Harlequins Enigma is a Bergen, Norway-based band created in 2008 by synth musician, composer, and video producer, Åge Riisnes. Harlequins Enigma is mostly a one-man-band, but Elin Berge, Katie Leung, and Sara Jensen has served as co-members in the past with several album appearances over the years. The primary musical creations revolve around chip-tune, electronica, techno, experimental, video game soundtracks, space, ambient, and new age genres. Riding the electronic waves of sound, Harlequins Enigma bridges the gap between fantasy and reality with a good dose of futuristic embellishments that have been stewing, brooding, and morphing since the early 1990’s. The instrumental prowess glimmers with spacey illusions, ambient washes, and metallic or industrial elements throughout the early years, as well as the present. The musical diversity of Harlequins Enigma is partly due to the innate skills and foresight of Åge Riisnes and the incredible variety of talented guest musicians and band co-members that appear on numerous albums. Åge Riisnes is focused on human rights, equality, positive technology, and an affinity for natural world. The musical goals of Harlequins Enigma “are not to stand on stage.” In fact, “no concerts have been played, or will.” Consequently, fans will have to experience the music via downloads or albums. Harlequins Enigma’s albums and downloads can be purchased on CD Baby, Itunes, Juno, Amazon & Audiosparx.
Entertwine: Could you tell us about your musical background?
Åge Riisnes: My musical background is self learned via protracker on several amiga pc`s back in the early 1990`s. it was like programming my brain with my tracks of numbers & functions that needed to have one thing clear in the beginning: not to use false notes & errors in rhythm. My first mods that were clean was for example sorceress 8bit & contrary by nature, both featured at the 99 track digital release ìophidians – big chiefsî – I went sometimes under the name rattlesnake productions back then, so when I wanted to release some of these reptiles, it was natural to call them ophidians. I remember being addicted to commodere 64 sid music back in the 80`s & thought it was cool. I was inspired by this music that was cool & exploring in styles. A scene existed with rob hubbard, martin galway & maniacas of noise as front figures. In the 16bit league I lent inspiration from metal in the beginning, though I did not make many metal tracks. My main inspiration in the 80`s & 90`s were ultravox, barbara streisand, joan jett, jean michel jarre, vangelis, kitaro, depeche mode, royksopp, yello, natalie imbruglia – this girl enchanted me with a track where she sang bleeding is breathing – maybe her worst track ever. Continued: kiss, king diamond, kate bush, tori amos, tangerine dream, klaus schulze, nine inch nails, metallica, the kids (norvegian band), abba, britney spears, sade, celine dion, korn, limp bizkit, eminem, 2 pac, p.o.d., simply red, kraftwerk & others.
What inspired the formation of Harlequin’s Enigma project?
A long jolly session with maniacs of noise in march 2008 till may 2008 led the foundation to the stairway from 8 bit to 16 bit development. Elin Berge & Sara Jensen joined quickly & helped me as the band was fresh & new – the year after Katie Leung joined & have stayed since that time. They have all been a great resource to me.
What is the significance of the name?
About the origin of the name it was unaffected by that event with maniacs of noise. In may 2008 I went through the oxford dictionary for hints about a name, where I landed on harlequin & after some seconds I put enigma behind which people in my mind said was cool – I kept it & found out that harlequins enigma can be a demon rider from ancient times & that he might just be oberon, the greatest creator of all gods. Despite this I look upon harlequins enigma as something to hope for, maybe with some expectation too. The mystery about that is that all persons are not entirely real. Some are brain child without spiritual functions, like myself. I hate some people, they seem to play normal & hack me with anxiety behind my back. I guess it is the hypnosis section of our modern society that reigns our planet. I think there is much more to people then the human eye see. I think it is this society that aksel sandemose writes about in his books – aksel is the founder of the law of jante.
There are three musicians you consistently work with and involve in this project, correct?
That is correct sara jensen, elin berge (my cousin) & katie leung has been there since the start just about. though edgar froese stayed for a year during the production of td sound 1 & td sound 2 along with klaus schulze. StÂle riisnes my brother has been very supportive along the way & my father jan riisnes & my eldest brother jan reidar riisnes has been here with support also.
What is life like in Bergen, Norway?
It is a city with a port. Fresh fish are sold at bryggen each day. Many restaurants lie a few meters from the sea. So beer, a nice fish dinner & a trip to fl¯yen (cable car) to watch the view from the mountain is recommended should you visit. Bergen is called the city with the 7 mountains – just for the vigorous people, not me included – I have been out of shape for many years. The radioactivity from the sun got to me in 2009 – horrible year.
What is the music scene of Bergen like?
The music scene (stage based) is rocking in bergen, but I have not enjoyed this for a long time & hereby seek membership in the nerds society. I once had tickets to a jan garbarek concert at a jazz place in bergen, but alas I laid in bed at home with anxiety. Bergen is the 2nd largest city in norway, so a musical treat always comes our way.
Could you tell us about a few of the most exciting and interesting live performances that you’ve been a part of?
I do not perform myself – I have always looked at myself as a full time composer.
And justice for all tour with metallica is the best concert I attended in the end of the 80`s. it was played in skedsmohallen in lillestr¯m.
What experiences and events influenced the recording of your new 23-song album “Catmint”?
1 successful jazz track composed was drawn interest from by chick corea, so he hung around. So did jan garbarek which later I played solo sax sessions with on a master keyboard, with an emu 1996 patch that I have in sf2 format, that sounds pretty ok. It was used in little panther jazz. I also played drum sessions on the master keyboard with dave weckl with drum samples that should have been better to show him the respect he deserves.
Tell us about the experience of working with jazz luminaries Dave Weckl and Chick Corea; what was this process like and how did it come about?
It came about on the autobahn in my mind, I am sort of a medium & very open in my mind & can channel with ease a coop with a musician. Working with chick corea, dave weckl, jan garbarek & atjazz was exciting. It made me feel like superman at times because of all the inspiration. It is like you mingle your powers with theirs, so it is easier to do interesting lines.
Of course there was some chatting & editing. But most of the tracks was done quickly. All in all I was honoured to have them there – some were my favourites as a youg lad.
What does your writing and recording process look and sound like?
My writing process is based on the destiny note, by holding back the style most of the time. Adding to the mix & judging the genre after a while. I love my daw which is fl-studio 11 signature edition. I can recommend it due to the simplicity of the software. Using the mouse & microsoft keyboard to create a beat or bass line in a few seconds is unbeatable. It is just like a nice game of tetris.
What instruments, musical equipment and programs do you use to create and capture recorded music?
I use fl studio signature edition, sakura, omnisphere, komplete 9, xln drums v2, samplepacks, lounge lizard, chromaphone, blade, samplemoog, miroslav philharmonik, electra x, dimension & other vst plugins – I have a few mastering plugins & I have used adobe audition for a long time as a wave editor. I have a scarlet soundcard & a small masterkeyboard to push some meoldies should I have a need. I also have a 6 core intel pc with 24 gb ram & 6tb hard drive space.
How have you been able to remain so creative on such a consistent basis since 1998?
I guess I just filled myself up with harmonies via my favourite bands` music for a period, that must have given me some abilities due to the fact that I had 7 years protracker experience.
I actually took a 3 year break after feb. 2010. but in 2009 I was at my heights thanx to all who helped me – god bless you all for being so kind to me. In 2013 I made a comeback & came back in 2014 after fall/winter in spring. This year in 2015 I will wait for my tax money so I can afford the new software – then I will look for lost juices. This will be in end of June.
I make some videos myself with cyberlink software & royality free clips. I also have made some via purchases on fiverr.com
What are your videos influenced by?
The earliest videos was made by pictures & symbolism – some were pure slideshows. The latest videos have been movies like city nights, parallel blossom. Brood is enviromental based & takes up pollution as a warning. My latest videos are moon ritual which was made by a person on fiverr.com & shows a buildup to a moon ritual. Moon ray my latest video was made with my dead brother in mind – where a girl hovers in the air with fireflies around her. It is about death itself. The track moon ray (illuminated oceans mix) I mixed the day my brother died, hence the video. There is also another video of newer kind called angel feat. Tangerine dream, wendy carlos & katie leung. This is about love as the video show. Almost forgot concert for the cactus… this video is an animation about a dog & a cactus that was made by simple films on fiverr.com ñ you should watch it – it is funny. Other videos that might be interesting would be strength feat. Sara q & a glass of alpha beta feat. Jan garbarek, sharien & sara q which both has a little wisdom or poetry to offer.
What activities and hobbies do you enjoy in your spare time outside of music?
I`m afraid I have become nerdy & sit in my apartment all day long. I have some unseen films that I want to fill my head with one day though. I have new hobby though – shopping different groceries. Instead of the usual crap I look for a better dinner with little money, but all in all I get through the week. But no money for concerts or a girl. Afterall I am chocolate starfish! I have foreseen a girl in my apartment screaming & running sobbingly home when I mention it – just kidding. Lepre chaun or leper messiah is hard to put a frame on & look at as a memory – it sort of needs maintainance. Though chocolate starfish, I am still hetero & the people I have sex with spiritually are all girls.
What does the remainder of 2015 hold in store for Age Riisnes and Harlequin’s Enigma?
I am more then a little tired. I thought about my mentors that gave me this steroid injection of muscle in my tracks. Now that edgar frose is gone – I have thought about death, not to mention my brother ken who died this summer. It is inevitable – I have wished for death in my pains earlier – but one becomes pale when it is your brother or mentor that goes & not your exhausted truly. For the summer I planned some world / forest tracks & some remixing of some older material that deserves to be heard. I still have some life in me, but feeling older now. Klaus schulze & vangelis is other mentors that is still around, & I am glad they are still here.
The unfinished material is among others an unfinished classical/new age track feat. Enya. There is also a vangelis track that might be saved – I hope it can, & there is also my favourite that I did with my brother stÂle called silent city. This jazz ballad is strong in contents. For software I intend to purchase a few world packages & 5 fl studio vst plugins that I still have not purchased. So I will be busy looking for the perfect pitch.