The tale of Hanne Kolstø is that of a strong girl, a girl who liked loneliness, quietness, and most importantly, a girl who couldn’t do anything but music. Wonderful music, to be exact. Before playing an intimate show at Berlin-Kreuzberg’s Monarch club, Hanne met us for a talk that turned out to be just as inspiring as her music. While her characteristic raw voice made us go all goosebumpy, Hanne’s shining personality made us go all I-wanna-be-your-friend! We all felt a bit like friends that night.
PDC: Tell us a bit about where you’re from, the places where you grew up. We all work in tourism, so places and the way they influence music is always something very interesting to us….
Hanne: The place where I’m actually from, Sykkylven (when I first typed up this interview, what I wrote down looked a lot more like a place in Turkey than one in Norway), there you have the mountains and the fjords and in Kristiansand you’ve got the ocean and the small islands, so I sort of switched the mountains for the ocean.
PDC: So do you live there now or do you live in a bigger city?
Hanne: I live in Kristiansand, but I travel a lot, so I often have four days in Kritiansand, then a month of touring and back to Kristiansand for three days and so it goes on… Because I play approximately 100 gigs a year, so I’m traveling about 250 days a year… it’s a lot!
PDC: Wow, that REALLY is a lot of traveling! Is it exhausting or do you still love it?
Hanne: I love it, or else I wouldn’t do it, but it’s exhausting of course. When you travel as much as I do, you think of it as your job, so it’s not that much partying and all these things that people always think us musicians do… I’m actually really fond of getting home early when I’m playing.
PDC: But do you feel like you get to see the place where you are?
Hanne: Yeah, I often get to see something, but when you’ve travelled a couple of years like I have, you’re more laid-back about these things. Often you go back to the same places – like Berlin, Hamburg, Copenhagen, New York – and I really like the feeling of coming back to a place where you’ve been before because then you’re more relaxed – the first time you play there you feel like you have to see and do things, but in the end you really just want to go to bed early or sit quietly with someone in the living room… I’m more into meeting the people in the city rather than seeing the sights.
PDC: You’ve been to Berlin a couple of times – what did you do here?
Hanne: Yes, I have, so I’ve seen the Brandenburg Gate, haha! Checked off the list! I really like Hamburg better though, I did a performance for Balcony TV there some years back when I was really sick already, and it was so windy and cold, I had to go to the hospital directly afterwards. Which is not fun when you’re traveling by yourself, but now I have a good story to tell people when I’m back in Hamburg! About getting lost when looking for the hospital and about handsome German doctors…
PDC: You’re quite a workaholic anyways, I saw that you’re not only doing your own music but you also have three other bands, tell us about them!
Hanne: That’s right, although one of them is on pause – LOVE-FI – it’s a rock band, that’s the toughest one to run… The other one is POST, with which we’re doing school concerts, so we travel the country a lot and play for kids from 8 to 12 and I sing in Norwegian – it’s more like a pop-electro-happy-thing..
PDC: That’s a really interesting project, how come you started to sing in schools?
Hanne: A friend of mine works for this project and he really though it would work so we developed a kind of show where we play four or five of our songs and for one of them, we pretend it’s a brand-new song that we’ve never played before, so they have to help us and tell us what to do… This kind of involving the kids in us playing is basically the concept of these shows and it’s really great playing for children because if they hate it, they HATE it, and they will let you know!
PDC: Yup, they will show you! But that’s such an impressive thing to do, it’s an entirely different approach to being a musician than just being in a ‘regular’ band and playing in ‘regular’ venues…
Hanne: It is, and I like to experience different sides of myself because I write a lot of songs and the songs get so different in the different projects that I’m doing, so in POST we get the chance to be all happy and outgoing while in Thyme and Clyde – the other band that’s still going strong – there’s more like a dark, cool electro vibe with costumes and I can be more silent…
PDC: What kind of costumes?
Hanne: We have hoods with the discoball things on them, so we look like we have discoballs on our heads. This also shows that Thyme and Clyde is more of dancy where we try to create our own world that people can dive into… And then there’s my solo stuff, which basically started by me wondering what my music would sound like if there was just me, without other people putting their mark on a song that you’ve written.
PDC: So you do it all by yourself now?
Hanne: It’s actually me and my co-producer, usually I play gigs with him but I also do gigs like tonight where I’m doing everything on my own.
PDC: In the next couple of years, are you planning to focus on your career as a solo artist or are you trying to do it all at the same time?
Hanne: Right now I have a lot going on with my solo stuff since Riot Break is being released in Germany and other parts of Europe and I’m working on another album which will be released in Norway in the fall. I’m lucky enough to still have time for POST and Thyme and Clyde, but I try to do one thing at a time and right now I’m definitely focussing on my solo records.
PDC: Riot Break was your first solo record after having played in bands for years, how was it recording a full album on your own?
Hanne: It was a very fun process and really nice to get to decide everything, I really liked that. And in the end it turned out just the way I wanted it and it got great reviews in Norway. I totally didn’t expect that cause I had released three records before in Norway and was pretty used to those quiet record releases, so I thought I’d just release the album and start working again but this one was like BOOM!
PDC: When or how did you actually start making music, was it just a fun thing at the beginning or did you always have serious aspirations about it?
Hanne: I’ve been singing since I was very very little – before I talked – and I was always very imaginative, making up stories all the time and sing my own songs, so it’s been a very natural thing to me and it really came as a surprise when I realized not everyone was like that! In my family, everybody plays instruments and makes songs so it didn’t occur to me that that was something special, I really thought everyone did it… When I had finished my studies, that’s when I noticed I really needed to make music and really started focussing on my bands and making a career out of it instead of doing a normal job for the rest of my life…
PDC: So what’s next?
Hanne: I’m also releasing the album in the USA, so I’ll be touring in the states again, which is cool! I’ve been to New York a couple of times and travelled through the states for a month where I played at all these open stage events. So there I travelled by myself again, played at these open stages every 3 or 4 days and was basically just hanging out, looking for inspiration for the album and writing songs…
Thankyou VERY much Hanne for the great talk and for the wonderful show at Monarch.