Enigmatic and industrious, Thor Rixon has taken South African electronic music and moulded it, revved it up and dressed it down. He has spent considerable time performing extensively around EU & SA, releasing his second full length studio album, collaborating with a range of diverse artists, and generally pushing the sonic envelope.
We caught up with Thor Rixon as he just released his latest album ‘Michele’ on Get Physical.
Electronic Groove: Hi Thor, thanks for the time. It’s not quite often we interview someone from South Africa. Can you give us some insight on how did you got interested in dance music?
Thor Rixon: Wow, I would say I first got interested in dance music when fidget and dubstep were a thing in South Africa back in about 2007. I was in high school and there were a few songs that played on repeat in the clubs we went to. One of those tracks was The Crookers’ remix of Kid Cudi’s ‘Day n Night’. I remember hearing that song for the first time and falling in love instantly. That bass and those vocals just got me. Many good times associated with that song.
EG: What can you tell us about the scene over there? How has it evolved in the past years and what is your input on its future?
Thor Rixon: It really feels like South Africa is exploding at the moment. The country has always turned out quality work in the creative fields but now it feels as if it is being recognized by a more global audience. There are artists and collectives that are pushing boundaries and putting out very inspiring work. I hope to play my part in helping further the creative scene here as much as possible by collaborating and sharing knowledge with anyone who I cross paths with. Working with people and collaborating is one of the things I enjoy most.
EG: We hope to make it there at some point! Now that the summer season just came to an end, what was your favorite memory?
Thor Rixon: I was in Berlin and the European Union for the summer, working and touring, which was so inspiring and very productive. There isn’t anyone memory that comes to mind, but instead many memories that collect together to form a collage of thrilling performances with friends, beautiful journeys on trains & buses, cycling the streets at night and of course making music.
EG: Let’s talk about ‘Michele’. What was the inspiration behind this release? Who is ‘Michele’?
Thor Rixon: Well, Michele is my mum and she has been nagging me to make dance music for ages. So a few years back I decided it was time to put my head down, listen to my mum for once, and make some dance music. At this time I also started listening to a lot of dance music and exploring the many sub-genres. I went deeper and deeper, learning and creating. I wrote a lot of material, allowing for the uninspired ideas to sit on hard-drives and letting the cream rise to the top. Once I had what I thought was the album, I shared it with my mum and she liked it but thought that a few things could be changed so I went back and reworked a lot of the material until she was happy and I was happy.
EG: Nice! Did the album meet your initial intentions?
Thor Rixon: It’s interesting to think about intentions, as whenever I set out to create a longer body of work I have this idea in my mind of what it is I’m creating, but as the work is being created it takes on its own form and morphs into whatever it is meant to be. I always allow for the work to dictate itself instead of trying to force my idea into shape, if that makes sense. I set out to create a dance album. I wrote my interpretation of dance music and went with it. Allowing for anything and everything to guide the process. So I would say it did meet my intentions: of creating a dance album for my mum.
EG: Where was it recorded? Where there any other people involved?
Thor Rixon: It was recorded mainly in my bedroom in Cape Town and in many different bedrooms in Berlin. The featured vocalists on the record are Mx Blouse, a very talented vocalist based in JHB who I have had the pleasure of working with a number of times before; Roxy Caroline, a good friend who I used to live with and who is one half of the incredible band Hyroine; and lastly Duduza Mchunu, another extremely talented housemate who has now relocated to London. There are instrumental performances from a number of friends on the record such as; my good friend Albany Lore, whom I share a studio within CT now- he plays the saxophone on a number of the tracks; Deklis Adin who I met through another good friend Alice Phoebe Lou in Berlin- he plays the bass on a few songs and absolutely kills it- an incredible bass player; and Caley Garden, a fellow musician from CT lent her beautiful violin playing to a few songs.
EG: Very cool! So the album was released on Get Physical. How did this connection materialize?
Thor Rixon: My manager Jarrad had a demo of my song ‘The Clown’ on a flash drive and was showing it around to people he knew at ADE back in 2016. The label head of Get Physical, Roland, got wind of the track somehow, liked it enough that he wanted to sign it as a single with a full album to follow. We signed the papers and I got to work.
EG: We really love the organic feel the album has. What can you tell us about the lyrics and vocals?
Thor Rixon: In regard to lyrics, I can only speak on my own writings, as the featured vocalists can be the only ones who discuss the ideas behind their lyrics. I personally always try to slip an idea into someone’s mind, almost like a gentle and friendly Trojan horse. I want people to question themselves. I strongly believe that everyone should always question their thoughts and their motives and be very aware of what they do to both themselves and others through action and words. This sentiment is something that I try to convey with my lyrics. The topic of discussion on ‘Michele’ is largely about people’s effect on the world, each other and ourselves. Most of the lyrics are straightforward in that regard so as not to alienate anyone through dense metaphor.
EG: The tracks ‘Our End’ is featured on your latest video. What can you tell about its concept, art direction, and production?
Thor Rixon: The film was created in collaboration with another dear friend Rob Smith. Rob and I have worked together on a number of projects before. I sent him the song, he liked it, we went for coffee, threw some ideas around, he listened to the song bit more, we met for coffee a few more times and finally had a solid idea on the table. I had wanted to do a video for ‘Our End’ that would involve a landfill such as the one we shot on in CT. To really show the vastness of waste that a city creates. Rob and I went to visit a few landfills in CT, found Vissershok, got the permits and went in for the shoot. We brought Big Bird Films on to do the drone cinematography for the piece. We shot the whole piece about 9/10 times excluding rehearsals. We chose what we thought was the best take which was lucky enough to be the one which featured the setting sun. There were many elements that we had to work around such as shadows and framing the crew out of the shot but we managed to overcome the issues and make it work in the end.
EG: Is there are tour planned for the album?
Thor Rixon: I’m set to tour South Africa and some surround countries till March, then I’ll be heading over to Europe for the summer to tour there extensively with hope of hitting parts of Asia and the USA towards the end of 2019. That’s the plans thus far.
Thor Rixon’s ‘Michele’ is already available on Get Physical. Grab your copy here.