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I Was Able to “Find My Way” to Axel Thesleff and His New Single | Interview

by Eric Valencia

Having released the highly successful track “Bad Karma“, Axel Thesleff has gifted us with a new single that is just as powerful. Released at the end of February 2020, “Find My Way” is a tune I could not stop listening to. When I gave this track an initial listen, I’ll be completely honest and say I wasn’t impressed. I didn’t hate the song, but I also didn’t love it either. Not being a person to only give something a single chance, I played it a second and third time. Then a fourth and fifth. With each added play there was something new that stood out that inevitably made me truly appreciate what Axel had created.

Find My Way” starts slowly, with the sustained notes of what sounds like a glockenspiel (it’s like a xylophone, but metal). An ethereal voice steps in and builds the intensity of the track, while the vocals give the impression of longing and wanting more. My favorite part of “Find My Way” is towards the end when it moves out of the final refrain and begins to break down with offbeat, glitchy tones. This stutter helps to create a more epic finale to the song. After obsessing over the song, I was fortunate enough to be able to interview Axel, so I could get more details about him and the music he creates.

Axel playing his Roland Ax Edge
Axel Shredding His Roland Keytar

Can you tell our readers a little about yourself and what led you to become an international musician?

Hello, thanks for having me! I’m an Electronic Music producer and keyboard player from Helsinki, Finland. I’ve played the keys since a kid and picked up Electronic Music production in my teens. I’ve always loved coming up with tunes, even as a kid I used to come up with little melodies. Electronic Music opened another world for me which is the world of sounds. A few years ago a track of mine called “Bad Karma” caught the attention of many people and I started playing outside my home country and really kick started my presence in the scene.

Prior to being a musician, what was your career?

I guess music has always been my career. I studied musicology for many years at the University of Helsinki while spending most of my free time producing music. I got by with a student loan and a student allowance from the government in addition to a summer job but was soon able to sustain myself with music.

Your latest single “Find Your Way”, has a very emotional sound behind it.  What inspired you to create it?

I was stuck in a bad mental state for a while a couple of years ago when I started the song. I wanted to make something that gives me energy and motivation to overcome that and I hope it will have a similar effect on somebody else. It’s about finding your place in the world and coming to terms with whatever situation you find yourself in and finding your own way in life, essentially.

The vocals on the track are hauntingly beautiful, but I can’t fully pull out the phrase that is being said.  It almost sounds like “I can say the right thing,” but what is it actually?  What was your intent with making the vocals as distorted as they are?

The vocals in the main part of the song say ”I can find my way” over and over again… It becomes almost like a mantra and the song is pushed forward through those lyrics like someone wading forward through a storm. One subject I was really interested in the university was Semiotics, which is the study of meanings and what their underlying mechanisms are. I took some of those ideas into the way I approach music production. Distortion means force or aggression because it represents what happens to the human voice when screaming. High frequencies represent high energy in the mix and I also utilized that in this song – you can hear a screeching high-frequency sound come in at the main part of the track as an injection of pure high energy to emphasize the emotion behind the track.

You have a full version and a short version of the track.  How did you decide what had to stay and what could be removed?  What was that process like?

There is a key change toward the second drop of the track with which I wanted to convey a shifting or lifting of the spirit. In the original version, this was achieved through a slow rise where all the sounds slowly slide upwards to a different key right where the second drop happens and the brass sound hits in. In the short version, there is just a sudden silence and the key change happens out of the blue. I thought both versions were cool so that was one of the reasoning behind releasing the two versions. I also cut the length in other parts as well in the short version to give the song a more compact feel to it. The original version, on the other hand, gives more time for the emotion to build so it’s not a matter of which is better, it’s more about what you’re in the mood for.

Looking at some of your live sets, you are frequently playing different instruments (keyboard, xylophone, drum/cymbal) throughout.  How do you balance playing so many different instruments live while also mixing?

I’m not actually mixing while I’m playing. The show is not about me sliding faders or pushing buttons, except for a knob on the keytar that I can turn while I’m playing if I can assign it to something that has room for self-expression. I leave the mixing for the DJ sets. For me, the live show is about playing instruments and recreating the lead parts of my songs live which gives me room for improvisation and expanding on the musical ideas of the songs themselves in the moment. It’s about co-experiencing the music together with the audience that way.

Axel adjusting settings with keytar in hand
Moving Through the Spotlit Mist

I understand that you are also in a progressive rock band, Octopie.  Can you tell me a bit more about how you joined them?  How does their sound differ from your own?

I founded it with my friend Tom who’s the lead singer many years ago. I play the keys. Our sound is very different from my Electronic Music. It’s Rock/Prog/Jazz music so it’s more about playing together with the band and jamming. It’s a nice counterbalance to my electronic stuff, although the jamming part is there too with my live show. But there’s something special about playing together with other people and feeding off of each other musically.

You currently have two shows in March in the U.S.  When can we expect to see a full tour schedule, and will you be playing coast to coast?

I can’t announce anything yet but we’re definitely looking at every option. I’m quite new to the U.S. touring market, having my debut in the country last year. I’m working hard with my team to introduce more and more people to the live show and gather momentum that way which will hopefully lead up to headlining a tour in the U.S. at some point.

Looking back at previous tours, what has been the most memorable show/festival that you have played and why?

I’d say Electric Castle in Romania a few years ago was one of the most memorable events I’ve played. It was my first major festival appearance and the audience was super responsive. It was cool to see so many people show up and have a good time. Also the Envision festival last year was such a crazy experience. Playing the live show bare feet in the Costa Rican jungle was something else and Envision is such an amazing festival, I will never forget it.

Any last words to tell your fans?

Thank you so much for all the love and support, it really means the world to me. I will always do my best to be my best for you guys and never stop developing as an artist. We’re on this journey together <3

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