How Classical Music & French New Wave Inspired Lindstrøm's 'Windings' EP

Lin Stensrud
Lindstrøm

A few years ago, the Norwegian producer Lindstrøm – mostly known for dance tunes – faced what might be considered a crisis for a musician: he stopped liking music. "It started with club music," he tells Billboard. "Then I was getting tired of the '70s and '80s music I've been obsessed with for so many years." "After that," he jokes, "there was nothing left."

But it would be hard for a listener to discern any change in Lindstrøm's habits: he continued to churn out music at a steady rate despite losing interest in the sounds that had intrigued him for much of his career. In 2015 alone, he served as producer on Maya Vik's effervescent single, "Y.M.D. (Young Michael Douglas)," and recruited Grace Hall to contribute vocals to the exuberant "Home Tonight." He indulged his experimental side by putting out an album with Todd Rundgren and Emil Nikolaisen; he fed the pop machine with a sterling, larger-than-life remix of Mark Ronson's "I Can't Lose." Last Friday, Lindstrøm returned with the Windings EP.

Though he appears to be fairly productive, he doesn't see it that way. "I'm really happy that I'm finally able to release something again," Lindstrøm says, as if returning from a lengthy hiatus. "I'm such a slow worker. I'm really not efficient at all. I'm making hundreds of different versions and trying all kinds of approaches to the initial idea – in the end, I end up using the original one."

Or he just abandons the project all together and moves onto something else. "What's more important is the process of actually doing those tracks," Lindstrøm explains. "I've got so much music in my studio that is very close to being finished, but I will probably never release it. I lost interest in putting those tracks out. That's part of my non-efficient way of dealing with the music business. I'm doing everything wrong."

Again, the evidence suggest otherwise: "Home Tonight" and Lindstrøm's Mark Ronson remix were among the most jubilant dance singles to appear last year. Windings also draws from this well. The producer likes to build things slowly – the bass in "Closing Shot" doesn't arrive until past the two minute mark – but these three new tracks are unstoppable despite their geniality, a union of battle-ready synthesizers and flat, tire-puncturing beats. As is often the case with Lindstrøm's music, the pop of the late '70s and '80s is a touchstone – even though he professes to be bored with that era, you can hear it in the tint of the drums and the tone of the synths throughout the EP, while "Foehn" hints at the decade's funk and early techno.

The title of "Closing Shot" is a reference to the final frame in François Truffaut's French New Wave classic The 400 Blows, and in the absence of musical inspiration, movies served as a common source of creative sparks for Lindstrøm. Another song that almost made the release was named "Kurosawa," in honor of the famous Japanese director. But Lindstrøm shows no interest in potential scoring projects. "I don't think I will ever make music for movies," he says. "I don't think I would go well with directors – everyone would have an opinion of what I'm doing. I think I'm best when I'm working alone."

Lindstrøm also listened to a lot of classical music while working on his latest EP, but he's not yet sure this will do to his sound. "I haven't been listening to that music for 20 years," he notes. "It's something maybe with music without any drums or beat? The full focus is on the melodies and the arrangements. A lot of the music is really complex as well, which I really like." Still, returning to the form hasn't entirely cured his listening woes. "Too much classical music, and I get tired again," he says. "It's all about the variation."

Lindstrøm finished the music for Windings around Easter. "My record company got the tracks, and they were like, 'let's do a three track EP,'" he remembers. "I'm like whatever – I'm kind of through with these. My thoughts are in different tracks now."

"I'm not a tactics guy," he continues merrily. No regrets here: "I guess I could play my cards much, much better. But I'm happy like it is."