Going Sølo : Nicklas Sørensen Talks Influences, Scat, and His New Solo LP

If you’re familiar with the Danish rockers Papir, then you’re quite familiar with Nicklas Sørensen. Sørensen is the guitarist for the three-piece psych rock outfit out of Copenhagen. His style is fluid, groove-filled and nuanced. He can go from heady post-rock passages that float on crystalline clouds to buzzing, fuzzed-out freak outs at the drop of a guitar pick. There’s a real intellectual quality to his style that is missing from so many modern players. Back in early 2016 Nicklas released his first solo LP titled Solo. Using his Papir bandmates as a rhythm section, the album was a tour de force of Michael Rother vibes and motorik beats that sounded like early Satriani and Dixie Dregs records, had they been influenced by NEU! ’75. In relation to other instrumental guitar album fare, Solo stood out as something completely new.

Nicklas Sørensen wasted no time recording album number two. Solo 2 was recorded with Jonas Munk at his Odense studio and this time around Sørensen kept the process to just himself and Munk. With Munk’s deft synth touches and some classic electronic drum machines, Nicklas built an even more unique listening experience. The results are stunning.

I recently spoke with Nicklas Sørensen about the album, the writing process, his influences, and how Eurodance led to A Tribe Called Quest, which led to “Smoke On The Water”.


J. Hubner: So where did you grow up? 

Nicklas Sørensen: I grew up in Bagsværd which is a small town in the suburbs close to Copenhagen.

J. Hubner: What age did you get into music as a fan? Did you have someone that was your musical mentor?

Nicklas Sørensen: I don’t remember what age exactly, but I think I was fascinated by music and instruments from a very early age. I remember collecting these Mr. Music-tapes containing a mixture of all these European hits from the 90’s; Scatman John and Whigfield just to name a few. I was around eight or nine then. A pedagogue was kind of a mentor for me. I was often bored and not really good a playing with the other kids, who wanted to play computer all the time, which I hated. But he made this mixtape for various hip hop groups for me, and I was listening to it all the time. Can’t recall what was on it though, probably A Tribe Called Quest, Cypress Hill – stuff like that. So hip hop and Eurodance was my first love so to speak. Rock’n’roll probably came from my father who played “Smoke on the Water” on vinyl for me, that’s the first rock’n’roll song I remember.

J. Hubner: Who were some of the first artists you fell for? Do you remember the first album you bought?

Nicklas Sørensen: Scatman John and Whigfield. I got my first stereo for my ten years birthday, and I wanted to buy Scatman John’s debut album, but for some reason I bougth a compilation called Dance Mix instead. That was my first CD.

photo by Jimmi Brandt

J. Hubner: When did you start to play music? Was guitar your first instrument?

Nicklas Sørensen: I started going in this youth club after school and formed my first band with some boys and girls from my class. I played drums. The pedagogues in the club encouraged and motivated us to play and make music. My father wouldn’t let me have a drum set though, so he gave me a guitar for Christmas instead. I played it every day and started hanging out with some guys from my school who played in another band, and soon I was good enough to join that band. We played Creedence and The Beatles and Guns’N’ Roses too. I also started taking lessons in classical guitar at the same time as I started playing in a band. There was actually a period where I thought classical guitar was going to be my life.

J. Hubner: When you started learning guitar, who were some of your musical heroes? Which guitarists blew your mind?

Nicklas Sørensen: I don’t recall I had any guitar heroes, but I started taking a few lessons in blues guitar also with this guy who was obsessed with Eric Clapton. So he got me through a lot of Eric Clapton licks and solos. What first blew my mind was probably a Danish band called Dizzy Mizz Lizzy, and the Danish guitarist Tim Christensen, who could play both heavy melodic riffs and majestic solos – I was really into that in my early teenage years.

J. Hubner: You’ve been putting out albums with Papir for quite a few years now. In early 2016 you released your first solo LP, titled Solo. When you decided you wanted to put out something on your own, what was the idea behind that first solo record? What, on your own, did you want to create that you couldn’t in a band?

Nicklas Sørensen: I used to see myself mainly as a “band person”. I have always been in bands and thought that was my channel for expressing my musical identity – so I guess it wasn’t really obvious for me why I should do a solo record in the first place. I remember Jonas and Jakob said something like “maybe you should do a solo record…?” or “you should really consider doing a solo record…with abstract sounds, new age, esoteric guitar or something like that”, and I was like “yeah maybe, we will see…” And then my girlfriend also started saying “I really think you should do that solo record”. Okay okay! And then in the end I thought, well why not – let’s see what I can come up with. I started experimenting with a loop pedal, and a lot of ideas just came floating. So I was too scared at that time to do it completely on my own and felt it would be nice to create the songs in more familiar context, so Papir was the obvious choice for a backing band and Jonas as a producer as well.

J. Hubner: Were you ultimately happy with how your first album on your own ended up? I personally loved it, btw.

Nicklas Sørensen: Yeah I think it turned out pretty good. I listen to it once in a while and it’s mostly a satisfying experience.

J. Hubner: So you are now releasing your second solo LP, titled ‘Solo 2’. There seems to be a lot more going on sonically this time. You worked on it with Causa Sui’s Jonas Munk and recorded at his studio. It’s a stunning album. How did the record come together? Were you creating guitar loops and then building upon those? Did you two discuss certain vibes you wanted to hit going in or did you just improvise and build the record as you went along?

Nicklas Sørensen: Again, I started with experimenting with loops and sounds on the guitar. Some old ideas, chord structures, themes, etc… And this time I had a more clear idea about the concept, that I wanted to try and make something without a band. But I still liked the idea of collaborating and sharing musical ideas. Jonas was the obvious choice, we definitely share a lot of musical references and to my ears he is a true master of working in details with the sound. He also contributed with a lot of different creative and musical inputs, so that a lot of significant details and the overall feel and vibe of the album is due to his mastery and creative mind.

J. Hubner: You seem to be a fan of Fender guitars(as am I). What was your guitar of choice for this album? What kind of gear did you guys use to create ‘Solo 2’ with? Any favorite pedals you won’t leave home without?

Nicklas Sørensen: Yeah, I have played my Strat for almost 16 years now! It’s all over the first album and on all the Papir albums. So that was also my choice for this album, hehe. I have a soft spot for digital delays – the classic Boss DD’s and my T.C. Flashback Delay are something that I always bring to the studio.

J. Hubner: Do you ever take your solo work out for live shows? Are there any plans to play any shows to promote ‘Solo 2’?

Nicklas Sørensen: I have played a few concerts – just me, my guitar and my pedals. I like that a lot, it’s nice “to be your own boss”. I don’t have any plans for shows this year, besides a duo concert with Jonas in april. But you never know.

J. Hubner: What’s next for you in 2018? Any ideas for the next solo album? Any new directions you’d like to take your guitar into?

Nicklas Sørensen: I have just got my hands on a 4-track recorder. I think I will spend some time alone experimenting with that. But yeah…no plans for anything specific yet. A new Papir album perhaps (we are already working on it). I guess I would like use more time on improvising and experimenting with sound and soundscapes.


Solo 2  will be released this Friday, January 19th on El Paraiso Records. Grab a copy here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nicklas Sørensen : Solo 2

Nicklas Sørensen most recently blasted dreamy, psychedelic swaths of guitar on Papir’s 2017 record V. Within that Danish three-piece psych rock outfit, Sørensen can go from post-rock stoicism to 60s fuzzed-out freak out in seconds flat. He’s erased those boundary lines that seemed to box in the “guitar hero”. Jazzy introspection, distorted wah wah, and progressive lines all meld into his style. That’s what makes his playing(and Papir for that matter) so unique and vital to modern rock.

In 2016 Sørensen released his first solo LP, titled Solo. It was an all-instrumental record that showcased his ability to use the guitar for more than heavy riffing and mind-melting. He created crystalline soundscapes and motorik-driven heady guitar tracks that veered from early Satriani to Robert Fripp-like perfection, while still retaining a “long drive on a summer night” vibe. He pushed the solo guitar record to a new level.

Nicklas Sørensen is back with his second solo LP on El Paraiso Records titled Solo 2. This time around he recorded the album with Jonas Munk in his Odense studio and the songs are a mixture of Sørensen’s fluid guitar loops and Munk’s analog synths(with some electronic rhythms thrown in for good measure.) The results are a tour-de-force of moody composition and otherworldly vibes.

Like his first solo adventure, the songs on Solo 2 are simply titled as numbers, like “2.1.”, “2.2”, and “2.3” and so on. It’s 6 tracks of slightly ambient, slightly psychedelic, and all-encompassing melody. “2.1” starts the album off on a Brazilian flavor, like some neo-futuristic Charlie Byrd doing his best bossa nova in outer space. The deft rhythmic touches, layered guitar lines, and the ethereal synths that float over the proceedings give the song an almost trance-like feel. This is what I’m talking about when I say Nicklas Sørensen erases those guitar hero boundaries. “2.2” opens with a simple guitar loop to which some melody counterpoints are added. Pretty soon simple percussion is thrown in with some light synth touches that give the song an almost 80s feel. As the song progresses you begin to get lost in the ether as guitars upon synths upon more guitars layer into a wall of beautiful drone. If NEU! had recorded with Richard Dashut in 1982 they might have sounded like this excellent track. “2.3” goes into a more contemplative space. The track itself gives off this sepia-toned feel; aged and weary of the outside world. It puts me in mind of the Brian Ellis & Brian Grainger album At Dusk with its guitar-meets-existential-drift vibe. It’s simply gorgeous.

If you’re listening to this on vinyl, dear readers, now would be the time to flip your record. As we make our way to side B we’re welcomed into this alternate musical reality where heady synths wisp around our heads as psychedelic guitars whirl in the air. “2.4” is carried along with electric piano and fluttering guitar notes that sound as if they’re playing in reverse. The space-y vibe is grounded by the tasteful fretwork of Nicklas Sørensen. Despite all the beautiful ornamentation, this is a guitar record don’t you know? “2.5” opens with a guitar line that puts me in mind of The Motels, but then we’re treated to some Michael Rother vibes in the psychedelic guitar lines in the background. Munk adds distant synth to fill in any gaps that may have needed to be filled. With headphones on this song will ease you into a much more calmer state of mind. “2.6” is all galactic vibes, like you’re looking over the fourth Chrystal Lake of Jupiter as a black hole is swallowing your mind. It’s a beautiful thing, really. Wavering drones slink in the distance as Sørensen plays some extremely tasteful guitar over everything. There’s a real Mark Knopfler feel to the tone of the guitar, but that’s before everything dissipates into a sea of ambient synth.

Nicklas Sørensen continues to push the solo electric guitar record to new levels. With the help of Jonas Munk he even bests himself this time around. He touches on Berlin School headiness and even Steve Reich roams the halls of this excellent LP. Solo 2 is a guitar record for both the musically intellectual and the person looking for some music to keep them company on a long car ride. You don’t have to dig deep to find the treasures here, but if you do you will be rewarded.

8. 2 out of 10