An Interview with Thor Rixon
We recently caught up with Thor Rixon (@thorrixon) a producer + multi-instrumentalist from Cape Town, South Africa to chat about his latest album ‘Michele.’ His music is thought-provoking, spirited, and distinct. Learn more about Thor, his travels, and music below.
After plenty of harassment from his mother, acclaimed South African house artist Thor Rixon finally serves up a long-awaited dance album. Named ‘Michele’ after her, it is a seven-track affair that finds Rixon deliver his own unique brand of avant-garde electronic music.
Hello Thor! How are you?
TR: Hello! I’m doing very well, thanks. How are you?
Congratulations on the release of your new album ‘Michele’. We’re absolutely loving it over here at We Own The Nite. Can you tell us more about the project?
TR: Thanks so much! Glad you are enjoying it. So my mum, Michele, could see that I had this connection with music at an early age, so she made it possible for me to explore music and to find my place within it.
My mom has always been a fan of dance music. We would listen to Fela Kuti, Deep Forest, The Police, and countless dance music compilations on the long journeys to and from school every day.
Since I started writing and performing in a solo capacity my mom always wanted me to write music that would make people move. I disagreed in the beginning but the more and more I tried writing dance music the more I enjoyed it. It is now pretty much the only style of music I write and perform at the moment.
This album is for my mum; for all the guidance she has given me and an album that she can dance to.
I wrote all the instrumentals myself over the course of about 2 years in Cape Town and Berlin. I then asked some artists very close and dear to my heart to collaborate on the record. Two of the featured artists were actually my housemates at the time of writing, Duduza Mchunu & Roxy Caroline, two incredible artists. The third and final collaborator is Mx Blouse who is a good friend and artist who I have written and produced music for in the past.
How would you say this album differs stylistically from your earlier works?
TR: This project is definitely my most genre focused body of work. Before I even started writing this album I had the intention of creating a dance record. I would say this is my most focused work in a way. My previous work could be seen as more ambient with more varying genres within each album. I wanted to create a body of work that served to move the body and at the same time stimulate the mind, whereas my previous work was more geared towards the heart and mind and not really focussing on the body.
There are some fairly poignant themes running through the album — particularly evident in your music video to Our End. Can you shed some light on these messages?
TR: I wanted to produce a visual for ‘Our End’ that amplified the message of the song, which is focussed around the subject of waste culture and our effects on the world. Rob, the director, and I scouted a few giant rubbish dumps on the outskirts of Cape Town and finally found Vissershok Landfill which is one of Cape Town’s biggest landfills. It felt like the end of the world just being there at that dumpsite.
This theme runs throughout the album as it’s something I wanted to drive home from beginning to end. My thinking is that we won’t be able to fix many other issues in the world if there isn’t a world left. Scary times but I’m always hopeful that we can pull together and do this.
How important to you is the connection between music and fashion?
TR: I think that they do compliment each other quite well for sure. I enjoy playing with different looks for my videos and photos. I am also an actor so I try to create characters and build narratives through garments and the scene itself with a lot of my visual content. Both music and fashion work independently on their own obviously, but when married together, can make both stronger and create new narratives respectively.
Has living in Berlin had any influence on you in this respect?
TR: The first time I left South Africa in 2015 I visited Berlin and it opened my world to dance music and electronic music on a grand scale. I heard music and sounds that ignited a fire in me during this trip. From this point I started delving deeper into electronic music and I have been going back every year since, getting deeper and deeper every time.
Who or what were your earliest musical inspirations growing up? And when did you decide a career in music was the path for you?
TR: There is a clear memory I have from when I was very young; my folks played me their Burning Spear record ‘Garvey’s Ghost’ and my life was changed forever. I was blown away by the bass and the intricate polyrhythms. It was at that point when I knew that I wanted to make music. I learned to play the guitar, drums, and the trumpet soon after this moment. I then started writing my own songs, and after high school took a course in music production focussing on electronic music. I have been writing and performing live electronic music ever since. I still play that Burning Spear record all the time.
What’s your favorite album of all time?
TR: I don’t have one favorite album but many favorites. One that comes to mind is St Germain’s ‘Tourist’ which is an absolute classic. The level of detail that is achieved on this album is outstanding and jaw-dropping. My mom had this on CD and we blasted it constantly at home and in the car. I got tired of it back then but picked it up recently and fell in love all over again. Such organic and rich textures and tones in the album. It’s a dance record but also so much more.
If you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing right now?
TR: I am a massive fan of literature. I read a lot all the time and I often wish that I were a writer & novelist, but sadly my writing isn’t very good, as you may have already picked up.
What would you say is the most important lesson you’ve learned from life so far?
TR: A lesson that changed my life was that the root of my unhappiness was my mind creating narratives that were not real. That all I had to do to remove my self from this trap of unhappiness was to simply not believe the things my mind kept on telling/showing me.
Tell us something we might not know about Thor Rixon…
TR: I don’t shower very often, maybe like three times a week. I’m not sure why this happens to be honest. Maybe it’s because we going through a drought in Cape Town, and the fact that I don’t really sweat a lot and I don’t feel the need to shower often. I know it sounds weird. :p
Can you tell us about your live show? Do you have any plans to tour internationally any time soon?
TR: I’ve been building and working on a new live show for the past few months which consists of basically all my gear; Elektron Octatrack, Roland TR-09, Roland SE-02, Novation Bass Station 2, Korg Minilogue & my Modular Synthesizer. It is a completely hardware-based performance with no use of computer whatsoever, which is something I’ve wanted to do for years.
I also have a band based performance where I am joined on stage by session musicians where we perform the more ‘song’ based music I write.
Finally, I have a live set where I have broken all my productions into their stems and loops and perform them on top of each other using Ableton and the Akai APC40 MK2.I will be touring in and around South Africa over the next few months, then I will be heading to Europe early next year with hopefully USA & Asia towards the end of 2019.
To cap off this interview, describe your ideal day in NYC…
TR: record stores, bookstores, synth stores, pizza and walking the streets till I drop.
Thank you so much for speaking to us Thor!
TR: Thanks for the interview. 😀
Listen to Michele: