Karin Park is already a veteran of six solo albums plus various side projects including PANDORA DRIVE and ÅRABROT.

The Swedish-Norwegian singer, songwriter and music producer possesses a diverse curriculum vitae that also includes opening for Gary Numan, co-writing Norway’s entry for the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest and appearing as Fantine in the 2019 Norwegian stage production of ‘Les Misérables’.

While albums such as ‘Highwire Poetry’ and ‘Apocalypse Pop’ were acclaimed for their spikey electronic pop dynamics and striking mezzo-soprano vocals, her most recent albums ‘Church Of Imagination’ and ‘Alter’ (a collaboration with dark ambient exponent Lustmord) pointed to a change of direction into more intimate settings.

The approach was inspired by Karin Park’s early childhood in rural Sweden, growing up in a Christian family and going to church. She acquired that same old church building and converted it into a studio for herself and her husband Kjetil Nernes.

The new long player ‘Private Collection’ sees Karin Park take nine songs from her back catalogue and strip them down to her voice with minimal accompaniment from a pump organ to present her music at its purest. Additional embellishments on some tracks come from Kjetil Nernes on guitars, Andrew Liles on synths and Benedetta Simeone on cello while the album also includes an elegiac new composition entitled ‘Traces of Me’.

Marrying her past with her present, Karin Park took a break from live rehearsals to speak to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about her ‘Private Collection’…

What seeded the idea of ‘Private Collection’ to revisit previously released songs from your career?

To play solo at all was actually encouraged by my friend Brian Williams aka Lustmord. I was reluctant at first, thinking it wouldn’t be that exciting, but when I was invited to perform in a wedding for a couple who met at my gig, I decided to give it a go. I brought my MS-20 and a Mellotron that I use in ÅRABROT and it sounded interesting. I then bought a Moog Subsequent and a Tanzbär and started to play and build this set bit by bit every day for about two years. I carefully built the songs with very little instrumentation and I preferred to play them like that rather than with a band. And then I thought they should exist on a record. So that was the start of it.

The root of this stripped down sound came with your last album of original material ‘Church Of Imagination’, was that like a return to your roots?

I don’t think I’ve ever been at the root of my sound. I’m still digging. To me, my musical journey started in the tree tops and I’ve worked my way down towards some kind of root. Maybe when I find the roots, it’s time to bury myself there.

‘Church Of Imagination’ began with a stark cover version of THE CURE ‘A Forest’, why did you choose this for reinterpretation as a symbol of your new approach?

Because I love THE CURE and I love the sentiment of the lyric. It’s one of my favourite songs and I thought it fitted me really well.

Was the adoption of a pump organ in your instrumentation inspired by Nico?

I grew up with hymn music but maybe Nico influenced the idea of putting in to my pop music. But also the fact that I had one just beside me in the church at all times made me actually consider it. It is also the lightest organ I have. Haha! The Hammond and the Church organ is just a tad too heavy. I live in an old church remember….. but on a serious note, it has just the right melancholic vibe that I am after.

Has your Korg MS-20 been retired?

Quite the opposite. Well, one had to retire because I used it up. The repair shop said there was nothing else to do but get a new one. The knobs were worn out. I do have four more now and I used them for everything.

Is there any modern synth hardware that has attracted your interest recently?

I got myself a Tanzbär Lite which I really love. It’s incredibly fiddly but sounds great. I also love the Arturia Keystep Pro. It’s a controller without its own sound but it’s so good to have as a mothership in my set-up as I don’t use a computer live, only hardware.

One of the songs on ‘Private Collection’ is ‘Look What You’ve Done’ which was a very fierce synth Schaffel track released in 2014, so how have you changed as a person between the two versions and has the sentiment of the lyric changed for you?

I’ve become a very different person between these two versions. Having two children now, it almost feels like a lifetime in between.

But I really like both approaches and the lyric still feels the same. I feel like I just wrote it when I sing it on stage. It has that effect with all the songs when I sing them live. Like they have just been born and are full of urgency.

‘Private Collection’ begins with a new composition ‘Traces of Me’ that appears to be a reflection of your past?

It about the first time someone broke my heart. It took a good 20 years to write a song about it. I’m over it now, don’t worry.

What criteria did you use to choose the songs on ‘Private Collection’?

I wanted to pick songs where the core of the song could live with me for another 20 years. So I picked my favourites that I wanted to sing in this format. I love ‘Restless’ but I felt that it was already in the best version it could be and that a stripped down version wouldn’t do it any favours. Or any new version. It’s already complete. So why record it again.

Even back in the ‘Highwire Poetry’ days, you described its closer ‘Bending Albert’s Law‘ which is on ‘Private Collection’ as a favourite, what is it that makes this song so special for you?

It makes people cry and I love that. Also, the experience of writing it was heartbreaking and wonderful at the same time.

Were there any songs you tried in this new arrangement style but perhaps didn’t work? Would say ‘Stick To The Lie’ from ‘Apocalypse Pop’ have worked?

I actually tried to do ‘Stick To The Lie’. But after giving it a go, I was a bit… nah, I’m over this song. I don’t want to sing it. It was a selfish process to pick out the songs. Hence the name ‘Private Collection’.

In the ‘Highwire Poetry’ and ‘Apocalypse Pop’ period, you were on tour with your drummer brother David, what were the pros and cons of working with a sibling?

The pros are so many. To have someone you can trust, who is fun to be with and who knows you inside out is great.

The cons are that when you try to be something new and reinvent yourself, you are always the same little sister no matter what and that can hold you back.

The period also saw you on the fringes of the European mainstream which included the co-writing the 2014 Norwegian Eurovision entry ‘I Feed You My Love’ for Margaret Berger, how do you look back on that?

I remember being quite poor and when all that happened and it was A-listed on radio everywhere, I suddenly had more money. That was great because I didn’t know before then if I really could continue with my music full time. It was also the first time I was in a writing session with someone else and that was an interesting experience. Scary but exciting.

You now work closely with your husband Kjetil Nernes, how would you describe your creative dynamic compared with other musical partnerships?

We are two different planets that have gradually moved towards each other over the course of 13 years. We are still far apart but we manage speak to each other via a language that we’ve developed together called a record collection. And I love working with him. He’s got such great visions.

How do you hope ‘Private Collection will be received? Do you think since appearing in ‘Les Misérables’ in 2019 that your audience has changed?

For a lot of people I think this is gonna be the first KP record they ever heard. I kind of had that in mind when I made it. Like it was my first record somehow. I think anyone can like this record. It’s not based on a genre. It’s based on emotions that everyone experience and I would really love for it to reach a wider audience.

I can’t imagine ‘Les Misérables’ changed much in terms of anything really.

What is next for you?

A six week European tour with A.A. Williams in November and December. I can’t wait to play this album live for you all. Check out when we are coming to where you are.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its grateful thanks to Karin Park

Special thanks to Simon Glacken at For The Lost

‘Private Collection’ is released by Pelagic Records in vinyl LP, CD and digital formats

Karin Park 2022 UK live dates opening for A.A. Williams include:

Leeds Brudenell Social Club (13th November), Milton Keynes Craufurd Arms (14th November), Birmingham Hare & Hounds (15th November), Cardiff Clwb Ifor Bach (16th November), Falmouth Cornish Bank (17th November), Bristol Thekla (18th November)






Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
Portrait Photo by Geert Braekers
19th October 2022