Harlequins Enigma was founded in 2008 by Age Riisnes, who lives in Bergen Norway by the coast. In fact he considers the seagulls his friends. Riisnes introduction to music came in 1991 by way of the Amiga platform, where he started from scratch, using samples from cd`s and floppy disks to try and reach a high level in music, competing with names like boom Jinx, Atjazz, Jesper Kyd and Martin Wall.
Using FL Studio as a base, he composed some interesting pieces and the band reached its peak during 2009. Riisnes explains that he believes some musical collaboration, at the time, took place via mental contact / spiritual contact with many famous musicians. The material has been released and has gathered numerous fans.
The upcoming album by Harlequins Enigma, is entitled, “Pale Justice, Natural Beauty”. The album is being constructed in an unusual and interesting manner. Age has put the tracks up for ‘scoring approval’ on the Reverbnation website. Tracks to be included on the album, will be selected from those that receive a score higher than 6.
Here follows an exclusive interview with the person and mind behind Harlequins Enigma – åge riisnes.
åge riisnes: I have been doing midi / 16bit professional audio composing since 2008, with a 3 year break from winter 2010 till spring 2013 when I made a comeback after many spiritual coops with various artists in 2008-present .
2. Who were your first musical influences that you can remember?
åge riisnes: Ultravox meant something special to me when I was a child, so did kiss, the Beatles, Barbara Streisand & Abba too. Later as a teenager I thought King Diamond & his amazing voice was great. In my 20`s I heard Jarre, Kate Bush, Kitaro, Vangelis, Tangerine Dream which was styles to be admired. During a peaceful hospital visit when I was 30, I purchased all Yello albums, some Depeche Mode, Garbage, Tori Amos, Royksopp, Elvis Presley, Limp Bizkit, Korn, more King Diamond (got most including Merciful Fate), & other music which became inspirational in this harmonic period.
3. Which artists are you currently listening to? And is there anybody you’d like to collaborate with?
åge riisnes: I am listening to all in all the same music as I used to & a lot on my own too. when I mentioned spiritual coops i referred to some collaborations mentally like in radio contact (commune), where I don`t know much about the process, only that I see contours of the person who is there & hear his voice, then we make the track together & it seems as if my impulses from the brain has added some juice, cause when we talk about it later Klaus Schulze (i.e.) may have done a section of the track or raised the pitch from a C to an F & similar stuff, & it all feels natural. Matthew Forss from Ariel Publicity referred to me as a brainchild. i don`t know much about spirituality, but that I have visitors in my mind constantly, & the bad ones say they are not going away & have made remarks about me asking me to die & similar stuff (they can be a pain in the arse literally), that is a fact. Vangelis, Klaus Schulze, Edgar Froese, Kate Bush, Jan Garbarek were just there to help or make music. These are people & members of my family I have collaborated with & some of the stuff got great. I was a messy poor apprentice, as I did not own so many plugins. Sometimes it was a race against the clock & other times we pasted something together based on demoware with silences. These project files were not saved & the material for example Years feat. Sara Jensen which received a +6 on Reverbnation.com`s crowd reviews will have to be remade & I am not in the mood for something like that, I would need help. Harlequins Enigma was under pressure in these times & fans ought to be aware of what I said when it comes to detail/quality & no project files. A voice in my mind who I cannot say who was back then referred to me as 2009`s best secessionist. Yikes someone give me a free manager – haha
4. Describe the first piece of musical equipment that you actually purchased. And which is the one piece of hardware or software you’re still looking to add to your collection now?
åge riisnes: My first musical equipment i purchased was an Ensoniq sq1+ which had some great sounds & felt like knife in butter on the keys, I sort of loved it. At the current time i am not looking to purchase more plugins, cause i have just purchased quite a few new ones – some of it being Chromaphone & expansions & upgraded xln drums to v2.
åge riisnes: I am using a small master keyboard from m-audio & have a 6core i7 stationary pc with 24gig ram. i use FL Studio as sequencer & i think it might be the simplest piece of software to learn in the industry. I use a Focusrite scarlet soundcard & I own Komplete 9, Omnisphere, Chromaphone, Lounge lizard, Samplemoog & many other vst plugins, & I always look for new fx via samplepacks. I wish I had a studio, since the sound I can produce at home is limited. I usually master the tracks online for a small fee.
6. Studio work and music creation, or performing and interacting with a live audience, which do you prefer and why?
åge riisnes: i prefer sitting at home or a studio, cause I will never be a live performer due to some mental issues. i.e. I have a man in my head that denies me memory when I perform at the keyboard (hacking), so i never remember anything & brain control is a daily word that seems to be integrated in their plan on myself as a musician. They might be referred to as scum since they are always destructive in their behavior.
7. Which sounds and effects do you prefer working with between Analog and Digital and why?
åge riisnes: I like warm sound best & have an ear for it since the Amiga period of tracking back in 1992-1997. i have done a few digital pieces, it can sound pretty, but i have never really thought about it that much. I can tell you that it could appeal to me for a meditative album & that my electronica probably will stay warm in the future.
8. On which one of your songs do you feel you delivered your personal best performance so far, from a technical point of view and why?
åge riisnes: I think Moon Ritual – Heart Drums mix is my technical best piece. It sounds like a twist between Enigma & Kitaro & is a world track. I have always liked exotic sounds. It was cosy to pull it off in the heart drums mix, a previous attempt at a world track was last year in the form of “A rose for my android”, it is not quite as good a mix. Why i succeeded? I can only say that my destiny notes were meant to be – haha, I believe god exists inside me, so I am very happy & thankful for all help.
9. Which ingredient do you think is most essential in making the Harlequins Enigma sound the way it does?
åge riisnes: The ingredient of harlequins enigma`s sound in its essence would be my ear for quality patches & my weird Protracker composing experience that seems to have become a pattern of its own, with the help of god of course.
10. If you were forced to choose only one, which emotion, more than any other drives you to stay in this tough business. Is it joy, anger, desire, passion or pride and why?
åge riisnes: It was passion in the beginning, i wanted to make as beautiful music as boom jinx, atjazz, jesper kyd, maniacs of noise & phenomena back in the early days, & competed with them. As for lately there is not so much passion left & my brother recently died – all the hacking & hurt got to me in the end. It would be for money right now that I want to continue. I don`t have a girlfriend & is called chocolate starfish by Limp Bizkit, though that is fine by me – I really miss something beautiful.
11. Which aspect of being an independent artist and the music making process excites you most and which aspect discourages you most?
åge riisnes: I think the visits that helped me into a career was cool in the beginning in 2008-2010 February. I have a lot to thank them for. Alas lately only brain control remains, & they are more busy with the planning of my death rather then making my music good. So i guess that could make me a Truman show & that it is coming to an end. That is hateful, to see that you have been used as a resource & that my music didn`t matter. I declare that some of the music matters & that the law of jante that reigns in my home has destroyed every aspect of what music is about. Do understand that I have friends & foes at all times in my life as i mentioned earlier.
12. Tell us something about your songwriting process. Do you create your own sounds or do you use loops and samples. And which music software do you primarily use for composing?
åge riisnes: I use fl studio, & have totally used 5 loops or so up to today. I prefer presets, but i often tweak the patches to sound better or more suitable to the track if i think the sound is close.
13. Could you tell us more about your experience at Haukeland Sykehus in Bergen, Norway (a psychiatric hospital)?
åge riisnes: I had many visits to the hospital. A senior doctor called me a medium there one day, she was Danish & i am not sure she is alive today. I was pretty stunned to hear it back then, but lately it makes a whole lot more sense, don`t you agree?
14. The best piece of advice in this business you actually followed so far, and one you didn’t follow, but now know for sure that you should have?
åge riisnes: I admit that I was lame in the beginning of the 16bit adventure. I should have known better then to release un-mastered material & to not ask before a coop release with Tori Amos. She said to me that she could not stand by the album “The long road” since she was not physically present. So I took down the album & apologized. She said it was a nice thing that I cared about her spirituality, which all my coops were about. Later after I had taken down the album she appeared again & said as I went through the project file one day, that she was present in the recordings. Let us not make a fuss about it. My spirituality counts too, though I am a brainchild (brainchild probably means someone who has a soul, & is not a full spirit, which for example can be a thing like a simple impulse in the brain, to create it yourself.) probably correct since I am some kind of Truman show & need help in my daily life. Please note that I did not ask for coops. They all came to me. i.e. one day Edgar Froese stood there & heard a track that I had made then, was a piece called lite side of the moog. After a minute Klaus Schulze appeared & it was the name of the track that drew his attention & that the sound was pretty good. This became musical friendship as time passed. 15 or so tracks were made between me & him & others all in commune mode, the story of my life lately.
15. At this point, as an independent artist, which is the one factor you desire most, and feel will undeniably benefit the your future (for example increased music distribution, better quality production, more media exposure, bigger live gigs etc…)?
åge riisnes: I see Reverbnation.com / Soundout as an eye opener for my music & the future, for harlequins enigma to gain upon via radio. Their crowd reviews are really useful to get a public common opinion from. I dream of a manager that could help me around in studios, making the masters radio ready, which is just something a small fee of $20 to $90 cannot do. And also to make sure I do not do any mistakes, or allow mistakes that can seem lame to professionals as wells as common people.
16. Do you consider Internet and all the social media websites, as fundamental to your career, and indie music in general, or do you think it has only produced a mass of mediocre “copy-and-paste” artists, who flood the web, making it difficult for real talent to emerge?
åge riisnes: I am one of those who struggle getting seen. I think Pinterest with an official page where everyone can be seen on the front row is the way to go, with viral charts coming as page 2. Seems to me like everything that matters is the most viral stuff and not newcomers at all. How do people stand a chance? They actually don`t at the current time. I would say you have to have many friends who tweet for your band for weeks, even months before getting spotted. I think record labels suck. Why? Because someone approached me for a track once, & they said, never mind, we are not interested, you don`t have enough YouTube hits or Facebook likes, so we don`t want to. lol
17. I read somewhere, that in 2009 you produced a staggering 400 tracks of music. How was that possible?
åge riisnes: I am not sure where the power came from, but 3 tracks a day could be done, mainly sessions that lasted from 30 minutes till 3 hours. Some people encouraged me to play on. I guess I fell for it.
18. What do you think is the biggest barrier you have to face and overcome as an indie artist, in your quest to achieve your goals and wider-spread success?
åge riisnes: I must get accepted as a musician due to the fact that I have played mental coops with Vangelis & stuff. When this is a reality – they may look me in the eyes & give me more than the regular bullshit lines I am hearing each day, on how much my music sucks. Probably just jealous, or brain washing me.
19. What is the ONE thing you are NOT willing or EVER prepared to do, in your quest to achieve a successful musical career?
åge riisnes: I`m not sure, I have seen so much of the misery in this already, only death could make it worse.
20. What are your plans for the Harlequins Enigma project in the near future?
åge riisnes: Vacation after releasing “pale justice – natural beauty” – an album based on crowd reviews for radio friendliness. i am currently reviewing my material these days – cost some too it does, but I am seeing the end of it soon. So this would be our best album based on common public opinion. – It does not mean it is all relaxing stuff for grandma, but I guess a good mix for all. 🙂