The cat isn’t entirely out of the bag yet...but he’s getting there. Cashmere Cat has been happy to remain mostly behind the scenes, up to this point, focusing his efforts more on his collaborative work with some of the top names in pop, R&B and hip-hop rather than toot his own meow. But even that board work has threatened to make him a household name, at least among the kinds of households that obsessively scan Yeezy album credits. As Fader wrote, “The introverted producer—who’s lent beats to Kanye West, Ariana Grande, and Tinashe—is pop's new not-so-secret weapon.”
He’s about to get even less clandestine, with his first full-length album under his own nom de plume. It’s too soon for Cashmere Cat to reveal just which vocalists he’s enlisted for his feature debut, although you could make a good guessing game would naturally include some of the marquee names who’ve previously enlisted his producing efforts. But there’s already a significant cachet of fans who would sign up for pre-orders with or without featured artists.
Cashmere Cat is a destination producer-DJ-writer-maestro.
The artist formerly known as Magnus August Høiberg previously released a pair of all-instrumental EPs on cult labels Lucky Me (Hudson Mohawke, Lunice, TNGHT) and Pelican Fly (Sinjin Hawke, Lido), which were acclaimed for vast dynamic soundscapes that transcended any tropes associated with his dance music roots. Bringing in some big-name collaborators for his debut album was a welcome relief from his previous X-treme auteurism. “I was used to making music on my own, having to deal with my own thoughts and my own computer, and that was it,” he says. “Now there’s a spectrum of artists and emotions and places and times involved, and it’s a lot bigger than what I’m used to. But I don’t mind. It feels better. I prefer to have other people involved in my songs. It got boring and lonely to do music by myself. It’s kind of like playing a videogame alone. It can be awesome, but you can also feel like a loser, if you’re playing a game and it’s ‘Yeah! I fucking killed this game! And, I’m sitting alone, and I’ve also not had sex for three months.’” Collaborative game on!
He took inspiration for his own full-length album debut from the work he did on Kanye West’s most recent album. “I feel like the music I did for him set the standard for what I want to do with my own music,” he says. “I’m the biggest Kanye fan in the world, and when they premiered ‘Wolves,’ it was one of the most exciting days of my life.” So exciting that Cashmere Cat Instagrammed a photo of himself in his lawyer’s office, prostrate on the floor in grateful awe.
“‘Wolves’ is really one of my favorite Kanye songs, and I can’t tell if it’s because I produced it or it’s because it’s actually good. But the way that record came out set the standard for what I want my own music to sound like. It was a new sound for me, and it made me feel like I can do really beautiful, weird music that sonically still fits within everything I’ve done, without it being just banging rap songs or even big-feeling pop music.”
Any of this would have seemed like a pipe dream not that many years ago, when Høiberg was a fledgling DJ in his native Norway and began doing remixes for famous artists like Miguel and Lana Del Rey...many of them not officially authorized. His skills attracted an American audience that eventually grew to include multiplatinum super-producer Benny Blanco, a mentor who encouraged him to come to New York and took him under his wing. Their sensibilities meshed, with Blanco “bringing me in because he believed that the weirder shit I was doing could work in a more poppy sense.” At the beginning of 2014, the man now known as Cashmere Cat had his first solo production credit on Ludacris’ “Party Girls,” which also featured Wiz Khalifa and Jeremih. With Blanco, Cashmere Cat moved further away still from slamming hip-hop into quirky pop with their co-production of Ryn Weaver’s “Octahate.” With Stargate, he worked on Charli XCX’s “Break the Rules” and Tinashe’s “All Hands on Deck.” Ariana Grande not only used him on record but took him out on her tour as the opening act. Even when he was working on hip-hop records, a critic at Resident Advisor found the production style he was developing to be “elegant and pristine,” His own two solo EPs (2012’s Mirror Maru and 2014’s Wedding Bells) also won the hearts of reviewers at outlets like Pitchfork, which enthused:. “Blending technical sensibility with pop playfulness, his debut EP communicates a fully realized artistic persona.”
They haven’t heard anything yet. When the new album comes out in late 2016, — on Blanco’s Friends Keep Secrets label, in conjunction with Interscope — “a lot of my old sound will still be in there,” he promises, “but I think I’m influenced by a lot of different music that I wasn’t before — like, I’ve been listening to a lot of Arca” (the Venezuelan producer/DJ who’s worked with Bjork). “I hope and believe that I’m doing something that’s worthy of an album and not just something that will bang in the club.”
Is he ready for a greater limelight? Cashmere Cat’s shyness was such that, even after his name became known, his gender was less so. “When I would play a show, there would be a picture of me DJ-ing with my head down and my hair in front of my face, and I would kind of look like a really weird-looking girl. And the music sounded really soft, too, so people would just automatically assume it was by a girl. But I don’t mind if people think there’s something feminine about it.” He eventually added to the mystique by covering up his face with his hand in photos. “When people would come up with cameras, because I’m awkward and shy, I would just start automatically covering my face. It wasn’t really an aesthetic choice and it’s not necessarily trying to be mysterious. And then it became a thing.” Such a thing, in fact, that now, when he’s approached by fans for selfies, “people put their hands in front of their faces to do the picture, too! But I’m not as scared anymore. There are pictures of me now where you can see the contours of my weird Norwegian face. I think that’s also part of me finding out what I actually want to do. I’m revealing more of myself.”
That includes doing interviews, something he literally shied away from for a while. “I feel like I have stuff to talk about now, whereas before it was ‘Yes, I’m in my bedroom in Norway, and I’m trying to send beats over email to the guy who knows the guy who works at Roc Nation.’” No shortage of stories now: With a full dance card extending to having some of the world’s hottest artists eager to appear on his record, the cat no longer has his tongue. Even when it’s the biggest names in pop doing the literal singing, Cashmere Cat has found his voice.