Blade runners

Our interviewer goes around, over, through, and under the Knife
By MIKE MCKAY  |  November 14, 2006

The Knife
Sweden's enigmatic, reclusive electro duo the Knife – please, let’s agree not to call them “cutting edge” -- was one of the most anticipated acts at this year’s CMJ. The brother/sister act of Olof and Karin Dreijer have gained a fanatical worldwide following, been championed by bloggers, and covered by Jose Gonzalez – and that was before they ever set foot on stage. But since coming out of hiding and making their live debut this spring, their extravagant performances have become as talked-about as their music.

The group’s latest offering, the dark and hypnotic Silent Shout, has them moving away from standard verse-chorus-verse pop towards a sound that is both less accessible (go ahead Jose, try covering “We Share Our Mother Health”) and more intellectually rewarding. As expected, their experimentalism has garnered the expected e-boners from the blog/Pitchfork set; surprisingly, though, it has played well even to those who don’t have beards or a crippling fear of the opposite sex.

The kickoff of the Knife’s debut US tour – a brief one, which bypassed Boston – brought American fans from at least as far away as Miami to their November 1 gig at NYC’s Webster Theater. Making electronic music work as a live performance is always a challenge – you’re not tired of watching nerdy dudes stare at their laptops for two hours, are you? – and the Knife rose to meet it with a show that used a half-dozen video projectors, was mixed entirely in surround sound, and was rumored to have carried a production cost in excess of $10,000. No wonder our reviewer fainted.

The Phoenix had a chance to catch up with Olof in New York before the Knife’s back-to-back sold out shows. Both siblings are shy, and seem genuinely taken aback by their recent success. We left thinking that their infamous stage masks might be more for them then for us.

Your live show has already received a great deal of press. Considering your past reluctance to tour, what made you decide it was time to go on the road?
We had never done live shows until April of this year. The reason for that is we just like it better in the studio, we never had a really good reason to be on stage. We have had ideas even since out first album to do live shows but they were too big, like Laurie Anderson-type crazy shows, which was kind of too expensive at the time. So we just started to talk to Andreas Nilsson [the Swedish artist and director who is responsibly for several of the Knife’s music videos], to see what a live show of us would be like. He began to try some animations. The first sketches he did, and the idea he had, made us really want to continue. I was really moved by what he did. It has taken a while for us to build up this thing with Andeas and now he understands us so well, so I think he’s the reason why we do it now. I don’t think we would have done anything without him. He understands us better than ourselves, he can put words and images and feeling to our music.

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