Interview mit Christian Kjellvander



Die Schweiz ist teuer. Und zwar so teuer, dass sich sogar ein Schwede über die Preise auslassen kann. Jener Schwede ist in diesem Fall Christian Kjellvander, dem ich am 01.11.2003 nach seinem Konzert im Kulturzentrum Boa in Luzern ein paar Fragen stellen konnte-Olli

How has the tour been going so far?
So far it’s been good. I mean, this is the last show in Switzerland and it’s gotten better every night.

In the sense that you got more into playing?
Yeah, and also that more people were showing up from show to show.

Actually, there really are a lot of people here today…
Yeah, I’m kinda surprised as well… All the small clubs we played were pretty crowded. And the people have been wonderful

So you prefer to play smaller clubs?
Yeah, I think I prefer smaller clubs. On the other hand, I guess I like everything. It’s also nice to do big places in a small way, you know what I mean? We’re still punks in the roots, D.I.Y people. In Sweden we’re much bigger, selling more records and playing bigger venues. And it’s fun to do bigger venues with a D.I.Y. attitude, you know. Not with a huge production and everything. Just keeping it low-key.

In your songs you talk about traveling a lot, so being able to travel as a musician and getting paid for it must be a nice thing for you.
It’s a wonderful feeling. Amazing.

Talking about traveling, you grew up in the States but you were born in Sweden, right?
Yes. I lived in Sweden until I was six, and then my parents decided to move to the States.

For what reason(s)?
I guess my parents were dreamers. They didn’t want to have the typical safe Swedish situation for their family. So they decided to leave it behind, and were thinking about whether going to Switzerland, the US or Spain. But it was the US in the end.

The States pretty much have the ‘opposite’ type of society of Sweden.
Definitely. My dad was more of an open minded person and just wanted to expand his horizons. He also loved the ocean. He was into boats and sailing and all that stuff. His dream was to have a boat company. So he opened a Swedish boat benter in the States, which was a fine thing in the beginning, but then the recession came and we moved back to Sweden. And I’ve been living there the last 10 or 11 years.

How was it when you came back to Sweden? Was it a tough thing, or were you rather happy to leave the States?
I mean, I was 15 or 16 at the time and it obviously wasn’t fun to move back to Sweden. At that age all you care about is music, video games, movies, snacks, Coke… (lacht), stuff like that, you know.

And it’s the perfect country for snacks…
Yeah, exactly. It’s a nice country to grow up in regarding that stuff. And there’s so many wonderful physical features like mountains or rivers, allowing you to do all these activities as a child. On the other hand, a lot of people are very close-minded, don’t know anything about the rest of the world. So there’s good things and bad things. But as a child it was enjoyable. Still I’m very happy that we went back to Sweden, because I’m afraid that if we would have stayed I wouldn’t see the world the way I’m doing now. I just think that the European view of the world is much healthier than the American one

So do you feel completely ‘Swedish’ now, or are your American roots still strong?
Obviously childhood roots are undeniable and uneraseable in some way. So my roots are mostly in America, but I am very Swedish as a human being today regarding my virtues and thoughts about what’s going on in the world. So the person that I have become is very Swedish.

Which means?
Which means… (überlegt) contemplative. Not rushing into stuff, rather taking things a little easier. Thinking about what you’re gonna do without being to impulsive. Regarding the effects your actions might have on the environment you’re in.

Your brother has been involved in some of your projects. It must be awesome to have a brother with whom you share similar musical interests…
it’s a wonderful thing. Me and him, we’ve always been semi-competitive because he’s the youngest and I am the oldest. We have a brother in between, who’s is not doing music at all. So it’s fun to have a brother who does the same thing you do. It’s kinda irritating sometimes when you’re on different levels, you know, and people like the press compare you. That’s kind of a bitch actually

Are they doing that in Sweden?
Yes, they do. What else are they supposed to do…? I mean, the first common denominator between us is that we are brothers and then the next thing is “Who is better?” That’s just typical.

…for the media.
Yeah, exactly. That’s always going to be a drag for both of us I think. But we try to look by that.

Regarding the last question, do you have a very musical background in your family?
No, not at all actually. My dad could barely play guitar. And mom can’t really hit a tone… I think my dad’s father played the accordion in a band. And my other grandfather played the violin. But besides that… We didn’t sing around the open fire at Christmas or something (lacht). That’s where you usually get it from…

So you explored music more by yourself?

I think so, yes. It was born out of not having it in my face. And I was looking for something I could find relief or ‘myself’ in I guess.

Were you an autodidact then or did you take any music lessons?
I’m self-taught. When I was younger I played trombone in a marching band, and that was my first religious, or almost religious, experience with music. We were in a big gymnasium and played the William Tell overture or something, just being a bunch of 10, 11 year old kids playing this wonderful piece of music. And it was so punk, you know. The whole place was just sounding and vibrating, and I remember getting goose bumps. That’s probably the first time I can remember me realizing what an amazing vessel for feelings music is or can be.

Was it also at this early stage that you realized it could become more to you, something like a ‘career option’?
No, no. I fell into that actually. I had totally different plans after high school. I was gonna work out of country, and just travel or whatever. Maybe getting some music done, but not having it as a job. But then my need to make music has built itself up like a snowball I guess.

Sweden’s a pretty small country, but there seem to be tons of bands, especially indie bands, around. Is there any explanation for this?
I think it’s the Swedish media. A lot of bands get a chance. Newspapers write about them and national radio plays their songs. I guess that makes the average Swedish band pretty self confident. So new bands keep coming and existing bands stick around longer. Even though there used to be more indie labels, there’s still quite a few who put out records and giving their bands the chance to grow as well. And I don’t think it’s like that everywhere.

Yeah, I mean we have lots of indie labels in Germany, but on smaller level. And one reason might be that the established media is not really interested in independent music. But you can hear, see and read about all those casting shows…
Oh yes, Popstars and stuff like that… It’s a joke. I mean, they are actors. That’s fine, they can do that if they want. But it has absolutely nothing to do with ‘real’ music, with being a real band.

Those people end up just doing what other people tell them to. Be it music-wise, clothing-wise or whatever.

You’re on an indie label, Startracks, with major distribution,V2. Seems like a good deal, combining the best of both worlds.

It really is! Startracks is basically just one guy, he’s mainly the manager for a couple of bands but he’s doing the label as well. And working with V2 has been wonderful, because they’ve gotten me out in the rest of Europe. I think they are the most indie of the major labels.

Did you never think about releasing your solo album on a different label to reach a different audience with it?
I don’t know… Not really. Fredrik, the guy who does Startracks, he’s like a father. And I’ve been on Startracks since ’95, so almost 10 years. And we’ve grown together, you know what I mean? So it would be really hard to leave him and start talking about my music with somebody else. It would be very strange…

Regarding your songs, are there any special things or certain aspects of life which inspire you to write music or lyrics.
There’s several special things, but there’s just so many that it’s impossible to tell you what they are… But I mean it’s just living. Seeing, hearing, understanding. Getting impulses from God knows where.

Your lyrics are rather symbolic or poetic. Do you sometimes feel like speaking out on certain issues, like environmental pollution or something, in a more direct way?
I’d rather talk to people about such things face to face. In a real dialogue, you know. But I understand that music has an amazing political power. It is able to move people. Like this band Refused… I’ve seen them live, and of course people were gonna go out and crush fascism after such a show… But I would prefer to sit down over a beer or a cup of coffee and talk to somebody about things. Because there’s so many different sides and so many different stories. That makes it really hard to pinpoint what is the truth and what’s not from my point of view.

I heard you want to go to the States to write new songs…
I’ve already written a lot, but I’m gonna go on a trip I guess. I’ve been on tour for almost a year now and I feel like going somewhere to just hang out, rent a cabin and write some more songs.

So it’s not a certain country but rather the distance from home you’re looking for?
Yes. I like the distance and the aloneness. I might go to Australia or New Zealand instead, but I made no decision yet… On the other hand, I have not been to States for a couple of years and I still have friends there.

When can we expect the new album then?
Probably next fall. I thought about recording it next summer. And it always takes sometime until everything is done and it gets released

you have a feeling how it’s going to sound? Rather different?
Yeah, it’s gonna be pretty different. A lot more low-key. A very, very soft album. I wanted to do some more rocky stuff, but all that’s coming out right now is really slow and soft. Not at all as ‘poppy’ as the last record.

Thanks a lot!