Apparatjik was formed in 2008 by Coldplay’s Guy Berryman, Mew’s Jonas Bjerre, A-ha’s Magne Furuholmen and songwriter Martin Terefe. Not that they’ll tell you that. Appearing in public hidden behind an array of masks and communicating with fans via the mysterious ‘eYe-on committee’, they use the project to experiment wildly, and with very successful results. Little trace of any of their main bands can be found in the music.
For their second album, ‘Square Peg In A Round Hole’, the follow-up to 2010′s ‘We Are Here’, the quartet gave away the initial version of the record for free, inviting fans to rework and make suggestions for further recordings. Numerous drafts of the album were released before settling on the final version, which was released as an iPad app last month and in more traditional downloadable form on iTunes yesterday.
Eager to find out more, CMU Editor Andy Malt got in touch to ask a few questions. The responses don’t make for a conventional interview, with the band refusing to say which of them was providing the answers, claiming to speak as one. Unusual their answers may be, but they also gave some interesting insights and ideas. Plus they revealed a collective love of skiing, which may or may not be an exclusive.
AM: How did you guys come together as a band? Did you have a clear idea of how it would work from the beginning?
A: Thank you. In the beginning we only wanted to ski together. You know the old saying. Actually, we still really only want to ski together, but art and music comes in the way constantly. Yes, we did have a clear idea to begin with, but when we tried to put it into words it sure was a tongue twister! Then we tried to put it into action, but this was even more confusing. So we concluded that idea = confusion.
AM: How would you describe the overall ethos of the project?
A: We would never let ethos describe the overall project! We leave this to Arthos, Aramis and F’Artagnan.
AM: Are you able to get together in the same room to rehearse very often? How do you go about writing your songs?
A: It is difficult to explain so pay attention. Rehearsal is absolutely central to Apparatjik. And rehearsal is not a preparation for something else, it is the thing itself. Das ding an sich, as the Germans say. They always say that. So annoying. We do prepare for rehearsals though. Unless we rehearse the preparations. Damn… see what I mean?!
AM: How has your sound developed from your first album?
A: Has it? We think of sound mostly as a social sphere. It is a place we often go just to be together. These albums are fuelled not so much by ambition as by an obsessive need to document everything. Everything is equally important. You could say that is an ethos, but that would upset the other three (ref question above). On this last album we were given a lot of input from people outside the cube, through the beauty of crowdsourcing. People very different from each other and even more different from us sent in stuff altogether different. The end result is an album no one really wanted to make just so. We are extremely fortunate to be part of something so naturally botched up and jumbled.
AM: ‘Square Peg In A Round Hole’ was initially made available within an iPad app. Did putting that together shape the composition or the recording of the songs at all?
A: Yes, we had to make it sound a certain way to infiltrate the rich. We already had the famous, you see. The original business idea was to make a lot of money by giving something away for free. It did not work too well, but we have not yet given up. Just because things are impossible, they can also be a challenge, I can tell you that for nothing!
AM: You invited fans to contribute their own ideas to these recordings. How did that shape the subsequent versions of the album leading up to the final release? Did it push you in surprising or unexpected directions?
A: Originally we wanted to make an album we could not make, and together they made it possible! We released new drafts of potential albums every week for what seemed like a very long time. Especially for the draftees. Instead of choosing a direction, we just ate the roadmap and drove from the backseat, much like grandma used to do back in the day. As a consequence, the kids were left free to experiment in the boot (ah, now that brings back memories!).
AM: Would you work in that way again?
A: Yes. You have to understand that work is what other people do. We travel. We travel so much it looks like work from certain angles. Then we combine travelling with the result of other peoples effort, and what comes out is… sometimes a book.
AM: You also collaborated with Pharrell Williams for a track on the new album. What did he bring to the recordings, and what was he like to work with?
A: You are referring to auto goon, the entity known as Pharrell in a parallel universe. It was a beautiful relationship: he had talent, we had hope. We wanted to piggyback on each other, but could find no piggies.
AM: You’re preparing a series of live shows later this year. What can people expect from those shows?
A: We would like to know too! If you have any ideas, please submit them to firstname.lastname@example.org. All we know is that the old ‘be there or be square’ idiom no longer holds.
AM: Finally, how do you see the project developing in the future?
A: We see skies of blue, clouds of white. Bright blessed days, dark sacred nights. And we think to ourselves… it’s APPARATJIK WORLD!