Name: Jonas Rönnberg
Musical Recommendations: SWAN MEAT, Oli XL, Sky H1, Rune Bagge, Händer Som Vårdar, Age Coin, Scandinavian Star, STHLM skräcken - to name a few.
If you enjoyed this interview with Varg, visit his Facebook profile for current updates and information.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences?
I always made some kind of music, since I was like 10. But it was first like maybe 2010 that I really started to try to make something more solid.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice?
To be honest, at first I was imitating artists like Mala, Coki and Loefah ... Really wanted to sound like them, still do. I don't know what happened, I don't listen to much electronic music and definitely not techno. So I guess my own music kind of grew out of the interest in dubstep music, black metal and then hanging out with Abdulla Rashim.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
That I had no idea of how to record instruments, no idea how to use a computer or midi. I still dont understand nor use midi, but production quality is better for sure. I mean, the Misantropen LP and the Skaeliptom tape were my first recordings. Those cuts are recorded with barely any knowledge. I have been putting my stuff out for the public since the start. So you can all hear the development.
Tell us about your studio, please. What were criteria when setting it up and how does this environment influence the creative process? How important, relatively speaking, are factors like mood, ergonomics, haptics and technology for you?
Its a mess. Nothing is plugged in and I like to put together some machines by random under stressful moments and to use that as the set up for that recording session. I like to not get to comfortable but doing it under pressure. You can't smoke inside my studio because of detectors, that's a big minus. I have shitty monitors, wish I had new ones. Seriously, the physical setting is not the most important thing for me, rather what mood I'm in.
What are currently some of the most important tools and instruments you're using?
Most important pieces are: iPad, Analog Rytm, TR-808, Orgon Enigiser, Juno 106, EDP WASP. In that order. iPad and Rytm are my main pieces right now. I use them for everything.
Many contemporary production tools already take over significant parts often what would formerly have constituted compositional work. In which way do certain production tools suggest certain approaches, in which way do they limit and/or expand your own creativity? Are there any promising solutions or set-ups capable of triggering new ideas inside of you as a composer?
Talking about me and my music, I like simple ways of creating a whole general idea for the track really fast. So that's why the iPad has become really important in my productions. Using a program like Loopy HD, you have a kickdrum loop, percussion loop, layer with 2-3 synths and a bassline. You get the general idea of the track in 10 minutes. Move the loops to ableton, process them, arrange them, add field recordings from your phone and then you have a complete track. It’s the future for people like me - restless ADHD people.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece or album that's particularly dear to you, please? Where do ideas come from, what do you start with and how do you go about shaping these ideas?
I don't have any particular favorite piece. But I always work the same way for my solo stuff. I come up with names and titles first. Then I create a playlist on iTunes with the titles and no music. That forces me to finish it. I also write down moods and directions. I don't sit and work and see where I end up, I rather think about what to do for weeks or months, so when I sit in the studio the work is often done very fast.
With more and more musicians creating than ever and more and more of these creations being released, what does this mean for you as an artist in terms of originality? What are some of the areas where you currently see the greatest potential for originality and who are some of the artists and communities that you find inspiring in this regard?
I would say right now that modern trap music is a big inspiration for me. We get fed 10,0000 pictures, ads, tracks, texts etc every day scrolling through different social media. These days it feels like you don’t have the time to create an album that by itself stands as a masterpiece. People in general don’t have the span of attention to dedicate themselves to only one album. While you have been working on your EP for 1 year, Future and Gucci Mane already put out 6 albums each. That is inspirational and a modern way of working with music outputs I would say.
How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?
I don't separate them. I do whatever I want when it comes to music and I don't think so much about the process. I just do what feels right at the moment.
How do you see the relationship between sound, space and composition and what are some of your strategies and approaches of working with them?
I have places for all my music. Almost all of my solo music is made out of the feeling of different places around the world. That's also where the iPad and iPhone have come in handy. Before I used to walk around, and when I got a feeling, I would take notes of the place. Now I can start making the sketches on location already.
What's your perspective on the relationship between music and other forms of art – painting, video art and cinema, for example – and for you and your work, how does music relate to other senses than hearing alone?
I used to study printmaking and bookbinding. I guess these are just different ways of expressing yourself. I also painted a lot of graffiti in my life… I can see some kind of connection with my graffiti and music. Fast, colorless, all over and it comes in high quantities.
What's your view on the role and function of music as well as the (e.g. political/social/creative) tasks of artists today - and how do you try to meet these goals in your work?
Just follow my page on Instagram and you will find out I guess haha ...
Recently I have been using music a bit for political messages. I feel it's a shame that artists have a platform to spread a message but won't use it.
Listening is also an active, rather than just a passive process. How do you see the role of the listener in the musical communication process?
I almost only release albums instead of EPs because I want to deliver a piece that is meant to be heard in full and not scattered in pieces. For example this Nordic Flora thing now, it's one album chopped into chapters. I really respect people that don't skip through and dedicate their time to actually listen.
Reaching audiences usually involves reaching out to the press and possibly working with a PR company. What's your perspective on the promo system? In which way do music journalism and PR companies change the way music is perceived by the public?
I've never worked with PR before. We don't do this on Northern Electronics. For the first time ever, we've done it with this Nordic Flora Series. I usually release an album and don't mention it before it drops. I can feel some kind of satisfaction about it going unnoticed. But for this series I wanted to be able to explain a bit more about what is actually is. Why I feature rappers on the records, why it sometimes sounds like jazz music etc. I felt that it would be rougher answering these questions after it was out. PR helped with that for sure.
Do you have a musical vision that you haven't been able to realise for technical or financial reasons – or an idea of what music itself could be beyond its current form?
Haha, absolutely. I wont tell you about it though as I wish I can realize these things some day.