Interview: Mungolian Jetset

Travel to the state of Mungolia with Pål "Strangefruit" Nyhus and Knut Saevik for the story behind their latest release, We Gave It All Away ... Now We Are Taking It Back.

Pål "Strangefruit" Nyhus (left) and Knut Saevik of Mungolian Jetset
Photo by Pål Laukli

The Mungolian Jetset collective, anchored by Pål "Strangefruit" Nyhus and Knut Saevik, is ever-expanding, much like the band's philosophies on, well, pretty much everything.

With a new double album, We Gave It All Away ... Now We Are Taking It Back (Smalltown Supersound), in stores Aug. 18, 2009, the self-proclaimed Norwegian "intergalactic travelers in sound" insist that they're merely conduits for a "parallel world of Mungsters." However they spin it, the release is still an impressive collection of electronica into which they've managed to rope the likes of Lindstrøm, Nils Petter Molvær and Dominique Leone, who guest on tracks "A Blast of Loser," "Darker" and "Clairevoyage," respectively.

"The album is a roundup of remixes and collaborations," Nyhus explains. "Most are available elsewhere, but it was the intention to finally present them side-by-side in Mungolian-album context."

Produced in Apple Logic Pro ("No fancy plug-ins or anything, just the basic stuff that comes with the program," Saevik says), the band changed up the recording setup often—including moving the studio three times while making the album. But the Yamaha NS-10s stayed consistent, as did the main synth. "If you hear a synth, it will probably be a Roland Juno-1," Saevik says. "If you're going to have one synth, that's it—it's the best of the Juno range and has digital oscillators."

Complementing the Juno-1 were a host of additional Rolands, a Korg Mini Pops, the Yamaha TX-81Z and DX7S, and "Italo drums that [Norwegian DJ and producer] Skatebård gave us," Saevik says. "I don't know where he found them, but they're from Skatebård, so we don't care. They're in 90 percent of the tracks."

"We also overdub the rhythm parts with drummers and samplers, so a full rhythm track is likely to be a fusion," Nyhus says. Saevik adds, "Then, there is the Roland TR-909 closed hi-hat. If you want to see some dancin', you need a closed 909."

The mix was a big priority for the Jetset guys, who have a solid opinion of their own sound—and that of others, too. "I guess a lot of people, especially in the pop genre, mix for small cheap headphones these days," Saevik says. "When I try to listen to those mixes, my ears hurt, and my brain bleeds. We use a lot of time and energy to make our mixes sound delicate and balanced. If you want it loud, turn the volume up."

Nyhus agrees: "I think it should appeal in all kinds of forms. It works very well on good headphones and is recommended for long car trips."

Trip is an appropriate word to describe Mungolian Jetset's tracks. At once chaotic and chill, disco and dub, trance and pop, the collective's skills in blending genres are the sonic equivalent of a suicide soda from 7-Eleven. "We have a tendency to work for ages on our music, so we're purposefully trying not to get bored in the progress," Nyhus says. "Genre blending is a nice way of having some fun. It's not really about pushing genres; it's more like we start with a sketch and let it evolve. Genres are usually quite related to each other anyway, so there is no hocus-pocus to that. As the Blues Brothers once said, we like to play a bit of both country and western."

The "hocus-pocus" is apparently reserved for the sources of Mungolian Jetset's musical inspiration, which take on seemingly mystical proportions. "Our inspiration arrives straight from the state of Mungolia that is all within and all around us, speaking from its parallel sound world," Nyhus states. "Mungsters of the otherworlds frequent the air around us with their various garbles and pranks—and Bee Gees. Always Bee Gees."