpin: I graduated in history at University and work occasionally as an archivist and in archaeological excavations. So, I'd probably be somewhere involved even more in that area.
Prox: If you could go back in time and tell yourself one thing that you know now about music (production, the industry, etc) what would it be?
Ruxpin: I’d probably tell myself to not take things too seriously production-wise. The music industry itself has changed so much since I first started that I doubt I could give any advice to young me about how to work it. I still don't know how the music industry really works. I guess I'm still learning every day new things about it.
Prox: Advice for new musicians?
Ruxpin: Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and don't follow the hype.
Prox: Final thoughts?
Ruxpin: I’m currently working on a new album and it's pretty much ready. It's has actually been ready for a while, but I keep having issues letting it out of my hands. Hopefully I'll build up a courage to let go in the coming months.