• Klangstof


For Koen Van De Wardt, making music is a far greater pursuit than simply creatingsomething to catch someone else’s ear. “The more people that respond to my music theless lonely I feel,” admits the singer and musical architect who records ethereal, ofthushed but forever gripping synth-anchored music under the moniker Klangstof. “For me it’s just about getting in the studio and erasing all the bad feelings I have in my mind.”

It’s a funny thing, really, the way in which the Dutch-born, Norway-raised Van De Wardtis on the surface a happy-go-lucky 24-year-old (“People expect a very depressed youngman and instead they get this smiling asshole”), and yet when he retreats to his solitaryplace to write music, much in the way he’s done since first picking up the guitar at age14, the anxiety, the negativity, the feeling that he’s misunderstood, it all comes pouringout. The result is a collage of the supremely genteel yet haunting vocals, sleek melodiesand experimental beats and rhythms. Ask him how this all happens and even the manhimself has trouble putting his finger on how or why exorcising himself of his demonscome by way of songwriting. “It’s a very weird thing that goes on in my head wheneverI’m making music that I don’t even understand myself,” Van De Wardt says. “For solong I locked all my feelings out as a human being. And now the way I express thosefeelings is through music.”

There’s a patience and precision at play in Klangstof’s aural creations: much in the wayhe delicately mines his emotions for lyrical inspiration, the musician is a mastercraftsman when constructing the chilling, mercurial sound that comprises his stunningdebut album, Close Eyes to Exit. It’s there in the crisp, slow-building single “Hostage,”electric guitars gently strummed, electronic beats like a rising heartbeat, all giving way tofull-throated release: “I ran for shelter/But I got there,” he intones. Or in the way“Sleaze” shifts from whispered confession (“Nintendo is the only thing that makes mesmile”) to propulsive, rainbow-hued synths at a moment’s notice. Van De Wardt refers tothis as “dynamic range,” a driving force he possesses in taking his time to perfect hiscraft. “That just doesn’t happen a lot these days anymore in music,” he offers. “ Bandsare trying to fit into this three-minute pop sound where everything has to be as loud aspossible. It’s one of the most important things now: to make people feel.”

There’s a power in reaching deep into oneself, even to the ugly parts, in order toultimately connect with others. For better or worse, Koen knows this from personalexperience. It’s why he began making music in the first place. After moving with hisfamily from his native Netherlands to rural Norway at age 14, the once-social teenagerfound himself totally isolated. “I was just a guy playing football and hanging with friendsin Holland and then all of a sudden I was sitting in Norway with no one around,” herecalls. “My life was torn apart and I had to start all over again.” He turned to music.More specifically, he became enamored with Radiohead’s seminal 1996 album, OKComputer. Koen says he related to the longing and undercurrent of unchecked pain inlead singer Thom Yorke’s voice. “You just feel that there’ something going on in his lifethat he feels very uncomfortable with. And I felt the same thing as well. It reallycomforted me.”

In short time, creating music became an almost manic pursuit for the fledging musician.He’d lock himself in his parent’s basement, master one instrument after the next, tinkeron his laptop for hours at a time, searching for the perfect sound. Even after attendingHedmark University College and playing bass in a popular Norwegian band, Moss, VanDe Wardt felt compelled to return to his own well. “I felt really stuck because I couldn’tfind that creative outlet that I was looking for,” he says of those transitional days. “That’swhen I started to do Klangstof” – a name with no particular meaning (“klang” meansecho in Norwegian and “stof”, dust in Dutch) – “and then I couldn’t stop. All of a suddenI felt happy and comfortable again.” Van De Wardt even goes so far as to say that if awayfrom his studio for too long and not writing new music his insecurities start to creep backinto his psyche. “If I stay somewhere for a week without making music I’ll feel so bad,”he says. “I really need those bad emotions to come out.”

Creating “Hostage,” one of 10-12 demos he’d recorded over a few years that would windup comprising the bulk of his debut album, was a major turning point for Koen: not onlydid it attract the attention of L.A. based record label Mind of a Genius, it also signaled asignificant musical milestone for the musician. “I got very inspired by that synth-based‘Hostage’ sound,” he explains, “and I wanted to add to all the other demos as well.

While he emphasizes Klangstof is a highly personal pursuit, Van De Wardt is emphatic inhis belief that playing with a band – he currently tours with three other musicians, a fewof which he found via Facebook – is crucial to his properly articulating his music. “It’s soimportant to have a band around me that I fully trust. They’re an extension of my body,an extension of my mind. As a songwriter I know what I want to hear and I know whatsounds I like. But there are always people who are more specialized.”

The question remains, however: how does a man like Koen, someone who creates by hislonesome and seemingly channels so much pent-up emotion in his music, articulate thatfeeling onstage before an ever-growing fanbase. As it turns out, for him performing is ahighly cathartic and communal experience. “I really feel like I’m connecting to peoplethat understand the music,” he says of the Klangstof live show, which makes its way tothe States this fall. “Every show when someone comes up to me and gives me a hug withthat warm emotional feeling I almost start crying. It’s interesting how everyone kind offeels the same way. We are all in the same zone. And the more people there are the betterI start feeling about it all.”

More than anything, making music and sharing it with others – whether via themlistening to his pristine album or communing with him in the live setting – mostimportantly has Koen no longer feeling quite so alone. “I’m coming out of my old worldwhere no one cared and getting into this new world where all of a sudden everyone caresabout me. It’s a very weird thing. I don’t know if I should like it or not. But it’s veryspecial.”


Close Eyes To Exit:



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Ogden Twilight Bios

  • OH Land
  • Wild Belle
  • OK Go
  • Dan Deacon
  • Louis The Child
  • TroyBoi
  • The Shins
  • Pure Bathing Culture
  • Miike Snow
  • Klangstof

Buy Tickets

  • June 1 - Oh Land & Wild Belle
  • OK Go Dan Deacon
  • Louis the Child & Troyboi
  • The Shins
  • Miike Snow and Klangstof