Kristian North: Are we Engaged in Pseudoscience?

Interview by Louise Jaunet
Genres and styles : Alt-Pop / Disco / Soul/R&B

Additional Information

In the aesthetic of ’70s soul, funk, and disco, Kristian North’s Pseudoscience Fiction deals both literally and metaphorically with the pandemic, in a strange and sophisticated way. Blurring the distinction between reality and imagination in a kind of visionary present or augmented version of our world, this conceptual album evokes the soft colour palettes of the ’80s, rock opera, musical theatre, country music with Hawaiian accents, palm trees, beaches, and sports cars. Hiding between these sonic textures, is the dystopian modernity of a collective experience on the brink of collapse, leading us into individual bubbles of reality that are perhaps nothing more than films in their selves. PAN M 360 brings you this interview with Kristian North, for his show at L’Escogriffe on 21 October, in honour of Analogue Addiction’s 10th anniversary.

PAN M 360: Pseudoscience Fiction is your third album as a solo artist. What happened between the previous album and the beginning of this new record? 

Kristian North: Passion Play came out in 2021 but the album took a long time to come out. Actually, the pandemic happened, while we were going to release Passion Play. The album was finished when the pandemic was announced. I remember the first week vividly, as everyone was staying home but I was still going to the studio. People were saying that it would only last a few months and it would resolve itself during the fall. But it got pushed even further than that. It influenced the shows and how it was promoted. 

PAN M 360: When did you start recording this new album?

Kristian North: I guess it was in 2021. I was compelled to make it about how impactful the pandemic was. It was hard to ignore so it became a point of inspiration. Nobody wants to talk about all these things, myself included. I was just thinking about those things when I wrote the album. It has a mood that is not necessarily super happy or something.

PAN M 360: You recorded the album with Renny Wilson at the Value Sound studio. How important is he to you in the recording process?

Kristian North: I’ve always recorded with Renny. We have a collaborative relationship, we work on arrangements together. He also plays bass on the record. At this point, we sort of co-produce the records and he definitely engineers the records. It’s useful to me, I like to have somebody to share my ideas with. I really like collaborations, even though I promote myself as a solo artist. I prefer collaborative environments in music. 

PAN M 360: You kept the previous sophisti-pop genre but you pushed the idea around it even further. You have soul, funk, disco, rock opera, Hawaiian, and country influences. What albums did you have in mind as an inspiration?

Kristian North: I listen to a lot of punk and soul music. That’s more like my basis for everything. I like Sophisto-pop, but I don’t completely relate to that. My favourite music is more like funk and soul. This album also has a more jazzy influence. 

PAN M 360: You also kept your lo-fi and DIY aesthetic. 

Kristian North : Sort of. I think of it as hi-fi, actually. But there is something fun about doing it yourself, for sure. Music gets more fun when it’s more difficult. It’s boring when it gets too easy. I like to do things the hard way, I like to be involved in the process, in the technological aspect of it. I don’t go for the lo-fi sound, I go for the creative sound. Renny and I have strong ideas we have developed together. They don’t necessarily coincide with norms.

PAN M 360: What do you mean by that ?

Kristian North: At this point, there are formulated approaches to recording. We have very strong feelings about how we want the records to sound. That comes across I think. These are subtle details, not everybody hears these things. I have my opinions on these things.

PAN M 360: You have many guests on this record: bass, flute, sax, violin, etc. Would you like to introduce the people who worked with you on the record?

Kristian North: There are tons of amazing people on the record, most of them are my favorite musicians in Montreal, I’m pretty happy about that. There’s a duet with Elle Barbara, Ari Swan did the string arrangements, and Joe Grass played pedal steel on a couple of moments on the record. My band is on the record too, we’ve been playing for a long time. When you’ve been playing music for a long time, you don’t have to talk about music as much, music is actually a difficult thing to write and talk about. Music gets better as you develop those relationships. It’s another type of language. Once you develop a language together, it just gets stronger and stronger.

PAN M 360 : What can we expect for the live shows of this record? 

Kristian North: I also have my own opinions about live shows too. Live music is a sacred thing to me. The cooler thing about live music is that you get a unique experience, it’s not a fixed medium. We do our own interpretation of the songs live and I like to leave room for improvisation. 

PAN M 360 : What do you mean behind the title of the album, Pseudoscience Fiction

Kristian North: It was important to me to leave things abstract and to let people have their own ideas. I tried to let go of my own meanings. It was a confusing time. I wanted to write about the internal monologue that a lot of us had to go through. The expression pseudo-science is a meme basically. It kept coming up with the discussions about the vaccines, the pandemic, or what is and what is not scientific. That’s mostly where this idea came from. There was also a sort of experience with the pandemic that was more like science fiction for us to experience. 

PAN M 360: By the way, the album cover illustrates the theme of the album well. 

Kristian North: It was made by a British artist I’ve never met, Samuel Tomson. I just like his style. I wanted somebody who could do a 1960s paperback science-fiction novel design. I was looking for a retro-futurist style. One thing that the pandemic did was that it felt futuristic and primitive at the same time as if we were going backwards. It feels like that now too in politics. But the album is not really political, it’s more about bringing up questions.

PAN M 360: You mentioned that the album is partially inspired by the author J. G. Ballard. How did it influence the theme ?

Kristian North: I loved J. G. Ballard when I was a teenager. The book Crash is his famous one. He deals with near-future science fiction, sometimes about the present days. Just like how I wrote this album, science-fiction is not just about UFOs and other planets, it’s about putting a different lens on modern society. This concept album is playing on the inside of our isolation, our bubble. If we’ve learned anything from that experience is that life is not stable, you can’t plan for the future anymore. It might be good, as it can change your perspective on life, on how you should live your life, because it is always uncertain. The pandemic made it uncertain for everybody. 

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