Discordapp.com wasn’t working out for us.
“I don’t know what his problem is. He’s the one who’s deaf,” said a joking Niall Skjæveland Maloney referring to his AstroFegs producing partner, Kjell Kvendbø. “He can’t hear you. I think it’s his cheap headphones, too! Let’s try Facebook Messenger.”
Besides, the names were understandably hard to pronounce for this American, so for simplicity, Niall was marked “Joel” and Kjell turned into “Shell.” It worked for me and is how our rather comical and sarcastic conversation would continue for our hour together.
Think of Niall and Kjell as dysfunctional brothers working together 600 km apart. Niall resides in Oslo, Norway and Kjell lives on the country’s northwest coast in the city of Kristiansund. “It’s a bit difficult at times,” said a Kjell as he occasionally vaped. ” But, we use Discord a lot and show each other what we’re doing.” And, what they do is create very melodic music that is rapidly garnering them the title of producers to watch for 2020.
Niall grew up listening to Americana styled music such as Credence Clearwater Revival and Roy Orbison due to his father being from the United States. His mother, a former ballet dancer, enjoyed classical music, especially the well-known song, “Nessun Dorma,” the final act aria of Giacomo Puccini’s opera, “Turnadot.” “That song is very emotional to me and incorporates a lot of the same emotions and feeling of love that Trance gives you,” explained Niall. “I also listened to Mike Koglin’s, “The Silence” constantly as a kid and got into Trance from there.”
Kjell listened to electronic music from an early age on a radio station. Securing Magik One’s, First Flight CD and discovering Gouryella on Napster “is what sealed the deal for me.” His grandmother played the piano and encouraged him to play, but his ADD prevented him from paying attention long enough to learn. “I had gotten ahold of FastTracker on floppy disc, and I played with that until I found a demo of Fruity Loops in a CM Magazine sometime in the early 2000s. One of my best friends, Jan Egil, and I would spend hours in my basement making music and figuring out how stuff worked. I also remember having a Nokia phone where you could create your ringtone, and I would recreate popular Euro-Dance tracks.” Kjell also worked offshore for months at a time where music production wasn’t a priority. But, settled down now and engaged, he’s bought a house, built a proper studio, and can produce without fear of interruption except his 3-year old daughter who sneaks in to play with his midi keyboard.
The two met in 2006 on an online Norweigan forum, “Club Life.” “We started talking about music, and I liked the way Kjell did things,” said Niall. “In return, he tolerated me!” As technology advanced, Club Life succumbed to the ever-growing popularity of text messaging, and the forum ceased to exist. Niall remembers, “I lost touch with a lot of people and was completely out of the Trance scene until 2014.” When the two reunited in 2015, Kjell was producing under the alias, Ranger One, and enjoyed four releases before joining AstroFegs in February 2018.
From there, the wily banter between the two continued, but Niall knew that he had found someone special to collaborate. “I wish I had half the production talent that Kjell has,” he sincerely said. “There is no question that he does the brunt of the music for us.” Kjell laughingly but honestly countered with “Niall is more socially and DJ oriented. He can deal with the groupies! I really don’t get involved in those things. I’m more of the nerd who stays behind. I’m also terrible at social media, so I don’t get worked up that often!”
Talking more with Kjell, he stressed the importance of diversity in producing but insists that he only creates Trance, just different variations of it. “When you produce, you do the same thing over and over again. For me, it gets boring looking at the same templates, bass lines, and sounds that I lose interest. I have to switch it up. One day I want to produce Psy-Trance, then slower b.p.m., and then full-on 140. That’s how it goes with me. I also strongly recommend with new producers to render your idea into audio. It’s easier than a synthesizer after you’ve made it and it prevents you from tweaking it a thousand times!”
Still, with only four (completely different) tracks to their credit, AstroFegs were afraid of being classified as the guys who were ghost produced and couldn’t find their niché. “It was a concern, but it’s clearly not the case with us,” said a somber yet adamant Niall. “But, we’ve decided to stick with the more 138 and uplifting stuff.” A prime example of their intended avenue can be found in their most popular original track to date, “Frameshift,” but a happier version of it. “We’re working on a 138 track that more cheerful and happy where Frameshift is sadder,” admitted Kjell. “We want an identity but become predictable.”
“Frameshift” released on Trancegression Recordings when Matt Asteroid was in charge of A&R and AstroFegs experienced a wonderful relationship with him. “He’s an amazing person and producer,” said Kjell. “We would like to have done more with the label.” And, while Niall is very supportive of Trancegression’s new A&R, Mickey Marr, the duo feels they have found a new home with the recently formed label, Nocturnal Animals (Formerly Grotesque Music).
Formed by former Grotesque co-boss, RAM, Nocturnal Animals is a new 360 outlet, incorporating events, publishing, music releases, and other ventures. “It’s our favorite label to work with and sign to,” admitted Niall. “They’re very professional. They promote your work in such an amazing way and set you up to let you know how to work it.” Their upcoming single, Merekara, due out on August 9, 2019, is a gem of an uplifter with a beautiful melody. Again, something we’ve come to expect from the duo. Note: Before Kjell came on board, AstroFegs had signed their first track, Twin Flame, with Thomas Aaren in April 2018 on the then Grotesque label.”
With more productions on the way, Niall was excited to speak of their first vocal track with one of Trance’s leading female vocalists, Claire Willis, due in September. “I approached Claire right away and told her that the Stargazer remix of her song, “Take Me Home” by DJ Xquisite and Enfortro was one of my favorites. We worked well together. I co-wrote the lyrics with her on our song and Kjell has done a fantastic job on the production end.” Not to be outdone, Niall and Kjell have secured Claire for yet another track and feel this will be their best. “The lyrics are very heartfelt and personal. I’m not going to say who they’re personal for, but it envokes the feels.”
Along with their releases, AstroFegs were contacted by Daniel Skyver to provide a guest mix for Nocturnal Animals’ AH.FM radio show. Airing Tuesday, August 13, 2019, the two will also provide a guest mix on their year-long running “Astronomy” program that date on the same AH.FM channel.
In addition, and in an effort to maintain freshness and diversity, Niall is improving his production skills with his “Westcoaster” alias (Chill Out/Ambient) and Kjell continues his creative variations of Trance as “Alpha C.”
It’s an exciting time for AstroFegs as they look to strengthen their brand. Niall will continue to represent the duo in public as Kjell stays glued to his laptop while his child is in school.
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