Comment
Interview

The secrets behind enigmatic Norwegian electro producer Savant

By Matt Ferry
savant

With his cult-like following, aggressive release schedule, and seemingly effortless ability to crank out some of the most intoxicating neo-Tokyo-laced electro house we’ve had the pleasure of hearing, Norway’s Savant could be one of the highest-profile enigmas in the world of crunchy, big-room house and dubstep. As Savant, Aleksander Vinter’s 8-bit circus of sound is all his own, and it never takes itself too seriously. Below he tells us about his production methods, his upcoming North American tour, the transition away from his former Vinter in Hollywood guise, and why he took the name Savant.

It seems like every other hour I’m seeing another album of yours move up the charts. How do you put out so much music, and more importantly, how do you continuously make it so polished and professional?

I think the reason it’s climbing is because I got some hardcore cult followers that usually don’t buy music, but give Savant much, much love. And music is a very aesthetic and mathematical art form that I feel most artists and musicians only scratch the surface of. Music is not a hobby, or even my job—it’s the reason I wake up and the reason I don’t want to go to bed. I was born with Aspergers syndrome; when I got started with music, the Savant inside of me was born. I can’t do shit right in life. But music made me. So it makes me feel comfortable. 

Your productions tend to stay close to their base in the gritty, electro-fied world. What are your go-to VSTs for the sounds you can hear in your last five studio albums? When you’re fiddling with presets, how much time do you spend tweaking the sound?

As Savant, I started out making pretty minimal dub and UK-style bass and wobbles with simple oscillators with filter LFOs—basic stuff you pick up over the years in the bedroom. Now that I’ve made music for 15 years on a computer, sonic landscapes are very visual and vivid to me. When I released Ninur, Savant’s first official album, I experimented with mainstream sounds through NI Massive, but when I realized how big the scene was and how much generic music got put out there with Massive as the front-line sound tool, I got a bit out of it. I started using more of FL Studio’s own stuff—Harmor, 3osc, Sytrus, and a bunch of other underrated plugins. They do pretty much exactly what you want them to do when you know them well enough. But as all experienced producers know, it’s not about the car, it’s about the driver. So processing stuff, treatment and flair is often what gives an artist an edgy sound.

It’s time for the world to realize that genres are a thing of the past—this thinking seems to be a philosophy you’ve embraced since your early tracks as Vinter in Hollywood. How do you maintain such a stylistic breadth in your productions while maintaining this ethos, and where does all the inspiration come from?

I’m a huge fan of avant garde, art nouveau, abstract, and baroque in the way I like to present things—with mystique, unpredictability, like we had in the IDM heyday. Daft Punk really opened my mind to rearrangement and sample chops. French touch in general has lots of elements that stick with me to this day. But I respect artists keeping genres alive. But I couldn’t imagine just making or listening to one type of music. My philosophy really grew from seeing people’s [hatred] on YouTube, where people argue about genre like it’s religion. There is only one god—sound. He is neither trance or rap. To me. I take this shit too seriously [laughs].

What motivated the change from Vinter in Hollywood to Savant?

Everything. At one point when Vinter in Hollywood was at its peak, I thought, ‘This is it, I made it.’ That was a big no, and I crashed pretty hard. I made a pop album that I put so much energy into. No labels in Norway would take it. But now you can hear samples from it in tracks like “The Horror,” “Dancer in the Dark,” “Hungry Eyes,” “Nightmare Adventures,” “Mystery,” “Cry For Love,” “Arcade Night Cruise,” “Ride Like Tthe Wind,” and “You Can Play.” I sampled all these in different ways. Some more than others. The creation of my first record, Ninur, was actually, as cheesy as it sounds, a gift to the love of my life, named Ninur. Then after that I created “Vario” for me [laughs].

When you’re on the road, do you usually play as a DJ or do you have a live setup? How do things usually look onstage?

I’m not good with CDs, and this music doesn’t fit vinyl. I like having some high-tech shit at my finger tips. Some tools that can make it fun, weird, and new to me as well as the crowd. [I use] FL Studio’s new performance setup, a Novation pad, plus MIDI keys and knobs and faders, and tons of BPM-sensitive FX, dropping out parts, adding new. I developed a thing during my Vinter in Hollywood days where I played the white Roland Keytar and jammed on songs while using MIDI controllers. That’s going more into effect in my future shows. My biggest dream would be to perform with an orchestra though. 

Have you played in the US before?

I was in Chicago in October 2012 for a small gig, but this will be the first time people actually come to see me play my stuff. I’m hoping for more dates and states next time around. I’m mostly covering the east coast and Canada. In Europe it’s also pretty humble at the moment. But I have severe anxiety problems, and traveling and thinking about that stuff kind of gives me the shakes. So I have my manager keep an eye on that stuff for me. There’s so many festivals I would like to play too—Ultra, Coachella, Burning Man, Tomorrowland, and tons of other big ones I can only dream of at this point. Crossing my fingers for some festival hype!

How many more albums and what else can we expect in 2013 from the enigma that is Savant?

Because of the small tour this spring, I will focus on a four-track EP with different sounds. And when I get home, I’m going on a rampage! And I wonder if Beatport will make a new genre category in the future called “WTF” or “Misc” or something.

Follow Savant’s tour here.