Atmospheric, arctic electro ambient: an interview with Johan Agebjörn
Date: September 21 2008
Johan, can you first of all introduce yourself and reveal a bit of your background…
I’m 29 years old and currently live in Gothenburg Sweden. I study library studies and have the music as a hobby and part-time job. I’ve been making electronic music since I bought myself a Yamaha keyboard when I was eleven years old. I’m also an environmentalist and pro-animal rights.
Can you tell some more about your previous work with Sally Shapiro?
It started as a nostalgic trip to 80s disco, originally just an idea to make one song, but it went really well so we made a whole album and we work on a follow-up.
Sally (whose real name is something else) sings and I write and produce the tracks. It’s quite different to my ambient music, more easy and poppy, it’s also packaged in a more nostalgic and playful way.
I heard the album “Mossebo” was put together from various tracks between 2004 and 2007. How did that take place? Where you planning to release an ambient album somehow, anyway?
In 2004 I was unemployed, so I had a lot of time to make music in a more concentrated way than before. One of the goals was to make an ambient album and in 2006 I got in contact with the Lotuspike crew who made it possible. Most of the tracks were recorded in my house in the countryside Mossebo, hence the name of the album.
What is this arctic feel, and beautiful sense of remoteness and longing for which is to be found in lots of Scandinavian instrumental music (e.g. Erik Wollo, Biosphere)
There’s a feeling of melancholy and sadness in the Scandinavian folk music tradition that might have some influence – that influence is also present in other genres like indie pop. Maybe the landscapes and the weather are an influence too. I quote Biosphere as an important influence and also a Swedish ambient artist from the 90s called Krister Linder (who made ambient music as Yeti and Tupilaq).
How did you get in touch with singer Lisa Barra, who graced several tracks on your album with her beautiful wordless vocals
She sung at a party and I was moved by her voice. I bought a cd-r from her and most of the tracks were a cappella so I started to sample her voice and incorporate it in my music. I sent her some tracks and she liked them, so our collaboration evolved into studio tracks and live performances.
At the end of the album we find the highly cinematic “Siberian Train”, which seems to be a edgy sonic journey in its own right. What’s the story behind this remarkable track, which becomes more accessible in the second part.
I’ve always loved trains and train sounds, so in 1996 I put together the first part of “Siberian Train” using samples recorded by my mum on a journey to China when I was eight years old.
By that time I only had an Atari (as sequencer) and a sampler with 4 MB of RAM to work with, so the longer samples were played live from a tape-recorder. I borrowed a DAT to record the track to, so I still had a good recording of it when I put together the album.
In 2006 I made a follow-up track, using other train sounds, which became part II. Part II is probably more professional than part I, but part I is kind of a personal classic for me. In both pieces I’m trying to create the feel of travelling by train through a wintry landscape.
In what way did you get in touch with the guys of the LotusPike label, did they support you in any manner?
I asked a friend (Stefan “Between Interval” Jönsson) for advice about releasing my music, and he thought I should try to send a demo to Lotuspike since they might like it.
So I did, and he was right. As it happened, Lotuspike now has become sort of a sublabel of Spotted Peccary, where Stefan releases his music himself, so strangely this led to us becoming label mates. The Lotuspike / Spotted Peccary people are professional people and they made a great job with the artwork and mastering. (Speaking of Between Interval, he has remixed a track I made with Sally Shapiro and I’ve also made an ambient remix for his side-project Halftone.)
Do you already have plans for more kindred future projects, is your ambient music suitable for live performance?
Yes I’ve performed it live a few times, also together with Lisa, there’s a live clip on YouTube from regional TV. Maybe we’ll do it again.