November 12th, 2008 | Interviews

shea m gauer

Stream: Dungen “Satt Att Se”


(from 4 out now on Kemado)

Dungen is a psychedelic rock band from Sweden that blends elements of hard rock, jazz, folk and pop into a magical little package that is both timeless and refreshing. They are returning to tour the states after a two-year absence in support of their new record 4. These are some things singer-songwriter Gustav Ejstes, main creative force of Dungen, had to say about recording, touring and hip-hop. This interview by Eric Claesson.

When you were a kid, what did you think you would grow up to be?
Gustav Ejstes: My first dream position was actually a truck driver. I have loved music since I was a kid, but I had never thought that that would be my profession. I was aware pretty early that I have these periods of different music and it’s like—I have been into music that I know isn’t that commercial. I thought, ‘Oh, you’re never going to make any money at this, anyway,’ so I had a few different day jobs. Painting houses, working on a farm and in a grocery store, but I thought it doesn’t matter to me—I have my music in the spare time.
Did you name the new record 4 so that non-Swedish speakers could pronounce it better than Ta Det Lungt or Stadsvandringar?
No, I didn’t have that in mind. I suppose it is a boring title! But at the same time—fourth album for me. No, I was not thinking of that, actually!
Most of the previous Dungen records have been recorded solo. How has the music been influenced by recording with the full band?
This time I chose not to record the songs immediately. I used to on early recordings—the same day I wrote the song, I recorded it. But this time I played the songs around for a while. It is a new way of working for me and at the same time I have been doing this ‘do-it-yourself’ thing for so long now. I am a big control freak, but there are definitely no problems with the musicians I work with. We agree most of the time. Mr. Reine Fiske is playing the electric guitars, then we have Mattias Gustavsson—he is playing bass there. On drums we have Johan Holmegård and I am playing some keyboards and guitar and singing. Everyone sings a bit, too.
The new record has less of a spacey sound and the piano is more up front compared to your other records. Why did you make this choice?
I have been working more with the tunes and melodies. In the beginning I wrote the music on piano and I didn’t take it away from the piano until I was really really satisfied with the tune. To make a good packaged song—regardless of if it were country or psychedelic—I mean you should be able to perform the songs on an accordion and it should still be a great song, I guess. That is something that I had in mind, maybe.
Why do you think so many critics call Dungen retro?
For me, it is just music. I never had any intentions about being in a specific genre or scene. I make music and I love all kinds of music and for me music is music, whether it is country music, psychedelic or hip-hop. I leave it up to the people that listen to decide however it is retro or not. I suppose every modern music has some kind of potential retro ingredients, whether it is from the ‘80s, ‘60s or ‘40s. So I think all music is retro or no music is retro.
Who are your favorite contemporary bands right now?
Madlib because he seems to be a composer not concerned with rules. For me he is not any particular genre. He is just making music and that is very inspiring. And the music is very beautiful at the same time. I listen to him every day. Also MF Doom and a lot of new indie hip-hop.
In the past you have been quoted as saying you do not care much for any contemporary Swedish bands. Have things changed?
It sounds so bad when I say that I don’t care. The thing is that I am a bad follower and I get into something particular for a period. I mean, for the last two years I have been listening to a lot of hip-hop, and before that I had a period of Swedish folk music, which was something I listened to all the time. Like I said, it is not my purpose to neglect. I get into something and then I just listen to that. It sounds so cocky when I say there is nothing contemporary in Sweden that I follow. I just happen to find that I fall in love with something and then I go with that for a long while. That’s just the way I like music and listen to music. There are a lot of good artists back in Sweden, but I don’t read many magazines or listen to the radio. I am a bad follower. I buy records and I try to not watch too much TV.
You did not tour for your last record Tio Bitar. Why not?
I was quite fed-up. That is also one thing about making everything yourself. If you write the music, record, produce, engineer, mix and you are part of the mastering as well, you can get totally fed-up and confused. I didn’t want to do anything more with Dungen so I moved to my house again and crashed after that album. Then for four or five months, I started to play again and all of a sudden I had a bunch of songs again. I guess I can never get rid of it.
You will be playing in L.A. on November 12th. What do you want to see?
It could be nice to see a good show. I know Madlib and some other artists I like are there. It would be amazing to see one of them. It is pretty sad because when you finally have a day off—it’s funny—it has to be totally OK to just stay in the hotel because it is quite hard work to play and travel a lot. When we finally have a day off—which is not so many days off—I often just choose to rest.