Hanne Hukkelberg is a music connoisseur herself and a large part of her audience can be described as connoisseurs as well.
Her music, while being as catchy as the best pop songs, dives deeper and demands more from the listener. Her first years in the studio were spent together with Kåre Chr Vestrheim (Marit Larsen, Odd Nordstoga, Highasakite, Motorpsycho) who’s also a master of layered productions. Together they combined genres, moods and sounds in a playful and innovative way that resulted in several albums (Little Things, Rykestrasse 68, Blood From A Stone and Featherbrain).
On her latest album (Trust) and singles, Hanne has taken over the role as a producer leaving only the mixing in the hands of others. You could say Hanne has become the prime example of how to successfully do everything yourself, but somehow it’s not a DIY spirit that seems to drive her, but rather a pursuit of trying to achieve exactly what she wants the listener to hear. Be it a quirky beat, a distinct sound or the overall feel of the song.
Known as the God mother to some of the best singers that have come out of Norway the last decade (some of which guested on her latest self produced album Trust; Emilie Nicolas & Ingrid Helene Håvik) she has also a big following within the Norwegian music community.
When dropping by Propeller Mastering a fresh autumn day, she has brought her first ever self mixed project ready for mastering - the music for the award winning documentary “My Heart Belongs to Daddy (Røverdatter)” that’s being released as a soundtrack very soon. <post updated with the soundtrack>
HANNE HUKKELBERG // ARTIST - COMPOSER - PRODUCER
Hanne.. first.. there’s a picture of you hanging here in the Propeller lounge that needs an explanation..
Haha, thanks, Morgan:) The band picture, well.. Where should I start..?
The picture is from one of the concerts I did as the vocalist in the doom-metal band Funeral.
I must have been 19 or so, I was a singer in one doom-metal band, a industrial-prog-metal-band, a standard jazz duo and an indie-rock-band. At the same time I applied as a jazz singer for the Norwegian academy of music in Oslo and started there not much later, and I was soon a singer in different free jazz-constellations as well. So I was never a die-hard metal-girl, as it may look on the picture, but I loved being part of different music communities and internalize the different genre styles.
Btw, I just got a mail from a fan who sent me this link https://www.facebook.com/DarkFuneralPage/videos/169696339722444/
He loved this song and I have to admit, this was one of my favorites as well. I'm the vocalist on the whole album.
Haha! Wow! This is serious stuff! Finally we get to hear the sound behind that photo! That’s so cool and operatic(!) and really in contrast to the soundtrack we’re mastering today. How do you approach composing for picture compared to your solo material?
It’s for sure a very different approach. Making music for a feature film, I work for another artist’s vision and expression, so I will have to adjust and maybe also take directions and follow someone else artistic urge. On this music score I started out just making three huge loads of sketches that I gave the director. We had some pretty long meetings where we prioritized to get to know each other and got our communication flowing, I’d say. After that, I kind of knew what she wanted, or at least did not want. It was an enormous advantage to know each other, because we could focus on producing each our material and we didn’t go much back and forth. It kind of just became what it became! Out from those three batches of music, where one was piano music, another was electronic music, and a third was just old stuff I found in the drawer, she picked out what she liked, and I started working on the sketches out from the atmospheres and timing.
Now the film has received an Amanada award and it has become a very important film of the year in Norway. I’m very proud to have been a part of this. And I’d love to do it again! That’s why I wanted to make a soundtrack, so other film directors can hear the music on Spotify. The soundtrack is supposed to be a sort of a business card as a score music composer. Hope it works!
With my own music, I approach it more freely, I guess. I try to follow my inner artistic voice and it can happen I very many different ways. It's a good sign when the music guides me rather that the opposite. I try never to grow to comfortable with making music. I try to always.. Just grow. And try stuff. Maybe I can call myself a sort of a nomad within the musical landscape?
You have a unique sound (and melody) palette. What inspires you to create these landscapes?
I really don't know, it could be whatever. Inspiration is a fluid and perishable thing, really. What really matter to me is what state of mind I’m in. Then everything could inspire me - a good talk, a flagpole, a hairdresser, the mountains, a candle, the shape of a carrot, Mozart, the look on a stranger’s face, an article, a photo, a colour, a feeling, fire, water, air, a rubber band string, a wooden tree with a tone, whistling wind, the rain, the sound of a motorbike, the ambulance, a movie, a book, and of course others music or going on a concert. But I’m often afraid to let me be inspired of music, because I don't want to end up telling anyone else’s story. I wanna tell my own.
And melodies - I have never rehearsed on melodies. To find good melodies I think of nature, shapes, shades, landscapes and topography..
Can you share a little bit about the process from idea to the final theme?
I let the idea come to me. To me, making music is also about trying to live a good life, a meaningful life, and when I live, small drops of songs come to me. To make music is about being there and catch these drops, the ideas when they come, and to try to see and read what it’s about, help them live and rather than create them. It’s like a baby. You can’t decide what you’ll get. You take what you get and do your best.
This is the first time you’ve also done everything from composing to the final mix. Was it a conscious decision to take it all the way?
No no no, that was not the plan.
Røverdatter/My Heart Belongs To Daddy is about a girl and her relationship to her daddy, so sofia and I had an idea quite early to work with my daddy as well, since he’s a musician, composer and a church organ player. he didn’t compose anything for the film, m but I used some music he’s involved in on the soundtrack, “Dad’s church”, and “Deilig er jorden” which my dad has arranged. My mother’s choir is singing:)
The music used on the film was mixed by a guy in Sweden and my plan was to use his mix for the soundtrack. But I wasn’t able to go there to assist him, so I was never really satisfied with the cinema mix. So when I decided to release the soundtrack, I had to mix it again. I tried to make others mix it, but for one or another reason it never happened or didn’t felt right. After talking to you, Martin Horntveth, my brother and few other producers, I was convinced to mix the soundtrack myself. I had never done that before and I have a huge respect for the sound engineering field, but after all, i’m the one knowing how I want this to sound. So I have to say now i’m very happy I did this myself.
It sure sounds like you made the right decision! Back to the creating process; Do you prefer making the songs in the studio or behind a piano with a pen and paper?
I never use pen and paper. I don’t know many who does that these days. Though I have made sheet music. Yesterday I had to send a composition I made for vocal group, Snowflakes, on sheets to my parents, to get their help on filling out expression signs. They are classical educated musicians and they had to finish the sheet for me. So that is how close I get to that. I know notes, but to me, that’s not where real music is. I guess I always try to not only connect the music to my head, but also my heart, so I love sitting in front of the piano and kinda ‘paint’ emotions.. Behind the piano is where my songs get born. Then I bring them into a music program, and I usually find a suitable shape for it and I record some sounds to make it.. speak.. or something..
Yeah, I guess you’re right about the pen and paper and that Mac’s have replaced that a long time ago. That and iPhones. (Thank you Apple!) Do you focus much on the gear during the creative process?
Well, I’m not very much into gear. I think that is the most boring part of this the songwriting and producing. I wanna get into the sound of music as fast as I can. I think I have been that eager about getting into music and out from the gear-zone, that this get-out-of-gear-zone-as-fast-as-possible-mentality has become a part of my sound. Yeah, kinda a low-fI -sound. but sometimes gear have to be right to get the music right, right? I sit on my laptop, and these days I use Ableton Live to make music, I think I have just one plug in or so. It might sound boring, but the less plugins I have, the less I care about non-musical-stuff and I get to business faster, it make me focus more on the core of why I make music - the atmospheres and emotions. I love playing around with EQ, reverbs and delays and just different possibilities in the default devices, or what you call it. But I try not to care about what everyone else is doing, what plug in they’re using. If I need the sound of an effect, I try to make it myself from the ground. sometimes it’s lame, and a few times it works really well! but who knows, I have SO much to learn about technicalities, so I might be stuffed by plug-ins next time you ask. I’ll never get tired of simplicity, though maximalism always gets me..
I’ve made music for the whole film in Ableton Live. I never thought that would work out, but it did. I also worked a lot in ProTools, and also Logic. My plan is to start with Logic. Almost all external sounds are recorded with my iPhone. except some of my vocals which I record on my Apogee Duet sound card. I have some Dynaudio speakers, but I normally work on my Beyer Dynamic headphones. That’s it.
Oh, I forgot to tell I’ve had one box i’ve played a lot with lately - a Roland VT-3. This I also use live when I perform with my solo material.
You’ve just started producing others - just recently doing vocal production for Highasakite. How has that experience been?
That was incredibly fun! or, that sounds like we were jumping around in studio every day, and that we didn’t. But I felt that I was kind of in my right element, yet I have some miles to walk before i’d be totally comfortable in that position. But I felt so trusted by HAAK and Ingrid and I had so much freedom to come with my opinions and questions. I had a great time and they are also so sweet people to work with!
I have never vocal-produced a whole album before, and I don't know anyone else in Norway doing this, I just thought about that I have these skills. I’m an educated vocal teacher and has taught and mentored many of Norway's biggest artists. I have experience from the music industry for 15 years and have made five solo albums also, so I thought this might be a thing I could do, and told a few people. so, when HAAK asked me, I kinda had to create this role of my own while doing the work. Every morning we had a talk and maybe a little vocal coaching, then we decided for a song to record, I sat down behind the mixing desk and I recorded all the vocal while listening to the lyrics, the vocals, and everything and I instructed the whole session according to Ingrid and Trond’s wishes. In the end I chose out, edited and made a finished vocal track.
I recall you mentioning going the vocal producing route a year ago or so and by starting with Highasakite, it is an impressive start for sure! Congrats with that! It also sounds like you’ve had a busy year so far! A little bird told me you’ve also spent some time in LA this year?
Yes, I release a new single on November 16th called “Stardust”! I've made it together with some people in LA. I produced it and the other three made the melody and lyrics. This song will be the first song on a new road that will lead onto a my next album.
Nice! I wish you the best of luck with the release of both the soundtrack and your new single, Hanne!
Thanks, Morgan :)