Sounds of Scandinavia: First Hate

Sounds of Scandinavia: First Hate

Sounds of Scandinavia: First Hate

Meet the dynamic duo reinventing Copenhagen’s soundscape

Meet the dynamic duo reinventing Copenhagen’s soundscape

Photography: Emilia Staugaard

Styling: Oscar Lange

Text: Kevin Ponce

This story appears in the pages of the VMAN x Copenhagen Fashion Week Zine inside VMAN 49: The Fall/Winter 2022 issue—now available for purchase!

More often than not, good band names are hard to come by. “The First Hate name came from beyond and was presented to us in the form of a mere suggestion on an online band name generator,” explains Anton Falck Gansted and Joakim Nørgaard, the two members of one of Copenhagen’s most dynamic duos. “Generated by machine, curated by human.” Offering a breath of fresh air to Denmark’s rising underground scene, the best friend musical pairing has been delivering a bevy of underrated hits that carry a hint of nostalgia and futurism since the band's first self-titled EP and debut album, A Prayer for the Unemployed. “We have a core that never changes but the new shimmering surface of First Hate is something that has to be touched, to be felt,” says Anton. Even if working in pairs can be double the trouble in some cases, for this duo, their creativity is always in sync. “We’re really good at finding common ground and at tapping into each other's ideas. Over the years, we’ve spent so much time together making music that we have a natural creative flow when working on a song,” explains Joakim. “It feels very symbiotic,” adds Anton. Now, with the band's latest album Cotton Candy, which sees an 11-song list of new experimental tracks that find the duo chartering new territories and genres, one thing is for certain: the core of First Hate and the cultural scene it belongs to will never be low brow.

Joakim and Anton wear all clothing Rains

Discover an extended Q+A with the band and VMAN's Digital & Beauty Editor Kevin Ponce, below!

VMAN: Let’s talk a bit about your origin story—what made you want to get into music? Is music something you’ve both always wanted to do even in your early years?

Joakim Nørgaard: Music has always been around me growing up, from my grandmother playing the grand piano and directing the choir in church to my foster dad singing simple children’s songs on the guitar, but so has drawing and other forms of creative expression. I spent more time perfecting my drawing skills as a kid and studying design as an adult than I ever have spent trying to play an instrument. What I really love about writing songs or composing melodies though, is how intuitive an experience it can be. And how making a track with all its layers of production and details is like working on a film; building, painting, writing, filming, editing, directing, and acting all at once.

Anton Falck Gansted: As a child, I used to record songs on my dad's stationary computer in my parent's bedroom using an ancient software called “cool edit pro” haha. I didn't play any keyboards or instruments, all layers was acapella and it sounded really fucked up and the lyrics were really childish and wacko. But a friend of the family heard it and hired me to make a song every week for a month during summer. It was on P3 (the biggest national radio channel in Denmark) and they would give me a theme like tour de france or school or something else. And I would go every Friday with the song on a CD and play it on the radio. I think you can still  hear this acapella layering technique in my way of writing music. It is made up of a lot of layers of melodies rather than built around impressive chords. At the beginning of Depeche Mode's career, they only had mono synths meaning (like a Nokia 3310 the synth can only play one note at a time) They could not play chords at all but only add layers and layers of synth melodies. Maybe it's because of our similar techniques that we got compared to them a lot when we first started out, cause none of us really knew Depeche Mode and their songs.

VM: How did the idea of the group’s name “First Hate” come to be?

JN: Good names are hard to come by. The First Hate name came from beyond and was presented to us in the form of a mere suggestion on an online band name generator. One or two of our track titles have been generated like that as well. Generated by machine, curated by human.

AFG: It makes sense on a human level though, right? We used to hate the name “no pun intended” but now we kinda like it again.

VM: How would you define the sound of Denmark? What do you think makes the Scandinavian sound and energy different than other locations in the world?

AFG: The sound of Denmark… I think there is a big connection between a people’s mother language and the way they make music. The Swedish language already sounds like a song and I think that's one of the reasons so many great songwriters and bands come out of that country, Abba, Max Martin, Bass Hunter, Broder Daniel, etc. Danish sounds flat, repetitive, and as if it's hard to get your point across. Even though most Danish acts sing in English I think there is a certain energy and pulse that lives in the music which comes from our language. I also often detect a sense of longing in Danish music. Maybe that’s because summer is so short here.

Joakim and Anton wear all clothing Rains

VM: In your own words, what do you think makes the rising Denmark scene of music, art, fashion, and everything in between, so exciting to witness/be part of? Is this scene one of the main driving forces for your creativity?

JN: Copenhagen is quite small so there’s a short way from being inspired by others, to meet them, to exchange experiences, to working and creating together. Also, Denmark is such a rich country, so being a young artist and not earning any money is easy to be while still living relatively comfortably. I think that gives a surplus of people willing to experiment with their art for the sake of it without having to worry about making a lot of money on it.

AFG: Copenhagen is not a place like New York or London where a million things happen and a million cultures are represented. To survive the long winters we have to create our own spaces, our own parties, music, and art, to connect and have something that brings us together. But it can quickly become very much a monoculture and people fall into the same trends and styles constantly. Danes prefer not to stick out and we can be quite mean to each other, to be honest. I was bullied a lot by the whole “Mayhem scene” back in the day. Some of the boys would hit me in the face when I came to their parties, spit on me, call me names, and so on. That was back when everybody was making punk music and Iceage was blossoming. But this monoculture mechanism can also mean that some of these trends become more and more extreme and refined and tested and perfected to a point where they become an export quality thing and people from the outside starts to look in. Making First Hate was definitely a reaction to the punk mono culture though. I thought making a cute pop band would be much more punk than any of the people who beat me up.

VM: From A Prayer for the Unemployed to Cotton Candy, how has your sound evolved from those few years of starting out to the present day?

JN: The core of the sound and the things that inspire us stays the same, but we’ve become better at perfecting our ideas and I think a lot of the songs on our new record are a result of that.

AFG: Nowadays we are not “trying” as hard somehow I think. The songs are a bit simpler and more personal, they sound more organic because we use more acoustic elements. We have a core that never changes but the new shimmering surface of First Hate is something that has to be touched to be felt.

VM: Could you walk us through what your collaborative process is like? How do you manage to merge your two ideas and bring them into one?

JN: We often take ideas for songs that one of us has made and then build upon that together. Sometimes it’s an almost finished song that needs a chorus and some drums or sometimes it’s just a nice melody or loop that needs an entire song written around it. Anton has near-finished songs written out with lyrics while I often mostly have instrumentals, waiting for lyrics and melodies. Sometimes, especially on tour, we each start from scratch by opening a new project on each of our laptops and just make layers and layers of music while swapping laptops in a constant flow until we have beautiful perfect music on both of them or until we have to board the airplane...

AFG: At the end of the day I have no memory of who made this or that, drums or the lead synth melodies or chords, etc. It feels very symbiotic. On each record, we have worked with different mix engineers and co-producers to finish the songs and polish them off. It can be really fun at times and really boring at others, but rarely is it unpleasant. In the studio, we try to have music over ego, and we eat a lot of snacks.

VM: Is it challenging to get one another to see what you are trying to bring to the group, artistically?

JN: We don’t necessarily share every artistic vision, but we’re really good at finding common ground and at tapping into each other's ideas. Over the years, we’ve spent so much time together making music that we have a natural creative flow when working on a song, taking turns in leading the process, and instinctively knowing what the other is trying to achieve at the moment.

AFG: I think it's a learning process of when and when not to push your own ideas to the front. Sometimes you are just blind to your own idea’s shitty-ness. But we have a rule that all ideas that anybody comes up with get tested and sometimes something you thought was the stupidest input ever turns out to be the leading characteristic and the life of the song. We always keep an open mind to each other, especially to be open to standing corrected. In the end, it doesn't even matter.

Kevin Ponce is VMAN’s Digital & Beauty Editor.

This story appears in the pages of the VMAN x Copenhagen Fashion Week Zine inside VMAN 49: The Fall/Winter 2022 issue—now available for purchase!

Subscribe to VMAN (Click here)

Credits:
Grooming William Boska / Photo assistant Katy Alberdingk Thijm / Stylist assistant Nasra Mohammed

UP NEXT

Sounds of Scandinavia: Viagra Boys
Meet the post-punk gang refocusing hypermasculinity