Interview with Dag Rosenqvist

Dag Rosenqvist

Hey Dag, how is it going? Where are you right now and what are you working on?

At the moment it’s actually quite all right, but it’s of course a bit hit and miss to be honest. Some days are better, some are worse, but that’s just how life goes isn’t it. At the moment I’m at home in Gothenburg, Sweden and here spring has finally arrived after a brutally cold start of 2013. Some years you become painfully aware that you’re living in a city just 1400 km south of the Arctic Circle.

At the moment I’m working on a lot of different stuff actually. For a very long time I didn’t really make any music. I just felt I didn’t have anything to say, which was of course quite painful but also necessary. Sometimes you just need to take a step back to see the whole picture. I’m working on new music of my own but it’s a bit early to say which direction it’s going. But there are drums and synthesizer on them, and lot’s of it…

Other than that we’re basically in the finishing stages of the new From The Mouth of The Sun album. There are seven finished tracks and another two more that we’re working on at the moment. People who liked the last one will recognize the sounds but we’ve tried to push ourselves a bit more with this one. I’m also making music with Edinburgh based sound artist Matthew Collings. We have a lot of material so we just basically need to sit down and go through it and see what we can do with it. I also have a few other collaborative projects but they’re still in the bud so I will have to come back on that. This summer I’m also working with a performance group called sirenscrossing. They’re doing site specific performances and I’m scoring a piece they will be premiering in July in a small town just an hour north of Gothenburg. So next week I’m heading up there to record some massive water turbines that will be the basic foundation for the piece. I think it’s gonna be beautiful.

Can you talk a little about the decision to retire your Jasper TX project?

The decision to retire Jasper TX came to me slowly. After the release of The Black Sun Transmissions in May 2011 I was spent. The album took so much out of me to get out there and after completing the recordings of it I suffered from severe writer’s block. At the same time there was also a family member who had fallen very ill during summer 2010 and that eventually passed away in June 2011. With so many things going on at the same time, I started thinking about what I was doing and why. All of a sudden I felt that there were expectations on me to come up with new material, to be prolific, make remixes and to jump on board various musical projects. And personally I just wanted to be left alone. Looking back at it now I can clearly see that I suffered some kind of depression. Bottom line was: I was tired of this persona that had taken on a life of his own and something had to change. So I started thinking about why I was doing what I was doing, when all the joy had disappeared from doing it. What I realized was that I needed to retire Jasper TX, to get a fresh start, to basically start from scratch again. Clean slate, tabula rasa.

Jasper TX had grown into something I felt more and more disconnected to. Who was Jasper TX and who was Dag Rosenqvist? At times it felt very schizophrenic to be honest. I never wanted to turn making music into a career. I’m not saying I had a “career” as Jasper TX though, but at certain points it felt like that, and it scared the shit out of me. The thing is I don’t wanna be dependent on my music to pay my bills, I don’t wanna have to make something just to make ends meet. I fear that can cloud your judgment, making you do things that you would normally not do or stand behind. I want to be free to do whatever I want whenever I want and with whomever I want to do it. And once I had made the decision to retire Jasper TX I felt as though a weight had been lifted from me. You leave something behind and just keep walking.

I also felt that The Black Sun Transmissions felt like the definitive statement, the end of a trajectory started many years before. I had said what I wanted to say and it was time to move on.

And it was kind of nice to put it to rest. To let that musical period of my life end and move into the next, wherever that brings me. That’s why working on compiling and sequencing An Index Of Failure was so much fun. I could finally allow myself to see me from the outside and I could close the book on this the way I choose to, on my own terms. I associate all the albums I’ve done with anxiety, mainly due to the, often painful, process of making them. But with An Index Of Failure it was enjoyable all the way as I got it sounding and looking even better than I could ever have imagined.

And, to confirm, we’ll still hear from De La Mancha, The Silence Set and From The Mouth Of The Sun, right? Can you share any definitive upcoming albums and release dates?

Yes, you will indeed hear more from all of the above. As I mentioned earlier we’re in the finishing stages of completing the second From The Mouth of The Sun album, although at this point we don’t have a label for it. As for de la Mancha we’re gonna start working on new material this summer. There are a bunch of half finished sketches and there are ideas on how it’s gonna sound. And this time we really want to make it sound more like a duo and a studio project than with the previous albums so expect drum machines and loads of synthesizers. We have a finished album with The Silence Set but as of yet we haven’t actually found anyone interested in putting it out which is a shame since I think it’s an absolutely gem of an album with wonderful contributions from both Heather Woods Broderick and Nils Frahm. I guess most people don’t know in which category to place it so that makes them a bit tentative regarding investing money in it. I’m not worried though, one day we’ll find a nice home for it. So basically no set dates for any of these projects at the moment but be sure to keep an eye on my blog every now and then for updates.

Tell us about your upcoming solo release under your real name, Fall Into Fire. Are we to expect a drastically different stylistic approach than that of Jasper TX?

I wouldn’t say drastically different, but definitely different. I think my love for Neurosis finally shines through a bit more, although I may be the only one who hears that. I would say the album is a bit more skewed and grainy than previous works. Things reel back and fourth, collapsing only to pick up momentum again. I would say it’s quite an ugly album in some ways, it’s not entirely enjoyable I guess. There is of course beauty in there as well, but of a different quality than before. I’ve played around a lot with acoustic instruments filtered through broken analogue equipment and there are also more drums on it, rock and sludge type drums… It’s kind of hard to describe but in some ways I wanted it to resemble the musical equivalence of a bad trip.

It’s once again a heavily conceptual album and as always it’s about death. I still haven’t come to terms with the notion that I one day will die, but I’m getting there slowly. There’s also a love story in there and there’s the notion that we can never change who we truly are, no matter other circumstances or other people’s interventions. Some are bound to die young and some to get their life torn to piece, and very little can stop that. Not even you yourself can stop that. I don’t believe that things naturally happen for a reason, I don’t believe it’s all part of some grand universal plan. But I do think that certain events in life trigger reactions in people and from there on, these reactions become actions following a set trajectory. And you can try and intervene, beg and plead, but eventually that which go up, must come crashing down.

I guess I veered off a bit there… Anyway, right now we’re getting the album mastered by Edinburgh based sound artist Matthew Collings. Matt also assisted me in the making of this album with invaluable input regarding structure and sounds. It’s actually the first time ever that I let anyone else meddle with my music in the creative process, but it was a really good and valuable experience. Painful at times when your ego gets hurt, but very good for how the album turned out. If you haven’t already, check out his music at http://matthewcollings.bandcamp.com

There is no set date for when this will be released, but it will be released on Fang Bomb and at the moment we’re discussing format and cover ideas. Keep an eye on my web page for updates and I’ll let you know more as soon as I know more..

A lot of your work is guitar driven. Can you share some recording technique and production processes?

Well, I think the main thing, as with everything in life, is figuring out what you want to do. How do you want the guitar to sound, where will it be in the mix? You always need to consider this in relation to what you have previously recorded for the track and where it’s heading. Quite early on I started buying good quality microphones and to me that made all the difference. What I do is I’ll record a sound in the best possible way, capturing all the frequencies correctly. If I then decide to cut out all of the bass frequencies from that recording, I will still have a good mid and a good high end to play around with. This will enable me to “push” these frequencies and still have them sounding good. The thing with most digital eq’s is that when you’re using them to exaggerate frequencies they can sound absolutely horrible so my advice is to, rather than exaggerate the frequencies you want to emphasize, cut out then ones you don’t. That way you’re more likely to end up with a more balanced mix overall.

But then again, if I know the guitar will just be something very subtle in the mix, and I want it to have a more narrow scope, I’ll just stick a cheap microphone in front of it or even a pair of headphones to record it with. The bottom line regarding this is to try out things. Buy a couple of good microphones, buy a couple of cheap ones, get some contact mic’s, turn some old small speakers into microphones. Just play around and see where it takes you. It’s all about finding your own voice in this. Always try out new things. What happens if I run this recording through an old tape recorder, what happens if I run it through this broken mixing desk? What if I change the order of my effect pedals, what if I line the guitar straight into the sound card? Buy old stuff, new stuff, cheap stuff, expensive stuff and broken stuff. Invent your own methods and try out things to see what floats your boat. I’ve always been a hands-on person in terms of recording. I use a computer for recording, editing a processing my songs but I don’t use any virtual instruments or midi programming. Not because there’s anything wrong with it, I just don’t like it. There’s no physical feeling there, and there’s no room for chaos and coincidence. It’s all algorithms and zero’s and one’s. Give me knobs, switches and faders. Tape echoes and reel-to-reel tape machines. And broken things, I love and adore broken things, because you never know what they’re gonna give you. Chance and chaos are the best allies in creating art.

So basically, there really are no ready-made solutions for this. But diverse, both in regards of brand, quality and interface, and good quality equipment in terms of sound card, pre-amp’s and other outboard, instruments, amps, microphones and a healthy dose of curiosity, obsessive behavior and stubbornness will get you a long way. I don’t know if this was even remotely helpful to anyone really, but my point is that there are no right or wrong’s, you just have to find your way of approaching what you want to do.

Here’s a very open-ended question: what role does the music as a whole play in your life?

One of the best things I know is, when you’ve been out record shopping or picked up a package from the local postal office, you fix some coffee or open a beer, sit down in the sofa and just listen to the music you’ve just bought. Maybe go through the booklet and read all the info where it’s been recorded and who played on it and so on. But other than that, just sit there in silence and listen. Let the music fill the room and your senses. How often do we really take the time to do that these days? I bet 95 percent of all the music that’s being consumed today is listened to on iPhones on your way to work or school. With crappy or semi crappy headphones. I’m no sound geek in that aspect, I don’t have an expensive stereo. But what I’m talking about here is really listening to the music, not just use it to block out other commuters. Don’t get me wrong, I do it myself to get some peace when riding the tram to work. But there’s nothing that beats the feeling when you sit there in your sofa, and the music opens up to you and at that exact moment you just feel it, through and through.

Music plays a very big role in my life in general. Ever since I was a kid music has been very important to me. I started playing the double bass when I was 9 and that opened up a whole new world to me. Both my parents listened quite a lot to music and when we grew up my brothers and I were always allowed to listen to anything we wanted at home, even when we go into death and black metal. At one point we even rehearsed in the basement, which must have sounded absolutely horrible. But they let us do it and I think to me that has been the most important thing, that encouragement from my parents. Without them supporting that so much, I would never have been what I am today. And they’re still just as supportive. And as for my father, he’s still curious about new music. A lot of people just stop at a certain age. They loose interest, but not him. He’ll phone me up telling me that Supersilent or Mats Gustafsson has released a new album. I hope I can keep that curiosity throughout my life.

Are there any upcoming live performances where we can catch you?

I’m actually playing a show in Cologne on May 16th that will be my first under my own name, but other than that there’s nothing planned at the moment. The thing is I’ve always struggled performing live, it’s hard to come to terms with your own flaws and imperfections and in a live situation there are a million things that could go wrong. And I’ve really been working on trying to deal with that, but every time something goes wrong, and it will, it kills me. I also found that after the last shows I did as Jasper TX a year ago I had kind of had it with playing live for a while. So I decided to take a break from it to try and figure out what I wanted to and how I wanted to do it. There were of course other factors at play and since retiring Jasper TX I just felt I needed some time off in general, to sort of get away from everything for a while. It would be nice to do some shows again, but I’m taking my time at the moment, just so I’m sure I know what I want to do.

Be sure to read Headphone Commute review of An Index of Failure

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