Praise to the Machine: One of the stand-out synthpop groups of 2016

pttm-band-1I recently had an opportunity to listen to a new EP, Massively Parallel, from Gothenberg-based Praise to the Machine. I was immediately entranced by its excellent melodies, vocals and production. So I reached out to the group to learn more about how they got started, their current success and what’s next for this talented duo.

Praise to the Machine was formed in 2009 by Anders Logg and Björn Skoogh. The EP features six new songs written, produced and recorded by Praise to the Machine and featuring vocalists Anders Linder and Torsten Schindler. My interview was with Björn Skoogh.

Modern Synthpop: Your new EP sounds excellent, head and shoulders above a lot of groups on the scene today. The synth arrangements and vocal harmonies are beautiful. You must be very proud.

Björn: Thanks! Of course we are very proud; it’s a great feeling being able to find your own music on Spotify, iTunes, etc. However, I guess everyone is their own worst critic. When listening to it now, there are a hundred things we could have done better, but sometimes you just have finish up, and release it.

Modern Synthpop: Sweetest Embrace is a masterpiece – reminiscent of DM, but yet something more. How well has that been received?

Björn: We’re very thrilled that you enjoy it! Sweetest was one of those songs that more or less wrote itself. Perhaps there is a bit of DM in it, but there is a lot of PttM. It’s kind of flattering to be mentioned in the same sentence as one of the greatest bands of all time, but it is also a curse. It’s very easy being written off as yet another DM-clone, and we are carefully trying to steer clear of those things. 😉

Modern Synthpop: It’s definitely not a DM clone, that’s for sure. It really stands on its own as an excellent synthpop song! I love the name of the group. How did that come about?

Björn: The name, Praise to the Machine, comes from a quote from the German philosopher and mathematician Leibniz. He predicted computers in 1685. That is a rather impressive feat. It’s possible to predict rather extreme future scenarios today like virtualization of the mind, rewriteable DNA, emergent AI, full AR-environments, etc. However, we do that on the shoulders of an ongoing technological revolution. Leibniz did this in 1685. That deserves some recognition.

“If we wanted to produce a more admirable machine it could be so arranged that it would not be necessary for the human hand to turn the wheels… Things could be arranged in the beginning so that everything should be done by the machine itself. It is sufficiently clear how many applications will be found for this machine… And now that we may give final praise to the machine we may say that it will be desirable to all… For it is unworthy of excellent men to lose hours like slaves in the labor of calculation, which could be safely relegated to anyone else if the machine were used.”

– Gottfried Wilhelm Freiherr Baron von Leibniz, 1685

Modern Synthpop: How did the band get it start? Where did the two of you meet?

Björn: PttM is me (Björn Skoogh) and Anders Logg. We started up a few years ago. Anders actually married my sister, and after some time we found out that we shared a common interest in electronic music. We tried incorporating various vocalists, but real life, different agendas and just life in general made this very difficult. On this EP we have collaborated with Anders Linder and Torsten Schindler as guest vocalists.

Modern Synthpop: What are the inspirations for your music?

Björn: There are many things that influence our music. We are the sum of our experiences and some of them reflect rather heavily on our music. Of course we have spent a large portion of our youth listening to electronic music, but our shared interest in machine-learning, AI, point-of-views and perspectives, etc. also trigger ideas and thoughts that find their way into the music we create.

Sometimes a phrase can generate the ideas to an entire song, and sometimes the song will generate the idea that finds its way into the lyrics. Take Massively Parallel for example. That song started from a catchy bassline and found its name from a book on programming massively parallel GPU cards Anders was reading at the time – and then continued to paint a picture of the inevitable future of artificial intelligences. Sometimes it’s just fun to explore a theme (musical or lyrical) to see where it takes you. You don’t always end up where you thought you’d be.

That being said, we also spent an unhealthy amount of time listening to electronic music. We do have a soft spot for the 80s and 90s electronic scene, but we also listen to other music. If I would list the best albums (in my opinion) ever created it would be a toss-up between Black Celebration and Achtung Baby. I’m sure Anders would list either Abbey Road or something by Björk.

Modern Synthpop: Sweden has been a hotbed for synthpop groups for many years. What is the scene like there today?

Björn: It is very much alive and kicking. There are tons of interesting bands creating electronic music, and many of them deserve a larger audience than available today. The synthpop-scene isn’t the largest community out there, but that also depends on where you draw the line. A lot of the mainstream pop today would have been classified as synthpop 15 years back, and for some strange reason we do have a knack for creating main-stream pop here in Sweden.

Modern Synthpop: What’s next for Praise to the Machine? Are you planning to release a full album?

Björn: A full album would be fun! We have more than enough songs for one and two albums, but can we find the time for it? It’s a lot of work. We’ll see how this EP is received, and take one step at the time from there.

That being said, a full album is extremely tempting and we have tons of songs in various stages of completion. Creativity isn’t our problem, time is. We would also love to meet interesting vocalists that could take our music to the next level.

You can follow the latest developments from Praise to the Machines’ on its Facebook page and its website.

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