Axel Boman Talks
If you’ve ever been out partying with me, you’ll notice that similar patterns emerge in the way I like to enjoy my after party. Firstly, I’ll buy more tinnys than is humanly manageable to drink, because beer is your friend, forever and ever, amen. Secondly, I’ll change into a pair of tracksuit bottoms, because I need to be comfy when I’m dying from beer overdose. Thirdly; and this is the only relevant bit, I always play ‘Hello’, by Axel Boman. It’s one of the most beautifully soothing tracks I’ve ever heard, with its haunting, catchy vocal sample and bassline deeper than talking to Carl Sagan on acid. It’s basically the musical equivalent of a nice, warm bath, which is good because it’s the closest thing I get to washing (if you notice from after party points one to three, hygiene isn’t on the list).
So from that track I became a fan and have been listening to his unique brand of ephemerally melodic house ever since. Then when I heard of his new project ‘Talaboman’; with top producer John Talabot, I was intrigued to see how the tracks would sound. On hearing their first single ‘Sideral’, I wasn’t disappointed. So, ahead of their headline sets at Corsica Studios on the 27th and 28th of this month I sat down with the Swedish born producer to talk about the creative process, his label Studio Barnhus and his favourite purple drank:
Hey man, how’s it going?
Axel Boman: Hey! I’m good man! Really good.
What you up to at the moment?
AB: Just working on a remix at the moment, for a band Hunter & Game a bit like Darkside so like really synth heavy, kinda darkish pop stuff.
Fair play. I saw the last remix you did was Maribou State one, do you push to do them yourself or do people commission you? How do you choose what remixes to do most of the time?
AB: Most of the time, its people just asking me, and offering money! But I do also feel like the tune has to be something I relate to as an artist, I can’t just take any ‘trap’ song off the radio and do it, it has to be something I can work with.
Do you feel more responsible over a remix than your own stuff?
AB: Yeah I feel like sometimes I can’t just strip back a track to just the basskick and hand it back to them and say “Here is what I thought was good of your tune”. Like there was that amazing story of Aphex Twin doing a remix for Bjork in 20 minutes, where he had obviously just done nothing with the original track but just sent over something he had already done, but I don’t think I could do something like that. I think DJ Koze is a remix genius and makes everything better, like “What the fuck was the original? This is shit compared to the Koze remix”, but I do feel more responsible over someone else’s tunes than I would do my own because you have a responsibility toward the original song. I feel that I owe it to the original track to use parts of it in the remix that you can hear, to pay my respect that way.
What your fave remix that you’ve ever done you think?
AB: It was the one I did a while ago for Agaric, called ‘No way I Know I Feel’. I felt I got the melodies really well placed with the original song and it just worked. I added a sample from a completely different track that worked surprisingly well with the original I think. That’s my favourite remix for sure.
I’ll definitely look that one up. So apparently during the second half of June it barely ever gets dark in Stockholm during some weeks due to the midnight sun. What kind of parties do you guys have when it’s always light?
AB: Yeah we have parties in the woods like, every weekend. You just get a text from a friend saying “there’s a party in the woods”, then you get there and just follow the sound of the kick drum, but people can’t last too long cos they drink so much. Like obviously everyone is on drugs but we just drink so much we usually don’t last past the next day.
Is it not like Berlin?
AB: No, not at all. Berlin doesn’t have the same drinking culture, they are sipping on water and stuff, whereas we just get really hammered. We have a natural drinking affinity with the English, for example last night I was drinking 6 or 7 pints of beer, which is quite a lot of beer when you think about it.
And if it was Italians they would be like *puts on Italian accent* “What is this giant beer?”
That’s true! But even though you guys drink the same as us you know that Swedes have the longest life expectancy in Europe whereas in the UK we have one of the lowest?
AB: Oh really I didn’t know that. Well it’s got to be the diet. I’ve seen the full English breakfasts and stuff like that you eat whereas we have rye bread and a lot of fish…
I think we’re just becoming really Americanised with all the fast food that’s coming in…
AB: Yeah but then everywhere is these days, like in Stockholm it’s just getting Starbucks after Starbucks.
Yeah it’s shit. So your album Family Vacation was well received for how diverse it is, how did that kind of sound come about?
AB: Well I actually think it all sounds quite similar, which is like this playful house that has pop melodies throughout. I tried to keep a theme running all the way through the album which I think I managed to achieve. Now there is some distance from when I first released it so it’s easier to look back and think about it more objectively.
But when you are making music do you sample a lot, or is it more live music you use? Some of your music has a live feel to it, like you’ve been jamming as a band when you made it. So do you play as a band or solo and build it organically or does it always have a certain structure?
AB: Well I always have a synth melody in my head for days, and I’ll try and build it around that. I’ll also have about five or six samples that I want to fit in, so it’s a mixture of both.
Yeah like I feel that some of your tracks, like ‘Hello’ can drift in and out of melodies, is that something you are conscious of or do on purpose?
AB: Well I’m not a classically trained artist so I don’t always look for a melody and a harmony. I think it works to my advantage because whereas some people are always looking for the hook that fits a track I can just experiment with different samples and ideas until something clicks.
So are you a perfectionist do you think?
AB: Well I think that some people can be comfortable to put a bassline together and a sample and just think “that’s fine” but for me it’s almost never fine. Whenever I first put something together I never accept the first edit, because I know that if I add different things to it, it can make it into something much more than it originally was. So I keep going at it with different samples or different angles until it becomes something more that I like. Like I love Moodymann and the way he’ll have samples that just don’t quite fit together, y’know? You can hear that they don’t fit but it still works. I love that whole Detroit sound.
Is he a big influence on you?
AB: Oh absolutely, although I’m not just a house-head, I’m just as much of a fan of ABBA as any of the Detroit house guys too.
Are you a fan of Three Chairs?
AB: Three chairs not so much but individually much more. I feel like the expectation of those three together can never live up to anything they produce by themselves.
Yeah I know what you mean, like it’s expected that all three of them together will combine to make a better sound somehow.
So carrying on with your creative process, what about creative blocks, how do you deal with them?
AB: Inspiration is for amateurs!
No well I do a lot of smoking weed and drinking wine. I also go for runs. Also we like to laugh and joke around in the Studio so it can come naturally, but it’s just as likely to pop into my head on a run than when I’ve been smoking or drinking. I just think it’s a matter of persistence. Like, I will just keep going at a track until something comes to me most of the time. But then some of the time I can be really lazy and if something doesn’t instantly come at me I’ll just forget about it but then other times you just have to keep going at it over and over until it works. I know there are some people who are just perfect like Roman Flugel, who just make one perfect track every day, but that’s not me; I have to work at it. It SEEMS that Roman does this.
I’m sure he puts in just as much effort as you behind the scenes though?
AB: No Roman Flugel is just one of those perfect people that does Ashtanga yoga, eats well, looks healthy and im sure he’s a fantastic lover. Every tune he makes is perfect, no matter what. He is just one of those sexy, perfect people.
Sounds like maybe you should try and get with Roman Flugel?
AB: No I am not perfect enough for him. He’s probably think I was too fat or something like that, plus I think he is into girls.
So why was the album called Family Vacation? Is about a family vacation you went on?
AB: No it’s not really about anything that happened in real life or any family vacation I’ve been on, I just like the way it sounds, like some kind of tragic sounding event,
Like a family vacation that went wrong?
AB: Yeah, like some eerie tragic story.
So you aren’t actually the son of a plumber either?
AB: No it's the name of a Per Gessle album, the master mind behind swedish pop sensation Roxette
AB: Well they are really famous in Sweden, I just stole it off one of their album titles so I wasn’t actually a son of a plumber or anything like that.
Ah OK fair enough. So obviously ahead of your shows I wanted to talk a bit about Talaboman. How did the partnership with John Talabot come about?
AB: Well he is a friend with (Barnhus label mate) Petters, and I always really liked his stuff and when we met we got on really well. I think the Spanish and Swedish have like, this natural affinity so we instantly connected.
Will you be releasing more stuff than the Sideral tune you did?
AB: Yeah we are actually working on an album right now. We have about eight tracks, not really sure if I should be talking about it as an album because it isn’t really that yet, it’s just a collection of tracks, but most of them are finished but like in a raw state.
When will it be coming out?
AB: Early next year, I think John has an album he is working on to release later on in 2016 so we want to get something early next year because I don’t want to get in the way of his album launch and stuff like that.
Will it be more stuff like Sideral?
AB: It will be a lot bigger, it will still have the emotional element that Sidereal has but we have been working a lot with synths so we have been trying to make bigger…
More, epic tracks?
AB: Yeah! Like stuff that is more expansive than some of the stuff I have done before.
So is it going to be like, big lights flashing, eyes closed, hands in the air kind of music at the raves?
AB: I hope so!
Are you going to be playing a lot of the tracks at the shows at Corsica Studios?
AB: Yeah of course! It is the perfect place to do it, I love Corsica and I love the system there and it’s very intimate too which I like so I can’t wait for the shows.
Do you prefer to play in the more intimate venues or bigger mega venues?
AB: Well I am not really used to play in these bigger gigs like John is so he has been giving me advice on it. But I have also been getting advice from DJ Koze, he gives me these classic one liners about handling it; like the best one he gave me was “play songs with less information”. Which I think is so perfect because it’s totally true in those situations where you have thousands of people to play to.
Like maybe the subtleties of some of your music can get lost when playing to bigger crowds?
AB: Yeah, exactly.
So I know you graduated from the Valand School of Fine Arts in 2010, what did you study?
AB: Well I was one of the last people to do the five year degree at the Uni, where they just gave us a studio for five years and let us get on with it, and check in every six months to see if we were OK. Now they only allow three year courses so I was one of the last people to do it.
What kind of stuff did you do?
AB: Well it was everything from painting, to sound, to film. By the end it was purely conceptual, like if I had an idea I would just build around this idea whether it was sound or film.
Do you have any of the stuff to show us?
AB: Hold on a sec…*checks computer for a while* No I don’t think I have any stuff. I think it may be somewhere on my dad’s computer. If I have any bit of advice it’s keep a hold of everything you used to do, keep every scrap book, every file on your computer.
I read an interview with you where you said lost a laptop with all your stuff but you felt it was quite cathartic?
AB: Yeah I had to start completely again. It was kind of like losing your phone though, with all the numbers of everyone you love.
So how did Studio Barnhus come about? And is it better releasing under your own label or just easier letting someone else handle it?
AB: Well we have been living together and working in a studio space, so we just naturally became friends and started making music together. So we moved into this studio which is on Orphanage Street (Barnhusgaten) in Stockholm, and the Swedish for orphanage is actually Barnhus.
In English the closest translation to it means like a shed or outhouse where farmers keep their tools and livestock…
AB: Really? I never knew that. In Swedish it’s less negative than orphanage though, like it’s a fun thing to do with youth, because I know orphanage is more a negative thing in English but in Swedish when a place is fun it can be described as a Barnhus. I’m actually releasing a lot of stuff under my own sub label Barn-Barn which means grandson in Swedish which is funny because that’s kind of how it is to me and the label.
I’ll definitely be looking out for that. So your breakout tune Purple Drank was a banger, so I had to ask, what is your favourite kind of purple drink?
AB: At the moment I really like ‘Sanalepsi’, which is like Swiss anti-histamin drops. But there’s also another American drink I like, it’s kind of like this powder shit…
*asks his mates in Swedish*
Kool Aid! Yeah we got a lot of Kool Aid going on at the moment.
So finally; as your name is Axel, who is your favourite Axel: the Streets of Rage character, Axel Rose from Guns & Roses or Axel Foley from Beverly Hills Cop?
AB: What is Streets of Rage?
Like the old Mega-Drive game!
AB: Let me Google it…Oh yeah this game kicks ass!!! I used to love this game. That guy is called Axel?
AB: Well I’d have to say even though he is a woman beating psycho crazy motherfucker Axel Rose is still my favourite. But if I have to choose they are all number one!
So Axel Rose is first, then Axel from Streets of Rage?
AB: Axel Rose first, then Axel Foley from Beverly hills cop then Axel from Streets of Rage because I don’t know him as well.