Interview: Jorgen Kjellgren on Noir Syndrom
by Daniel Haim
I was first introduced to Jörgen while I was conducting an interview back in 2008 with one of my very favorite Swedish band Oh Laura, besides Frida’s unique voice the songs all had a deep meaning and the melodies, well they were incredible too.. I also learned that Jörgen is is the guitarist/songwriter of the band. If you’ve been reading my previous posts you should know by now that I’m a deep lyricists, in fact, I’m all about the lyrics, and Jorgen’s album is all written in Swedish which I don’t speak so… This brings me to my next question – how come I still connect with his music and can understand what he sings in his songs? They say that music is the language and they say music is what feelings sound like..
Let me tell you – you’re going to be feeling this music, in fact, I’ll guarantee that. Jorgen is just about to release his solo debut album Noir Syndrom this will be released sometime in mid February of 2010. There has been numerous singles released to YouTube with the band playing together which are simply incredible. The collaboration, the chemistry – like this was meant to be. When I first heard that Jorgen was coming out with a solo album I was fired up and when I heard the single Du du du I was blown away. Take a listen, and see for yourself.
Daniel: How has 2009 treated you?
Jörgen: 2009 was good to me, thanks. I spent most of it writing and recording Noir Syndrom. All in all tt took about a year, but only because we decided from the start not to rush it. The process with working on the album also gave me time to sort of grow into this role of being an artist, as opposed to being just a songwriter as has been the case in the past.
Daniel: How musically have you grown between the production with Oh Laura to your solo debut album Noir Syndrom?
Jörgen: I met a new songwriting partner, Charlie Persson, and found a new enthusiasm for writing. We also started to write in Swedish which led to me singing on some demos and actually thinking my voice sounded perfectly acceptable. I’ve been called a good singer once or twice in my life, but since switching to Swedish I’m starting to lean towards agreeing with my mother on that. As far as the actual production of the album it was pretty fast and loosely held. We set our stuff up at Cosmos Studios, where Oh Laura recorded, and let our gut feeling do the rest.
The only thing that was decided on beforehand was to keep as many mistakes as we could stomach and that I wanted to sing and play the guitar live. I think doing that way closed the door on a lot of editing options so we didn’t get lost in that vast jungle we call editing and overdubs.
Daniel: How has your music career progressed between the production with Oh Laura to your solo debut album Noir Syndrom?
Jörgen: After taking a sort of indefinite break from Oh Laura I just hunkered down for a while. My intention was to just sit at my kitchen table writing songs for other artists and spending as much time as possible with my daughter. It worked for a while and I was involved in a few interesting projects that you will never hear of in the UK. Then I was asked to open for a friend who was playing a club in Stockholm. I did, and got another gig opening for a girl who saw me play. So I did, and a friend of mine who happens to work at a record label saw me. After my set he met me at the bar and just said ”So we’ll do it, right?” I said ”Oh hell.”
Daniel: What’s the story behind Noir Syndrom? Are there any themes going on?
Jörgen: Noir Syndrom is about guilt, deceit, loneliness, lost faith, anger, drunken nights, that sort of thing. It’s written in the wake of separation and is partly about that feeling of being in free-fall you can get before you land properly in whatever is your new life. Actually, and this is going to sound a wee bit pretentious, I had ideas for a collection of short stories at first. Luckily I never got that project of the ground, I just kept the working title. Noir Syndrom is a label i stuck on that thing you can get stuck in when you sort of need to feel a bit crap in order to feel good about your self.
Daniel: At what point did you decide to become a singer-songwriter?
Jörgen: Well, actually I was pretty set on not becoming a singer-songwriter. That is, until I was asked to make a record. The whole setup around the making of the album was appealing to me. Getting to do it at Cosmos Studios with my favorite musicians and working with a really good friend of mine as a producer/A&R made for a really fun and enjoyable process. The album itself is definitely a dark one but it was a real joy to make. Occasionally I find myself thinking about what the next album is going to sound like so, yeah, I guess I’m a singer-songwriter now.
Daniel: Explain the songwriting process for you. Can you write anywhere or do you have to isolate yourself in a room and concentrate on writing?
Jörgen: I’ve tried locking myself in a room with a guitar in the past and it always ends with me starring at the wall and getting absolutely sod all done. Nowadays when i’m in ”writing mode” I just keep a notebook close at hand during the day. Then, after I’ve put my daughter to bed, I sit down in the kitchen and the song just sort of sing themselves through me. I’m sure it sounds a lot more mysterious than it really is, it’s just that I want to keep myself a bit in the dark as far as analyzing my own writing goes. I have this fear that by understanding what it is I do, and why, I might loose the need to do it.
Daniel: I know you’ve written many songs in English for Oh Laura – do you think we might see more of that coming? Are there plans for you to record any of your song in English? Would you consider translating one of your songs to English? Du du du will sound cool in English wouldn’t it?
Jörgen: I’m sure I will write in English again at some point. As far as more records from Oh Laura goes…I don’t know really. There are no plans at this point that I am aware of. I always used to be the one telling the other guys to get their respective shit together but I’m realizing more and more now that my own shit used to be all over the place when we toured the first album. Yeah, see if you can get that image out of your heads. Anyway Magnus (drums) and Rikard (bass) from Oh Laura played on Noir Syndrom and will be touring with me so I see plenty of those guys as it is. I’ve never really thought about translating my Swedish songs into English. Swedish pop history tells us that it’s not as easy as one might think. There are a few quite amusing examples of it. It would have to be more rewriting the lyrics in English than actually translating them but that’s just technicalities I guess. And yes, I’m have no doubt that it would sound cool.
Daniel: Music is a universal language it’s a known thing. What do you think of the fans that are able to connect to your music even though they don’t understand the language? PS I don’t speak Swedish but I’m able to connect to your album like it was in my language.
Jörgen: I think Sigur Ros proves that theory. I’m pretty sure those guys don’t even know what they are singing about themselves. There’s also a Swedish band called Dungen that has toured in the US quite a bit, singing in Swedish.My idea is that the music in itself, the melodies and the rhythm, carries the same message that the lyrics speak of. Only it is picked up through different channels than the actual words.
Daniel: What kind of change you think your fans will see in the upcoming album Noir Syndrome?
Jörgen: Noir Syndrom is a sort of folk, indie, lo-fi album that focuses on my voice and the lyrics. Lots of acoustic guitars and pump organs and stuff like that. Also I don’t think it has any of the country feel that the Oh Laura album had. Still, was one of the principal songwriters on both the albums so…you tell me. The lyrics on the Oh Laura album was a bit on the darker side too, but I would definitely say that the Noir Syndrom lyrics packs a little more of a punch. I guess you would have to learn Swedish to find out for yourself though. Sorry about that.
Daniel: What inspires you to write, who are your greatest influences?
Jörgen: I’m not really sure who of my influences actually comes out in my own writing. And the way I write lyrics, both Swedish and English, has more to do with books I’ve read than records I’ve listened to. Mainly, I think, and American author named John Connolly, not to be confused with your own Michael Connolly. There’s also Dennis Lehane, Elmore Leonard and stuff like that. Oh, and an English sci-fi writer that I love called Alastair Reynolds. Nothing to do with Star Trek, mind you. Music…Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver, Feist, Mumford & Sons, Bowerbirds, The Low Anthem, El Perro Del Mar, Cherry Ghost, Bonnie ”Prince” Billy and then all the way back to Hank Williams.
Daniel: Did you write this album for someone?
Jörgen: It may sound a bit boring or dull, but I’m pretty sure i wrote it for myself actually. I’ve never been one of those songwriters that are just bursting at the seems because they have so much that they want to share with the world. The things I sing about are important to me for some reason and that is just about all the reason I need. That is not to say that I don’t care if anybody is listening. I totally do. It’s more that I don’t really have any specific points that I want people to get. To me it is much more rewarding to have a listener tell me what one of my songs is about that vice versa.
Daniel: What are your hopes for 2010?
Jörgen: I hope I get to play a lot of shows and that I can get started on the next album. I have a few songs and a working title for it. I hear there’s a place in London that puts on gigs with Scandinavian artist…