Name: Joakim Nilsen

Location: Northern Norway

Occupation: Bowling Alley Manager

Room size: 7,5 m² (24 ft²)

Cost of the setup: ~$6K including PC and studio equipment

Website: Memz on SoundCloud

Hey, Joakim! Tell us a bit about yourself

Hey! My name is Joakim (artist name Memz), and I reside in the cold north of Norway.

I'm an electronic musician who focuses primarily on instrumental storytelling and experimentation.

My music is heavily inspired by the environments I grew up in and I aim to make music that bridges the gap between organic nature and the rigid digital realm.

I became interested in music-making and, more specifically, weird sounds at a very young age.

I nearly drove my parents insane making sounds and music out of anything that could produce audible frequencies.

I don't make enough money off of my music to support myself (yet), so I work as a manager for a small bowling alley in my hometown to make sure I have a roof over my head and food in my belly.

It is a fun and rewarding job but my passion and future lie somewhere in the music-making realm.

I know this because I have never been interested in doing anything else.

In addition to my solo projects, I have made music and sound design for several small independent animations, short films, video games, and other small projects.

I also express myself creatively in a multitude of different ways like painting, writing, and acting in/producing short films.

Can you describe your home setup?

My current workspace came to be when I realised we had an extra unused storage room in our house. You see, I live with two other creative people and we all used to share a workspace.

This worked fairly well, but because of my introvertedness, I struggle to fully immerse myself and reach a state of flow if there are other people present; no matter who they are.

I have always been like this, so I realised I needed to design a space where I didn’t feel like there was anyone else nearby. This is what prompted me to do a complete makeover of our little basement storage room.

The process of converting a dusty, mouldy, and rotten old room into a liveable space (where I could spend hours working on music) actually took less time than expected.

The symbol in the sign is a Memz music logo. It's a combination of an Eihwaz rune and a Norse rune for good health
The symbol in the sign is a Memz music logo. It's a combination of an Eihwaz rune and a Norse rune for good health

All in all, me and my girlfriend worked on it for about seven days — a couple of hours of work a day with breaks in-between. The renovation cost us about $2000+ — though this included buying tools.

The room is very small. Too small even. Acoustically it is better sounding than my last workspace but far from optimal.

I wouldn't have chosen this room if the acoustics were my priority — but since I thrive in small spaces, it's the perfect size for the vibe I'm looking for. I'm willing to sacrifice optimal acoustics for optimal productivity in the short term.

There is no natural light in the studio, so it is all lit up by several RGB strips. I would certainly prefer to have more natural light in there. But the fact that it is all lit up artificially makes the vibe of the room fully controllable and just adds to the “dungeon”-atmosphere.

Overall the room only contains my workstation, a two-seat sofa, random small instruments and toys spread around it in weird places.

I wanted there to be something musical to play with within arms reach wherever you were in the studio.

The room is supposed to inspire play, creativity and wonder.

The “neon” (not real neon gas) sign is a custom-made sign which my girlfriend gifted me when we started working on this space. I am unsure where she got it from. It's is the centrepiece that ties the whole room together and emphasises the purpose of the space — to be creative.

I use a pair of Focal Alpha 65s as my monitors. They are phenomenal monitors for their price and have been one of my biggest upgrades. They are way too big for a compact space like this though and it shows (hears?), but in and of themselves I would recommend these to anyone.

The only downside I have found with them is that they automatically turn themselves off if they don't play sound for a while. To get them back on you have to send a fairly loud signal through them, which isn't always convenient.

I don't have any plans to do any big changes or improvements to the room. It's a temporary workspace and sort of a “beta-version” of the studio I'm going to build for myself in our new home later this year.

What’s your favourite item on your desk?

Choosing a favourite item is like choosing your favourite child.

So I have narrowed it down to three things: my Moog Sub Phatty, my bass guitar, and my Tibetan singing bowl.

My Moog is an absolute joy to play around with and sounds fantastic. I don't think I need to state how brilliant the design and feel of Moog products are but I am going to anyway.

The feel of just turning the filter cutoff knob is like… butter.

It was my first analogue synth and I had been wanting one for years until I finally saved up enough to buy a Moog. I don't regret it.

Moog Sub Phatty is a portable analogue synth featuring rich, vintage sound
Moog Sub Phatty is a portable analogue synth featuring rich, vintage sound. It has 25 semi-weighted keys, 31 knobs and two oscillators. It's the first analogue synthesizer to feature Moog’s Multidrive circuit

I listed my bass guitar just because I really enjoy playing bass. It isn't of very high quality or even great sounding bass, but it does the trick and it allows me to play music in a different context than usual.

I would recommend anyone working primarily in a DAW to pick up some sort of instrument that creates sound. Because of the laws of this universe and not because it is programmed digitally to do so.

You should feel the music.

Joakim usually plays the bass on its own without an amp or any additional equipment
Joakim usually plays the bass on its own without an amp or any additional equipment

Last but not least I listed my Tibetan singing bowl that my girlfriend gifted me.

It sounds cool, it looks cool, and it almost feels as if you are connected to something mystical or otherworldly when you play with it.

Also, because you have to resonate with the bowl and kind of tune in to its frequency, playing it is like meditation.

Tibetan singing bowls are metal bowls made up of a combination of metal alloys. The bowls were originally utilised by Tibetan monks for religious ceremonies
Tibetan singing bowls are metal bowls made up of a combination of metal alloys. The bowls were originally utilised by Tibetan monks for religious ceremonies

My singing bowl once helped me avoid a downward mental spiral under the influence of powerful entheogens.

For that alone, I will forever be grateful to it and cherish it.

What does your typical day look like?

My typical day changes based on where I am in life at that moment, and surprisingly enough, the time of year.

I have periods where I am super disciplined. I wake up or go to sleep at the same time, work on music for exactly x hours, have a very healthy diet and work out often etc. This usually happens during spring and summer.

Then, when winter comes around, you can flip all of that previous humblebragging on its head and then you have my typical day.

In winter, I sleep at absolutely bizarre intervals.

I'd work either 0 hours or 16 hours on music a day (or I wouldn't do anything productive for weeks), my diet goes to hell, and I stay inside.

This may seem like extreme fluctuations in mood based on only seasonal changes, but considering I live in the arctic it is not that unusual.

Seasonal depression is very real here. It makes sense when you live in a place where you don't see the sun for months and live in darkness 24/7 during winter.

On the flip side, during summer the days never end because the sun never goes down fully, and everything is awesome 24/7. This is directly linked to my productivity so I wanted to paint the picture for you.

Violet-coloured lounge in Joakim's music studio
The floor in a room is pure concrete with no heating, and having a carpet helps to keep feet warm. According to Joakim, ‘it does help with acoustics’, but he did not put it down with acoustic treatment in mind. “It was all about comfort and aesthetics”

Here’s an example of a random average day for me.

I wake up between 10 am and 12 pm in the morning.

If I am supposed to work out that day I go straight from bed to the gym, no breakfast or anything else. I can spend 1-2 hours at the gym depending on how much time I have.

When I return home, I shower, eat a good healthy meal, and then it’s music-making time. How long I work on music depends on if I have a workday or not.

After I’ve spent some time making music I’d head to work/do other life responsibilities and return home at around 9 pm.

In the evening I’d just do whatever I feel like. Maybe I play around with sound design or play some bass, hang out with my SO, or slack off playing video games and getting lost in YouTube rabbit holes.

Nowadays I am in the process of making an album so I am trying to keep the slacking off to a minimum. However, I feel like the optimal schedule isn’t optimal if you can’t stand to do it every day.

For this reason, I purposefully assign myself time to just do whatever I want.

Rinse and repeat!

Your tips for working from home?

As a self-certified professional procrastinator, this is a subject I have studied intensely.

When you scour the internet and library for information on this subject you will stumble upon a multitude of different techniques and ways to keep a leash on your mind.

These will all probably work to some extent and you have to find ways that suit your lifestyle. The Pomodoro technique for example I have found to be very effective.

BUT! The more you learn about this, the more you will realise that one simple fundamental truth about productivity trumps all: sit down and do some work.

That is all. It’s all you need to know.

Don’t try to find some hidden knowledge or some awesome secret technique. You are overcomplicating things.

The reason you are so determined to find some other way that will make you more productive is that you are trying to find an “easier” path when you know deep inside that the only way forward is through work.

Even five minutes matter if that is all you can muster for the day. Open whatever software you use and fuck around with it.

Just don’t stagnate.

That is the only true way. Just accept that at times you will be uncomfortable in the process and move on.

Also, “willpower” is not endless, you have a limited amount of willpower each day.

Every little decision you make depletes your willpower. Think of it like currency and spend it wisely.

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