I ‘ve been keeping my eye on nanobii for quite some time ever since I was introduced to the artist on his ‘Love Songs EP‘, which ended up being one of my favorite works from 2017. At times playful and at times heartfelt, the EP was a showcase of a diverse musical style that nanobii continued to develop and refine over the past few years on releases such as ‘Sunshine Express‘ and ‘Children of the Sky‘. His musical aptitude was even further showcased on the announcement of his newer synthpop project, Linus from the Stars, through three phenomenal releases. Most recently, nanobii played a thirty-minute live set for electronic music legend Porter Robinson’s ‘secret sky’ online music festival to much applause from his audience. I received the opportunity to sit down and speak with Linus about his experience playing ‘secret sky’, his music, himself, and even his preferred literature in the most comprehensive interview I’ve ever had the pleasure of conducting. Read on, and enjoy these insights into Linus’ world!
Aydan Scott: How long have you been writing music? When did your interest in composing electronic music begin? What tools did you use when you were starting out?
Linus: I first found out you could make your own music on the computer around 2005 with a software called eJay. That eventually led me to FL Studio – called FruityLoops at the time – and dedicated music forums. Since then, I’ve released songs under several aliases (though I’ll admit it didn’t sound particularly good until 2011 or so). I worked pretty much in the shadows until 2014 when the first song as nanobii came out. At the time, I studied at a university. It wasn’t until 2016 that I decided to quit my studies and commit myself to making music full-time. And the rest is, as they say, history! I consider myself extremely lucky to have reached a point where I can live off my favorite thing in the whole world!
Aydan Scott: eJay, oh man. Haven’t heard that name in a LONG time. I used to play around with Techno eJay when I was a kid! And the Dance eJay demo that came with it. We never got the full version.
Aydan Scott: What tools do you use to compose your music now, and how has the production landscape changed since the inception of nanobii?
Linus: I’ve made all my songs since 2008 using Reason. What has changed is that I’ve started finding ways to write music outside of the DAW. I write a lot of lyrics these days and I started learning the guitar just this year. It’s great fun to just play around and not worry about having to write songs and that’s something I’ve been missing.
AS: What are your major musical influences? Where do you draw your musical ideas from?
L: I’m inspired by pretty skies and breathtaking landscapes. I really do feel like we don’t appreciate the beauty of what’s around us enough! In terms of music, right now I listen a lot to ambient (Lowercase Noises, Hammock) and The 1975; I think my love for ambient music lately shows how moods and imagery [inspire me] lately, rather than songs and melodies. I used to be obsessed with everything Owl City, and even though I don’t find myself listening to his music a lot these days, his influence can still be heard in most of what I do!
AS: Recently you’ve started producing music under the alias Linus from the Stars, and I find that to be quite a curious name for a musician. What significance does the name hold for you, or how did you come up with the artist name?
L: Linus is actually my real name, so maybe it isn’t quite so curious after all! I’ve always had a fascination with the fantastical and wanted to paint a picture of this naive, not-so human that sees the wonders of the earth for the first time. It’s how I’d like to view the world myself – with starry eyes – even though it’s often easier said than done.
AS: How different is your production process when producing under Linus from the Stars compared to as nanobii?
L: Lyrics take a long time! At some point while arranging the song, I’ll have to take a break and focus solely on vocals for a while. That can last from [anywhere] between a few days to a few months. Since I’m working on multiple songs at the same time, it’s not generally a problem, though it can be totally frustrating! Even so, I find it to be worthwhile; knowing you’ve written something that truly matters (if only to yourself) is so fulfilling!
AS: Very recently you played a set for Porter Robinson’s ‘secret sky’ festival, the first of hopefully many more to come, alongside Anamanaguchi, Madeon, A.G. Cook of the PC Music collective, and Porter Robinson himself. How did this opportunity arise, and what did you do to prepare?
L: Porter Robinson and I have known each other since when I first started posting music on electronic music forums in 2007 and we’ve kept in touch since. He’s such a gentle soul! Needless to say, I was extremely flattered to be asked to make something for Secret Sky and it came as quite the surprise! From the moment I received the request, I knew I’d head outside to record my live set. I think it took 3 days in total to get all the footage!
Watching Secret Sky, I found it fascinating that everyone’s vision differed to that extent! I was almost certain someone would do something similar to me.
AS: How did your experience recording your live set differ from preparing for a physical concert?
L: The set I played at Secret Sky is pretty much the one I play at actual concerts, so it wasn’t too different in the sense that I knew what to play. Took quite some time to record though!
AS: The visuals for your set were quite interesting; given the current state of global affairs, they were warm, inviting, and serene. Where were they taken?
L: Thank you! All footage was taken around Gothenburg, which has been my home for 10 years now! It’s a beautiful city and I wanted to show my favorite spots to the world.
AS: How have you, personally, been coping with the global health crisis?
L: I try not to think too much about it. Making music tends to be lonely and it’s been even lonelier not being able to see friends as often. However, we’ve started going for walks together lately, so that’s great. Other than that, everything’s mostly the same; I make music, eat healthily and try to take walks daily (or at least every other day).
AS: How do you feel about the mass digitalization of the music industry on the whole? Do you prefer distributing physical products or digital?
L: I love the digitalization and wouldn’t be able to do what I do without it. Less physical products means less plastic being produced and that’s essentially good. A little hypocritical of me to release music on physical mediums myself, perhaps. Oh, well. There’s something about holding your own album though! And I love sending it all over the world from my little apartment in Sweden.
AS: There’s something novel and personal about owning something physical from an artist, but I definitely agree with regards to production waste. Limited runs help to minimize that issue, I think.
L: Yes, definitely! I like keeping mine limited to 100. Not that I’d sell more than that!
AS: Do you have a particular song from one of your musical aliases that you’re especially proud of?
L: The song I’m most proud of tends to be the one I finished last. In this case it’s music that isn’t even out yet! ‘(The Jungle Is) Wild & Free’ was so much fun to make, and that outro is something I’m very proud of. All acapella!
L: The whole Linus from the Stars project is something I’m extremely proud of because it’s made me challenge myself. I didn’t really sing at all before that, and I feel like both my singing and lyrics have improved so much in just two years.
AS: Sometimes all you have to do is come out of your metaphorical shell or break out of your comfort zone to create something wonderful.
L: Definitely! Nowadays, I feel like electronic artists are more free to do whatever they want. When I started out, you were pretty much bound to one genre and sound.
AS: A lot of musicians from the early 2000s kind of let their genres define them and I agree that it’s nice to see people break the mold, sometimes with each release in their catalog.
L: I’d only made hard dance music up until 2015 when I made my first pop sounding song. Which is a little strange, since I’ve always been listening to other kinds of music more than EDM. I guess I kept making the same kind of music because I was comfortable with that. My dream for so long was to make my own pop music, and I finally reached a point where I was comfortable doing it. Even now, I listen to music very different to what I make. It seems like what I make always reflects what I listened to a few years earlier. Or something like that…
I’m still inspired by what I listen to now, but it’s much more subtle.
AS: Do you feel your music comes from a wistful place? Like a longing for something that you had before? Not necessarily in a sad way.
L: Longing for something I don’t have. Or for something I’m not, or for something that was, or for something that wasn’t…longing, yes.
I think that pretty much sums up everything I write. But yeah, it definitely comes from longing and imagination.
AS: [That’s] super relatable. I think everyone has that feeling inside of them, but in terms of expressing it, people can have trouble finding a medium. The fact that you’ve found a way to express yourself in an artistic form is no small feat.
L: I read a lot of fantasy books and often find myself wanting to escape.
AS: I love fantasy! Are you reading any now?
L: Just finished this! I’m super into Brandon Sanderson. Fantasy novels often inspire my lyrics, actually.
AS: So you’ve probably read the Wheel of Time series in that case! I’m working my way through that right now.
L: Still haven’t gotten through that! But I plan to this year.
Glass Beads (LftS) is inspired by the cognitive realm in Stormlight Archive. What a series…I think it’s the best fantasy series ever! Book 4 coming this November.
AS: Oh, wow! I’ve been meaning to start that for some time, but I want to finish [the] Wheel of Time and the Traitor Son Cycle (Miles Cameron) before I get too deep into anything else. I’ve been considering starting Game of Thrones but it’s a bit daunting.
L: Do start it! It’s so, so good.
AS: The Founders Trilogy looks really interesting and I’m interested in that, as well!
L: Yes, it’s super interesting for a fantasy. It’s like steampunk, cyberpunk fantasy. Right now I’m reading a YA series that I don’t think is too great, but I’ll finish it anyway because it’s coming to Netflix this year. It’s called ‘Shadow & Bone‘. Another good series I finished earlier this year [is the Lightbringer Series]. It’s a bit…grittier though. Both good and bad. Brandon’s writing is so innocent in many ways. Young adult, but not.
AS: I’m not sure if you’ve read the Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire series by Rod Duncan but it’s likely in a similar vein. It’s a fairly solid series in my opinion, but I will say I’m distinctly not a fan of the sudden damsel-in-distress motif that the MC acquires later in the series.
Oh, Brent Weeks did the [Night Angel] series which was one that I was looking into when I decided on the Traitor Son [Cycle] as a fantasy readthrough!
L: I’ll look into that!
Did you know most of Brandon’s works are in the same universe?
AS: I didn’t know that at all, actually! I haven’t read anything by him yet.
L: I’ve read pretty much all of this.
AS: Oh wow, that’s a lot of books. I knew he was prolific but not THAT prolific! I’ve heard a lot of really good things about him as a writer!
L: Oh, and I LOVE witty fantasy/sci-fi like ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy‘, ‘Stardust‘ and ‘Good Omens’ (last two being Neil Gaiman). Stardust is written like an adult fairytale, sort of. Beautiful prose.
Brandon seriously gets better with each book. [The] second book [of] the Stormlight Archive series is the highest rated fantasy book of all time on Goodreads, I think.
AS: Hitchhiker’s was so good! I finished that series about two years ago and was a pretty big fan of it. I tend to read a lot of magical realism – Haruki Murakami and Gabriel García Márquez are two of my favorite authors – and a lot of classic American literature as of late, [like] Steinbeck [and] Heller.
L: I’ve [had] Haruki recommended a few times, but not yet read anything! I guess American Gods is the closest thing to magical realism I’ve read. Also [anything else by] Neil Gaiman.
AS: I’ve also heard really good things about Neil Gaiman and his worldbuilding/character development but haven’t read anything by him either! ‘Kafka on the Shore‘ is one of my favorite books of all time. There are a few questionable scenes in terms of his character development that a lot of people chalk up to cultural differences, but outside of those few moments the book is incredible.
I’d classify Gaiman as a magical realism author for certain judging from what little I’ve seen of his work. American Gods has also been on my list for quite some time.
L: Neil Gaiman writes beautifully but sometimes his stories…lack. He’s one of the best technical writers though.
L: Yes! Stardust is phenomenal. Maybe my favorite book.
I only started getting into reading again 2 years ago actually. After not having read since like 2010 when I moved from home to study.
AS: I made it a New Year’s Resolution three years ago myself and I did it for the same reason! I got out of school and I just kind of stopped reading. I don’t know why, it’s not like I disliked it. I just found myself working a lot and not having the time.
L: My main reason was to get better with lyrics. But now I find it relaxing and fun.
AS: Literature is a really good way to do that! I’ve learned a lot of words just from reading.
L: Totally! I keep a document with words and phrases I stumble upon.
AS: I still find myself a little strapped for time – I’m working more frequently during this time – but I’ve been reading through a coffee-table psychology book called ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow‘ by Daniel Kahnemann that tackles heuristics and human bias in thought patterns, and ways to minimize experiencing bias.
L: My roommate is [always] reading works like that! [I] also find myself strapped for time even though I have way more spare time than most. I try to aim for 6-7 hours of writing music each day.
AS: I don’t frequently read material like that, but there are definitely moments when I feel like reading something that really makes me sit down and think, I suppose.
That’s a lot of time to perfect your craft, and it shows!
L: When I don’t read fiction it’s probably on meditation, self-help and zen.
Thank you so much! I’d feel bad not spending a set amount of hours per day, as it’s my full-time job. [It’s] all about routines!
AS: Routines are important! Do you have a daily routine or regimen that you follow?
L: When I set out to make music full-time in 2016, I started doing strict 3+3 hours days with [a] lunch break in between, and kept that up for two years. Now it’s slowly coming back again because I find myself easily distracted. [The] summer of 2016 was the first time I didn’t apply for a summer job because I wanted to give music a last chance. I’m so glad I did that. Up until that point, I made music maybe once a week or so. Even when I released Rainbow Road, I didn’t really make music that often.
AS: Oh! That was the piece that got featured on Monstercat Media in 2014. I remember that from college!
L: Yes! [It was] probably the song that changed my life. Without it, I wouldn’t be able to do this full-time, and would never have given it a chance.
AS: The reception to Rainbow Road was pretty incredible and is still a pretty popular track to this day.
L: For a long time I found it depressing that it’d always haunt the #1 spot of my Spotify profile for all eternity, but I’ve come to live with that. Which is why it was helpful to make music under a new alias.
AS: I’m not gonna lie, this is PROBABLY the most cohesive interview I’ve ever done on the blog, and I’ve done quite a few.
L: Haha, really?!
AS: Yeah, for sure! I’m really grateful you took the time out of your day to speak with me about this, this has been really enlightening.
L: It’s been fun and now I’ve got a new book friend!
AS: I ask this question near the end of a number of my interviews, so to close out…what does the future hold for nanobii and Linus in the Stars? Any parting words for your readers and fans?
L: I’m hoping to finish my new Linus from the Stars EP this spring! I also might have just finished a song for a Japanese arcade game.
Thank you all for taking the time to read this; through these interviews, I hope to give you all an insight into not only the artist’s music, but the people behind the music.
Memories, floating away in an ocean of glass beads.
Wish I could escape and dive, but I’m caught on the isle of time…
Sending love from the cosmic unknown.