Karin Park has had a bit of a tough year. When her boyfriend got diagnosed with cancer she was taking care of him while, simultaneously, getting on with finishing a new album. No wonder, then, that the forthcoming aptly titled Apocalypse Pop is intense. One listen to last year’s unremitting single, 'Look What You’ve Done', and you get an idea of the energy and drive behind the project. And so, what was a difficult 12-month period also ended up being a rewarding one, with an incredible surge in Park's creativity.

In an OMG-we're-not-getting-any-younger shocker, it's already 12 years since Park's debut album, Superworldunknown, came out and it is interesting to see how, during this period, her sound, encased in pop as it's consistently been, has nevertheless evolved. For many, 2012's Highwire Poetry was her strongest effort but Apocalypse Pop is, in all likelihood, going to change that, with its electronic charge and stupendously strong melodies.

Not one to make things easy for herself, the Swede has chosen to add to her already hectic album release-and-promotion schedule by embarking on a European tour and competing to represent Norway (yes, Norway!) in this year's Eurovision Song Contest. She is, of course, no stranger to the contest, having written Margaret Berger's 2013 entry, 'I Feed You My Love', and - in what she admits to being a personal u-turn - she's decided Eurovision would be the perfect showcase for her new single, 'Human Beings'.

The 405 rudely disrupted Park's rehearsals for her live interpretation of Apocalypse Pop and this is what went down on our video call.

Hej, Karin.

Hi! Can you see me?

Yep. Can you see me ok?

Yes, so don't pick your nose or anything.

I promise. What are you up to at the moment?

I'm rehearsing with a new band member and she is super-nice and really very good. I haven't had another band member for about ten years now. It's always just been me and my brother.

It's about 18 months since we first heard 'Opium', which was the first taster from the new album, so it feels like the record has been ages in the making. Has the process felt like a lengthy one to you?

Not really. Actually, it's felt like quite a short process because after the last album there was a lot of touring so I didn't just sit around waiting to make another album. When we released the last one there was a lot of stuff going on, including a lot of live shows, and then in the summer before last, when I decided that I was going to concentrate on writing new material, I managed to write a lot of songs until around Christmas. I was in the studio writing every day until Christmas [2013]. But then last January my boyfriend got sick - he was diagnosed with cancer - and I just couldn't write anything except for a couple of songs, including 'Human Beings'. This whole last year has been busy with taking care of him and not thinking about my project. We finished the album this fall, which feels like 6 months sort of fell out of my schedule because of everything that has happened.

How is he doing now?

He is very good. He's completely well and recording his new album here, downstairs. So there's a lot going on in my house. I live in an old church and there are, like, three floors. We're on the top floor, rehearsing, and he is on the first floor recording.

When you completed the album, had you already decided on the title?

No. When we were mixing the album and I got to listen to all of the songs in one go, I felt like the lyrics were quite apocalyptic. I remember saying to my producer last year that I didn't have anything to lose anymore, like, I just wanted to put everything I had into the album and throw it out there without worrying about what's going to happen afterwards. I didn't want a strategic planning of my career. And then when the name came to me, it just felt right. I texted my record company with the name and they just went "Hmmm... interesting!" but they weren't sure about it. But then after a couple of weeks my A&R said to me "actually, I think Apocalypse Pop is really good". This is what it is, really.

How does this album differ, for you, from Highwire Poetry?

I think I've dared to be more open this time. It's more accessible. I've always been a little bit tight or reserved with my personal life and, although I have made very personal songs, I used to use metaphors but with this album I have dared to say it more like it is. I have tried to be perhaps a little bit more obvious than in the past.

The sound on the album is eclectic. If you pit 'Shine' against 'Look What You've Done', for example, they're radically different from one another. How did you decide which songs to release as singles, so as to introduce that sound to listeners?

The decision is a mutual decision between me and the record company. The choice becomes clear along the way - it's not like we sit down and go, "ok we need to choose some singles" and everybody has different opinions. When a song that would work as a single comes along you just know that it's right. With the first single from a campaign you start off a little bit soft and then when you launch the album you try to take something which feels like it could maybe be played on the radio or something which the media would latch on to because you want the album to spread as much as possible.

I love how the current single, 'Hurricane', sounds like a poppier 'Set The Fire To The Third Bar' by Snow Patrol and Martha Wainwright. How did you and Pandora Drive come up with this one?


You know, we wrote it in ten minutes one day before I was heading into the studio. Thomas [Knights] and Nick [Sheldon] already had the music but when I went in with them the rest of the song fell into place very quickly. Then Thomas said to me, let's do a video. We didn't come up with a clear idea for it, as such, but we knew we wanted it to be clean and minimalistic. When me and Thomas are together we sit and shout ideas at each other, like [enthusiastically] "yes, and then we can do this and we can also do that". He's got such a creative mind and when I am with him we build each other up and feed off each other creatively. It was a beautiful day outside and we just sat down and came up with the storyboard. It wasn't a proper pre-planned story but more of a thing that was thrown together while we were eating breakfast. Sort of the same as the song, really.

Earlier you mentioned 'Human Beings', which came out of your experience of looking after your boyfriend during his illness. Was it difficult writing a song based on such a raw, personal hardship or was it cathartic?

It felt like a release. See, when I wrote 'Bending Albert's Law' [from Highwire Poetry] I cried ten times so it was a bit, like, for fuck's sake, get your shit together. I wasn't crying when we were recording it because I was already emotionally stressed and drained. I was in love with my boyfriend and just longed to come home. We'd been apart for so long and I was heart-broken because I didn't want him to be away anymore. I couldn't even talk about it without starting to cry. But with 'Human Beings' it was different. I felt like I couldn't allow myself to be so emotional. I was, like, let's do this. You have to be strong about this.

Speaking of 'Bending Albert's Law' - and in the context of what we were discussing earlier about single choices - how come that song was never used to promote Highwire Poetry? It was one of the strongest cuts on that record.

We were actually going to release it as the last single from the album but I think by that point we had released so may songs and done so much with the album that we felt it was done, in a way. But I do think it's a shame because that song is in my top three best songs that I've ever written, so I would like that to have reached more people. Sometimes with some of the songs that I write, I write them for me. And it doesn't matter to me if anyone else ever hears them. I mean, I want to make a living from music and that's all well and good but sometimes I don't feel the urge to share certain songs. But with others, I get this feeling of I really want people to hear this. 'Bending Albert's Law' is definitely that kind of song. And the same goes for 'Human Beings'.

'Human Beings' is the song you're competing to represent Norway with at this year's Eurovision. What was it like being there with Margaret Berger when 'I Feed You My Love' came fourth? Were you pleased with that result?

I thought it was going to be number 3 , to be honest [laughs], so I was disappointed. But I didn't think it was going to win the whole thing.

It was such a non-Eurovision song, though, so it's impressive that it got so far in the contest.

Yeah, absolutely.

You sang it live with Margaret at last year's Melodi Grand Prix on Norwegian telly - was that the only time you've performed the song yourself?

Yes, it was. And I totally felt like it wasn't my song. I mean, I'd written the song for myself to begin with and it wasn't written for the Eurovision at all. They asked me how can we get you into this thing and I said that I didn't want to compete myself. But I said I had a song that I thought could be great for the contest if they found someone else to sing it. There's that domestic competition first and I don't think I would have won there with that song because it's quite dark and tough. But together with her sweet voice and sweet look I thought it was a winning concept. But it didn't have the exact right qualities to win the whole thing. I knew that from the start. Someone did an analysis of the song afterwards, comparing it to other Eurovision songs, seeing whether it had the usual elements of what a Eurovision song is supposed to be like, and it had the least components of what a Eurovision song is supposed to have [laughs].

How do you feel about your prospects this year?

I feel good, I feel that I can do this. It's strange that people are already treating the song as a potential favourite [to win Norway's domestic competition, Melodi Grand Prix] because I am Swedish, but the song would be representing Norway. And I think it's nice of them to think that this doesn't matter. Especially because when you are at Eurovision level, you don't represent yourself, you represent the country. When I was there with Margaret I was, like, "I'm so happy that I am not in this competition" because it would do my head in. And now I entered myself [laughs] but I never thought I could ever do something like that. Then this song came along and I just feel that it carries me a long and that it's right.

Australia has been allowed to compete this year -

I know! What is that all about!?

And people are already taking bets on who Australia's going to send to represent it. There's talk of Sia or even Kylie Minogue. Who would you pick?

Kylie Minogue? I think that would be really weird. I think if Kylie Minogue represented Australia I could probably win over her. But if Sia was in I would have no chance. I'd take Sia over Kylie because I could definitely make friends with Sia.

You don't think you'd get on with Kylie?

I would get on with her, I mean - she seems to get on well with anyone. But I just don't feel that I need to get to know her. I would really like to get to know Sia. She seems like a very interesting person. Kylie is more of a celebrity, really, isn't she. I don't think I need to know her personally.

Another of your songs,'Berlin Wall', has been recorded by Nora Jabri from reality TV show, Norske Talenter. Did that song already exist or did you write it especially for her?

It was written specifically for her. I haven't done much of writing for other people in this way but it was great. It was interesting using someone else's story and personal life to put together something new, rather than using my own experiences. Nora and I were just talking about stuff and then her manager came in and we talked a little bit more. He mentioned she'd had a difficult period on this TV show and that things had gotten very personal blah blah blah... and he said something about how she was like the Berlin Wall the whole time, and then suddenly just fell. And I thought Hmmm. And that's how it started. The truth inspires me.

Finally, do you have a personal favourite song on Apocalypse Pop?

I really like 'Opium'. The soundscape on that song! There's a burning fire in the background, there's like wolves howling, birds - so many sounds that you might not necessarily be able to hear but it's all there. The mood on that song is my favourite type of mood.

Thanks, Karin!

Thank you for not picking your nose.


Apocalypse Pop is out on 30 March on State of the Eye.