There’s something about skweee that attracts artists with mile-long resumes. This is especially true with the subject of our current interview, Stockholm’s Joxaren. He is more than a pivotal figure in the skweee movement, he has an extensive and wide-ranging musical history as well…
Before we get started, just a brief note to upcoming interview subjects: We’ve noticed a trend that began with the Randy Barracuda post, and in the future the phrase “I have no idea” will not be an acceptable answer to the question “Where is skweee going from here?”!
Skweeelicious: What were you up to in your pre-skweee days?
Joxaren: I entered a drawing competition back in 1986 for this chewing gum brand and won the first prize, a full-size Yamaha home keyboard. Even as a kid I realized there was cooler gear than that, so I managed to sell it and got a Boss Dr. Rhythm drum machine and a Yamaha DX100 synth. Eventually, I got a Fostex 4-track and a delay pedal and started making demos with my friends. First, I was making synthpop and body music, but I later got into industrial sounds a lot. I was in a band between 1988-1996 called Big Fish, we started with a pure industrial sound but somehow ended up a metal-punk band with Swedish lyrics, folk music melody lines and metal percussion. We made five records. For a while during that period I was also in a really hard industry band called Pure Pain. After quitting Big Fish in 1996, I teamed up with Frans Carlqvist and formed Tip Top BK, a huge dub and beat project. That band later turned into Moder Jords Massiva, an electro/dub group of about 20 people that toured the world during the early 2000’s and released four albums. I also released a jungle 12″ ten years ago and some other records and tracks under the name Slummer. In addition, I have worked as a stage musician in different constellations. I’ve tried to keep busy.
S: Skweee was kind of up and running when you got involved. How did you get hooked into the scene?
J: I had been developing sounds alongside people like Pavan and Rigas den Andre for quite some time, so the step was not too big for me to adapt to the format. When skweee first developed, I was busy doing other things, but the basic components of the sound felt quite familiar to me. I realized that the guys really had come up with something, and I figured it was too much fun to miss out on. I started my Joxaren project secretly in the summer of 2007, and handed out demos to the Finnish skweee crew before I played any of the stuff to my people back in Stockholm.
S: Electronic music genres tend to be very strictly defined. If it’s drum n bass or breaks or electro or whatever it’s got to have a certain beat, and the bass has to have a certain timbre and so on. Now here comes skweee and tempos are all over the place. Claws is doing noisy 8-bit stuff and Rigas is doing majestic pieces like I Am Crane, and Beem is doing groovy tunes you can bump to. It’s odd for one style to be so diverse, no?
J: I guess that depends on what you focus on to define a genre. You can argue that if techno is a genre defined by equipment and dub is more of a method, then skweee is an attitude. That’s why it can be so sonically diverse but still be skweee. To me that attitude is about deliberately putting yourself in a place as a producer where the music sounds so silly or awkward that you risk to make a fool out of yourself, and then overcoming that by being very convincing. Still for my own production routine I like to try to stay around 105 bpm and limit the arrangements to the hardware I got, which is three synths.
S: On some internet boards there are arguments as to whether skweee is really its own genre. What are your thoughts on this?
J: Yes probably you can debate on that. But every time I play live people come up to say stuff like “I love it, what is the style called?” and then it’s very nice not to have to say “electronica” or “IDM” or some other useless word that someone else came up with. So far, the audience loves the S-word as long as they get to ask for it first. The scene has definitely benefited from the genre name, it’s like there is no threat in sounding like another skweee artist, you know, instead of being rivals we grow the scene together.
S: The International Skweee compilation on Harmönia opens with your track LIHOP which is very emblematic of the skweee sound. Here again, it’s another branch on the tree because I can’t think of another skweee track with that sort of double-time feel. When you produced it were you consciously making a skweee tune?
J: This was a very early Joxaren track, maybe the first, and it is definitely hard to mix into a regular skweee set. But the attitude and the simpleness of the sounds and melodies are very skweee. I myself was unsure whether it would fit on a skweee compilation but Randy Barracuda is into boogie rock too so he said “Hell yeah”. LIHOP mixes excellently with crunk, though.
S: You recently did some touring around Europe, where did you play and how was the reaction to skweee in some of these countries where they have probably never heard it?
J: In Berlin there is a very solid domestic scene, the Berlin sound consists of electro and minimal techno and traces way back in the 60’s so it’s hard to break through there with this slow backbeat sound. Nevertheless, at my latest gig at Weisepuff in Berlin there were only around 30 people, but they were all very enthusiastic about it and it led to a lot of new contacts. In Glasgow it’s different, they have this broken beat-scene going and all these B-boys showed up at my gig and enjoyed it, so I built a solid fan base there. The Spanish skweee crew are a bit different, more like squat-people. In Copenhagen, we only attracted a small crowd when we were there, but last weekend in Tallinn, Estonia, me and Mesak played for around 1500 people. It varies a lot.
S: You’re slated for a vinyl release on Flogsta Danshall 13. Tell us how this came about and what we can expect?
J: It’s been planned for a while, that release. One side is a brand new unreleased track in a bit darker mood, and the other is my minor hit Ritambluz from last year. That track has been played out a lot but was never released on vinyl so I’m very pleased with that coming out.
S: Just this year we’ve seen four new skweee labels pop up. Yet it’s not easy for this music to break through to a larger audience because it’s quirky and as we said earlier, hard to define. Then there is the fact that it’s still largely centered in Scandinavia which is, shall we say, off the beaten path. What are your thoughts on the future of skweee?
J: I have no idea, but if it gets any more busy than this I’ll have to quit my day job. I’m not sure that’s worth aiming for, many of the dubstep deejays I’ve seen out on tour seem pretty wasted and jaded by now.
S: Lets talk gear, what kit are you using in the studio?
J: I’m using a Mac OS9 Logic setup, it works the best. And then I have an MPC 2000 XL, a Clavia Micro Modular, an MFB synth II and a Micro Korg. I also use a mental German distortion box called Gold Fuzz and a Boss RE20 space echo. Mostly travel size budget gear.
S: How about your live setup?
J: It’s the same, my studio is my instrument. Only I don’t bring the computer on stage.
S: Finally, what’s coming up for Joxaren in the second half of 2009 and beyond?
J: On Thursday next week I’ll be going to Hamburg to play at the Kubik club, really exciting. And then I have like five more live sets scheduled for the summer. We also just launched this skweee weekly in Stockholm, a Monday club. So I’m hoping for that to be successful enough. I am also touring with Rigas backing up this electro-pop act Parken which is doing really well right now, there are about ten summer festivals booked. After that, I have no idea. I will continue making music as long as it feels like a challenge.
Filed under: Features