This week on Discovery Friday we take a look the work of 48 year old Norwegian producer, Espen Kraft. Espen’s sound immediately stands out as cut above, it might even be described as having a certain elegance, a refined understanding of the crafting of sound, and a grasp on authentic sounds of 80s music.
Many in the synthwave scene may recall his popular track “The Golden Boy”, which gained traction in the scene last year.
Espen began his musical journey in the 1980s. “I started with keyboards and synths when I was about 10. First the home organs from Yamaha as they were very popular back in early 80s in Norway, but I really wanted a synth so I saved up to buy some Casio keyboards, but got more serious when I was about 16 when I bought more pro synths like the Akai AX-80, Korg MS-20, Roland TR-909 and started synth bands with my friends.. We kept on for a couple of years and made some national progress, but nothing too heavy. I soon thereafter moved to London to make it big as as artist, but I ended up a DJ as I didn’t get in on the “pop” action as an artist.”
In the 90s Espen found himself in the middle of the rise of electronic music in London. “I used to DJ in London in the early 90s. I saw the rise (and to an extent) the fall of the Houce/Acid culture that came to Europe at that time and after years of wild living I came to my senses and moved back to Norway and started to work as a pro producer for radio, tv and record companies.
He also opened up a commercial recording facility and continued to make a living off his work until 2007 when he jumped off everything and moved out deep into the forest of south-east Norway, on the border to Sweden.
“I’m surrounded by elk, deer, wolfs and wildlife.. and I love it! […] Here i’ve set up shop, far away from the neon glittering big city that once was my backyard. […] These days I make my living off mixing and producing for clients and just sending things off via the internet. I very rarely have clients coming here now, but sometimes they do and they love the tranquility of the countryside and calm winds.”
Two years ago Espen realized that he sorely missed making 80s pop music in the way that he started out. So he assembled what he had left of the old hardware and I’ve returned to my true passion.
“I’ve decided to stay with only hardware synths, drum machines and samplers. Hardware insoire me. Software does not. It’s not about what sounds the best. EVERYTHING sounds the best. I’m after results and finished projects, not tinkering. I love working old-school and I’ve recently started up a new series on my Youtube channel where I go over every aspect of making synth music without a DAW.”
Espen’s YouTube channel is an excellent source of information on old synths, and music in general. It’s definitely worth checking out.
Espens say that making 80s inspired synth-pop with beautiful chords, melodies and vocal hamonies is what is associated with the New Romantic synth-pop era of the early to mid 80s is what drives his interest the most.
“As a synth-pop guy with a melancholic heart I listen a lot to all the old synth-pop groups of the 80s like Pet Shop Boys, Howard Jones, Human League, Depeche Mode, Thompson Twind, Erasure, Yazoo, Eurythmics, Gary Numan and many more… lots more.”
“More instrumental stuff like so many call “Synthwave/retrowave” is also something that pops up once in while in my studio, but my love is for the more “ordinary” pop songs with vocals. Ironically my two most popular tracks online is the instrumental ones though. Ah well, the jury decides.”
I first came across Espen a couple of years ago on Soundcloud, when we were both jumping back into to our 80s roots, and I have been a fan ever since. If ou haven’t checked out Espen Kraft yet, take a minute to do so. His new single “Fire and Ice” is out now! You can find Espen’s work everywhere, including the links below.