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TOY: Pro-Teens

Jørgen Traen and Alisdair Stirling

Jørgen Traen and Alisdair Stirling

I first became aware of the British/Norwegian duo known as TOY on Annie’s 2005 DJ Kicks record. “Rabbit Pushing Mower” was the leadoff track, and part of me never came back from the cartoon world their baby brand of Dada-esque electronic (and analog) music transported me to. There I remained, guarding the Easter Egg they left me with, awaiting their return. I grew anxious. I found a few more emps in some nonnative corners of the Web. Then, finally, their self-titled LP arrived in 2006. It truly was the masterpiece I had been waiting for. Last year, when I got in touch with these fellows, their Half Baked Alaska EP was still hot and fresh on store shelves.

1. What other projects were each of you involved with when the duo began, and how did this lead to TOY? What was your goal with the group?

Alisdair Stirling: I was in Bergen making a House of Hiss record and met Jørgen through that. He was wearing a rabbit suit, which kind of suggested a humorous approach. Our goal with TOY was just to make more music for Pingu to listen to. He only had that one great record, “Woodpecker in Space,”1 and we thought he should have some others.
Jørgen Traen: I was doing my own project called Sir Dupermann, and also producing other bands. I did some mixes for House of Hiss. I also had this ongoing project to show everyone that it is OK to walk around in a whole knitted suit. It was fun/difficult.

2. How are your production techniques different than other electronic artists?

Jørgen: I don’t know so much about how other other electronic artists do it, but I would guess it’s quite different, because of my studio in Norway. It’s in the middle of the woods and contains a lot of old equipment from a pro audio maker from the ‘60s called Reodor Felgen. He used to make all sorts of filters for NRK (Norwegian State Broadkasting). Using this equipment also means you also get into Felgen’s philosophy on how to process sound, which is very different, I would say, from today’s standards. For the nerds: Røfferiff på boks SWT 100; Weakdrum TS-1(beta); FPM 40-190 Rundfunkalizer; Nordlys Generator NG 1, and Flausmak A/V Lyd 1.
Alisdair: I’ve been using the Deep Space Riffomatic Pro II one hell of a lot. It’s all over the first album, and there’s a quite a bit on the new stuff too.

3. Do you have any stories about the nature/field recordings that appear on your LP, Toy?

Alisdair: These are really on the menu. There’s a recording I made on the Budapest subway right in the middle of “Rabbit Pushing Mower” and some Greek cicadas on “Don’t Be.” Also, some birds by Nick Penny, who sits out all night in the woods holding a parabolic dish and a handful of bird seed.
Jørgen: My Mom is a field recordist and loves to walk around with her old Nagra tape machine. She provided me with lots of inspiring sounds.

4. How important is the art that accompanies your music? Tell us about TOY’s artwork. What kind of bird is that on the cover of your LP?

Jørgen: The artwork is very important. It sometimes feels like the music is there to accompany the artwork. Silje (Heggren) is very nice.
Alisdair: The bird is the one making the making the crow sound at the beginning of “The All Seeing Eye.” A Wafflebeaked Herzog?

5. Were either of you ever involved in punk, hardcore or, since you’re from Norway, black metal music? If so, please tell us about it briefly. And your favorite album(s)?

Jørgen: I played in a lot of thrash metal bands, and I’ve also produced some black metal albums. Also had a punk period when I was a kid because my older brother was Osøyros’ (where we lived at the time) only punk rocker. I was really into Exploited. Album: The Wind HarpSongs from The Hill.
Alisdair: I was a punk. Actually, I still am. Album-wise, [Joe Gibbs'] African Dub Chapter 3. That Willie “The Lion” Smith’s good too.

6. Do you make enough money with your music/art to make a living? Is Norway a good place to do so?

Alisdair: No. I live in England and it’s totally impossible.
Jørgen: No I live in Norway and it’s totally impossible. Unless there is oil dripping out of your CDs.

7. Are you a fan of the U.S. rapper Lil Wayne? I’d love to hear what a hip hop track by TOY sounds like.

Alisdair: Is he the guy who just walked on water at Glastonbury? I really want to hear this Lil Wayne. It’s high time TOY went hip hop.
Jørgen: Lil who?? Hip Hop what??

8. You have a new record out called Half Baked Alaska. I understand this dessert dish is also known as a Norwegian Omelet. Have you ever made one of these? It seems complicated. Tell us about the record and how it relates to the title.

Jørgen: The Norwegian dessert omelet you are thinking of is called eggedosis, and is something else.
Alisdair: Jorgen made an omelet on Tuesday. We were in Norway but it wasn’t a dessert. More like a breakfast really, with sausage, chili and Old Amsterdam cheese. Anyway, the title seems to work. “Welcome to Cedars Lodge” is about a visit to an Alaskan fishing lodge that I imagined and then discovered was a real place. So it’s kind of a half-baked idea of what Alaska is like because I’ve never played there. And come to think of it, the record is a mixture of stuff with a live winter concert in Bergen at its icy heart.

9. Say anything about this live TOY performance:

Alisdair: Which brings us to…. Teak veneer! Very heavy. We nearly broke the wheelchair lift in the theatre getting the organs up the stairs one by one.
Jørgen: There were not 10, but 11 people. I know because I was there making a bootleg with my mother’s Nagra.

myspace.com/toymusic22
smalltownsupersound.com

    Footnotes

  1. Actually "Woodpeckers from Space" (by VideoKids).
  2. Why 2? Well, this is /toymusic.