The Collected Wisdom of… The Knife


The Knife’s Shaking the Habitual is out next week, and it’s been hitting the Flavorpill stereo very hard indeed over the last week or so. To be honest, we’re still digesting the album — it’s one of those records that requires multiple listens to get to grips with, and we’re very much enjoying exploring its depths. We’ve also been enjoying the interviews that Olof Dreijer and Karin Dreijer Andersson have been giving to support the release — in a world of determinedly drab and inoffensive musicians, they’ve been refreshingly forthright about the politics and political theories behind the record, and have had some fascinating things to say. As such, they’re a perfect fit for the latest installment in our “Collected Wisdom Of…” feature.

Music Olof: “Music history is written by privileged white men, so we can ask ourselves how important it is to repeat their ideas.” [via Guardian , 2013]

Songwriting Olof: “I actually need to ask [Karin] sometimes, “What the fuck are you saying here?” Because I don’t understand lyrics that well and I have never been into music with lyrics.” [via Pitchfork, 2006]

Music and politics Olof: “There’s a narrative that culture or music should not have to do with politics. We are [taught] all the time to not think.” [via Guardian , 2013]

Performance Karin: “With our music, we go into characters to tell our stories. [Our performances are] a natural way of continuing that idea. The music has less to do about us. You should focus on the music and not us.” [via Music Snobbery, 2006]

Authenticity in performance Karin: “”I would like to quote [gender theorist] Judith Butler, who says, ‘We are always in drag’. That has to do with the idea of authenticity: is there really any time when you are your true self? I would say that we’re always playing a role. Even guys with guitars who sing about their emotions, they are playing a role of a person who does that.” [via Guardian , 2013]

Gender Karin: “I think we are very interested in playing with the gender roles in the lyrics and in the songs and the vocals. It’s good when it’s really androgynous. If we need a man it’s better to use me than Olof.” [via Quiet Color, 2008]

Gender, cont’d Karin: “I think it’s very interesting to work with the voice in the way where you try to destroy the construction of gender. When you listen to something and you can’t place if it’s a man or woman singing, I think that’s very interesting because you always get a little bit irritated if you can’t figure out the gender.” [via Exclaim, 2009]

Sex Karin: “Sex is a very political thing, and I think nowadays it’s even more important. Everything is so sexualised but at the same time women are not allowed to have a sex life.” [via Dazed Digital, 2013]

Society Karin: “I believe that people would be happier sharing things and being much more of a collective rather than working from these neo-liberal ideas of just looking after yourself. I think people need each other.” [via Pitchfork, 2013]

White privilege Olof: “Being brought up in a white wealthy family in a Western country, we were privileged. And we have a privileged position as people being able to make music and study and get asked about what we think about the general political situation. This brings responsibility. When we see people listen to what we have to say, it makes us think about how we can use this attention in the best political way and how we can change our own working process by thinking norm-critically when making choices about who we employ, how we work, what salaries we pay.” [via Pitchfork, 2013]

Licensing tracks for commercials Karin: “We’ve never sold any of our own performed tracks to any commercials, so [allowing José González’s cover of ‘Heartbeats’ to be used for a Sony commercial] was very hard for us. It doesn’t really feel that good, but the question came when we were in the middle of Silent Shout, and we didn’t have any money or anything, so it made it possible to continue working on the album, the videos and the live show. It made it possible to do quite a lot, but at the same time, it’s dirty money.” [via Pitchfork, 2006]

Irony Karin: “I don’t think we have ever been interested in irony.” [via Dazed Digital, 2013]