Swedish outfit KOOP, one of the most important bands of modern, electronic-based, dancey nu jazz, has returned from its state of apparent death – yet again. Following a long silence, the composer of the former duo, Oscar Simonsson set up a new formation. Old hits and new songs were performed with Koop’s signature floaty, swingy, melancholy sound on the Ship six years ago, and you can expect the same at KOOP Oscar Orchestra’s second A38 gig, on August 5. In order to prepare, we are revisiting the interview we did with Oscar in 2016.

On  your  blog,  you  wrote  that  many  people  didn’t  understand  the  second  KOOP  album  and  the  third  one came out at a completely wrong time. Could you explain that?

Our first album was very dark and experimental, and when we got tired of that, we decided to write the happiest song ever for our second album Waltz For KOOP. It was called Summer Sun and it became a huge hit. As always when a band has its first hit, it completely defines the band in the beginning, and it was very strange because that song basically was a fun anti-reaction to something we’d been doing for several years. I hated that song for a long time but now that the audience has a wider picture, I think it’s very important. What defines the best artists is that they have both sad and happy songs. Without the happy songs, the sad songs will lose their meaning, and I just can’t believe in artists that only write sad songs. The second album was also misunderstood in a way that people thought KOOP was a regular jazz band. Although the music was based on samples, it was produced  in a way that sounded very organic and live. I love regular jazz bands, but if the music had been played by a band it would have been just retro. It was the technique and the samples that made it unique and modern. Our third album KOOP Islands came out just when the record industry had crashed. Indie distributors and record companies went bankrupt and for a small Swedish band this was equal to drowning. We went on tour after the album was released and the venues were mostly half empty. The music scene was also changing to become more electronic and synthetic. Our mostly live singer Yukimi Nagano left us for a band with a more promising future. It was very depressing. But in all this mess, we made a video for a song called KOOP Island Blues and put it out on YouTube. And it exploded. And it is still exploding. YouTube saved us, and it’s a true miracle.

It took you six years after KOOP fell apart to feel like you are ready for music again. What were you doing in the meantime?

I was writing songs in my head all the time, but I didn’t know what to do with them. KOOP was definitely dead, and since I’ve been KOOP since I was 20 years old, everything felt very strange. I built a studio in my basement. I learnt how to do accounting (!), and making websites. I prepared to be as independent as possible if I should come back to music. I had a daughter that had problems with asthma, so I spent maybe two years on learning everything about ventilation. I know everything now. I sorted my 5000 handmade vinyl samples in different systems and categories. I know I have some kind of brain disorder, but it’s too late to do anything about that now.

How  would  you  describe  that  moment  when  you  felt  that  you  are  ready  to  make  music  again? Did  you already know that you wanted to keep the name KOOP?

I’ve been KOOP my whole grown up life, and I’ve never had any serious side projects or anything like that. For me this is a continuation of the music I wrote for KOOP, but at the same time there is one person missing. So I thought KOOP Oscar Orchestra was a very defying name. But in the end it will be just KOOP. I also mix new material with the music I wrote for KOOP in the live set, and I will always do that since it’s just as much a part of me.

Since  then,  you’ve  already  performed  with  KOOP Oscar Orchestra a number of  times – what  were  your experiences, how did it feel to be back on stage?

It’s been absolutely wonderful to meet the audience and play together in a band. I got a second chance and this time I’ve got nothing to lose.

How would you summarize the differences between KOOP and KOOP Oscar Orchestra? What do you play onstage as KOOP Oscar Orchestra?

KOOP always had some distance to the audience, and was struggling to be perfect. KOOP is more about trying to create something great together with the audience. We play new songs, KOOP songs and sometimes a local folk tune. I do everything to avoid becoming a machine that is playing the same songs every night and saying the same things between the songs. I want us to be in the moment and I think the audience feels it when something is staged and when there’s honesty. Honesty is actually the best word to describe it.