Thinking about interesting women in electronic pop music NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION thinks about Scandinavia at first. SANDRA KOLSTAD, ROBYN, SUSANNE SUNDFØR, MØ – and this list is continuously extended. One name that can’t be missed when you think about it is the one of KARIN PARK. The women with the charismatic voice, pumping synthetic beats and haunting presence clearly managed to grab our attention with her fantastic 2012 record Highwire Poetry and its exciting mixture of catchy pop and experimental moments. She’s an artist with a lot of talents and a lot of history. And one who has something to say and clearly a lot to give.
We catched up KARIN PARK during her recent tour through Germany and talked with her about growing up in Japan, the pop-historical importance of the keytar and why she has potential to be NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION‘s new mascot.
At this year’s show at the Eurosonic Noorderslag I remember you turning to the audience and telling us about how you travelled twelve hours to play this showcase which was only about 30 or 40 minutes. That calls for a lot of strength and passion from you.
Yeah, it does. But you know, there are some shows that are worth travelling a lot. You always have to answer this question for yourself: What is basicly in it for you? And on that night, for example, we met people from America who desperately wanted to see us. And next week I’m playing in Istanbul which is just exciting since I’ve never been there. Sometimes we have time to see the cities we’re playing in which is always fun.
So, how do you like to kill time on such long trips? Watching movies? Playing silly games with your brother?
Well, yes, sometimes we do that. But we’re also making music on the train or plane. Or I use that time to check e-mails and stuff. But right now at the moment I’m watching The Sopranos.
You lived a few years in Japan as a child. Had that a big influence on you?
Absolutely! I mean my brother and sisters have been back and forth living there and speak fluently Japanese while I’m the only one who never really lived there after we grew up in this country. I think the main thing for me was staying in a missionary school where we were just like thirty students in all different ages. It was almost like in a jungle since we where located in the countryside, far away from the city. We could do whatever we wanted, there wasn’t any western culture influence – but also not very much from the Japanese one too. It was almost like a big bubble. I became a very free thinking person there but when I returned to Sweden it was very difficult for me to understand the rules of western society. God, we have so many rules and codes with all these clothes and behaviour – and I had to deal with that which made me some sort of outsider.
How long did you live there?
Three years. And that’s quite a long time, when you’re a child.
KARIN PARK says “who doesn’t know Modern Talking?”
One of the key lyrics that got stuck in my head while listening to the new album was “It’s unescapable, i’ts a new era.” What exactly is this new era?
It felt like a change in my life at that time. I’ve finished a lot of things and had new ones which I wanted to start. Same goes for my brother and also a friend of mine who had an inbreak in her appartment. They stole everything, especially gold and jewelery from her mother. But the funny thing was, that she didn’t wear this gold for a long time and put up some of it before she left the house. So it was prevented from stealing, it’s a story that is also in the song. And it was also just before the new year. We all had that feeling at that time.
Is there an overall topic to the record?
I think the key topic is about overcoming your fears. You can already see it in the title – Highwire Poetry. So, when you go out on a highwire you can either stay on the side comfortably or you can just go. And you don’t know if you’ll fall off or make it to the other side.
It’s also a question of balance.
Yes, exactly. It’s about maybe feeling frightened about things but try them out anyway.
On stage you use a good old fashioned keytar. Do you think it’s an underrated instrument?
Yeah, absolutely. (laughs) I think I’ve managed to – in some extend – bring some coolness to the instrument. It’s very 80s and very ‘plastic-fantastic’ and stuff but it works really well for me. A lot of people look stupid with it, but I don’t .(laughs)
You know MODERN TALKING?
Yes, I mean, who doesn’t know Modern Talking? (laughs)
They had it too and I can tell you, they were far away from looking cool.
Yeah, unfortunately it has been used by many stupid looking people, indeed. But I saw a band called SHY CHILD and they used it and that’s where I got my inspiration.
Is it true that you live in a old old church?
I do. It’s 200 years old.
Has that something to do with your religious background and the missionary school?
Yes, when I grew up I always used to go to church.
Is this the same one?
Yeah, that’s also where I started to sing. I had a lot of history there and when the community shrunk due to their age I used to go there at night and play the piano. It was inactive for about fifteen years before I decided to move in.
Fuck it, KARIN PARK wants to move to the music
Another story in your biography is the wrong diagnosed cancer in 2007.
I had a phone call one morning and they told me I had cancer in my uterus and I had to come in immediately. And as I asked them how my chances were to survive it, they gave me no clear answer. So, I was devistated, of course. But after a while I was like ‘Well, if someone has to die young than it might as well be me.’ ‘Cause I’ve done so many funny and exciting things in my life up to that point. And I was like ‘Okay, maybe I can borrow some money and have a great time for my final days’. (laughs) After being depressed in the beginning I was kind of focussed again immediately. And when I arrived at the hospital they told me the person who called misdiagnozed me and misread the papers. It was an early stage of cancer so it could be cured.
Did this event changed your perspection on something?
Oh yeah, absolutely. I’ve completely changed my musical direction after this. You know, I’ve writtten this acoustic album album that everybody wanted me to write but I wasn’t feeling it. So I said ‘Fuck it, I wanna move to the music, I want something with a roar and beats’ – it was kind of a long journey since I hadn’t any idea on how to do electronic music but, yes, this was some sort of starting point.
How does it feel to go back from bigger venues in your homecountry to smaller clubs in countries you’re not that much known by now?
I think a good shows has nothing to do with the size of the venue. And I must say, honestly, the German audience is quite good. They know the lyrics – and I mean not just the chorus. They are very dedicated and show much more interest than the Scandinavian people sometimes. I love that.
In the past you often said you love Karin Dreijer Andersson from THE KNIFE. And your voice often gets compared to her. Any thoughts on the new single “Full of Fire” and their upcoming comeback record?
Well, to be honest, I wasn’t quite impressed by the video and the song. You always have to give their songs a bit time. I think they’ve always been ahead of a their time. But we’ll see on that.
Okay, so let’s hope for the best. And since we are already on our key topic – what do “hope” and “passion” mean to you?
…hope and passion mean a lot to me.
(thinks) Hmm, I think I can say I’m walking around as some sort of manifestation of hope and passion. I really do – I think that’s what I do best. I remember when a friend asked me ‘Karin, how do you manage to be always so disappointed?’ Because If you don’t have any high hopes you won’t get disappointed. And he said: ‘Why are you always hoping for the best or try to do so many things?’ But I think, that’s fine as I’m quite prepared for getting disappointed. I always try to invest as much energy as I can. So, therefor I think hope and passion mean a lot to me.