It was a hot Wednesday afternoon when we sat down with one of our favorite artists at the moment and collectively decided that the heat was just not working for both of us.
“I am a Viking, I wasn’t made for this”, declared our interview guest and, yes, we couldn’t agree more.
Another thing that we could very much agree on was the fact that we are very very excited about her album, which is due for release this Friday.
It is a record filled with contrasts, sometimes cold as ice, sometimes incredibly soft. Always outspoken. Always very unique.
Kind of like our guest but also very unlike her.
Meet KILL J for today’s interview: she is a Danish singer-songwriter, Scandinavian noir-pop artist as well as a classical trained pianist and vocalist. She is about to release her debut album “Superposition” on Friday via the Nettwerk Music Group and No3 Music. The record has been a long time coming as it has been almost 6 years since KILL J has released her first song under this specific moniker. For the occasion, she took inspiration from the world of particle physics and traveled to CERN in order to learn more about the topic. You can pre-save it right here: https://presave.io/t/killjsuperposition.
We were fortunate enough to be able to listen to it already (feel free to circle back to CelebMix for a review on Friday) and -more importantly- to ask the artist all of our burning questions about it. From the background of the album, which songs almost didn’t make the cut, the weirdest place to write music, the future of KILL J, and her love for Missy Elliott: we got you covered (unless you want to hear about Julie’s relationship with her mother).
Read the interview below:
KILL J: What are we gonna talk about today?
CelebMix: Your album, I think?
Oh shit, okay! I had some really weird interviews lately where people were like “I wanna talk about your relationship with your mother” but yeah, let’s do that.
Oh no, we’re actually curious about your album because we’ve been listening to you since 2014 so that’s why we felt like that would be a bit more important.
Now I’m getting performance anxiety.
Don’t. We loved the album. Congratulations on the release. How does it feel to have an album out soon in contrast to ‘just’ singles or EPs?
It’s always been a dream of mine to have an album out and that’s always been the goal from day one when you enter the music industry. Things change though (laughs) and there are a lot of cooks in the kitchen so basically, this album has been done for a year and a half, almost two years. It’s kind of weird to me talking about it since I’m doing all kinds of other music now and I’m in a different place too.
Oh crazy, we didn’t know that.
Yeah, it’s been done for a while now.
So basically since Quasi came out?
Almost. I think most of the songs were done in the year of 2017 (Author’s Note: Quasi came out in 2016). And there is actually one song that I threw on there a couple of weeks ago that wasn’t supposed to be on there.
Which one? Are you allowed to tell?
Oh sure. It was a song called “Stutter”.
We love that one!
Thank you so much, are you being serious?
It’s our favorite song next to “Entangled” and “Second Chance”.
Now, when you are referencing specific songs, you are making me nervous because I’m realizing my baby’s going out into the world.
(A short discussion about Julie’s Siri wanting to interact with us ensures but no one knows the answer on how to turn it off)
So yeah, we just threw “Stutter” on there a couple of weeks ago.
We are glad you did.
It was one of those songs that didn’t really fit the theme but I kinda liked it so I was like “fuck it”…there are a few other songs on there that don’t correspond to the overall theme so…
We kept wondering about that song because “Stutter” kind of randomly popped up and we were like “Wow, what? How did that come apart?”
I guess you can hear that I am in a completely different place three years later because the songs that I am writing now are a lot more happy and more upbeat and I am more into uptempo songs. And this whole album is very downtempo (laughs) So I guess it kind of reflects that.
During the official statement, the themes were very heavy too: your struggle to quit smoking (Julie laughs), you killing your fictional A&R–
Oh no, he was real. He was very much real. He is a real person.
Was it hard to write about that kind of stuff? We read in a lot of interviews that some artists struggle with baring their souls to their audience and getting personal and finding their right voice.
Really? I don’t think I’ve ever done a song that wasn’t inspired by real life.
So it was just natural?
Well, I can’t speak for anyone but myself but good music -or at least music that appeals to me- always has something really personal and specific about whoever wrote it. And a lot of these music people in the industry will say the opposite but I think if you zoom in on a specific event like “your best friend was an ass” or someone stole something from you, the more you zoom in, the more people will be able to relate to it. I’ve never written a song that wasn’t personal. I do realize that this album is very heavy and very dark and it kind of bothers me now a little bit but it does reflect the place I was in at the time where everything felt hard. Everything felt difficult. And there was a lot of shit that happened. And it was my way of processing it. And a lot of it has to do with my experience with the music industry in general and I’ve moved on from that now, I’m through it. I’m actually doing music that they would have wanted me to do from the beginning if they had just stayed the fuck out of my hair.
Isn’t that also counter-psychology what they did?
Well, I am going to sound like such a bitch right now but if they had been more qualified in their feedback, it would have worked out fine but they weren’t. But yeah, I do realize that it is kind of heavy. I try to always add a little pinch of irony whatever I do but I don’t know if people pick up on that. Like, “Silver Spoon” is supposed to be ironic, and a couple of other songs too.
The album is called “Superposition” and it is drawing inspiration from the Superposition theorem. How did that specifically inspire and influence the album?
Many of the songs were inspired by the world of particle physics, right? And different phenomena with explanatory theories within that world where inspiring to me. And of course that bleeds into the quantum world. And I visited CERN too. And Superposition can explain different things at different times. It’s like super complicated (laughs) and I spent a lot of time reading up on this stuff because I am such an amateur and I am trying to wrap my mind around it. But boiled down it means that something can be a particle and a wave at the same time. It can be at different positions at the same time depending on when you look at it. And I thought that that was something: that these theories encompass such poetic potential, I thought, I had to dive into it. Because for me, and for most others, it borders on the mystical, the religious, so basically it was really hard to find an appropriate title that fits all these different theories that I draw from in all of these songs.
So it’s basically the headline?
Yeah, its always difficult to give something a title, especially if its an album. I did think about calling it “Entangled” or “Entanglement” as the idea for the album started with that song and I also put it as the opening track of the album.
That would also have made sense.
Yeah, it would. At the end it was “Superposition” though.
Is the process behind an album different to an EP, especially “Quasi”?
Well, yeah. “Quasi” was created under a lot of pressure and a lot of stress. And I separated myself from the pressure and stress that I had felt and I used these songs to process it. And if we discuss whether or not it will be as successful as the previous songs, then I don’t think it is but I am more proud of it.
That’s important too, to not look at numbers but create something that you feel comfortable with.
Yeah, I’m done chasing hits. I’m done looking at streaming numbers. Take it or leave it, I don’t care. To answer your question: It’s not that different, it’s just more songs. I made it more difficult for myself because I worked with an overall theme. I kind of hate the idea of a concept album but then I ended up doing up one (laughs) It’s a little ironic but that’s the way it turned out, sorry.
Sorry not sorry. But you are satisfied with what came out, right?
What I set out to do this, I said to myself: if this is the last thing I’ll do as KILL J- because that was on my mind too… So basically, if this is the last music I’m going to do as KILL J, I want it to be exactly the way I want it to be, I wanted everyone to shut the fuck up and write and produce the music that I wanted to make. This is the music that I always wanted to do and I got it out of my system and I am really really proud. And I know that this is not going to be a smash hit on the radio but it’s exactly what I always wanted to do. It almost felt cathartic to really get rid of all that energy for me. I’m really proud, to answer your question.
That’s good to hear. You said that you worked with Liam Howe, how did that come apart? And how was it working with him?
It was great, I was a fan of his and the music he did for a long time. Someone at my label Nettwerk Music Group suggested him. I saw a bunch of different names in an email and his name popped up and I was just like: ”Holy shit, yes please”. And then, it was brainstorming who would be fun to work with. So I said: “If that would be possible, I would die.” And of course, he was super busy and stuff and I told him: “Its fine its fine, I have all these songs ready to go with pre-productions and I have all these ideas and I am willing to wait” and so I ended up waiting 6 months before he had time for me. And then I did a couple of trips to the UK to work with him. We had a couple of trips over there and we did a couple of tracks with him. And I also worked with a Danish producer over here, Jon Ørom. It was the three of us who worked primarily on the songs together but they actually never met. I traveled back and forth to Copenhagen and to London, wrote most of the songs at home and finished it with them. It was fun, it was a good process!
We had another question but I forget about what.
It was probably about something super intelligent I said.
Oh, about your upcoming work, you mentioned that you are writing songs for other people. What about the KILL J project, what can we expect?
Yeah, I really fell in love with writing for other artists and doing artists development. And that’s something I realized this last year or two because I’ve been doing it alongside writing my own stuff. And I know that I will continue doing that because it’s fucking amazing, it’s fun! You’re able to take out your own ego!
Is it easier to write for other people?
It’s a lot easier! My own ego is not in the way. I mean, I’m not born being an artist, in the way that I’m not super comfortable being in the spotlight (laughs) This is going to sound so stupid but I’ve never been comfortable on a stage, I’ve been there since I was a little kid–
But aren’t you a classically trained pianist or something?
Right, not much piano, but a lot of classical singing. But anyway, I’ve always been super jealous of artists that you watch get off stage, that have performed and they are on this super high, they get a kick of being onstage, they get a rush and I always wanted to feel that, like, “I want to try that”. And I think I’ve gotten close, it is kinda like an orgasm. But the place where I do get that kick from and where I feel like the universe makes sense and everything is just amazing is in the studio, is in the creative process. I get my kick there. I guess that’s one of the reasons why I really love writing for other people too, because that means more time in the studio, too. To answer your question: I think I will continue to do both. But I think at some points in my life, there is going to be more than the other and then at other points, there is going to more of the other. I don’t think I will be able to choose at this point, but we’ll see, things change.
I mean, you don’t have to choose. If things work out that way right now, you can just do both.
Right! I mean, it’s so fun to do so many genres of music. There’s not one that I do not like, there is for example good county and bad country, I don’t care.
Has any track you’ve written so far for other people come out yet?
There’s one coming out in August, it’s going to be super weird for people that I wrote it because it is EDM.
What? We didn’t expect that from you!
I’ve realized that people think I am very different than I am. When they meet me for the first time, they are a little bit scared of me. If I am in the studio and we are working for the first time and they only know me from the music that I’ve done, they usually think that I am a bit of a snob and super judgmental.
Just from a personal view, we expected you to be more closed-off and not that open.
I know what you mean. I don’t know if its because I have a weird haircut or…I mean I get it, if you listen to the music there’s a lot of super heavy and dark themes. That’s my sub-conscious, in my sub-conscious I’m a bitch. But in real life I’m super chill.
Is there any weird place you’ve written a song in?
Yes, actually, there is a weird place! I still have a memo on my phone because I record all of my ideas on the phone and I got the idea for a melody and also some of the words at the grocery store. And you know, in Denmark at the grocery store they play music that is super cheap and it kinda sounds like something you heard on a radio but not that specific song because they couldn’t afford to play that specific song. It’s like elevator music, they call it muzak, not music. So I am walking around in the aisle and I have my headphones on but there is no music in my headphones and I kind of hear a melody and I sing it into my phone and I then I take off my headphones and then I realize that its kind of a different melody and I changed it up a little bit. But I was actually inspired by elevator music once at a grocery store. That’s the weirdest thing.
That’s so interesting! Do you remember which song came out?
Yeah, I am trying to remember, it could have been “Silver Spoon” but I’m not sure, I’ll have to go back through my memos but it was one of the songs that ended up on the album.
You could have called your album “Music To Listen To Instead of Elevator Music”
That’s actually a really good idea, that would be so fun. That could be the second part, with cheesy pop songs.
Two more questions and then you are free to go into the sun after we are done. If you had to compare your work right now to your work in the beginning, what are your biggest learnings?
Well, I’d say the first three or four songs (“Phoenix”, “Bullet”, “Cold Stone”, “You Have Another Lover”): Those first songs, they are kind of pure. Because I wrote them with no people telling me what to do. I wrote what I felt right. And then I got into this spiel of people having opinions and telling me what to do and critiquing me and letting me know that I did it wrong which triggered me overthinking everything. And now I feel like I’ve finally gotten back to where I started. Where you just have to go with whatever instinctively feels right, that’s the best way to write music. You can’t overthink it. If you overthink it, people can hear it and people can’t connect to it. That’s what I learned, to get back the more pure way of writing music. Just don’t think, just do. I mean, I guess I also learned more about technically what works and what doesn’t in music and about the basic tools in songwriting.
Is that something you would advise to someone who is just starting out in the music industry? To just not focus too much on what other people tell them?
Well, see, that’s the tricky thing. Yes or no. The problem is you do need to listen if you a super young artist that is just starting out.Young musicians need to listen to advice! The problem is: there are a lot of unqualified people giving them advice. So there’s the problem: Who do I trust? My suggestion would be to try to listen to as much as you can to other musicians and other producers who have been in the game for a long time. Those are the people to listen to when you are writing your music because they’ve been through it, and they know what works and what doesn’t. I’m not saying you shouldn’t listen to your label or your manager, of course you should, but when writing your music, take advice from other musicians!
Is there someone you wish you had on your way, who gave you advice and who you would have loved to collaborate with?
Oh shit, there are a lot of talented musicians that I would have love to have advice from. That’s a difficult question! But yeah, fuck it: Missy Elliott! I am a huge Missy Elliott! I’m not kidding, is that bad?
No, of course not, even Britney is a huge fan, Missy just transcends everything.
Yeah, I think to me, she is just an inspiration as a female role model. And I get a lot of inspiration from her productions, like old Missy, 2003-Missy Elliott! It’s good music.
The last question would have been: what is up next for you but I feel like we narrowed that down to: releasing your music, writing for other people.
Yes, absolutely. I mean I don’t think I am supposed to talk about it yet but we are planning on something special.
Thank you so much, I am very glad that you took the time to talk to us. Oh, one more question: Is the album going to be available physically?
I hate that question because I have to say “no” (dramatic sighs) The problem is money. The plan was all along to have it on vinyl but then things changed. And I don’t have the funds to do it on my own, because I’ve used them all up for my music videos. I would love it if I would be able to at a later point but at this point: no.
Now, we at least have the final answer. For now. Thank you so much for the interview.
Thank you so much, it was lovely talking to you!
Listen to KILL J’s released music here:
Pre-save the album right here: https://presave.io/t/killjsuperposition
Also be sure to circle back for our review of KILL J’s debut album “Superposition” once it is out on Friday, the 14th. It will then be available for your listening pleasure on all streaming platforms and digital retailers.
What did you think about the interview? Did you learn anything new? Tell us all about it by either reacting down below or by tweeting us @CelebMix.