“Beem is the skweee producer the girls like” it’s often said. Beem has a new album, Peel, chock full of the sexy grooves, lush chords and well, killer hooks that the girls dig and the guys too. He has bypassed interest from multiple record labels to release it himself — for free.
What was the first music you heard that blew your mind?
We’re talking a long time ago… I loved sound. I recorded stuff on the radio and then cut the tape and played around with the record button. I loved when they sampled stuff in pop and funk and I tried to do the same thing with two tape recorders. I had children’s music tapes and there was one with a drum intro and I played it over and over. The rest of the song was crap but I loved the first two seconds.
What was your first keyboard?
I’ve had a lot. I had a Roland JX-3P, I think that was the first. Then I got a Yamaha QX5 sequencer. I did a lot on them. My first record was recorded with that. Then I bought the Juno 2. In the 90’s we had an acid jazz band and we were pretty bad. Then I heard Goldie and I started to experiment with a cheap Yamaha sampler and later an Akai 612.
I bought a little equipment from time to time and I reviewed records for a local newspaper. I got a record from Denmark that was sort of clean and had drum machines, and I loved it. I was hooked, so then I tried to make a track like that with 808 drums and it turned out pretty good. That was my first record as Electromagnetic Beem, in ’98.
So that was your start. And then?
I self-released two EPs in 1999, 2000. I think somewhere around there I first spoke to Pavan. He had just bought my record and we had been on the same compilation. He was working on a compilation for Flora and Fauna called The Night Shift. This is like 2003 or so. We kept in contact and then he came up with the plan to make this label for middle tempo music. His own record was number one (Punt Kick) and mine was the second (Mouth Everest/The Famous). Then I collaborated with a couple of rappers and made an album called Just Lit that I think was too diverse to hit home, but it was fun. The track “A Saab and a Gun” was on that.
Did you self-release that record?
I did, and I promised myself I would never do that again. It was a nightmare. I had released vinyl before and that was also a disaster. People liked the record but I never got any money for it. I sent it to Japan, Belgium, the U.S. and it sold, but I didn’t see a dime.
I’ve noticed that too.
It’s weird isn’t it? The story from New York was that someone stole the package. Then several months later they were selling it in their online store.
Then I tried to get something going with a vocalist because people were telling me that was the one thing my music lacked, and it seemed people can relate to music much easier if there’s a vocal. I worked with a lot of talented vocalists but it always sounded better to me when I removed the vocals.
Tell us about The Future album.
I had some new tracks and I just wanted to release something. I thought I had these tracks that fit together. I also wanted to expose The Famous and Mouth Everest that only existed on vinyl to a wider audience. I released it on the internet in 2008 and I think it still holds up.
Why did you choose to make the album available as a free download?
Flogsta hadn’t released any CDs or any full-lengths and weren’t ready to yet. I just wanted to put something out there. I felt I could sell maybe 500 copies, or I could give it away and get 5,000 or 10,000 out to people. That made more sense to me. And also it’s a nice thing to put up an album for free. It felt good. It has been downloaded a huge number of times, I think I have 70,000 downloads now. My earlier records exist in 300 or 500 copies. Probably a lot of people think it’s crap and delete it, but probably as many like it and share it with others. People get in touch all the time, so they’re listening somewhere obviously.
How did you distribute the album?
It’s a free download as mp3 on beem.se and I put it up as a torrent both as mp3 and lossless. I love lossless and I’m pretty tired of the mp3 format. There have been even more downloads in the FLAC version than the mp3.
What’s your feeling about genre and style? When you start a new track, do you think, ‘this will be a skweee tune’ or ‘this will be a downtempo track’?
Every time I’ve tried that I think the music sounded pretty bad. But I’ve also made stuff that was perhaps too free. I thought, “I can do whatever I want”. But when I look at my own music I think there’s some reason why people like it and there are some qualities, and it feels stupid to make music that aren’t in that quality box. If I tried to make something else it might lose the likeability. But of course when I’m starting a new track I don’t want to make the same track all over again. I think the best thing for me is to make my sort of song.
A year ago I bought a dulcimer and I sat for months and played on that. The first version of the first remix I did for you (Double Dog Dare) I thought, “this isn’t skweee at all!” and thought you were going to be disappointed…
I never got to hear that…
No, I threw it all out. I said, I can’t give him this, it’s too weird. That was dulcimer stuff and I don’t think it was bad but it was totally inappropriate. It’s like if you’re really hooked on singer-songwriter music from the 60’s, you can’t make 80’s sounding synth-pop.
We’re in New York and you’re laying down tracks for a new album. What’s the album about?
The plan is to make something that sounds a little new, a little different. Maybe step back from the more polished thing and “dry” it up a bit and work on the punchy feeling. I’m in a place where I’m not too excited about any weird music or weird instruments but just want to do straight-forward good music.
I’m trying with the new album to make it from another approach. I was caught in a trap where I’d make a drum and bass loop and try to make it perfect. This time I started with the chords and the form, so hopefully the tracks will be good when they’re finished instead of just funky. I work slowly because I want to make music that’s not just here for a short while but can last. There’s the British club idea where you make a track, press it on vinyl and play it out that night. That’s clearly not my thing. Even though that can be good when the music is that fresh.
You’re one day into three days of sessions at Wonderful Recording which has an amazing collection of vintage synthesizers from the 1970’s and 80’s like the OSCar, MemoryMoog, Prophet 10 and Jupiter 8. You came in with tracks recorded at your home studio and you’ve been substituting these classic and unique sounds into your tunes. How is it working out?
It’s working out great. It’s been a lot of fun to start to use these instruments, although overwhelming. People are satisfied with the soft synths and don’t realize the difference in sound.
If you could take one of those classic synths back with you to Stockholm which would it be?
Well the MemoryMoog is sounding really good, and it’s looking good too.
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