[Interview] Christopher Norman

Christopher Norman has been one of my friends since around 2005. At the time I got to know him he was part of the creative producers getting exposure and releases via the Scandinavian label/community Dumb & Furry (Dumb Dan, Özgür Can & Stian Klo). He was then known as Retrobyte. I have followed Christopher’s carrer closely ever since. He’s never stopped to amaze and impress me. Since 2005 a lot has happened to Mr. Norman’s sound. I caught up with him and had the chance to fire some questions at him:
Hi Christopher! You’ve been turning heads with your stunning EPs that you began to release in 2011. Tell us a bit about where you’re coming from musically and the background you draw inspiration from.
Hi Ken! Thanks for having me on!
I like to describe my music as an even mix of the organic and the electronic – electropop with depth!  My background as a producer lies chiefly in dance music – I started DJing and producing under the name “Retrobyte” in 2005.  The electronic streak continues to this day – regardless of what I produce that influence always ends up percolating to the surface.

Some of the motifs in your songs come from a place where desire blends with heartache and loneliness. Tell us about that place.Writing for me became a way to sort through an onslaught of feelings and pinpoint the emotions that matter.  Sometimes things can be overwhelming, but when I strip back the layers I can see that at the core is usually one thing, one feeling that is at the core of it all.  Once you know it’s about feeling left out, or being lonely, or whatever you’re complicating, it gets a little easier – my songs tend to become distillations of those feelings, organized in a way that makes it easier to digest and understand something. Basically, you need to visit and embrace that place from time to time in order to come full circle on things.
There’s quite a pop tinge to your songs. What’s your take on pop music? What justification does it have in a world where individualism and cynicism seems to be on the top of the agenda?
Such good questions 🙂 I like a lot of pop music – I just hate when I get past the hook and I realize what i’m singing is complete nonsense.  Good pop music should grab you instantly, but by the 10th play you’re listening on another level, resonating with the lyrics, etc… Most Top 40 pop here in the States is quite superficial, I think a lot of it feels disingenuous.  Then there’s somebody like Fiona Apple that comes along and just keeps it completely real.  There’s always room for good pop in the world! 
You seem to enjoy a lot of different setups music wise, from piano and guitar driven to synthy tech house. Are there limits, or do you tend to reach for the horizon?
The only limits are the ones you place on yourself! I Since I come from dance music I think I”ll always make it in some degree, but I also look forward to times when I can get out of my comfort zone and do something I haven’t done before.  For my production work I bop all around thru a bunch of styles, it keeps things interesting! I like to have my hands in a lot of different honeypots so to speak.

Creating EP 2
[jwplayer mediaid=”1842″]
You’ve worked with Drop Out Orchestra on several occasions. How does a deal like that usually go down? They send you a rough sketch and then you start singing? How does the magic happen?
They’re such great guys! They send me an instrumental idea to brainstorm ideas to, and after agreeing on a vibe/lyric idea I’ll track it and send it off to them.  They do most the magic in their mystery studio in Sweden!  It’s fun to take off my producer hat for a bit – it lets me flex a different set of muscles.
 What other acts and artists have you worked with? And what’s in the pipeline in the near future?
I just co-produced/remixed/mastered an Oakland artist by the name of Hopscotch – we shacked up in a Portland studio for a week to crunch that record out and it was a blast.  I’m also doing collaboration EPs with both The Reverb Junkie (from DOO’s “Sun Machine”) and a singer/songwriter in town here named Abigail Stauffer. A couple more guest vox and courting spots too – lots of little stuff.  There’s another solo project on the horizon, but I won’t say too much about that until I know what it is!
You’ve had your first successes performing live. What do you go for when you’re face to face with your audience? Are you getting comfortable or is it still like entering a trapeze without a safety net (if it ever were)?
After doing my solo act for about a year I’ve finally gotten comfortable performing! It used to make me really nervous, but now I feel really empowered and energized from it. There’s still a sense of “holy crap, something could go wrong at ANY MINUTE” – kind of like you’re surfing on a wave that will inevitably come crashing down – but it’s a motivating feeling, not a crushing one. I just need a scotch first and I’m good to go!
I know a big inspiration to you is iamamiwhoami. What else is tickling your fancy artistically?
Man, I really have talked everyone’s ear off about them, yeah? My boyfriend is sick of hearing me go on!  The new Metric album is eating my brain (check out “Clone” and “Lost Kitten”.  I always have some scandinavian pop in rotation too – Little Dragon, Lykke Li, Miike Snow.
The remixes of your tracks are often in the faster paced, harder end of the scale. Who’s on your ‘I-would-love-a-remix-from’-list?
Stimming – he’s a German tech house producer. I buy pretty much everything he does without even listening to it 😛  I would also kill for a remix from Jacques Lu Cont or Plastic Plates. Or Punks Jump Up.
You use facebook and BandPage as your major platforms. Where do you stand on the music industry’s way of reaching the masses contra how you go about it? Have the labels had their time, or do they still have time to catch the train again?
We could go on for pages about this 🙂 I’m mostly happy that I’m around in a time when the artist is so empowered.  There’ll always be a place for the labels – I think as we move into an age where music curation is increasingly necessary (due to the monster influx of music with which to listen) we’re gonna see more labels move into that role, offering support when needed (distribution, occasional $$) and letting their artists do their thing.
You created a mixtape for audioavalon. Tell us a bit on your thoughts and emotions creating it.
It’s summer! Not all this stuff is super recent, but it’s perfect for dropping on your MP3 player and going for a beautiful walk or drive 🙂
Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, Chris!
Christopher Norman – Mixtape for audioavalon.com *exclusive*:
01. Body Language – Social Studies (Plastic Plates Remix)
02. Metronomy – The Bay (Erol Alkan’s Extended Rework)
03. Lana Del Rey – Blue Jeans (Penguin Prison Remix)
04. Oh Land – Sun Of A Gun (Yuksek Remix)
05. Chrome Sparks – ❤ & Soul (Christopher Norman Remix)
06. Drop Out Orchestra – It Will Never Be The Same Again (Punks Jump Up Remix)
07. iamamiwhoami – goods
08. Nightlife – On The Run
09. Christopher Norman – Word Of Prey (Kotov & Andre Wilde Remix)
10. Christopher Norman & The Reverb Junkie – You Don’t Know
11. Metric – Police & The Private (Christopher Norman Bootleg Mix)
12. Christopher Norman – The Fall (Saturday Monday Remix)
More Christopher Norman: