Christabelle

Christabelle
Longtime fans of Norwegian disco revivalist Hans-Peter Lindstrøm will already be familiar with the meek and vulnerable voice of Christabelle, who first appeared on Lindstrøm's records as Solale. The pair in fact met back at the start of the decade, at the beginning of their careers and before Lindstrøm had risen to global prominence as a Scandinavian space-disco pioneer. Soon after, they exchanged a series of tapes - his music, hers vocals - that occasionally found homes on tracks over the next seven years, most notably on "Music (On My Mind)," Lindstrøm's first release from 2003 and a highlight of the 2006's highly acclaimed singles collection, It's a Feedelity Affair. Throughout the years, Christabelle has continued to send Lindstrøm vocals, and they begin 2010 by releasing an album together, Real Life Is No Cool. Exclaim! talked to Christabelle about the new album, her relationship with Lindstrøm, and what she's been up to all these years.

Hans-Peter Lindstrøm said that the making of Real Like Is No Cool was a ten-year process for you two.
Yeah, kind of. We have working on so many songs besides the ones you can hear on this album. And we've both been working on so many things besides this as well.

How did you two meet?
We met through my brother, who was a part of the record company that put out Lindstrøm's music. At that time, I was actually working with some other Norwegian producers, and I was starting to get to learn production myself, using Cubase. My brother gave me Lindstrøm's tunes on a CD, and I got so excited of course. So I produced a CD of my singing on his songs, and had it delivered back to him, and that was it. I didn't really know how big he was. It took me five years to figure that out. I had heard some of his releases, but maybe because I didn't know how big his music would become and how brilliant his work is, it's allowed me to be a little bit more raw. I've been so lucky, of course, because since 2002 I've been able to follow his work, to what it has become today. He never ceases to amaze me. His work is exceptional.

The first track you worked on together, "Music (In My Mind)," became one of his first releases, as well as one of yours.
Yeah, it was. It was my first release.

After that, he went off on his own way, and so did you. What have you been doing since then?
I was non-stop producing music. And of course, like I said, I was so close to Hans-Peter, and yet at the same time, we were not together all the time. I got to learn a lot of things from him, stuff about equipment and studio tricks that you can't get if you're people going to school for ten years to get some of the tricks that was handed to me. Playing guitar and playing the piano, and all the different lessons that were given to me. So I was just nurtured by doing my own thing and non-stop producing. All of these productions over the last ten years, I've been handing to Hans-Peter.

So when did you decide to turn this tape sharing into an album?
I don't know - I think it naturally just became like that. From 2002, we've just been naturally calling each other, working together, meeting in the studio. It wasn't an audition, it wasn't a contract that was made. I think it was a quiet contract.

He seems like he's a quiet guy generally.
He is a quiet guy. He likes to say that I'm the spacey one, and he's the one that brings us down to earth. But I like to think that we're more alike than he'd like to admit! We're both these very heedless souls that I think creative people should be.

If Real Life Is No Cool is anything to go by, it's a really good contrast that you two bring to the table.
Yeah, everybody keeps reminding me. But I have been hearing the side of him that's not that calm. You can hear it in his music as well. He's moving forward all the time. He can be quiet, and then all of a sudden turn his head toward me with all of these important aggressive things he has to say that are all laid out in his mind. He's really good at expressing himself.

Back to the album, the most obvious comparison that keeps coming up about Real Life is the Giorgio Moroder/Donna Summer collaborations. There's a real nostalgic feeling to the type of disco it turned out to be. Did you guys talk about doing it that way? Did you know what he was going to do with the vocals in the end?
When people ask me, 'what kind of music are you making?' or 'how would you describe it?' I don't know what to say. I'm not the kind of person who categorizes, and I think this shows in our music. Sure, you can say electronica, but you can't really get a hold of what this is. It's hard. The last two years I've been travelling around different places to do shows where I was on stage all by myself. So through Hans-Peter, he's been working away for me, because he's gone and made a name for himself. So as a result I have many requests come my way for us to do stuff together. But Hans-Peter forced me to go the hard way, the right way, and this has taught me so many things. I've been angry with him a little bit. Why do I have to wait I wanna go now, now, now (laughs). But now I realize how much this gave me.

Now that the time is finally here, what's the plan?
I'm just so happy that we're here, and I just want to take one step at a time, see what comes up.

Are you going to be doing some live shows together?
Hopefully. I think so. We already have something that is settled [Oslo's Oya Festival], and I think that we need to take it from there. Right now, in my head, I know that we are going to travel, and I'm really focusing on this. I have so many things to consider, because I know when I go off-stage, I'm Isabelle again. On-stage, I can create my world. The music of Hans-Peter is so huge, it demands we give the audience a really strong visual presence, and this world is what I want to given them.

Is your concern is more being the performer, while he stays behind the machines?
Yeah, well, I'm going to be behind the machines as well! I'm gonna push him a little bit. I think I will have some equipment as well, so we'll see what I can do with that. You might explode! It's perfect because when I begin losing something, he's there to back me up. And I can hear if he's losing something, and I'm able to be there. I think we know each other that well. We can just finish each other's sentences. So I'm safe. And he's safe.

Do you have plans to release any more of your own music now that this album is out?
Yeah, hopefully. And hopefully it will be Hans-Peter to do it. He's the first guy in my thoughts, and I hope I'm for him as well. I'm just gonna continue doing the productions. It's also the same for me when I go back and listen to what I've been doing myself. I'm making a song, and I'm gonna leave it for many years, and then I'm going to take it back again. Or maybe three weeks. You know, one day you go back listening, and you have new ears. With Hans-Peter as well, some of the first things we did I think are the coolest things. I'm so glad we get to collect this. But we're working on something, so I'm excited about it.

It sounds like an exciting time for you. You're at a high point.
Yeah, it is. Definitely. I'm very eager. Hans-Peter has been more calm about this, and I've been the one calling him up 24/7 being like, 'Hey, are you sleeping? Listen to this. I need to do this. Come on, let me do this.' And he's been the one who's holding everything in its place.