Roll the Dice's Cinematic Visions
The Nocturne 4 performers talk to us about their detailed narratives, their age differences, and how sharing a studio space gave rise to inspiration
Dimitri Nasrallah - May 25, 2012
Together for the last five years, Roll the Dice is the unlikely pairing of Peder Mannerfelt and Malcolm Pardon, a studio engineer and a “hit factory” pop-music composer who first met on the job and then happened to reconnect when they ended up sharing a studio space in Stockholm. Together, they make elegiac, drifting, cinematic soundtracks that constitute some of the most exacting and delicate live-electronics music to emerge in the last few years.
In advance of the duo’s MUTEK 2012 performance at Nocturne 4, we caught up with Peder Mannerfelt earlier this year to find out more about Roll the Dice’s working habits and their distinct visions. Catch them sharing the stage with Slowpitch, A Guy Called Gerald, Minilogue vs. Mathew Jonson, and Krause Duo next Saturday, June 2.
You and Malcolm seem to come from two different places. You’re The Subliminal Kid, you have a bit of a techno background. From my understanding, Malcolm is a TV composer and he also arranges and composes pop songs. Given those two backgrounds, how did you two meet?
Peder Mannerfelt: We first met ten years ago, when I was working as an assistant studio engineer. Malcolm was affiliated with a “hit factory”, this place here in Stockholm called Merlin. Malcolm was doing more of the songwriting back then. So we knew each other from that.
Then a couple of years later, we were both in the same place looking for a studio, and we ended up, five of us, together in the same studio. With Malcolm and I, there’s quite a big age difference as well, but we realized that we enjoyed the same type of music. So we just started – I wouldn’t say jamming because that’s not what we do – we started playing a fooling around together, and that’s gradually evolved over the last five years we’ve had this studio together.
Were you surprised that, given his portfolio of “hit factory” music, that you guys would even share a point of interest musically?
No, I know that he has good taste in music. He’s been around for quite some time, and he’s made good music as well. The more poppy stuff is maybe more to pay the rent.
And you began in techno. The Subliminal Kid was your first main techno project, and that precedes Roll the Dice. How did techno enter your life?
I would say it started off as a more bedroom, isolated thing. I was working as a studio engineer, and I was starting to learn how to make music through machines and a computer. Stockholm is a good techno city, and meeting people through record stores and things like that was really helpful.
What is the age difference?
I have to think... It’s about 15 to 17 years.
Oh, so about a generation.
Yeah, it’s a generation.
That must make your dynamic together so wide-ranging. You both bring two completely different musical histories to the table.
I think that’s one of the things that makes it really interesting for us. We don’t always have the same reference points, but we can really inspire each other with stuff that we’ve listened to and liked. Music that Malcolm liked in the 80s can be a big discovery for me, while new techno stuff that I show him is a major discovery for him.
Drama and feeling is something I sense very strongly in Roll the Dice recordings. How much of a priority is it to capture that specific atmosphere when you guys are making music together?
It didn’t start out with that idea, but we grew into it. We started out just fooling around with a few synths, without having any plan or idea where it would go. But we gradually grew into something and started making tracks. We weren’t even a band, so to speak; we just enjoyed playing together. We share a studio together in Stockholm, but we usually don’t work together. But once we connected, after a few night sessions we saw that we had a theme underway, we had something going, and so we kept making tracks and that’s how we made our first album.
Then when we made our second album, we had already set the whole first album in a kind of scenery. So before we even started recording the second album, we were discussing where the new album should take place, who the characters should be. Basically like discussing a film manuscript. It helps when we’re doing this instrumental music, makes it a bit more interesting than just making random soundscapes.
It’s interesting that you mention characters. I don’t think too many musicians go to these lengths of exploring character types or personalities to guide through the music.
The biggest process is for ourselves, to not talk too much about what we’re doing once we start making the music. Because we’ll already have the mindset established and know where it should go. What sounds to make and what should be happening. By then, we try to let the music speak for itself. We don’t want it to be too obvious about where it comes from.
So who is the main character and what is the main plot of In Dust?
It actually started out with our discussions of the first album, when we wanted to set the music in a larger perspective. We felt the music we had was rather desolate but still searching for something. We had this idea of two men moving west, to find gold and riches, trying to set a good future for themselves. But they totally fail with that.
For In Dust, they had to move into a big city and pick up work in an early industrial environment, in a big factory and what you would encounter there.