We primarily try to do things we would like to have ourselves.
When you´re a kid you are full of innate imagination, you create a new state of mind and new ideas flow easily. Perhaps many of you remember for instance how easy was driving in your imaginary flying car next to the bushes in the garden or just around the house. Imagination is power. Nowadays technology makes us dream and although many of us at this stage, close to 2010, we thought that those flying cars would be real. People like Teenage Engineering make us believe that those things could happen. It is not that common to find a studio that combines new technology with high-ended inventions and good taste.
I arranged for myself to visit their studio in Södermalm. Walking by Bondegatan avenue with crazy rain hitting Stockholm but nothing could put down all my excitement on this meeting. The first thing you see is the entrance by the garage; a neatly open space very light, with couple of super fresh Ferrari Testarossas and a metallic green Lamborghini Countach, next to a couple of sofas, with a few desks and computers, along side synthetizers and some rare stuff.
David Eriksson co-founder and CEO of T-E approaches and gives us a very warm welcome. Whilst we have a cup of coffee he introduces me to the team and we do a tour by the whole office. I got time to see amazing stuff including, a square lamp, gutted synths, bike frames and also a refrigerator built within a musical instrument flight-case, something I couldn´t hide my desire for.
We also got time to pass by the workshop room, a very nice space full of tools, cutting machines and various raw materials which brings to the team the opportunity to make real models and build ideas in-house.
Under this mixed feeling of excitement and pleasant confusion I couldn´t wait to start to understand and know more about it.
David, at a first overview of your work guys I just can say awesomely talented. How could you describe in your own words such a labor and what the studio develops?
Thanks!! We primarily try to do things we would like to have ourselves. Things that is practical, looks and works good! You know, we work a lot and have kind of the same interests so we just create stuff that we haven't done before.
How many people have joined the team currently and how is that organized?
We are 6 people, 3 founders + 3 super employees.
Are all of you from Sweden or is it more of an international environment?
Actually you confirmed to me that you did a feature article with Shift before becoming T-E. What things have changed since then?
I think we had a thing in some Gasbook back in 1999 when we had a (to early) online game thing going on.
Since it's 10 years ago, we've all worked on a vast amount of different projects over the years. What's changed is that we now have 100% focus on the Teenage Engineering biz which is awesome!!
The possibilities of creation is now much more extensive? Why do you think this is?
We have a great team with versatile knowledge ranging from electronics, code & development, cad etc. Also we're getting pretty good at carpentry/crafts.
Workflow in prototypes or production series?
We do both our own products, the OP-1, the StudioSystem light rig, and some other future things. Then at times we get fun offers doing customer projects that incorporates design, electronics, sound etc. Like the Choir we did for Absolut where we spent 3 months doing woodwork, building 23 wooden characters with built in sound etc.
From the creative aspect, do you usually feel you have enough freedom?
Don't know, I think so, yes. next question :)
Honestly, for some of your creations, I can hardly say what they are for (!)
For instance Syricon. could you please satisfy my curiosity?
It's a defense training machine! It's a quite massive machine, built in water-jet cut aluminum sides, stainless steel top-plates, custom cnc'd plastics & alu details. We wanted it to look very custom and were inspired by pro line-array speaker systems + instrumentation seen in the air/space-biz.
We did everything from design, actual construction & building it, development of vector/3d graphics libraries, game development, circuit-boards etc. Crazy project, it was built in 1 month.
I feel music is a very important facet for your creations. On which aspects do you base your research.
The culture in the early synth biz is very interesting, there were small teams doing everything. We are all into music in some way, sound engineering, gear nerd, record collector, music production etc. We normally go way back when doing research. Most of the time, the limitations when doing something gives you unexpected results.
OP-1 is a gorgeous cute example. How did you begin the idea for this project?
To be honest, we started discussing this thing back in y2k. We had some ideas and sketches for small portable products. The FPGA's started becoming available and we thought it would be cool to incorporate programmable logic in a consumer device. A couple of years later we decided to initiate the project for real.
How is it distributed?
We are no experts in this area. People contact us, we will try to sell online at first, hopefully that works. We will also team up with a couple of niche stores around the world.
Has this experimentation field any boundaries technically and physically speaking?
Actually No! Nowadays you have so much things available, rapid prototyping, advanced electronics, lasers etc. Everything is becoming more and more available opening up for new ways of doing things.
So do you think that through technology the final result can become art?
Hmm, We like to do some more work within this field, for sure! First things first, Need to complete the OP-1, after that we have a thing in mind that correlates to what you might need when doing sound dev & installations!!
There is also a Swedish project for 2012 called The Moon House which intends to build a summer house on the moon. Do you think it could be also possible to make a performance on the moon?
Yes, we actually have a project in mind which will be one of the biggest synths ever made. The time plan on this project is set for release 2023.
You´re also working on a new electric bike, it´s called “Machina” right?
Thtat´s correct. Electric bikes will become big. Nowdays most of them is not that interesting... We think it would be nice if the bike can be "kitted" by the user, like add stuff to it, tweak the engine settings, etc. But also the design is important. Try to come up with something new & confusing.
Absolute Choir has been recently performing with a Warp showcase in Paris. How was that?
Nice! The Chris Cunningham VJ show was insane. We had the choir singing in a room under the main stages, kind of weird but people walking by seemed to like it. It became kind of like a "chill out area".
Have you other relevant experience or previous creations musically orientated?
Some of us has been creating music, both released and unreleased, one did the famous LittleSoundDJ Gameboy application, one has recorded Swedish pop bands, one knows how to play flute and oboe plus that we are good friends and has been working together with Elektron (Machinedrum / Monomachine) for a couple of years, Rest in peace Daniel Hansson!!
What other things are interesting for you guys?
Books = Yes, Cars = Yes, Cooking = Yes. We also like to travel, do trade shows & eat knackwurst.
Actually a few of you are collectors of super-cars, aren´t you?
Yes. Italian cars in the early days. those are the dopest.
If I want to order a prototype of instrument from you, how should I expect the starting budget to be?
TBA! Check out updates our website!
Text: Victor Moreno
Photos: Emil Kullänger