Hanne Kolstø [interview]


After a few rings Hanne answers with full Skype-visuals. I have a policy of never having the camera turned on while talking on Skype because I think it’s distracting being able to see your own face. With this in mind, I explain that my camera is broken and that we’ll have to chat the (semi) old fashioned way - with just voices. I think she is ok with it. With my mind free from face-based distractions I go on.

How are you doing?

I’m ok, but I just had a cold. Sniffling a bit. I think you English call it sniffling, right?

Alex - Yea we do! It’s an onomatopoeia.

Hanne - Nice!

For someone completely new to you and your music - how would you sell yourself? Why should they press play?

I don’t sell myself! I am not about trying to persuade people to listen to what I produce, I like the idea of it going from person to person. I recently did an interview with some Norwegian press, and they picked up on the point that I really didn't sell myself at all! I make pop music. I think that’s the simplest way of putting it. I try to write catchy melodies that people will enjoy, and I have great fun doing it.

Alex - We’re going to get onto pop music later, so hold your horses on it!

Hanne - good! I love saying that I play pop music because there is a bit of a stigma around it. I want people to enjoy it, and not mind that it may not be ‘cool’! I really enjoy the hit songs that have catchy refrains, and I am trying to make pop music.

Alex [giving up on speaking about pop music later on] - I think that pop music suggests accessibly. People will understand it. It won’t be a piece of abstract music in a weird time signature that people won’t get. It’s open to people that aren't nerds.

Hanne - Someone once wrote that my music is intellectual, and that was annoying! I am not copying poetry or doing anything like that. I want to write things that people will understand. Sometimes I’m embarrassed by what I write, but they are often the hits! By the way - just so you know, this is the first interview that I have done in The UK! I have been around the US, and all around Scandinavia, but I’ve never done one in The UK before. It’s really refreshing to hear a British voice! [at this point I am thanking the lord that the camera is off as I am getting pink in the cheeks].

Tell us about the brass band that you sometimes use in your music.

I was recording in my hometown, and my father plays in a brass band. I like to use people that I like and that I love. In the brass band was a teacher from my old school, the father of my best friend and my volleyball teacher. It is nice to know that the sound is coming from people that I like and have a connection with. The choirs I’ve used have been collections of my friends, and some of them have never sung before. It gives the record something extra. I’d rather my best friends than my best singing friends on my music.

Alex - So you’ve gone from being told off at school, to telling those teachers off for maybe not playing the parts very well!

Hanne - [laughing] Yes! I like to get these things done outside the studio, because it feels more personal, and it means I can do it quicker. I like to finish music, record it and get it out as soon as possible. You can take two years making a record sound like heaven, or butter.

Alex - what would you rather, heaven or butter?

Hanne - Heaven and butter.

Alex - I think in England we have a butter brand called heavenly butter. [I was wrong. We don’t]

Talking of butter, what did you have for breakfast?

Haha! I was just in New York, and they really fucked me up with kale, and beets. They’re both very cool out there and all the trendy kids are eating them, so I had beets for breakfast.

Alex - On kale?

Hanne - No! I reckon the perfect indie band would be called pony kale.

Alex - Or kale and the bear.

Hanne - I don’t know about over there, but all of the indie bands over here try to be cool by putting pony in their name.

Alex - Over here it is bear.

Hanne - So anyway, the beets were in my breakfast. They got me.

Alex - I hate to say this, but you do have a cold. Maybe it’s not all that healthy!

Hanne - I know! Boohoo!

Where do you think Norwegian music is at the moment, and how do you think you fit into it?

I’m not really into the music scene at the moment. I quit Instagram and twitter and all of that a while ago, so I’m really out of the scene. I get stressed when I pay too much attention to what other people are doing. It’s better for me to keep to myself. I’m a very sensitive person, and so when I hear something I think to myself ‘I should sound like them’.

Alex - you don’t come across as a particularly sensitive person.

Hanne - It is weird because I know I don’t sound like I am, but I do worry. When your music sounds like you then I think there is a lot of shame connected with it because you’re being honest about how you feel. I find my way of writing gets fucked up by wanted to do what I hear other people doing.

Alex - Have you ever thought that there are probably people out there listening to your music and saying to themselves ‘shit! I want to make music like her!’?

Hanne - I guess maybe! I reckon it’s just because I’m a bit neurotic. I’ve learned that I need to protect myself.

Alex - You can’t deny that there are lots of people who love you music, and if you changed they’d probably be reeaallyyy sad!

Hanne - My thoughts don’t go that far.

[We are interrupted by Hanne’s mum coming in to ask how long I would need her daughter for because dinner was ready. I feel beads of sweat prickling my brow. The Pressure is on].

If I were to turn on your iPod now, what would be playing? [pause…] Do you even have an iPod?


Alex - Didn't think you would. After all that no twitter and all the rest of it!

Hanne - I don’t really listen that much to music.

Alex - I’m writing down [doing that voice you do when saying what you’re writing] ‘Doesn’t - like -music - very - much’

Hanne - [laughing] Hate - Everybody… Doesn't - want - to - talk - to - anyone.

Alex - Hasn’t - left - the - house - for - four - weeks

Hanne - I do actually live on my own - in Lofoten in Norway. It is the most beautiful place in all of Norway. No people live here, and I am by the ocean. I am a bit of a loner. It does mean that I can start thinking about something and finish the thought. In the city thoughts always get interrupted.

The video for Carousel is good fun, but since then your videos have become not very fun at all. Are you ok?

Good question! I write music because something is not ok!

Alex - seemed ok in Carousel!

Hanne - I was really in love at the time. Things were a little out of control, and the video reflects that. The video for One Plus One Makes One Out Of Two was pretty intense to film because I got a massive panic attack when they wrapped me in the plastic wrapping. In answer to your question, yes I am ok. I’m ok because I write.

When are you coming to The UK?

It is mad, I have never been, but I am planning to come. It is embarrassing to never have been to London.

Alex - I don’t think we treat bands that well over here.

Hanne - That’s ok! I think it’s good to earn being treated well! When I’ve toured around in the past I’ve always asked from the stage whether anyone had somewhere for me to stay.

Alex - What proportion of the people who invited you back were women, and what proportion were men?

Hanne - All were men.

Alex - That’s ridiculous.

We laugh for a bit about stuff to do with stupid men, I thank her for her time and then she rushes off for her dinner. I wish I’d asked what she was having.