We talk to Swedish producer Henrik Sunbring about his solo project oplen, about Domus, the post-kraut duo he shares with Thobias Eidevald, about his career and, above all, about O-P-L-E-N, the album he releases on 26th March.
You have been active for 20 years, are you still faithful to the style of your early years, what has changed during these two decades?
Some influences are still there, and others has been discovered over the years. In electronic music your setup of gear affects your sound, my instruments and tools are not really the same now compared to then. But even if the tools are different the sound needs to pass through my ears and my mind. Making music has always been a exploration for me, it still is.
What does the name oplen mean?
It’s a funny dialectally word from the part of Sweden I grew up in, it doesn’t mean anything really. But I think it suits the music, it is open for interpretation.
It could also be a anagram for the artist Plone (that I listen to a lot in the beginning of oplen) or Polen (Poland in Swedish).
You were part of Agent Side Grinder for 10 years, a band with a style somewhere between industrial and post-punk, what did this project contribute to your sound?
Being in a touring band for 10 years shapes you as person and artist a lot. You learn from each other and you meet a lot of interesting people. During some of these years oplen was more or less on hold, but I think all the live situations and rehearsal studio jamming developed my improvisations skills. I experimented a lot with synths and drum machines though guitar pedals these years, and still do, so that is one concrete thing I guess.
What differentiates the sound of Domus and oplen?
I would say generally oplen´s music is more abstract and Domus music is more based around song arrangements. oplen is like a raw and unfiltered version of my expressions. And the obvious difference is of course that Domus is two persons with different influences and skills, e.g. Thobias bass guitar sound is a big part of Domus.
O-P-L-E-N is an album where you show great versatility and creative mastery. Each track is completely different from the rest in terms of style and structure, we can appreciate very different influences in each of them like minimal electronica, IDM, drone or a mix of dark-wave and kraut-rock quite up to date, how would you define this mix of styles?
Oh thank you! I think you got it well covered there. For me it is not very important to be in a specific genre, it is just music. I really love the texture of electronic sounds and that is my main way to express myself. But for me there is no big separation between electronic music and guitar based music. Two big influences for me is Aphex Twin and the post-rock band Godspeed You! Black Emperor, they have completely different way of playing music but I think they still have a lot in common on several levels.
In 2020 you released the tracks of this album separately, were they already thought to be part of the same release?
Not really, they just happened. I finished O one year ago and just put it out the same day. Then I realized that if I put out 4 more songs I will have OPLEN. After that I got inspired and start to planning for a cassette release and recorded this 15 minutes long ambient track that is the B-side. When the cassette was ready we decided to start over and do an album release.
Technologically, how was the creative process of O-P-L-E-N?
More or less different for every song.
Last winter I built a ring modulator pedal, a diy clone of a very rare Swedish 70’s guitar pedal. That pedal had a major impact on the sound of the songs P and E. Trying out different instruments through the pedal also inspired me to record these tracks.
For the song L I had this field recording of a crackling fire. I have heard the Autechre did midi quantizations of bouncing balls in the early years, so I wanted to try the same and trigg my drum synth with the fire crackles and it turned out really nice. I also heard a rhythm in the fire sound and did a loop of that.
I tried this technique on the sound of popcorn popping too, that turned out awful, haha!
On song O and N the basic track was recorded in one live take, on N I recorded it to my tape machine. I was watching a nature program on my computer while recording instead of watching the daw on the computer.
This album is released on cassette and digital. The cassette is a format with a sound lacking in harmonics and very appropriate for industrial, in your case do you think it is beneficial for your album?
Since my music is sometimes pretty dynamic it took a while before we got it right, but I think it sounds cool. The cassette layout turned out really good. I was aiming for a small limited edition and for that cassettes are very appropriate an fun to make.
Ohm2recordings and Luftrum are the two labels on which you release O-P-L-E-N, what can you tell us about these two labels?
O2r is my own label for my own music. Luftrum came to life when I asked my friend David Åhlén (from the duo 1921) to make an artwork drawing for the cassette and he suggested to start this label/collective, then we connected Gustaf Järver who did the cassette layout and the two videos.
What is the value of field recordings in your work?
I like the mix of clinical synths and field recordings. But more like noisy ambient sound, it gives some movement to the sound. In my song L it played the lead part though.
What future projects do you have in sight?
I’m working on some collaboration projects right now in the studio, but I also have some new oplen sketches that I would like to realize in the near future. Maybe, play live someday..
For those of us who don’t know Stockholm, what would you highlight about the music scene in your city?
We had some shut downs of venues in the city because of bad political priorities and complaining neighbours the last years. There is an interesting area just outside the city that is growing and has some cool venues and clubs though, it is the former slaughterhouse area.